In Chinese medicine, we have the concept of “Qi”. In simplified terms, this means “life-force power” or “life-force energy”. When we have abundant powerful Qi, we have strong physical constitution, easy recovery from illness, determined willpower, and charismatic character.
However, having strong Qi does not mean a person is strong in virtue. Have you ever met a martial arts instructor or political leader who exudes powerful Qi, is charismatic and magnetic in character, wins numerous competitions or elections, but uses violent, harsh words and punishment, or simply wants power to rule over and control others? Yet still people flock to be his fans and supporters?
(“Slash” from movie Legend of Kung Fu Rabbit)
We see such individuals with powerful Qi in several areas such as the political, corporate, financial and religious arenas. But if virtues have not been built FIRST within the leader, then this powerful Qi goes into the “Zhi Shen”, the personality, and becomes used to manipulate, trick or in some way deceive others. In Chinese medicine, we describe this as a massive “Qi deviation”.
However, through understanding 5-Element Theory, and applying it through a practice such as Medical Qigong, one of the four major branches of Chinese medicine (click on images below), we can determine clear differences between virtue and Qi power.
With the intention to build virtue first, or at least alongside building Qi, and growing a community of integrity that we allow to keep us accountable, we can thereby prevent such deviations in Qi.
So what are the virtues referred to here, and how does one build them?
In answering this question, it is important to note what are not virtues. The image below aptly depicts this, along with the related physical symptoms that manifest in the body.
Returning back to the virtues – in Chinese medicine, virtues are considered the “5 Pure Lights” that every human being is bestowed. They are a vital part of understanding 5 Element Theory where each set of virtues corresponds to a particular yin and yang pair of organs. When each yin organ, and its counterpart yang organ are whole at physical, emotional and spiritual levels, the person manifests this through exuding the virtues that relate to that organ system pair.
For example, using the 5-Element Theory classification chart above, when spleen-stomach energy is strong, at a physical level, muscles are also strong and transformation of food and transportation of nutrients are efficient. At an emotional level, worry comes only fleetingly, but does not dominate feeling, and intuitive guidance is followed easily without overthinking. At a spiritual level, faith, trust and certainty are high, and sense of safety and security are strong.
So how do we build these virtues as an integral part of strengthening our physical, emotional and spiritual bodies?
We can build them through a number of ways: meditation; spiritual/faith-based practice; conscious awareness of our reactions to others and in life in general; through the practice of Qigong or Taichi with a trusted teacher; and through allowing trusted family or community members to keep us accountable.
The Kung Fu Panda series of movies are a delightful example of the growth of virtue, contrasted with the development of Qi Power only, and true leadership when virtue and Qi power are combined.
If you read Managing Fear through the Kidney System, you can read the background for the last part of this article.
The father in this story had a great abundance of Qi that strongly affected his daughters in ways that challenged their health to varying degrees physically, emotionally and psycho-spiritually. As they grew into young women, they first responded to their father in reactionary ways, which led to unbalanced health in some way in each of them.
However, as they grew into mature women, they cultivated virtues which strengthened them physically, emotionally and spiritually. The oldest daughter grew her faith, trust and ability to say, “No” and stopped appeasing her father’s whims, or people-pleasing others.
The second daughter found peace, order and harmony in her life through a less busy schedule, and set clear boundaries. The third daughter initially unleashed unconscious anger on her young toddler son. Through exploring which parenting tools worked successfully, her son then taught her unconditional kindness, and transformed her methods of fear-based punishment to love-based parenting, growing her in the virtue to accept anyone anywhere with total compassion, without judgment.
The fourth daughter cultivated courage to stand true to who she was and speak her truth with honesty and integrity. Her courage and integrity increased enough to withstand all fear projected onto her from her father or even others around her.
Being rooted in virtue, the 4 daughters combined were then able to keep their father accountable. Including the mother, who throughout maintained great wisdom, self-understanding and connection to the values of her ancestral roots, it was the virtues of the five women in his family that both healed the father of his fears, and strengthened his already pre-existing virtues to keep his powerful Qi in check.
Coming full circle to building virtue vs. building Qi power, if you want to build your Qi, what organ systems need support (Heart, Spleen, Lungs, Kidneys or Liver?), and would be strengthened if their related virtues were also reinforced?