Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., have found Qigong effective for patients with depression, arthritis and other illnesses. I asked David Nelson, a Qigong energy healer and wellness coach in Minnesota, to explain what it means.
David Nelson, Enlightenment Coach
What is Qigong?
Qigong,a form of traditional Chinese medicine, was founded about 7,000 years ago.Qi, pronounced ‘chee,’ refers to the energy that flows through all things in the universe. Gong, pronounced ‘gung,’ means skill or steady practice.Qigong combines physical exercise, meditation and energy to remove energy blockages within the body and to help the body’s energy flow. Helping energy move in a natural fashion allows the body to heal itself and increase one’s energy. Ten thousand years ago, of course, there were no modern Western medical devices or techniques. This is how people adapted and lived and, in combination with herbs, healed injuries, recovered from disease and increased their vitality.
That sounds like free universal health care. How did you come to practice it and use it to help others?
For 20 years after college I was a banker, left-brained, intellectual. I didn’t understand, didn’t want to understand, and viewed somewhat suspiciously, the types of things that I’m now doing. But I started to explore what my purpose is on earth. One of the things I was exposed to was Reiki, which is a Japanese energy or healing art.
I was taught Reiki by Catholic nuns at a university in Cleveland. Quite to my surprise, I found that I could feel this energy that could not be seen or measured or tested in any other way, and I could also move this energy. It was quite a wonderful experience and also a little disconcerting.
Shortly after that, I realized it was time to leave banking. I went through a period of reintegration and letting go of who I was before, and accepting who I am now. I spent a two-year mentorship with a man who does healing “earth work,” by the name of Warren Grossman, who’s written a beautiful book called “To Be Healed by the Earth.”
Back in Cleveland I had learned there was a master Qigong teacher here, and a number of different people I met either took one of his classes or had a healing session with him and spoke quite highly of it. It sounded intriguing so after we moved back to Minnesota I signed up to a attend a class at Spring Forest Qigong, which is the name of Master Chunyi Lin’s school in Eden Prairie, a Twin Cities suburb, and he offers courses through Normandale Community College.
I found Qigong fit very seamlessly for me between Reiki and earthwork. Qigong helped fill the middle even stronger. Earthwork, which is also my daily practice, helps me ground, get centered and connect to the energy. Qigong, even more than Reiki, allows me to integrate stronger with higher vibrational energies -- the universe’s energy --and bring it present when I do an energy session with someone. Master Lin’s Qigong technique incorporates the wisdom of a number of different masters he had in China. But in China Qigong is a very ritualistic, master-student relationship that lasts for 20 or even 40 years. Master Lin’s inspiration was to synthesize the wisdom of these different Masters and simplify the techniques to make them obtainable for everyone. His vision is that everyone can do this, that everyone is a healer and has the capacity to heal themselves or help others.
How long did you train, or how long have you been practicing? Better yet, what do you consider it, training or practicing or both?
Both. I’ve completed all four levels of Spring Forest Qigong. The higher levels tend to be for people who want to incorporate this into their practice or what they’re doing as far as trying to help others.
Can anyone do it?
Absolutely. One of the things I like about Spring Forest Qigong is anyone can learn this; it’s available to all of us. With some awareness, attention, and focus, we can actually become quite good at this. For example, I worked with a fourth grade school class on just some basic Qigong techniques, and things they can do when they have an injury in their arm to help make their arm feel better. And these kids immediately picked up on the technique and felt the difference in their own body. So even children have the availability -- maybe more so -- because their minds are more open to quickly pick this up.
Master Lin repeatedly says about Qigong: “All we ever needed to know we learned in Level One.” So the other levels are to deepen the experiences, pay attention to them, and go more into them. This is very accessible and easy to understand if you come with an open mind and are willing to experience it for yourself. And there are CDs, DVDs and books available, by the way, for people who want to learn but can’t attend the class.
If someone just heard about Qigong and wanted to pursue it, how would you recommend getting started?
First, I would recommend they experience a Qigong session. They could attend courses and gain some hands-on experience in actually doing it, and also practice exercises found in textbooks and CDs. You can and take this and apply it to your life. Master Lin is very good at saying, “Feel free to adapt this, take this, fit it into what you’re already doing,” and “find the parts that work for you.” He doesn’t believe that you have to do it just his way, but he shows what he has found powerful and effective for him. Typically, my wife, Pam, who is a life coach, and I do workshops and retreats. The idea is to give people exposure to these areas that are not traditionally shared or taught in Western society, especially in America, even though all this wisdom has come from Japan, China and India. These cultures have thousands of years of experience of having awareness of energy flows, their bodies, and the earth. Much of the vocabulary and techniques come from these cultures because Westerners don’t even have a word for it. Going to a workshop or a retreat gives you an opportunity to become aware of the energy, try it on, and see how it works for you. The same rules should apply: adapt it, change it, or don’t use it, whatever feels right for you, but at least there’s a sense of awareness and that’s very empowering. We like to focus on self-awareness and self-empowerment that allows people to increase and tap into their own wisdom to help themselves and those around them.
As far as health benefits, what are some of the things people typically want help with?
Energy healing works on the spiritual, physical and emotional and mental levels. It is very unlike seeing a medical doctor, because this is not a medical treatment, and it’s unlike seeing a counselor or a psychiatrist. It’s quite an amazing thing, it’s sort of a mystery to us all. Yet it’s really quite beautiful and the bottom line is people benefit from this. Some people with cancer who are going through chemotherapy or radiation find getting a Qigong or Reiki session helps support them while they’re getting their medical treatments. Energy work helps their body feel stronger and more vital and helps achieve more balance. Like Tai Chi exercise or meditation, Qigong helps us stay more centered and grounded and have some balance in our lives. When we get out of balance and especially when we’re in a state of fear from pain or illness or a big life change, we really need some support. My sense is this energetic support is pretty crucial, and is very clean, and so it’s not like there has to be a long-term relationship or there’s anything you have to take or anything you have to buy, you just need to show up, be present, and allow yourself to experience whatever you need to experience. For people who are looking to complement and support what else they’re doing, this ends up being a very positive and empowering experience. In my experience, when people come in during a time of need or a crisis, more often than not some thought or emotion seems to have some tie-in to their physical issues. If my knee hurts it may be that my body is trying to get my attention. If I get some support with it I can help keep that knee functioning. That’s the deeper aspect of this and where I think it differs from Western medicine which is much more dealing with symptoms and physical causes and cause and effect, whereas this is much more of an art than a science where there’s a level of mystery and beauty, and divinity, for lack of a better word, occurring.
My sense of healing is not as a curing of physical symptoms, but more a sense of well-being, wholeness and empowerment. Our bodies seem to be great mirrors and maybe even canaries in the coal mine to let us know when things are a little out of whack somewhere. We need to be aware that our thoughts and emotions contribute to that as much as slipping on ice, or car accidents and things. My basic understanding is that healing is a more complex relationship than I was led to believe when I was growing up.
There’s a lot of discussion about the mind-body connection, and there are still many mysteries about the brain. We don’t understand how some things work and it’s been called “the last frontier” of science.
This is the cutting edge area. The tough part for Western scientific minds when talking about energy work is that it’s very hard for any instrument to measure it. We are getting some techniques, some research that does measure blood pressure, temperature changes, changes in brain activity. But this is a very subtle energy and difficult to measure using traditional instruments. Dr. Bruce Lipton, a biologist and Stanford researcher, authored a book called “The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Conciousness, Matter and Miracles” that I recommend to everyone. Lipton has come to understand cells and genes from a perspective that is very different from traditional scientific belief. His research found that genes can be turned off and on by environmental signals, including thoughts, feelings and emotions. We’re starting to realize that humans are a whole being. We are affected by our environment and by what we eat, by exercising, by stress, and by thoughts and emotions. We need to look at ourselves on all those levels. If there’s a behavior we want to change, energy work can support that exploration and wisdom and also supply some energy to take the place of the behavior we want to change. It’s really quite beautiful and exciting and complex, and there’s more to come. And science is, in some ways, starting to explore and catch up with what people in the East have known for centuries. It’s neat to see this synergy occurring.
How does Qigong differ from Reiki, healing touch, or any of the other energy modalities?
I’ve been trained in three different energy modalities and I’ve had exposure to probably five others. My sense is that they all get you to the same place. It’s really no different than one person enjoying the Salsa and one person enjoying the Waltz, it’s still dancing, and it’s what moves and works for you. I encourage people who are looking to explore this to try a couple different ways and see which ones speaks to them, and they’re most comfortable doing. Do some reading, ask some questions, and ask friends who maybe have done it. The provider of these services makes a big difference also. You know, we all try to stay very clean and just allow the energy to flow through us to benefit the person but there is a perfume or a sweetness or an essence that is also transmitted in the relationship. You need to be one with somebody that you trust and connect with, and that gives you results. When you’re done the session with them, you feel more peaceful, enlivened and aware.
How do people locate Qigong practitioners?
Referrals from other people is probably one of the best ways, and sometimes you have to rely on ads or searching on the Internet. Qigong right now is less known, less publicized and less available than say Reiki or healing touch. There are quite a few Reiki practitioners and others who do energy work. Lots of nurses study and practice healing touch and Reiki, and we’re starting to see more blending of traditional and alternative approaches to our overall well being. One of my goals is to make it better known in the mainstream. I think it’s becoming more accepted in our society, even in the medical profession. Some research has found Reiki, meditations and prayers to aid healing following operations.
Interview conducted and condensed by Kathlyn Stone