Changing the World Spiritually and Economically is Easier Than You Think ' World Tai Chi & Qigong Day
By Bill Douglas
The issues the world faces seem so complex and intractable, but what if they weren’t? What if fixing the world was simple and elegant? Would you want to be a part of that fix? On the last Saturday of April, we held the 20th annual World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, a global health and healing event observed in 80 countries around the world. If you look at the data, this event may literally be a catalyst for global health and healing on many levels.
Angela Wong Douglas
A 20-year study revealed that 70 percent of all illness sending people to doctors is caused by stress — not aggravated by stress, but caused by stress. After seeing that study from Kaiser Permanente, we contacted Dr. David Sobel and Kaiser to talk about the study. Dr. Sobel noted that depending on how you looked at the data, that 70 percent number could go as high as 85 percent of illness being caused by stress. Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard, author of the world renowned, The Relaxation Response, stated that between 60 to 90 percent of all illness is best dealt with by mind-body approaches like Tai Chi, Qigong, Yoga, and Meditation.
My wife, Angela Wong Douglas, and I founded World Tai Chi Day. Initially, what drove us to do this was what we saw when we were commissioned to teach Tai Chi and Qigong Meditation for a major health network about 20 years ago. This was our first experience teaching Tai Chi and Qigong Meditation at a hospital, where many health professionals saw amazing benefits from the 8-week program we did there. This inspired us to reach out to media with emerging medical research on Tai Chi and Qigong — and caused us anguish and frustration when we got no response. Why were we so bent on sharing this medical research with the public, via the media?
During that 8-week Tai Chi and Qigong Meditation Program we conducted, a surgeon who had joined the class out of curiosity was amazed when a chronic pain and limited mobility issue she’d been suffering from for years suddenly went away. As a surgeon, she had explored all known standard medical therapies for her issue, to no avail. When our program resulted in her regaining full mobility and complete release of chronic pain, it blew her mind.
A pharmacologist who had also joined the class out of curiosity was taken off of his hypertension medications by his general practitioner after the 8-week program. He had been on hypertension meds for years, and suddenly his doctor found he no longer needed them. Other health professionals in that first class had similar benefits, and today one of those participants includes Tai Chi in her rehabilitation program she directs at Research Medical Hospital. An ER physician in that class, Dr. John Hernandez, was stunned when his ER staff told him after weeks in the Tai Chi program, “John, we don’t know what you’ve been doing, but you are way easier to get along with than you used to be, so please keep doing it.”
Some of these physicians began using their hospital medical database to find medical research on Tai Chi, and began handing it to us in class. Realize, this was 20 years ago, before we were familiar with the internet, so we had been unaware of this medical research. We had taught Tai Chi and Qigong Meditation for life enhancement and stress reduction mostly in Yoga Studio settings — not as a medical therapy, and not in hospitals. At that time, Tai Chi was largely viewed as “just another martial art.”
This event opened our eyes to a huge realization that expanded as the Kaiser research and Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard’s data showed that mind-body practices like Tai Chi and Qigong could effectively save our nation hundreds of billions of dollars each year on healthcare costs. Our minds began to spin — what could our nation do with hundreds of billions of dollars saved each year? Data shows that it would only take 30 billion a year to end global starvation.
So we reached out to media with the medical research the physicians handed to us, thinking the media would rush to alert their readers and viewers that most of the illnesses they faced could be effectively treated or avoided by mind-body practices. When the response we got was crickets chirping — virtual silence; in other words no response at all — we became frustrated. How could we get the media to pay attention to a solution that could change the world? One day, in a meditation, an idea popped into my mind. Let’s organize a mass Tai Chi exhibition in a spectacular setting, because Tai Chi is perhaps the most “photogenic” of all the mind-body practices, and then invite the media to cover it. How could television media resist such a spectacular photo op?
It turned out, they couldn’t resist it. We organized about 200 people to do Tai Chi in front of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, a gorgeous museum in Kansas City. The media showed up in droves, several TV crews and print media came to cover it, and CNN picked up a feed, which we discovered when we started getting contacted by other Tai Chi and Qigong groups around the world who asked, “How can we participate in this?” This local event evolved into World Tai Chi & Qigong Day (WTCQD).
And the rest is history. Today this event is held annually on the last Saturday of April in hundreds of cities in over 80 nations. The official website provides participants with media kits and medical research on Tai Chi and Qigong, so that when they organize their local mass Tai Chi and Qigong exhibitions and get media coverage, they can use that media exposure to educate the community and world on Tai Chi and Qigong medical research.
As this event was embraced worldwide, involving WTCQD events in Israel, Iran, Russia, and America, we were moved by how Tai Chi had melted boundaries and borders and brought the world together for health and healing. This event’s motto became “One World… One Breath.” Events have been held at the United Nations, Nobel Peace Center, in Brazil’s National Congress, etc.
Bill and Angela Wong Douglas, the authors of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tai Chi & Qigong and The Tao of Tai Chi: The Making of a New Science, are the founders of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day. They were the 2009 Inductees to the World Internal Arts Hall of Fame in New York. They have been lifelong human rights, social justice, and environmental activists for 40 years. Bill is an award-winning writer and novelist whose books drive home a theme that we can change our world by changing our consciousness and our perspective of what’s possible.The issues the world faces seem so complex and intractable, but what if they weren’t? What if fixing the world was simple and elegant? Would you want to be a part of that fix? On the last Saturday of April, we held the 20th annual World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, a global health and healing event observed in 80 countries around the world. If you look at the data, this event may literally be a catalyst for global health and healing on many levels.
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This article appears in: 2019 Catalyst, Issue 10: Personal and Global Transformation Through Yoga