Interview with Bill Helm
On June 29th and 30th, we will host a much anticipated continuing education workshop with Bill Helm, so we thought we’d interview him and get first-hand answers to some of the questions you might have. Whether you have been following Bill for many years or are just now reading his name for the first time, read on for some insights into Bill’s background as well as his plans for the upcoming workshop here in Portland. (We recommend reserving your spot early!)
How did you first become interested in Asian martial and healing arts?
A: I started with karate when I was 15. That was in 1965. Back then, not a whole lot of the more internal things were available, and I wouldn’t have known what that meant anyway. Then I got involved what was called the human potential movement. That’s where I first made contact with t’ai chi. So I started practicing that, along with tuina, energy healing and more.
What was it about t’ai chi that was so compelling to you?
A: I was very interested in energy, and the potential of tai chi to use energy consciously. Before I discover that, I liked to fight and I liked to practice energy healing and meditation and all that, but it was separate. T’ai chi for me brought the two together.
What is your upcoming workshop ‘Qigong in Everyday Practice’ all about?
For one, I will teach a specific set of qigong exercises. I developed those when I was studying at the Shanghai Medical College where they had specific exercises for healing professionals to develop a healthy body so they could practice medicine.
So those exercises are great for acupuncturists, bodyworkers, herbalist, and other healing professionals, but they are also applicable to everyone who work a lot or maybe are hunched over a computer for most of the day. Some of the exercises focus more on stretching and flexibility, others open up the joints and get the qi moving, and some have a meditative component that enable you to relax. It’s a nice little sequence.
I will also talk about Chinese medicine concepts of longevity. The Chinese are very interested in living long and healthy lives, specifically with regards to what they call the three treasures: shen, qi, and jing. Shen refers to the mind, and also our endocrine and sexual systems. Qi refers to the energetic system, and jing to the physical or structural aspects. On their quest for longevity or immortality, the Chinese explored very practical aspects such as nutrition and herbs.
On a very practical level, how can one integrate qigong into one’s professional or personal life?
The sequence I will be teaching takes about 25-30 minutes. It can be practiced as a complete set, or you can select single exercises. It depends on how much time and energy you have. It’s best done in the morning, because it restores the alignment of the body. So really, it would turn into a daily short practice.
For people who are very new to all this, can you recommend a resource to get an idea of Taoism, qigong, and concepts of longevity and health in Chinese Medicine?
Yes, a good book to start with here is The Taoist Body by Kristofer Shipper.