Meet Akino Tsuchiya: Qi is Like a Best Friend

Last year, I decided to try Tai Chi and started searching for a local class when somehow Martha’s Qigong website showed up. What is qigong? It took no time for me to figure out that qigong is what we call Kikou in Japanese. I had not tried qigong before but it sounded good to me. Plus, I felt an instant connection with Martha without even talking to or meeting her. I immediately contacted Martha and shortly after found myself in a classroom surrounded by wonderful people like Martha, Leonard and all her students. I still remember leaving my first class extremely relaxed (as if all of my muscles decided to take a break) and asking myself, “What has just happened to me?!”

During the first class, I felt a strong connection with nature, which filled me with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Then I noticed that tears were running down my face and kept flowing no matter how much I tried to stop. I’ve never cried that much with such feelings of happiness and peace. I didn’t know such a thing was even possible. What an interesting and powerful experience that was!

The very next day I went for my usual walk on the nearby trail where rabbits and birds are the typical creatures that I see. But that day was different. I saw a duck out of nowhere who seemed to be totally fine with my existence and later a coyote who stood and stared at me in the middle of the trail. I was a little scared, but more intrigued. The sky seemed bluer and the color of flowers seemed more vivid than usual. I asked myself, ”Is this because of the qigong practice yesterday?”  “What is qigong?”

Next thing you know, I surrounded myself with 3 books and 3 DVDs on different styles of qigong because I wanted to know everything about it (my habit).  A few weeks into it, I was feeling crappy as if different qi was having a fistfight in me. I was also utterly confused with all the information I consumed from random reading. Thankfully, Martha advised me to stick to a simpler practice and stop reading and thinking so much! What wonderful and wise advice that was. I decided not to “figure out” more about qigong or to expect some results from qigong. Instead, I decided to simply acknowledge that qi is there and to be open to it.

Since then, I’ve done a 100-day gong of the breathing exercises and am currently doing another gong using a series from the Mind/Body Method. Since I started qigong, ‘relaxation’ has become one of my main intentions. “Relax”..… what a simple, yet sometimes difficult task! We tend to consume ourselves in our busy daily lives and forget the importance of just being relaxed.

With my teaching job, I commute to San Francisco weekly in the Spring and Fall. Monday is a particularly long day for me, starting with the alarm at 3:40AM, a 50-minute drive to the SD airport to catch the first morning flight, a 30-minute ride on the subway, walk through busy downtown, working online from the hotel room before finally heading to the University to teach on-campus classes for 6 hours. By the time I go back to my hotel room at night, I feel as if I have just run a mini marathon! But qigong has taught me to find moments of relaxation even during these busy days. For example, when I leave home in the early morning and see the moon mysteriously smiling at me, I say hello and compliment her on her beauty and we have a talk. At the airport, I consciously enjoy every sip of the otherwise ordinary cup of coffee. On the way to the University, I take the long path only so that I can stop by the Grace Cathedral where I sit for a few minutes and admire its beautiful stained glass windows. During a class break, I purposely leave the campus to have time for myself, often accompanied by a cup of tea. When I have more time, I simply sit under a tree at a nearby park and feel the breeze as I listen to wild parrots flying over me. When I’m in the hotel room, I make sure to find some time for meditation or qigong. It can be a bit challenging to practice with the constant background noise of the city, but it always re-calibrates me.

Some days I can keep my intention well, and some days, well not so much. But I feel great knowing that qi is always there like one’s best friend. A year and a half into my relationship with qigong, it has become an important part of my life and I look forward to continuing my practice. I truly appreciate Martha for all of her guidance, love and help. What a precious gift she is to me and to all of us.

Abundant Qi to all of you!

Akino Tsuchiya