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We Have Missed The Most Vital Thing!

“Your life force is your most valuable resource. Don’t waste it.” —Tony Robbins

Our current intellectual arrogance has blinded us to a central truth that has been the scaffolding of virtually all healing traditions. This apparently simple truth has been staring us in the face – and we have missed it! The most important factor that determines human flourishing is our vitality. Everything else is simply a meta-phenomenon. Modern medicine has been chasing the shadows of our life force. We should have known better. Although the details of their healing technologies may have appeared diverse, every healing tradition across time has recognized and worked with the life force. If the Western allopathic approach is to escape the profound limitations of its current reductionist approach, it will need to focus its scientific lens on exploring the nature of the life force that invigorates our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Fortunately, recent advances in molecular biology have begun to open a doorway back to a wisdom grounded in our experience of ourselves as

Our Vital Energy and our First Healers

The Kung bushmen of the Kalahari, a group native to the arid regions of Southern Africa, have a unique and profound understanding of energy, which forms the basis of their healing rituals. .At the heart of the Kung bushmen’s healing rituals is the concept of energy, perceived not just as a physical entity, but as a spiritual force that interconnects all living beings. This energy is considered vital for maintaining the balance between the physical world and the spiritual realm. The Kung believe that illness and misfortune are often the results of disruptions in this energy balance. The most prominent healing ritual among the Kung is the healing dance. During this nocturnal ceremony, healers enter trance states, believed to enable them to “climb the ladder to the Gods” and interact with the spirit world. In these trances, they are thought to harness spiritual energy to heal and to restore balance. Richard Katz, in his study of indigenous healing practices, notes, “The healers, through their dance and trance, are not just performing a ritual; they are engaging in a profound interaction with the life force itself.” This perspective highlights the depth of the Kung’s engagement with the concept of energy.

Joseph Campbell, renowned for his work on myth and its role in human experience, offers a lens through which to understand the Kung’s rituals. He suggests that such practices are rooted in the universal human need to connect with something greater than oneself. “Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths,” Campbell famously stated. By this logic, the Kung healing rituals can be seen as a collective enactment of a deeply held myth, a way of engaging with the world’s energy. The Kung bushmen continue to practice their healing dance rituals and view energy as a means of communication between the physical and the spiritual worlds. Through their rituals, they believe they can send messages to the ancestors, seeking guidance or intervention in times of need. This aspect of their belief system highlights the integrative view they hold of energy, not just as a tool for healing but as a channel for spiritual dialogue.

Concepts of Healing Energy in

Ancient Eastern Healing Traditions

The concept of energy, known by various names such as Chi in Chinese medicine, Prana in Ayurveda, and Lung in Tibetan medicine, is central to many ancient traditional healing practices. These systems, developed over millennia, offer rich, complex understandings of human health and well-being, emphasizing the balance and flow of life energy.

Chinese Medicine and Chi

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), ‘Chi’ or ‘Qi’ represents the vital life force that flows through the body, maintaining health and vitality. The balance and flow of Chi are considered essential for physical and emotional well-being. Practices like acupuncture, qigong, and herbal medicine are employed to manipulate and harmonize Chi. Lonny Jarrett, an authority in Classical Chinese Medicine, states, “Chi is more than just energy; it’s the dynamic interplay of physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of one’s being.” This perspective highlights the holistic nature of Chinese medicine, where energy is not just a physical entity but an integral part of a person’s entire being.

Ayurveda and Prana

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, conceptualizes ‘Prana’ as the vital breath or life force that animates living beings. Prana is considered to permeate all of life and is seen as a link between the physical body, mind, and spirit. Ayurvedic practices like yoga, pranayama (breath control), and dietary regulations aim to balance Prana for optimal health. David Frawley, an expert in Ayurvedic medicine, remarks, “Prana is the energy of consciousness, the force of life in each of us that reflects our higher potentials.” This suggests that Prana, in Ayurveda, is not just a physiological component but is deeply connected to one’s consciousness and spiritual growth.

Tibetan Medicine and Lung

Tibetan medicine, with its unique blend of Buddhist spiritual teachings and medical practices, refers to ‘Lung’ as a term similar to the concept of energy. Lung in Tibetan medicine is associated with the movement and thus is seen as crucial in the functioning of the body and mind. It is believed to be responsible for physical processes, emotional states, and even the flow of thoughts. Yeshe Yonten who was a renowned Tibetan medicine practitioner, wrote “Lung is the windhorse, the energy that carries the mind and the body’s processes. It’s about balance and flow, not just in the body but in the psyche too.” This reflects the deeply integrated view of mind and body in Tibetan medicine.


Energy and Healing in the Western World

“May the force be with you”. – Star Wars

Paracelsus and the Vital Force

The journey into the Western understanding of energy healing can arguably be traced back to the Renaissance period, with figures such as Paracelsus (1493–1541). Paracelsus, a Swiss physician and alchemist, was one of the first to introduce the idea of a “vital force” guiding the health of the body. He famously stated, “The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore, the physician must start from nature, with an open mind.” This perspective laid the groundwork for a more holistic understanding of health, emphasizing the importance of natural, energetic forces in healing.

The Influence of Goethe and Romanticism

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), a key figure in the Romantic movement, also contributed significantly to the understanding of energy in healing. Goethe’s perspective was more poetic and philosophical, viewing nature as a dynamic, living whole. He believed in an intrinsic connection between humans and the natural world, a concept that resonates with energy healing practices. Goethe’s assertion, “Nature is the living, visible garment of God,” reflects a worldview where the energy of life is a divine, all-encompassing force.

Henri Bergson and Élan Vital

A pivotal moment in the conceptualization of life energy in the Western world came with Henri Bergson and his concept of “Élan Vital.” Bergson, a French philosopher, introduced this idea in the early 20th century. Élan Vital was described as a creative, life-giving force, an impetus behind evolution and the dynamism of life. Bergson’s view that life constantly evolves and adapts due to this vital force added a philosophical depth to the concept of energy in healing, suggesting an inherent drive towards health and vitality within all living beings.

Homeopathy and the Energy Paradigm

Homeopathy, founded by Samuel Hahnemann in the late 18th century, brought a unique perspective to energy healing. This system of alternative medicine is based on the principle of “like cures like,” where substances that produce symptoms in a healthy individual are used in very diluted forms to treat similar symptoms in a sick person. The central idea is that these diluted substances retain a form of “energy” or “essence” capable of stimulating the body’s healing process. This concept challenged conventional medicine by suggesting that energy, rather than purely chemical interactions, could be a therapeutic agent.

The Central Role of Mitochondria in Disease

“Although it’s hard to believe, gram for gram, we are likely the most powerful energy producers in the universe.” – Lee Know, Mitochondria and the Future of Medicine.

Mitochondria, often described as the powerhouses of the cell, play a crucial role in energy production and various cellular functions. Recent scientific discoveries have highlighted the pivotal role of mitochondria in disease, suggesting that mitochondrial dysfunction could be a final common pathway in many disorders. This article delves into these discoveries, explores the intersection of traditional medicine such as Chinese and Ayurvedic approaches with mitochondrial health, and discusses the latest advances in treating mitochondrial dysfunction.

Mitochondria are responsible for producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy currency of the cell. Beyond energy production, they are involved in signaling, cellular differentiation, cell death, and control of the cell cycle. Recent research suggests that mitochondrial dysfunction is linked to a wide array of diseases, including neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and even cancer.

Neurodegenerative Diseases

In neurodegenerative diseases, mitochondrial dysfunction leads to energy deficits in neurons, increased oxidative stress, and the eventual death of neural cells. Studies have shown that in conditions like Alzheimer’s, mitochondrial dynamics are disrupted, affecting their ability to move, divide, and fuse, which is crucial for neuronal health.

Cardiovascular Diseases

In cardiovascular diseases, dysfunctional mitochondria contribute to myocardial ischemia (lack of blood flow and oxygen to the heart), leading to heart failure. Mitochondrial dysfunction also plays a role in hypertension and atherosclerosis by affecting vascular smooth muscle cells and endothelial function.

Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders

Mitochondrial dysfunction is a key player in insulin resistance, a hallmark of Type 2 Diabetes. Impaired mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation in skeletal muscle cells reduces fat oxidation and increases insulin resistance.


In cancer, alterations in mitochondrial metabolism are now recognized as a hallmark of cancer cells. The Warburg effect, a phenomenon where cancer cells predominantly produce energy by glycolysis rather than through the mitochondria, highlights the role of mitochondrial function in cancer.

Treating Mitochondrial Dysfunction: Recent Advances

Pharmacological Interventions

Recent advancements in treating mitochondrial dysfunction involve a variety of pharmacological interventions. These include antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress, agents that improve mitochondrial biogenesis, and drugs that stabilize mitochondrial membranes. Coenzyme Q10 supplements, for example, have shown promise in improving mitochondrial function.

Gene Therapy

Gene therapy represents a cutting-edge approach, especially for mitochondrial diseases caused by genetic mutations. Techniques such as mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) have gained attention for their potential to prevent the transmission of mitochondrial diseases from mother to offspring.

Traditional Medicine and Mitochondrial Health

The recent scientific focus on mitochondria has unveiled their central role in an array of diseases, supporting the idea that mitochondrial dysfunction might be a final common pathway in many disorders. While conventional medical approaches are making strides in treating mitochondrial dysfunction, integrating insights from traditional medicine like Chinese and Ayurvedic practices offers a holistic approach to improving mitochondrial health. This integrative perspective holds promise not only for treating diseases but also for promoting overall health and wellness. The future of medical research in this field is poised to bring novel insights and innovative treatments, fundamentally changing how we approach disease and health.

Finding Our Way Home

The scientific method has opened so many medical miracles but has also blinded us to our greatest potential – our life force that demands to be expressed even under the most dire of circumstances. Hopefully, we will recognize the deepest lesson to be garnered from recent discoveries on the role of mitochondria and human flourishing i.e., we are energy beings wrapped in a cloud of information and intention. Compassion opens the doorway to our connection with all sentient beings and our connection to the eternal wellspring of vital luminosity.

“A mind committed to compassion is like an overflowing reservoir — a constant source of energy, determination, and kindness.” His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

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