Mind over matter


  • Health
  • Sunday, 14 Jan 2007

QIGONG is essentially a mind-over-matter phenomenon, as the main component of qigong practice is training the mind to heal the body. But matter will only change its structure/behaviour when there is a change in its energy.  

This is where qi – the life force – becomes necessary. Qi is the energy form that the mind uses to directly enhance the vitality and functions of the cells and organs, and to heal them if necessary. 

Plenty to laugh about … laughter is a positive emotion that beneficially affects the immunesystem.

In the body, qi travels in pathways called meridians, and is stored in energy centres, some of which are the same as the chakras that some of you are familiar with. The major and minor meridians is pervasive over all the organs, and are inter-connected. Together, the system nourishes the entire body with health-giving vital energy. 

The mind controls the body in many ways. If we analyse how our different body systems work, we will realise that almost all of them are controlled by the brain. Even the heart, which is made of automatically contracting muscle fibres, is heavily controlled by the brain through the autonomic nervous system.  

Since the mind is the working of the brain (think of the brain as hardware and the mind as software), it is therefore the ultimate master of the body. Modern medicine has recognised this and the field of mind-body medicine is ever expanding. 

Neuroendocrinology 

Neuroendocrinology is the science that looks at the brain/central nervous system’s control over many organ systems via the release of hormones. Hormones are chemicals or peptides that reset the thermostats regulating certain functions of cells and organs. The target cells will have receptors for every hormone that is required to regulate it.  

For example, all the organ cells that express our gender have receptors for sex hormones. All cells have insulin-receptors since insulin is required to allow glucose into the cells. Type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetics have reduced or defective receptors that make the cells “resistant” to insulin. 

In the normal situation, the highest control over this system is the subconscious mind, which causes certain hormones to be released immediately in response to certain conditions. For example, in fear and anxiety, the brain sends signals for adrenaline to be released by the adrenal glands, causing rapid heartbeat and dry mouth, which most of us are familiar with.  

The brain itself can also be the target of some hormones. For example, certain situations will release “feel-good” hormones (for example, endorphins), which will reduce pain sensation perceived by the brain, and as the name suggests, may give a pleasant sensation. Endorphins have been shown to be released during acupuncture treatment, and the effects can be mimicked by drugs such as opium. 

Most of the hormone systems can be traced to the hypothalamus, which is therefore the centre of management of many organ systems.  

Hormones from the hypothalamus regulate the release of hormones from the pituitary gland, which is situated behind the eyes where the optic nerves cross (hence pituitary tumours often cause eye symptoms). Pituitary hormones themselves either regulate the production and release of other hormones, or have direct effects on the target cells and organs.  

Finally the endocrine glands outside the brain produce hormones that will influence various cells and organs in the whole body. So the regulation of hormone levels is very intricate, involving many levels with continuous feedback and fine-tuning to keep our body functioning in the best possible way in the constantly changing situations we face throughout the day (and night). 

At advanced levels of qigong practice, we aim to not only command the energy to nourish the organs and cells, but also to use the conscious mind to have overall command over our neuro-endocrine system, using qi to enhance the hormonal system. 

Science and spirituality 

Spiritual masters have even more amazing command over their bodies. Studies on Yogis have shown their ability to regulate their heartbeats to almost zero, and to cause changes in the temperature of different parts of their bodies without any harm.  

While qigong masters have mental command over qi, spiritual masters have even higher command over their body functions. 

Science will one day discover the realm of spirituality and spiritual energy. But since science has not even yet accepted the existence of qi, that will take a long time to happen. For those who know, the highest control over your life (including your health) is by your Spirit, which should have control over your conscious Mind (thoughts), which in turn should have control over your Self (subconscious mind, instincts and ego). The body is only the vehicle to carry out whatever instructions received from these different entities. 

I say “should” because, depending on your spiritual situation, which entity is actually in control can be totally different. The one who cheats and hurts others for his own gain or boasts to boost his ego or does things to satisfy his desires regardless of consequences has his Self being in charge.  

Often he fluctuates between the pros and cons of proceeding with the decision or deed, but in the end his desires prevail. The Mind (conscious mind) is in control when correct decisions based on knowledge, understanding and logical thinking are made to give beneficial outcomes. But this is often limited by ignorance and low intelligence (low IQ), even though the intentions are good.  

The Spirit is in charge when decisions and actions are marked by wisdom, which is a result of knowledge, understanding, and most importantly, Divine guidance. Some spiritual decisions and actions may seem incongruous at first, but the wisdom of such decisions and actions will become evident later.  

Often, spiritual actions do not require any logical thinking. When someone needs help, the Spirit person helps unconditionally; the Mind person considers whether he should or shouldn’t help, especially if there are possible legal implications; and the Self person will think of ways to take advantage of the situation for his own benefit only, even if it means hurting that person more. 

Psychoneuroimmunology 

Psychoneuroimmunology is the science of how the mind and the brain/nervous system influence our immune system. Many of you may be familiar with how our body’s immune defence system works through the immune cells.  

One group of cells protects the body by being fighters and scavengers, which destroy or engulf invaders. For example, natural killer cells snoop around to kill invaders and cancer cells. Another group protects the body by producing antibodies that directly destroy the invaders or mark them for destruction by other cells. 

There is scientific evidence that emotions do affect our immune system, and hence laughter therapy is being widely encouraged. The founder of the world’s largest laughter club is in fact a medical doctor. The clowns that are sent to keep children in hospital happy not only cheer them up, but actually make them healthier too. 

Psychoenergetics 

This is the science of the mind’s control over the various energy forms involved in operating the body, and beyond. Qigong is definitely one of the phenomena covered in this field, as are the other energy-healing methods like Reiki, Pranic Healing and psychic healing, as they all require conscious intention on the part of the healer.  

Spiritual energy operates at a higher level, and sometimes the spiritual healer does not have conscious control over the situation. In fact, sometimes, he is not even conscious, as his consciousness is taken over by another personality. 

Just as qi can be used to break bricks or to heal, depending on how you learn to harness it, psychic energy likewise operates with different functions in different people. Some like Uri Geller can bend spoons, while others can do psychic surgery. 

The unified energy theory 

Since Einstein’s theory of Relativity (e=mc2) changed our understanding of the universe – that all matter is in fact another form of energy – there has been a relentless attempt to unify all our knowledge about the different forces in the universe (electromagnetic, gravitational and nuclear forces) into one coherent unified theory. 

In the East, the effort goes even beyond the mundane. In Malaysia, we have Feng Shui and Vastu Shastra experts teaching us how qi and prana influence our daily lives, health, luck and fortune. That means energy controls our lives. 

In the United States, the brilliant young engineer, LY Hew, tries to incorporate information carried by our genetic code, Chinese universal theory and Feng Shui into Einstein’s equation in what he calls Correlativity.  

According to him, unravelling this will give the secret code to our lives, and to our universe as well. There are now people here teaching and practising numerology following his ideas. Numbers denote energy.  

Previously, New Age gurus like Dr Deepak Chopra had already talked about the interplay of the spirit, mind, energy, matter and what happens in our lives and our universe. 

All these are fascinating subjects that I intend to explore further and keep readers updated. So you have a lot to look forward to this year! 

  • Dr Amir Farid Isahak is a medical specialist who practises holistic, aesthetic and anti-ageing medicine. He is a qigong master and founder of SuperQigong. 

    The views expressed are those of the writer and readers are advised to always consult expert advice before undertaking any changes to their lifestyles. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information. 

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