By Anya Bochman
For YuLi Chen of Mount Olive, the path to physical and emotional healing consisted of turning to an established meditation practice that is currently growing in popularity in the United States and worldwide. Chen, who is in her 60s and a native of Shanghai, China, first became a practitioner, and now an instructor of Bodhi Meditation. The holistic approach to health and emotional wellness is something that Chen is hoping to popularize within her community.
Bodhi Meditation was founded by Meditation Master JinBodhi in 1991. Its goals, expressed in its mission statement, are to impart “practical, effective meditation techniques as a way of strengthening the energy of the physical body, and to inspire the spiritual mind so as to bring greater health and joy to the world at large.”
With guidance and teachings based on compassion, Bodhi Meditation focuses on the concepts of cause and effect, as well as a commitment to loving and protecting all sentient beings. The core technique taught in Bodhi Meditation is the Meditation of Greater Illumination, which complements with the practice of the Meditation of Purity, chanting, prostration, Energy BaGua and the Meditation of Awakening Wisdom to meet the various needs and circumstances of students. Available to all interested participants, the practice is not limited to geography or language.
JinBodhi was born in 1964, in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. His childhood was rife with poverty and disease; according
to Bodhi Meditation’s official Web site, JinBodhi studied traditional philosophy and meditation for 18 years, in the process strengthening his body and mind and gaining insight into ways to help eliminate the illnesses and suffering of others.
Founding Bodhi Meditation in 1991, JinBodhi adopted the 12 Great Vows of the Medicine Buddha and began teaching his practices. He first gained prominence in China, purportedly reaching tens of millions of people.
JinBodhi immigrated to Canada in 1999 and in 2005, began teaching in Vancouver. Today, his teachings have spread to more than 30 countries and regions across the world.
A distillation of JinBodhi’s practices after decades of self-cultivation, Energy BaGua is a walking meditation specifically geared towards the modern lifestyle. Its slow, simple movements are designed to put the practitioners in tune with nature, cultivate the body and mind, ultimately leading to health and happiness.
Purportedly developed by Buddhist monks some 4,000 years ago, the circular walking technique was useful in generating a healthy body, relaxed nerves and great stamina, which the monks needed for daily work and prolonged meditation. Today, it lists among its attributes increasing concentration power and mental strength, enhancing the immune system, strengthening bones and rapidly replenishing vital energy. It is likewise helpful for circulatory system problems.
Energy BaGua’s healing powers appealed to Chen, who was born and raised in Shanghai, China and has been a resident of New Jersey for about 20 years. Though in her 60s and currently retired, Chen says she still has “the energy to serve the community.”
Explaining that she was quite sick before 2014, with ailments ranging from stress to physical illness in the form of insomnia, neck, back and knee pain, Chen was looking for an alternative method to wellness.
“I tried both Western modern medicine and Chinese traditional medicine, nothing worked. My best friend introduced me to Bodhi Meditation in New York City; I learned a couple of meditation methods there and started practicing,” Chen said. “I saw the results very soon, my physical condition got much better and my mind finally found peace.”
Chen learned Energy BaGua at the NYC Bodhi Meditation Center in April of 2014. As a result of completing her studies, she has a teaching certificate issued by the center and her teacher, Master JinPuti. The certification means that Chen is now able to instruct others in the practice of Energy BaGua.
BaGua draws its central principles from Buddhist philosophy, with the yin yang playing a prominent role. According to BaGua practice, the yin yang fish pattern is actually a symbol of the energy storage in the abdomen. This energy, known as “qi,” flows to the “four tips” of the body – its limbs. The proper channel of qi flows from the arms to the hands, the fingers and the fingernails. Translated into Western terms, it is “like doing a massage to your whole body.”
“[In Energy BaGua] we exchange energy with the universe,” Chen said. “We absorb the positive energy meanwhile pushing the negative energy outside our body. We use the positive energy to heal our body and release stress.”
Energy BaGua also holds that for true recovery, the human body needs at least 108 hours, with one to two maximum hours of practice per day. It is best if the meditation is performed at the same time every day.
Put into physical practice, Energy BaGua is in essence a form of meditation whereby participants walk in a circular path around a tree. An unfortunate drawback is that the repetitive movement sometimes erodes circular bald patches in areas that are covered with grass, which has led several parks in Malaysia to ban the practice on its grounds to preserve the natural landscape.
This physical side effect of the walking meditation is not an issue in non-grass covered areas, and is a negligible concern to the peaceful, earth-centered practice.
“The tree is a tool we use to communicate with the universe and exchange the energy,” Chen said. “The tree is green and represents life, green plants provide us with more energy than the rest of the objects. It is just a wider channel for us to absorb energy.”
In addition to relieving stress and anxiety, Chen explained that Energy BaGua also improves sleep quality, “revitalizes life force energy” and improves concentration, focus and brain power.
“The practice helps realize true potentials, boost immune system and recover from ill health, strengthen bones and increase flexibility, beautify appearance, improve memory and delay aging process,” said Chen. “Results will vary based on your practice time and your health condition.”
There are currently 30 Bodhi Meditation Centers that practice BaGua, in countries such as Canada, the United States, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and Myanmar. Since the establishment of the Bodhi Meditation Center in New York, more than 20 practice groups have sprung up in the area.
As a resident of Mount Olive, Chen wants to start promoting the practice locally. Her plan is to begin as soon as possible with a small group of around four to five people. The group would meet four times a week, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. As the tenets of Energy BaGua hold that the practice is most beneficial in the morning, in concert with the rising sun, the time for the sessions will be scheduled accordingly. As it becomes more prominent, Chen hopes that the group membership will expand.
Chen already has a staunch supporter in Richard LaLonde, a retired HR Manager for RR Donnelley in Secaucus. A lifelong resident of Mount Olive, 67-year-old LaLonde has deep roots in the area, his parents having owned and operated a dairy farm in the township until 1960. Sometimes serving as interpreter for Chen when she struggles to find the precise English term for something, LaLonde is dedicated in his efforts to help her get the Energy BaGua program off the ground.
LaLonde first met Chen in Turkey Brook Park about a month ago while taking a walk with his wife, Michela. The two noticed Chen as she was performing Energy BaGua and stopped to inquire about her practice. After Chen explained the nature of Energy BaGua and that she was attempting to institute the practice in Mount Olive, she expressed anxiety that her accent and unfamiliarity with potential resources may hinder the process. Chen was looking for someone to assist her in this endeavor; LaLonde volunteered for the job.
While LaLonde has to date actively participated in one Energy BaGua session, he has met with Chen several times to sort out logistics of implementing the program in the township, as well as to learn more about the practice and its benefits.
“Having suffered chronic illness for a number of years I am excited as to the possible benefits it has to offer,” LaLonde said. “I think time will tell as to the overall benefits of the program. However, I think it provides an opportunity for people of the town to participate in a free program that can help them to learn a relaxation technique that will help to relieve pain and reduce stress.”
The efforts towards Mount Olive’s own Energy BaGua practice have so far met with success; several township institutions have agreed to promote the program for free. On May 6, the township gave Chen official permission to practice and instruct BaGua at Turkey Brook Park. Likewise, the Mount Olive Library also assisted Chen, arranging for an Energy Bagua introduction and group practice on June 8.
Community involvement is no small part of the benefit of the walking meditation, something that LaLonde noted.
“In addition to the physical and mental benefits, the program provides an opportunity to meet other individuals in our community,” he stated.
For her part, Chen emphasized community involvement as well.
“Energy BaGua helps millions of people in the world right now. I just want to help the local community. Help all the people in need,” Chen said.
“I would say that YuLi’s passion and desire to help others is what will make her successful in this endeavor,” added LaLonde. “YuLi is not doing this for any personal gain but strictly in the hopes of helping others in our area enjoy the benefits of the program for free.”