Just back from the National Qigong Association East Coast conference. Overall, an enjoyable and productive time! Mardi and I gave a presentation, early in the conference, based on the sequence of our published papers; you can see the Power Point here. We were delighted with all the positive feedback and interest, and look forward to continuing the conversation with others who are engaged in bodymind work.
Chris Bouguyon, current president of the NQA, presented about his work with first responders, particularly police. With a background in law enforcement, he has “street cred.” He is currently involved in a fairly large clinical trial of Qigong for first responders, which is wonderful! How long will it be, I wonder, until this is standard training?
Much qigong training is closely related to the “internal” martial arts—this means the martial arts which emphasize centering, grounding, interoception, intention, and the use of core breath power rather than the peripheral muscles. (Breath power is a specifically defined skill, which I will write more about later.) In qigong, and of course our Bodymind Training, one can learn these skills without the need for learning martial arts, cutting down immensely the time required and making these skills much more accessible. In the martial context, the centering etc. shows one how to remain calm, flexible and aware even under great pressure; this of course is exactly what first responders need. And really, these skills are so easy to learn with the right instruction!
For instance, just bringing the attention to your center of gravity (just below the navel, in the middle of the body) will immediately move you towards a calmer, more alert state, ideal for handling crises. (My “right instruction” comment covers how exactly to locate the center, when this practice is NOT a good idea, and the difference between paying attention TO, and paying attention FROM, this region of the body.) Contemplate the sketch to the left, and feel what happens in your body.
Now, back to the conference. Each day there were a variety of workshops offered, and the instructors lined up at the start of each day to describe their offering. I made my decision by looking at their postures. Francesco and Ambhika really stood out (pun intended). Ambhika in particular was grounded, radiantly open, and balanced around her centerline. It turned out they were presenting about the link between Qigong and Yoga, which intrigued me, so I opted for their workshop series. Although I was curious to hear a systematic framework for the overall topic, I found them both to be wonderful human beings, with an extraordinary depth of experience and a wise and balanced view of the world—in other words, they agreed with me 😉. But the relationship between yoga and qigong remains a very complex issue for me.
For me personally, the highlight of the conference was Mingtong Gu, a Chinese Qigong Master now living in New Mexico. I had heard of him before, and was deeply impressed with him in person. He radiated happiness and well-being, but not in an obnoxious or oblivious way; he is very aware of the need to embrace all experience, the painful and the pleasurable both. In the few personal interactions I had with him I felt that he was authentic and genuinely present. He was very generous with his time and his teaching, and is actively using the web to make his teaching more widely accessible. Dr. Gu shares our interest in developing videos to teach qigong and Bodymind Training—he told us, “Everything can be taught by video!” And we hope to prove him right!
I came away with feeling that Bodymind Science and Bodymind Training has a lot to offer that was not obviously present at the conference. People seemed hungry for sophisticated information about how to conduct scientific studies, as well as about the neuroscience of qigong and the use of sophisticated video techniques; we hope to have future opportunities to present about this. Current developments in neuroscience and neurophenomenology, as well as the neurobiology of trauma, in many ways provide a Western scientific vocabulary for translating, and in some cases expanding, the traditional teachings of qigong. The potential integration between traditional qigong and current biology-based, somatic therapies (notably Somatic Experiencing), is particularly interesting to me. Somatic Experiencing offers an extremely sophisticated and precise, neuroscience-based approach to even the deepest levels of the human psyche, and also resonates with qigong in the aspiration of its practitioners to high personal and moral development.