Are You the Emperor (Empress) of Your Domain?
"Everything the light touches is our Kingdom..." Mufasa, the "Lion King", to his son and heir, Simba.
In Chinese Medicine, the organs (or Organs*) were often described as government officials... all working (ideally) in harmony to keep the body, or kingdom healthy. And in Qigong, the 'regulations' or foundations of the practice (breath, body, mind, qi, and spirit) were given battlefield roles.
When teaching our most recent Qigong class, we heard from a couple folks who were having difficulty relating to their bodies in a militaristic way.
I understood why, but I also got the analogy, given that the form we were teaching was developed by a Chinese general in the 12th century for his troops to stay strong. But I meditated on this a bit anyway to see if I could make the concept more relevant to us peace-loving civilians.
As we had also been teaching to our class the importance of the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system (that which controls our relaxation response) and how stress is often a matter of the orthosympathetic branch (the 'fight or flight' response) running continuously on idle, I realized that 'the body as battlefield' could put forth an image of 'me against the world' ... feeling much like an 'orthosympathetic' stance.
What, then, would be a more relevant and softer analogy for us?
Defenses against disease or 'external pernicious influences' are always active, yes - but ideally, just on patrol much of the time, rather than constantly involved in active engagement.
I knew that the Lungs in TCM included the lungs proper, the diaphragm, and the act of respiration.. breathing being an interchange with the immediate environment... and defense, or immunity. But the lungs also included the skin (or 'third lung'). It's porous, it breathes, and it also interfaces with the external world. The Wei Chi, or defensive chi, (aka: immunity), is said to be part of the skin's function.
I then referred to the book, "As Snowflakes Fall: Shiatsu as Spiritual Practice", and read: "The oriental view of Lung is that it is the source of energy which defines what is me, and what is everything else; in other words, what is inside the boundary of the skin and what is outside.... The Heart is known as the Emperor who controls, or harmonises, all parts of the defined whole."
Ah. So, now we have a picture of the body, not so much as a battlefield, but as a realm, or kingdom ... with clearly defined and protected boundaries.
We take in breath which fills the interior (as every cell takes in oxygen). This is our domain... all that the breath touches is our Kingdom, and is ruled by the Heart.
What is within that domain is our responsibility: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
(The Lungs, by the way, were considered to be the Prime Minister, as they were charged with diplomatic exchange between the interior and the exterior of the body, protection of the borders, and bringing life-giving Air Qi back to the Emperor/Heart.)
I suggested to the class that Qigong is the practice of mastery over our interior, and the conscious mobilization of the forces we have at our disposal - body, breath, mind, qi and spirit - in order to keep the peace and balance within our own skin... in other words, our health.
So, how well do you know your own kingdom?
As the ruler of your domain, how well do you know your own terrain? How clear of an experience (different from an abstract and intellectual knowing) do you have of your body, of all that is within the boundary of your skin? If you are to properly govern and defend your domain, it's helpful to get to know the reaches of your realm ... the uncharted territory, the forests, the thickets, the deserts... all that the breath touches.
*Organs. In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) the organ names are capitalized to differentiate their meaning from that of western physiology, as their interpretations could include not only the organ itself, but its function, as well as emotional characteristics and other organs that supported their function.