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2017 Annual Clinic – Wolf Ridge, MN

September 22-24, 2017

I was excited to attend the Friday “pre-day” which included T’ai Chi Ch’uan and Five Animal Frolics. I had been practicing these on my own, self-taught from videos. I was looking forward to spending time learning these from a “real” instructor. Mike Inoshita went through both those sessions and I absorbed in everything I could. By the time the official Ki Gong clinic started on Friday evening I had filled my brain to capacity. I needed to take a nap during the break to process! By that point I already met my goal for the trip, and the clinic had not even started. I will definitely come early again next time.

I have many memories and experiences from camp and someday may be able to write them all down. In Lupe Thomas’s meditation session she listed journaling as a form of meditation. I have never been much of a “journaler” and had not made the connection before between journaling and meditation. But now as I write these thoughts down it is obvious to me. “Opening your mind to the obvious” – seems like a good goal of meditation.

There is one particular memory that stands out to me and I would like to write about here. First let me lay the groundwork for this memory. My historical relationship with Ki Gong has been a practical one based on my engineering mindset and background in biochemistry. As a pharmaceutical scientist, I can accept as a fundamental principle that the mind influences the body – for example in the release of adrenaline (epinephrine) in response to fear in the classical “fight or flight” response. “Every emotional response has a behavioral component, an autonomic component, and a hormonal component.” I can also accept the converse principle that the body influences the mind – for example in the release of endorphins by exercise or laughter in the classical “runner’s high”. I have personally experienced the effects of both of these examples.

As an engineer I know that complex systems can create emergent properties and resonances from simple principles. And that it may not be obvious how these properties are connected to their originating principles. My favorite example is the Belousov–Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction, which I studied as part of graduate school in chemical engineering. The BZ reaction is a complex system of chemical reactions formed from a set of simple chemicals, which each individually follow simple rules. But taken together the system of chemicals creates a nonlinear chemical oscillator which can create complex patterns that last a long time do not repeat. These complex patterns can be shown to “evolve chaotically”, and can also be shown to “respond to stimuli”.

As a consequence it has been no problem for me to accept Chinese medicine based on the five phases as a practical (but non-obvious) application of fundamental principles to manage the emergent properties of the complex system that is my body and mind. It is easy for me to accept the five phases as part of a “user guide” for my mind/body, with rules describing meditation, visualization, movement, pressure points, etc. to poke “resonance systems” in ways that improve my emotional and physical well-being. I can also accept that I don’t have to be able fully understand how these frequencies arise from fundamental principles – it is enough for me to believe in the fundamental principles, and the collective wisdom of thousands of years of practical experience of doctors and patients.

With this framework I have no problem accepting that meditation and visualization can result in feeling “heat” or “static” between my hands. It has been relatively common for me to feel the “energy ball” between my hands during Ki Gong sessions.

As an aside, I did have a “personal best” in this experience while doing the Dragon Gate Form on the bluff above Lake Superior. There are several points in the form where you move your hands across other areas of your body, for example, the part in which your hands circling around Dantian. I could clearly feel the “heat” circling around, and if made my circle larger or smaller the heat followed the pattern of my hands. This Dragon Gate form was my first time feeling the “heat” between my hands and another part of my body.) Is the feeling of “heat” or “static” limited to my mind/body experience and not measurable by some external detector like a thermometer? I don’t know, and it’s not necessary to me that these feelings be measurable by some other device. I’m not concerned about the health and well-being of the thermometer (Maybe that makes me selfish; sorry, thermometer!), so it is not important to me if the thermometer can also experience what I experience.

Now to get to the memory, which is a gift given by Ramona Wikstrom. I travelled to this trip with Ms. Sandy Fenton, a fellow black belt and instructor in our karate school. During our travels I had discussed with her some of the thoughts I have described above. Sandy’s response was “That’s great. You have got to have Ramona show you energy transfer!”

Fast forward to the first evening of the Ki Gong clinic. (I can’t place the exact time but I think it was right after dinner.) I was milling around in the auditorium waiting for the session to start when Ramona pointed at me from the entrance and motioned to come to her. Because Ramona is the clinic host, and because I am a first-timer, my first thoughts are “What did I do?” Then “Am I in trouble?” Then “Did something bad happen?” I ask Ramona nervously, “What’s up?” and she has me follow her into a corner of the foyer. She tells me (and I’m paraphrasing), with her characteristic smile “Sandy tells me you’ve never experienced energy transfer.”

Ramona starts by having me hold my hands out, palms up. (I’m a bit fuzzy on whether she first had me prepare by holding my own palms apart and feeling the heat/energy between them). She then placed her hands palm down above my outstretched palms. As we stood there I could feel the heat and energy going into both my palms. (Can’t tell you if Romana felt the same thing – didn’t have the presence of mind to ask – will have to follow up with her!). Then after a while Ramona moved her left palm away from my right palm. And as soon as she did that my right palm lost the feeling of heat/energy. She then moved her left hand below my left hand so that my hand was between her hands – her right hand above, left below. Then the feeling of heat/energy in my left hand changed from a feeling of heat radiating onto my palm to a feeling of energy/ electricity moving through my hand. The feeling reminded me of holding two neodymium magnets on opposite sides of my hand (magnets strong enough that you can place them on opposite sides of your hand and the magnetic attraction will hold them in place). Then I felt the sense of energy going through my hand fade, and return to the earlier feeling of heat/energy just in my palm. I looked down to see that Ramona has moved her left hand away and just her right hand remained above. I smiled at her and all I could say was “freaky!” (When I relayed this story to Mike Inoshita, he thought I meant “creepy freaky”, so I had to make clear to him that I meant “freaky cool”).

Soooooo…..

I am still grappling with experience. I have never believed in auras or energy projection outside the body. My view of Ki has always been internally focused, as a part of my personal mind-body connection. But now I find myself acknowledging that Ramona (in her mind/body) was somehow able to project into me (in my mind/body). To explain this I need to add another fundamental principle, that one person can have an effect on another person without direct contact. And that’s a principle I am not yet fully ready to accept.

Of course there are trivial examples of this principle, such as how your emotional state could affect my emotional state, and my emotional state in turn could affect my body. But this particular experience was clearly different to me because I had no apparent change to my emotional state, and I also had no preconception about what Ramona was going to do or what I was going to feel. So it seems like something else is at play. Something freaky cool. Did Ramona somehow control her body to express some external physical force such as heat or electro-magnetism which could travel the distance between our hands? Since the body contains both heat and magnetism that seems like it might be possible. If so would that force be perceptible by other people? Or an inanimate physical detector like a thermometer? (Maybe I should have been nicer to the thermometer) or instead did Ramona and I somehow “sync” our mind/body so that we shared a single experience which Ramona was leading? That there was some sort of connection that does not require measurable physical forces? That, somewhere outside of the physical space, the Venn diagram of her mind/body and my mind/body overlapped for a few moments?

This is definitely stretching me outside of my comfort zone. So, thank you, Ramona, for giving me the opportunity to learn. I can see I still have a long way to go.

Sign me up for the next clinic!

Moving Breath to Intention

Last year I had the unique opportunity to attend my first Ki Gong clinic in Arizona. I met new people and made new friends. More importantly, I learned to see myself in a new light. There were amazing surroundings and instructors and mentors who were so willing to share their knowledge about breathing and the energies around us. 

I had no idea “what” I was feeling, but the combination of positivity from those around me, along with a variety of exercises, allowed me to experience a sense of serenity and calm I had never felt. I rediscovered breathing again and became more aware of myself and emotions. 

It also raised a thousand more questions. What is Qi? How does it affect me? Why is breathing so important and why does the way I breathe make such a big difference?

This year’s clinic was in Minnesota. The scenery was beautiful. The trees had begun changing from green to vibrant shades of yellows and reds. The night skies held an awe-inspiring view of the stars and constellations. 

I was united with fellow members and met new and amazing people from around the country. 

Once again, others graciously shared their knowledge, experience and energies to help us along an individual yet intertwining path. But, while this experience shared similarities with those of the previous year, each session and lesson held very different meanings to me. It provided me with a fresh set of questions about Qi, our bodies and it’s positive and negative effects on our health.

If I had to choose one word to describe my weekend, it would be intention. 

Each breath is done with intention. Each action is done with intention. These intentions can influence everything with which we come into contact. How we choose to focus those intentions can make a difference both positively and negatively on ourselves and others.

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