Fatigue is a fact of many people’s daily lives. The constant daily grind and distractions of the modern world often drains our vitality.
This ‘normal’ level of ongoing tiredness experienced by most busy people is not to be confused with the illness Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), which often debilitates sufferers’ normal activity by 50 per cent or more. CFS is a debilitating experience of daily fatigue affecting up to 100,000 Australians. According to statistics collated by the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA), US and British statistics have estimated that between one in 500 and one in 200 people are afflicted with CFS.
The formal diagnosis for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was first introduced in 1988 by the US Centers for Disease Control. The World Health Organisation (WHO) then incorporated ME/CFS into their 10th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) in 1991, which was published in 1992. Post-viral fatigue syndrome was classified as a disease of the nervous system. Benign ME was included in this category.
The primary diagnosis or definition for CFS is, “Six months or more of exacerbated fatigue with a 50 per cent reduction in activity, with no other known cause.” Some of the most up to date diagnostic descriptions of CFS/ME and another related category of illness, Fybromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) can be found at the Canadian National ME/FM Action Network website (www.mefmaction.net). The experience of CFS is debilitating. One woman aged 47 years old who had worked as a midwife prior to coming down with CFS said that when she was ill she found that even conversations with family and friends left her drained.
She told me: “I feel that someone like myself who refuses to die, struggles out of bed when they wake up, keeps going when they are ill, drives to keep going…They know once they stop they will never get going again. (But when I had CFS) I couldn’t even do yoga. I went to walk up the little slope out the back of my house and I ran out of puff.”
Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can include intense physical aches and pains, nausea, a hangover-like fog around their head, emotional depression, digestive problems, allergies, headaches of a new type of severity, unrefreshing sleep and post-exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours.
There is a lot of research available on CFS and nutrition, allergies, hormones, stress, brain stem compression, viruses, depression, gentle exercise and pollution. The latest research out of St George’s University in London even found differences in gene expression in the immune cells of people with the illness, which could eventually lead to a blood test for CFS and perhaps even a drug for treating it. However, there is still no real known cure or cause for this illness.
Much of the work I have done in recovering CFS and researching the illness involves working on the level of the subtle or non-physical human system. This work involves learning to manage and cultivate life force or qi (chi).
Qi is the name for life force or vitality in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Another name for life force is prana, widely used in the ancient Indian systems such as Ayurvedic medicine.
Navigating a recovery from CFS through changing the body at the level of qi is similar to physical bodybuilding. Subtle energetic muscles much like physical muscles gradually strengthen with persistent repetitive gentle exercises targeting the right muscle. As with physical bodybuilding, it is up to each person how much he or she wants to put in the effort to do the exercises to change their body. With subtle bodybuilding, however, the main emphasis is learning to work from the inside out.
There are so many things to say about energetic management and CFS that I am in the middle of writing a book about it. However, in this article and the sequel to be printed in Living Now’s April edition, I would like to pass some practical tips to help people with CFS navigate their own recovery through uncovering the mysteries of their own qi body.
Five steps to manage your energetic recovery from CFS
- Understand the subtle system of human life force
People with CFS can benefit a great deal from learning to understand their subtle energetic make-up. Understanding how the subtle system of human energy works can only help people to make more informed choices about how to improve their health. For example, a person with CFS generally has a severe problem at the level of life force. They wake up feeling drained and exhausted, sometimes even worse than they did the night before. Understanding simple theories about how the human body of life force recuperates at night can help a person with CFS to engage a recovery at this level.Great benefit can come from understanding why a relaxation exercise such as the ‘yoga nidra’ before sleeping at night or during the day can kick-start a recovery for people with CFS. One well renowned book to describe the workings of the human subtle system according to the system of Traditional Chinese Medicine is The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine by Ted J Kaptchuck OMD. For an initial foray into the Indian tradition, a foundational text is the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. There are a lot of translations of this ancient text on the internet. A modern explanation of the subtle systems of the human body that incorporates knowledge from both of these systems is a correspondence course, Subtle Bodies: The Fourfold Model by Dr Samuel Sagan, founder of the Clairvision School of Meditation. This model of subtle bodies came out of Dr Sagan’s thesis for a Doctorate in Medicine on the topic of chakras and subtle bodies in the Hindu tradition, for which he was awarded a silver medal and the title of ‘faculty prize-winner’.
- Feel your own body of energy
In my experience, learning to feel your own body of energy is the first step to being able to make decisions which help rather than hinder a recovery.Most people in the modern world do not consider the body of qi. People are more often in their minds, thinking, than they are feeling what happens to their energy. Over time this can cause people to cut off from the source of their vitality and even stop the natural flow in this part of their system.Qi or prana is largely felt as vibration. Some people describe this level of the human system as pulsing, throbbing, buzzing, humming, or even just a sense of ‘something else’ in their body. Becoming aware of subtle sensations when walking in nature, or doing physical exercise can stimulate the level of vibration. If you walk briskly up a hill and flop down on the grass at the top, it is possible to feel some kind of energetic movement. Some people also find swimming in the sea stimulates their life force, giving them an awareness of more vibration and energetic movement in their body.
- Awaken your qi – learn to move energy
Awakening the body of qi means learning to revive the functionality of your body of energy. Qi is meant to flow, interact with the environment, cleanse, and even has a natural protection mechanism. Unfortunately, people with CFS have often lost touch with these capabilities.There are a number of healing arts that directly stimulate and work to awaken the body of qi, such as acupuncture, shiatsu, and some kinds of acupressure massage.Some forms of martial arts are also healing and stimulating to the level of qi. Many people with CFS have found qi gong particularly useful.There are also some treatments which can awaken perception of life force simply because they work on a more subtle awareness of the human system. The Alexander technique is one form of subtle treatment at the level of the physical posture that also has been very beneficial in helping people with CFS awaken their awareness of how their life force flows.Arguably, one of the most effective methods to awaken the body of qi and begin moving your own subtle energies is through working on the third eye. In Hindu iconography the third eye often contains all the other chakras. Through the third eye, it is possible to reach all other chakras, awakening and controlling all other centres of energy. This is the kind of energetic technique that I pass to CFS people on weekend workshops.Techniques for working on the third eye can also be found in the book Awakening the Third Eye by Dr Samuel Sagan available at the website www.clairvision.org.
- Seal and protect your energy
Many people with CFS are easily energetically drained or even damaged by their environment on an energetic level. The first step to changing this sensitivity is learning to seal or protect your body of energy. A number of martial arts systems teach people how to densify and seal the body of energy through bringing attention to the area of the hara or what the qi gong practitioners call the dan tien. This is in the area of the belly about two or three finger widths below the navel. With practice, breathing into this centre with awareness of the layer of vibration in the body, can densify the whole body of energy.The third eye can also be a useful tool for protecting the body of qi. Most people find that once they know how to feel vibration in the area of their third eye, it is not too much of a jump to learn how to seal the body of energy with this centre.For people who are not doing martial arts or meditation practices on the body of energy, I have noticed that some people do awaken the qi body’s natural sealing mechanisms through a lot of physical work outdoors. By this I mean undertaking a task like building a mud-brick house. For people with CFS, it is important that they do this exercise slowly without grasping or wringing out their energy. Studies have shown that exercise for someone with CFS should be about gently building up long-term physical stamina rather than pushing their cardiovascular fitness level with intense activity.
- Manage your environment
The place you sleep, the place you work and the place where you live are all very important if you are in recovery from CFS. It is really important to have a supportive environment in terms of qi or life force. People recovering from CFS do often tend to move to more natural environments, but this is not absolutely necessary. Most important is that the quality of life force where you live is supportive. Again, if you sleep in an area where the life force is supportive, your energy is much more likely to have a chance to be refreshed when you wake up.As your perception of your own body of qi grows, it becomes easier to perceive the environment and its level or quality of life force. At the same time, most people do have some kind of intuitive idea of what a good energetic space is and what it is not. There are some beautiful houses that just make you feel good when you enter them, often because the qi of the surrounding land on which the house is built is supportive, as well as the aesthetic pleasure in the building.
There is obviously a lot more to managing your energetic environment than feeling good inside. Karen Kingston, in her book Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui, offers many insights about how to make a space energetically harmonious.
One of the most important pointers for anyone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, however, is information on dowsing for Earth lines, sometimes known as the Hartmann grid, after the German researcher Dr Hartmann. European governments have invested millions of dollars into studying the impact of these lines on life organisms. There are now enough studies linking poor health with sleeping on these lines to warrant someone with CFS dowsing their bedroom and moving their bed to a spot that is not impacted by Earth lines.
Samantha Keen is a journalist and recovered CFS sufferer who has been researching the effects of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 2 years. Her experience has helped her uncover some of the mysteries behind Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This year, she is writing a book on the topic.
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