Another one opens
Exactly one week after canceling a scheduled 3-month trip to Europe, my friend Tina invited me to a Thursday evening qigong workshop led by Master Chen, an ordained Taoist priest and teacher of martial arts, taiji, and qigong. I hesitated. Do I really need more qigong? Another workshop? Especially in light of my failed plans?
And yet!... as an Amma disciple and fellow fringe-dweller who ditched her corporate job as a commercial graphic designer to study zen shiatsu and macrobiotic cooking, Tina was a trusted source. She danced to her own tune and I valued her courage and tenacity in "swimming upstream" to conventional culture. Besides, I thought, her kitchen always seemed to be stocked with tasty vegan treats. "I'm in!" I told her.
Tina and I arrived at Sundara Yoga Studio in north Austin at 6:45pm carrying a large plate of freshly baked vegan fig cookies in honor of Master Chen's birthday. Soft music, the smell of sandalwood incense, and muted pastel colors greeted us as we each took a seat in the small reception area. Students trickled in and greeted each other with hugs. I sat quietly read a flyer on Sundara's Laughter Yoga Certification Program.
Five minutes later, Master Chen arrived with a several students with whom he had just had dinner. Soft white linen garb wrapped his entire body, contrasting the thick ponytail of waist-long coarse black hair that flowed down his back. He was a solidly-built 5'7" and but seemed larger as he strode gracefully into the room where me and 24 other students awaited his teaching.
His face radiated a boyish exuberance and seemed to reflect a deep inner calm as he took a seat in his chair a the front of the room."You will learn a lot tonight" he said with a voice that was both strong and playful. "Be ready to work."
Thirty minutes into the three-hour class I was sweating heavily and feeling the physical stress of a rigorous workout. My legs were shaking, my back muscles burned, and my heart was pounding. "We activate the kidneys" "to heat up the body and burn out impurities". Qigong had never felt like this before. Was this the same qigong that I was taught? "Qigong never felt like this before" I thought to myself. What was happening? We were generating internal heat by working out kidneys. As dantian activates and gathers qi, the body heats up and impurities are released. This felt good. And different.
Harmonizing Heaven, Earth, and Man (chinese name here) is the second movement of a 13-movement form called Primordial Qigong. Created and practiced hundreds of years ago by Taoist sages the form "replenishes qi", says Master Tseng, "and reinvigorates the structure of the physical body." The deep roots of the form could be felt in my body as I moved. Focus is on strengthening the kidneys.
The movement was intense. Circles and spirals that reminded me of Aikido. The presence of legs was also intense. With the movements rooted in 700 years of history (14 generations), it is not surprising they would have that powerful earth-shaking effect. 15 minutes into the class I was sweating. Purpose of
Toward the end of class, Master Chen announced that he and his brother were opening a new Martial Arts Academy in the Wudang mountains of central China. We listened to a brief pitch as we ate fig cookies and vegan cakes. I walked up to chen at the end of class, thanked him, and told him I was interested in his school. "Email me" he said and strode off into the distance.
Visited website and booked a ticked to colorado to meet with the master and discuss school. I move fast. The seed had been planted. Little did I know that 5 days from that departure I would be sitting at his dinner table in Golden, Colorado enjoying dinner with Master Chen and his family. The seed had been planted.