Shortly after my ah-hah moment, my taiji teacher Martin came home from a trip to China and announced that China was so alive, so exciting and full of change, that he intended to return as soon as he could close up his affairs here and find a way to make a living there. Martin could have been my guide to the world of qi. He’d tried to steer me towards discovering it, and I knew he knew it well. But he was leaving.
I needed a teacher. I found one on amazon.com. I’d heard about Ken Cohen’s book, “The Way of Qigong.” At amazon.com I found not only his book but also his boxed set of CDs and DVDs, “The Essential Qigong Training Course: 100 Days to Increase Energy, Physical Health & Spiritual Well-Being.”
I began the 100-day course. I was dutiful and it was good. I experienced some brand new qi sensations. When I lowered my palms in front of my face, I could feel amazing pressure build in the space between my eyes and then recede as my hands moved on. I could trace little circles on one palm with the index finger of my other hand, held two feet away, doing an exercise called “One-Finger Zen.” I discovered from Ken Cohen’s web site that he was going to be in the San Diego area when I went there at Christmas, and I drove out into the hills to see him. I liked him, learned a few things, felt reassured that I was on the right track, and returned to the Seattle area to continue my 100-day journey.
But by February it was clear that a boxed set of CDs and DVDs just wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted a live teacher, someone who could answer my questions and give me feedback and support. And I wanted a community. Me and my boxed set were a trifle lonely.
About this time I had lunch with a group of female friends I’d worked with many years previous. We talked about men, and whether you might want one in your life if you didn’t have one—which I was thinking maybe I did—and how you could go about finding one through an online dating service. I had printed out a raft of pages from a web site that compared different dating services when it struck me that “hey, wait a minute, I don’t want to spend my time and energy finding a lover. What I need is a qigong teacher!”
It was a critical moment in my life.
I began searching the Internet for qigong teachers. I found Brendan Thorson. I forget exactly how I found him, because I wanted someone on the east side of Lake Washington, and he was in Seattle, but I found him and through him the website of the Institute of Qigong and Integrative Medicine. Brendan and IQ&IM taught Yi Ren Qigong, a system of health-oriented qigong developed by Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun, who was not only a qigong master but also a PhD molecular geneticist. (I loved that! A real scientist!)
I felt a little put off by Brendan because in some places he referred to himself as “qi man,”but he was a certified teacher, listed and pictured on the IQ&IM website—and he was the only teacher who had his own website and offered an e-mail address where he could be reached.
Brendan and I e-mailed, and then talked on the phone, and we ended up deciding that I would meet him for a private qigong session at the house in Seattle where he lived with a bunch of roommates.
It was a rental house, with no particular landscaping (I am a gardener; I notice these things), and clearly inside, it was also a guy house. Brendan was very blond, very earnest, and, like most everyone else I meet these days in the workaday world, he was about my daughter’s age. We went down to the basement, and there, amidst washer, dryer, boxes of detergent and a couple of bicycles, I had my first Yi Ren Qigong lesson.
I remember two things most clearly.
One, he had me put my palms together and we did a few things with our hands and our breathing—and then he asked me to separate my hands.
I couldn’t. He asked me what I was feeling. I remember saying “stuck”—and not being able to produce any additional words. My hands eventually became unstuck, and then I could feel the qi between them in a new way. What I was feeling was still my electromagnetic field, but it wasn’t like when my right hand was sucked to my left. It was like having taffy or a rubber band between my palms.
The other thing I most remember is that after we finished and did some closing exercises, we bowed—which I was more than used to from all my years of taiji. But Brendon didn’t pop back up, so I didn’t either, and finally I said, “How long do we have to stay bowed like this?” He said, “Oh. I’m just thanking my lineage. It’s a long lineage.” And he stood up.
I thought, “Well, OK.” And I stood up, too.
I knew I trusted Brendan and would study with him. I finished Ken Cohen’s 100-day training program just in time to start taking classes from Brendan at the yoga studio he sublet evenings and weekends in Seattle’s University District.