04 September 2011

The invisible energy around us

The subtle energy and air of the human body – how does one measure it?  Does it even exist?  If so, how do we make use of it?

I know that this debate continues both within the tea community and beyond.  Qi manipulation is a part of the body of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  Last year, a Qigong doctor traced my leg pain to a misaligned disc in my back that months of treatment by various doctors and chiropractors could not identify.  One’s ability to sense and manipulate qi depends on many factors, and each person’s baseline ability seems to vary. 

Each individual’s experience with qi also differs.  In several issues of “The Art of Tea” magazine, there were reviews of pu’er tea where several tea masters were asked to independently taste and rate each tea.  Their sensations of each tea’s qi were quite different from each other.  The qi doctor told me that the sensation of qi is generally the same, but each person has a unique interpretation of it.  The ability to reliably identify the feeling of qi from other biological and environmental phenomena requires experience and training.

How does the breath of life affect our tea experiences?  I believe that tea can be a complete sensory experience.  Just as a delicious meal may activate multiple senses and provide complete satisfaction, so too can a beautiful tea.  It will delight us with its aroma and flavor, and make us feel complete with its lingering energy.  But how exactly are we able to differentiate between the tea’s energy and our own?  How do we know that what makes us feel happy and complete is the complete energetic nature of the tea and not our own minds providing a response for us?

Really, we don’t.  The feeling of qi and unseen energies are subjective and cannot yet be accurately measured by scientific equipment.  Several years ago, for example, my sister had a Feng Shui/Qigong consultant walk through her house.  The master came upon a piece of “antiqued” furniture and said that the energy from it was off the charts; it was holding unstable energy in it that had been absorbed through generations of ownership.  The consultant said that the energy of living organisms is absorbed into all of the things around us, such as furniture (and presumably teaware).   My sister revealed to her that the new piece was antiqued, not an antique, and was made to look old for decorative reasons.  The Feng Shui consultant, whose dowsing rod had been twirling like a weathervane in the middle of a storm, put her instrument back into her satchel of doo-dads and walked into another room as if nothing had happened.  That experience proved to be a load of hot air rather than a demonstration of qi energy.

I believe that qi exists and I believe that there is energy all around and within us.  It can contribute to our unique experience and enjoyment of many things, including our tea sessions.