By Marguerite Jill Dye
Our grueling, marathon campaigns and election have been a long haul and have caused sustained stress for many people. Many Americans are depressed, in shock, and grieving for a sense of loss of the nation we love and are fearful of what lies ahead. The stakes are high and the future is uncertain and stress can take its toll. But no matter the stress, whether from the election or health, family, economic, work, or relationship challenges, or the quickly approaching holidays, we all need ways to cope to help us get through difficult times.
Often using creativity as a form of therapy is a wonderful and productive way to reduce anxiety and help heal depression. I love to paint en plein air, in the open air, out of doors and on location. It’s a form of meditation that fills me with peace and joy. Sometimes in inclement weather I paint the scene through a window or from inside my car.
When our 32-year-old son Danny was an infant, my husband and I studied tai chi with a Chinese ballet dancer in Richmond, Virginia. For 2,500 years, the slow, gentle motions have been known to create calm, reduce stress, and increase flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance. We have had the thrill, on occasion, of practicing tai chi with the Chinese people in parks and gardens at dawn. The movements flow smoothly like a dance in nature. Yet the power of these minimal motions is deceiving because they were also used by fighting monks in self-defense and battle.
Years ago my mother invited me to her qigong class at Pico. Qigong is the oldest (over 5,000 years) and original form of martial arts that is rooted in traditional Chinese medicine and combines breath, awareness, and movement. “Chi” or “qi” means life force or energy which travels along the body’s meridians or pathways.
I’ve recently discovered a very powerful 1,200 year old form of qigong developed by Chang San Feng, a Taoist sage. Wuji Gong is said to help heal the body, mind, and spirit and connect with the primordial earth elements of air, earth, fire, and water (wujigong.net). “Primordial Qigong” can “change our relationship with Heaven and Earth,” create an alignment with the universe, improve health and longevity, and cultivate the spirit (yang-sheng.com). Some claim it could be the secret of immortality (wujiqigong.net).
After an hour of the slow, gentle meditation in motion, I feel renewed, invigorated, and hopeful. It lifts my spirits and fills me with peace and calm. It is a wonderful antidote to stress.
The Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Sarasota, Fla. offers Wuji Gong to cancer patients and others seeking to improve their health. The teacher is a doctor of Oriental medicine and acupuncture practitioner who has studied the healing martial arts for decades.
Now I understand why mother loved another art form that I recently tried: belly dancing! At the JFCS class, a traditional Greek style “rumba” belly dance was introduced with slow, hypnotic motions that were elegant, understated, and flowing. The teacher explained how the dancer would connect her mind with heaven in a spirit of reverence and reflection. The music was haunting and beautiful. The circle of women “of a certain age” (60s through 80s) jingled shining silver belts tied below waists, sashayed and swayed, shimmied shoulders, and circled hips. The dance was mesmerizing.
A very liberating and faster-paced Greek Gypsy style of belly dancing followed. “Dance with attitude!” the teacher exclaimed with head held high. We exaggerated each motion and gestured boldly and defiantly as we giggled our way around the room. We’ve all heard that “Laughter is the best medicine,” and like Mom always said, “Laugh and live longer!”
Marguerite Jill Dye is an author and artist in Killington and Bradenton, Fla.
Photo by Marguerite Jill Dye
Mixed-media collage, entitled, “Paw Prints in our Primordial Universe”.