Many Paths in Costa Rica

I’ve just finished a week of qigong in Costa Rica, enjoying mountain views, fresh food, water and air, and a recharge of the practice that I began with some skepticism a year ago. Last year I came at the encouragement of an old college friend. This year I bring people of my own, hoping that they too will take to this ancient Chinese art the way that I have.

Dalai3My daughter is an avid practitioner of hatha yoga, and at first she finds the quiet simple exercises underwhelming. As the week wears on, however, she devises ways to blend her more extreme stretches with what is being taught and our instructor, or sifu, is patient with her hybrid efforts. Yes, there is a place for both in her life, she concludes, and she is glad that she has come with me.

My husband is one of the least limber people I know, and he starts the class out relieved that the exercises are relatively tame. He is also the ultimate do-it-yourself person and as I watch him in class I realize that in spite of the years he has spent as a high school teacher, he accepts instruction rather poorly. He can teach and he can collaborate, but just listen, watch and do is barely in his repertoire.

Late in the week, our sifu mentions that we need to accept that not everyone we try to include is going to embrace qigong the way that we have. He is probably talking to many people, but I feel like the comment is meant for me and is about my husband. Unfortunately, he uses a phrase that causes a visceral reaction in another whole arena. “You must accept that not everyone is ready for qigong,” he says. No, I scream back in my head. Don’t use the word ready.

Ready implies that there is only one way. As a Catholic child in a small Catholic town, I was taught that not all Christians were ready to become Catholics and we should help prepare them lest they be relegated to a lesser place in heaven. Later, evangelical Christians shook their heads at me when I argued with them about the narrowness of their faith, assuring me that I would come to believe what they did when I was ready. At least they hoped so, as they just hated the idea of my being tortured for an eternity.

I wasn’t ready for Eckankar, or ready for EST and I’m still not ready for any organized religion that asks me to accept that it offers the only way. I’m not an only kind of gal. One of my favorite quotes from Buddha is that there are many paths to the top of the mountain, and this quote alone has helped me embrace qigong.

I’m also not one to suffer in silence. At the next break I take my sifu aside, and share my discomfort. He is a very reasonable man, and a reflective one as well. After a few seconds of thought he agrees that I have a good point. During the next class the word ready is stricken from the record. “Qigong isn’t for everyone,” he corrects himself. “Others have other paths and it is good to accept that.”

Yes, it is. My husband has agreed to practice qigong for thirty days and now that he is no longer being instructed he is beginning to show a little more enthusiasm. We’ll see. Maybe this is a path he will want to walk along with me, for awhile at least. I still hope so, but if not it is okay. He needs to walk his path.  I need to walk mine. You need to walk yours. We all need to let each other get to the top of the mountain using the route that is best for us.

How do your find your path? I think that you know it in your own heart. You just have to stop and listen.

 

For more on my own personal story of my Costa Rica qigong experiences please see
1. Embracing the Yin in Costa Rica,
2. Finding Forgiveness in Costa Rica
3. Breathing Deeply in Costa Rica and
4. Animal play in Costa Rica

If you would like to know more about qigong, please visit Flowing Zen
Also please drop by the Facebook page of Dalai Lama Daily Quotes and drop off a like for the great image above.

 

Feeling gratitude in Costa Rica

Costa Rica 2Pick something that you are grateful for.  It sounds like an easy directive, coming from the Qi Gong instructor.  Friends have talked me into joining them on this week-long retreat in beautiful Costa Rica to learn what is commonly called “Chinese Yoga”. We are entering into the meditation phase of the day’s session.

Okay. I do a little Americanized “Hindu Yoga” and I am familiar with the gratitude thing. Good stuff, this feeling of thankfulness. Perhaps it is the Chinese influence, but my first thought is of my parents. Raising me to be open minded, to try new things. Good, that’s settled. I am grateful for my parents.

My Sifu offers more clarification. Yes, I do now have a Sifu. This retreat instructor, by virtue of being my first teacher in this art, is now my “Sifu”, my tutor on this path. Oddly enough, independent western soul that I am, I am completely okay with this. “Make sure you choose something simple, with no complications,” he tells us.

Oh dear. Parents are complicated, aren’t they.  Even basically good and loving ones. Perhaps, for the purposes of this exercise, I need to be grateful for something that carries a little less baggage. That quickly eliminates my spouse, children, sister, job and friends. Let’s try another approach.

Costa Rica 1I open my eyes and steal a quick peak at the gorgeous tropical flowers surrounding the pavilion where these sessions are taking place. My sense of sight. That’s it, I am grateful for my vision.

“This gratitude should erase all worry, remove all the stress from your mind,” my Sifu says.

Oh dear. My eyes have been aging, my vision is not what it used to be.  On some deep level I fear losing my sight in my old age. Maybe this isn’t such a good choice either.

He sees many of us struggling. “Just pick something that brings you joy,” he suggests to the class. “If you really like chocolate,” he says, “be grateful for chocolate.”

Okay, I am not the extreme chocolate lover that some people are, but I do have a similar illicit love affair. Mine is with ice cream. From the almost guilt free lemon sorbet that nursed me through the flu a few months ago to the cappuccino gelato that has no equal, I am grateful for ice cream.

“We are going to use what ever you pick as a focal point all week,” my Sifu adds.

Oh dear. I am always trying to drop a few pounds. Do I really want to spend the whole week focusing on my appreciation of ice cream? Probably not.

“Now concentrate on this gratitude,” he says. I start to panic. What to pick? Something. Quick. Of all the million things I am grateful for doesn’t one, qualify as simple and stress free?

I comes to me. Sunsets. I am grateful for sunsets.

My monkey mind (of which I am hearing a great deal about this week) has not one single objection. Sunsets it is.  I imagine the beautiful colors of the sky at dusk as they burst into oranges and purples. I am grateful.

Costa Rica 3

Read more about my novice attempts to quiet my monkey mind here. Read about other changes this week has wrought here.

To learn more about Qi Gong and what I have spent this past week studying, please visit Sifu Anthony’s website called “Flowing Zen” here.