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Finding the peace: Qigong is subject of upcoming conference

“This time of year, spring, is a healing time, growing time, filled with hope and joy,” says Spring Forest Qigong founder Chunyi Lin.

Chunyi Lin at the Spring Forest Qigong center in Eden Prairie.
Photo by Jim Walsh

Every weekend, Normandale Community College in West Bloomington transforms into an unlikely epicenter of alternative health and spirituality, with classes and workshops in everything from yoga and tai chi to sound therapy, hypnosis, homeopathy, herbalism and feng shui. One of the continuing education program’s most popular courses is in Spring Forest Qigongtaught by founder Chunyi Lin, a 55-year-old wise man and healer who operates out of a humble but good energy-steeped office in an Eden Prairie strip mall.

“You have to go deep into the heart to find the peace,” said Lin, sitting in one of the six-year-old center’s meeting rooms last week, as the nine full- and part-time employees quietly tended to the business of healing. “I think that with the more technology that’s developed, and people focusing more and more on the material side and gradually coming to find that ‘the more you gain and the more you have, the happier you will be’ is not the case. Actually, if you want to find the true happiness, the true happiness is in the heart.

“When peace is found, then you’re able to activate the love energy from the heart to help you to heal. Lots of people have critical challenges, and by going deeper into the heart they’re able to find that energy, find that place, to help themselves make a balance. And when that happens, they usually call that ‘miracles.’ ”

The miracles happen as a result of qigong, a 5,000-year-old Chinese meditation, breathing, and energy flow practice that Lin discovered when he was a young man struggling with arthritis brought on by basketball and working on the family farm in China. The practice healed his knees and joints completely, and in the early ‘90s he began refining the “too time-consuming and complicated” version of qigong he’d studied in China into Spring Forest Qigong (named for spring’s restorative powers and the connective qualities of trees) as “something simple, that takes less time, and gives more benefit.”

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“Everything is energy,” said Lin. “ ‘Qigong’ means ‘chi,’ or energy, and ‘gong,’ work. Over thousands of years, these masters and doctors discovered so many different ways to cultivate this chi in our body. They have Daoist qigong, Buddhist qigong, but actually qigong has nothing to do with any of the religions. What they do have in common is that the power of chi, of the healing, is through love, and all these beautiful religions talk about love. So you combine all this beautiful love with the energy, and the energy is even more powerful.”

Some 300,000 students worldwide

Testimonials abound and Lin is respected worldwide by traditional and nontraditional medical experts alike, yet given the “new age” nature of the subject, the most extensive media coverage he and his work has received is this Gary Rebstock-produced KMSP-TV piece from 1997. Rebstock, a former news anchor, is now a communications consultant who co-penned Lin’s biography and has assisted Lin in the creation of his instructional DVDs, CDs, and manuals. “There are now some 300,000 Spring Forest Qigong students worldwide,” said Rebstock, who points to this Fox 9 update as a sign of qigong’s growing mainstream acceptance.

“Thousands of people each year come to see Chunyi at his center in Eden Prairie. He has taught classes all over the United States, in Canada, in the Netherlands, and he’s been invited to teach in numerous other countries. This year, in association with his long-time partner the Learning Strategies Corporation, he’ll be teaching in England and Australia.

“There are hundreds of Spring Forest Qigong practice groups now across the U.S. and in nearly a dozen countries overseas. This is a grass-roots effort. People who have found Spring Forest Qigong so beneficial in their own lives hold these practice groups. They invite people into their homes to share SFQ with them. That alone, to me, speaks volumes about the benefits of Spring Forest Qigong.”

To be sure, were Lin afforded a media audience the size the Pope recently drew, the Chanhassen-based anti-guru might have taken his moment at the worldwide pulpit to impart his life mission (“A healer in every family and a world without pain”) and his simple philosophy of inner peace through unconditional love, which translates into the easily remembered mantra of “SMILE,” or, “Start My Internal Love Engine.”

“If you believe it, it works; if you don’t believe it, it still works,” he said, smiling broadly, infectiously. “No matter what, when you put a smile on your face, the body magically produces endorphins, that good-feeling hormone that gets you feeling good. Lots of scientific studies show that once you put a smile on your face, the endorphins can even kill the pain cells.”

Came to U.S. as exchange student

Lin worked as a college professor and teacher trainer in China, and came to Sibley High School in 1992 on an exchange program to observe the American education system. Two years later he set up a sister school program between a school in China and Anoka Ramsey Community College, and helped forge a sister-city relationship between Coon Rapids in Minneapolis and Zhao Qing in China. He left China to escape the oppression of the Chinese government, and continues to work with his former homeland “because I want to bring peace to China.”

These days, Lin rises at 4:30 to meditate, chant, and practice qigong. He has breakfast with his wife and elementary school-age daughter (the couple also have a son at Tufts University) and then it’s off to work, where he sees clients in person or via teleconference. The demands on his time are growing, but at a time when self-help experts are a viral cottage industry, Lin is a true wise man who deflects any talk of fame.

“I never consider myself famous, I never considered myself that important,” he said. “All this fame that is given to people, you don’t own it. The only thing you own yourself is the heart. I know I love people. I know I want to receive more peace in this world. In this life, at the time when I’m going to leave, I want to feel I am proud because I have done something together with so many people to make this place a much better place for others, and for our children, and grandchildren, and many people in the future. That is what I focus on. I don’t care how people look at me.

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Rebstock: “In all the years I’ve known him, I’ve never witnessed anything self-aggrandizing about him. He doesn’t hold himself out as some sort of guru. He doesn’t present Spring Forest Qigong as ‘the’ way, but simply a way. If you have already found a way that works for you, then Chunyi will always encourage you to stick with it. He just wants people to be health and happy and to share their love and joy with others.”

Spring Forest Qigong conference

The weekend of April 19 at the Crown Plaza West in Plymouth, hundreds of Spring Forest Qigong newbies and vets will gather to learn from Lin and other healers at the annual Spring Forest Qigong world conference. This year’s topic is “Finding Peace in the Heart,” a message Line believes will resonate long after he and the rest of the conference-goers are gone.

“We’re talking to everybody in our team to think about how 500 or 1,000 years from now, Spring Forest Qigong still be out there for people, with the peace, with the healing,” he said. “What we’re doing now is so meaningful for the future, because we focus on helping people to discover the peace in our hearts.

“Things outside, you don’t have too much control. Just like the weather. Happy or not happy, it’s about you. Focus within you and on how much you can do. Purify yourself. My destination is as a healer, and no matter if it’s sunny or cloudy outside, my focus is the same: healing. And this time of year, spring, is a healing time, growing time, filled with hope and joy.”