Acupuncture came to the United States by a fortuitous “accident”, if you believe in accidents. A journalist named James Reston, who was traveling with President Nixon in China, had an acupuncture treatment, and wrote about it in the New York Times. Acupuncture was already here, but mostly confined to communities of ethnic Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. It was considered anything from an adventure, to a dangerous flight of fancy for a Westerner to venture into an Asian community to seek these esoteric processes involving sticking needles into the body. How strange!
But, as many people became disenchanted with Western allopathic medicine and its reliance on remedies that tended to merely repress or mask symptoms, interest in other modalities, such as acupuncture, grew exponentially over the years. What these early “adventurers” discovered was an ancient system of healing that looked at the human organism from an entirely different perspective, informed by a scientific system of thinking very alien to our own.
While the systems in the West relied on things such as biochemistry; i.e., how does the body’s chemistry manifest itself during disease, and how can other chemicals change this?; the Chinese way looks at the human organism as an energetic system. The foundation operative word is Qi, pronounced “Chee”, which is often translated in English as, “vital energy”, or “life force”. These translations capture some of the essence of the meaning of Qi, but it is these, and much more.
Qi infuses all existence. It is the essence of creation itself. In the ideographic Chinese language, part of the ideogram for Qi is a representation of steam rising from a pot of cooking rice. Rice is life itself to a Chinese person- as basic as a food can get. And the steam is the essence of what makes the rice edible, so the ideogram contains several images of life’s essential parts. And it is important to remember that, while rice and water are things easily touched and contained, steam is more ethereal… as is Qi itself.