Loss, Love, and Qigong

By Daisy Lee

I learned about “Qi,” the Chinese word for “life-force energy” by devouring superhero comic books brought to my family by my mom’s best friend, Mrs. Kwan. She and her husband ran a Chinese takeout with their three strapping boys in a northern Ontario beach town. Their annual visits were met with excitement as we knew they would bring treats of fried chicken wings, crispy wontons, and barbecued ribs from their restaurant – treats my mom rarely made as it was considered Chinese junk food to suit Western taste buds, and also too “yang” or overheating for the body, and certain to give us acne!

But delicious as the fried food was, the best treats came in the banana boxes of neatly-stacked comic books that Mrs. Kwan’s three sons had finished reading. Into my mundane world on our family farm arrived Qi-filled characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, X-Men, The Hulk, Black Widow, and others — they were my entree into the magical power of Qi that every superhero had in order to defeat evil and wrongdoing, although, like any superhero, they could be weakened by a hidden vulnerability such as kryptonite!

Daisy's father, Kun Foo Lee, still smiling after a long day of work on the family's farm

After countless hours spent tending to greenhouses full of seedlings and flowers, or harvesting infinite rows of green onions, lettuce, radish, spinach, bok choy, or “lo bak” (weighty, Chinese turnips) alongside my parents and five siblings, I was more than ready to escape into fiction and fantasy to discover how my comic-book heroes battled bad guys, corruption, and mayhem! Superheroes did NOT spend their days weeding rows upon rows of vegetables, or cleaning green onions until their hands were cracked and pungent with the sulfurous scent. They shot up like rockets or flew into the air like Superman. Crouching crab-like with aching backs was not their modus operandi.

Had I realized back then that my quiet, sagely father was teaching me to grow patience through weeding, and using the earth force instead of my back to lift the heavy crates of Chinese turnips, I might have understood that my Qigong training had already begun in my childhood. But not until I saw my once-invincible mother cry for the first time as she looked out at over 70 acres of field crops decimated from hail the size of golf balls did I understand our dependence on both the earth below and the sky above.

Our lives and livelihood were intertwined with the care of the earth and the benevolence of the sky. When one element was out of balance, it could set off a chain of events that would lead to greater imbalance, unless we had the necessary tools and skills to correct the imbalance.

Daisy's siblings (l-r): Ann, Daisy, Lois, big brother, Ken, Ben, and Ming (not pictured)

Years later, when my parents became ill with cancers 10 years apart, along with my husband in between those years, I desperately sought to find the answer to sustain health. It was a quest that would lead me to Qigong.

At that time, I had more questions than answers. How did my family become ill? Was it from the agricultural pesticides and herbicides used on our farm? On the plastic containers were poison symbols with the skull and crossbones... could their exposure to these poisons have compromised their health, and if so, could these illnesses have been prevented or reversed with proper nutrition, clean air, water, and exercise? Were there perhaps suppressed emotions that hadn’t been dealt with because of the injustices they had faced in their lives? With my husband, was the cause the radiation from the computer mainframes he worked with eight hours a day as an IT specialist? What eroded health? And what were the keys that could bring back vitality and renewal?

Daisy's mother, Chun Kung Lee, with her eldest son Ken in China

A year before I was to marry my fiancé, Eka (rhymes with “Mecca”), my beloved father had passed away from the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, so when Eka was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia two years after, I felt my heart sink. He had no siblings and no matching donors in the bone marrow bank. As I worked in media at the time, my friends in radio, television, and print rallied to support us in a multi-city bone marrow campaign to help Eka find his other “Match of a Lifetime.” Thousands of people came out to have their blood drawn and tested, and hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised to test for the matching antigens in their blood.

Daisy's father, Kun Foo Lee, as a young scholar in China before immigrating to Canada

It was during that desperate time that my husband’s illness brought me face-to-face with Qigong when Dr. Hui, a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor who also practiced Western medicine, offered to come to the hospital to see what he could do to help. His cheerful, calm energy was like a healing balm in the face of sadness, fear, and uncertainty that gripped the oncology ward. Without preamble, I asked him if he could show me something that could alleviate the intense pain in my husband’s abdomen that was being managed by a drug cocktail of morphine, codeine, and other drugs.

Dr. Hui proceeded to slowly wave his arms around the painful area without touching Eka. In that moment, I noticed a look of surprise flicker over my husband’s face as the pain diminished. “Now you try it,, Dr. Hui said to me. I was skeptical, as my days of reading about comic-book superheroes was long over, but I imitated the slow, magical movements and felt a subtle but palpable energy buzzing in my palms.

“You are using your loving, supportive energy to assist your husband in clearing and balancing the blocked or stagnant Qi in his body.” Indeed, Eka admitted that he felt the pain reduce yet again — what started as a 10+ on the pain scale was down to a 2 in severity. Dr. Hui left us with that technique, and for the first time in over a year of going in and out of hospitals, I was hopeful of my husband’s recovery. After that, any time Eka was in pain, I repeated the same technique over the affected area, and he no longer needed morphine or codeine to mask the pain or to deal with their side effects. We considered it a minor miracle and I vowed to study Qigong — the art and skill of life-force cultivation — once my husband recovered.

In the end, my husband was no match for the devastation of chemotherapy. We did find the elusive donor, but Eka was not able to regain remission the final time in order to undergo a bone marrow transplant. Instead of the press doing a follow-up news story on the victory of a community coming together to save one incredible man’s life, they reported on the immense community effort in three Canadian cities that added countless names to the bone marrow bank that could one day save other lives. Just not my husband’s.

After his passing, I returned to work as a documentary filmmaker, but no longer studied Qigong. However, a vision that unfolded three months after Eka’s death prompted me to delve once more into this 5,000-year old Chinese health practice...

Daisy at her home and Radiant Lotus Retreat Center in Isabela, Puerto Rico

I was being attacked by someone who had broken into my home, but instead of responding like a superhero, my body lay frozen and paralyzed. My eyes desperately scanned the bedroom for the baseball bat that had been on my late husband’s side of the bed, but before I knew what had happened, the faceless man broke into my room and was on top of me. Finally, I broke out of my paralysis and slammed my fist into his face... and the whole scene shattered. I bolted upright in bed as my husband’s voice broke through, “You must learn to protect yourself... I am no longer here to protect you.”

I was stunned, and thought his spirit must have come to warn me about some impending danger. I returned to my Kung Fu classes in downtown Toronto. This eventually led me to reconnect with Dr. Effie Chow, a Qigong teacher I had met briefly when my husband was ill. From there, my Qi journey continued into China, Tibet, and other countries in hopes of discovering that elusive superpower that would extend the lives of my loved ones.

I’ve since come to learn that there is no magic pill that can undo our destiny, but Qigong movements and meditation can, and often do, help bring peace and relaxation. Qigong’s graceful movements, synchronized with long, slow, deep, gentle breathing, relieves stress and activates the body’s natural healing potential, revitalizing the tissues and organs as oxygen, serotonin, and dopamine levels are optimized and essential micronutrients are taken up from the air we breathe, the foods we eat, and the health of the water we drink. All of these contribute to our health, healing, and wellbeing.

The Qigong journey that was motivated by the loss of my beloved family members has brought me into a vast field of ancient knowledge that has taught me so much about love, life, and renewal. I may not be a superhero, but I can at least start others on the path of discovering this ancient self-healing art while I am on this earth. Then it will be no problem to have the occasional fried food... because even superheroes have their kryptonite.

Daisy imagining what a superhero farm girl might look like on a visit to her parents' old farm a few years ago

Daisy Lee, a respected leader in the Qigong world with more than 25 years of teaching experience, was recently presented with the Qigong Master of the Year award by the World Qigong Congress for 2020 in recognition of her impact on women’s health and healing.

A past board member of the International Qigong Science Association in Beijing, she lectures and conducts workshops and instructor trainings internationally, with a specialty in women’s health. Her signature program, Radiant Lotus Women’s Qigong, is now taught worldwide, and the accompanying DVD series, Beginner Qigong for Women 1 & 2, and Qigong for Women are bestsellers on Amazon.

Daisy also teaches co-ed programs, including instructor certifications in Radiant Lotus Zang Fu Gong, an organ-energizing and balancing practice. She continues to train students in ancient systems such as Wuji Hundun Qigong and Five Animal Qigong, andis the 59th-generation lineage holder of Hua Tuo’s original Five Animal Frolics from Bo Zhou, China, a classic among Qigong systems.

Daisy has been a special guest lecturer at numerous hospitals, including Johns Hopkins, Mount Sinai, and Women’s College, supporting patients and medical staff alike in learning how to de-stress and regain vibrant health.

With her warm, engaging approach to sharing this ancient art and science, she has modernized how people understand and experience Qigong. Her students come from a wide spectrum of the population, including business entrepreneurs, homemakers, high school and university students, veterans and others suffering from PTSD, Olympic athletes, martial artists, and all those who desire practical, transformative self-care.

Daisy continues to teach worldwide and online for The Shift Network and other platforms, offering teacher certifications and workshops throughout North America, Europe, Australia, and Central America. Together with her partner, Mark Roule, she is looking forward to announcing the opening of the Radiant Lotus Retreat Center in Isabela, Puerto Rico, in 2022.

Catalyst is produced by The Shift Network to feature inspiring stories and provide information to help shift consciousness and take practical action. To receive Catalyst twice a month, sign up here.

This article appears in: 2021 Catalyst, Issue 6 - Somatic Movement Summit