About Lynn

lynn jaffeeLynn Jaffee is a licensed acupuncturist and the author of the book, Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health, a clear and concise explanation of Chinese medicine for the lay person. She is co-author of the book, The BodyWise Woman, a personal health manual for physically active women and girls. Read more about Lynn...

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Is Qi Finite?

A couple months ago I gave a presentation to a small group of women on the concept of Qi. There were about a ten of us gathered around a table, and most were older. I was explaining that Qi, or energy, is needed to power your body’s many functions. But as I got to the part where I was explaining how those functions could suffer if Qi wasn’t sufficient, a hand went up at the end of the table. It was an 85-year old women, who was totally engaged in the conversation, and she had a question. In a clear voice, she said “Does that mean Qi is finite?”

Wow. Her question completely derailed me for a few seconds. Is Qi finite? There I was explaining all the problems you could have with your health if you didn’t have enough Qi, but clearly the universe would grind to a halt without Qi. So what was I saying exactly?

Since then, I’ve spent some time thinking about that question, and here’s my best answer. Qi is only as finite as the universe, because it’s what causes the universe to be. However, in your body, a certain amount of Qi is needed to keep it healthy, functioning, and alive. If you don’t have enough Qi to sustain life, then you will die, but Qi keeps on. Clear? Maybe not, but here are some examples that might help:

Nature and the function of Qi-Qi is transformative. In your body, it means that Qi is what turns the food you eat into nutrients, energy, and blood. It’s why we age. It’s what turns information into ideas and creativity.  In the universe—let’s say in nature, Qi is what turns a snow covered field into food, winter into summer, and a caterpillar into a butterfly.

-In our bodies, Qi protects us from outside invaders, such as colds, flu, allergens, and obnoxious people. A little like a protective shield, called Wei Qi, this protective Qi is something akin to immunity. In nature, the atmosphere or ozone layer would be considered the Earth’s protective shield, bark is a tree’s shield, and a shell is a clam’s shield. In all cases, if that protective shield is weak or damaged, illness, harm, or imbalance occurs.

-Qi moves. Your body has so many moving parts, all powered by Qi. In nature it’s the same; rivers flow, planets orbit, and plants grow. Without the ability to move, your body becomes stagnant, painful, and sick. Similarly, without movement, the universe pretty much grinds to a halt. Enough said.

-In our bodies, Qi is warming. In fact our bodies exist within a pretty narrow temperature range. To take it a step further, Qi regulates our temperature. Too cold or too hot? We die. Nature is the same; our planet is heated by the sun, which is pure energy…uh, Qi. In nature too, our oceans are similar to our bodies in that they can only exist within a certain temperature range. When the ocean temperature gets too hot or too cold, coral bleaches, fish die, and hello, El Niño.

-Finally, Qi is responsible for containing things in our body. For example, blood is meant to stay in your vessels, however when Qi is weak, you may bruise easily. Weak Qi is also behind easy sweating, some digestive problems, and frequent miscarriages. In the natural world, Qi holds planets in orbit, rivers within their banks, and the leaves on the trees.

So in answer to the question, is Qi finite, I say no. It’s as infinite as the planets and the stars; as infinite as trees and rocks, and as infinite as atoms and electrons. In our bodies, we need a certain amount of Qi to maintain life, but when we die, that Qi just transform us into something else—planets, stars, trees, rocks, atoms, and electrons.

1 comment to Is Qi Finite?

  • Some very interesting points here! Whether or not Qi is infinite is definitely a bit of a conundrum, but I think you’ve got a very good explanation here. Thanks for sharing your insight into this!