The Way of Qigong; The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing
By Ken Cohen
Sometimes we learn the lessons we most desperately need in the form of illness. That was my experience, and I know it is the experience of many persons who will read this book. Let me explain why Kenneth S. Cohen's insights could have helped me, and why they will benefit you.
As a first-year student I attempted to drop out of medical school because of chronic, classical migraine headache syndrome - recurrent episodes of blindness, nausea, vomiting, and insufferable headache, followed by periods of incapacitation. I was concerned I might injure someone during surgery if the blindness came on unpredictably, as it always did. My medical school adviser, however, convinced me to endure the problem and remain in school.
I was unaware at the time that my problem was compounded by anxiety, stress, and overwork. I was an excellent student - intelligent enough, and utterly compulsive and driven. I had no insight whatever into the mind-body relationships so commonly discussed today. In fact, I was unaware I had a mind-body connection. That came years later - when I discovered biofeedback and meditation, which for the first time allowed relief from the problem that nearly halted my career and made my life miserable.
When I recall my medical school experience, I regret that there were no Kenneth Cohen's around. If there had been, I am certain my experience would have been pleasantly different. But at that time we medical students had never heard of qigong. I am delighted that the situation is changing.
Someday soon, the principles of healing you are about to read about will be taught in all our medical schools. In fact, this is already beginning to take place, as an increasing number of institutions develop courses in alternative or complementary medicine, including qigong.
There are two main reasons for the growing acceptance of these methods: They constitute both good science and authentic wisdom. Science and the venerable tradition of qigong are joining hands, as you are about to read. As a consequence, qigong can no longer be considered just a matter of faith or belief, nor as only a body of practical knowledge accumulated across the centuries, although this would be impressive enough. When the methods Cohen describes are subjected to rigorous empirical tests, they repeatedly demonstrate their worthiness. These developments are immensely important. They indicate not only increasing acceptance of qigong, but increasing openness within science and medicine as well.
Modem medicine, as everyone knows by now, can be spectacularly successful and woefully inadequate. It alternately inspires praise and condemnation. Almost every thinking person, both inside and outside the profession, realizes we need more than a mechanical, technical approach to healing. We hunger for a balance between body, mind, and spirit - which is contained in the healing approach of qigong.
In his discussion of qigong, Cohen wears two hats, as all modem healers should. First, he is a scientist. He realizes that science has become the dominant metaphor of our culture, and that we cannot ride roughshod over its methods and messages. Unlike many unorthodox healers who seem to carry a grudge against science, Cohen realizes it has something valuable to offer.
Among other things, it remains a valuable way of guarding against certain kinds of delusions. Cohen's other hat is that of a healer and mystic - one who honors the great mysteries of existence, and who feels that a union with the Divine Principle - God, Goddess, Allah, the Dao, the Universe - is possible. I would never trust a healer who does not have respect for both science and spirituality. That is why I trust Cohen. That is why I recommend him to you.
Neither would I trust a healer who does not have a sense of humor. Cohen's lightness of heart comes through on every page. In a time when people are often "dead serious" about their health, humor and levity are needed more than ever.
Reading Cohen's book, I felt a connection that stayed with me from start to finish. One of Cohen's mentors was the late Alan Watts, the great scholar, teacher, and author of books on the wisdom of the Orient, particularly Zen Buddhism. Cohen pays homage to Watts in his acknowledgments; I pay mine here. In the spiritual desert of medical school, Watts's writings and tapes helped me to regrow my spiritual roots, for which I shall always remain grateful, and they remain a tonic with which I periodically refresh myself. His wisdom comes through in Cohen's insights. That is one reason I admire his book so much.
Throughout The Way of Qigong, Cohen never trivializes the great mysteries of healing. He is quick to acknowledge our limited understanding about how qigong healing takes place. He implies throughout that it is acceptable not to know. This is expressed in many ways - for example, the admonition to go slow in qigong practice; to be content with gradual, not meteoric, increases in wisdom; to occasionally do less ritual instead of more; and to rely on the invisible wisdom of the body and of nature, instead of always trying to make things happen.
Cohen's advice to cooperate with the healing power of nature will be a great challenge to many who encounter qigong for the first time. In our typically aggressive, extroverted way, we often try to whip nature into line. We "fight" our disease and try to "conquer" our illnesses. Prepare for a gentle approach. Qigong is not a hammer. In fact, its primary purpose is not to defeat disease at all, "but to become expert at being more fully who you are" (p. 183).
And who is that? The answer to the great question of who we are lies at the heart of the greatest healing traditions, including qigong. Gently, wisely, Cohen invites us to discover our Self - that part of us that is beyond illness, disease, and death - to discover, in the end, that we did not need his book to begin with.
Until that realization dawns, enjoy the paradox - and read on.
-Larry Dossey, M.D.
Author of Healing Words:
The Power of Prayer and
the Practice of Medicine