You wake up one day and realize you don’t feel well. Perhaps you find yourself feeling uncomfortably full with somewhat intense stomach pain. But it’s before breakfast—it doesn’t really make sense. You skip breakfast and go to work.
What’s really happening here? Your body is showing symptoms, which are signals that it has somehow fallen out of balance. Yet the actual “fall” hasn’t really happened that morning. Most likely, it’s been more of a free-fall over a period of time. There were probably red flags showing all along the way, signals that you didn’t know how to read or simply ignored. From the TCM point of view, reading and acting on those signals is a crucial step to remaining well.
Most people don’t realize that many health issues begin at the level of energy, Qi. What does this mean? Before an issue reaches the physical body with visible symptoms (like indigestion or acid reflux), there has to be a disturbance or imbalance somewhere in that person’s energy body. Western medicine now states that breast cancer, for example, is present in the body for some eight years before it is physically detectable. Where is it? Why can’t it be detected with state-of-the-art modern medical equipment? The answer is the cancer exists at that point at the invisible level of energy, Qi.
Every health issue has a root cause from the TCM perspective, and this is what TCM doctors identify and address in treatment. And there is a path—an energy time line—the issue follows before it becomes visible and impossible to ignore, and it can move something like this:
Your Qi is in balance and harmony. You feel well, which is to say you are not aware of any discomfort.
Your Qi falls out of balance and harmony. You might start to feel vague discomfort and intermittent symptoms. Let’s say you are the person who has woken up with the digestive disturbance described above. You might have experienced frequent burping or a bitter taste in your mouth in the months prior to that morning. Perhaps you’ve tried to deal with the problem by self-medicating, hoping it will go away.
Your internal organs start to show signs of energetic dysfunction and problems communicating with other organs. Your symptoms become more prominent and uncomfortable. At this point in the time line, nothing would show on standard Western tests because these tests can’t detect anything present on the level of energy, or what is known as a function disorder. A function disorder is on the energetic level.
The issue has become a physical problem. If you are the person with the digestive issue, you finally call your doctor and he or she sends you for tests. It is then determined you have a tear in the lining of your stomach from too much acid. You now have a physical health issue.
Think about this statement, Everything happens for a reason, and the reason is always for a good purpose. When we find ourselves in the midst of a healing crisis, we can actually choose to see it as a path towards our own healing and growth rather than an inconvenience or an obstacle in our way.
Your body-mind-spirit has an innate wisdom, and if you are not living your life in a way that reflects your life’s mission or spiritual purpose, that wisdom can kick in and produce symptoms to get your attention, to initiate change and greater wellness. In other words, your frustrations, or unresolved life issues will eventually manifest on the physical body to help you make changes in your life.