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Author Interview #4 Kaleo Ching and Elise Dirlam Ching

September 11, 2007

Elise and Kaleo Ching, Authors

What is Chi?

Chi is vital energy, the life force of the universe. When you come together with a dear friend, the Chi of joyous connectedness is palpable between your hearts as you hug. Then, as you walk together on your favorite trail through the woods at evening, feel the Chi of earth rising up through the soles of your feet as they sink into and push off earth’s skin. As you inale the fresh fragrances of leaves, bark, flowers, weeds, humus, and dirt, notice how your skin breathes. Feel it tingling as its pores open and absorb the heavenly Chi from the full yellow moon rising through forest branches and from the emerging dancing stars. As evening deepens, notice how each star has its own personal Chi reflected in its color—one hot blue, another moderate yellow, another cooler red. When it is really dark, see the dense Chi of our galactic center revealed in the milky veil that parts the night. Sense the spiraling web that holds the cosmos in interconnectedness. These are gifts of Chi nourishing our bodies, minds, and souls.

Who Can Benefit from Chi and Creativity?

Anyone interested in:
a) increasing energy, immunity, and physical wellness
b) exploring and building a relationship with the flow of Chi in the body, environment, and universe
c) strengthening groundedness, focus, and emotional well-being
d) cultivating the path of mindful awareness of the inner self and of others
e) living with creativity as a way of seeing, channeling, and transforming Chi.

We have both worked in the San Francisco county jails, Elise as a Registered Nurse for the past 25 years and Kaleo as a teacher of “Chi and Creativity” (Chi Kung, meditation, and maskmaking) in the Jail Psychiatric Unit part time for 5 years. We have experienced how our practices with Chi ground us, balance our chakras (energetic, spiritual, mental, emotional centers), and support us in life’s challenging situations.

The universe pulses with Chi and creativity. Living with a healthy infusion of Chi and creativity generates awe and positively affects your relationships with yourself, family, and community. When Chi and creativity pulse through the gifts you share with the world, your entire life and all it touches glow as if illumined in a chamber of sacred light.

What are the benefits of Chi and creativity?

Practices in Chi and creativy have the following benefits:
a) They influence healthy function of the body’s integumentary, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, lymphatic, brain and nervous, and meridian systems.
b) They awaken the flows of energy in and around the body. They cleanse and transform stress and stagnant Chi. They teach you how to harvest and store Cosmic and environmental Chi in your cells
for enhanced energy and immunity.
c) They inspire self-exploration, awareness, and growth.
d) They encourage and stimulate the flow of Chi through your own personal form of creative self-expression. As an artist painting on canvas, you feel the wild delight of Chi moving from the creative vault of your heart, through your shoulders, arms, and palms, to lather colors, textures, and temperatures of paint onto anticpating white canvas. As a bodyworker, you open your body as a vessel of Chi to meet your client in caring dialogue. You harvest Chi from the heavens and earth to spiral through your body and transmit to your client, as you sculpt and nourish the body in massage.
e) They create inner space and calmness. Spaciousness opens a place for healing. Inner peace is medicine for body and soul.

Do you have any advice for someone just beginning to work with Chi?

If you are just beginning to work with Chi, research, read, and find a qualified teacher to learn basics and principles of Chi awareness. Embark on your journey of Chi awareness and understanding with kindness. Never push through pain. Enjoy the journey of personal growth. Let your awe awaken gently. In our own lives, we have found that positive growth in cultivating Chi responds best to a balance of Yang and Yin—a balance between gently stretching your limits and accepting yourself just as you are, between structure and freedom, study and intuition, discipline and kindness.

Can anyone, regardless of their cultural background, religious beliefs, or spiritual practices, practice working with Chi?

We taught “Chi and Creativity” classes for many years at Matt Fox’s University of Creation Spirituality. Our staff, faculty, and students were a conjunction of Catholic sisters, Buddhists, Protestant ministers, Jewish Rabbis, Sufis, Yoga adepts, political and environmental activists, and practioners of indigenous spiritual paths. Spirit is universal and transcends boundaries of race, cause, or creed. One of our students from UCS, Sister Malia, is a Dominican nun in Hawai‘i. When we visit Hawai‘i, we share with her religious sisters practices emphasizing Chi as Divine breath. As they enter the Chi at their core, they open to the Chi of the radiant heavens and harvest Chi from the igneous earth. Their breath is a wave caressing the island’s shore. They twirl with gentle tradewinds. They dance with the Divine in Chi Kung as body prayer.

Can couples benefit from “Chi and Creativity”?

Harmonious Chi strengthens any relationship. A healthy inner being makes for healthy inter-being. Couples who share Chi and creativity predictably experience their enhanced intimacy and communication as an expansive spiral of interconnectedness with the spiraling Chi of the cosmos. They also find themselves more sensitive to each other energetically, intuitively, emotionally, and sexually. And the Chi between a couple supports and strengthens their practices. Creativity flourishes and Chi flows smoothly from a vibrant pool of love.

In our (Elise and Kaleo’s) relationship, we integrate Chi and creativity techniques into our lives daily as part of a life style that enhances our relationships as spouses, teachers, healers, artists, and writers. Our collaborative books “Faces of Your Soul” and “Chi and Creativity” are the offspring of our process.

How is the cultivation of Chi used by people who practice meditation?

Chi is as natural as breath. Chi breathing techniques can help meditators bring breath and Chi more fully into their bodies. Breathing into the crown and the perineum draws Chi from the heavens and earth into the body to be cultivated and stored in the Tan Tien (also known as the hara), to then radiate throughout the body with the breath.

In Tan Tien breathing, the lungs breathe fully, the vital organs are massaged, and there is enhanced flow of blood and its nutrients. The respiratory system strengthens, the lymphatic system cleanses, the body liquids flow, the internal temperature of the body is regulated, and the energy meridians flow. The whole body functions more efficiently. Stress is released, and emotions can be better digested, assimilated, and processed. As a result, practitioners will likely experience more alertness and less fatigue, greater harmony in the functioning of the body as a vehicle of meditative awareness, and enhanced openness to inner stillness.

At times while sitting, a meditator may feel pulled off center by the surfacing of disturbing emotions or memories. When this happens, she might feel her breath becoming shallow and short as her anxiety level rises. Instead of succumbing to the unsettling undertow of challenging inner material, she can engage Tan Tien breathing, not to master emotions, but to stabilize Chi, mind, and breath like a ballast, so she can ride the storm back to equanimity.

How can Chi and Creativity increase creative potential?

Everyone is unique. Everyone has an inner artist. Everyone, whether artist, parent, spouse, computer programmer, businessperson, teacher, singer, healer, writer, martial artist, or spiritual practitioner, can enhance relationships, techniques, and modalities with Chi and creativity.

For example, when a painter stands before his easel, he will find his muse aroused by the lure of Chi. As the gestation vessel of his body expands and contracts in the rhythm of Tan Tien breathing, his muse stirs from slumber in her cave. As his Chi spins in the Microcosmic Orbit, her curiosity wends its way among his chakras in search of energies, vibrations, and emotions to transform into colors and textures that spiral from his core, out his hand, through his brush, onto canvas.

Chi and creativity techniques increase the spaciousness within you. Listen to the unique summons of your own personal muse. Let her guide you into that expansive realm to encounter a landscape rich in ideas and imaginings, textures and forms, rhythms and understandings.

Whatever your creative form takes, consider: What lies in your inner terrain ready to be evoked by explorations with Chi? If your creative expression could come from deeper layers within, how might it change? If you already fathom mysterious depths and exalted heights in your work, how can you bring them into an integrated dance of Yin and Yang through attentive cultivation and channeling of Chi?

How can Chi awareness practices be used by people engaged in repetitive tasks, such as bodyworkers and office workers?

Any repetitive movement, such as bodywork and office work, can be very difficult on the body and psyche by causing stuck Chi. Our bodies and our minds crave flux and flow, crave the currents of Chi and creativity moving fluidly through and around them. Practices that cultivate Chi and creativity bring more energy, enthusiasm, and communication within us and among us and others.

We taught a weekly Chi Kung class for about 12 months at North Atlantic Books in Berkeley. The staff shared with us their personal experience of combining Chi awareness and creativity in their own work. They have integrated the practice into their daily routine as a way of cultivating greater health within each person and as a way of sharing this particular path of wellness as a group. It is a practice that builds personal and communal vitality.

Ways Chi Kung helps office workers, bodyworkers, and others engaged in repetitive tasks:
a) Zhang Zhuang meditation conserves energy, releases stress, and creates openness and fluidity in the joints. It teaches practitioners how to use their bodies more mindfully, efficiently, and ergonomically.
b) Chi breathing techniques release stress, calm the body/mind, and harvest and circulate energy. They massage the internal organs, circulate the blood, activate the lymph system, regulate hormones and internal temperatures, and support all functions of the body.
c) Spiraling in Chi Kung is good for the body. The Koa’e is a tropic bird that makes its home in the inhospitable Halema’uma’u volcano crater of Kïlauea volcano in Hawai’i. Every morning as we did prayer (pule) near the crater’s edge, we watched this bird spiral and soar. Later at the ocean’s edge, Koa’e Chi Kung evolved. As we spiraled with the wind (makani) and breathed in rhythm with the ocean (kai), we danced (hula) with the Chi (mana) spiraling through meridians in our bodies. This spiraling action increases bone density, helps prevent repetitive stress injuries, and facilitates healing.
d) In our Tiger’s Breath form, muscles wrap around bones, joints open, and liquids flow, lubricating bones and tissues and encouraging the flow of fluids, lymph, blood, and Chi. Tiger’s Breath Chi Kung activates the craniosacral pumps to facilitate the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and resets the nervous system. It releases stress, cleanses the body physically and energetically, and harvests, cultivates, and circulates Chi through and around the body.
e) As the Microcosmic Orbit circulates, the chakras become balanced, influencing body, mind, and spirit. As the Macrocosmic Orbit is engaged, it enhances centeredness and groundedness with earth through the feet and openness to inspiration from heaven through the crown of the head. For office workers and bodyworkers, engaging the Orbits can foster decisions that come from spaciousness and inner quiet and not out of reactivity and stress.

How is Chi used in guided imagery journeys?

Journeying through the portal into the subconscious source of symbols, archetypes, images, and messages is magical. Working with Chi takes you deep into your energy body. As your Chi awareness awakens, so does your access to subconscious realms. In deep guided imagery, creating a space of comfort, safety, and support cultivates an atmosphere of spaciousness, permission, exploration. Then, as your breath lengthens and deepens in Tan Tien breathing, you become more aware of the Chi that stirs through the layers of your body. What messages from ancestors lie dormant in your DNA? What do your stomach and gut instinctively tell you? What does your heart want to share about your intimacy with self and others? What wisdom does your soul hold for you? What do your hands teach you about embracing, building, creating? The subconscious mind is a realm of Chi with many passageways to deeper mysteries. Entering, exploring, and transforming that realm support the transition to greater harmony and freedom on all levels. Then, feel how freedom invokes your muse. How does she wish to express your inner discoveries? Any form of creativity, we believe, whether doing art, gardening, cooking for friends, parenting, or practicing healing work, is an expression of the wisdom of the subconscious bridging with the conscious mind. Your inner journey evokes the wisdom of your ancestors, your guides, your Divine source. Your body/mind/spirit will shift.

How can healers work ethically with the power of Chi?

Intention is very important. Chi is a natural and essential phenomenon. Healers must always have their
clients’ best interests at heart. The intention must be for the highest and best for the clients, and healers must maintain their own health and harmony to bring their best to the healing practice. Healing is not about perfection of performance but about quality and integrity of interaction. The healer’s coming from a deep source of love (aloha) can support the client in making positive changes.

How does working with Chi and Creativity help the communities you touch?

Whether teaching Chi and creativity practices to inmates in the jail psychiatric unit, to massage or expressive art therapists, or to a group of 50 Dominican and Franciscan sisters and teachers in Hawai’i, we share together the experience of Chi and creativity fostering spaciousness, health, and peace.

Your body is a prayer wheel. Its movement is a mantra that starts from the center and spirals out to touch all within and beyond you with vibrations of inner peace. And once the prayer wheel is set in motion, it is always spinning, whether active or latent in the recesses of awareness tucked beneath your deepest dreams. You do not forget the tingling of compassion, the echo of shared understanding, the thrill of entering the synchronous flow.

What are the 5 elements?

The five elements are metal, water, wood, fire, and earth. Five element alchemy is the interaction and expression of these five elements in our bodies, our environments, our lives. For example, each Yin and Yang pair of internal organs and meridians of energy comes under the influence of one of the elements. Through the Lungs and Large Intestine, you enter the domain of metal, of Divine inspiration, of autumn clarity and the poignancy of loss and change. Through Kidneys and Bladder, you sink in the depths of water’s mysteries, of ancestors and dreams, of deep reserves, of the unknown and the unseen. Liver and Gall Bladder take you to wood, where seeds grow into trees and ideas into projects, where anger can trap you in tangled underbrush or motivation can free you to stretch your ambitious branches high toward the dazzling sun. Heart and Small Intestine plus Pericardium and Triple Warmer bring you fire that warms your heart for connection with the hearts of others, that invites you to gather around its glow and communicate your truths. Spleen and Stomach ground you in earth, the welcoming lap of the mother who holds and nourishes, cares and comforts, who brings you home to your own true center.

The elements and their organs/meridians interact alchemically. The elements within our bodies are affected by the outer elements of the seasons, the weather, the foods we eat, the people we meet, the stages of our lives. For example, sometimes a depression from excessive and stuck fear in our bodies (water element) can actually be transformed by moving into action and doing what brings you purpose in the world (wood). In turn, that purpose assumes personal meaning and heartfelt connectedness through engaging what you love and sharing it with others (fire).

What did you most enjoy about the process of publishing your writing?

Working with the creative openness and the wise and gentle guidance offered by the staff at North Atlantic Books/Blue Snake Books made us feel that our own personal vision and creativity were honored but that caring help was always available. This experience gave us generous permission for our books to evolve from our own creative sources within a lovely context of balanced freedom and structure.

Kaleo loves to palpate bones, massage muscles and tendons, stroke the heart of words. Elise loves the poetry of Chi, the expansiveness of the mind, the depth and pulse of Spirit. On our journey, our Chi and creativity practices lubricated, flexed, and strengthened our mental and expressive muscles. We traveled together into portals to inner, unexplored terrains. Ancestors and spirit guides inspired us, cajoled us, guided us. Our relationship with each other and ke akua (the Divine) deepened.

Books are living beings. With Chi and Creativity and Faces of Your Soul, our family of three (including our dog, Teekkona) became a family of five. Our family dynamics changed. The books have personalities, needs, and desires of their own, and we became instruments alllowing them their voice. Like all parents, we wanted, above all, to nourish our children (books), so we collaborated very well. The needs of our childrens’ (books’) bodies, minds, and souls helped us transcend our egos.

What advice would you give to people in various disciplines who are looking to publish their first book?

Embody your work. The wisdom needs to sprout from your bones and cells. Allow your book to evolve over time. Our books evolved over 14 years but reflect about 30 years of Chi and creativity practices, such as Chi Kung, Yoga, nursing, bodywork, and inner journey practices, along with teaching in all sorts of situations. Your book is your gift to the world, one that is, like you, unique, original, and remarkable in content and style. Share your creation-in-process with objective readers for feedback, and adjust it so that your intention is in harmony with its reception. Then seek a publisher whose vision is in alignment with your creative offering.

Elise Dirlam Ching and Kaleo Ching are the authors of Faces of Your Soul: Rituals in Art, Maskmaking, and Guided Imagery with Ancestors, Spirit Guides, and Totem Animals, and Chi and Creativity, Vital Energy and Your Inner Artist.
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