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Living a Spirited Life

Chief Instructor Brett Wagland

Chinese culture has experienced thousands of years of health and healing.  Traditional Chinese medicine, in the form of acupuncture, tui na (medical massage) and herbs, spread around the world.  Many people are still skeptical of traditional Chinese medicine because of its theory on energy, causes and treatments of illnesses.  With the emphasis on energy meridians, its geography of the human body is very different from Western medicine.

One of the main lessons we can learn from Chinese health systems is the importance of the spirit in treating illnesses.  Good medicine treats the whole person.  In the martial systems of Tai Chi, Ba Gua and Xing Yi, letting the spirit rise is considered one of the highest achievements.  When a master demonstrates his skill, his level can be seen in the spirit generated by his performance. 

Qing Cheng Shan (Green City Mountain), Sichuan Province
Qing Cheng Shan (Green City Mountain), Sichuan Province

 In martial arts, although you may have power, skill and technique, your application will not be truly effective unless you have spirit.  In our Wu Dao Gong martial arts classes, founder Fei Wang tells the story of the famous hero, Li Guang.  While Li was resting late one afternoon, he saw a tiger on the hillside.  Being a good archer, he took aim and released his arrow.  On inspection, he was surprised to see that his tiger was a stone and his arrow had imbedded itself in the stone.  He attempted to replicate the feat.  However much he tried, his arrows either bounced off or broke on impact.  This story is an example of the mind-spirit overcoming matter.  A person who is spirited is not afraid to attempt difficult tasks.  He welcomes challenges and uses them as opportunities to grow.

In our training, we talk about xin yi (heart-mind).  When we practise, we aim to feel what we are doing instead of merely performing mechanical movements.  We put our mind on the task.  With practice, our once empty movements will begin to be more alive and powerful.

Traditional Chinese medicine defines good health as an abundance of jing (essence), qi (energy) and shen (spirit).  A strong spirit will influence essence and energy.  The spirit plays a very important role in determining one’s outlook which will have a big impact on one’s health and healing.  We have all heard of the placebo effect of people becoming pain free or recovering from their illnesses after taking sugar pills, with a genuine belief that they are taking the appropriate medication.  The mind is so powerful that it is able to produce the necessary chemical changes in the body for us to become well, based on a belief.  The opposite is the nocebo effect.  People display symptoms of ill health when they are wrongly told that they are suffering from certain disease, even though they are perfectly healthy.

All Chinese internal arts and healing systems emphasise the spirit-mind-body connection.  Don’t underestimate the power of your beliefs.  You write your destiny by what you believe and tell yourself every day.  A strong spirit and positive mind will go a long way in keeping you happy and healthy!