Before I started graduate school, I took a temporary job at a call centre to hold me over until it was time to move away for the next phase of my life. While working there, I was surprised to meet someone who was also on a spiritual path like I was, and we became friends. On the outside, we were very different, yet we had many interests in common. We both rode our bicycles to work, for example, and we both read books during our breaks.
Although this was a long time ago, I remember my friend telling me something along the lines that if I was really interested in developing spiritually, all I had to do was practice Qi Gong and Tai Chi. Over the years, since then, I’ve sought out teachers in order to learn different Qi Gong practices, as well as Tai Chi.
Enter Falun Dafa
Apparently, where I currently live in North Texas, Qi Gong and Tai Chi aren’t exactly popular. Sure, you can find a class here or there. There are also small pockets of practitioners. Most municipal recreation centres offer Tai Chi, especially for seniors, but it’s very generic and classes focus more on the movements rather than on energy or the breath.
In my search for a deeper study and practice of both Qi Gong and Tai Chi, I turned to the website Meetup.com to see if there were any groups near me that met regularly to practice together. Lo and behold, I found one group that met at a park not too far away from me in Arlington. I contacted the Meetup organizer for the group and got the meeting details.
The first couple of times I went, the organizer was very patient and generous with his time, and he spent the whole two hours showing me the moves instead of doing the practice himself. It turned out the Meetup I’d found was for a Qi Gong practice as taught by Falun Dafa, an informal organization that originated in China.
At the time, I didn’t know anything about Falun Dafa, except what was sensationalized in the news. Supposedly, the group was being persecuted by the Communist regime in China. Members were imprisoned and tortured, and supposedly, their organs were being harvested. This was my first real exposure to members of Falun Dafa, what they stood for and what they believed.
The Qi Gong exercises themselves are comprised of a set of four different sets of movements and one sitting meditation. Altogether, it takes two hours to complete all five exercises. Members play a recording from the group’s founder, Li Hongzhi, and follow the verbal instructions. Since the instructions are all in Chinese, and I don’t speak any Chinese, I had to learn to recognize groups of sounds as my cues to move on to the next movement.
Aware, awake, refreshed and energized
Over the summer, when I practiced the five Qi Gong and meditation exercises with the Falun Dafa Meetup group, I started noticing some subtle changes in my body. The biggest change, which surprised me, was that I’d wake up feeling refreshed and fully energized. Prior to that, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d woken up fully refreshed and wide awake!
Over the summer, when I practiced the five Qi Gong and meditation exercises with the Falun Dafa Meetup group, I started noticing some subtle changes in my body.
During this time, I cut out all my caffeine as well. I didn’t really drink coffee, and I never drank soft drinks, but living in the South, I did drink a lot of iced tea. Iced tea can have as much caffeine in it as coffee! My family wasn’t too thrilled about going from regular tea to decaf. I couldn’t really taste the difference, but apparently, they could.
Not only did I wake up feeling refreshed and wide awake, but I also felt fully energized. I was ready to go for the day, and wouldn’t stop until it was time for bed! My high energy level lasted for most of the day, too. It didn’t wear off like a cup of coffee wears off after a while. I was amazed. What else could this Qi Gong practice do for me?
Fall of summer
Slowly, as the summer dragged along and I met more members of this Falun Dafa group, the practitioners gently began to insist that I read the English translations of all the books written by the group’s founder. They also requested that I listen to all his lectures, which have been translated into English and are freely available through the Falun Dafa website.
At first, I didn’t mind. I read the books and listened to the lectures. Some of the ideas were intriguing, but others just seemed plain bizarre. “How can anybody believe this?” I wondered.
Then, the members wanted me to join them in a sort of scripture study of the books. Their fanatical side started to show. They were very kind and generous, but a little on the extremist side, it seemed. Their insistence on discussing Mr. Hongzhi’s doctrine and including me in their book studies started to scare me off.
Alas, to my disappointment, I stopped going to the Meetup. When I have time, I still try to practice the Qi Gong exercises I learned from Falun Dafa, but I haven’t practiced them as regularly as I did when I met with the group.
Unfortunately, I’m back to waking up tired, and drinking caffeinated tea and even coffee to keep me going. My occasional practice isn’t enough to energize me anymore. Moreover, I only do the first four exercises, and skip the hour-long meditation, as I don’t usually have two consecutive hours to practice during the week. I was never sure how much the final meditation contributed to the energetic state, anyhow.
While Falun Dafa practitioners are very enthusiastic and even fanatical about their group’s teachings and practices, it’s best if you don’t let that scare you away from learning and doing the exercises themselves. At their core, they’re different Qi Gong exercises that can increase the amount of energy held in your body.
Should you practice Qi Gong, you may find (as I did!) that you wake up fully refreshed, awake and energized, and stay that way throughout the day.
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