I asked a bunch of Licensed Acupuncturists a simple question: “How do you answer your patient’s question – ‘What Is 氣'”???

” 氣 is Physiology. The most common one word translation is ‘Energy’. It is the sum total of happenings – variously warming, enlivening, protecting, communicating, & allowing locomotion, thought, & speech… It is the sum total of attributes of aliveness that separate you from a rock.”

“ 氣 is the animating principle at the core of all life… The moving breathing force of life itself, observable in all things. It makes the plant stand erect and alive and the human either slump or stand tall and live. (It is tempting to reduce 氣 to physiology or mitochondria or oxygen etc., but reduction is just the habit of the western mind and is not the way to understanding 氣 ”

“ 氣 is the invisible force, or energy, that is responsible for every process in the body. It moves, invigorates, and nourishes. When stagnated or unbalanced, disease or pain results.”

“I only give an analogy according to the client’s background or profession. for example, an engineer type person; I tell them it’s like the tensegrity of the cables that hold a suspension bridge in place. people love it when I can relate something they find esoteric to their world, so I don’t concern myself too much with the accuracy or veracity of my metaphor.”

“The character 氣 is made up of mist and cooked rice. So it is ‘nutritious air’ that flows with and around our body.”

“I just try to keep it simple. Our patients don’t need to know everything we know they just need to feel confident that we know it. I tell them the word 氣 has no exact translation and that it is a word used to describe a concept. The closest thing it translates too is energy so try to think of it as the force behind our heartbeat, electrical impulses, brainwaves, circulation, etc. When we say stagnation a physically manifestation would be a bruise. Something stops the circulation and it pools this happens in other ways you can’t see as well. That’s usually enough for people they are satisfied and I’ve proved something to them they can comprehend. If they are really interested in theory I have a few copies of The Web That Has No Weaver (Kaptchuk) laying around and borrow them one. While it’s great to educate patients I have had many patients show up in my office saying the last acupuncturists they saw was too ‘weird’ and didn’t ‘get’ what they were doing. It took us a long time to learn what we know, and I find with my patients it’s better to keep it simple and basic.”

“Function or oxygen (vital air).” (Not energy) “In treating the body, we are increasing the flow of blood and oxygen, or 氣, to the tissues. When we say the ‘氣 of something’ such as the heart, we are referring to the heart’s function.”

“Matter and energy make up the Universe, and 氣 and Blood (I simplify greatly to save time) make up our bodies’ life force.”

“The force (invisible) within the matter (visible). Dr. Tran Viet Tzung talks about ‘The Wind that shakes the leaf’. Allopathy can describe the leaf and energy medicine is concerned with explaining the wind.”

“I like to mention the hydronium ions that pass through our fluids. Proticity and sometimes electricity, Not one thing. But I often fall back on ‘Vital Force’.”

“In my experience most people want a simple explanation, not a lengthy tutorial. I often use this analogy as well; Just as we cannot ‘see’ the energy that causes our hearts to beat, and blood to flow, it is most definitely present. 氣 can be likened to that….”

“I think its a mistake to equate 氣 with ‘energy’ for a bunch of reasons. I hardly ever use the term 氣 in clinic – but if it comes up, I suggest it refers to that which animates and circulates everything and anything that is animated and is circulating. Which includes energy, blood, lymph, nerve impulse, spirit, emotions, etc etc. I have a big problem with the term ‘energy’ and steer very far clear of any notion that I ‘work with energy’.”

“MOVEMENT of oxygen and blood. (5 words that work!). I find that most patients get this, its easy to understand and its relatable to a lay person. See my emphasis on movement. In my opinion, 氣 is not oxygen or blood, rather the force that moves oxygen and blood throughout the body to enhance the function to each organ.”

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