From Mind-Body Medicine

Go With the Flow

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 10.50.03 amAn interview with Mind-Body Medicine faculty member Carol Penn on her QiGong practice. Carol recently hosted a 4-part QiGong series “Go With the Flow” in Philadelphia! 


Carol Penn QiGong1

How did you find QiGong practice, and how does it make you feel? Who has supported you as you have learned?

I found QiGong practice, initially through the influence of my Mom who thought that I was well suited to a practice like Tai Chi and QiGong. She found the slow fluid movements beautiful and thought they complimented my natural movement style. So my mom first planted the seeds actually decades before I began the practice. When I did begin, my father and I decided to study together after I had foot surgery and was non weight bearing and my father had been living with 4 different primary cancers for about 15 years. We had a sense that the end of his life was close at hand. Always active together, this was to be our last father daughter dance!

What kinds of questions do people usually ask you about QiGong? What piques their interest the most?

The most common question is: What is QiGong? Often I ask the person if they have ever heard of Tai Chi – the vast majority are familiar with Tai Chi. I then respond by explaining what the words ‘qi’ and ‘gong’ mean.

What challenges have you faced in your practice, and how have you handled them?

Sometimes for me the biggest challenge I face is the overwhelming emotion I feel when talking about my practice with others. Often, there are tears just behind my words as my practice is a living monument of my love and relationship with my parents, especially my father, who did die in the spring of the year that we began studying QiGong together. His presence is instantly all around me every time I practice and every time I teach my QiGong flow “Let it Be”.

How do you see your QiGong practice fitting in with other elements of your life?

My primary language has always been movement. While QiGong has its origins in another culture, I do believe that this is the movement that I will be studying and doing when I am 90, the movement of both my now and my future. I think the essence of QiGong is universal and transcends both spoken language and culture, politics, race, and gender. I think both the art and science of QiGong will prove to be a mind-body skill and practice that has the potential to change the human tendency to default to the negative.

Carol Penn QiGong 2

Has your practice taught you anything new about integrative medicine, nutrition, or health?

Yes, QiGong, like dance, is a transformative practice. At the end of practice, you are never the same as when you begin. One of the things I always loved about dance performance was noticing as an audience member, how watching the dancers changed you as an observer. An aspect of QiGong is that one can channel and transmit Qi, purposefully to others for their healing and well being, even while we continue to heal ourselves. The other aspect that is so valuable is the balancing of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and that allows all body systems to optimize their functions.

What would you advise someone who is timid about getting started?

There are many different forms of QiGong. I would advise anyone to begin exploring, take a fewCarol Penn QiGong classes, and try a few forms until you find a practice that is suitable for you. There are a few good DVDs available as well as information online.

Do you have a favorite movement or time of day or place to practice?

My favorite movement currently is one called ‘watching clouds.’ My favorite time to practice is anytime, day or evening!

What has practicing QiGong taught you about who you are as a person and how you relate to the world?

For me, my practice is a safe haven. Moving has always been when I feel closest to Spirit, to Life, to Love, to God; my highest and best self. My QiGong practice has deepened this lifelong awareness within me.


Hurricane Katrina—10 Years Later

It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since the Katrina Disaster. Many people were able to restore and rebuild illustrating what is now referred to as “post traumatic growth.” But the truth is that many people never regained their lives as they knew them and still struggle to return to their homes.

Dr.11950662495_c298b659ac_o James Gordon recently touched on the tendency of hurricanes to “shake things up.” Katrina shook things up but it also had a way of sorting things out and exposing the edges of our community—the ugly and corrupt as well as the beauty, the heroic, and the resilient. Lines between the have and have not, black and white, those who would reach out and those who would withdraw, the outspoken and the silent, the exploited and the exploiters. All was revealed—out in the open for us to see. And from this came and opportunity to grow, to heal, and to begin a monumental dialogue about the issues which had been beneath the surface.

For me, Katrina forced me out of a safe and comfortable lifestyle and into the unknown. The world became larger the day I walked into the Louis Armstrong airport and realized the magnitude of the devastation. Something was forever changed. The facade was gone. Being a witness changes you that way. And while it’s scary to stretch yourself, to take those risks, it is here where we are most alive.

So11950817553_850a9a681a_o today, I’m grateful for the chance to fully live and for the healing out of destruction and the despair of a painful time. I’m glad I stayed home here in Louisiana when I wasn’t sure that I could. And I honor all of those we lost, those who continue to struggle, and those who transformed from trauma. And most of all, I am grateful for neighbors here at home, across the country, and around the world who came to our aid, especially The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, which gave us a gift that would sustain us through tough times and beyond.


Journeying through Breast Cancer with CMBM

By Naomi L. Baum, Ph.D.

Diagnosed with cancer I, like many other cancer patients, was thrown into the dizzying world of doctors, hospitals, MRIs, biopsies, surgery, chemo and radiation at a terrifying pace. I am grateful to western, allopathic medicine, for all it had to offer me in terms of treating my cancer, and hopefully, getting rid of it. Yet it is the world of complementary medicine that has held the key to the quality of my life from that day forward.

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