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(5 pages total)

Page 4 - Ancient Healthcare for a Modern World

In one group, all wearing the same outfit and moving in unison to music, over 300 people practice together. The taijiquan fan group has between 100 to 200 participants. The largest taiji sword group numbers over 100. Perhaps the numbers are lower on a Tuesday or Wednesday? Not really! Every day, huge numbers of people perform health maintenance practices that are easy to learn and apply and profound in their clinical effects.

Across China, one can find thousands of various forms of Qigong self-care in current practice. There are medical forms named for particular organs or body functions like "the liver exercise" or "activating the spleen and stomach." There are poetic forms named after animals, seasons, or forces of nature, such as "dancing dragon flying," "fire fusing with water," and "five animal frolics." There are martial forms like "supreme, ultimate boxing" and "iron shirt." There are forms named after individuals and families like "Yang's Taiji," "Chen's Taiji," "Zhang's Channel Conductance Qigong," or "Hai Deng's secret method." Some are named for temples or spiritual figures like "Shaolin qigong," "Kuan Yin practice," "Taoist alchemy," or "Buddhist Lohan form." Clearly, the self-care heritage of China is rich and long.

Qigong and Cancer

In Beijing, Shanghai, and numerous small cities, an organization called the Cancer Recovery Association meets to practice a more recently developed system of Qigong named after its originator, Guo Lin. This form is a mild variety of Qigong, a walking form, that is very easy for even the most unwell cancer patients to practice. The Cancer Recovery Association has over 60,000 members throughout China, 4,000 to 5,000 alone in Shanghai. On any one day at each of ten meeting sites throughout Shanghai, typically in parks, 30 to 50 members of the Association gather to practice Qigong and then meet to have tea, share testimonials, and seek the state of light-heartedness.

Mister Yuan, the director of the Shanghai branch and a recovering cancer patient himself, says, "We operate a social model of healing. Each individual may have a different regimen of therapy, including one or all of acupuncture, massage, herbs, chemotherapy, x-ray therapy, etc. However, we all have the social model and Qigong in common. We support each other, tell our stories, shift our attitudes from stress and worry to light-heartedness and we practice Guo Lin's Qigong."

Spontaneous Qigong

Among the many various forms of Qigong self-care, there is one unique ancient approach that is currently gaining popularity in China, called "spontaneous movement Qigong." Each person moves about (dynamic) or is stationary (quiescent), according to their own internal process and needs. Each person stands, sits, or lies down according to the status and need of their own Qi. The unique benefit of spontaneous movement Qigong is that each individual's practice is completely appropriate to their own condition. Spontaneous movement Qigong is a classic, ancient approach to self-care that is highly personal, although it is often done in a group.

In Guangzhou, Master Zhang is a gracious teacher of many students who meet to practice in the park near the Pearl River every day. Master Zhang's Qigong consists of a period of active Qigong followed by a period of meditation Qigong. Then participants do "spontaneous movement Qigong." When asked why she works with spontaneous Qigong, Master Zhang responds, "Every person has a different need, goal, and nature. Spontaneous Qigong has no limits, and each participant moves about or is still according to their own process at the moment. Some of my students are very ill, some are Buddhists, some are Taoists, and some are scientists. Spontaneous movement allows each of them to get the greatest benefit from within their own perspective."

In the light of all this, is the self-care tradition of China a possible resource for resolving the medical crisis in the U.S. The answer is an unqualified "Yes."

Potential Medical Cost Reductions of an Integrated System

Certainly, one of the most pressing current challenges of modern American society is the extreme cost of conventional medicine. In the U.S. an insurance company, American Western Life, has discovered that "natural protocols," including herbal medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, nutrition, and lifestyle alterations can save from 31% to 82% in the cost of medical treatment. Mutual of Omaha, Prudential, Travelers, Blue Cross, and numerous HMOs have begun to pay for alternative medicine. Numerous corporations have found that $2.50 to $5.00 may be saved per $1.00 spent on wellness and health promotion programs.

In America the integration of alternative methods, including Chinese medicine, will probably not look like the integration of Western medicine into the Chinese medical care delivery system. Historically in the U.S., we have vigorously avoided embracing and integrating the "alternatives" to the comprehensive extent that the Chinese have. But it is clear that medicine in the U.S. is in a transformational period, and there is treasure in China that could have substantial benefit if integrated into the emerging system. It will be interesting to see how enduringly conventional Western medicine will resist this resource. The existence of the Office of Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C., and the remarkable use of acupuncture in detox and treatment of addictions both suggest a trend toward integration.

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