Welcome to the MIT Qigong Blog

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Science Proves Feeling Good Grows on You

From Universal Healing Tao - Mantak Chia Qigong

     Medical thinking is at the cusp of change. Modern medicine is focused on a left-brained, logical view of the physical world. The wonderful medical advances in the physical realm: surgery, drugs, medical diagnostics, and research are only part of the story. There is another part to the reality we live: the energy part. It is no longer possible for medicine and science to ignore the truth of this other side of life. Herbert Bensen from Harvard, who pioneered the use of "The Relaxation Response" decades ago, states the difference between Alternative Medicine and Mainstream Medicine is Science. Now that we have scientific evidence that the practice of Qigong works, this is not alternative any more. It is Science. Teachers can use these scientific facts to help students take small steps toward the goal of appreciating the power of Qigong on personal progress. Qigong [chee gong ] is the art of internal energy development perfected by the ancient Chinese Taoist sages. Finding a way to connect the mundane daily reality of an earthbound population to the glorious treasures of spirit is a challenge dating back to ancient times.

     The nervous system has two main parts: the somatic, or voluntary; and the autonomic, or involuntary. The Autonomic Nervous System is the more automatic one. It takes care of breathing, heartbeat, digestion and other basic functions. It has three parts, the Enteric Nervous System in the gut, the Sympathetic and the Parasympathetic nervous systems. In a research paper from HeartMath published in the Journal of the Advancement of Medicine, patients recalling an angry episode for just 5 minutes suppressed their immune system function for up to six hours. This episode also produced erratic heart rhythms, jangled nerves and other common symptoms produced by the Sympathetic Nervous system making the body ready for "fight or flight". Qigong techniques are known for quieting down the Sympathetic Nervous System. This allows the Parasympathetic Nervous System, PSNS, to dominate and quiet the body down. One of the known actions of the PSNS is increased saliva. Master Chia says a lot of saliva is a signal to him things are working right in a qigong meditation session. A 20 year study done by a London university showed people who had unmanaged negative emotions were more likely to develop one of the biggest killers: cancer and/or heart disease than the people who smoked tobacco and ate high cholesterol foods. The emotional risk factor was greater than the physical ones: people died faster from built-up. The book, Science Proves Feeling Good Grows on You (by John Starman, M.A.) states that "consistent happiness reduces stress and enhances health, emotional stability, performance and quality of life." These same steps are used in qigong to begin to develop inner strength. The research specifically points out it is important to focus attention on the heart and actually feel the emotion, not just think about it. This is exactly what Master Chia has taught us: "Mix the deep energy, the jing, with compassion in the heart and the benefit will stay."
     Over the years, the idea of how the emotions work has evolved. The current idea is the whole brain and the body are both necessary in the full experience of emotions. The brain includes the thinking part, the memory, and the limbic system: the deep connecting and integrating parts. The nerve and hormone messages from the body to the brain are also necessary. In an article published in The American Journal of Cardiology, (Vol.76, 1995), Dr. McCraty and others detailed how bringing attention to the heart and feeling positive emotions, such as appreciation, tends to bring about smooth, healthy heart rhythms and a much healthier nervous system. Some of the measurable benefits are: "reduced depression and improved functional capacity in elderly patients with congestive heart failure; the restoration of normal blood pressure levels in hypertensive individuals and improved glycemic control and quality of life in patients with diabetes". The researchers believe the basis for the action is the nerve impulses going back up to the brain. These afferent signals come from the viscera, [ the internal organs ] and the extremities. Scientists now believe experiencing emotion requires perception of external stimuli, brain processing, memory, and the signals from the body, all working together.

     How can a person send a message into the brain at just the right place? Science has found a direct line into the brain: the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the tenth of twelve cranial nerves. This pair of nerves comes right out of the brain and goes down each side of the neck into the chest and abdomen, connecting to the organs. These are large nerves, as big as your little finger, and can carry messages each way, both to the body and back to the brain. Even though the vagus is not part of the voluntary nervous system, researchers have found they could communicate right inside the brain by using the vagus nerve. These messages returning to the brain go right into the so-called "limbic system" deep inside the brain where they are processed in the emotional centers and then connected to the thinking part of the brain, the cortex. Are there other ways to use this pathway, maybe Chi Nei Tsang [internal organ massage used to clear stored emotions, CNT]? Science is finding emotional memories exist in the viscera as well as the brain, and CNT brings them out. A new treatment for depression is based on the idea of using these messages sent from the body back to the brain. Scientists found a small electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve helped prevent seizures in epileptics. [ The stimulation is in the range of 0.25 mA to 3.0 mA, 20 Hz to 30 Hz frequency, 250 msec to 500 msec pulse width, with 30 second stimulation intervals every three to five minutes]. A small device is surgically implanted with wires going to the left vagus nerve in the neck. [ The right vagus has a strong connection to the heart, so they don't use it.] The scientists noticed the epileptic patients not only reduced their seizures, they also started having a better mood. Studies showed changes in the activity of various brain structures were similar to the changes found when using antidepressive drugs. The scientists also reasoned that since the vagus was connected to the heart, a "top down" approach, and depressive patients showed heart rate variability, maybe a "bottom up" approach would work. It was tried on severely depressed patients who had tried many other treatments with very little success. It showed 40% of the patients reduced their "depression scale" scores by 50%. Half of them had results in 3 weeks and of the total, 17% were said to have completely responded! This is very significant and other trials are now taking place around the country. Since the vagus nerve connects to the organs and sends messages to the brain, and since studies have shown attention and positive feelings to the heart cause very positive physical changes; What happens when we use movement, breathing, and ALL of the organs and ALL of the virtues: Love, Joy and Happiness; Openness and Fairness; Gentleness and Wisdom; Kindness and Generosity; and Courage and Righteousness? This is just the first part of the Qigong. This shows how the wisdom of the ages goes far beyond science, but it is good to see science catching up. What a wonderful System of Learning we have been given. I have great hope and faith that more and more people will find and use these tools of Qigong. I am excited to imagine millions of people becoming truly mature and evolved: physically, mentally, emotionally, and energetically. Many will achieve higher levels of mastery than ever before in the world and we will have the privilege of seeing "full fledged" humans, showing the true capabilities that people can achieve. May we truly appreciate this and receive the strength and guidance to bring these powerful tools to a thirsty world! Come and enjoy learning the art of internal energy development. Get powerful tools to help you achieve emotional harmony and radiant health.