This is another catch-up which I referred to in my posting Freedom- Also a Loss. I had my Qigong experience in Orlando back at the end of April this year. I read Natural Awakenings, a free monthly newspaper that is mainly geared to health and alternative health practices and modalities. For three years I had seen the advertisement for the Qi-Revolution event in Orlando in this newspaper and my curiosity was peaked. But each year by the time I got around to checking into it, I already had another commitment.
So this year, or rather last year, because the initial advertising came out I believe sometime in October or November of 2010, I made sure I put it in my planner at first sighting. Shortly after that I completed my registration and I was set to discover what this “energy event” was all about. Because I saw the word “Qi” (which is pronounced “chi”), I had an idea that it was something akin to Tai Chi with which I am familiar. However, nothing prepared me for the 4-day experience that I had with Qigong.
The event was held in one of the huge conference rooms at the Orlando Convention Center. When I entered the room on the first day I remember my first feeling: overwhelmed. There were more than two thousand people present for this event and I didn’t know a single person. The energy level was high and I was aware of a sense of anticipation buzzing around the room. The second feeling was an old enemy re-presenting itself: a feeling of “less than”. Old toxic thought processes began to invade my mind.
“You shouldn’t have come here Margo, you’ll probably not be any good at it.” “Most of these people are younger than you, what were you thinking of?” “You’re going to make a fool of yourself in front of all these people.” “How do you expect to keep up with everyone especially with the pain in your hip?” And many other forms of “You’re no good”, “You’re not good enough” etc, and some other self-sabotaging phrases. You get the picture.
After taking some deep breathes and centering in on my God, I was able to clear my mind and fill it with some positive affirmations. Only then could I allow myself to feel the excitement and anticipation that was like an electric current all around me. Only then did I really look around and notice that at least one third of the people there were over fifty, and quite a few were over sixty,and the really “young ‘uns” were a minority. I smiled as I watched the negative thoughts scurry out of my head.
Within two hours and after some great stretching exercises, we were all, yes all, more than two thousand of us, going through the first Qigong form. I had no idea that it would be take about an hour to do this, and I am so glad I didn’t. I think I might have panicked and run away. But what was so amazingly awesome was that I was able to keep up, stay focused, and complete the whole form. On top of that, what was wonderfully boosting for my self esteem was that younger people were needing to take a break half way through.
I am not sure that I can explain exactly what Qigong is, but I will attempt to do so. Please be aware that this is my own subjective explanation. Qigong is the practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for the purpose of exercise, healing, and meditation. But it is so much more than that. Through the use of slow, controlled, focused movement the practitioner is brought to an awareness of the natural flow of energy that constantly surrounds us and that we have in us. Through the practice of qigong it is possible to “harness” or “increase” this level of energy, bringing more into the body and sharing it out with the world. It is what I refer to as the God energy. I found the whole experience to be very spiritual.
I do know that I felt a tremendous “high” after that first session. My body, despite some fairly severe pain in my left hip, felt alive and as though I could do almost anything. I was very mentally alert and was aware of a sense of joy and lightheartedness. It was as though in some way I had accessed a deeper part of me, or perhaps I had learned a different way to access my soul. And by the way, no longer did I feel like a stranger in a crowd. I felt like I belonged.
On the second day we did more Qigong and also learned a form of energy breathing. If you want a serious natural high, then energy breathing is the answer. This is something that I will not attempt to explain here because I don’t think I could do it justice. You’ll just have to check out www.qigong.com and see if there is an event near you and try it.
The other major component to this 4-day event was the approach to food healing. Much of this I had heard before but in bits and pieces. Jeff Primack, who is the driving force behind “Supreme Science Qigong” and the leader and main presenter of the 4-day Qi-revolution event, has taken all those “bits and pieces” and presents them as one whole healing source. It felt as though someone finally gave me the key to the lock and showed me how to turn it.
I have been working diligently on my approach to food for many years, but since this event it has been easier to bring things into place within my daily diet. I am sixty seven years young, with just as many years of bad habits about food, plus I am a slow learner. There are times when I can really follow true healthy eating, and there are other times when I just muddle along as best I can. But somehow, since my Qigong experience, I manage to come back to the full healthy approach. I am just so very grateful for this experience that has taught me to incorporate some very specific things on a daily basis into my nutrition plan today. Thanks to that I am almost totally free of arthritic pain. My energy levels are so much higher and my body feels healthier in general.
I have just read through this posting and I realize that I have given a very poor “nutshell” idea of what my Qigong experience was about. I guess it is something that you have to experience personally to have a full or better understanding of it rather than just reading words. Much as I love my words, I am very conscious of the fact that sometimes they simply do not do justice to an event or situation. This is one of those times. Please check out Qigong for yourselves. It really is quite amazing and will probably change your life forever.
About six weeks ago in my posting Going Raw- Part One, I wrote about the process I am going through to change from eating cooked foods to eating raw foods. This is all part of a bigger process that I have embarked upon in order to get as healthy as I can. The food area of my life is probably the last major bastion that I am attempting to overcome and, because it has its roots in my childhood, it is proving to be the most difficult.
However, there is another area of my life that I am addressing right now that is having a major impact on my health. This is in the area of exercise. Yes, I know, that’s a four letter word in my vocabulary too!!! I have been struggling with exercise for many years. Which is really annoying to have to admit when I remember being the athletic person that I was in school.
I played on my High School’s netball team (UK equivalent of basketball) in each year of school. In several of those years I was the team captain. I was fanatical about netball and just remembering it, I can feel my adrenaline level soaring. We played netball during the winter season, September through March, which meant we played twice a week as part of our class PE program and then the team would also practice once or twice a week after school. Matches were played on Saturdays.
After graduating from school I went on to a teacher’s training college, and sports and gymnastics continued to be part of the regular curriculum. During my second year of college I “went off the rails” and left to get married. A baby came along quickly and my new lifestyle was very alien to anything I had known up until then. Physical activities disappeared from my life.
Many years and a divorce later I attempted to return to some form of exercise. But I only hiccupped along in fits and starts. I tried aerobics but felt very clumsy and because I am not good at multi-tasking I simply did not have the coordination necessary. I tried working with a personal trainer but it proved to be too expensive, so I just gave up.
By now I had remarried and had another baby at age forty and had not been able to rid my body of the baby weight as I had when I was in my twenties. I think this was when I pretty much gave up on myself for a while and simply indulged in eating what I wanted. The weight slowly crept up. I remember pledging with myself that I would never allow myself to go over two hundred pounds. I sat at two hundred for a few years.
About fifteen years ago, while living in Naples, Italy, I met a wonderful yoga instructor and started practicing yoga with her. I loved the asana’s and working with the breathe. Moving slowly into and maintaining the poses under Meredith’s compassionate instruction, I began to feel somewhat reconnected with my body. “Sun salutations” became my passion along with the “fish” pose. My weight diminished some and I felt healthy for the first time in a long time.
Then in 2004 I moved to Jacksonville, Florida and, in hindsight, I realize that it took me about two to three years to make the big transition from my European culture to the American culture. My exercise pattern got lost in the shuffle for quite a while. Every once in a while I would make a half-hearted effort to implement a walking regime. I love being outside and walking puts me close to God’s creation which allows me to exercise my body and my soul. I also found a good Yoga studio and began going regularly again.
Then I had a shoulder problem. Had to quit yoga while I dealt with that and exercise got away from me again. Once the shoulder healed I finally pushed myself back into yoga but shortly after that I had a knee problem. Six months later I tried to get back into yoga again but found that it re-awakened the knee issue so quit. I tried walking again but the knee was just too much of a problem and, again, I found myself at that quitting-on-me stage.
One day at the beginning of this year I got on the scales and realized that my weight had bloomed to two hundred and sixteen pounds. I felt defeated and at an all-time low with myself. I made the decision to try and go raw – again (I had been dabbling with raw for a few years), or at least vegetarian. But underneath I knew that if I didn’t start exercising I would get nowhere fast. However, I simply could not get myself motivated to do it.
I think God took pity on me – again. He has a habit of doing that from time to time and when I get to the end of my rope, he offers me the beginning of His! But, as usual, He has a funny way of doing it. My husband was hospitalized toward the end of February with chest pains. Long story short: no heart problems but he was finally forced to look at high blood pressure and cholesterol issues and the doctors were serious when they told him to make lifestyle changes. Our diet swung drastically to mainly salads, lots of veggies and fruit, and we cut out most of the carbs.
Within a month or two we both lost weight dramatically. Then I hit a plateau and stayed there and got depressed. Underneath I knew the answer was exercise but I just didn’t want to have to deal with it. Again God came to my rescue in His usual round about way, and in July I was introduced to Wendy, a personal Pilates instructor. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do Pilates because my only knowledge of this form of exercise was a memory of a friend who used to do it (a much fitter, younger woman!!!), and she would say things like “We were massacred at Pilates class tonight” or “I didn’t think I’d make it through the whole class today.”
I am grateful for the God-incidental way that I got to Wendy, for I’m sure I’d never have taken the leap otherwise. She is a compassionate but relentless instructor with a grand sense of humor. I told her where I was at and she said something like “I guess I’ll have to work you”. I have been doing Pilates twice a week with Wendy since about mid-July. I have pushed below my plateau, not a lot but enough. However what has happened to my body is nothing short of a miracle.
I have a level of sustained energy that I did not have before. My body is so much more flexible and feels very alive. There has been a shift in shape; I cannot explain it any clearer than that. The first major change that I noticed was one day when I went to do up the strap on a pair of shoes and realized I did not have to get into a certain position to “accommodate my stomach” as I leaned down! My tummy has definitely toned and my legs are so much more flexible. I can climb a flight of stairs without feeling breathless.
This week Richard and I are enjoying our traditional week of Thanksgiving in our time share in Orlando. Yesterday afternoon we went to Universal to watch the new Harry Potter movie (which was great by the way!). We walked around for a while before the movie and I noticed that I had no problem keeping up with Richard (he’s over six foot and has a long stride). Nor did I find myself getting breathless keeping up with him and, in fact, I felt quite invigorated. Today we went to Sea World and the same thing happened.
As I sit here typing this post I have to make a confession. I have been wanting to walk on a regular basis for about a month now. The reason I have not is because I did not want to feel tired and breathless or realize that I couldn’t keep a decent pace for long. Yesterday and today have shown me that I can get out there, keep a good pace, and feel really good. I know that this is partly because of the diet changes I have made as well as the regular exercising with Pilates. It is a total change of lifestyle that is allowing me to feel good about myself and to feel so much more healthy. This is what self nurturing is truly about.
I know I have already done a posting about my last experience with the labyrinth in St. Augustine. However, I feel called to write another posting because I keep thinking about two of the people who went in to do the walk. I mentioned in my previous posting, Self Nurturing- Enjoying the Labyrinth at the Beach, that there were many children who playfully walked, ran, and skipped through the labyrinth leaving their unique brand of energy present. Well, one little boy took, maybe I should say “enticed” his Dad in with him.
I remember looking up as they both approached the labyrinth. The Dad was a little hesitant, hung back and tried to look somewhat indifferent, as though he wasn’t really interested in the labyrinth. The son was having none of that. He was curious and wanted to take a good look. He realized almost immediately that this was something to be experienced. He saw a pathway opening up and wanted to explore.
He took a bold step into the labyrinth and then stopped, remembering Dad, turned to look at him and said “come on Dad, let’s do it”. Dad looked around, as if checking out who was watching, then tentatively stepped inside. The little boy needed no further encouragement. Off he went on his adventure. He was very focused and determined, staying within the confines of the narrow pathway. Dad was a little different. He kept looking around, obviously embarrassed, probably hoping that nobody who knew him was going to happen by.
If you know what a labyrinth is like you will understand that as you enter you are on a circular pathway that is about the third circle inside the whole design. As you walk, the circles turn on each other. This can lead to the illusion that you are about to get to the center and then, suddenly, you find yourself walking the very outer circle.
So the little boy got to an about-turn which he thought was going to turn him in towards the center, but instead it turned him out to the edge of the labyrinth. For a moment he was confused, and called out to His Dad for help. The father said, “just keep following the path son”, and trustingly the little boy did so. I had noticed that by now Dad had lost his self-consciousness and was just as focused as his son. The two continued, intent upon their journey, the little boy about half a circle ahead of the Father.
Then, in a sudden moment, the boy found himself inside the center of the labyrinth. He stood their looking pleased with himself and looking all around himself at the road he had travelled. A few moments later his Dad arrived in the center. Without a word, the little boy held out his hand and a big grin spread across his face. They stood together for a while, Dad and son, holding hands and looking out to sea. It was a God-moment. Who knows what thoughts each one held in his heart.
The boy looked up into his father’s face, then gently slipped his hand out from his father’s and, in just as focused a fashion as on the way in, he started the journey out. Dad stood there for a moment more watching his little one strike out on his own before heading out behind him.
I found myself thinking this is what parenthood is about. We hold our children’s hands for as long as we can. Then comes the day when they choose a path. We follow at a distance for a while, close enough that they know they can call on us for help, but not so close that we crowd them. But they have to make the journey of life on their own. If we’re lucky, they sometimes look back and smile and wave and may even occasionally come and hold our hands again for a while.