Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Review: "The Wellspring" - Students Of Chi; Get This Book!
"Every human being can draw in the course of his education from the inexaustable wellspring of the divine in man's nature".
I Ching - #48, Ching / The Well
The last class I had with my Tai Chi Chuan instructor, Michael Gilman, he handed me this book as I was leaving. "The Wellspring" he said, was the best book on the science of Chi that he has read.
I had just finished "Chi Gong" by Dong and Esser, and provided THIS REVIEW. Dong and Esser go a long way to explaining the science behind Chi, but "Wellspring" answers the rest of the questions I had. Without a doubt, this book has a sensible approach firmly rooted in scientific studies. Of course, there is no way I can solve the mystery of Chi in a few paragraphs here, but this is a piece of the puzzle that "The Wellspring" presents:
The "enteric nervous system" is basicly everything from your tongue to your anus, all your guts and bowels. According to Christopher Dow in "The Wellspring", there are more nerves in your gut than there are in your brain. The brain also releases serotonin, a chemical substance that is a neurotransmitter, but the intestines release even more than the brain. Dow carefully walks us through fetal development demonstrating the direction of energy flow up the spine, and down the front of the body via the conception channel, gut, or "enteric system". Scientific studies have shown that the bowels, when completely isolated from the brain, will still perform peristaltic action - the undulation of the gut that moves food through. This may be the link to serotonin in the intestines, and the gut almost behaving as a "second brain". Starting to get the connection? The point below our belly-button, the Dantien, is the center of the gut, with more nerves and serotonin than the brain. Dow goes on to explain both bioelectricity and electromagnetism within the body, both which account for the meridian systems in Chinese medicine.
While giving complex explanations of these functions, "The Wellspring" is not "over the top" in science. it is very readable, with humorous stories illustrating the concepts to be explained. A smooth transition is presented between scientific studies and the actual types of breathing, visualization and postures of Yogic Chi practice.
Moreover, author Christopher Dow is a martial artist, a long time practitioner of Tai Chi Chuan. The second half of the book relates to Chi in the martial arts. Even more directly, the difference between localized Chi in the muscular contractions of hard-style arts vs. the whole-body Chi of internal martial arts.
"The Wellspring" describes Chi in a way that even skeptics may have to re-think. If you practice Chi Gong, Yoga, or Martial Arts, this book will help you understand the how and why of Chi. If you are going to pick one book to help you understand the concept of Chi in the human body, this is it!
"The Wellspring", by Christopher Dow is available through Phosphene Publishing company at this link.