Falun Gong and Health Benefits – Part I http://www.clearwisdom.net/html/articles/2011/3/5/123614.html
Falun Gong and Health Benefits – Part II http://www.clearwisdom.net/html/articles/2011/3/8/123681.html

V. The Initial Study of Falun Gong Cultivation’s Possible Mechanism of Healing and Fitness

The improvement of physical health among Falun Gong practitioners is merely one advantage of practicing Falun Gong. In fact, people can benefit in other aspects as well by practicing Falun Gong. Following are some examples:

Practicing Falun Gong makes one more relaxed, clear-minded, and less stressed. Practitioners are energetic and they are able to quit bad habits such as smoking. After learning to handle conflicts with sincerity and compassion, practitioners improve their relationships with those around them. They have also gained more understanding of what one's “true self” means. In addition, practitioners come to understand many fundamental principles. They understand the cause of different tribulations in life and learn to use them to cultivate themselves. With a better understanding of the spirit-matter relationship, practitioners focus more on self-improvement and tend to spend more time with people with similar interests.

Apparently Falun Gong practitioners have discarded many bad habits that impair health. Through cultivation, they also gradually reduced the stress in their daily lives. Hence, they have become healthier both physically and mentally.

However, if you ask practitioners if becoming healthier is the motivation for their cultivation, the answer will probably be surprising: “No, becoming healthy is merely a by-product of our practice.”

How do practitioners gain the health benefits as a by-product? After all, even with the best treatment provided by modern technology, such a goal would take a lifetime, with significant monetary investment and an enormous amount of effort. Will we be able to explain this from the standpoint of Western medicine or even traditional Chinese medicine?

Although Qigong, similar to acupuncture, is effective in healing and fitness, it is still not fully understood or accepted by modern Western medicine. The basis of acupuncture lies in the meridian system, which has not been fully studied by Western medicine. Plus, the concept of “Qi” and “Gong” cannot be easily understood by modern medical science, which is built on morphology. Qigong practice emphasizes the unification of spirit and matter, mind and body, as well as the human being with the surrounding world. These are areas that have not been well understood by modern science, which mainly focuses on the study of material existence. Nonetheless, although its progress is very slow, modern science has accumulated some understanding of the relationships between spirit-matter and mind-body. Plus Qigong’s health effect on its practitioners is reflected on various levels recognized by modern medical science from the genes to cells to organs. Let us look at how cultivation affects healing and fitness, from the point of view of both modern Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine.

(1) Modern Medical Science’s Understanding of the Relationship between Body and Spirit - Psychosomatic Medicine

Modern medical science believes in the model of physiology, psychology, and sociology. After six years of studying 170 sudden death cases, in 1971, George Engel observed that severe diseases or death might be related to psychological stress or trauma. Mental stress can lead to many health issues, such as heart disease, asthma, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and acute viral infection. Mental distress is also a possible cause of mononucleosis, cancer, AIDS, and even Alzheimer's. The diseases caused by poor lifestyle account for 70% to 80% of all diseases. For example, in the United States, about 10% of women and 20% of men require treatment for alcoholism. Each year, about 200,000 deaths are directly related to alcohol-related physical and mental disorders, including suicide, cancer, heart disease, and liver disease. Alcoholism reduces a person's life span by approximately ten years. The direct or indirect financial losses to society brought by these physical and mental disorders are estimated to be more than $150 billion, that is, about $600 per person. In the United States, there were an estimated 61 million smokers in 1995, 4.5 million of them young people. Every year, there is an increase of 170,000 new lung cancer patients, and 150,000 deaths are due to lung cancer. About 80% to 90% of lung cancer patients are smokers. Today there are 300 million smokers in China. Poor diet, lack of exercise, and depression also lead to an increased risk of heart disease. Despite modern technology and health education, each year 400,000 to 500,000 people die of coronary disease. [15]

The theme of Science magazine on April 26, 2002 was "The Puzzle of Complex Diseases, It's Not Just the Genes." The main article states: “The most common diseases are the toughest to crack. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, psychiatric illness: All of these are 'complex' or 'multifactorial' diseases, meaning that they cannot be ascribed to mutations in a single gene or to a single environmental factor. Rather, they arise from the combined action of many genes, environmental factors, and risk-conferring behaviors.” In his article titled “Balancing Life-Style and Genomics Research for Disease Prevention,” Walter C. Willett from the Harvard School of Public Health wrote, “We have been able to identify modifiable behavioral factors, including specific aspects of diet, excess weight, inactivity, and smoking that account for over 70% of stroke and colon cancer, over 80% of coronary heart disease, and over 90% of adult-onset diabetes.” “Findings from modern molecular research have helped to clarify the genetic contribution to many diseases. Highly penetrant mutations, which account for conspicuous clustering of diseases within families, are rare and appear to account for less than 5% of major cancers and coronary heart disease.” “...the majority—probably the large majority—of important cancers in Western populations are due to environmental rather than genetic factors.” [16, 17]

Researchers have found that, compared to 20 years ago, more patients had benefited from the use of a placebo. This indicates that the stress in modern life and environment may contribute to more psychological diseases. In their book The Invisible Plague: the Rise of Mental Illness from 1750 to the Present, Dr. Torrey and Dr. Miller stated that, in recent decades, at least in some industrialized countries, strong evidence has shown that depression-caused human illnesses are epidemic diseases, even including the most serious mental disorder—schizophrenia. [18] In a survey of psychological stress reactions to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, “The Effect Post 9.11,” such a trend was further confirmed: people, even away from the scene, have shown substantial stress symptoms. [19] Out of the respondents living in the vicinity of the “Twin Towers,” 20% of them showed “significant post-traumatic stress” (or post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD). [20] Another study involving 988 Manhattan residents showed that smoking, drinking, and marijuana use has increased significantly, which may be related to various psychological conditions. [21] According to a study from the Department of Education, in a survey of 1.1 million public school students, about 75,000 children showed more than six symptoms of PTSD, which is sufficient to be diagnosed with mental disorders. [22, 23]

The above studies have clearly shown that these psychological factors, lifestyle, environmental factors, and social conditions have significant impact on physiological conditions. Modern medical treatment in these areas is relatively ineffectual. From the benefits Falun Gong practitioners have experienced from their practice, it is obvious that this practice leads to positive outcomes in all the above areas.

(2) From Traditional Chinese Medical Science to the Elevation of Cultivation [25]

It is easier to understand the role of Qigong practice in longevity and health from the perspective of traditional Chinese medical science, because these are the reflections of one system at different levels.

In contrast to Western medical science that focuses on physical medicine, traditional Chinese medical science focuses on energy levels. The meridian system in Chinese medicine is the channel for energy flow. All types of matter in Chinese medical science have the concept of energy or "Qi" such as Wei Qi, blood Qi, Ying Qi, Jing Qi, Qi in the inner organs, the meridian Qi, Qi of water and food, etc. According to Chinese medicine, organs are not merely anatomical parts but are, instead, different energy hubs. Through the meridian system, these organs connect the body from inside to outside, from top to bottom. They also connect other organs within the system or outside the system (that is, from other organ systems). This is the basis for the holistic view in Chinese medicine. Acupuncture, chiropractic, and breathing techniques are treatments that adjust one's energy balance. In fact, the critical difference between traditional Chinese and Western medical science is not only in their naturalness and comprehensiveness, but also on their views of the body's energy balance. Chinese medicine studies the four properties and five tastes of herbs, which is then applied to the different meridian systems. Such viewpoints are also seen in the diagnostic method of Chinese medicine, that is, the material and energy flow between the different energy hubs (organs). Some examples are: the syndrome of intermingled phlegm and qi, stagnation of qi transforming into heat, sinking of qi of middle-jiao, and hyperactivity of liver-yang. From these, we can see that Chinese medicine is a complete medical system on the energy level, rather than an alternative and complementary medicine, as it is viewed in the eyes of some Western medicine professionals.

Secondly, Chinese medicine studies the human system at a microscopic level. Many people in modern society are puzzled by the abstract concepts in Chinese medicine. Although modern medical researchers have come to recognize the clinical effects of traditional Chinese medicine, they do not quite understand its intangible, invisible, theoretical system and its basic concepts. In fact, many researchers have realized that Chinese medicine is a systematic and complete energy system that is also complex and precise. This system exists in a highly microscopic dimension that, albeit serving as an extension of the human senses, is indeed beyond the limits of sophisticated modern instruments. The information that traditional Chinese medical science obtains through “looking,” “listening,” “asking,” and “feeling” is the most superficial reflection of this micro-dimension. In ancient times, through cultivation, people could develop the capabilities of seeing through human bodies and the micro-dimension. In Zhuan Falun, it states, “In ancient China, supernatural capabilities were common to virtually all Chinese medical doctors, such as those great medical scientists: Sun Simiao, Huatuo, Li Shizhen, and Bian Que. They all had supernatural capabilities that were documented in medical texts. Yet now these excellent parts are often criticized. What Chinese medicine has inherited are only those prescriptions or experiences from research. Ancient Chinese medicine was very advanced, and the extent of its progress was beyond present medical science.”

Thirdly, Chinese medical science unifies mind and body. It stresses that “The heart holds the office of monarch.” In Traditional Chinese health studies, being ascetic is the great secret of longevity. Modern Chinese medical science has very limited understanding and recognition of spiritual aspects. Therefore, the most essential parts of traditional Chinese medical science have not been fully inherited and carried forward. Hence, in modern Chinese medical treatment, these most essential parts have often been missing as well. The reasons for this are complex. One important reason is the political and ideological influence. Researches are afraid to deal with the “mysterious” parts of traditional Chinese medical science, which are now often considered “superstition.” Thus they lose the opportunity to explore and study them in detail.

Finally, and most importantly, traditional Chinese medicine is a science of the unification of humanity and nature. The thought of the unification of humanity and nature is one of the basic platforms of traditional Chinese medical science. The human body is a small universe. Heaven has five Qi, and the earth has five elements. Similarly, the human body has five emotions and internal organs. They all correlate to one another. The naming of the acupuncture points and the description of the various energy changes within the human body all reflect this characteristic. This is why some Westerners say that the diagnosis of traditional Chinese medical doctors sounds like a weather forecast.

However, the human body exists not only materially, but it also has a spiritual existence, such as the human disposition, temperament, and ideas. From the perspective of human health, when the human spirit is calm and at ease, then the organs work properly. On the other hand, because Qi is an energy entity in the body that is finite and vulnerable, many factors can lead to blockage of Qi.

Therefore, all theories of treatment and health involve supplementing the Qi, absorbing the Qi, adjusting the Qi. However, Qi is merely Qi after all. It will ultimately run out and fail. However, the energy of the universe is eternal. Then, since the human body is a small universe, why can’t human energy be eternal? If the human body is a small universe, and a human body has a spirit, then doesn’t the universe around us have not only the five elements and the five Qi but also a spirit? The answer should be affirmative. If the small universe is assimilated with the spirit of the big universe, shouldn’t it also obtain the energy from the big universe? The answer should also be affirmative. Therefore, when traditional Chinese medical science reaches its highest level, it is “cultivating the mind and body, stopping the pursuit of fame and fortune, being ascetic, and reaching the ultimate realm of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.” This, in fact, goes beyond medical science and reaches a new realm, that is, cultivation. A cultivation practice that truly cultivates mind and body can help the practitioners reach this realm. At this point, the energy in this small universe of the human body—Qi—has been purified along with the assimilation of the spiritual characteristics of the big universe. It has been transformed into eternal energy – Gong, which makes true health and longevity achievable. Falun Gong is such a cultivation practice method.

Modern Western medicine has acknowledged that there are multiple layers and multiple facets to health. This clearly puts forward a new model of modern medical science: “physiology- psychology-society-spirit” model [25]. When one’s soul is healthy, one’s mental health and social behavior must be healthy, too. Physical health is an inevitable result. In fact, traditional Chinese medical science and true cultivation practice not only cover this model, but also provide a full set of feasible methods, which should be cherished, inherited, and carried forward.

VI. Inspiration from a Medical Survey for Future Health Care

Health care today can be considered primarily a system provided by health care professionals with modern medical technology (mainly medicines, radiation, surgery, etc). Nowadays, public health care has become a heavy and increasingly heavy burden for every government. With the emergence of expensive medical technology, the treatment of diseases has not been fundamentally improved, but the cost of health care has greatly increased. Therefore, reducing the cost of health care and improving the efficacy of treatment have become important goals. Meanwhile, the current high cost of health care inevitably excludes low-income people outside of the health care system. So, how to improve cost-effective medical care and how to provide acceptable and effective health care for all levels of society have become very important for any government. In addition, modern medical science has changed people’s understanding of disease and health. As medical technology becomes more and more advanced, people are becoming more dependent on medical technology, health care professionals, and other external factors, hoping that the developments in science and medicine can help them avoid the suffering of disease. That is, few people are considering how to improve themselves and truly being responsible for their own health. In other words, people have become more self-indulgent.

From the healing and fitness effects of Falun Gong, it’s clear that the practice has provided a self-care system that is low-cost but a highly effective way to good health and mental stability. Through practicing, they have a different viewpoint from everyday people regarding life and health. They are responsible for their own health and lives and are truly changing their behavior.

Very simply, Falun Gong cultivates both mind and body. It consists of two parts: the most important one is cultivating the mind or xinxing. Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance is the guiding principle in practitioners’ daily lives. Cultivating xinxing is the key to achieving the growth of Gong and healing and fitness. Falun Gong also cultivates the body – practicing the exercises to improve the physical body. The five exercises include standing exercises and a sitting meditation.

Falun Gong is a cultivation system with a goal beyond healing and fitness. But, as the survey shows, on the level of healing and fitness, the effects of Falun Gong are miraculous. On this level, Falun Gong practice can be viewed as a self-care or self-improvement system.

More specifically, Falun Gong practice can be viewed as a multi-level self-care system that combines the spiritual and material and has a great effect on the treatment of diseases. Multi-level also refers to individuals, families, and communities. From the individual perspective, it is effective on physical, mental, and spiritual levels. Practitioners are responsible for their own health and life and use the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance to guide their daily lives and correctly view the gains and losses in their lives to reduce anxiety. They are also able to successfully quit bad habits. Anxiety and bad habits are recognized as high risk factors for many major diseases in modern medical science. What modern medical science has not recognized is the direct impact of mental and spiritual factors on an individual's physical condition. Falun Gong practitioners are able to achieve good psychological and mental states by cultivating xinxing. At the same time, the exercises can also improve and transform the body. When one is ill, practicing the exercises can completely eliminate the disease. When one is not ill, practicing the exercises can greatly enhance resistance to disease. From the traditional Chinese medicine point of view, the exercises not only open up and widen the meridians, but also transform low level energy, “Qi,” to a high level of energy, “Gong,” which traditional Chinese medicine cannot accomplish.

Reflecting on its own limitations, modern medical science has proposed the new health care model “physiology- psychology-society-spirit.” As stated above, modern medicine not only lacks effective, reasonably priced means to cure physiological diseases, but also lacks good methods in other areas. The information gathered from the research regarding the effect of Falun Gong practice on healing and fitness in mainland China, North America, and Taiwan from 1998 to 2002 is therefore worth reflecting on and investigating. There should be further research in this area.


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