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My friend, Sachie, teaches medical qi gong in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Qi gong has long been used as one of the foundations for martial arts. Medical qi gong uses the same energy practices but focuses the power generated towards healing rather than towards killing your enemies. I’ve attended several of her classes and can attest to the healing power of the first three poses. After the classes I felt grounded and more steady in myself. I can only imagine the strength that can be gained from learning all seven!
I’ve had the privilege of doing several photo shoots with Sachie to document her practice of this ancient healing tradition. Watching her move around the room was entrancing; I could feel the energy created by her movements and breathing. It was an honour to witness.
During our most recent shoot at Chiang Mai University, we were lucky enough to stumble across a recently installed art sculpture hanging from the trees in one of the campus’s many forested areas. The ephemeral installation made of white string tied together suggested the shape of a house-like structure. Hanging above ground, it swayed easily in the wind, flowing in whatever direction the wind chose to breathe. The eloquent piece struck us as a metaphor for the strength and beauty inherent in fragility: Though completely exposed, transparent even, the house of string is able to move gracefully in the harshest rains or winds. The installation also shares these characteristics with the medical qi gong practice itself, creating the sense that the structure was a manifestation, of sorts, of the ancient tradition. Because of this, we eagerly took the liberty of using the stringed shelter as the setting of Sachie’s shoot. Our gratitude for the fortuitous appearance of this magical tree-house was palpable.
I felt the stringed sculpture’s affects resonate inside me the rest of they day. Art is able to surprise and to teach in ways that other mediums simply cannot. It is the lack of clarity and total openness (no words, no explanation, no logic, no reason) in a work like this that provide space for deeper understanding to occur. Through my experience of the piece, wandering in and out, touching, moving through its long dangling arms, wings or walls, I connected anew with the environment around me. I saw the forest and myself differently that day in that transient tree-house. The white structure was no longer just string hanging from trees (if it ever was); it co-created my inner experience, drawing my attention to how I interact with my surroundings and myself.
Art pulls at our emotions, no doubt. We can choose to link these emotional experiences with critical thinking and lead ourselves toward new perspectives about ourselves and others. Art, at its core, helps us to facilitate our own engagement, interpretation and understanding of the world.