Qi — It’s Not What You Think

If you see a health care practitioner who is trained in Oriental Medicine, you may hear a lot about Qi. Qi is one of the Three Treasures (SanBao) of Oriental Medicine: Jing, Qi, and Shen. Its traditionally central location in this trio is significant, because, while all three are vital, Qi is the most immediate of necessities for life.

Although you may not have been told about the Three Treasures, you’ve undoubtedly been told that this vital substance called Qi is a mysterious ‘energy’ flowing through the ‘meridians’. It’s the most frequently repeated mantra of Western practitioners of Oriental Medicine. Everyone has been under this delusion for a very long time.

And it’s patently false.



So, if Qi is not this wondrous ‘energy’, then what is it?

I’ll try to explain.  Because it’s important.

Sat Gurus (true gurus) throughout the millennia have shared a parable with their chelas (students). They tell this story because all chelas are the same, sat gurus are all one, and although the spiritual journey involves different paths for each of us, the ‘steps’ we take are identical.

The story goes like this:

A Sat Guru of old was having difficulties with one of his beloved chelas.  The chela was very evolved, but his attention was continually diverted from the goals of self- and god-realization. The chela’s desire for worldly pleasures was still greater than his desire for the Shabda, the Sound Current, the Divine Melody.

One day the guru took the chela to a lake, and they waded in. Suddenly, the guru grabbed the chela by the hair and plunged him under the water. The chela flailed and floundered, but the guru was strong and held him under. Just when the chela was about to lose it, the guru pulled him up.  The chela’s eyes were wild; he was gasping and sputtering.

Immediately the guru shoved him under the water again and held him there until he was just about to go limp. He pulled the chela out of the water. The chela’s face was blue. After one more gasp of air, the guru pushed him down again. This time he held the chela under until he did go limp.

Finally, the guru pulled the chela up.  When the chela had revived enough to speak, the guru asked him, “What did you want more than anything else when you were down there?”

“AIR!” gasped the chela. “I wanted air!”

And the Master told him, “When you want the Shabda, when you want God, as much as you wanted air, you will have it.”

As potent as this metaphor is, we still spend a loooong time developing sufficient desire to complete the journey. A long time.

But the reason I’m sharing this story now is to illustrate its lower, outer message: air—or more precisely, oxygen—is the most immediately vital substance known to living beings. If you are completely deprived of it for more than a few seconds, you die. Period.

You can live without food for a very long time.  You can go without water for a while, as well. But, take away air, and you’re history—now.



Qi is oxygen. Oxygen is Qi. ‘Vital air’. It was recognized by the Chinese before the classics were written —  several centuries before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

It flows, along with the blood, through the vessels. Blood vessels, that is.  Not invisible “meridians”.

The mysterious energy flowing through meridians is a belief peculiar to Western practitioners of Oriental Medicine. These notions were the unique misconceptions of the Frenchman, Georges Soulié de Morant, who wrote a number of books on acupuncture in the early half of the 20th century.  Unfortunately, Soulié de Morant was neither a scholar of ancient Chinese language, nor was he a medical professional.  But he did witness traditional medicine being practiced in China. And he projected his own notions onto what he observed, as well as what he wrote in his books.

The amazing outcome is that his books influence the knowledge and understanding of most all Western practitioners to this day.  Not until 2002, when Oxford University Press published Dao of Chinese Medicine, by Donald E. Kendall, an American Doctor of Oriental Medicine, did Westerners become privy to this major debacle. Before publishing Kendall’s book, Oxford spent three years ascertaining, through peer review from all over the world, that indeed, nowhere in Chinese literature or dictionaries is “qi” defined as “energy”.  Nor are the vessels called—or conceived as—”meridians”.

In fact, the lines drawn between acupuncture nodes, holes, or points, which Westerners call meridians, are a relatively recent notion—also a misleading invention of de Morant.



But this is probably not important to you. What’s important is that you know that Qi is oxygen.

It’s important that you know that acupuncture and most Chinese herbal medicines move blood and oxygen, generate it, and effect their healing through this primary mechanism — the free flow of blood, and the oxygen it contains.

But did you know this is the mechanism behind one of our culture’s most popular and more intelligently designed drugs—Viagra?!

While the mechanisms of Oriental Medicine are not identical to Viagra (thank heaven), its objectives and its results are quite similar.  But acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, in the hands of a skilled doctor, afford manipulation of the therapy and effects to any location desired, not just the human penis. Without side effects.

If oxygen is so imperatively vital to life, is it not likely that anything which deprives us of it will cause us ill health?

  • How about the ‘foods’—I use that term loosely—we eat daily which bind and inhibit adequate oxygen for metabolism and vitality?
  • Or spending all our time indoors?
  • Sitting at a desk all day, day in, day out?
  • The adiposity we acquire?

Let’s talk for a moment about the effect of adiposity on our body’s ability to access oxygen and blood.

Everything is in the blood, right? Oxygen, nutrients, hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters.  If a part of our body—or our entire body, for that matter—is lacking in blood flow, our cells can’t get what they need to thrive and perform their functions. Pain, disease, and dysfunction are the inevitable result. Dysfunction in the brain, dysfunction of the heart.  Dysfunction of your reproductive system.  The gut, the liver. All organs and glands, all systems suffer.

Then would it interest you to know that for every ten pounds of excess weight we carry, our blood flow is reduced by 50%?  Let me repeat that: every 10 lbs of adiposity reduces blood flow by 50%.  Pretty frightening, eh?  Imagine being 30 lbs overweight.  What would that do to all the systems of the body — not to mention an individual’s weakest system?

But I’m getting into a subject best left for another blog.


All the modalities of Oriental Medicine used at Future Medicine Now, both ancient and modern, accomplish the primary goal of increasing the flow of blood and oxygen in the body—keeping all the organs, glands, muscles, joints, and tendons in vibrant health.  They can be used to direct Qi very specifically (as in acupuncture or trigger point injections), or they can infuse the entire organism in an all-encompassing fashion (as in IV high dose Vitamin C or acupuncture).  And that is how they bring health to the body.

  • Acupuncture
  • Chinese Herbal Medicine
  • IV administration of high dose vitamin C or glutathione or many other micronutrients
  • Trigger point injections
  • Prolotherapy

All of them move Qi.  Most of them ‘tonify’ or increase Qi.


So now you know what Qi is.  It is not a mysterious energy flowing in invisible meridians.  It is the most vital physiological reality of your existence.

And you know, too, that a five thousand year old paradigm of medicine recognizes, understands, and is most adept at artfully manipulating it to the benefit of your health.