Grad school preparations began as most would expect, a tedious application process followed by logistical planning and financial stress. I wanted to be prepared to make the most of it. When my qigong (“chi gong”) instructor suggested I return to Taiwan for advanced qigong training, I could think of nothing better. I began practicing qigong two years prior after stumbling upon the Meimen Center in Taipei, while backpacking in South East Asia. It’s a practice where one improves their qi circulation, which according to traditional Chinese medicine (and other ancient belief systems) affects their entire being. Qi has been extensively researched, and practiced for a millennia.
My understanding of it is based on my own experience. Qi is the life force that sustains and connects everything. This understanding launched me on a spiritual journey. I had taken qigong and taiqi classes in the US. Meimen, however, is a center dedicated to preserving and educating the public about Qigong and traditional Chinese culture. It was founded by Master Lee Feng-San (Shifu), and is run by full-time Taoist volunteers who are qigong practitioners and masters. Lee Feng-San Shifu is a highly regarded master, and caring individual who is passionate about sharing ancient Chinese practices (Qigong, Tao and Chinese medicine) to help save our world.
I learned at Meimen for six months before returning to the US where I continued to practice regularly. I developed a deeper sense of self, which laid the foundation for a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle. I effortlessly adopted a vegetarian diet, as my appetite for meat regressed (I used to be adamant about not being a vegetarian). Although I worried about lacking protein to keep up with my active lifestyle, my body began to recover faster after exercising. The improved awareness of my breath significantly improved my cardio performance and meditation practice. I experienced better sleep and emotional stability that went a long way in improving my health and relationships. After experiencing these life-changing benefits, there was no doubt in my mind that returning to Meimen before school would be the best thing to do!
Rather than attending Meimen for class everyday, this time my instructor arranged for me to live and volunteer at the center. When I share this experience, people tend to envision a remote temple on some mountaintop. The center where I stayed is located on the fifth of a twelve-floor building, in the middle of the bustling and densely populated Banqiao District in New Taipei City.
Since discovering Meimen, I’ve heard amazing stories about cancer patients and sick children healing, accident survivors making full recoveries, and various illnesses being treated through Shifu’s teachings and treatments. Being submerged in what I can only describe as an energetic sanctuary, where qigong is continuously practiced, revealed hints of a magical healing force.
My daily routine involved regular qigong practice and consuming revitalizing food and tea farmed and prepared in a holistic manner. I worked in the kitchen cleaning dishes, preparing meals, making and packaging juices. I helped assist instructors during qigong workshops, and promote a healthier and more holistic lifestyle. I was also fortunate to coach soccer during their annual summer camp in a beautiful temple on a remote mountaintop. Despite the volunteers’ full workdays, the center emits an enduring feeling of serenity that I can only compare to that feeling of blissfulness I experience when looking out on a landscape from the top of a mountain. I could not have imagined feeling this calm and content, because I had never experienced it. It felt as if the energy at Meimen re-synced my internal clock with the natural order of things. The impact Meimen had on my physical, mental, and emotional states demonstrated an incredible healing force.
Practicing Pingshuai (a simple and powerful qigong technique developed by Shifu) regularly for two years transformed my health, spirituality and identity. Living with a community of practitioners guided by an esteemed Tao master introduced me to a higher level of humanity. As a student of global development I often think about how to make the world a better place. According to Shifu, the best thing any individual person can do is practice self-cultivation and become a source of light for those around them. As I begin UC Berkeley’s Master of Development Practice program, I understand that the scope of this practice goes beyond myself and this consciousness is an integral part to forging a new path in development.
Ramsay Boly is a first year Burkinabe-American student with the Master of Development Practice program. He grew up in the city of Bobo-Dioulasso before moving to the United States for high-school. After completing his B.A. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution, he joined a start-up and co-founded a nonprofit to promote and enable traceability, transparency and ethical practices in jewelry supply chains. His bi-cultural background instilled a passion for traveling and learning from other cultures.