Category Archives: Writing

How Teenagers Channel Qi

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Twenty teenagers arrive in two vans. Who are they? Football players, basketball players, baseball players. Aspiring doctors, teachers, scientists. Dancers and artists. Lonely ones, determined ones, rebellious ones, introspective ones. Leaders and seekers.

For the third year, our friend and dance teacher Nives Wetzel de Cediel has invited us to teach a day within a week-long retreat she leads each year for her students. The first thing she does is gather everyone’s cellphone. The message: Be here, now – this time and space is sacred.

The week’s theme: creating sacred space within the self and in the surroundings.

Then Nives hands the day over to Kaleo, with me assisting.

We and they wonder, who are we to be to each other?

For us: How do we best connect with them? What do they want and need? How do we inspire them?

For them, I imagine: Who are these people old enough to be our grandparents? Will we be bored? Same old lectures? What if I don’t want this crap?

When we check in, each sharing one word to describe the energy he or she feels inside, “calm” and “tired” come up a lot. The energy in the room, diving down after the initial excitement of arrival, is low.

Kaleo gets them moving in Qigong, and they are mesmerized by the sensations of Qi, the vital life force.

They become aware of energy: What feeds me positively? What depletes me?

“Be careful who you hang with,” Kaleo cautions. “Ask yourself, is this person’s energy pulling me down or is it supporting me?”

Then they work in pairs, looking for energy auras around each other’s body and exploring the ways energy between two people interacts. I watch doubt turn to curiosity and, sometimes, awe.

Then, attuned to their inner and outer energies, they sink into soft cushions of a circle of couches and allow us to guide them on an inner journey.

I lead them in: “You find yourself relaxing… all the muscles of your body softening… nothing to do but sink deeper into the cushion beneath you… your breath becoming longer, fuller, deeper… until you find yourself in a place you really love to be, an inner sanctuary just for you.

“Where are you? Inside or outside? What is this place like? The air? The colors and shapes around you? What surrounds you? What does it feel like inside you to be in this place?

“Among the shadows you see a movement. This is your personal guide coming forward to meet you. Who appears? Ask this being if it has your best interests at heart. If not, send it back and ask for your true guide to appear. How is your guide dressed? What is the expression on its face, the look in its eyes?”

Then Kaleo comes in… “Feel your guide’s energy and your energy connecting… connecting heart to heart… and receive a gift… What do you receive… a talisman, a sacred object, a special tool…?

“Then, getting ready to return, bring your gift with you, as you come back, back to the present, to this time and place, surrounded by all your friends in this sacred space….”

Returning, they let images gather into the words of their journals.

After lunch we go outside where they can explore in nature what they discovered about energy during the morning. They reach out and feel the energies of the stones, the trees, the flowers. One girl sits before a lemon tree and seems to enter deep conversation with it. One boy scans the energy of a stone cairn. Three students lie down with their bellies, hearts, and faces pressed into the grass. We prompt them to ask, what are the messages in the stones, the sound of the bole of the tree, the rhythm coming up from deep in the earth?

Then, we go back inside, and they channel the energies of nature, their inner sanctuary, and guide, into powerful collage-drawings. The creative energy in the room turns buoyant, palpable, pulsing – a collective Muse.

When they’re done, we advise them to stand before their art pieces, each one receiving the message from the heart of the collage.

During the closing circle, the depth of their sharing touches each of us. One young man – sensitive but strong, an emerging football star – has created a box with his distress about the needless deaths resulting from racial profiling screaming from the outside: “When will it all stop – Oscar Grant – Trayvon Martin….” On the inside of the box are a tender pink heart, an image of Mother Mary, and a smaller inner box with the word “DREAM.”

One girl has ripped out a heart shape and placed it behind a door in her paper, so that she can open and close and secure it at will. On the edge of her paper she has cut out the word,
“T-H-I-N-K.” It stands stark and bold as a petroglyph on a stone wall. The wisdom of the heart converses in intimate dialogue with the wisdom of the mind. Nives’ theme for the week is already expressing itself in very personal and profound ways.

I wonder: Which ones will realize their dreams? Which will close the doors of their hearts from too much pain? What struggles will they face? What defeats? What triumphs? What kind of world are we preparing for them? How will it be to be in middle life, thirty, forty, fifty years from now?

What can we do, all of us together, to better care for ourselves, each other, and Gaia, our shared sacred space?

All we adults can do is help prepare the path – be honest with the youth, mentor them, befriend them, listen to them, encourage them to know and love themselves so they make better choices in life. May the young ones find solitude and safety in their inner sanctuary, their guide, nature, the Divine.

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.

Sleeping, Praying, and Dancing with Qigong

We celebrated the New Year with Qigong infusing other areas of our lives.

January 10, participants from all over the Bay Area joined in joyous dancing for body and soul. We began with Pili doing a Hawaiian chant invoking ancestors and guides ( Then we, Kaleo and Elise, led everyone in Qigong – sensing Qi, cleansing stagnant Qi, then harvesting the flowing Qi of the music into our bodies. This is spontaneous Qigong – letting go, surrendering to the music within. Our hearts and bodies pulsed with the rhythms of Kotoja, Oliver N’Goma, Koffi Olomide, and Babatunde Olatunji (African), Jaleo and Gypsy Kings (flamenco), Johnny Lee Hooker (blues), Glenn Miller (swing), Hubert von Goisern (Austria), Mark Keali’i Ho’omalu (Hawaii), Mari Boine (Sami, Norway), Tinariwen (Mali), Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn and Sheetal (Pakistan/India), Cheb I Sabbah (Algeria), Marcus Miller and Jaco Pastoius (jazz), Abdy (Morocco), Huun Huur Tu (Mongolian), Carlinhos Brown (Brazil), et al.

We’re planning future world music dances (Spontaneous Qigong) in June and September at Peace Lutheran Church ( If you’re interested and not already on our email list please email us at


January 18, during Sunday’s worship service, we led the congregation at Mount Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church ( in harvesting Cosmic Qi with the intention of bringing healing change for self and others. From this sanctuary overlooking a fog-cloaked valley with the sun squeezing through to light the green hills in the distance and the sacred space within, Qi rippled outward for the benefit of the world beyond.

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January 24, we taught a Sleeping & Dreaming Qigong workshop, held at Peace Lutheran Church. This ancient Daoist practice cultivates deep, restful, dream-rich sleep. Mahalo to our Daoist brother and Chi Nei Tsang master Gilles Marin for sharing this wisdom with us (  Lying on pews or mats in the sanctuary, participants – embraced by the prayers in the walls, the lovely shared Qi of the group, and Kaleo’s hypnotic voice – experienced a new portal into the passageways of the subconscious.


Thanks to all you who enrich our lives in shared journeys with Qi and the Creative Spirit.

After The End

2014-07-04 09.46.46 2014-07-17 16.41.58What do you do when an intense creative endeavor ends? Start another right away? Savor the creations of others? Take a trip? Do everything you longed to do but had no time for during the birthing process? Or?

Numb. That’s how I felt after Kaleo and I released our most recent book into the world. It was as if a constant companion had moved to another state. I realize this is the incubation period—fruits harvested, seeds back to earth where hulls harden for winter’s vigil.

Today is the Harvest Moon, season of the Earth Element and the emotional strength of trust—trust in every phase of the creative cycle.

Earth is about shared bounty. We are nothing if not in community. The outer community invites me to eat, dance, do art, walk on the beach with friends. The characters from The Creative Art of Living, Dying & Renewal, like an inner community of old friends, still chat in my head. I find myself asking Alex, how is death treating you? Jessica, what are you up to now? I find she wants to continue her story.

Earth Element: Long Summer’s Harvest

Today dawned breezy as earth warmed and pushed back against fog from the sea. Kaleo and I took in the sweet fragrance and even a few tastes of the ripe fruits and vegetables at the Danville Farmers’ Market. Even the colors seemed plump. Long summer, according to Chinese Medicine, is the time of harvest, abundance, shared bounty, when people gather and prepare the harvest against long, dormant winter.

“When we do Qigong, we are aware of the Five Elements [Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth] within us, pulsing through our bodies’ organ-meridians, sense organs, tissues, fluids, diurnal rhythms, and emotions…. Earth grounds, supports, and nourishes us, takes our old Qi and recycles it, is the home we all share.”*

When we do Qigong in nature, Earth’s huge firm belly beneath our feet feels so alive. She subtly, deeply, breathes, slowly goes through the moons of her seasons, her deep metabolic cycles. How trustingly we expect her to support us. The 6.0 earthquake in Napa last month reminded us of her capacity to change quickly, without warning, unsettling all we know.

“Excessive worry, the emotional challenge of Earth, can be a sign that your Earth Element is out of balance. In addressing worry, it is important to be conscious of your dietary habits—not only what you eat, but also how and when. It helps to be quiet and relaxed while eating, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for digestion and helps you to savor and taste the food.”*

Last month during a week-long retreat at Redwoods Monastery, we shared in meditation, ritual, and simple but luscious organic vegetarian meals eaten in silence with the rest of the community—all very restorative for the Earth Element.

*Quotes from The Creative Art of Living, Dying & Renewal by Elise and Kaleo Ching (©2014, North    Atlantic Books)

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Long Summer's Harvest at Danville Farmers' Market

Long Summer’s Harvest at Danville Farmers’ Market