Wu Xing Dao Kung Fu school in Wyoming has organised a Qigong retreat for their members this past weekend. The plan was to arrive on Friday late afternoon and do as much training as we could fit in until Sunday mid-day.
I left work a little bit earlier on Friday as it will take me 2 hours commute to get back home to take the car. It took me about 45 minutes to reach the spot from my place but I got delayed due to some map issues. When I got to the place, most have already arrived and getting ready for diner. In order to clean our body, we were asked to change our diet for the week before the retreat and avoid meat, dairy products, preservatives and processed food. Food at during the weekend will also follow the same diet.
After some introduction about what to be expected during the weekend, we headed to the open fire pit and sat down to relax and chat around the fire. I brought my didgeridoo so we had a bit of fun with it.
There is a platform built on top of a fallen dead tree that made a great place for mediation, solo training or star gazing.
It was time for Iron Shirt training. I have already done 60 out of 100 days of Iron Shirt Neigong so I’m now entering into level 3. Today was my first time doing the level 3 set of exercises. We were instructed to do level 1 during the day before arriving to camp so that we could do level 2 and 3 together. The exercises from level 3 were quite hard, some of them required standing still on one foot for three minutes while others required coordination between hands, arms, legs and feet. Two of us were currently in Iron Shirt training, three already completed the training in the past and the two remaining have never done it before.
Before heading to bed, at around 11pm, we all gathered around the pot belly heater for an hour long meditation with healing isochronic tones playing in the background.
I decided to sleep on the balcony by the potbelly heater as I was sure it would be almost as cold inside the cabin as outside and the fire kept me warm until about 3.30 am in the morning when I just woke up to top up with more wood.
Most of us naturally woke up at around 5.30 am. After taking our time for breakfast, we had a presentation on the concept of Qi and why it is important. It was followed by a session of Taiji Quan and Baguazhang.
All the talk about Qi and the strenuous exercises of Iron Shirt reminded me of Star Wars and The Force which resembles a lot to the Qi. I see the "dark side" of the force as some Yin practices to cultivate one's Qi. You can train the Yang way, which is a safer and longer term training or you could do it the Yin way which is faster but can potentially have bad effects when not done properly or when the practitioner is not yet ready for it.
Luke: ...Is the dark side stronger?
Yoda: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.
Luke: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
Yoda: You will know... when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack.
Don't let yourself be seduced by the easier and shorter path, there the time and effort you are saving has to be paid back in another way, there is always a balance. May the Qi be with you
We were shown some more advanced drills to work on in order to get the most out of our Taiji training. The exercises were focused on the Kua and Lower Dantian without which our Taiji form would just be empty moves.
We then started doing our Taiji form slowly at the start and ended it with at combat speed with explosive moves that was quite challenging for me as I still didn't know the full form by heart. I was impressed that I managed to go through more than the half of the form without forgetting the moves.
Hiking our way to the meditation spot
At around 9.30am, we started heading to the trail down to the river for a meditation session. We first stop at a little dam for our tea ceremony and a short meditation with a Tibetan bowl.
Our long hike started short after. This is a mountain bike trail so the paths are not always easy or the shortest on foot. We encountered some beautiful landscapes, I’ve never seen so many stag horns.
There were some steep decent but we all managed to safely make our way down to the river where we were welcomed by some cool and fresh air. The atmosphere was relaxing and energising.
We were asked to go around and choose our boulder to sit on for the meditation. As I went looking for a high spot for a group photo, I found my ideal meditation rock a little bit away from the others. It was a large rock with a small cave underneath. The top of the rock was an indentation that made an ideal sitting spot, especially for someone like me who isn’t flexible and can’t sit in lotus position. I was surrounded by branches from the little trees around the rock.
Senior Student Thomas
Half an hour into the meditation, a bee landed on my shirt and was crawling on my neck and face. I tried to remain calm and waited for it to fly off until it crawled into my ear lobe and that’s when I had to shoo it away. I’m very bad at meditation and always have a racing mind. I have however managed to get something like maybe 30 seconds to one minute period where it was like a blackout and suddenly came out of it when my mind realised what happened. After the bee went away, I couldn’t go back into meditation so I completed the remaining 30 minutes with some sitting Neigong to keep me warm and helped me focus on reverse abdominal breathing.
Our Head Instructor Grant Mundy
The meditation session ended and it was time to go back to camp. We went down to the river, so going back home means going upward! It was a tough journey. Midway home, Dave, a fellow student, insisted on carrying my backpack full of camera equipments and double bagged all the way to camp. This shows how caring we are for one another in our Kung Fu family.
End of day training
Back to camp, we took a long relaxing time with some shower and light food.
When we all had some energy back, we decided to do some standing meditation exercises. There were 8 stances with our hands held at different height in front of our face or body. Each stance was to be held for 7 minutes without moving. It was really hard and I kept wondering how much time was left because my shoulders were sore. Moving from one stance to another was a relief, albeit a short one.
After a light diner, we continued our training with an evening Iron Shirt training around the open fire. But this time we were going to do all three level sets back to back, that’s about 1 and a half hour intense training non-stop, another of the many challenges of this weekend retreat. We were all stoked to have been able to complete, not without big struggle, it after all the hiking and training we have been doing since the morning.
The night ended with another isochronic tone meditation. I could not complete it once again and decided to sneak out to the suspended platform to do some Taiji and Mian Quan training instead. It was full moon and the view on the platform was magnificent. I lied down and enjoyed the sky thinking it would have been awesome to have my wife and kid with me at that time. I later on been told that today was Tết Trung Thu, the mid-autumn festival.
Sunday good bye
We all woke up a little later today. I wasn’t as sore as I thought I would be after all the activities from yesterday. After some long period of relaxing and trying archery (thank you Thomas). We did some more Taiji form, Taiji Push Hand and went down to the dam for another full Iron Shirt training. The new students now had the hang of it and are starting to feel it properly.
Time to pack up and tidy up the place. We all headed back home to a warm shower and some “real” food 😂😂😂.
In the late afternoon, I went watering the garden and harvesting my orange turmeric and black turmeric and put some up for sales on my little online shop.
Having entered level 3 of Iron Shirt Neigong, I now have to do 1 and a half hour training every day for the next 37 days! That’s a big commitment and I have to adjust my days to allow time for the training. So today, I woke up half an hour earlier to do the first set. I will do the two last sets back-to-back this evening after work. I woke up and my arms and legs were sore and weak and I immediately thought of how tough this first set will be. It was agony, most of my moves felt empty and my stances were not stable at all. But I didn’t give up, I’m to far in now to give up at this stage.
I’m now on the train finishing this long blog post.
Looking back at the last few days
I didn’t expect this weekend to be the way it was. It had been much more challenging and tough, it’s definitely the regular Qigong or meditation retreat you might have gone to. Being from a proper Kung Fu school, it was designed to be a physical and spiritual challenge, to show us that we can exceed ourselves and accomplish more that we think we could.
I enjoyed the experience, there were a lot of eye openers and totally understand training in Nature is makes so much difference and being able to go away from everyday stress and worries for a couple of days was very good for the mind, although our nights were short, I had high quality sleep in the tranquil natural environment.
More important then self improvement in this past couple of days is the fact that I got to know more about some of my brothers and sisters in arms, I learned from the seniors and helped the juniors, we shared the pain and the success, we shared food and silly jokes. I was given the nick name of Swiss Army Huy 😂 because I was doing many different things: photos, fire, brought an axe and shovel, didgeridoo etc… hahaha. It was a great way to build some strong bond within our Kung Fu family.
Senior Students Dave & Thomas and Head Instructor Grant Mundy
Previously on my blog:
- The Tree Cemetery of the Monaro Plains
- Last day of holidays at the snow
- Early Spring trip to the Snow
- Still enjoying some rock balancing session at Woy Woy. they looks even better in ...
- Iron Shirt Neigong, the Fascia Fitness from the Martial Arts world.
- Bottle Cap Challenge
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