Enter the stillness: Qigong retreat centre in County Clare



The meditation hall at the Sunyata Centre, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare
I spent the weekend at the Sunyata retreat centre in County Clare, looking for a bit of silence. It was a weekend course  called ‘Enter the great stillness:the mystical side of Qigong.’

Friday morning was difficult. The cows had to be put in the pen for the second half of the TB test, which entails looking at the injection site to see if it is inflamed. Having all been stabbed in the neck on Tuesday they decided it was a really bad idea to go back in the pen. They ignored the bucket and raced up and down the fields refusing to go in the gate. Eventually my husband got into the car and tried to turn a VW golf into a cattle dog. It resulted in a broken headlight and a cow with a nasty cut on her back leg. So we gave up and hours later got them in using patience, stealth and lots of confusingly placed buckets of feed.

Then I started on the computer. I had agreed to turn the Kinvara Cardiac Response Guidelines, that we are drawing up, into a nice little A5 document. After downloading a huge and complicated free publishing software package and eventually understanding how to work it, I was about to complete the last page of the booklet and a message popped up ‘if you need another page please send $90’ at which point the children were home, exhausted, starving and clingy after the first two days of school.
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So I got out the credit card, googled ‘meditation retreat’ rang Marion (originally from Texas) at the Sunyata centre and she said their was a place left on the course. I had never heard of Qigong, all I saw in the title was ‘stillness’ and thought it sounded perfect. It was. My husband had got through to the next stage of interview with Boston Scientific, an engineering aptitude test, which he did on Friday. As soon as he got home I was winging my way down to County Clare.

Qigong is the ancient practice of gathering the healing energy of the universe through gentle, graceful, mystical movements. For two days I did 8 hours of Qi Gong with about two hours of meditation in between. I did movements such as 'arrive at oneness' and 'bridge over heaven's river.' The hall was beautiful, looking out over a vast expanse of green countryside and trees, with little birds chattering. The retreat is in the middle of nowhere and the only visitor we had was a lone white puck goat that wandered into the courtyard.

A short stroll away through a bit of forest brings you to a waterfall where dark peaty water pours in rivelets, over two boulders, into a pool and rolls over a log to splash into the stream below.
I returned on Sunday buzzing like a buddah, my head clear, full of energy, with my feet firmly planted on the ground.
Our teacher Max Weier, learnt his skills from Master Lee (see video below for a short introduction to sitting qi gong) who was a famous kung fu expert, even winning a Chinese oscar.
He gave up kung fu to become a Qigong master.

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