(NaturalNews) In western medical circles, we're hearing more and more about something that eastern cultures have known for decades, that the mind plays a huge role in your health, immunity and well being. While this has been common sense to the rest of us for decades really, it seems that western medicine can't believe or accept anything without a hundred studies and trials to back up what all the rest of us know from common sense, simple logic and empirical observation.
I, for one, never did and still do not regard most of these studies as much of anything, mostly because there is a study out there to just about prove or disprove virtually anything that you want to believe. Of course this is very foolish and dangerous as most studies, especially those that seem to prove or invalidate the effectiveness of natural cures including herbs, breathing, meditation, chi-gung and other natural and cheap health techniques are actually funded by the drug companies and many front groups. Some of these groups are even using very convincing names with keywords in their titles such as "organic, natural" or other names to make them appear as if they actually believe in natural cures, but subtly and deceptively lead you to doubt that a natural cure is not as effective as it was first thought. They tend to do this by degrees, slowly leading the consumer to believe that this natural method or cure is not all it's cracked up to be.
St. Johns Wort is a great example of this. At first it was highly touted and people bought it in droves in the early 90's. Once the pharmaceutical companies saw its sales were starting to decline, various studies came out that showed that it was "not that effective" or that it had no effect at all. Of course, those same studies showed that none of the anti-depressants, including the chemical versions that it was up against in the studies did anything either, but that part was conveniently left out giving the illusion that this ancient and highly touted and effective herb was virtually useless. Quite the opposite is true of course. While an herb that works great for one may not work that well for another, the effectiveness of the herbs themselves are not changed by this. Each person is different and an herb may work great for you and have no effect on someone else.
The mind is the most powerful tool that we have for health and healing. Of course, it can and too often is also the most powerful limiter of the same health and healing we have as well. Even the west has finally come to realize that most diseases are either caused or exacerbated by stress and the mind. Researchers have found stress is the main factor of all major illnesses including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, skin infections, back problems and more.
Since most stress is caused by the mind due to excessive thought and worry, it's in the mind where our greatest power lies to not only eliminate or greatly reduce stress, but also to use the power of our minds and relaxation to greatly enhance our energy (Chi) flow, boost our immunity, increase our resistance to many diseases and to greatly help us achieve longevity.
Meditation: Key to health and Longevity
Meditation is probably one of the most effective natural techniques that anyone can do to quickly and effectively increase their health and immunity and help themselves feel so much better, especially on an emotional level. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most confusing things to most people and one that most find is very difficult to begin to do. This is something that I can well understand and it's one of the main reasons that I teach basic meditation in my Chinese health and fitness video.
When most people think of the idea that they have to learn to calm down their minds or gain control over it, there is a bit of fear and a big collective sigh at that thought or trying to do this. Why is the mind so hard to control and calm down? Mostly because thoughts occur on many levels and in fact the more you try to stop thought, the more the mind tends to fight and throws even more thoughts in your path. Chinese call this "Learning to tame the ape". The mind is like an ape that wants to run wild and it must be taught to stay in its place. This can take quite a long time to really master, but it comes in stages and once you do, the benefits are tremendously worth it. Many people find this very frustrating and soon give up and simply and wrongly conclude that "meditation is just not for me". Well that's not true at all. Anyone can learn to meditate and gain the great health and emotional benefits of this incredibly effective and time honored technique.
Learning to calm down the mind and gain control over it is vital in internal cultivation and martial arts. That's because if the mind is constantly thinking for no real reason, energy is being dispersed and just like an idling car engine, you're wasting your fuel and going no where, generating a lot of heat that is just being vented out into the atmosphere and the universe and getting nothing back. Just like with an idling car engine, once that fuel is converted into heat, it dissipates into the air and can never again be recovered, at least not in that same form and not with existing technologies.
When the mind is calm, energy does not scatter it stays at its residence or source, meaning it will stay within the body to be used and not wasted by being dispersed into the atmosphere or turned into useless heat (stress) in the body. Meditation helps us to sustain energy by calming down our thoughts which helps us to attain a more peaceful state and prevent us from wasting fuel (chi) like an idling car, with the constant and mostly useless chatter that we get from the subconscious mind. It's this type of constant thought that leads to unnecessary and detrimental stress. The more our mind is racing, the more it invents and creates things to worry about. Too much thought leads to excessive fear, excessive and unrealistic fears weaken the kidneys (which control fear) which are a vital organ for health and longevity, not to mention immunity too. When the kidneys are weak, their subjective control over the heart is weakened which then causes heart palpitations and eventually leads to heart disease and more. This is but one example of how the mind and unnecessary emotions throw our organs and organ chi all out of balance and if not corrected, over time can and does lead to organ degradation and more serious health issues down the road.
How to Begin Meditation
So how do we begin to learn to calm down the mind? The first step is to gain control over the mind itself. There are many techniques that have been discovered and developed for this over the millennia. This is especially true in Chinese chi-gung and martial arts. You can begin by simply paying attention to your breathing. The mind and energy follows our breathing. When we're angry, our exhalations are longer than our inhalations. When we're sad, our inhalations are longer than our exhalations. This is because anger builds up fire chi, so the body increases our exhalations automatically to purge the body of the excess fire, kind of like when a dog pants on a hot summer's day. When we're sad, our energy is suppressed and weakened so the body increases our inhalations in an attempt to absorb more chi and again keep the chi in balance. When calm and neutral of thought, then our inhalations and exhalations are equal in length.
In paying attention to your breathing, simply start by being aware of each breath and start to slow down your breathing. Try this for at least five minutes as this is also an excellent warm up to use before beginning any meditation session as well. As you breathe in and out, use your conscious will and mind to begin to command your mind to calm down. Do this gently, otherwise the mind will only become more tense, the opposite of what we're trying to accomplish. An old axiom in Chi-gung is "The mind controls the chi, the chi controls the body". As we begin to calm down our minds, our chi will also become calmer, more balanced in regards to yin (water) and Yang (fire) and our organs will also be stronger. When this happens, their function and strength is automatically enhanced and increased, sometimes significantly so and this is how having a calm mind can and does greatly improve and affect our health.
After your mind is calm, a simple method of meditation that I prefer people start off with is to practice simple concentration exercises. This is because if you can't concentrate, you will not have any control over your mind or your chi and will not be able to will the mind to calm down effectively. The concentration exercises themselves are a type of meditation so you kill two birds with one proverbial stone this way. One of the simplest and most effective methods is to simply practice by staring at a lit candle for about five minutes at a time without being distracted by stray thoughts. You'll find that you can do this for maybe 10-20 seconds at a time, but then all of a sudden you'll start thinking about various worries about tomorrow, what happened yesterday, what to make for dinner, the show you saw last night and more. Then you realize 'oops... what happened...' Then you'll understand that this is actually quite hard to do.
In Chinese Gung-fu, the minimum requirement was thirty minutes staring at a candle without being distracted by stray thoughts. This eventually takes great concentration and strength of will, but it's easier for the beginner to practice this type of thought control than to totally blank out the mind which is a much higher level. Once you're able to concentrate for about five minutes this way, then focusing your mind internally on quieting your mind will be more successful since your mind will now be stronger overall.
You can also practice trying to mentally bend the flame in different directions, sometimes towards you, sometimes away from you, to the left or right while staring at it. It will not really move by your mind though, even though normal air currents will make it move on its own. But the conscious act of trying to move it further gives the mind something to concentrate on and it also increases your strength of will. Since the kidneys control the will and are the seat of the will, this actually is a simple and effective way to increase the strength of the kidneys as well as the mind at the same time. That's because the kidneys control the marrow of the body. This mean's it's related to the bone marrow and the brain, since the brain is also considered a type of marrow in the body.
After you have achieved the five minutes of concentration requirements, you'll find already that your mind is calmer, more focused and perhaps that you even have more energy overall. Of course this is something that you need to practice with every day. Depending on how serious you are about it and your commitment to it, you will find this goal can be achieved in a relatively short time, from a few weeks to perhaps a few months. Like anything, it takes commitment and a never give up attitude. In the west where everyone is looking for a quick fix, this may sound like a long time but it's really not. At first the desire to quit is strong, but just stick with it and do it seriously and believe in the training and the goal and this belief itself will greatly help you to achieve this or any goal much faster than if your mind is filled with doubt about it.
In a later article I will be teaching some more specific internal meditations which will focus on some energy centers of the body itself. These are places where chi is stored in the body and this will further increase the amount and strength of your chi, including the mind/body connection even further. The greater this connection and the calmness of mind we have, the greater is our health, immunity and overall sense of well being, not to mention greater emotional health and elevated mood on a more consistent basis. When we feel better about ourselves, all of the little things in life that I see many people getting so flustered over really become almost nothing. For that is the way to overcome any obstacle. If you shrink the size of a problem down in your mind to nothing and believe that it truly is nothing, then you can convince yourself that you can overcome it. This is a simple way to increase your faith in yourself, your own skills and your ability to solve a problem.
We can change our automatically negative responses into positive ones through repeated positive thinking, telling yourself that you can overcome it and saying "this is nothing". Its just like learning to lift a heavy weight. You didn't start out with a heavy weight, but a lighter weight. Over time and practice as you get stronger, you eventually found that you could lift that heavier weight. The mind works in a very similar way. The more you work it, the stronger it will become. Just as it takes time and practice to lift a heavier weight, so too does it take time and practice to overcome the heavier (larger) problems on the mind. We can all have a tendency to make a problem larger than it really is. While we can all do this at times, we don't want to make problems larger, but smaller. We want to use our minds to see the truth that a problem is only as large as we make it in our minds and only as large as the belief in our ability to overcome it.
A great example is from the Star Wars movie "The Empire Strikes Back". In there, Luke's ship sank in the swamp and small little Yoda, his Jedi Master, knew that it was possible to lift the ship out through faith in the force. Luke, who had just a minute ago been lifting some rocks while standing on one hand stated "...moving stones around is one thing but this is totally different!". Yoda exclaimed "No, no different!, only different in your mind." Luke tried and started to lift his ship, but doubted midway and the ship sank. Yoda came to his rescue and used the force and deep concentration to lift this seemingly insurmountable obstacle (a mountain of a problem) out of the water and onto dry land. Luke walked over to him in absolute shock and said, "I don't believe it!" Yoda replied "That, is why you fail".
While this exact account is fictional, it was really taken from a section in the Bible where Jesus was walking on the water in the middle of the night. His disciples saw him and were stunned in absolute shock, thinking it must be a ghost. Peter asked Jesus that "if it is you, let me come onto the water with you." Jesus replied, "Come". Peter stepped out of the boat and onto the water and did in fact walk on the water for a short time, until he saw and thought about what he was doing, saw the waves and the wind and allowed fear to enter his mind. Immediately he began to sink and cried out to Jesus to save him, which He did. When they got into the boat, Jesus said to Peter, "Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?" I hope that you can in fact see the similarities between these two accounts.
It's interesting to note that as Peter became afraid, this led to doubt. Remember that I mentioned above, that fear is controlled by the kidneys and they also control the strength of will. So it's interesting to note the sequence of events with Peter, that as he first looked he became afraid. Once fear set in his kidneys, chi was weakened which sapped his strength of will. Once his will was weakened, his concentration and focus went. This caused his faith to falter and the instant that happened, he began to sink.
While none of us will ever be able to walk on water as Peter did, at least not in this life, the patterns of fear leading to loss of will and the subsequent loss of faith are well known in Chinese chi-gung. This can and does have a real cause and effect in our personal lives, just as it surely had a very real effect in Peter's life that day. His loss of faith almost literally meant the loss of his life. Fortunately, Jesus was there to save him. For us, we can use this lesson as well as the techniques of Chinese martial arts and chi-gung to strengthen our own minds, control our fear, increase our willpower and thereby our faith so that we will be able to walk above all of our problems that we face in life and never sink below them ever again.
If you would like to learn about the mind, meditation, chi-gung, breathing, nutrition and more, please visit the website for my up and coming video "Chinese health and fitness" at the link below.
About the author
Richard is a network engineer and longtime practitioner of Chinese martial arts, medicine and chi-gung for over twenty six years. Having learned many Chinese health and healing arts from old world gung-fu and healing masters and practitioners, he has helped many people to overcome their health issues and achieve their fitness goals. Through diligent study and experience he has taken this knowledge even further over the years including reading scores of books on Chinese medicine, health, chi theory, science, physics, nutrition, supplements, meditation, martial arts, and many other subjects. Utilizing the web, health and fitness videos, newsletters, articles, teachings and lectures, Rich is passionate about spreading the true knowledge of health, healing, fitness and spiritual truths. I'm proud to be writing articles for NaturalNews.com You can read many articles, hear audio interviews, and learn more about the highly praised Chinese Health and Fitness video by visiting Chinese Health and Fitness.com