Craig Payton/ Book Report: The Healer Within
by Craig Payton
July 11, 2012: Book Review
The Healer Within
-Using Traditional Chinese Techniques to Release your Body’s Own Medicine.
Doctor of Oriental Medicine
The subtitle of this book refers to traditional Chinese techniques. The beauty of this book is that is could be subtitled, “Making Ancient Health Enhancement methods available for anyone” or even Qigong for Dummies (although that title is now taken and published by the “for Dummies” people).
Dr Jahnke takes apart the often subtle and complex systems of movement, massage, meditation and breathing and distills them down into easy to practice and easy to teach methods that are instantly accessible to the most inexperienced individuals. As a long term student of martial arts, meditation, Asian breath work (primarily qigong) and an occasional student of massage ( a couple of decades ago) I feel I have a distinct perspective of experience on all of the material in this book. As a student and sometimes teacher of some of these disciplines I really appreciate the great work Dr Jahnke has done in creating this system of simple Self Applied Health Enhancement Methods (his term translates into the acronym SAHEM). This concept of SAHEM is central to this work. Anyone can and should learn basic self care to reach for a baseline of health which can and should be aspired to by all. As the Chinese say, “The most precious medicine is found within.” Jahnke shows that this medicine is more accessible than we ever knew.
“How strange that we would produce the most profound medicine within our own bodies and the, somehow, forget to use it.”
From the header to Part 1. “The Medicine”
“One of the first things I learned in the study of traditional Chinese medicine is that the Qi is the name of the medicine within and Qigong is the process of cultivating the medicine within.” Although Qigong can be a deep and subtle art Jahnke simplifies these health enhancement practices to the extent that they can be taught without the need to refer to the traditional Chinese art of Qigong which may be intimidating or otherwise off putting to Westerners.
In a report from 1991 U.S. DHHS (Dept. of Health and Human Services) reported that 70% of disease was preventable. In another DHHS report in 1996 the surgeon general announced that simple, mild exercise decreases the risk of many serious illnesses. At the same time 60% of adults were found to be insufficiently active and 25% were found to be entirely inactive. Simply increasing physical activity a small amount has a powerful fitness enhancing and disease reducing effect.
The process of turning on the natural medicine within ourselves is easy, user friendly and free. The naturally occurring self healing ability of your own body, mind and spirit is the world’s greatest healer. Not to suggest we tell doctors to look for another career, but with patients exercising better self care doctors could be freed up to focus on the 30% of illness which is not preventable.
A famous quote from the Huang Di Nei Jing or Yellow Emperor’s Classic on Internal Medicine (500 B.C.E) sums up the traditional oriental philosophy of healing:
“The physician who teaches people to sustain their health is the superior physician. The physician who waits to treat people until after their health is lost is considered to be inferior. This is like waiting until one’s family is starving to begin to plant seeds in the garden.”
Three areas maximize our ability towards wholeness and self healing:
1. Attitude and Mental influence.
2. Lifestyle: Nutrition, exercise, rest, relationship, finances, work, spiritual practice, play, water intake.
3. Personal self care: The practice of self healing and health enhancement methods.
Jahnke also developed the PHASES program in an effort to increase the efficacy of his oriental medicine programs and in conjunction with the SAHEM (Self Applied Health Enhancement Methods). PHASES is a program which encourages an individual to explore all the Lifestyle aspects listed in category #2 above. In addition to this book I strongly encourage interested individuals to contact:
Dr. Roger Jahnke
Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi
243 Pebble Beach, Santa Barbara CA 93313
In my Qigong training I learned that you need three elements together to make Qigong;
1. Posture. A particular intentional way of adjusting the body, whether it be lying, sitting, standing or movement practice.
2. Breath. Usually relaxed abdominal breath, long, slow, deep and even. Sometimes other specific techniques are applied.
3. Visualization. This can be simply watching yourself doing what you are doing, making your practice mindful, or any other visualization from the simple to the elaborate such as visualizing a golden sun in your belly.
With these three elements you engage your body, your vital energy and your spirit. These are known as the three treasures in Chinese philosophy and medicine, Jing-Qi-Shen.
In the Healer Within Jahnke teaches the most foundational exercises eliciting these three layers of being in sections on movement, breathing and meditation. Taken together these foundational practices will take anyone deep into self exploration and self healing and/or creating ever more vibrant health. Self massage is fourth foundational basic method which when done mindfully following the principles of movement, breath and meditation becomes an ever more powerful method of self care.
Massage in its many forms is a beautiful art and tool to facilitate healing, health and deep relaxation. Although self massage is no replacement for this wonderful experience, which I would recommend to everyone at least once in a while, it does provide a fantastic tool to improve health and well being.
Jahnke demonstrates simplicity again in his approach to covering self massage which can cover a vast world of techniques. Although it is true that there are arts devoted to specific areas of the body such as the feet and the ears (reflexology and ear acupuncture for example) which are very specific and quite effective, Jahnke points out that simply working over your hands, feet and ears in a thorough way can be a remarkable tonic to the system. His techniques include simple ways to also work on the neck and shoulders, the face and eyes and the abdomen. He goes further into qigong style techniques with a simple method of tracing the acupuncture channels and a method for “energizing the organs” which are both methods of Qi transmission applied to oneself. Qi transmission is simply directing Qi from the hands to the areas in question without touch.
The “Gentle Movement” section details only a few simple movements. Taken together they make for an excellent overall body warm-up and tonic. The beauty of these few simple movements is their simplicity and their applicability to anyone in any health condition. The movements are easily adapted to work for people who are restricted to lying or seated positions with the goal of applying them rehabilitatively to progressively move an individual from lying to sitting to standing.
The breathing practices are simply an explanation of basic abdominal breathing. Abdominal breathing is an essential, natural ability which many modern people forget as they grow up. Many people typically have shallow breathing and tend to expand their breath by expanding their upper chest. Abdominal breath is the natural breath which starts as the diaphragm lowers, first expanding and filling the lower lobes of the lungs and then filling the upper lungs. This type of breathing facilitates relaxation, the movement of lymph which is heavily concentrated in the abdomen, increased blood flow and even reduced blood pressure. Again Jahnke teaches simple methods which are uncomplicated and accessible.
In Method 4: Deep Relaxation and Meditation Practices – Jahnke takes on these topics directly and easily, doing in ten pages or so what others have tried to convey in whole books, and doing it successfully. Included in this are methods of progressive relaxation which I recognize from my earliest entry into the world of meditation practices as a youth. Of course meditation and relaxation is a subject which can be explored very deeply, but the point of the SAHEM is that taken together with the other methods these simple but profound relaxation techniques will definitely create a powerful beneficial response.
Beyond part 2. “The Methods” and part 3. “The Practice” which gives suggestions for integrating the Methods into daily life in part 4. “The Way of Nature” Jahnke provides further inspiration and his vision of a possible future where people are interdependent yet through their own efforts and pursuit of self-care are also more vital and independent of need for help from the “health care” industry.
Some brief excerpts follow;
Nature Spontaneously keeps us well. Do not resist her.
Henry David Thoreau
Transcendental Philosopher and citizen activist.
Alone the health enhancement and self-healing methods are profound. They combine naturally with intentional focus of mind and spirit, and so the potential of the methods is multiplied. When the methods are practiced with others, their effect is amplified further still. The community of practitioners is a powerful natural force.
Jahnke – From the Header of Part 4.
To be accountable for honesty, purposeful work, joyfulness, service, family time, and play is one of your most potent tools for improvement of health or personal performance, because it means that you do what you say you will do. Accountability is identical to integrity. Accountability in your self healing practice is actually doing the practice.
Jahnke from Ch. 11
Also, in summing up the overall approach near the end of Ch. 11;
Awaken the medicine within, restore the natural self-healing capacity of the body, mind and spirit.
Cultivate the influence of positive emotions, such as joy and gratitude. Cultivate the influence of faith-faith in the “mystery”, faith in service, and faith in what you have discovered yourself. Cultivate humor and fun. Neutralize anxiety, frustration and fear. Seek the support of others and serve others by supporting them. Listen for the stories and testimonials that confirm your inner potential to reach your preferred conditions and circumstances.
“It is a primary characteristic of the superior person that his or her practice of self cultivation is focused upon helping everyone in the society.”
Confucius. 500 B.C.E.
People did not weave the great web of life, we are merely a strand in it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
Chief Seattle, chief of Six Tribes of the White River.
“Each individuals willingness to take action to sustain and improve his or her own energy produces a powerful influence that has the potential to affect healing throughout the community and even the world.”
“A Human being is part of a whole, the “Universe.”
Our task must be to free ourselves from the delusion of separateness, to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature.”
Can you master your wandering mind and embrace your original unity? Can you calm your breath, cultivate essential energy, and sustain the suppleness of a newborn with no care? Can you clarify and refine your inner vision until you perceive nothing but pure, radiant light? Can you love without expectation or contrivance and guide others without imposing your own desires?
Lao Tzu – Ancient Healing Formula
These inspiring quotes point the way towards the ultimate aspiration of a movement of self healing and self improvement generating a transformative effect upon individuals, groups, towns, regions, countries and cultures.
As Deepak Chopra sums up on the back cover, this work now 15 years since it’s publication stands out and is indeed both
“Practical and Inspiring.”
I also give my highest recommendation to “The Healing Promise of Qi” – Roger Jahnke – 2002(?)
This book tremendously expands on the Healer Within, going deep into the art, science and magic of Qigong while maintaining the principles of simplicity and accessibility.
Verlyn Craig Payton
July 11 2012