Challenge, Choice, and Chi
A decade ago I entered a competition in which I had to write a 150 word description of myself as if I were the protagonist in a novel. I was one of the winners. Here’s what it said:
She saw herself as the heroine of her own literary affairs du coeurs. She’d had three husbands, an inter-dimensional relationship with a famous Russian, a liaison with a younger lover doing time in a federal penitentiary. Her most recent passion was with a man who’d left due to fear of his own magnificence. Drama spilled into poetry, stories, novels. It was her identity, her inspiration. She wore mostly black. Soon, however, she became too wise for sorry stories. Angst loosened its narrative grip. She stopped coloring her hair, let it wind free in wild silver curls. She smiled a lot. For the first time, she experimented with the possibilities of yellow. But then, sitting in front of the keyboard on an almost spring morning, chickadees trilling in the bare branches of a sycamore, she wondered what in the world she could write about now that she was happy.
It turned out that life went on to present that me with enough drama to complete another book, a memoir—Rare Atmosphere, An Inter-dimensional Affair of the Heart, published three years ago. Shortly after that, however, my writing Muses took off for Bora Bora and haven’t returned since. I wish I could say it was because I was happy, but it wasn’t. As happy as I thought I’d felt at times, for me there was often a familiar niggling of sadness and melancholy beneath.
Painting by Frederic Leighton
During this past year especially, happiness seemed to elude me entirely. Instead, fear took its place, fear instigated by recurring physical symptoms, emotional mud puddles, and mindless mental chatter. I was close to marking seventy years of moving through time, and I felt that I didn’t have much to show for it besides echoes of not enoughness and a good deal of loneliness. There were times I didn’t know whether or not I even wanted to stay in a body. I wasn’t afraid of death. I believe I go on. Life, on the other hand, truly living, frightened me.
Plus, everything in my inner and outer world was a rush of constant change—body “betrayals” upon every peek in the mirror (no one told me skin can get so thin that you look like the veiny science class model of the Invisible Man); close friends moving away; other’s having their own personal and family challenges; shaky finances; very little energy; no desire to continue French conversation group; no desire to continue designing jewelry; and, except for working with my website clients, no inspiration for writing…anything.
When going through intense challenge, I’m most comfortable spending free time hunkering in alone at home, sharing myself only with a couple of close supportive sisters-of-the-heart who will not hurl worry at me or try to “fix” me. Although it definitely has its place, I am not a great proponent of Western medicine’s approach to healing—treating disease and symptoms rather than the whole person. I did not want tests, a diagnostic “label,” toxic drugs, or invasive procedures. I’m more comfortable with alternative venues that go deeper. Although a mighty drain on my savings, I chose acupuncture and Chinese herbs as my therapy of choice. And you get what you focus upon, so I knew that in order to heal, I had to stop focusing on what I did not want, and instead, focus on the vision and feeling of the health and wholeness I saw myself achieving—the hardest thing at times.
I thought a lot about this state we call happiness. What does it mean to be happy? In an inner and outer world that seems wracked by insanity, how does one find happiness, especially in the midst of what personally feels like yet another dark night of the soul? I’ve been privy to a lot of wisdom over the decades. I knew the words: happiness is an inside job; happiness is not dependent upon anyone or anything outside of the self; happiness is a choice… But the actual experience of unconditional happiness had only presented itself to me in fleeting moments. I wanted more. I wanted to finally learn to be happy despite what my body/mind might be moving through. I wanted happiness for no reason. I was exhausted from the battle with my small self, the battle with fear, anxiety, depression. I put out the prayer and intention that I was ready to choose life.
As lethargic, low energy, and sleep deprived as I felt at times, I knew I had to move the body and I began doing some yoga at home, not pushing myself, doing the best I could. But it wasn’t giving me what I was looking for. I became interested in qigong, and bought a course on Udemy to try. I liked it, but it, too, didn’t give me what I was looking for. Actually, I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I knew I’d know it when I found it.
And I did. It turned out to be a particular form of qigong called Wisdom Healing Qigong, taught by Master teacher and remarkable human being Mingtong Gu, founder of The Chi Center, who personified being happy for no reason.
As defined on The Chi Center website, Qi (Chi) means “life energy” and gong means “cultivation and its benefits.” Qigong, an ancient technology and revitalized science of energy healing, has developed through more than 5000 years of Chinese history. Through gentle movement, visualization, sound, breathing and conscious intention, the ancient practice of Qigong energy healing dynamically restores the life energy and creative power within oneself. As the underlying causes of life’s challenges are released, you reconnect with the universal source and bring new and vital energy streams into the flow of life. With this practice, you amplify a web of positive changes for you, your loved ones, and planet Earth.
Wisdom Healing Qigong, developed by Dr. Ming Pang, a Qigong Grandmaster trained in both western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine, is one of the most powerful forms of qigong. Grandmaster Dr. Pang’s synthesis of his profound medical knowledge of the old and new healing sciences, together with the ancient Qigong practice, led him in 1980 to found the world’s largest medicine-less hospital known as Huaxia Zhineng Qigong Training and Recovery Center, which was located in Beijing.
This is where Mingtong Gu studied, trained, and through this practice, recovered from his own chronic conditions of asthma, scoliosis, back pain and kidney weakness.
Master Mingtong Gu
This was what I was looking for. This was the vehicle through which I felt I could enter into an entirely new, more expansive and joyful relationship with my body, mind, heart, and spirit.
Mingtong’s teaching emphasizes activating the power of inner self-healing which facilitates the release of chronic illness, while improving health and well-being. It is a concentrated and powerful system engaging all levels of physical, mental, emotional, and soulful healing. Through posture, movement, breath and mental concentration, Qigong offers a methodology to rediscover the inner medicine—chi, the vital and healing resource within us—and to magnify the exchange between ourselves and nature, enabling us to fuse with the infinite creative power of the universe that ultimately is the origin of love, compassion, and the source of all healing.
I perused The Chi Center website, watched the abundance of YouTube videos (interviews and sample practice sessions) with Mingtong Gu, and found a deep resonance with everything he expressed and explained. He echoed the perspectives I had learned from my own spiritual guides and teachers, perspectives that, although they rang true for me, I had not been able to fully integrate into experience. This was what I was looking for. This was the vehicle through which I felt I could enter into an entirely new, more expansive and joyful relationship with my body, mind, heart, and spirit.
The beginning course being offered by The Chi Center at that time was Sound Healing. I already knew that healing with sound was recognized, even by the medical and scientific communities, as one of the most powerful healing modalities. I signed up for the three month online course, realizing from the start that this was going to take a real commitment to be of benefit. I made that commitment to my first 100 day gong (practice). I started in mid-May and did not miss even one day of those first 100 days. It was not always easy. Sometimes, there were what are called “chi reactions,” which made things feel worse for a short while. But I knew this meant that energy was moving.
With Mingtong’s explicit and encouraging direction on the practice videos, and the sensed connection to the healing chi field created by the global community of practitioners, I kept going, and by the second month, I noticed I was feeling a little less anxious, a little less fearful. I learned to embrace all that was going on in my body, mind, and emotions. No labels. No stories. No judgments. I practiced the Inner Smile, sent love to all my cells. I cried when I needed to—for me, a great way to release, and something I find easy to do. I cried a lot. I did the sound healing and added thirty minutes of yoga when I could muster the energy.
By the end of the three month course, I felt great improvement. Especially in the way I dealt with whatever was coming up. I was learning to embrace and honor this physical body as my home. It became easier and easier to choose where I put my focus. Knowing that what I focus upon grows, I committed to turning from old patterns of fear and anxiety as my first line of defense. Instead, I put up a bird feeder and delighted in the tufted tit mouse and chicadees that entertained me each morning. I listened to Strauss waltzes. I searched my mind for uplifting memories. And yes, I watched YouTube cat videos. I became aware that there were longer and longer moments when I actually felt pretty good.
I continued my Sound Healing practices and in September signed up for The Chi Center’s four month Awaken Vitality online course, movements to release deep blockages (the cause of all illness and dis-ease) throughout the body. Now I practice both sound healing and movement about an hour and a half a day, and the healing continues. I still have challenges, but I always have choices. And more and more I’m making the choice for life and happiness.
As we say in Wisdom Healing Qigong—HAOLA! (how-la) All is well…and getting better.
Midsummer Night’s Dream
Painting by William Blake