By Mindie Flamholz
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to watch the flow of water in the Gunpowder River outside of Baltimore, Maryland. It was a beautiful, sunny Fall day, and the reflection of the trees on the water revealed subtle changes in the colors of the leaves. The soft yellows, the gentle oranges sparkled on the water.
I gave myself time to be aware, to be curious, to notice, observe and to wonder. And, I felt grateful for the present moment.
As a Qi Gong instructor, I continue to learn how important it is for me to encourage my students (and myself) to be with the present moment. And, that is not easy in a world that moves so fast, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with all each of us has in our own lives that can compromise how we wish to enjoy our lives.
I teach my students how to breathe – which sounds crazy when we breathe all the time. In the SRNA Ask the Expert Podcast on Helping Children and Families Manage and Cope with Stress During COVID-19, the presenter talks about the importance of abdominal breathing for our health. I love teaching my students how to take belly breaths (just watch babies), how to inhale softly, gently, and deeply, and to exhale and release tension and stress from our bodies and even to release negative emotions. Think of how we sigh, we cry, we may even scream – all ways of releasing tension and emotions. Why, even yawning can release stored up emotions!
I think of the river, its gentle flow. Our breath, its gentle flow when we are feeling relaxed, at ease, centered, grounded, and balanced.
However, when I looked down from the bridge yesterday, I realized that there are large trees that had fallen into the river. The flow of the river was obstructed. In some areas, the water flowed through uneasily. In other places, the water was stagnant, fallen leaves and debris (yes, plastic!) accumulating, unresponsive to the water coming from upstream, blocking its abundant flow, blocking its nourishing of life downstream.
Just as in the river, the flow of our Energy in our bodies can be slowed, can be blocked, or can flow abundantly and easily. In Qi Gong, we work with our bodies’ Energy to help prevent blockages, to help remove stagnation, and always to help support the smooth flow of our Qi.
Our Qi – our Life Force Energy – the Energy that nourishes our cells, our Organ Systems, our health, and our vitality. The river may need a storm to move stagnation, to shake the fallen trees loose, to restore the abundant flow of water. For us, we need the Gong, the practice and skills of working with our Qi to keep it moving, to shake loose and to clear (moving our bodies or even imagining it in our minds) negative energy or negative feelings that accumulate – feelings such as sadness, grief, fear, insecurity, anxiety, lack of trust, anger, disappointment, frustrations, jealousy, hatred, hastiness, impatience, lack of joy, lack of love, worry, and overthinking.
When we let go, when we release these negative energies and emotions, we make SPACE for the more positive energy and positive emotions – for confidence, strength and courage, for trust, especially in ourselves, for kindness, for ourselves and others, and generosity and support, for love, patience, and peace, for feeling grounded, centered, and balanced within our own bodies, within our own being.
So, how can Qi Gong help do that? Through focused breathing, gentle shaking, and clearing movements, through healing sounds and healing colors, and through gentle, mindful, meditative movements, we can shift our energies. Think of the river. Not all parts of the river are as “stuck” as what I reflected on. Some areas flow freely, some need a gentle stirring of rains, a gust of wind to keep the flow abundant and free. With us, it’s the same.
Our intention, our attention can focus on feeling “good”. The river has no control over its flow. We can control our energies. To whatever extent we can change our flow of energy, we can choose to do so. As one of my instructors suggests, “This is simple. Simple isn’t always easy.”
Time, perseverance, attitude, and Space to let ourselves be in the moment are always part of who we are. Just as all the positive attributes I mentioned above, these are always inside of us. It is up to us to be curious, to be aware, to notice, to wonder, and to be who we are so capable of being.
Qi Gong breathing and movements have been around for over 3,000 years. At a time when there was no technology, no Googling info, no turning on the TV or even the radio. No cell phones. There was time to observe Nature – the movement of the water in rivers, the weather, the strategies of animals, the growth and decay of plants, the giving of fruits and seeds, the regeneration of the seasons. In “practicing” Qi Gong, we notice and acknowledge the wonders of Nature in each of us. Our ability to be resilient like trees, to be playful like monkeys, to shake off stress like animals, to change like the seasons, and, yes, to flow gently like water.
Importantly, Qi Gong breathing and movements are available to everyone. They can be done seated, standing, in wheelchairs, and in bed. Movements can be modified and adapted to our own bodies’ abilities and even can be imagined. We can hear the breeze without being outside. We can feel the warmth of the Sun on our bodies while we are inside on a cold day. We can close our eyes and smile at the playfulness of monkeys while we are stuck inside during quarantine. We can breathe like a wave with the ocean only in our minds.
Our practice of Qi Gong moves into our everyday lives, in how we breathe, in how we shift our emotions, in how we choose to respond in place of reacting, in how we are gentle with ourselves and with others, aware, present in the moment. Building the next moments breath by relaxing breath.
Thank you for allowing me to share this information with you. I discovered Qi Gong while watching a fundraising program on Maryland Public Television. The breathing, movements, and information shared by Lee Holden, the Qi Gong Master, held my interest so much that I sprung for it and bought the complete DVD and CD set!
A couple of years later, I became certified through Chan Zhang and through Lee, have studied with other Masters, and have been teaching ever since. I teach children, seniors, people with aphasia, those who have suffered strokes, women who have been abused, individuals with dementia/Alzheimer’s, caregivers, and all who want to improve their health and wellbeing – just as I have.
And, please remember, just 3 Belly Breaths, in through your nose and out through your nose or mouth, can shift how you feel any time of day. I invite you to try it for yourself in this present moment.
Contact Mindie: [email protected]