Yesterday at 3 p.m., I headed west to the Hudson River and found some shade under a tree to practice qigong. Under another tree, a young man to my right was practicing an ambitious dance routine. Nearby, a woman lay on a picnic table getting a postural alignment from her trainer. Three girls sprinted by as their coach encouraged them. So many other activities were all around that I knew my slow movements imitating a crane would not gather much attention.
It felt good to move in the way I learned so many years ago. When I began my training, I had no idea that it was a ‘healing’ martial art. Back then, my friends and I laughed when our teacher told us to “put our mind in the soles of our feet”, or “in the palms of our hands”, or “to direct our energy into our dantian” (the lower abdomen below the navel). I cannot imagine being unable to practice qigong to rejuvenate like I did today. I needed it after finishing work past nine last night on the tail of a whirlwind of many days.
I learned qigong at an age when my energy was easily replenished by youth. As I got older I came to understand my teacher’s wisdom when he told us what a treasure from the East this form of exercise was. He said that qigong could not only restore and refresh but sometimes, with a very good teacher, it could even heal a disease.
With the wind off the Hudson River on my back I finished the ‘five routines’ and got into a still standing position to practice the final exercise. Just then, the man to my right began moving back and forth about two feet in front of me, still practicing his dance. I stood behind my dark glasses as he passed, looking straight at me. Of course I wanted to burst out laughing and ask him just what he was doing, but I had an appointment later in the afternoon. If I had broken my practice, I never would have gathered the qi (vital life energy) that made me feel like a new person when I left.
I thank my teachers – Wu Yi, Shen Rong-Er, and Zhao Jin Xiang – for teaching me Soaring Crane Qigong at a time when I had no idea how much it would help me. That was the very beginning of my study of Chinese Medicine and a rich resource from which I draw frequently.