When I first heard the words Elfin Forest, mystical, magical pictures came to mind, like elves…wizards…pine forests and lakes. The road to Elfin Forest winds though hills and dales colored with California flora (thanks to much-needed rain). Ageless oaks, rather than the dark green pine forests I had imagined, shade the lanes, but there is a still a mysterious sense of magic in the air, something I haven’t felt for a very long time. The magic intensifies when you walk up a paved pathway to a beautiful little cottage, carefully crafted to blend in with its exquisite surroundings: nestled in the middle of a fruit orchard, rose gardens and a sea of poppies.
Entering this beautiful space, temple-like walls emanate timelessness, yet connect to an outside world of singing fountains, happy buddhas and flowers dancing in the breeze. Stepping into the Elfin Forest Qigong Studio, is stepping into another dimension.
I seated myself in a circle of qigong practitioners, and our smiling teacher, Martha Blane, welcomed us to share in a brief, communal silence. I was invited to this class by Martha, in order to experience Qigong first-hand, since I will be assisting with community marketing so she is free to spend more time teaching. Although I am new to qigong, some of the concepts are similar to what I studied when I lived in India: prana (life force), primordial sound (om), chanting and the use of mudras for expression and healing.
It impresses me that qigong is a very developed – I want to say scientific – ancient technique of accessing vital life energy, in combination with chanting, to balance, nourish and heal mind-body-spirit, both individually and collectively. Each movement seems to have a specific intention and effect, for specific areas of the body. I was also very impressed with the guided meditation. Not everyone is comfortable sitting in meditation for prolonged periods, and making the effort to ‘silence the mind’ as is taught in some spiritual schools. The qigong teacher gently encourages us to visualize and experience the space around, thereby keeping the mind occupied yet passive, aware yet resting.
As we moved in various exercises to raise the qi, the entire being was soaking in a hotspring of well-being. When guided to move from side to side, hands in mudras and extended arms, I noticed there was heat flowing from my palms. I could ‘see’ the pathways of energy as my hands moved across space. It was also moving back and forth towards the others in the room, in an exchange of energy and healing. This experience confirmed an early childhood intuition that on a very deep level, we are intrinsically connected to one other and to this planet, beyond anything the mind could possibly conceive.
It was wonderful that a space was created at the end of the class for students to talk about their experience during the class, and how qi benefited them in different ways. As Martha said, this is not just a class, this is a community. This is so important…especially in these times of social and political polarization.
What I took from this class, and this experience, is that the body-mind-spirit is an intelligent, dynamic microcosm of creation. We create, communicate, replenish, revitalize and heal, when we are fortunate enough to have been given this insight, and access to practices such as qigong with an authentic teacher like Martha. Thank you for the wonderful cup of Qi. Sipping qi is simply sipping who we really are: magic. wisdom. cosmic vitality.
To quote from Alice in Wonderland: