Following the grand opening of Dr. Aram Akopyan’s new Wellness clinic on June 27, Asbarez’s Allen Yekikan sat down with the traditional healer to talk in more detail about his life, outlook, and the ancient art of traditional medicine.
The interview will be posted at Asbarez.com in a series.
The Armenian Heqim
A.Y.: Tell me about yourself. Where are you from? What is your background?
A.A.: My parents, both sides, emigrated from Greece and both sides were genocide survivors. My grandfather was also a Heqim.
A.Y.: What’s a Heqim?
A.A.: A traditional Armenian medicinal healer. The Heqim is a word from Persia actually. It’s a Persian/Farsi word that basically stands for magician/natural healer. I grew up watching him work, mixing herbs and incantations and going out to the forest and picking stuff from the ground and tasting it right then and there to determine its qualities.
So it was natural for me to be aware of the surrounds and the fact that what goes in the ground eventually ends up in you in some form and it could have benefits if you will. So I grew up with that notion.
A.Y.: Can you tell me about traditional Armenian medicine?
A.A.: Well the Armenian traditional medicine dates back to Galen and that era when old Armenia was around. We have had some incredible physicians. Old Armenia was one of the first countries to build mass sanitariums for ill people. The hospitals in old Armenia treated people lepers and other illnesses. Some of the most well known Armenian medicine men or doctors of ancient Armenia were Mkhitar Heratsi and Amir Dovlat Amasiatsi.
I have written an article about Ancient Armenian medicine around the time when Galen was developing his basic fundamental medical principles, and where in Persia there was another very well known medicine man, whose name alludes me right now. These periods were very revolutionary in the terms of traditional medicine, because it was a time when people were experimenting with different herbs, and different plants and bringing in technologies into play and bleeding technologies were widely practiced there. Cutting techniques, and infertility methods were practiced in Ancient Armenia. There were treatment protocols for infertility, and even tumors.
There is a man’script written by Amir Dovlat Amasiatsi, which specifically dealt with viral infections, and classifying what different symptoms were.
A.Y.: And this predates Western medicine?
A.A.: Yea. This is pre-western medicine. Western Medicine didn’t even exist. Allopathic medicine didn’t even know what a microscope was or what a bacteria was. I mean the dark ages. And at this time we are talking about the progression of the disease from outside to inside the body–the courses it takes, what organs it affects, and how you can prevent it and cure it, or heal it, with natural substances.
A.Y.: What are some of these natural remedies or herbal drugs, which they would produced and use in Ancient Armenia?
A.A.: For example, one of the most prominent substances they used was clay from Ani, and Yerevan. Clay from Ani had one of the most potent anti-tumor capabilities.
What they would do is use it as a filter for herbal medicine. So you would make the decoction and put it in clay pots and you would let it seep through the clay. In the process of seeping through it, it would filter through it and add some energetic properties to the decoction and that would add the medicinal properties to it.
Bee venom was used widely. When sheep graze, they rub against all the plants that they graze on and their big fluffy butts collect, through oil excretions, the leaf surface material from these plants into round pallets. Traditional healers in Armenian villages would collect this and use it to treat pneumonia, cough, angina, lung repertory problems.
Dove droppings were another natural remedy used. You would feed dove’s nothing but pure bulgier for a week then collect the droppings and use them as a digestive medicine, for stomach problems and those types of things.
Take for example, the Vortan Karmir. It’s an indigenous bug that lives in the foothills of mount Ararat, only. It is right now, almost extinct, but in ancient times, it was used as the sole source of red paint used in all the biblical writings and calligraphy in Armenia–Armenian Miniature art. The secret for how to make paint from Vortan karmir was lost for a long time in Armenia. It’s been rediscovered at Matenadaran. They apparently found some of the old ancient writings.
But Vortan karmir was also used extensively for its medicinal properties. During the one or two weeks, where the bug comes out to mate, is the only time you can collect it and it’s only to be found in the Ararat Valley.
Armenian Balsam, Dakhts, there is a long laundry list of Armenian Traditional medicine out there. And what’s interesting is in my studies in China, I actually discovered that there’s Armenian heritage and Chinese heritage, in both traditional medicines. For example, Chinese use Apricot seeds, do you know what they call it? The Barbarian Armenian Seed; the literally translation from latin is Armeniacus Barbericus, which is giving credit to the highlands of Armenia for the origins of Apricots. So that was when it was initially exported from Armenia. That tells you that in ancient times, there was trade, and there was cultural exchange between these cultures.
I found in the Matenadaran, a map of meridians in the body. Written and drawn up in the Armenian Medical texts. I wasn’t allowed to touch it or closely examine in, but it does illustrate some correlation between studies of Meridians and meridian chi in ancient china and what Armenia’s were incorporating.
My grandfather used to use bee stings on certain points on the body for Arthritis, both Rheumatoid, and Osteoid Arthritis. He would grab the bee by its wings and bring it to a certain point on the body, and touch that point until the bee stung it. The bee dies, but basically you would leave the stinger, pulling it out when once the venom has been injected into the body. But these points are acupuncture points and that is the interesting thing about it.
What is Qi?
A.Y. Does the concept of qi (pronounced chi), or something similar to it, exist within the Armenian tradition?
A.A.: Well, I think that it’s first important to establish a frame of reference on what chi is. No one can really frame chi, trying to explain chi, is like trying to explain God, because it’s everywhere. It permeates everything in the world.
I will give you a scientific explanation of what chi is then I will give you a spiritual explanation of what chi is. Scientifically speaking, the best way to describe chi is a Biomorphic energy that is present in all living entities. That is probably the most scientific description that I can give you. Biomorphic means that it is ever changing, it is never static. It’s constantly changing and it is biological based. Living entities generate it.
A.Y.: But how can stones, or other things or mountains generate it?
A.A.: Because everything is living. Everything is carbon based. What is the difference between organic and inorganic material? Think about it, we live in a Carbon world; everything is made of carbon; everything is organic. But go even further. Break it down to atoms; what’s in the atoms? Electrons, protons, and neutrons; break that down even further and you get quarks.
The smaller the particles get, the more modern science achieves the same fundamental discussion ‘sthat no matter exists. Matter is energy that is vibrating at different frequency ranges. As long as you are vibrating, you are in a cyclical and morphing state and thus not a static item. Given that description, everything is living even though it’s not moving or breathing.
I think we are so limited in what we define as living. We consider something living it breathes or thinks. I think therefore I am; so if you don’t breathe or think you aren’t alive? No. Everything is alive and everything is connected. That is the fundamental difference between modern dogmas of a self-contained and physically limiting universes, versus the teachings of true Christianity and true Taoism, which is a philosophy of living. So scientifically I think that is the key point in describing chi.
Now, if we assume that that description describes chi significantly and correctly, then the hypothesis follows that everything that we touch and interact with has chi. Now, because it is also biomorphic, it could be in different states of existence. After all, we have four different states of matter: aolid, liquid, gas, plasma. Look at Plasma. It’s matter in a state of flux–in a state between solid, liquid and gas. So the point being, if matter changes, energy changes. By being biomorphic, it’s constantly and quite regularly changing its state of existence. So given that, your human body, or the plant that you are walking by has chi. And that chi, gives it life, gives it existence, and gives it the ability to think. chi gives you the ability to comprehend, just like it gives a plant the ability to convert oxygen into sugar. The chi in the molecule of a rock will keep the molecules in a shape so that it can be a rock and stay in that solid state. That is a scientific explanation of chi.
Now for a spiritual explanation of chi; if you really think about it chi can be understood from the perspective of intention or intent. Einstein had a really interesting saying. He once said that the concept if you think you exist should be expanded upon at a much greater level. Because If you intent, if you question things, then you exist. The concept of questioning is an important part of the spirit. What separates us from other entities like this rock or this chair is that we have the ability of intent–to question our existence, to participate. That is chi from a spiritual perspective. It’s the intent.How you use your intent, brings us to today. There are people who use their chi, or their intent, to live a normal, happy, content, and balanced life. But there are people who use their intent for purposes of acquisition, or even destruction. These are different applications of your chi or your intent.
A.Y.: You spoke about spirituality; what about God and religion, is there a connection between God, or the concept of god, and chi?
A.A.: One of my old teachers used to say: “searching for god, is like fish swimming in the water looking for water.” It’s everywhere, all around you. It’s the air you breathe. Now substitute god with whatever you want. If you are a Taoist, it’s universal energy. If you are a Buddhist, it’s Buddhism. If you are a Christian substitute it for Christ’s teachings. It transcends, dogmatic religion. It gives you the ability to live in harmony, irrespective of what you believe in, whether a god exists or not. It transcends all of that. The true teachings of Taoism and Christianity transcend all this stuff and puts you in touch with yourself and your surroundings in a much more efficient way–as a living entity, a participating energy in the universe.
A.Y.: What’s the connection between the spiritual aspect of chi and the more biomorphic, physical aspect that you described? For example, what I have always thought of as when you are unhealthy physically, you’re outlook is also polluted by that, and vise versa, when you have a polluted outlook it affects the body. So what is the connection between the two, how do you know which is happening?
A.A.: If we go back to our basic definition of what chi is–that it is a biomorphic energy, we realize that everything has power to it. Everything has a measurable energy to it. Even thought has measurable power and energy to it. So it’s safe to say that you will feel how you think.
Emotions have energy. Anger has energy. You can literally measure anger. There was an experiment done in the U.S. where they had a huge stadium where they were collecting electrons from the surrounding air. They had everyone collectively think of one positive idea and one negative idea and it manifested in the way the energy patterns in the air changed. So thought and emotion have a direct correlation on the vibration of that energy. So if you are not thinking pure things, or are not thinking positively, it generates disease and sickness.
Now the reverse of that; how does disease and sickness affect the mind? Well, the body is a system. It is an integral, fully functional machine, designed with different parts, doing different functions. But it goes a little bit deeper than that because each organ has its own energetic blueprint if you will. It can pollute the overall flow of the energy if its not functioning properly. Take for example the car. If your carburetor is dirty, your engine isn’t going to perform well because it is not filtering fuel properly. So from a comparative perspective, sickness somewhat induces, if you will, toxicity or pollutants into your spiritual wellbeing.
A.Y.: So being healthy is basically a combination of getting physically back in tune with your energy, while also having a positive spiritual intent?
A.A.: Yes, that’s a big part of it. Many people have heard of it; people being alive and happy ten years after they were diagnosed with a terminal illness with months to live. What happens in these cases? Intent happens. Positive attitude happens–the ability to create an environment inside you that is inhospitable to disease.
That’s why you have to wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and smile to yourself. It’s very important to create an environment, where you are inducing happiness. That’s why I always tell people to smile. It’s very powerful. At the risk of sounding clich?, it’s about mind over matter. But the mind is not just the collection of tissues that resides in between the ears, in the skull. In tradition, the mind is in the heart, the chest. The mind is your spirit; it’s your ability to learn and make decisions; to know what is wrong and what is right. I don’t know if you have ever had that feeling when you see some wrong being done? Not up in the head, but in the heart. That’s where your true conscious is, I believe.
The brain is an incredible analytic computer, it can do calculations like crazy, but in traditional medicine (Chinese and Armenian), it’s a combination of things that make you who you are. It’s not just your ability to be intellectual and think about things. The mind gives you the ability to make judgments, to know what’s right and wrong. It’s the ability to feel compassion. And we will talk about compassion as well, because I think compassion is one of the primary components of being human. If I was designing a human being and I could put only one emotion in there, I would forgo all other emotions for compassion. Because from compassion, rises all other emotions, and other abilities or disabilities.
Qi Gong for health
A.Y.: What is Qi Gong (Chi Gong)? Can you explain it to me?
A.A.: Chi, as we mentioned earlier, is a biomorphic energy. Gong, literally translated is work. So basically, what we are doing is working with chi–working with that biomorphic energy. As we mentioned, all living energy, and living entities, have that energy.
Have you ever observed a new born; just sat back and watched them for an hour, quietly? It’s amazing. They are full of chi. They are so in tune with the universe. They are so much more connected. And then we fill their eyes with books and TV’s and little cartoons and baby Einstein and worldly things and we disconnect them from that universal flow–from that universal energy.
What we try to do with chi gong, is try to open those channels and reconnect with the chi of our body and the chi of our surroundings. Every time I tell my students to smile, the example I bring, is to think of yourself as a small child. That complete newness, that complete non-expectation of, “wow! world, hello.” No expectations, just a total awe of that presence of that energy around you is what working with chi is. It’s that state of mind and being.
But why should we work with chi? Why should we cultivate it or practice the exercises? I think chi gong helps us address those three problems we talked about earlier–to help us get back into harmony with ourselves and our universe and our nature.
A.Y.: Are there health benefits associated with chi gong?
A.A.: There are not only tangible health benefits to practicing chi gong, but also spiritual benefits to cultivating chi because the stillness, the quietness of the mind, even in that one hour that you are practicing chi gong, gives you much more regeneration–of both your spirit and your physical energy, then eight hours of sleep.
A.Y.: What are some of the affects of practicing chi gong that you have witnessed in your students or other people in general?
A.A.: I have seen many instances. When I was in China I saw people that would basically live with terminal cancer, with the help of chi gong. As women approach menopause, interesting things happen. Women have more estrogen by nature; because they are feminine they are a Yin energy. Men have more testosterone and less estrogen, by nature. As both men and women hit “menopause,” it shifts. Women tend to lose estrogen and gain an imbalance of testosterone, while men tend to develop more estrogen and lose testosterone. This usually occurs around the age of 40-50. With chi gong, there have been numerous studies where it literally reverses that trend.
A.Y.: But how does the same exercise, practiced by a male and a female, produce the opposite results.
A.A.: Because of gender. It’s the same exact regiment of practice but it produces opposite results because you are working with chi, with energy to bring an imbalance back into balance. If something is out of balance here or there, chi gong will help bring it into balance. chi gong tends to bring back the pendulum, to get the body back into homeostasis.
Your body, and every other living entity must be in homeostasis otherwise it breaks down. Now if you take that a step further, you as an entity have to live in homeostasis with your surroundings, otherwise you break down, or your surroundings break down. Environmentally, if you are not, as a species, in homeostasis with your environment, something has to give–you or it, or both.
We are living in a symbiotic relationship with your environment but the human species collectively ignores this reality. It is the failure of our species that we are so confined in our physical bodies, we only think about ourselves. We can’t break the barrier of the symbiotic relationship we have with our environment, with our siblings, with our friends, with our neighbors, with a tree or a bird. But as that symbiotic relationship breaks, we break with it, and the balance and homeostasis goes out of shift, creating catastrophes and diseases, and death and destruction.
A.Y: So is chi gong considered a part of Eastern Medicine? or is it a Martial Art?
A.A.: The root of chi gong, was an exercise that was developed by the Taoist monks. As they practiced Buddhism and Taoism in ancient China, they discovered that mind exercises alone, and mental meditations alone, were not sufficient to keep their bodies in physical health. So they developed exercise routines to cultivate physical energy and to cultivate their physical chi in addition to the mental chi. Chi gong was born from those exercises. All martial arts were actually derivatives of these efforts by these monks, because ultimately they realized that these exercises can be converted into fighting form–to defend, to protect.
Back in those years, when clans and tribes were constantly feuding, there were a lot of cross border attacks, with one or another conqueror always coming in. So these temples needed to defend themselves. They therefore developed many techniques to defend themselves.
One in particular, medical chi gong was developed by the monks in healing the sick and the injured because they discovered that as you cultivate your own chi, you can use that chi to heal yourself, and as you develop more and more power with it, as you develop your mastery of your chi, you can then project that energy, project that chi and offer healing to other people. So that’s why chi gong, in today’s traditional medicine, especially in the oriental medicine, is used extensively as an adjunct to treatment protocols, such as acupuncture, herbal medicine. These are just tools that are available to your average practitioner of traditional medicine.
The secrets of acupuncture
A.Y.: Can you talk about acupuncture? What is acupuncture? How does it work?
A.A.: Well we talked about chi and meridians and how your body is a mechanism, albeit a biological mechanism, but still a very complex mechanism. Well this mechanism requires a flow of energy from point A to point B. Wires in a circuit board that take electricity from the battery out to the engine, etc. These are your organs–your internal organs. Those meridians–the channels–are in your body and are developed at birth. When the first egg in the ovary fertilizes and develops, first cell split that occurs creates what is called the microcosmic orbit. The division between those cells is the microcosmic orbit, which rises up from the perineum up to the root of the tongue and the governing channel, which comes out of the perineum and runs up the spine and to the top of the tongue.
Most of the time, these meridians are blocked. If you were to look at an irrigation field for farmland–you have a river that feeds your irrigation field and you have to make sure that these little rivulets can feed water to your plants. If one of them is blocked, water isn’t going to flow down to your crops and they will dry, and you will basically create a flood upstream or a drought downstream.
What acupuncture literally does is it goes in and opens those energetic pathways and stimulates flow of energy through them. Sometimes you have too much energy flowing through them, and there’s a flood in one channel, which produces diseases and symptoms. Take for example, hypertension, or high blood pressure. These are symptoms of the liver and gal bladder meridian having an excess of energy, which then rises to the head, causing headaches ringing in the ears, read eye, or a rush of energy to the head.
When there is just too much energy, we use acupuncture to drain that energy and channel it back to where it is deficient. If you have excess somewhere, you have deficiency somewhere else. It’s a given. Everything has to be in homeostasis. If it’s out of balance in one place, there’s a counterpoint to it.
By balancing, unblocking or directing flow of chi in the body, acupuncture can return you to homeostasis and fix problems, ranging from everyday pain to fertility or menopause. You can treat migraine headaches and diabetes with acupuncture as well. Any of the known “classified western diseases” can benefit from this form of treatment. Acupuncture and traditional medicine works because they don’t treat diseases, they treat people. Traditional medicine seeks to heal the underlying dysfunction of the body.
A.Y.: But why take that approach? Aren’t the symptoms a direct consequence of the diseases? When you go to a regular physician with a sickness or an infection, they tell you to take X or Y pill to treat the symptoms and make them go away. Doesn’t that heal you?
A.A.: No. The body knows how to heal itself. We are the ones that screw it up by breathing in toxic fumes or drinking too much, eating too much, staying up too late, or engaging in warfare–whatever it is that we are doing, polluting our environments and our bodies.
We sometimes get in our body’s way of fixing itself. With acupuncture and Chinese medicine, what we try to do is nudge the body and help it get back into its norm. That’s why I will tell every patient that comes and sees me that “If they are just here looking for an instant fix, go down next door and ask the western doctor to give you a pill, because it will fix your problem and you can go home and consider yourself happy.” I’m not here to fix your problem right now instantly. I’m here to put your body back in a state where it can: A) prevent further diseases; and B) fix your diseases the proper way–not by covering up symptoms.
When you have a headache and go to the doctor, what does he do? He gives you a pill. You take the pill and the headache goes away. No! The headache didn’t go away, you just don’t feel the headache, it’s still there.
The root cause of the headache is still there. The prostaglandins that are generating nerve attenuation that give you a signal that there is pain in the body is still working in your body. You just don’t feel it anymore, and consider yourself lucky. After you take the pills you think to yourself, “boom, I’m done.” No! It festers and festers until it develops into a more severe problems and more chronic conditions. This is why it is very important to integrate this traditional way of living–this traditional medicine–into your life.
A.Y.: How do you do this in your own practice?
A.A.: Diet is a very important component. Every patient that comes in, I will give them a full spectrum of tools to deal with their wellness and with their balanced living. I do not just say: “here’s a pill, or here is a point I can stick you with a needle in, and off you go.” No, because it will not be permanent, it will be temporary.
My teacher used to say that the average physician treats symptom, while the superior physician treats the spirit. Fix the spirit, and you have fixed the disease, because everything else is tied to that spirit. And when I say spirit, I don’t necessarily mean it in the spiritual context, or in a religious way. When I say spirit, I mean “Shen,” which is Chinese for the underlying individual.
A.Y.: Going back to Chi meridians for a minute. If you can’t see them, how do you know they exist?
A.A.: Actually there is research currently being done to isolate these meridians and there are some promising discoveries that are being made. But before I can go there, I will ask you this question: less than a 100 years ago we didn’t know the lymphatic system existed. Less than a 150 years ago, no one knew that electricity existed, or that you could take a copper wire and have things travel through it that could turn light bulbs on or off. Is it presumptuous of us to think that just because we can’t see it that it doesn’t exist. Wrong. That’s a very boxed in way of thinking. If people thought that way, we wouldn’t be where we are today in terms of achievements as a culture, and as a species. If we thought that way we would still be living in caves because we would have just left well enough alone. I believe the discovery of chi meridians will come and once it does it’s going to revolutionize the way people think about life and living.
A.Y.: Are there any instances where researchers have been able to see these meridians, or run experiments on them?
A.A.: There was research done at MIT I believe where they were trying to determine the flow of chi in one of these meridians, specifically the kidney meridian. They injected a radioactive diode in one of the root points at the key entry point of that meridian and they put the patient under an MRI. Sure enough the flow–the radioactive diode–was observed flowing in the inter cellular fluid flow, following the exact pathway of a meridian described 4000 years ago. And that has been observed.
Now, is there an actual walled vessel carrying it? No.
A.Y.: But do you even need one. Aren’t radio frequencies free flowing?
A.A.: Very good point. No you don’t. You are right. I believe, again, that the more we see into the quantum world and understand how things work, the more we will understand our universe and the energy that makes it up. Quantum physics will unlock the secrets of chi and show us just how it flows in the body, from point A to point B, and how it functions that way.
A.Y.: What is the purpose of the acupuncture needle, how does it work and help you treat people?
A.A.: Visualize the radio station and antenna, which you mentioned earlier. Imagine, me intersecting a flow with my needle. A good practitioner knows where these points are. There are over 760 acupuncture points in the body, each one with a specific function with a specific usage. The chi meridian is like a river of energy. I can enter that river with a needle and stimulate or direct the flow of energy by manipulating the needle and by injecting chi through the needle. At that point, I as a practitioner can become synchronized with your chi flow and do things with it. I can remove it by moving the needle at a certain angle or in a certain direction. In that way, i can backflow it and create a sort of siphon to drain some of that excess energy. I can also nudge it to take a left or a right, or speed the flow to stimulate and accelerate the Chi in your body. I can block it too.
We also use acupuncture for anesthesia in dental work for example. I can put needles in when you are getting your tooth drilled and you wont feel the pain because the needle basically blocks the meridian flow, or the energy flow from the teeth to the brain. The practitioner thus uses the needles to interact with that flow of energy through the meridian.
The journey to happiness
A.Y.: So you practice Chi Gong, you are an acupuncturist, and a traditional medicine doctor. How did you come to this point in your life? What did you do before you became a Traditional Medicine practitioner?
A.A.: My life can be analyzed as an example of what we talked about throughout our conversation. I mentioned to you earlier that I lived in a family with a traditional medicine background. But as we immigrated form Armenia to America, as most people do, I fell into the trap of the glitz and glamour of America. So I started a career in computers. I actually went to school here, received a Bachelors in computers and a Masters in business development and decided that acquisition of wealth was going to drive my purpose in life. So I went and started working for major corporations here. I started as an engineer and moved up to running US operations at one point. Were talking about billion dollar companies.
And in this process of shuffling from remedial management jobs or climbing the “proverbial ladder,” which I believe eventually gets you nowhere, I discovered that I was losing who I was as an individual. I was dying as an individual. I was generating wealth, and wealth for others, but my spirit was discontent. I was not happy as an individual–as a spirit. So I had a spiritual and emotional burnout.
I dropped everything. I literally left a six figure salary and decided to go into a deep soul searching. As a result of that I returned back to my grandfather’s teachings, which was: “be in harmony with nature, and you’ll live longer and happier, much more contempt and enjoyable as a person.” So when I did that I decided that I would take up his teachings and practice his lessons.
I went to medical school at a mid life crisis and completed medical school here. Then I went to study in Tibet and China. I actually made a visit to Armenia and studied Armenian traditional medicine a little bit at the Matenadaran and dug up some of my grandfather’s old teachings, though most were lost.
So here I am today. It’s a complete turn around for me. I will tell you this, I have never been happier with myself and my role in life than I am now. I used to close multimillion-dollar deals and come home and crash. I treat a patient right now, and get 5 or 10 or 20 dollars and it doesn’t matter, because to me that patient’s smile or treatment is my reward. There is no amount of money that you can take with you when you are ready to depart from this world. The feelings of thankfulness gratitude are what you are going to take with you when you go.
A.Y.: So what do you say to people who find happiness, or the fa?ade of happiness, through consumption and materialism?
A.A.: I can’t blame them–for two reasons: 1) It’s what’s available to them right now, and its very easy for them; 2) They are seeking. Everyone is aware of this, and everyone is hungry, thirst. They just haven’t found their path, or whatever that is. I’m not saying come and join chi gong, but find that thing, whatever it is, that you are seeking.
A lot of times, you have this feeling that you want to eat something but you don’t know what. You stand in front of the refrigerator for minutes trying to figure out what it is you want. We are living like that, many people are. On a much grander scale, we are spiritually hungry. But because we can’t find it, because we don’t know what it is we are seeking, we think that the iPhone or the Mercedes is going to give us happiness. Yea, it will, but it will be momentary. It gives us happiness, but then we are right back at it.
90 % of today’s abuse, whether it be drug abuse, substance abuse, or addictions, can be directly correlated to the fact that these people are trying to quench a fundamentally deep spiritual thirst. But they can’t find it so they keep upping the ante, always going for the next high. It doesn’t have to be drugs; one of the biggest addictions today is the desire to acquire. It’s an addiction! The new TV comes out, “Oh I got to have it,” or swapping out for a new car every six months. Why? It’s another way of being addicted–of seeking but not finding.
I am so fortunate that I was able to find it, and sooner than later. And for most people that doesn’t happen. What I did at midlife was unheard of. I had friends laughing at me. But since I came out of it, it’s given me a sense of rebirth.
An Armenian perspective
A.Y.: It seems as though the problem of humanity not being in tune with nature and its environment is one that is endemic to the world? We see this problem here and many other places, but we also see it in Armenia–a place we all hold dear. Prior to the genocide, our people had, by and large, lived on the land, in harmony with nature. So I would like to know your perspective on where we as a people stand amid all this and where we are going.
A.A.: first of all, I have to tell you. I am very fortunate to have been born in an Armenian culture, and to have the Armenian blood flowing in my veins. Because I think it has given me a very unique perspective. I have a deep-seated belief that the Armenian culture is a much more relevant culture in the world forum than we think. We may be a small insignificant country that most US presidents wouldn’t know the geographic location of, but irrespective of that, I believe Armenian culture, both historically and in the future, has a very prominent role in world affairs and in world affairs of significance; not in insignificant affairs of politics and land ownership, and border disputes and warfare or acquisition. I am talking about revelational stuff–spiritual and evolutionary states. I believe Armenia and our culture will play a very fundamental role in where the world is going.
Why is it that for an Armenian the most important thing is to maintain Armenianhood? Have you ever considered that this transcends even genocide recognition? There is a root cause. We have a genetic programming to maintain that cultural heritage, because one day it is going to come in handy. When? I can’t tell you. How? I don’t know. But it is a deep-seated feeling I have inside me, and I know it is important for our culture to continue to maintain itself and survive. I believe Armenians are much better suited to living in harmony with nature than any other culture.
A.Y.: So then what is the problem, if there is one?
A.A.: I think our problem is that we are stuck as a culture, and as a people. We are stuck in sorrow. We are out of sync with ourselves. I am not advocating that we forget what happened to our people, we have to fight for recognition; it’s a must. What I am saying is that we have to get away from the self induced misery surrounding the Genocide. We need to leave behind thoughts like: “Why us?” “Poor us,” and “Damn the Turks.” We have to get over that because it’s in the past. We have to use that energy, channel it constructively toward getting countries to recognize it. And I believe we are doing much better than we have ever done, I think the new, next generation, will be much more potent in transcending that, especially as we become more in sync with our surroundings.
We need to get out of the shroud of grey that you can see in the faces of the older generations. We are a vibrant culture. We have the intellectual, spiritual, and cultural capacity to blossom and we are poised to do that as a people if we can just collectively get over this wallowing in the past. Never forget, but channel those energies more constructively.
A.Y.: But once the mind’s mental pathways have behaved for that type of thinking for a while, that sort of thinking becomes automatic. You are always looking for excuses. There is always something that is infecting that which is pure, preventing you from realizing that you can purify it at any time just by changing your perception.
A.A.: Well it’s human nature to find fault elsewhere. It’s normal. I think it comes from us being so out of tune with our environment. Because as soon as you point elsewhere, you are pointing to yourself anyway because you are connected to whatever it is you are pointing to. So ultimately, as we transcend that and cultivate ourselves we tend to look deeper inside us and try to understand: “Ok, why is it that this is happening to me?” Is it because of American culture, the Turks, or Communists? No. Look inside; find the answers inside first and then you will be in a much better position to change your life to a constructive and much more positive end.
I was in Armenia a year and a half ago. You think its bad in the western cultures? Oh boy. There’s a hunger in the youth for something constructive in their lives and it’s missing. It’s because the spiritual, educational, and political institutions in Armenia are not effectively addressing their hunger. So I believe there is this underlying hunger in Armenian youth for this kind of stuff.
When I was over there, I was doing chi gong and people were asking me to teach them. There is a lack of that cultivation. This teaching gives you the tools you need to make yourself better, like true Christianity.
A.Y.: Throughout history, we have always had this problem. We can’t come to realize that we are all connected, as Armenians, as people. We say it all the time, but without really understanding it. We never take care of each other. Do you think this problem we have can be addressed with Taoism.
A.A.: The First thing we have to do is get the bitterness out of ourselves. Once we do that we will come to the point of compassion. We are by nature, a very compassionate people. We have a block, a national bitterness, which translates into individual bitterness and that seeds jealousy and the inability to be open and enjoy or share other people’s successes. So we tend again to confine ourselves in this little physical universe of me, me, me. And it creates this bitterness among us. We need to transcend that and rejoice in our fellow Armenian’s success. And that I think is the root, once we get over that then Taoism plays a secondary role. Because once you get rid of that bitterness and the compassion sets in, everything else follows naturally. If you say Taoism will fix all problems, you are just replacing one dogma or set of rules with another.
A.Y.: Do you think Armenians are prepared for what lays ahead? The world is changing in a drastic way. Do you think we have what it takes to weather the storm and all the challenges that humanity faces–environmental degradation, the rise in conflicts over dwindling natural resources, etc?
A.A.: No, we don’t. We’ve lost it. The Genocide gave us a nasty shock and we still have not recovered and as a result were left dazed and confused. We haven’t reawakened, but as we do we will rediscover our past and our potency will return as a culture. Given all this, we have produced greatness, and given great contributions to the human condition, from the invention of the MRI, to great astronomers, and wonderful musicians. But I think as a collective, as a culture, we’re not at our potential.
A.Y.: Seems as though we as a people have not yet freed ourselves from the burdens of our past.
A.A.: You are right. But don’t forget, liberation comes from within. Start cultivating and liberating yourself first–the spirit, the heart, the emotions. Liberate yourself, and as you liberate yourself the culture and the nation will collectively liberate itself.
For more information on Traditional Medicine, chi gong, or Dr. Akopyan’s practice, visit www.aramakopyan.com or send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Akopyan’s Tai Chi and wellness show can be seen on Horizon Armenian Television Monday through Friday at 8:30 am and 2:30pm.