Cleansing the Heart
The Healing Power of
Emei Gigong


The two or three dozen students practicing on an expanse of grass on Sunday mornings in Mission Bay, sandwiched between Interstate 5 and the bay, radiate grace. They are practicing Emei Qigong, an extraordinarily simple yet extremely powerful practice that helps to alleviate a wide variety of physical and emotional complaints.

San Diego has a thriving community of Emei Qigong students and practitioners. New students are always welcome at the regularly scheduled group practices. And from time to time during the year, four-day seminars and other classes offer a chance to learn not only the school's main movement form, called Wuji Gong, but also a variety of other healing techniques and give a solid introduction to the philosophy behind the practice.

“Emei's Wuji Gong is extremely effective for reducing stress and strengthening the immune system,” said Celia Tom, a Pacific Beach doctor of Chinese Medicine and licensed acupuncturist, and a longtime qigong practitioner and teacher of Emei Qigong. “The sequences of movement that we teach are designed to build the body's reservoir of qi, that is, energy, and circulate that energy through the body. As the qi becomes stronger and flows more smoothly, all sorts of problems—physical, emotional, whatever—lighten up and get less severe.”

The fact that they're regularly clearing stuck energy, Tom says, is why the group practicing at Mission Bay emanates grace.

“Anyone can do it,” Tom said. “The Sunday group includes business executives, teachers, massage therapists, retirees, mechanics, students, doctors—you name it.”

Tom has long studied closely with Grandmaster Fu Wei Zhong, the 13 th lineage holder of the Emei Linji Qigong School, and carries on his teaching: that true healing begins with cleansing the heart. This emphasis, which has students take the outward manifestation of disease and follow it inward, is part of what makes Emei Qigong different from many other forms of qigong.

Emei Qigong is a centuries-old tradition that ranks with the Shaolin and Wudang Gongfu schools as one of China's major branches of energetic arts, and draws on both the scientific knowledge of Daoism and the spiritual teachings of Buddhism. That heritage is clear to students taking the Level I seminar, which costs just $60 for four days—students learn that the energies of selfishness and greed create boundaries that limit healing; as selfishness and greed ebb, healing energy flourishes.

But the seminar's emphasis is on learning techniques to alleviate physical ailments. The reason is simple—much human suffering is manifested in the physical. But Emei Qigong recognizes that the root of many physical ailments trace to an emotional cause and it also addresses that.

So participants learn a method for transferring negative energy out of the body, learn simple techniques to use to heal not only themselves but also to help heal others, as well as learn the Wuji Gong movement sequence

“Practicing Wuji Gong is like having a prescription written that is tailored just for you,” Tom said. “It brings qi to the place in the body where that individual needs it most. In Wuji Gong, you are the patient, you are the doctor and the prescription comes from within you.”

One student, Bill Ferlatte, points to quantitative data to explain why he practices.

A botanist, Ferlatte was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a blood cell cancer. He promptly made several changes in his life – including retiring – and saw a slow improvement in his condition. He did yoga and meditated, but was unfamiliar with qigong until he learned of it through friends and started to practice Wuji Gong once a week.

After a year or so, his hematocrit, a measure of the concentration of red blood cells in his system, had climbed to 34.4 percent – low for a man, but significantly higher than the 28 percent measured when he was first diagnosed.

“The only difference in my lifestyle was that I had begun to practice qigong,” Ferlatte said, who added that he likes that Emei Qigong doesn't teach that it's the only way to get better but encourages students to take full advantage of the benefits Western medicine offers.

Heartened by the improvement in his blood work, Ferlatte began to practice Wuji Gong three to four times a week. In just seven months, the concentration of red blood cells jumped more than three full points, to 37.5 percent. That was five years ago, and it has remained stable since then.

“As a scientist, I feel like I'm doing a living experiment,” he said. “I hike, do yoga, travel. I've been able to go backpacking – the first few days are hard, adjusting to the altitude, but the oncologist said that's more due to age!”

Sooner or later, Emei students realize that it's up to each individual to do their own emotional clutter-clearing—rooting out self-centered desires and erasing the separation between self and others.

Practicing Wuji Gong helps that process. But however you get there, Emei Qigong teaches, the most important thing in healing is to “find the heart” and, by expressing regret for those things you wish you had done differently, liberate a natural inclination to be kind.

Ferlatte says the changes he attributes to qigong are not only in the physical realm.

“The practice adds an extra ration of energy and of calmness,” he said. “It's grounding.”