mental picturing; the use of images to enhance healing states;
engaging a persons mind in the process of applying healing modalities.
transforming dense matter into something lighter - traditionally
belileved to change lead into gold.
medicine is full of images. All Chinese characters are pictograms,
providing an image rather than simply a word. The names of acupoints
provide us with splendid images that can be made use of in the
healing process [when we know them rather than using the easy
channel numbering system]. By simply telling your client the nature
of the point's function in regard to their condition allows their
mind to take part in the healing process. The correspondences
of The Five Elements is also another area we can make use of,
and it is the main one I use because it is very versatile and
in ancient China made use of their mind to guide and transform
their Qi to attain healing as well as spiritual transformation,
as detailed extensively in the manual of spiritual alchemy: The
Secret of the Golden Flower (translated by R. Wilhelm, with commentary
modern alchemists, practitioners of Chinese medicine use acupuncture,
acupressure and herbs to aid the transformation of dense matter
[physical body symptoms] into something lighter [harmonious Qi
flow] in the bodies of their clients.
what is imagery?
the definition above tells us, imagery is the use of mental images
to enhance healing states. According the Drs Sheikh and Pachuta
of the American Imagery Institute, "Mental picutres extend
a powerful force and can be used constructively in the healing
imaging modality is largely dependent on the right hemisphere
of the brain, which permits continued information processing following
perception, and lends a sensory character to ideas and feelings.
The lexical or linguistic mode is predominantly coordinated by
the left hemisphere of the brain, and is particularly effective
in integrating extremely diverse phenomena into one language label
that permits very rapid subsequent retrieval.
point is that verbal logic is linear, whereas the image is a simultaneous
representation. "The quality of simultaneity gives imagery
greater isomorphism with the qualities of perception and therefore,
greater capacity for descriptive accuracy." (Sheik 1975)
Think about it for a moment. If I ask you to think of a garbage
can, what immediately comes to your mind? The letters that spell
garbage can or a picture/image of a garbage can that is familiar
to you? I suggest it will be the latter because the image of a
garbage can [or anything for that matter] has more likeness with
our perceptions and familiarity of such items.
to the fact that images do lend a sensory nature to ideas, the
use of images in healing then shifts the mind from it's usual
rational, logical way of thinking and dealing with it's dis-ease,
to an irrational and illogical way [which in Jungian terms means
connecting with the unconscious]. When we can move to the irrational
and illogical, we are less restricted by our beliefs of how something
has to be. This then allows for 'miracles' to happen and for even
spontaneous healings to occur.
I mentioned earlier, we are all modern day alchemists even without
employing guided imagery. However, when we do make use of the
mind we take that healing to another level. Carl Jung regarded
mental imagery as a "creative process of the psyche to be
employed for attaining greater individual, interpersonal and spiritual
integration". In other words, an alchemical process.
Deepak Chopra in "Ageless Body, Timeless Mind" tells
us that it is the mind and it's beleifs that cause cells to age.
Change your mind around thinking about age or illness and you
can change, because mind directs Qi, Qi controls body. Again,
an alchemical process.
alchemy conjures up images of the Dark Ages and underground cults
with strange apparatus trying to turn base metals into gold, the
real gold is what they were all looking for. And the real gold,
I believe, is in finding the truth of our beingness and the understanding
that we have powers and abilities far greater than we are ordinarily
lead to believe. For me me this has been realised over and over
during years of involvement in Chinese medicine and Taoist philosophy
and represented in the transformations that have occurred in many
clients. Many times real healing has occurred simiply in someone
recognising themselves in a pattern of TCM as explained according
to traditional imagery.
imagery in TCM
know in TCM that mind leads Qi and that Qi controls body ~ while
we can choose acupuncture points and herbs to effect change at
the level of the Qi, we can also provide additional infomation
regarding these points and herbs. This immediately forms the basis
of an alchemical process whereby the client engages their mind
and adds it's weight to the whole of the healing process. I have
found this to have remarkable results and while it's use in TCM
is not so well documented, it is certainly well documented in
both medical and non-medical arenas.
Don Pachuta from the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland
uses the imagery inherent in Chinese medicine to help people with
life threatening illnesses with great results. In fact, it was
while attending an intensive training in guided imagery with the
American Imagery Institute in 1987 that Don awoke in me the power
and use of images in healing in Chinese medicine [particularly
the Five Elements] encouraging me to take it further. Other doctors
who use imagery in healing are Dr Carl Simonton from Fort Worth,
Texas and Dr Bernie Siegal, a surgeon at Yale, New Haven Hospital
who both use visual images to aid their cancer patient's healing
Chinese medicine is replete with images, it really doesn't take
much to incorporate some simple practices into your clinical work.
The theories of Yin-Yang and Wu Xing [Five Phases/Elements] provide
us with a wealth of imagery that can simply be included in the
Five Elements - Wu Xing - Five Phases of Transformation
to the unusual nature of my TCM training [apprentice to a Taoist
Healer/ Acupuncturist] I was given in depth information regarding
the Five Phases of Change or the Five Elements as we commonly
know them. I was taught that this symbolic representation of Qi
flow had many and varied uses, and that somehow it represented
a process of spiritual development. [Note: I ultimately wrote
a thesis on this to complete a Diploma of Metaphysical Sciences
and will submit a future article on my findings.]
Five Elements or Wu Xing in it's simplist form is a most useful
beginning place for the use of imagery and thus alchemy. Being
that it is a symbolic representation of the macrocosm and the
microcosm, the colours ascribed to each Phase are said to be colours
of balance (Chia, 1985). Therefore, simply employing the colour
associated with the particular organ/meridian system you are regulating
opens your healing to the use of imagery and the realm on inner
example, you are treating a person with a disharmony in their
Wood Element/Phase. Regardless of the problem, while the person
is lying on the table ask them to think of their liver/gall bladder
being surrounded and permeated by green liquid. Since green is
the colour associated with the Wood Element/Phase, visualising
the liver and gall bladder being surrounded and permeated by a
liquid of this colour has cleansing, nourishing and regulating
effects [Chia, 1985, & Huang, 1994].
simple imagery is from Medical Qi Gong [Huang, 1994]. Expanding
on from the above imagery, you can take your client through each
of the five zang and their associated colours [viz: Kidneys deep
blue; Liver green; Heart red; Spleen yellow; Lungs white]. Simply
have them visualise or imagine the organs being surrounded and
permeated by a liquid of the appropriate colour [except for the
Lungs, have the liquid transform to a gas]. Spending a couple
of minutes on each organ, breathing slowly and deeply, while also
thinking that the colour is cleansing and nourishing that organ
is a Qi Gong exercise that strengthens the functions of the viscera,
dredges the channels, maintains the balance between Yin and Yang,
regualtes Qi and blood, expels toxic energy and replenishes deficiency.
are many ways you can apply this idea, it is up to your own imagination.
Always describe your findings in terms of TCM so that the client
gains an immediate image of their condition. I find that when
I tell my clients my diagnosis in terms of TCM [ie Dampness, Heat,
Water not supporting Wood, etc] they immediately get an image
they can relate to, rather than trying to keep to more Western
medical terms. Remembering that Mind leads Qi, many people have
negative feelings and therefore images around Western medical
terminology, so helping them to move right away from these creates
a shift in their perception of their condition and, therefore,
a potential shift in the condition itself.
often have you treated someone with a variety of [apparently unrelated]
symptoms, only to point out to them that they are all connected
because they all related either to one organ/meridian network
or to one climatic state? How relieved was that person when you
gave them the 'picture' in TCM terms? I imagine they were very
relieved, because this is what I see every day.
Make use of these images to enhance what
you are already doing. Give your client some 'homework' to work
on. If their Earth Element is deficient you can certainly ask
them to dig in the garden but what if they don't have one! Invite
them to visualise their garden, have them create a lush, thriving
garden that they tend to in their visualisation. Have them 'weed'
out the toxins. If they have too much dampness, have them imagine
that their garden is lacking in sunlight and they can clear overgrowth
to allow more light and warmth in.
may seem too simplistic to be of value but sometimes it's the
simple things that can do the most good. In our modern highly,
technological age we are often too removed from reality to understand
that simplicity has great value. Dr Jerry Alan Johnson, in his
amazing thome: Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy: A Comprehensive
Text, (p.73) states, "The goal of the Qigong doctor is to
alter (if possible) the Toxic Qi patterns and help the patient's
body recognize that the formation of the disease is a mistake.
In order to reprogram these patterns, the Qigong doctor often
assists the patient in using guided meditations that employ vivid
imagination, colorful visualizations, and positive affirmations.
These images are used to encapsulate the disease and return it
to the divine light." A perfect decscription of both imagery
clients all appreciate the fact that I include them and engage
them in their healing process and often comment that other acupuncturists
simply put the needles in and go away - which we know works -
but these days many more people want to take an active part in
their own healing process. And what better way to achieve it since
you already know the information, all you have to do is include
it when you give treatments. After all this is the 21st Century
and all that we practise in TCM is oh so new age yet oh so ancient!!!
Anees and Pachuta, Donald, Guided Imagery Workshop Training Manual,
American Imagery Institute. 1987.
Richard, The Secret of the Golden Flower : A Chinese Book of Life.
Penguin Books London. 1984.
Thomas, Immortal Sisters : Secrets of Taoist Women. Shambala Publications
Sally, Metaphysics and Alchemy of the Tao : Reclaiming the Feminine
Spirit of Life. Thesis published by Lindlahr Books Perth. 1997
Runtian, Treasured Qigong of the Traditional Medical School. Hai
Feng Publishing Co, Hong Kong. 1994.
Mantak, Taoist Ways to Transform Stress into Vitality. Healing
Tao Books New York. 1985
Deepak, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind. Rider Books London. 1993.
Wayne, Real Magic : Creating Miracles in Everyday Life. Harper
Collins Australia. 1992.
Barbara Ann, Light Emerging : The Journey of Personal Healing.
Bantam Books New York. 1993.
Jerry Alan, Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy : A Comprehensive Text.
International Institute of Medical Qigong, Pacific Grove California.