Are you sitting down right now? Maybe you’re reading this at a desk, standing waiting your turn for service or relaxing in an easy chair. Here’s how to take one minute to focus on your health. Simply bring your mind to the position of your body, squeeze your shoulders up to your ears and then drop them down. Are you comfortable? Put your feet flat on the floor and stretch your torso straight. Take a full, deep breath in and out, and then another.
As you breath out, tell yourself “thank you.” You just tuned in to your Qi.
Qi is a Chinese word meaning life energy– every living thing contains it. Gong means work. Qi Gong, or Chi Gong as it is also spelled, means energy workout. The workout includes a 30-minute sequence of slow-paced deliberate movements with coordinated breathing and a mental focus on your body position as you move. Your mental focus reduces stress, helping you to develop resilience and support your health. When you are truly engaged with the movement in this way you feel connected to those around you and all living things, enhancing your overall well being. This is how Qi Gong encompasses body, mind and spirit and acts as a complement to your good health strategy. It will help you increase both flexibility and stability along with building strength and stamina.
You can work out on your own or participate in a group. When you move with focus you are opening up to receive Qi, the energy that is all around. As you focus your mind and drop distracting thoughts you are freed to receive it. In Chinese medicine this energy is your vital life force, your essence. You nourish and replenish it with each mindful breath you take.
It’s a short leap from Qi to a better understanding of why we should choose wisely when selecting food to eat. You are nourishing your life force, so fresh and seasonal is best! Right now it’s strawberry season in New England and while they are delicious picked sweet and warmed by the sun straight off the plant and into the mouth, when they are so abundant it’s fun to double up, with my favorite,
Strawberries on Strawberries.
Take one quart of strawberries, rinse and divide the contents into two piles–no need to be precise.
Hull one half and portion into serving bowls.
Hull the other half and purée to your desired texture- anywhere from lightly crushed to smooth, just so long as you get a nice juicy mix.
You can use a fork to crush and a potato masher to mash – especially good techniques with young children helping. Be sure to use a deep bowl and wear a splashguard! You can also quickly puree in a blender or food processor.
Taste your slush–it’s pretty good as it is, right? You can of course get creative with flavor, adding fresh herbs– a sprinkle of chopped basil or mint, or a bit of spice- ginger but not cinnamon. Or you could go bold and try black pepper and balsamic vinegar.
On a hot day a spoonful of strawberry sorbet or ice cream would be welcome, too.
Photos by Claire Mauro