Category Archives: Chinese Medicine

Qi, Grace, and Other Blessings


We finally did it! In collaboration with Pastor Steve Harms of Peace Lutheran Church, we finished writing “Qi and Grace: An Embodied Lord’s Prayer.”  It’s a thirty-two page guidebook to the “Abba-Imma Qigong” and includes Steve’s explanation of the wording of the Lord’s Prayer, Qigong foundations and practice guidelines, and step-by-step photos plus instructions of Kaleo doing the Abba-Imma Qigong form. Right now it’s available in PDF form but we plan to produce it as a print-on-demand book available through Amazon.

Did you enjoy the last Peace Dance to World Music (January 10) or miss it but wish you’dbeen there? Another one’s coming on June 14 from 6:00-8:00 pm. The Fire Element in Chinese Medicine is about joy, freedom of movement and expression, connectedness with others, laughter, and play. Save the date and help us celebrate summer, the solstice, and shared joy!

We haven’t been teaching as much maskmaking since the phasing out of John F. Kennedy University’s Arts and Consciousness program, but we’ll be offering a maskmaking weekend April 25 and 26 at the art studio of Diane Williams and Chuck Potter in Benicia. Details and flyer forthcoming. We’re looking forward to, once again, sharing the joy of shaping, painting, and embellishing masks from the creative well of the soul.

We’ve been learning Spanish in preparation for a trip to Puebla, Mexico, in late May to teach “Healing Sounds Qigong and Expressive Art” at the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology there. We listen to “Living Language” CD’s while driving, have post-its with Spanish names for things all over our house, and even talk to our Australian shepherd, Kahu, in Spanish. At first he sat down and barked at us. Now he seems to like it. He used to roll his eyes (like, “Whatever…”) when we’d say, “Come!” yet rushes to the door when we say “Venga!”

We got interviewed the other day by our friend Karen Cashman for the “Published Writers Program” on Rossmoor TV. What? Rossmoor has its own television station? You bet. There’s an amazing amount of talent, intelligence, and fascinating life experience in this valley. We talked about “The Creative Art of Living, Dying, and Renewal,” and Kaleo shared some experiential Qigong. The producer was pleased and invited him back to do an hour-long Qigong class for the station in the summer.

Friends Craig and Arlynn Bloom introduced us to Mussar – a thousand-year-old study and practice of Jewish ethics – first through the books of Alan Morinis, then inviting us to join them at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette for a class in the Mussar teachings. We find the reflection and practices related to traits like loving-kindness, awe, and humility to be meaningful both intra- and inter-personally. It’s like singling out the features of the soul and welcoming them into dialogue one at a time toward the aim of growth and integration of the whole.

2015-02-18 09.52.16We also got to visit with our friend, Debby Schwartz, who introduced us back in 1988. She gave Kaleo my (Elise’s) phone number when he moved out here from Houston. The rest is history. It was great to visit with her and fill in the gaps from many years living on different sides of the country. Kaleo and I both got to talk on the phone with her ninety-eight-year-old dad. That brought back lots of memories for me, as Debby and I have known each other since junior high when we shared a whole-hearted passion for horses. I can’t even count the number of times I was thrown off a bucking or rearing horse only to get back on and try again until we (horse and I) worked it out. Older and wiser, I now leave such endeavors to the joints of a teenager. Shimmering Qigong and “downward-facing-dog” (Yoga) are more like it.

Microcosmic Orbit Meditation and Chakra Awareness

The other day after leading the Microcosmic Orbit meditation during Qigong class, I (Elise) am talking with a student who has been practicing Qigong for several years. She’s smiling broadly and comments, “I love that meditation. It feels so grounding and centering. But I noticed doing it that there were some areas where the Qi seemed to get stuck. When I felt that, I kept guiding the Qi with my mind and felt the stuck places open.” She has integrated well the old Chinese Medicine adage: Where the mind goes, the Qi follows. She asks, “What do the stuck places mean, and is there anything I should do about them?”

“You did just right to keep guiding the Qi with your awareness. You’ve been practicing Qigong for a long time now, and it shows! Just make a note of where any stuck place is located and continue guiding the Qi, as you did. Later, you can bring attention to any stuck area and explore what door, front or back, of what chakra is related” (for more on the Microcosmic Orbit and chakra influences, see our book, Chi and Creativity: Vital Energy and Your Inner Artist, © 2007, Blue Snake Books, pp. 224-234).

Our chakras, with their emotional intelligence and the sensations they generate are our teachers. A blockage in the flow of Qi in the Microcosmic Orbit; an area of darkness; recurrent physical symptoms like a headache or a knot in the stomach, constipation, or jaw tension – they lead us to what in our life is calling for attention. In Chinese Medicine this means not just physically, but energetically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, as well. Besides addressing the physical source of the ailment, one might ask of an occipital headache: What’s happening in my dream life, or, How is my imagination longing to express itself? One might ask of constipation: What am I holding on to that I no longer need? Of a knot in the solar plexus: How am I not being true to myself?

Later when Kaleo and I are reflecting about the student’s experience, I ask him, “Has there been an area for you that was more challenging to move the Qi through than the others when you’re running the Microcosmic Orbit?”

“Yes, I’ve felt that before around my chest, over the middle of the sternum, more to the left, around the left lung and the old rib injury I got surfing as a teenager.”

Kaleo shares his story of bringing healing to this area for himself through Qigong and self-hypnosis (from our book, The Creative Art of Living, Dying & Renewal, © 2014, North Atlantic Books, pp. 183-183).

Kaleo’s Story: Dialogue with Grief
A few years ago, Elise and I were back in Hawaii visiting my parents. Mom, seventy-nine years old, was in her fifth year of Alzheimer’s, and Dad, at eight-six, insisted on being her sole caretaker. It touched me to watch them holding hands while they walked slowly, mom shuffling, in the local air-conditioned mall. Mom could no longer speak. Her eyes had an emptiness to them, and sometimes she didn’t even recognize me. I felt a deep sense of loss and grief.
Years later on the anniversary of her death, I’m in California, at home recovering from a bout with bronchitis. I’m lying comfortably on the futon, with my finger-pads pressing gently into the hollows of my shoulders (Lung 1 acu-points). Recalling how loss and grief triggered many episodes of bronchitis and pneumonia as I grew up, I dialogue with my lungs for healing.
Closing my eyes, I greet my breath, this old friend, who has been with me for sixty-five years. Its comforting rhythm lulls me into relaxation. My lungs invite me to enter. They’re kind of silvery gray. I recognize the grief. It’s dark, heavy, round-shaped, fuzzy on the edges, almost prickly. It feels very old.
My finger-pads sink deeper. They touch the grief, which thrives by sucking energy from the lungs, thus weakening them. I sense there’s lots of guilt, also, from my strong Catholic upbringing. The guilt is stifling, a yellow-green mucous. I ask the guilt and grief, “When did you first appear in my lungs?”
Whoosh! I’m in Hawaii, it’s four thirty in the morning, and I’m eight years old, in bed, hiding under the covers. My parents, in the kitchen, are screaming at each other. For months they’ve been arguing and threatening divorce. I fold my hands in prayer, “Jesus, please help me! What have I done wrong? How can I make things better?” Suddenly, an intense cold fear shakes my body. The floor is being ripped away from under me, and I feel myself falling helplessly into a black void as huge as the night sky.
My adult-self uses Gestalt dialogue to address the floor. I ask it, “How can I feel stability in my life?” The floor responds, “Be mindful of situations that drain your energy. Focus on what brings you joy, confidence, and groundedness.”
Now I turn to the void and ask it, “Why are you here?” The void responds, “I’ve existed for eternity. It’s up to you to find your way through me. Aim for the light.”
I turn to my eight-year-old child-self and reassure him: “I love you, your sincerity, your determination. Don’t fear. The path you follow leads to the light.”
My adult-self looks at the dark grief and asks it, “What do you want for healing?”
The grief responds, “Let go of the fear and guilt from your past. You’ve outgrown them. Practice your Qigong exercises, inner healing sounds, and meditation to cleanse and nourish your lungs and kidneys. Fill yourself with compassion for self and others. Remember, gratitude strengthens your Qi and your immune system.”
An understanding emerges. Loss, grief, and fear will always be there, but I have a choice. I can let them either bring me down or make me a kinder teacher, healer, and companion on life’s journey.
My breath beckons me back into my lungs. I stand and move in Qigong to massage and nourish my lungs. They also want to be cleansed and wrapped in white light. On inhaling, I visualize pure white light entering and filling my lungs. On exhaling, I make the sound of Hsss and visualize heaviness and dark grief leaving my lungs. The grief does not fight or resist but becomes smaller, softer, pinkish-gray, and pliant. With each breath my lungs feel healthier, stronger, clearer, and filled with pure white.

webHealing ???Flight (web)

“Dialogue with Lungs,” collage-painting by Kaleo Ching

More on Death & Microcosmic Orbit Meditation

2014-10-27 13.28.22

As the Microcosmic Orbit opens and flows, I recall when I first experienced what, at the time, felt like its magic almost twenty years ago. My mother was on her deathbed, her body overcome by metastatic breast cancer. I was deep into her death vigil. The following is from our book: Chi and Creativity: Vital Energy and Your Inner Artist (Blue Snake Books, © 2007, p. 223):

“The third night seems very long. I stand beside her many hours, holding her hand. I wonder how long my stamina can last.

“I shift to stand in meditation. I feel my body centering, grounding. My feet open to the support of earth, my crown open to the support of the heavens. The earth’s Chi [Qi] flows up through the soles of my feet, up my legs, up my spine, and out through the crown of my head to an apex a few inches above. The energy crests, mingling with heavenly Chi, then travels back down through my crown, down the front of my head and torso, down my legs, out through the soles of my feet, and back into the earth a few feet below. The circuit of energy between heaven and earth through my body along the pathway of the Macrocosmic Orbit restores my strength. I feel my breathing relaxing and deepening as it fills and empties from my pelvic Tan Tien [Dan Tian]. I feel my mind alert but calm. I feel my heart open, as the energy travels through my arms, connecting me through my hands to my mother.”

In the middle of loss comes awareness – of gratitude, for the gifts of what was, for the strength and beauty of what is, for trust in the continuity of what is to come.

Returning to the present and the more recent death of our neighbor, Yoshi, I wonder, did he know it was coming? Or did it creep up on him in the night and usher him quietly from the unconscious state of sleep into the deeper realms of death? And this leads to another question, one I carry with me: How do I live life now so that I’m aware of and ready for death when it comes?

To One Dying in Autumn

Air churns pungent like cracked herbs
green turns amber, rust red, dark as humus
leaves are clenched fists against long, cold night
acorns pop and dive from oaks into a womb of soil

Alone in deep night
breath in and out,
roughening, then slowing,
no one to witness how the pause
lengthens to infinity

What ample hands caught
as you dropped into this world,
what luminous ones midwife you beyond?

The scalpel that slices the life-bond
the sword that magnifies the samurai
the spirit-knife that severs flesh from soul
point as one to bring you home

Death Meditation and the Microcosmic Orbit

2014-10-20 13.22.40for Microcosmic Orbit image (p. 172) and other references, see The Creative Art of Living, Dying & Renewal by Elise and Kaleo Ching (© 2014, North Atlantic Books)

Three police vehicles are parked outside our neighbor’s apartment. What’s happening?

From the dark entryway, a young police officer emerges, pink-cheeked, smooth-faced, neat as a cadet in his starched uniform. He could be my grandson if I’d worked young and hard at starting a family rather than devouring books and writing poetry. He enters his car and gets on the radio. There’s no urgency in his manner. He speaks so quietly that all I hear is the radio’s static. The nearby Japanese maple’s autumn-bitten leaves curl like fists, glow dark as venous blood. Wind gusts and leaves tremble and drop, bowing to the season of letting go.

A “Cremation and Funeral Services” vehicle arrives. Two middle-aged men climb out, dressed neatly, conservatively. They wheel a gurney into the apartment.

The officer writes in his log book. Finally he exits the sanctum of his vehicle. I ask him the only question I think he can answer, “Is it Yoshi?”

“Yes,” he says, his tone quiet, polite. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

What I’m witnessing is standard procedure for someone who dies at home, alone.

My thoughts are leaves. They swirl around, fly up, alert the heavens, here comes Yoshi, until they are squelched by the honking and flapping of Canada geese circling above in a feint of southerly migration.

Other neighbors gather on the sidewalk, talk about Yoshi’s health, his cryptic references to elevated enzyme levels, how he seemed to have lost weight.

Last time I saw him across the driveway, our Australian shepherd, Kahu, tugged me over for a face-to-face hello. Kahu loved a good squirm around “Uncle Yoshi’s” legs. Yoshi seemed subdued, maybe even sad.

Now I watch as his body, sealed in a white bag, then draped in an elegant deep-sea-green velvet blanket, is wheeled out of its familiar home and into the chamber of the van. I say a goodbye prayer – aloha Ke Akua mau loa, go with eternal Divine love.

That evening as Kaleo and I sit in our usual half-hour meditation, I continue my prayers for Yoshi’s passage, to the radiant light, to the embrace of his Japanese ancestors, who, I am sure, are there to welcome him. As I sense the spirit world hovering close to the threshold of my consciousness, I feel  my Column of Light expanding to the walls of our meditation room then contracting to wrap me in its shimmering boundary of Qi (p. 96). Using my hands like siphons, I gather the energies of Earth, Environment, and Heaven then offer them in the Qi Blessing (p. 229) to encourage Yoshi’s spirit safely on its journey. I feel the Qi flowing strongly in the Microcosmic Orbit of my body (p. 172). It flows from the energy center of my lower Dan Tian, down the center of the front of my torso, up the center of my back, over my crown, and back down the front, bridging where my tongue nestles against the roof of my mouth. Its flow is like being gently plugged in and lit up – plugged into the energies of Heaven and Earth and lit up by their interaction with my own bio-electric current of Qi. I am grateful for the support of this ancient Qigong meditation.

(note: events are true, but for privacy the deceased’s name has been changed)