February 2, 2013 Denise Minter
I learned to meditate when I was a sweet 16 year-old body. It seemed easy to sit on the floor, face the wall, be still, and count to 10. Moments later, I would notice that I lost count, and would start all over, again and again. I tried to keep my mind empty, but the counting kept me busy. Besides meditation, my teacher taught me a series of yoga postures, and I found great pleasure in the movement. Yoga enabled my body to be flexible and pain-free throughout the decades as my mind remained the witness, watching, viewing that body as an object outside of myself as I grew up.
Many years later, I was diagnosed with cancer. Well-wishers had so much good advice to share. I made a list of things to do, always keeping busy. Vitamin C drips, raw food, qigong. Qigong? I had never heard that word before, but my friend said it was like tai chi or kung fu, and said that people in China learned how to heal themselves through the practice of qigong. I remembered a TV show from my youth, and a character called "Grasshopper" who was raised by monks, and learned to heal others and defend himself with only his hands and his mind and a little pouch of herbs. I was curious.
I started my bucket list: learn Qigong! Living in San Francisco, I was fortunate to find many masters of the form. I learned that Qigong was both static and dynamic, stillness and movement, form and formlessness. I learned to combine the movement with the stillness by bringing mind inside body. Qigong = embodied awareness. Easier said than done, but cancer proved to be a great teacher and motivator.
I learned a new form of meditation with qigong. I was taught to look inside my body, to visualize, to talk to my organs, to make friends with each cell of my being, even as my body was being put through the paces of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. I loved the qigong forms and movements, and started a regular walking practice in the park, every day at 7am.
After breakfast, I was ready to be still and meditate. I was able to close my eyes, be quiet, and look inside. Did I mention the blessing that my teacher spoke little English, so it was natural to keep my mouth closed, with tongue on the upper palate? Without the morning walks, my mind was jumpy, but with this new practice of qigong, I found the sitting meditation to be a comfort, a release from my busy, busy self. I found a place for my mind to rest, to abide.
Some of the practices were more challenging that others. One meditation required a dialog with each of my organs, asking for their forgiveness and friendship, after years of service, keeping my heart beating, and my liver functioning, etc. The wisdom of the body was revealed, I learned the magic of spinal fluid, of the immune system, doing it's job, in concert with all my body parts, working together in each moment of this life.
Now, it was my turn, to acknowledge that I had a body, and stop taking it for granted. It took several months to go through my entire body, and thank each organ, without breaking down in tears. I was making a new connection with myself. Thank you dear brain, thank you dear heart, thank you dear kidneys, and what exactly is it that you kidneys do anyway? The deeper I went, the bigger the opening. There is a universe inside my body. I learned that we are made of the same stuff as stars. We humans are a microcosm of the universe. I saw that I was not separate from my body, although mind struggled to insist otherwise. I saw that I was not independent, nor stuck out on a limb alone, detached from the rest of the world. I have been in remission ever since, and I credit qigong as the foundation I used to rebuild myself after cancer.
I saw that everything was connected. Suddenly, the birds had messages for me. The pine trees, the flowers, and every stone I encountered was humming with aliveness. I regained color in my cheeks, I started to smile for no reason at all. I felt welcomed into the natural world, which had been there all along, although I was too busy to notice before.
I was even able to thank the cancer cells for opening my eyes, in this lifetime, to the fullness of the world, to spirit, and to the everyday magic of Being. I realized that I no longer needed to try. I am. Just by eating a strawberry, or looking at the sunset, I began to taste the everyday miracles I once took for granted. To feel peace deep inside, regardless of whatever is going on around me in this big world, to feel happiness just because I send a smile to my body, this is the benefit of qigong meditation. I found my inner smile.
Certified Level 1 Instructor
Wisdom Healing Qigong