I walked into Pathways Saturday afternoon shaking off the drenching rain, with no preconceived notions of what the next hour would bring. I met Allison Cameron Parry a few months ago — she mentioned she taught Qi Gong, something I’d never heard of before. Qi Gong (pronounced chee gong) is a gentle, 5,000-year-old healing and preventive Chinese practice. “This particular lineage of Qi Gong was developed in the world’s largest medicine-less hospital, where only Qi Gong was used and no medicine was administered,” Parry said. “It had a 95 percent success rate, ranging from reducing symptoms to complete remission of serious illness.”
Parry’s 3 pm class on Saturdays at Pathways Arts in Chilmark is special because it’s for families as well as individuals. I wondered how having young children in the room might impact the mood and focus. Parry’s soothing presence brought about calm peace across the room. Even 1-year-old Faye Maloney serenely busied herself within the circle, shifting our shoes, which we’d taken off, from one area of the circle to another. Faye’s 4½-year-old sister, Leona, participated as well. Leona was a pro, Parry explained. She does Qi Gong with Parry as part of West Tisbury’s homeschool cooperative, At Home in the Woods.
Parry reflected, “I find that children specifically are more open energetically to the possibility of something happening. They take to it so well because they don’t have a preconceived wall built up against energy healing. It’s just something that comes so naturally to them.”
Parry continued, “I am inspired to teach people of all ages and levels of health this restorative practice because of the direct positive effects I have noticed within my own well-being, and specifically when I began practicing on behalf of my young son. If a child is sick at all, the capacity to self-regulate the energetics of the body that can help them to heal is so powerful. As a parent, you have a special capacity to self-heal your child. I wanted to be able to empower other families to have a tool to use when their children are unwell or in need of energetic rebalancing.
“I also find that many fitness or well-being classes are typically for either children or adults — rarely both. I hope that encouraging people of all ages to practice together will empower deeper healing capacity within our families and community, and allow for a unified family self-healing practice.”
But it isn’t just oneself or family members. Qi Gong can benefit individuals outside the room as well. Parry asked us each to set our own intention at the beginning of class — it could be for the optimal healing of oneself, and also for those who are not in the room.
“When your friends or loved ones are unwell, you want so badly to be able to do something to alleviate pain and symptoms while providing hope and positivity. Qi Gong is the perfect tool to do so,” Parry said.
After setting our intent, Parry took us through a short meditation that helped ground us. I sat in an upright position, and became particularly aware of the soles of my feet touching the wood floor. My awareness shifted from the thoughts that normally occupy my mind to my body as a whole. Time flew by as we went through soothing sequences and mindful breathing. We stretched our arms out wide, and bent them at the elbows, slowly drawing the elbows toward each other, and then back out. This movement is called “lachi.” I could feel the energy between my hands grow and deflate like a balloon. We continued through standing and seated sequences for the next 45 minutes or so. By the end, we had moved every area of our body in every direction. Nothing was strenuous, rushed, or even very big, but the movements loosened up my whole body as well as some persistent knots I seem to carry around. A soothing, subtle energy buzzed through me.
Afterward, participant Erica Maloney reflected on having done the class with her children, Faye and Leona. “You definitely feel the energy in the room,” she said. “You feel your body getting warmer. And it’s beautiful watching them. Faye was definitely calm, just wandering through, and it is wonderful watching Leona do it. For them to focus on their body, head to toe, is amazing.”
I turned to Leona and asked what it felt like to practice Qi Gong. She quietly responded, “Love.”
Allison Cameron Parry is a Level 1 Zhineng Wisdom Healing Qi Gong Instructor certified by the ChiCenter. She’s been practicing for about six years and teaching for three. She teaches every Saturday at 3 pm at Pathways Arts at 9 State Rd., Chilmark. She also teaches Mondays at 5 pm at Howes House at 1042 State Rd., West Tisbury. All ages are welcome. If you can’t make it to classes and prefer to practice in private, Parry livestreams sessions at zoom.us/j/879792982.