Aung Medical Qi Gong Retreat: Reinforcement of Practice

By Steven KH Aung, CM MD PhD OMD FAAFP / Clinical Professor, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry / Adjunct Professor, Faculties of Extension, Rehabilitation Medicine / Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and School of Public Health, University of Alberta
Dr. Aung will be presenting Aung Medical Qi Gong & Intuition at Hollyhock on Aug 11-14th

“No matter what the circumstances, no matter what kind of tragedy I am facing. I practice compassion. This gives me inner strength and happiness…I myself, you see, am the devoted servant of compassion. This is the way I really feel.” – The Dalai Lama(1)

A strategic Maung with Aungretreat will often prove itself to be surprisingly necessary in the face of adversity. It provides us with an opportunity to re-group and gather our strength, while our health and well-being will also benefit from its employment. It also provides us with the ability to counter and overcome stress, as stress (distress) is one of the worst health epidemics known. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), stress is considered a major external/internal pathogen. In Western biomedicine, stress tends to be viewed as the primary factor behind psychosomatic disorders. A retreat is a vital step forward – toward taking control of your own health.

The self-cultivation of vital energy, which is what Qi Gong is all about, fits into the holistic, biopsychosocial model of primary care that has been emerging, slowly but surely, in conjunction with what has so aptly been termed the ‘greening’ of medicine. Qi
Gong is not a panacea, but an approach that complements biomedicine. It is, above all, a personal empowerment strategy that helps one function more effectively in daily life as a
total human being.(2) The medical Qi Gong I teach embodies appreciation of the natural environment as well as loving kindness and compassion. Without loving kindness and compassion no healing therapy can be truly worthwhile. (3)

Official Signature on PaintingLoving-kindness is a general Buddhist moral precept rather than a specific Buddhist medical concept, but it does have a direct and powerful therapeutic application. I was reminded of this in the fall of 1990 when I met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his office in Dharamsala. One of the questions I asked him was, “What is the difference between Buddhist medicine and Western medicine?’ (4) The Dalai Lama’s response was
both simple and complex. He mentioned that Buddhist physicians always provide a blessing together with their healing therapies, whereas this is quite rare among Western practitioners. Thus, Buddhist physicians will also quietly or silently give the patient a
mettã ‘pill’ as a normal and essential—component to the therapy.(5)

This pill takes the form of a blessing, a silent or audible utterance of the phrase, mettã, which denotes ‘loving kindness’ and implies ‘may you and all sentient beings sharing this universe with us be blessed with peace, harmony and good health.’ Simply thinking or saying the phrase reminds the primary care practitioner that the therapy of
choice must be safe, reliable and effective and that it must be competently applied in full consideration of the special needs and wants of every patient.(6)

The complexity of the Dalai Lama’s seemingly simple answer arises
from the fact that mettã, when applied as an essential, vital ingredient in any therapy, entails considerable physical, mental and spiritual discipline on the part of practitioners. Mettã
must be given with saydana (selflessness), karuna (compassion) and mudita (sympathetic joy). In engaging these four pillars of loving kindness it is extremely important to remember that physicians must first heal themselves, that the most difficult patients are
the best teachers and that an attitude of genuine, heartfelt loving kindness is not easy to attain or sustain. (70

It is difficult for those who arTree Hugging Without a Treee unhealthy in body, mind, and spirit to be effective and/or compassionate with their patients. Therefore, practitioners must always seek to maintain and enhance their natural vital energy. Buddhist physicians learn this by way of various breathing, concentration/meditation, and still or moving posture techniques, which are collectively known as anapanasati.
(8) Getting and keeping a sense of true loving kindness is a discipline that demands our constant attentiveness. It is a discipline that may, according to Buddhist philosophy, take several individual lifetimes to learn properly. Our fragile sense of loving kindness may often be threatened by disease, pain, old age, bereavement, stress, materialism, vice, crime, hatred, racism, war, and corruption. (9)

Physicians and other primary care professionals receive substantial exposure to these negative factors, since their effects are virtually carried into the medical clinic every working day by patients. It is becoming much more common to hear biomedical personnel using the term tender loving care to describe the needs and wants of their
patients. I view this as an indication that loving kindness is once again, after a few centuries of scientific reductionism, becoming part of the Western tradition of humanistic medicine. After all, the ancient Hippocratic oath, which is hanging framed on the wall
above me as I write these humble words, alludes to loving-kindness. It states, for example, that the competent and caring physician will ‘give no deadly medicine to anyone’ and will ‘abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption.'(10)

Mettã, even though the word itself is short and simple, has a deep and complex meaning. It is not easy to practice mettã (+ saydana +karuna +mudita) unless you realize that one’s whole attitude to life must change—and for the better. To attain and sustain genuine loving kindness is a discipline that requires cleansing from the inside out and from the outside in, especially in ridding oneself of emotional contaminants, avoiding destructive self-centredness and engaging in preventative measures to enhance one’s total
harmony and health.(11)

The Buddhist notion oPurification of Energy With Treef loving kindness, then, has wide application in humanistic medicine, especially at the spiritual level, but one does not have to be a Buddhist or a health care professional to practice it. Everyone should practice it toward his or her family, friends, and associates.(12) Qi may be understood as vital energy. This energy (Qi) needs always to be balanced and in harmony so the body, mind, and spirit will be well aligned. In order to attain an optimum balance of harmony and alignment one needs to practice techniques of self-cultivation. Yoga, Qi Gong, meditation, or Tai Chi are some of the practices used to arrive at this level of self-cultivation.

Even though we may practice the above techniques, we also need Mother Nature to enhance our energy. Therefore the sea, trees, mountains, and wildlife add extraordinary depth to our experience in the retreat. The Qi can be cultivated either individually or in a
group. When Qi Gong is practiced on an individual basis it is easier to be more selfpaced. However when practiced in a group you may be greatly helped by the more interdependent
and inter-connected nature of the experience. There are many ideal
locations to hold retreats such as at Hollyhock on Cortes Island. The location ought to include excellent Feng Shui with positive and healing energy. Feng Shui and energy will enhance the retreat
and experience of the participants. The retreat will offer profound insights and understanding of healing energy and how to cultivate, purify, and recycle it.

Qi Gong encompasses breathing, concentration, posture, movement, and stretching exercises. The objective is to attain balance in physical, mental, spiritual, and energy alignment or harmonization. Classic and newly created exercises are taught
during the retreat. Participants are given individual attention and assignments according to their specific needs. All of the retreat exercises are designed to take advantage of the natural light and wilderness. These sessions include participants being near trees, coves, water (oceans/seas/rivers/lakes/creeks), small/big rocks, and/or sand. For many individuals hugging a tree is the highlight of the retreat. Tree hugging is the exchange of energy between a human and nature while simultaneously aligning the person’s vital
energy. Early morning walking Qi Gong exercises keep the body, mind, and spirit balanced and harmonized, while ventilating and grounding human energy. Retreats are rarely cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. Adverse weather conditions may
challenge our determination and discipline, yet help us appreciate and understand more about Mother Nature’s moods.

Retreat participants may also experience phonation or chanting exercises to open energy centres (chakras) and harmonize their organs. Within the context of the traditional Chinese medical system, sound or music therapy affects the body, mind, and spirit in
three ways. The first is through listening, which involves the reception of sounds through the ear to eight cranial auditory nerves. This stimulates the major internal organs, especially the kidney, which pertains to the ear and hearing. Secondly, when producing
sounds and singing, we are stimulating two other major internal organs, namely, the lungs and stomach. This pertains to the zhong qi (pectoral vital energy) of the stomach. Thirdly, music therapy often involves listening, singing and dancing at the same time. This  helps to not only stimulate the kidney, lung, and stomach but also to unblock the qi flow of the 14 regular and also the 8 extraordinary meridians, enhancing the superficial, intermediate, and deep levels of qi circulation and opening up the chakras. Therefore, the effect is
holistic and powerful for one’s whole being, no matter what age, gender, culture, or era.(13)

Self-Cultivation Through PaintingIn the Buddhist healing perspective, a mantra, which involves repeating a sequence of tones over and over again is a powerful technique for opening up the chakras, balancing the meridians, harmonizing the internal organs, engaging in meditation and cultivating loving kindness for all sentient beings. The emphasis is on
simplicity. The experience of repetition has a calming effect on your mind because it fills your mind and holds your focus throughout the process. (14)

“Chakra” means wheel in ancient Sanskrit, and they are considered major vital energy (Qi) centres of the human body, mind, and spirit. They are thought to spin in a clockwise direction for males and a counterclockwise direction for females, at different rates, manifesting the spinning shape of a funnel spiraling inward—like a tornado. They correspond to various major energetic acupuncture points in the traditional Chinese medical system. (15)

The retreat training develops the participant’s six senses such as vision, hearing, smell, taste, feeling (physical/emotional), and intuition. Mother Nature enriches our senses and the entire retreat experience. Qi (energy) is cultivated and then purified. Later
negative energy is recycled into positive healing energy and a higher stage of awareness develops. This tranquil environment combines with inner peace of mind and spirit to help individuals become more self-aware and better at self-healing. Above all the healing
has to start from the inside and then later transform to the outside world. This may ultimately contribute to world peace, international harmony, and universal healing.

Retreats enhance the quality of life within a social and natural environment. Participants are inspired to be mutually supportive and caring for one another like compassionate family members. Retreat members are encouraged to experience, appreciate, and contribute to the spirituality of the natural environment. This is the
positive, healing energy that is immanent at many retreats. In traditional Chinese medicine it is viewed as good Feng Shui (environmental medicine). Enhancing the quality of life has a universal dimension. The Buddhist, Taoist, and medical style of Qi
Gong that I teach emphasizes the necessity of cleansing oneself of emotional contamination. This refers to the anger, fear, depression, or sadness caused by difficult circumstances or stress. It is essential to transform or recycle this negative energy into positive energy. By offering genuine blessings and loving kindness to all sentient beings
the retreat becomes an opportunity to heal for all. This is a fundamental principle of physical, mental, and spiritual empowerment as well as self-care. Therefore we conduct
candlelight and sandalwood blessings. At the same time I offer life advice and a spiritual gift at the end of the retreat.

Retreats teach participants hExchange of Energy While Tree Huggingow to use the best out of Mother
Nature to balance, harmonize, and align themselves. Participants learn how to purify their physical, mental, and spiritual energy. At the same time they better understand how to transform their negative (suffering) energy to positive (healing) energy. Everybody needs to heal themselves, others, and make the universe a more healing and peaceful place for future generations. This is a human responsibility. It must be noted that many other therapies,
such as Tai Chi Chuan, Yoga, various relaxation techniques, and spiritual healing, are as amenable as Qi Gong to the retreat experience. Moreover, retreats are for everyone, especially health care practitioners, who must take good care of themselves so that they can take better care of their dear patients. After all, nothing is more important in life than taking good care of others and ourselves.(16)

Conclusion

In my life I have found that Qi Gong is the best thing for me. No
matter which profession you follow or what walk of life you are in having good Qi is essential. The interesting thing is, I’ve found that a lot of people think Qi Gong is just an exercise, but it is really an exercise of body, mind, and spirit. Qi Gong is also a health discipline through which you can help not only yourself, but also give a person who is not well the capacity to create his or her own well-being. So Qi Gong is not self-cultivation alone, for a patient who has learned Qi Gong is probably more ready for treatment. People who practice Qi Gong make it easier for a practitioner to treat them because they are already well aligned. Then all you need to do is just give them a tiny bit of healing and it goes right in! (17)

That’s why I have found Qi Gong a very important thing for the community. Everybody should practice Qi Gong every morning. If everybody would learn to practice Qi Gong, like they brush their teeth and wash their face, they’d become responsible for their own health. And then only when you need help, you go to a practitioner, and he or she readjusts any imbalances for you and you become healthy again. (18)

Deep Connection with TreeHealing can only take place between people who respect and love each other. When there is no feeling, there is no medicine. When there is no medicine, then there is no healing. The interesting thing about medicine is not only the treatment, but also the intention of treatment. The person who treats should not just be a therapist, but also a healer. And in order to become a healer, one has to cultivate himself or herself to be, what we call in spiritual terms, purified, and while treating with good intentions and loving-kindness. (19)

Dr. AungDr. Steven K.H. Aung, MD, has been a geriatric and family physician, and a traditional Chinese medical (TCM) practitioner and teacher for more than thirty years. He has taught medical Qi Gong to thousands of people around the world, and is a clinical professor in the Departments of Medicine and Family Medicine at the University of Alberta. In 2006, he was appointed to the Order of Canada. aung.com

Join Dr. Aung at Hollyhock for Aung Medical Qi Gong & Intuition on August 11-14, 2016
References

(1) Aung, S.K.H. Special Article. “Loving Kindness—The Essential Buddhist Contribution to
Primary Care.” Humane Health Care International, Vol.12, No.2, April 1996. Page 81.

(2) Aung, S.K.H. Traditional Secrets of Wellness: Dr. Aung Hands Down Ancient Chinese Pearls
of Wisdom for Modern Living.
College of Integrated Medicine, Edmonton, 2000. First edition. Page 1.

(3) Aung, S.K.H. Traditional Secrets of Wellness: Dr. Aung Hands Down Ancient Chinese Pearls
of Wisdom for Modern Living.
College of Integrated Medicine, Edmonton, 2000. First edition. Page 1.

(4) Aung, S.K.H. Traditional Secrets of Wellness: Dr. Aung Hands Down Ancient Chinese Pearls
of Wisdom for Modern Living.
College of Integrated Medicine, Edmonton, 2000. First edition. Page 9-10.

(5) Aung, S.K.H. Traditional Secrets of Wellness: Dr. Aung Hands Down Ancient Chinese Pearls
of Wisdom for Modern Living.
College of Integrated Medicine, Edmonton, 2000. First edition. Page 9-10.

(6) Aung, S.K.H. Traditional Secrets of Wellness: Dr. Aung Hands Down Ancient Chinese Pearls
of Wisdom for Modern Living.
College of Integrated Medicine, Edmonton, 2000. First edition. Page 9-10.

(7) Aung, S.K.H. Traditional Secrets of Wellness: Dr. Aung Hands Down Ancient Chinese Pearls
of Wisdom for Modern Living.
College of Integrated Medicine, Edmonton, 2000. First edition. Page 9-10.

(8) Aung, S.K.H. Traditional Secrets of Wellness: Dr. Aung Hands Down Ancient Chinese Pearls
of Wisdom for Modern Living.
College of Integrated Medicine, Edmonton, 2000. First edition. Page 9-10.

(9) Aung, S.K.H. Traditional Secrets of Wellness: Dr. Aung Hands Down Ancient Chinese Pearls of
Wisdom for Modern Living.
College of Integrated Medicine, Edmonton, 2000. First edition. Page 9-10.

(10) Aung, S.K.H. Traditional Secrets of Wellness: Dr. Aung Hands Down Ancient Chinese Pearls
of Wisdom for Modern Living.
College of Integrated Medicine, Edmonton, 2000. First edition. Page 9-10.

In all fairness to those in Western biomedicine there has certainly been a history of compassion in certain areas of Western  iomedicine. Hospice and palliative medicine have been very much
concerned with outstanding care and compassion. Dr. Robert Twycross mentioned in a tribute to Dame Cicely Saunders that, “Cicely disparaged ‘tender loving care’; she championed ‘efficient
loving care’ in which attention to detail is the constant watchword.” (From A Tribute to Dame Cicely Saunders by Dr. Robert Twycross, as listed on the St. Christopher’s Hospice web site – www.stchristophers.org.uk.) I would absolutely agree that technical skill, clinical proficiency, and intense attention to detail can and must be combined with ‘loving care’.

(11) Aung, S.K.H. Traditional Secrets of Wellness: Dr. Aung Hands Down Ancient Chinese Pearls
of Wisdom for Modern Living.
College of Integrated Medicine, Edmonton, 2000. First edition. Page 10.

(12) Aung, S.K.H. Traditional Secrets of Wellness: Dr. Aung Hands Down Ancient Chinese Pearls
of Wisdom for Modern Living.
College of Integrated Medicine, Edmonton, 2000. First edition. Page 10.

(13) Aung, S.K.H. “Qigong Sounds: Medical Therapy Through Phonation.”
Qi: The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health & Fitness, Volume 11, No.4, Winter 2001-2002.
Page 40.

(14) Aung, S.K.H. “Qigong Sounds: Medical Therapy Through Phonation.”
Qi: The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health & Fitness, Volume 11, No.4, Winter 2001-2002.
Page 40.

(15) Aung, S.K.H. “Qigong Sounds: Medical Therapy Through Phonation.”
Qi: The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health & Fitness, Volume 11, No.4, Winter 2001-2002.
Page 40.

(16) Aung, S.K.H. Traditional Secrets of Wellness: Dr. Aung Hands Down Ancient Chinese Pearls
of Wisdom for Modern Living.
College of Integrated Medicine, Edmonton, 2000. First edition. Page 22.

(17) Aung, S.K.H. “Compassionate Care-An Emerging Medical Paradigm: AN INTERVIEW
WITH DR. STEVEN K.H. AUNG.”
Harmony: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Wellness (the newsletter of the Traditional Chinese
Medicine World Foundation.)
Fall 2007, Page 7.

(18) Aung, S.K.H. “Compassionate Care-An Emerging Medical Paradigm: AN INTERVIEW
WITH DR. STEVEN K.H. AUNG.”
Harmony: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Wellness (the newsletter of the Traditional Chinese
Medicine World Foundation.)
Fall 2007, Page 7.

(19) Aung, S.K.H. “Compassionate Care-An Emerging Medical Paradigm: AN INTERVIEW
WITH DR. STEVEN K.H. AUNG.”
Harmony: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Wellness (the newsletter of the Traditional Chinese
Medicine World Foundation.)
Fall 2007, Page one.

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