We think we have found a silver lining inside this pandemic. It all started back in March, with a quiet, simple picnic in nature, with friends, Dr. Kuhn, Kate, and myself, Patti. An escape from COVID-19, a chance to recharge, and to get out of the house. In order to gain a fresh perspective, we went back to basics, and we found getting together outside does wonders for the soul.
We piled into Dr. Kuhn's car in search of just the right place. We wanted trees for shade, maybe a pond or a lake, some wildlife and preferably not a lot of people around. We consulted our maps, our park websites and places we had always wanted to explore but just never had the time. We found a nearby park, and our mission was to relax, and just "be." We often hear Dr. Kuhn's voice. "If you can quiet your mind, you always find wisdom from the nature." As we walked to find our spot to set up, we consciously stopped talking, breathed deeply and just listened. Being in nature it was easy. The many different sounds of birds, the moving water, and the wind in the trees were magnified by the stillness of the warm day. The smells and sights of just being outside were a welcome change from indoor air conditioning, stuffiness, and the news on the television.
We brought some chairs and a blanket and shared our lunch/food and kicked back—total relaxation. The busyness of the world and all of its problems seemed far away. Coronavirus, the economy, the political landscape, racial tensions, not to mention what is going on in our own personal lives. It is possible to follow world events and keep one's sanity, too. Living in a bubble won't work, a simple road trip makes all the difference. While eating lunch we had insightful conversations; we laughed and shared. We all agreed that we might not have had this little outing together had we not needed to get out from being locked down.
Perhaps, we thought, now's the time to be a tourist in our own "backyard." We need to get off the beaten path, away from what is familiar and get back to nature. Nature is a healer and being in nature heals. We felt renewed and rejuvenated afterward, and at that moment, we decided to get together the following week. We quickly saw the benefit of being outdoors and away from it all. We began to feel "balanced" and whole. Our spirits lifted and we all agreed that being outside was therapeutic healing. We realized there are many parks, recreation areas, and beaches that needed to be experienced!
Dr. Kuhn always has some inspiration to add to our outing. My favorite is when she talks about some of the principles of Eastern medicine and how man is inseparable from the universe. She tells us how Daoism is a philosophical system founded by Laozi born in 604 BCE. And that his students wrote the majority of the foundation of this philosophy. She reminds us that it is the ancients that observed the natural changes of their environment, moon, star and planet cycles and seasonal changes. Sitting with friends, inhaling the clean air and observing nature around us, it's easy to understand some of the basic concepts of these laws of nature, or the Dao, "the way or the path."
And every week since then, we head out early in the morning to a park/beach to explore. We take turns picking the place, a different one each time. You will now find us in our beach chairs (six feet apart) somewhere in nature, around a small folding table covered with a printed Japanese tablecloth and a small centerpiece of wildflowers. Little details can give us much joy!
We share whatever food we brought (American, Chinese, and Estonian cuisine), and we use real forks, real knives, and chopsticks. Food always tastes better when you eat it outside and with friends!
People walking by are curious. They stop and remark how nice it is to see us enjoying ourselves and having a picnic. Imagine that, an old-fashioned picnic! They smile, and nod and some stop to chat, socially distant.
We feel we are a bright light in this pandemic, a divisive nation, and the troubles of 2020. A small group looking for the good, sharing, communing with nature, exploring The Way. Chinese wisdom teaches us that The Dao or The Way, speaks to connecting with nature and the rhythm of the universe. It is about balance and "going with the flow." It is exactly what we were looking for!
Ceremony and Celebration
And then, after we eat, Dr. Kuhn disappears, and before long, we are served tea! We close our eyes and meditate while the tea steeps. We deeply inhale the aroma, we are quiet, we are still and we wait. This is my favorite part of the excursion. Dr. Kuhn then pours from a porcelain teapot, and we drink from real teacups, sitting outside surrounded by trees, water, the birds, and the warm Florida spring air. We are reminded by Dr. Kuhn that "The Dao always keeps you company." We will never be alone. We know that The Dao is always with us and when we shut our eyes we can feel the energy from our natural surroundings. It is always there.
We are beginning to truly understand the value of ceremony and celebration. We are here to celebrate with friends, being healthy, being balanced, being in harmony with nature. Dr. Kuhn was the one to point out that people have to celebrate – still, even in these times. It is not indulgent. It is what we need, especially now. And we think we found it, in a picnic in nature.
The above is an original article written by Dr. Aihan Kuhn, Patti Gerlek, Qigong Instructor and Board Member of the Tai Chi QiGong Healing Institute and Kate Orav, Dr. Kuhn's student. Dr. Kuhn's latest book co-authored with Catherine Kurosu, MD, L.Ac., in the True Wellness series, True Wellness for Your Gut, YMAA Publication Center will be available October 2020, ISBN: 9781594397455