Ch’i is roughly translated from Chinese as “energy/breath.” Indeed, ch’i is the energy that keeps us alive and animated. Without a sufficient amount of ch’i one perishes. In addition to matters of corporal health, ch’i can affect one’s feelings of emotional and spiritual well-being and may be responsible for what is deemed as miraculous or paranormal feats.
The translation to “breath” is notable because breathing is possibly our most important manner of acquiring and regulating ch’i. One cannot go long without air, but it is not just oxygen that concerns the life, health, and ch’i of the air we breathe but the ions as well. Generally, negative ions prevent the air from becoming stale and dispel “heavy,” invisible air pollutants (e.g. pollen, dust, viruses, second-hand cigarette smoke, animal dander, odors, and toxic fumes). Negative ions are found around natural occurrences such as waterfalls and thunderstorms while lacking in urban areas. These negative ions, in contrast to positive ions, are thought to fight fatigue, asthma symptoms, seasonal depression and headaches while promoting mental focus and peak physical performance.
Another primary source of ch’i is what we inherit from our parents (which are reminiscent of how a Jedi like Anakin can beget a Jedi like Luke). The goal is not to waste this original ch’i, and we do so by making sure other “post birth” sources of ch’i are adequate and of high quality. In addition to breath, food for example, carries an abundance of ch’i, so make sure the energies you put into your body are beneficial. Also, the sun itself gives its energies of warmth and light freely. When you think about it, you will realize that our Earth, food, and lives are all dependent upon the powerhouse which is the sun. We are but complicated stardust.
Because of undeniable benefits of Eastern Medicine, namely acupuncture, Western Science attempts to understand the means by which the medicine claims to work, i.e. ch’i. If “energy” alone will not do, ch’i, as it mostly relates to an organism, can be described as bio-electromagnetism. The prefix of “bio” is used because ch’i is produced by, and most dynamic in, living things. It is “electric” as it is the running current which allows us to function. Our bodies have energy meridians like wires for transmission as well as vessels and dan tiens (translated as “elixir fields”) like batteries for storing this “electricity.” Sensations of ch’i may feel like a subtle electric tingling. Some ch’i Kung masters are able to turn on light bulbs using only their body, mind, and ch’i. Ch’i is further described as “magnetic” because our bodies have polarities of yin and yang by which the ch’i acts. One “mass” of ch’i may repel or attract a different ch’i “mass.”
Although the above description is not complete, it can serve as a basic understanding of ch’i. However, is ch’i the same as the Force? There are both similarities and differences in the theory of ch’i and that of the Force. Both are binding, usable energy fields creating and sustaining life. However, there is often mentioned a “will of the Force” which may hint that the Force is more than ch’i although ch’i may carry the “message.” Also the fourth line of the Jedi Code (There is no Death, there is the Force) brings forth more differences. Without ch’i, one physically dies. A person can lack ch’i, but they can never lack the Force. Therefore, ch’i may best be seen as one component or manifestation of the Force. Speaking in Chinese terminology, the Force is both ch’i and the Tao; both energy and spirit; both electromagnetism and possibly the other powers of gravity, strong nuclear force, and weak nuclear force; both the Holy Spirit and the Father (and the Son), (I do not mean to offend or enforce a Christian perspective. It is just a fascinating parallel to the topic at hand). The Force is ultimately a vague and mysterious concept, but through ch’i we can begin to have a better understanding of it.