Meet Karen O’Connell: The Qigong Way of Being

This month we are delighted to hear from Karen O’Connell, whom many of you know from our Lake Arrowhead and Hawaii retreats. Karen has nurtured us at many retreats with her super tasty qi-filled meals, while also inspiring us with her special insights. She is a supportive and natural creator of community. It has been a joy and wonder to observe and be part of Karen’s journey. Read on to learn what she is up to now: Early into my practice of qigong I became very enthusiastic about the ways in which it healed and harmonized my relationship to food. So much so that I developed a program called Nourishing You! I use it to teach others how to incorporate qigong to bring health and healing into their relationship to food.

I am delighted that many others have also reported a significant positive shift in how they relate to food by participating in my unique and effective Nourishing You! Program. My enthusiasm for qigong has dramatically expanded since I began practicing several years ago. I now refer to qigong as the Qigong Way of Being. It’s an important foundational perspective that informs all aspects of my life. A Qigong Way of Being has become a very personal philosophy for me that continues to unfold. I value how understanding qigong helps me make sense of my world and what matters so dearly to me. It’s especially helpful as a way to enjoy my relationships more fully. I’ve received so much benefit from practicing qigong when I am in an unsettling situation with another person. The confusion and frustration can feel overwhelming when I am in conflict. I want to understand and relax, but often my thoughts keep circling in my mind and creating more distress. Remarkably, doing a basic qigong breathing practice called yang qi, consistently brings me relief. I can relax.

The relaxation I experience may seem invisible to anyone observing me. Yet, I can tell it has a positive effect because of the palpable shifts that occur. My repetitive thinking slows way down, making room for new ideas. My feelings calm down and allow me to feel hopeful and curious. These positive results affect my ability to be present and seem to significantly contribute to those around me. Recently, I’ve become enthralled with creating art by drawing and painting. Plein Air (painting from life outside) is particularly intriguing for me. Many artists say that painting outdoors is the only way one can capture the essence of a moment in nature. Photo references don’t reveal the same effect. And in order to capture that energy, you have to paint the light, not the actual scenery. Because of my understanding of qigong and my relationship to qi I am able to appreciate the experience of Plein Air. It is the energy of being “in” the natural scene that makes a difference. It brings a sense of connection. The light that appears in the setting is the aliveness of qi. It’s the way the artist is able to render the life force that pulls in the viewer. That is why artists paint the light. The artist and the viewer of the painting can feel the magnetic presence to life that becomes the painting. I continue to be both amazed and deeply grateful for the benefits of qigong and for the opportunity to practice qigong in community with Martha as my teacher. Warmly, Karen O’Connell