A Cup of Qi

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:

“You know what the issue is with this world? Everyone wants some magical solution to their problem and everyone refuses to believe in magic.”

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A Cup of Qi

I have learned through qigong to focus my energy better.
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Gabriela Flores

Qigong in the Classroom Begins with a Single Breath

After my first class with Martha, I realized that a simple qigong practice would greatly assist my students in maximizing their personal, social and academic potential. Even though I had 34 years of teaching, a decade of practicing meditation and entered the 21st century as a learner and educator, I had made a discovery.

I mentor children who have specific learning difficulties and my career has been focused on understanding what gets in the way of a child’s learning. We now know that new neural pathways can be cultivated and the brain has the ability to form and re-organize connections in response to experiencing and learning.

Even though I am somewhat new to qigong, I could see that adding qigong to our class culture would greatly support a child’s learning capabilities and enhance their lives beyond measure.

I felt confident qigong would be very helpful to the kids because it has changed my personal and professional life in a multitude of ways. It has brought a greater sense of peace and calm to my inner spirit. I now end my teaching day with inner peace, a relaxed composure and more energy than ever before.

I decided to teach my students yang qi, conserving qi, which is a basic and simple qigong practice. We now start each day with yang qi and have added it to our daily schedule. Here is what we do:

Upon entering the class, the children organize their workspace/qi field by sitting or lying down in a circle, with hands over their belly button. They then silently breathe like a baby; inhaling as belly expands, and exhaling as belly contracts. The children are led through a meditation guided to choose an intention for their school day. We then share our intentions and focus on how qigong fosters our growth. Our daily class intention, which is practiced and cultivated throughout the year, is to celebrate joy and peace.

Recently, an administrator came into our class during testing. One of the students was lying on the carpet with his hands over his navel, silently breathing. The administrator asked what the child was doing. I shared he was conserving energy and calming his nervous system so that he could return to his test work. I quietly shared how to sit and breathe like a baby.

Low and behold the administrator sat down and gave the technique a try!

Together in Qi,
Vicki Pilling
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Vicki Pilling

Wendy Stark’s Effortless Qigong Haiku

During our Hawaii retreat in November students were given the option of writing daily haiku. The purpose was to help in connecting with the earth, sky and ocean all round us. Writing haiku supported us in noticing the natural world while also simultaneously opening us to our inner nature/landscape.

This process deeply resonated with long-time student Wendy Stark. My heart was touched when I read her abundant haiku, so much so that I wanted to share them.

Thank you Wendy for these haiku that so clearly illustrate the connection between qigong philosophy, nature and ourselves.

This is how she described her process:

“I really appreciated the “assignment” you suggested…it has helped me tap into my creativity, allowing me to enjoy writing poetry while practicing brevity! During the process of composing these 3 lines consisting of 17 syllables, I connect to a thought/energy about the benefits of qigong or being in Nature and that brings me back to the present moment where I effortlessly receive nourishing qi! I find the words just flow freely when I can relax and expand simultaneously.”


Waves  crash into cliffs
Clear blue water, sunshine mind
Boundless energy

Trusting the process
The path is everywhere
What will today bring?

Relax and expand
Entering the qigong state
Where magic happens

Tune into Nature
Blue sky above earth below
Simple suggestions

Grateful for this day
Connecting growing swimming
Qi is plentiful

Island energy
Earth and water together
Soothes my seeking soul

Sunrise on the bay
Looking for dolphins today
Alone and at peace

A good intention
Rest in natural great peace
May we all feel it

Breathing at lagoon
Water earth and sky so clear
All is welcome here

Sunlight on water
Breezes create patterning
Sparkling energy

Resolving fear in kidneys

Acceptance in heart
Releasing anxiety
Moment to moment

Trusting the process
Healing happens with practice
Life force energy

Mindful of each step
Present moment wonderful moment
Mindful of each breath

Everything changes
Practicing non-attachment
Paying attention

Contentment within
Mindfulness in each moment
Beginning again

Sensations inside
Resting attention on breath
Butterfly lightness

Tingling vibration
Energy moving inside
Open to receive

Following my breath
Connecting to this moment
Opening the door

Insight and balance
Being present with the Now
Healthy engagement

Paying attention
Compassionate awareness
Residing inside

Connecting to source
Flow of life force energy
Wellness and healing
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Wendy Stark’s Effortless Qigong Haiku