It’s been about 2 years since I last tried to read Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse. He wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning book, Guns, Germs and Steel, which discussed how some civilizations rose to high technical advances and others remained at a Stone Age level. I had zipped through this book, finding it read like an Indiana Jones adventure. Collapse, on the other hand, discussed the demise of many advanced civilizations, which I found disheartening and stopped reading about two-thirds of the way through. Nevertheless, I recently picked it up and read it again. To my surprise, I am getting inspired.
This book is filled with examples of wrong decisions and how these decisions led to unsustainable living conditions. I started thinking about modern life and how we sometimes do things that don’t make any sense and yet we still do them. Here are some examples from the book: There is a theory that Easter Island, with the big stone tiki-head statues, became desolate when all the trees were cut down. Who would do such a non-survival thing like that? What would possess some group to do that?
Here is another example: 60% of Australia’s land area and 80% of the human water use is dedicated to agriculture, but the value of agriculture relative to other sectors of the Australian economy contributes less than 3% of the gross national product. Of that agricultural land, 99% makes little to no positive contribution to the economy, which is possible with the help of indirect government subsidies. It would almost make more sense for Australia to put its efforts into other sectors for growth.
One more example: A cows’ digestion produces methane gas twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide emissions from cars in causing global warming. The author suggests that it may be more effective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing cattle production.
What does all this have to do with keeping fit? Perhaps, if we can decode why groups of people make non-survival decisions that wipe out whole civilizations, then maybe we can find the answers to why individuals make non-survival decisions that impact the quality and longevity of their lives.
How do you shift the whole nation’s idea that obesity is a train wreck waiting to happen on an individual, community, economic and future level? How many people do you know who are actively changing their lifestyles to make a dent into this problem? How many people do you know who think of this as a global problem that has far-reaching implications?
I have been teaching qigong for about 13 years and studying it for 15, and I often forget that there actually are people out there who have never heard about it. A quick and easy description of qigong is “An ancient Chinese form of exercise designed to improve health and longevity.” It is pronounced “chee gong” and means the practice of moving the vital life force throughout the body. Similar to acupuncture, it moves the vital life force without using needles. As an exercise program, it is designed to improve organ health.
Many people are familiar with tai chi and have seen the graceful movements of that martial art which has been adapted for use in promoting health and balance. Although I have never studied tai chi, people who do say that the basic movements often take up to two years to perfect. Qigong, on the other hand, is much simpler to learn and can produce health benefits in one lesson.
One of the key aspects of qigong is that it focuses on the message system, unlike other exercise that may focus on cardiovascular health, muscle strength, flexibility or coordination.
The message system is ideas, messages and thoughts that influence how we feel, posture ourselves to the world and color our attitudes. A book written by Masaru Emoto, Messages in Water, describes how various words, sounds and images can affect the formation of crystals in water. The more positive the message, the more beautiful the crystal formation. Negative messages do not produce crystals. Since our bodies are primarily water, this book shows the power of positive or negative thinking.
I tell my qigong students to think positive messages telling the body to be healthier, happier, smarter and more beautiful. The body does listen to these messages. Eliminating or reducing negative messages improves one’s outlook. The “News” on television is 80% negative, which can negatively impact each cell of the body. Think about how talking to different people makes you feel. Who lifts your spirits? Who brings it down? Who are the people you prefer to be around? Think about times when you didn’t want to do something. How did your body feel? Can you remember your attitude? What about a time when you were excited about something – how did you feel then? Can you remember the way your body felt? An instructor of mine once said that a simple touch can produce a cascade of sensation in the body, an indication of many different physiological processes happening. He reminded us of how sitting in a dark movie theater at age 13 next to the boy or girl you had a crush on, arms just barely touching, could make the whole body respond with strong sensation and emotion. Hormones are message senders, after all.
Qigong is a discipline that can systematically change the way you send messages to yourself and thereby can improve your health. It’s an easy practice that only requires you to do it.
I focus on the topics you care about most.