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 Conversations Toward a New World View: The Way of Qigong 
 
Interview with Ken Cohen
   as interviewed by Russell E. DiCarlo

Cohen: A few, but I must say that even in spite of the experiences I have personally had, I tend to be extremely skeptical of many of those stories. The Chinese have had a tendency since the third century BC-and probably even earlier than that-to exaggerate certain things in order to make a point. As an example, there are many anecdotes concerning the Buddha or concerning the early Taoist saints that are not meant to be taken literally, but which simply illustrate that the world is not as we conceive it. I tend to interpret the Qi Gong stories in that light.

Also, the Chinese often do not have the strictest protocols and controls in their science There is certainly some excellent Chinese science, but there is also some fakery, such as a master using his breath creating a fine stream of air to move an object which he is supposedly moving with his hand. So I need to know under what circumstances some of these fantastic events were demonstrated. I am not saying that they are impossible, I just have a healthy skepticism.

Nevertheless, I have experienced some things...I'll give you one example. In 1971 I was in an advanced private, martial arts class with a famous T'ai Chi master. We both had boxing gloves on, and we were applying the principles of T'ai Chi in full speed combat. It was a cold winter day. The studio where I was studying had solid concrete floors and I had worn my hiking boots to the school. I had forgotten to bring some lightweight tennis shoes, which is what we normally wore when we sparred.

Naturally, I didn't want to wear these hiking boots because they had a steel-reinforced toe. I was worried that if I accidentally hit my teacher, which had never happened, that of course this could injure him. So I was taking off my boots, and my teacher said, "What are you doing?" I replied, "I'll just fight barefoot." He said, "No, no no. Floor is cold. You probably not hit me anyway. Let's just spar." So I kept these steel-reinforced hiking boots on. Well, like anyone, even a T'ai Chi master can have an off day. I suppose he was a little bit tired. We had an early morning class and he was up late the evening before. At one point I raised my left knee as though I was going to extend my left foot to kick him. He started bending down to block what he thought would be a left front kick, and I was already jumping in the air and couldn't stop myself at that point. His head was moving straight down towards a flying front kick with my right foot. I hit him in the face with my steel reinforced toe full-force as his head was coming down. There was no way to stop it because his head was moving towards my foot. I must have looked as though I was going to pass out. My face was totally white. Here was my teacher, a respected master and one of the gentlest, kindest people I had known and I thought that I had broken all of his teeth. So I stopped and he looked at me. He said, "We are timing this. We are sparring for three minutes. Time not up." We continued sparring. Three minutes later we stopped, and I looked at him and said, "Are you OK?" He showed me his teeth and said, "At times like this, the chi helps."

Meanwhile, the big toe, of my right foot-inside of a steel-reinforced hiking boot- swelled up so much that I still remember limping out of his studio. While the toe wasn't broken, there was clearly a reversal of power. There was absolutely no damage to the teacher's face. This is one of the extraordinary things I have seen in the use of chi for martial arts training.

In terms of chi in healing, I have also seen some extraordinary things. I do think there are physical explanations. There is a specialized aspect of Qi Gong called "external chi healing." A practitioner projects chi to a client who is ill. Of course he would first diagnose the state of the person's chi or life energy to find the places of imbalance. He would also take a case history and find out the symptoms that were present. After doing all of this, he would project specific types of healing chi directly into the patients body. As a practitioner, I have personally witnessed some extraordinary results. I'll give you one example. Though it's not a healing, it stands out in my mind as a shining example of what chi can do. I was in Toronto in the early 80s giving a T'ai Chi workshop. One of my students asked if I would consider doing an external chi healing on a friend of his, a Chinese woman in her 30s who was very ill with cancer. The cancer had already spread throughout her body. It was in the lymph, it was in the liver, it was in the lungs. She had gone through the required rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. At that time she was home, basically waiting to die. Her physician had told the family that she would not live the rest of the week. She was in absolutely extreme, excruciating pain. No matter what medications or morphines were given to her, it didn't seem to reduce the pain. My friend asked me to consider working for her for several reasons. Not to cure her. They did not expect that to happen; nor did I, and that certainly wasn't the result. But rather to help her reduce the pain, to help her experience a decent quality of life in the short time she had left and perhaps to lengthen the amount of time she had left. And also to help her pass on with more dignity and more ease.

We need to remember with all healing systems, including Qi Gong, that the healing occurs more often on the psychological, social and spiritual levels than on the physical condition. There is no healing system in the world, including traditional western medicine, that can claim to heal all conditions. But at the very least, external Qi Gong can enhance the quality of life. So with this woman, I administered about twenty minutes of external chi. When I started working with her, her respiratory rate was a quick pant, her resting heart beat was at about 110. When I finished the twenty minute treatment, her breathing was normal, her heart rate was eighty and she began to cry. She said this was the first time that she was totally without pain in at least three or four months. She remained without pain for the next two weeks, up until the time she died. She passed over very peacefully and calmly. Even though she wasn't physically cured, I consider this a profound example of what chi can do.

DiCarlo: How does this practice of projecting chi to another individual in Qi Gong relate to therapeutic touch or magnetic healing?

Cohen: There's a very close connection. Many people have classified external chi healing as non-contact therapeutic touch. It's very similar to the technique that Dolores Kreiger has developed and made popular with, an important difference: The external chi healer has a systematic way to train the purification and gathering of his or her own chi. The healer can increase the effectiveness of treatment based on an internal practice. I think that's a tremendous advantage that external chi healing has over therapeutic touch. Also, external chi healing utilizes a specific system of health assessment (diagnosis). Furthermore, rather than relying almost exclusively on intuition in treatment, there are specific guidelines for how to create certain types of healing energy needed by the client.

DiCarlo: What researchers have produced the most compelling evidence of external chi healing?

Cohen: One published study at the National Research Institute of Sports Medicine involved sixteen rabbits whose left forearm bone were broken with a gap of three millimeters. There was a treated and untreated group studied. The researchers were measuring the rate of healing of the broken bones. They measured the bone density and they used other parameters as well to measure the rate of healing. They found that the group treated with external chi healed much more quickly.

There was also a study which demonstrated brain-wave synchronicity between a healer and a group of patients. Every time the healer went to a characteristic Qi Gong state-noted by high amplitude alpha waves with background theta waves-the same brainwave change would occur in the patients. I found that to be a very eloquent study.

Another good study took place at the Shanghai College of Traditional Chinese medicine, where mice were inoculated intravenously with B-16 melanoma cells. Those are cancer cells. They seemed to have been protected by external chi treatment, and I'll read this for you, "as manifested by reduction of the number of metastatic nodules over the lung surface, significantly as compared to the untreated group."

Researchers have also tested the pain-reducing effects of chi on animals. These animal experiments are very significant, because if they work on animals, then it dismisses the claim that some physicians have made in the past, namely that external chi healing is just the placebo effect and related to a person's expectation and belief that they might get well. We assume that the animals in the studies don't believe in the efficacy of chi healing!

There have been quite a number of experiments, including about 800 abstracts in English. There have been studies on tissue cultures, studies on the effect of external chi on human lymphocytes, and tumor cells from the same individuals. They have found that the chi stimulates the activity of the lymphcytes but destroys the tumor tissue.

DiCarlo: Could you comment on the work of people such as Valerie Hunt, Motayama and others who are attempting to come up with physical correlates of the human energy field?

Cohen: The work of those scientists is extremely significant. Motayama of course was one of the real pioneers, especially in looking at differences in skin conductivity, in looking at the end points of some of the energy channels, and also in looking at other physiological correlates of chi.

Unfortunately, the way the health care system is in the United States, unless we can produce some hard data and show measurable aspects of chi or chi healing, it's going to be difficult to change both the insurance coverage for alternative health care providers and even more importantly, to change medical school education. I think that's where a lot of the focus should be. The problem as I see it, is not so much at the highest levels of research or government. I have met people with high positions at the National Institutes of Health. I've had students from various levels of government come into my workshops and they seem to be quite aware of the benefits of alternative medicine. At one healing conference I met with the former commanding general of the United States Army, Intelligence and Security. He came into one of my Qi Gong workshops. Although he is now retired, and is not officially representing the United States army in any capacity, the fact that someone from that high a military background should be very actively involved in complimentary medicine is extraordinary.

I think the real difficulty is the rigidity of mainstream, average physicians who never learned about these things in medical school. I am in strong support of research. I think we need a lot more of it, and to do that we need funding.

DiCarlo: How would you define the emerging field of energy medicine?

Cohen: "The effects of energy and energetic fields to enhance or perturb health." This could include the effect of one human field on another, as in the external chi healing we spoke about. It could include the harmful effects of electromagnetism, or for that matter the healing effects of the earth's natural electromagnetic field on your body.

Energy medicine is an apt description of where this new paradigm of medicine is going. We're looking much more at the interaction between energetic fields, rather than on what we previously considered measurable phenomena-the discrete particles of biology and chemistry that could be seen under the microscope.

I think Dr. Elmer Green is correct when he suggests that, when you consider the ecological state of the world today and the difficulty or slowness of changing governmental environmental policies, it becomes all the more imperative for an individual to gain some control over their internal environment in order to dampen the harmful effects of pollution, electromagnetism and stress. So one of the promises of energy medicine is learning more about self-regulation techniques-ways of becoming aware of and regulating inner metabolic processes to improve health or to prevent harmful external influences from causing illness.

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