Back in 1984, Minnesota medical device and technology companies, health plans and insurance companies, hospitals and consultants of all kinds, formed a trade association and named it Medical Alley. They planned to create an ambiance about our technology-rich region that would capture the imagination of people around the world. They dubbed the state: “Health Care’s Silicon Valley.”
Today Minnesota seems to be a growing hub for a new kind of medicine: Qigong. Master Chunyi Lin’s Spring Forest Qigong school and clinic based in Eden Prairie draws people from around the country. The National Qigong Association is headquartered here and there are many private practitioners, courses for credit at Normandale and Anoka-Ramsey Community Colleges, and you can find Qigong offered at alternative health clinics. The University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing’s web site features Qigong and other mind-body therapies. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and other medical research institutions have found Qigong effective for patients with depression, arthritis and other illnesses. I asked David Nelson, a Twin Cities-based Qigong energy healer and wellness coach, to explain what it means.
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, and he offers courses through Normandale Community College.
I found Qigong fit very seamlessly for me between Reiki and earthwork. Master Lin’s Qigong technique incorporates the wisdom of a number of different masters he had in China. His vision is that everyone can do this, that everyone is a healer and has the capacity to heal themselves or 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.
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.
You’ve lived in far-flung places like Cleveland and New Zealand. Do you think it’s more popular here than other places?
There are many Qigong teachers here in the area, but if they’re not directly connected to Master Lin, typically their focus is less on the energetic or healing aspects of Qigong and more into the practice as exercise, like Tai Chi. Spring Forest Qigong is unique. It just happens to be based here in the Twin Cities, but it’s really his creation from information he’s received from a lot of different sources, and he makes it very approachable and understandable for us Westerners.
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 go to Spring Forest Qigong or come to someone like me who’s trained in Spring Forest Qigong. 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 in to 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.
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 of healing is not as a curing of physical symptoms, but more a sense of well-being, wholeness and empowerment.
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.
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.
For more information:
Integrated Life & Wellness Coaching, website of Dave Nelson and wife Pam Nelson who is a transformational life coach