Friday 10 November 2017

QI GONG – True To Our Roots Spontaneous Qi Gong

By Nadia Smith

What is Qi?  Qi (pronounced “Chee”) is energy.

What is Gong?  Gong is exercise or activation.

The oriental approach to exercise is soft, gentle and yet powerful; it is about gathering, cultivating and harvesting energy, rather than expending it as in Western exercise.

According to the Taoist principles of Yin and Yang from which Traditional Chinese Medicine originates, Qi Gong is a self-healing art designed to help one stay well, youthful, agile and alert.

The Taoist philosophy is about a person walking along the path of life, a spiritual path of joy, insight, freedom and depth.  Tao is everywhere and is the movement of all life which flows in all directions endlessly, following the universal process of existence.  We have the choice as individuals to have an awareness of this or not.  The riches we gain, however, if we choose to follow this path of life are infinite, as they help us maintain a balance and a sensitivity in all that we do.  For example, we become focused in our daily activities, observant and compassionate of others, joyful and trusting of Tao or the universal energy which we may choose to call God, Allah, Divine Power, or whatever you are most comfortable with.

Qi or energy is everywhere and is the Life Force around and inside of us.  Many books have been written on Qi/energy, and what this chapter is loosely based on is the thousand years’ old Chinese philosophy, but adapting it to our contemporary Western lives with a revolutionary approach of spontaneous Qi Gong movement called True to Our Roots, founded by me, Nadia Smith.

Over thousands of years five main schools of Qi Gong disciplines were developed in China, within which hundreds of different styles and forms of choreographed exercises emerged.  These schools are the Taoist, the Buddhist, The Confucian, the Medical and the Martial Arts ones, and an extra one could be added as the Village or Family/Ancestral school.  Their essence is about self-healing and they are still practised fervently all around the world.

This begs the question, “How did it all begin”?  Animals and we humans practise Qi Gong naturally all day, for example, yawning and stretching first thing in the morning, stamping our feet when we are cold, rubbing our tummy when we are full or in pain; these natural movements are almost like reflexes which we do to feel better; that is Qi Gong. 

So, do we need to practise forms and be devout followers of various Schools and their Masters?

I learned the hard way!  As a devout Health & Fitness Instructor I spent years striving through pain and pride, practising new forms while loving the challenge without heeding the aches and pains my body was developing.  After all I came from an era and belief of “No Pain, No Gain”, and “Going for The Burn”!  Qi Gong is a self-healing art through movement, however …. so, what went wrong there?  My curiosity was aroused and I started to delve deep into my psyche and my books!

I was particularly interested in spontaneous Qi Gong as I had been warned against it by one of my Chinese Masters.  The reason for this became clear over the years as the spontaneous movements are triggered by our autonomous central nervous system.  If the body holds a lot of tension or trauma it starts to tremble or shake involuntarily, so we were advised as students not to entertain this as it could be dangerous for people with mental illness, and therefore it was recommended that this type of activity was done with a master’s supervision.  After years of research and agonising at my own body which gradually developed osteoarthritis I found out that the use of our shaking mechanism was encouraged by the founder of Trauma Release Exercise, Dr. David Berceli. Through his own work in war-torn and poverty-stricken countries he realised that people needed to release deeply held fear to function in life rationally and comfortably.  He devised a series of exercises to help trigger off the tremors held in the Psoas or our Core muscles, which react instantly to threat either through fighting, fleeing or freezing.  I learned to become a Provider in this method recognising at once that this was part of Spontaneous Qi Gong, especially as I learned the physiological safety aspects of this method.

Shaking or tremoring is the body’s instinctive reaction to help restore it back to its natural calm and harmonious state, something which is observed with dogs, cats and other mammals.  We set up a subconscious restriction to this to cope with life’s challenges which unresolved and unreleased, become deeply held tension in the body, causing side effects such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, aches and pains (as I did by developing osteoarthritis of which I am now cured!), and other diseases.  Once our system recognises that it is safe to release this held tension little by little, our rational brain is always on standby to help regulate, after having initially been guided by a Provider to start with and learning to ground, which is part of Qi Gong practice.

The best part after the tension release process is that the body can enjoy myofascial unwinding stretches which can take us into the depths of our fluid being, searching for hidden nooks and crannies in the body which can delight in involuntary stretches triggered from inside out.  This is not only a deeply nourishing and healing experience for the entire body but also a natural form of Qi Gong as the body will stretch in the way it personally needs to, releasing blockages from the meridians connected to the internal organs.  This activity is meditation in movement, as the mind can relax while the body elongates, folds, spirals, undulates, allowing its natural architecture to command the movements.  In Qi Gong terms this is when the Qi moves you.

Qi Gong helps to bring us closer to nature and the Taoist philosophy teaches us that we are not separate from our environment but totally entwined with it.  We are affected by the natural seasons and the weather, the food we grow and eat, the people we interact with and all our activities affect our health and wellbeing.  They go further in explaining that our internal organs, and therefore our general health and our emotions, are affected by the seasons and the natural elements they bring along, for example, the heart is connected to the South, to the element of fire and summertime, the emotions of love versus hatred and cruelty, and that according to the principle of Yin and Yang, the rule of dual polarities exists in our world.  So, everything works in pairs and opposites.  Without daytime we would not understand the concept of night-time, or without heat there would not be cold, or light versus dark and so on.

This theory is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine where our organs function in pairs, again yin and yang, so the Heart is yin, a “full organ” and works together with the Small Intestine, which is a hollow organ and yang, so the heart would be the female to the Small Intestine the male.

What connects all our internal organs are the meridians or channels of Qi or energy, and the reason why Qi Gong is a self-healing art is because when the body undulates, spirals and stretches naturally, it heals and clears blocked energy from the various channels which form an intricate network of energy lines throughout the body.  Once the body is given the opportunity to unwind and delight in its own Qi and natural fluid movement it will sometimes hold a position suspended in time until the blockage clears, when we can suddenly feel a rush of heat, as the circulation improves and the Qi flows.

The method I developed to help achieve this result is by using the Qi Touch, which is using two fingers to touch the area which requires attention, and allowing unconditional love to come from my “middle Dan Tien” (“Crystal Field”), or heart area, while staying well rooted with both feet firmly planted on the floor.  What follows is an instant spontaneous movement from the student/client which comes as a complete surprise to the first-timer!  The magic of this is that one surrenders entirely to the moment and the body, while the mind relaxes.

Spontaneous Qi Gong can be done alone, in pairs or in a group of people, and can be done sitting, lying down, standing freely or holding on to the back of a chair or barre.

In a group or in pairs one gets entrained by the activated energy field very quickly into the “Qi Bubble” where fluid movement occurs, and feelgood factors are experienced almost instantly, where pain dissolves and muscles, bones, connective tissue and internal organs realign and heal.

I developed True To Our Roots Spontaneous Qi Gong to help people get in touch with their natural primordial self and their own magical internal self-moving and healing choreographer and Master.

Forms and disciplined Qi Gong were designed by following examples of how animals take care of themselves in nature and were designed through life-long observations by past great Masters in China.  Most of these forms are beautiful and useful to practise if one has no aches or pains and the fluidity of the form can be enjoyed, but they were developed to help one be healthy and well.

My body taught me otherwise, as it ached its way through years of Qi Gong retreats, and workshops resulting in two hip operations, to finally find my own internal powerful Master.  Only then was I able to start healing myself, not by following someone who told me how to move, but by allowing my body to show me with gentleness how it needed and wanted to move to feel better.

The ancient phrase of uniting Mind, Body and Spirit becomes reality once familiar and adept with Qi Gong practice.  The Taoists developed breathing techniques to help the flow of Qi and increase vitality to help one reach a state of self-realization and immortality.  The breath is our natural medicine, and various breathing techniques are used to either increase or reduce high blood pressure for example, to create relaxation or more fire in the body.  I found, however, that in our Western society where stress is a high-risk challenge, breathing has become very shallow because of the hold fear has over our lives.  It is as if we are holding our breath, which is where the natural shaking mechanism in spontaneous Qi Gong is practical as it eventually helps to free the diaphragm allowing the oxygen to penetrate the lower parts of our lungs more easily.

The immortality they refer to I have interpreted as, we become so closely connected with our true spirit through regular Qi Gong practice, that our transition from the material world into the infinite dimension some call Heaven, the Afterlife, Nirvana and more is at our command and seamless.  While on the earth plane it becomes easy to access communication with the source from where our spirit comes and returns to.  So much so that once the belief within this magical dimension is felt, the material body merges with the true spirit which, once united works miracles here on earth.  One learns to trust this ultimate power and becomes fearless with regards to death.  This is when we get back in touch with our natural senses, our psychic abilities, and how we learn to trust our intuition just like the ancient cultures did throughout the world.  For example, the Aboriginal people in Australia and their natural telepathic abilities, the native Americans and their belief in and abilities to communicate with the Spirits; Shamans, Medicine Doctors and so on were and are still sought after for their wisdom and healing abilities.  These ancient traditions are still respected nowadays as these are the people whose connection to Mother earth never waned which makes accessibility to the universal energy and the yet scientifically unexplained wonders still so magical and real.

My mission is to help people become more aware of their connection with the earth, nature and their body and its amazing self-healing powers, to activate and feel their Qi/Energy to enhance their lives.  Regular self-practice helps sharpen our senses which can become dormant through over-stimulation, (i.e. through the media, advertisements etc), so it helps at keeping a balance, diffusing stress before the alarm bells warn us of something more serious and help us be kinder to our bodies.

The aim of True To Our Roots Qi Gong is Whole Body Enlightenment, as the essence of Qi Gong is based on self-healing with its goal of creating a harmonious union of “Mind, Body, Spirit”.

“Empty yourself of everything

Let the mind rest at peace.

The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return.

They grow and flourish and then return to source.

Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature.

The way of nature is unchanging.

Knowing constancy is insight.

Not knowing constancy leads to disaster.

Knowing constancy, the mind is open.

With an open mind you will be openhearted.

Being openhearted you will act royally.

Being royal, you will attain the divine.

Being divine, you will be at one with the Tao.

Being at one with the Tao is eternal.

And though the body dies, the Tao will never pass away.

Tao Te Ching XVI

References: “Everyday Tao” by Deng Ming-Dao

                      “Trauma Releasing Exercises” by David Berceli PHD

Wednesday 25 January 2017

My Mother's Death

14th October 2016

My mum after returning to UK from West Africa, with a van load of tropical
 birds and parrots!  She hit the headlines of all the London newspapers!

Nine years ago today, a heavenly number according to the Taoist philosophy, was the day mum dropped dead! Actually, she keeled over on her settee in the sitting room in the early hours of the morning.

She stopped going to bed to sleep as she was defying death, actually she was terrified of it!  So, she had put her sleeping bag on her settee with a pillow covered in a brown pillowcase, so it looked more like an ornamental cushion, and she would sit bolt upright with her dainty feet in fluffy slippers on a little grass pouffe.  She would throw an old crocheted holey shawl over her shoulders as her only comfort while waiting for dawn to break. Sadly today nine years ago dawn came when death defied her!

This intrepid and adventurous traveller was on her final journey home, after years of trying to control all and sundry who came under her rule .... The "little empress"!  Commanding her staff till the night before her departure and as her lovely "earth angel" Florence, mum's Zambian housegirl wrote in her text yesterday ".... It was this time when mum kept on sending me out to buy milk, bananas and Whiskas ....little did I know that I would find her gone the following day.  Days fly!  It's candle lighting as we continue celebrating her life as a role model 🙂🙂 Flossie."

For the last three years of mum's life Florence became mum's daytime companion and general "dog's body".  She is a very caring woman in her forties, who is Chief Mukuni's niece and also his daughter in law.  He is the Chief of the Toka Leya people of the Southern Province in Zambia.  After mum's passing she gave birth to a second little girl and called her after my mother!

My mother's exit from her house was how she would have wanted it. Florence ran a few kilometres in Livingstone to fetch the lady who did her meals on wheels, who then drove in her nightie with Flossie to fetch the missionary lady who was the appointed executor of mum's will.  Together they drove in the latter's pick-up truck with the spare house keys back to my mother's house.

I can only imagine the chaos and the wailing which will have gone on once they were with mum!  The Jamaican lady, who did the meals on wheels, grabbed the lacy oblong table cloth on the television to tie around mum's jaw, when she heard her spirit tell her to "phone Nadia!"  (Which she did!). By this time the lady assistant manager of the security watchmen company was there too, and together these lovely ladies carried mum on her sleeping bag out into the scorching Zambian sun and gently laid her in the back of the pickup.  Then one of the women ran back to the house to fetch her pillow to put under her head.

The missionary lady had already buried a son and her husband and thought it best to recycle their coffin, so mum was kept in a third-hand coffin in the hut mortuary near to the Livingstone hospital one street away.

We needed to organise our journey from UK to arrive there four days later, which was the quickest journey available.  In the meantime mum's handy man from Sierra Leone had to constantly repair the freezer in the mortuary which kept breaking down.  Organizing our journey to Livingstone was very convoluted as there was no direct flight , so we ended up flying from London to Nairobi, Kenya (where mum's and my life together in Africa started), from there we flew to Harare, Zimbabwe, then to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, where we waited 12 hours before taking our final connection of two hours to Livingstone in a small domestic airplane.  This was really putting all our trust in the universe, as first of all they nearly took off without refuelling, then once ready to board, the eight passengers rushed to get in and we realized too late why, as we ended up sitting in the tail end with seats that swivelled and wobbled and where the plane was so narrow making sitting for a big man like my husband rather squashed and uncomfortable.  The advantage of such a small plane was that we could see the two Zambian pilots in their cockpit and out of the windows while they were aiming the landing strategy between a row of little white lights in the pitch black of the African night!

We were welcomed by two friends late that evening in an empty little airport, with mum's ghost standing behind the baggage reclaim with her camera in hand taking photos of her little family arriving, probably to hide the burning tears!

Our friends drove us to 87 Mambo Way, Livingstone where the dimly lit gate was opened by a paralytic drunken old Charles, the night watchman! When his bloodshot eyes recognised us he sobbed hysterically hiding his toothless mouth in a dirty old rag.

Mum's house was steeped in an eery silence and darkness, despite her two parrots and five cats.  We unlocked the padlocked chains from the wrought iron burglar gates which protected the French double doors on the front verandah.

My mother had warned me not to interfere in her household, only three months earlier when we visited her, so I felt a bit like a burglar walking into her house without her there!  The reality of her not being there suddenly hit me!  Once we switched the lights on and checked on the parrots and cats, our friends left and there we were making up our bed, after checking for deadly looking spiders and other creepy crawlies!

It all seemed surreal!  The moment I dreaded the most in my life had dawned on me, especially as I was the only one who could sort out my mother's affairs, unlock her bedroom with all her riches, and the office with all her secrets, and sixty-nine old-fashioned cloudy grey and white files filled with her memories of days gone by.  Her entire life was kept on paper - her travels, her career, her properties, her research into her adopted Russian father's history, her angry letters and disputes, my letters to her from when I first could write, even photos of a dead cousin and her mother on her death bed.  I found her secret correspondence with my father whom she had divorced forty-nine years previously, but with whom she had rekindled a friendship unbeknown to any of us ......and so much more!

The next morning Florence arrived and stood sobbing loudly in the corridor next to the kitchen.  We hugged and cried together in stupefied shock at what had occurred, both heavily conscious at the huge impact this would have on both of our lives!

I mentioned before that my mother had been an adventurous and intrepid explorer - she travelled the globe fearlessly, mainly by ship or by car.  Not quite the way most of us would contemplate moving from one country to another!  Oh no, lock, stock and barrel, mum's final move from me was with her entire household including my grandparents giant antique cuckoo clock, her car, her pets - everything.  I stood on Southampton docks waving my home and mother away after my little offering of a net of fresh fruit for in her cabin.  I was 22 and I guess she thought her job as responsible mother had ended.  Thus, began her lonesome adventure as a teacher in West Africa.

The next time I saw her again was two years later, when she drove her dormobil van, after a sea journey from West Africa to Greece, all the way through Albania and the rest of Europe back to UK, in the pit of winter, through ice and snow with a van load of birds and parrots.  Upon her arrival in London she parked in the carpark of the Overseas Development Administration buildings, until she found digs in Carshalton and a temporary teaching job.  She made the headlines of the local London papers!

Mum's restless spirit took her off to Zambia a year or so later as she could not settle in the UK.  That is where she stayed till the last day of her life!

She eventually became the owner of a beautiful 60-acre property on the banks of the Zambezi River, where she dreamt of creating a tourist lodge even before the first ones ever existed!  Unfortunately she did not possess the appropriate managerial skills to fulfil her dream in her "little corner of paradise", as she named it, and sadly ended selling it after having lived there for twenty years and moved to Livingstone town.

She suffered all types of undiagnosed tropical illnesses which made living in the bush particularly difficult for this ageing little lady, and impractical.  Alexandra Fuller describes mum very aptly in her book "Leaving before the Rains Come", ....Grand-mere, she had asked me to call her........she was ending her life alone on a bend of the Zambezi River, her body flooded with an array of known and unknowable parasites.  Her skin was yellow and she felt cold most of the time.  More or less permanent malaria had thinned her blood to a watery chill.  She kept a fire stoked in her bedroom, even in steaming midsummer, and at night she warmed her feet in tubs of river water brought to a boil over a fire in the kitchen.  Dust and smoke covered everything she owned:  a portrait of herself as a young woman in Brugge;  books and maps and letters; a cuckoo clock that had long ceased working ......"

After Florence's hug, life became so surreal for us both and we continued to follow through what mum had put in place, like how much food the cats and parrots needed, still doing up the servants' quarters or the "kaya" into a guesthouse for the forthcoming arrival of two Japanese female volunteers, who arrived that very week.

We were grateful for all the preparatory work , which we carried out with great zeal as though it was still so important to please mum, but also to stop the process of too much thinking!

Having the volunteers stay on the premises was a god-sent for us, as it meant ongoing employment for Florence and Kachele, the garden boy, and my peace of mind whenever I returned to UK.

The next day after our arrival we had the executer of the will together with her lawyer visit us to discuss mum's will, and later on two Indian men whom we vaguely remembered from when we lived in Zambia, who came to offer their services with mum's final laying out.

That day we went to the little mortuary, which was slightly more sophisticated than a mud hut, and built from concrete blocks and mortar.  Her coffin  was pulled out and there she lay, under a white sheet.  I was wedged between two wailing women, Florence and Melody (the meals on wheels woman), who were pulling and nudging me along through the narrow space between the coffin and the wall.  I felt as though I was being bulldozed down by a fast moving train, I could even hear it!  There lay the person who had been my entire world for the first twenty one years of my life ......lifeless, cold with a wrinkle-free face with mouth turned down at the corners symbolising her total disillusionment with life on earth.

I wonder how she'd have coped with the thought of having to be laid out by an Indian man, after spending thirty eight years and more, denying to all and sundry that her daughter was the product of her love affair with a handsome man from the Punjab?  Instead making everyone believe that I was her first English husband's daughter!!  The man who refused to divorce her as he loved her and to convince him she employed a detective to photograph her and my father in bed together, so she had grounds for divorce!

Her funeral would be within two days of our arrival and she had requested to be cremated the only way it was done in Livingstone, the Indian way, on a pyre!

I cut some of her bougainvilliers flowers, and made a little bouquet to put between her hands, and gave the man one of mum's favourite caftan dresses to wear.  I let my husband accompany the other tiny crowd of mourners to the crematorium wasteland!
No way could I face up to watching them pour ghee (butter oil) all over her and set fire to my mother!  I stayed at her house and prepared for the people to return for a cup of tea, and the non-stop supply of sandwiches and cake being brought over by Melody's driver!  Until this day my husband never told me what he witnessed and I thank him for his discretion.

We had strict instructions from my mother's will that her ashes should return to Belgium where she wanted to join those of our Spanish nanny, who had been a mother figure to her and the most adorable grandmother to me and my cousins.

We were advised to wait forty eight hours before going to this crematorium to collect her ashes.  There was nothing sophisticated or even sacred about the collection of mum's ashes.  First we walked to the local crafts-market and looked for a couple of carved wooden pots with lids to serve as urns, then I collected two new plastic sandwich bags from mum's kitchen drawer to fit into these pots and off we drove to the crematorium.

I knew how desolate it looked from the road, but was totally unprepared for what was in store for me.  We drove through the gate in the low concrete wall surrounding a vast piece of sandy and dry wasteland on which stood a lonesome construction with a corrugated roof, under which was a little rail for the pyre carriage.  Once alight it then gets pushed through an opening in the one backwall, where the body is left to burn.  We walked around that wall to find the little carriage on its rails with mum's skeleton depicted in the ashes below it!  Now what?  We looked around and found a big spade (I had not thought I would need to do this for myself!) and gently shovelled up some of her ashes to carefully aim it into these two sandwich bags while making sure it'd all fit into these two carved pots.  I wonder if mum had a chuckle then, giving me this final challenge?

We finally drove away having taken as much of the ashes as we could possibly fit in and left the rest of her to mingle with the others and the red soil of Africa she had loved so much!

One pot I decided would reside below her previous residence by the Zambezi River, her little corner of paradise, Quiet Waters, now The River Club, whose little boat we needed to place the urn in said place and we also sprinkled some of her ashes in the Zambezi river for perpetuity......

The bigger pot wended its way back to Belgium according to her wish!

Interestingly the day she was placed next to our Nanny, Florence had a dream.  She went to mum's house while eating an ice cream cone (where she was still working), and old Charles (not drunk this time!), told her at the gate:  "Madam is in the house!" Florence replied:  " This can't be..."  when she heard mum's footsteps come to the French doors and opening the doors mum said to Florence:  " I'm home now, come give me that ice cream!"

Unbeknown to Florence, at that very time, during the wake my uncle in Belgium offered us ice cream to eat!

The two years following this event I spent revisiting mum's house and sorting out her entire estate, tenants, staff and pets!  What saw me through this was my relentless trust and communion with my spirit and the angelic world - it strengthened my belief that we are definitely not alone on this earth-plane.  I constantly asked my guardian angel to find the appropriate angel or guide ( ie. An Estate Angel!), to assist me in fulfilling mum's will and also in clearing her entire history and part of mine in the best and most considerate way.  I had moments of utter desolation, rage, sadness, but having said this I grieved for my mother years before she passed at her choice of such a lonely and virtual friendless existence.  She lived with the ghosts of her past, holding on to deep unexpressed anger and regrets, and chose her material wealth and "stuff" over her little family who were there to embrace her, if only she had allowed it!

My mother was such a powerful teacher for me, and I thank her for all that she suffered in order to teach me how NOT to go about things in life, to embrace love for others as well as self, without the constant judgements and criticism.  I came across these six words in one of mum's diaries:  "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa .....!" (I am guilty....).  She tortured herself with her past memories and died a loveless, lonely little old lady whose emotional bitterness was etched over her entire being.  The self-hatred surprising Florence as she was told to cover all the mirrors in the house with sheets, because she no longer saw the beauty she had once been.......

May your spirit soar now Mum and feel the freedom, unconditional love, joy and peace back in our true home .........thank you for all you have taught me.  I love you.

Wednesday 27 July 2016

True to our Roots: External exercise versus Internal exercise! A new insight, yet to be digested!

     A garden fence can offer a good support bar
    to assist in stretching!

When I was a fitness instructor teaching gruelling high and hard impact aerobics,  (I was regarded as such a tough teacher that a big guy who was captain of a local rugby team, asked me to give them physical training sessions!), I also started to incorporate the gentle Qi Gong forms into my daily practice and a state of confusion started to arise within my psyche!  What was best for me?  Western keep fit which gave me a high, or Eastern Qi Gong which made me calm?

A Chinese Qi Gong doctor asked me once why I was still teaching aerobics while in my forties?  He pointed to the fish-bellies of my hands, which connect to the lung meridians and said:  "Your lungs are depleted, you should just practise Qi Gong and replenish your heart and lungs QI or energy, or you will die prematurely!!

His words stayed engrained with me until now, when I can at long last share them with you with a much deeper understanding.  The words which will follow may really rock your belief system, but they come from an internal place of wisdom as I understand my body and energy system so much better.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine based on the 6,000 years old Taoist philosophy of how "we are all moving forward along the path of life, gathering a greater understanding, longevity and spiritual development:
                           "When you do external exercise
                             you must do internal exercise
                             When you do internal exercise
                              you may forget to do external exercise."
(Excerpt taken from Dr Stephen Chang's book "The complete system of self-healing internal exercises".)

So in Traditional Chinese Medicine we learn that our energy or Qi courses through channels or meridians (like blood does through our veins and arteries), of which the main 12 channels are connected to our internal organs.

When we learn to allow our body to do its own fluid stretches, giving us an instant feel-good factor, and once you know these channels or meridians run along the full length of your body, legs, feet, arms, hands, then you will understand that our natural stretches, which vary from individual to individual are actually clearing blocked energy and helping to re-harmonise our internal organs.  Our bodies have such an intelligence which we have forgotten!

How often when we keep fit do we heed our internal organs?  Yet without the "background operating system", or our involuntary Central Nervous System our organs would cease to function and we'd be dead!

We think as we suffer for example, from heart failure or lie in a hospital bed, inactive with a pulse of over 160 beats a minute and poor circulation that it might help to start running?  Do you think it would do the heart a favour by punishing it some more rather than teach it  to relax and improve the way we breathe? (Dr S. Chang)

Stress today is the major cause of illness and death.  It affects the way we breathe as it becomes more shallow, consequently oxygenated blood is not being carried around the body as efficiently or carbon dioxide filtered efficiently from the blood either.
According to Dr Chang, throughout its lifetime the heart is stimulated more by the "sympathetic nervous system,  the voluntary nervous system, which originates in the spinal cord, than by the background operating system, or the involuntary nervous system, for example: anger, smoking, ball-games or horror films watching, stair-climbing and stimulating drinks, all accelerate the heart-rate - if exercise is added on to the burdens of the heart its chances of resting and gathering nutrients are greatly diminished."

True to our Roots or internal exercise is different as their main purpose is to relax the entire body so that the afflicted part can receive nourishment and heal itself.

Stress, anxiety, hypertension can be relieved by meridian stretching which we encourage through activating our fluid system, and enjoying deep and delicious fascial stretches, just like cats, dogs and other animals in nature.

Having been the strictest aerobic advocate for years I now finally begin to understand what the Chinese doctor told me when I was in my forties, at the height of my fitness career, that my cardio-vascular system was depleting itself.  That my heart and lungs needed a rest from all their over-activation.  He was right, though at the time I didn't want to admit it as I used to run 400 meters in under two minutes daily, I developed asthma.... I healed myself simply by practising gentle Qi Gong exercises and by stopping the running!!

It is as if we live in an era of the "fire" element.  We need to exert ourselves, we have to sweat and get hot, otherwise we haven't done enough to ..."look thinner, fitter, younger....."

The heart is connected to the fire element in TCM - too much fire causes high blood pressure, heart attacks, congestion in the chest area, which also affects the lungs and the breath.  This in turns affects the transportation of oxygenated blood to the rest of the body, when rigidity begins to set in.  All because we have become stress junkies and thrive on excitable activities to feel alive.

An interesting note from a letter I received from The Finchley Clinic, London:

"Did you know?
Exercise causes gut toxins to enter the blood and may make one feel lousy.  Athletes who run for twenty minutes elevate their body temperature by 2 degrees Celsius.  This increase in core heat increases gut permeability by 250%."

While we are young it is evident that we are physically highly active and competitive, however this could be enhanced if children were reminded of good posture and how to use their feet when walking/running, therefore addressing the knee and hip alignment, which will also affect the pelvic and spinal health.

Posture is the basis of this ancient self-healing art, Qi Gong.  When we hold ourselves well at all times, our fluid and energy system will flow undisturbed offering us better performance and avoiding possible future injuries.

Competitive sports is not something one should stop, but True's message is, incorporate the internal fluid work at the end of the sport, instead of forcing the cool-down stretches on already tight muscles.  Recovery and flexibility will happen more efficiently while smoothing the accumulated lactic acid away.

Introducing this method into cardio-vascular rehabilitation centres, and schools would be so precious!  But then True to our Roots is a precious "tool" of which we only need a gentle reminder, as it is an inherited ability which we as the human race all possess.

How to activate this system?

A little tip!  Try stretching your arms above your head, as in our waking up stretch, and instead of putting your arms down to get ready for your day, let your arms guide you into different stretches, and surrender to the lovely sensations.  It can trigger off large movements throughout the body, or small internal or facial micro movements.  

The trick is to allow your body to show you how well it can move without your mind telling it how to!  Therefore, a total letting go and surrendering!  Eventually you will understand the feeling which is normal and natural and rarely symmetrical, and you will learn to trust your body's ability to heal you and make you feel great!

Welcome to True to our Roots Qi Gong or self-healing magic!

Sunday 19 June 2016

My Son, My Teacher

1979.  Our son was born and five months later he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, and I was told he may never walk!

Something I never really wanted to talk about is the fact that our little 5-month old son was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy in early 1980.  I realise, however, the strength of impact this has had on both my husband's and my life.

We had just begun our lives as a young adventurous little threesome out in the Central African bush of Zambia, where Roger (my hubby), took his first overseas teaching contract at 24 years of age. As a young family, we were warned during a week's briefing about our new life in the bush at Farnham Castle, about the hazards of accompanying wives becoming “excess luggage”!  The possibilities of boredom driving them to become alcoholics and suffering from neurosis!  Fat chance of that happening to me!

Our first month there, we had to make a home out of a very dirty house on the compound, after which I set out to teach myself how to cook, make my own crafts, sew and be a mummy!

This was short-lived as our baby developed infantile spasms within our first month there.  I returned  to the UK by the end of that first month in Africa, with our little one to get treatment and medication.  That is when our world shattered when receiving his diagnosis.

Back in Zambia after our first visit to the hospital in the UK, 
Ashley being jolly despite a high dose of steroids. 

For the next seven years, I became his full-time occupational and physiotherapist and delved into my creative vault to find ways of stimulating our adorable and jolly little boy.  To help him gain some sense of balance when sitting, to see and focus on objects and us from a distance, to get him out of his long blank spells when he seemed to off into another “dimension”.

My job as “excess luggage” was cut out for me and I embraced it with love and joy and a real drive.  I learned how to become wife/mother/cook/therapist during those six years in Zambia.  We adored our little boy, so this was a challenge we faced together and Roger learned to be a real handyman and carpenter.  He built our boy walkers, standing frames and corner seats.  He became an adept Landrover mechanic, electrician and all-round protector.  We both learned the skills of self-sufficiency and adaptation to the various circumstances which offered themselves to us.

1982.  Our second little son was born while out in Eastern Province of Zambia.  He was very premature, at 28 weeks, born at the nearest mission hospital 20 miles from where we lived.  He popped out so quickly, unlike our first boy who took three days, and who was born at 36 weeks.  This little one cried, and was very much alive, but still waxy and didn't look “quite ready”. He was whisked away from me and put in a little wooden box surrounded by hot-water bottles.  Roger kept the heaters on full blast in the Landrover as our baby had to be rushed to another bigger mission hospital 56 miles further, where they had incubators.  Our German nurse friend who held my hand during the birth, decided it was better for the baby to hold him against her skin during the long journey, which is what she did.  I was told by the midwife Sister to stay behind to be looked after!

The next day my hubby drove me to be with my little baby, and when we arrived the exhausted European doctor/midwife, who had been on duty for over 72 hours without sleep, told us they'd had to resuscitate Laurie (we gave him a name of course!) already twice.

That day and night I spent either wandering around helplessly in the cattle-shed type ward, with the wind howling through, wafting smells of cabbage all around us, and visiting my little boy in his starched hospital gown inside the incubator, with cockroaches running around inside it.  The other pass-time was joining the group of Zambian young mothers in a communal room where we sat in a circle expressing our milk by hand.  All I could contribute was a tiny bit of colostrum to add to the rich milk these ladies produced as they were still breastfeeding their previous child!  After our “milking session” we then had to pour our contribution in a common green plastic bowl, which would then be used to feed the premature babies!

Three days after our baby's birth they had one final attempt at resuscitating him when he decided that this earth life was not for him and so he returned to his original home. 

The African staff were very sweet and philosophical, they shook our hands goodbye, and advised us to go home and make another baby!

Now there is a lonesome little grave under an acacia tree, with a home-made cross with its branches, in Katete Mission Hospital.  Laurie's spirit is free. He gave us the opportunity to focus truly on his older little brother.

We returned to our compound home to digest all that had happened so quickly and felt shell-shocked. I spent hours sitting under our mango tree grieving the loss of Laurie, my body feeling cheated as I was now producing huge amounts of milk, but with no baby to feed.  The young Dutch doctor at the mission hospital apologetically gave me the only drug he could obtain to dry my milk production, which made me put on loads of weight quickly, as I was really thin in those days.

Thankfully, our three-year-old son kept us sane and filled our days with love and laughter.  We had also employed a wonderful Zambian lady to be his nanny during my pregnancy, as lifting my 3-year old, who could not walk became a little strenuous, and she was a Godsend!

Ashley's Nanny wearing one of my creations, the dress! 

In the meantime, we continued to gain experiences on survival, as within the first year of our life in the Eastern Province of Zambia, the water stopped flowing.  My new vegetable garden dried out and we programmed ourselves to wake up at 3 AM, to swap the hosepipe from one full white-painted dustbin to fill the other with the trickle of water which is all that reached us at that time of day!  So, water was rationed and this situation became a bit of a nightmare with regards to boiling nappies!  No such thing as disposables!  Bath water was recycled and we kept a paddling pool with water to have a “shower” in!

Every two months we would travel at the crack of dawn to the Eastern province capital, Chipata, to go to the market.  That was an entire expedition in itself, as we needed to prepare in case of a breakdown with the Landrover and carry jerry cans of petrol, water, take food, drink and blankets, as we were travelling through the desolate bush with few clusters of mud huts along the way.  Of course, these were the pre-mobile phone days!

We arrived at the bustling market at around 7-8 AM, after a three-hour journey, to stock up with fresh vegetables, fruit and meat, all commodities which were rare in our village.  This trip always turned into a special treat, as we would go and have a curry in one of the local restaurants, not always guaranteed to be safe on our stomachs!

Then followed the long trip back home, and of course with our little one, who accompanied us everywhere.  Once home and he was safely tucked in his cot, we spent several hours blanching and freezing our fresh supplies, and butchering the meat, to have food for the next two months.

Our little local supermarket in the Boma (the village centre), had mainly empty shelves and mostly stocked ominous looking coloured squash, called Jolly Juice.  Cooking oil, sugar, flour were rare commodities and no sooner as the lorry arrived in the Boma, everybody would rush to the supermarket to stand in queues for hours to buy their rations.  We would get a 25 KG bag of flour, which I would then bag up in smaller quantities and freeze, and the rest would stay in the sack, to be sieved to get rid of the weevils, before making bread!  During bread-making days, I also made pizzas, which we would eat that day, and then freeze the rest.  Everything we wanted we had to make ourselves, including tomato ketchup!

We also employed a house-boy, called James, whom I taught to cook basic meals and bake our bread.  He was worth his weight in gold!  Both he and Nanny stayed with us for the six years we lived in Africa.  We needed their help as there were no washing machines, and I spent all day either preparing food in advance, occupying my baby, making crafts, curtains, clothes...

Very often we went weeks without electricity, so then we learned from both of them how to use the local charcoal fires, which were cylindrical shaped and the size of a large paint pot.  Once I cooked food for 36 people on two of those!  Whenever we had a power cut for more than three days, we would cook the entire contents of the freezer and have a party for our local friends!  It was a great excuse to socialise!

This is how as a young family we learned to be self-sufficient, how survival's necessities helped us cope with the loss of our second little boy and how it made us question our purpose on this earth.

We moved for the last three years in Central Africa to the southern province of Zambia to my mother's farmhouse, by the Zambezi river, which set the new pattern of me becoming a fitness instructor and amateur artist.

It was during 1982-83 that I became a devout... Fitness fanatic and instructor.  Creating a real stir in Livingstone, Southern Province, Zambia, for three years, while putting significant groups of people through their paces to terrific music.

So, the pattern was set as far as my physical activities were concerned and I became ultra fit!

1986.  We returned to England, after those momentous six years in Zambia.  Roger's contract ended, and he did not want to renew it. Moreover, we needed to find new ways of helping our 6-year old son.

Circumstances and deep heartache forced us to deal with these challenges to the best of our abilities.  We both were given a book by a friend while in Zambia, “Out on a Limb”, by Shirley Maclaine, which created a massive shift within us both, and helped open our eyes to spirituality and our purpose.

This is an excerpt from my yet to be published book - 'How did I get these?'. 

Friday 6 May 2016

What exactly is Fitness? Does it mean Healthy?

For years I worked as a Fitness Instructor in a "Health and Well-Being" Sports Centre.

Its manager, during my time, had long-term spinal problems, his assistant had obesity issues, and very few clients who attended were happy with their appearance or self-image, and most suffered of some kind of ailment for which they were medicated.

So, what exactly are we addressing and why?

During my life in Africa, where I grew up and went to school, and lived as a young mother, I never heard any of my African friends complain of their appearance, or of aches and pains (I am NOT talking about the Aids or Malaria epidemics!!).  They did hard manual labour, walked, cooked and socialised as a community.

Our society has become more sedentary, and as technology advanced and took over from our manual labour, aerobic work-outs and gyms established themselves.

The media played a big part in "brainwashing" young people to become "dedicated followers of fashion".  Gradually trying to eradicate individualism and contentment.

We have become a society of worshippers of "false gods", i.e. Celebrities and rock/pop stars, whom young people wish to emulate, in the process of which identity loss occurs, and self-dissatisfaction arises.

Armed with these self-deprecating values we go off to the gym or attend tough work-outs, as if the need for self-punishment is the only solution.  Then interest wanes, people in general do not persevere and get injured, stay at home to continue their never ending dream of "perfection", comforting themselves with sugary "treats", fast foods, alcohol etc, in front of the TV -waiting for the next vantage point in life when they will start afresh, to fail again and again.

The other people who persevere become addicted to their exercise regime, but again to quench their own deep-seated dissatisfaction, anger and frustration at some other reasons in their lives.

One of the reasons I retrained from Fitness Instructor/Personal Trainer to become a complementary practitioner, was because of the underlying causes which brought people to my classes or gym, and through my own process of self-discovery.

We have lost touch with our true selves and nature, so much so that we have lost our natural senses, on which for example, Aboriginals, Native Americans and other indigenous people rely.

We have desensitised ourselves and allowed outside forces to influence and swamp our natural senses, i.e., our intuition, our telepathic abilities, and our olfactory, auditory, visual, gustatory and kinaesthetic  senses.  We have lost touch with the natural cycles of our seasons, for example, and the types of food which nourish us at different times of the year.

Our focus, unfortunately, has become very superficial and as we have forgotten about the rest of our body, our internal organs, our skeleton, our nervous system, and our natural second brain - our belly - we drive ourselves on, in gyms or work-outs, to look and feel better, at the expense of true awareness of self.

So, disease, aches and pains develop and we make appointments to see the local physiotherapist, osteopath, doctor, etc.

The answer to this is not to stop an activity we enjoy, but to tackle it from a deep bodily awareness, from a place where we honestly question ourselves why we do what we do, and listen to our own answer.  To start by looking into the mirror and loving our own reflection, to begin to understand that we are complete, and that it is all right to forego this work-out today, or this trifle, or cigarette.

We believe that as we age we're bound to get stiff, rigid, shrink or forgetful.  What we have forgotten as a society is that we are approximately 85% water, which gradually dries up through our way of thinking, which causes us to being afraid and so rigidity sets in!

There is another system within each of us that we have forgotten to explore, and that is our fluid system, and our "energy" or life force.  This is a discovery made thousands of years ago, before any form, discipline or exercise regime existed.

It is that part which animals use to stretch, it is that part which helps babies to move, and the part we use for example, when doing our "yawn and stretch", which feels delicious!  It is inherent in all of us humans, we have only forgotten how to access it.  Once you reconnect with it you will activate your own individual choreographer, which will not only tone you, but will also make you feel good and heal you.

True to our Roots Qi Gong is all about this exploration, and when combined with any activity of your choice  can only enhance it.

To introduce this method into the Fitness world would be like giving a diamond away - once received and felt you will never want to lose it, and ageing "disgracefully and stiffly" will become a thing of the past!