(Over)living through, with and for Taijiquan

It took me a little over four years to write down this report, an account of my experience, or rather, my survival experience, and make it public.

2019 was a taiji-intensive year for me, perhaps even more so than the other 17 years before. In the meantime, Chen Taijiquan had become a philosophy and way of life that accompanied my everyday life. My daily Taiji practice now also included in-depth study of the Dao De Jing and in particular the commentaries on the DDJ by our Taiji master, Jan Silberstorff. In order to be able to classify what I have said correctly, I must mention at this point that I was not a full-time taiji practitioner, but rather a teacher in a state school, pursuing my social mission, my duties as a mother and wife, as a daughter, sister, and so on.

And then came the day that changed my life completely, at least at first.

Master Chen Yingjun gave another course in Berlin and I  took part, of course. On one of these days, I suddenly felt sick during the course and couldn't continue practicing. A taiji friend drove me home and I was unable to go to the course the next day either. I was vomiting, had severe pain in my lower abdomen and incessant diarrhea. It was impossible to go to the doctor, so the emergency medical service came to my home instead.

Diagnosis: gastrointestinal virus infection, which was particularly prevalent in Berlin and was characterized by a very painful course.
Doctor's advice: lie down, sleep, diet, endure the severe pain for a few days, then the "spook" would soon be over.

After 10 days, the spook was still not over. I felt that my life energy was diminishing more and more. Around 18 hours of sleep a day became normal or necessary.

Seeking help, I turned to my martial arts master and spiritual teacher, Jan Silberstorff. Two sentences from him and his support accompanied me through everything that followed. Suddenly I had an idea of what had happened and knew what I had to do. I admitted myself to hospital, told the doctors my suspicions, which were confirmed and resulted in an immediate operation.

I had survived a triple rupture of the appendix.

What I didn't know at the time was that it would take over a year to really survive. Because all my organs were now involved, working on a low flame and had to be activated "to life" again. I spent many days in hospital with infusions and felt too weak to move. But I knew I had to move!

And now the real experience report is just beginning, which I absolutely have to pass on.

I briefly sat on the edge of the bed and tried something like Cansigong, 3x frontal silk exercise with the right arm, 3x with the left arm, and then went back to sleep exhausted. The next day, the physiotherapist came to activate me to walk. Under the protection of her presence, I practiced Taijiquan, 3 steps forward, 3 steps backward and then went back to sleep. When I was discharged from hospital, it was important for me to run a 9-step form in the park there. Although the word 'running' seems rather exaggerated. My training at home started with 3 minutes of standing meditation, close to a wall and also secured to the front.

Three months later, Master Jan Silberstorff gave a course in Berlin, where I lived. Until then, I had only been able to move within a small radius outside my apartment so that I could sleep again quickly. I saw the course as a challenge and an opportunity to make further progress in my recovery. I took part in the exercises as far as my strength allowed, only to go to sleep in the changing room from time to time. The times I exercised became longer and the times I rested in the changing room became shorter. The hoped-for chance of recovery progress turned out to be greater than I could ever have imagined. It should be noted here that we also practiced Grand Master Chen Xiaowang's lung qigong, Yifeigong, during this course.

At the time, we didn't know that the coronavirus would soon trigger a pandemic. In spring 2020, there was also a lockdown for us in Germany. As I was at home and sleeping most of the day anyway, it didn't seem to change much for me. However, I experienced a time of great solidarity in my environment. Young and healthy people offered their help to sick and old people so that they didn't have to go shopping, for example. People played music from balconies and much more. It all touched me deeply and I knew what I had to do.

My recovery progress was undulating and allowed me to practise Qigong or Taijiquan for about 15 minutes and then go back to sleep. I thought of the many people who do not know about this precious treasure and therefore cannot practise it. So I invited all the residents (70 tenants) to look out from their windows or balconies onto the large inner courtyard where I was standing on fixed days and times to practise 'Yifeigong' with me for 10 minutes. We did this regularly throughout the lockdown. Some days I felt so weak that I wouldn't have gone out into the courtyard without this exercise. But there were people waiting for me. And after the 10 minutes, I felt better again.

Side note: Many months later, I met an elderly couple from our block of flats who practiced Yifeigong in the park. They told me that they had been practicing it every day since our "yard dates" because it was so good for them. Even now, almost four years later, they still practise it every day, as they confirmed to me during our photo session in the courtyard of our block of flats, adding with a smile that if they realize in the evening that they have forgotten to do it, they do it on the balcony before going to bed. 

Back to my survival experience:
The WCTAG Taiji training group that I had been leading until then became a great support to me during my recovery phase. At first, they continued to train independently as a group without me. Then I gradually joined them again. I was picked up for the short journey from home by car by a participant who, as a nurse of many years' standing, always examined my condition with a scrutinizing eye. During the training, I was allowed to participate passively for about 20 minutes, sitting on a chair, before being taken home again. My participation increased by a few minutes from week to week.  

After about a year, a doctor said to me: "In my opinion, it would hardly have been possible for you to have survived this without your Qigong and Taiji base with the appropriate diet and lifestyle."

Years before, I had already spoken out in favor of the value of complementary medicine. This was also the case for me. I was in urgent need of conventional medicine and equally urgent need of alternative healing methods. I received essential help from manuka honey.  When I took a closer look at its principle of action, I recognized a similarity with our Taijiquan. We martial artists never attack, but if we are attacked, we know how to neutralize the attack and defend ourselves accordingly. Manuka honey has a proven antiseptic effect. It has a selective antimicrobial effect. Pathogenic germs are neutralized, while healthy bacteria are strengthened. In contrast, antibiotics kill germs, including the beneficial ones.

Der Titel meines Erfahrungsberichtes lautet: „(Über-) Leben durch, mit und für Taijiquan.“ Nun habe ich das „durch“ und das „mit“ erwähnt. Bleibt noch das „für“ zu klären.

Ich hatte mich irgendwann gefragt: „Was habe ich noch hier auf Erden zu tun, wenn mir diese Chance des Weiterlebens eingeräumt wurde?“

Nun ja, zunächst war es wohl wichtig, diese Erfahrung niederzuschreiben und öffentlich zu machen, um möglichst vielen Taijilern und noch nicht Taijilern mit diesem Beispiel zu zeigen, welch große Hilfe Qigong und Taijiquan in unserem Leben sein kann. Natürlich werde ich auch weiterhin als Lehrkraft dieses wertvolle Geschenk einsetzen. Taijiquan kann wirklich Vieles bewegen, doch zu guter Letzt darf ich noch eine essenzielle Erkenntnis, die mir zuteil wurde, weitergeben. Es gab während meiner Überlebenserfahrung einen Augenblick, in dem mir klar wurde, dass alles, ja wirklich alles geschieht, weil eine höhere Instanz es so vorsieht.

Als Christ heißt meine höhere Instanz GOTT. „Dein Wille geschehe“ waren die Worte aus dem christlichen ,Vaterunser Gebet’, die ich mich sagen hörte, als ich aufgehört hatte zu kämpfen und mich dem Schicksal hingab. Heute weiß ich, das war der Beginn meiner Heilung.

Ich beende diesen Bericht unter dem Eindruck einer Taijiquan-Trainingsreise zum Lehrgang mit Meister Jan Silberstorff in Lanckorona (Polen), in Dankbarkeit und Demut für alles, was mir das Leben bereitet.

24.02.2024    Barbara Christiane Wolf