Kundawell is a special place where you feel completely at home. A friendly atmosphere created by the Master and his staff contribute to this warm feeling. I remember Kundawell as a homely nest that you never want to leave but no sooner left you want to return to again, despite the long, ten-hour flight (London-Beijing).
Recently, I found a interview from three years ago, where I say, that "my past is undoubtedly connected to China ... that practicing Tai Chi and Qigong literally elevate me from the earth... when the soul soars ... for which I am eternally grateful to Master Xu Mingtang from China..." If someone told me that providence would bring me to China, I would not have believed it.
In late October, after my return from Yurmala, the decision was taken, though for a long time I was "sitting on the fence", wondering whether to go or not. As Chinese wise men say: “nothing happens too early or too late – everything happens at the right time”. From Kundawell I received detailed information about my treatment program and an invitation to come to China. There was a funny incident with the invitation: in it it was mentioned that I was a Swedish citizen. The Chinese officials told me that I could get my visa only in Stockholm. Perplexed, I wrote about it to Kundawell, and although in Beijing it was already late evening, a new invitation was sent to me immediately. I got my visa in London, for which I am grateful to Svetlana.
Meeting at the airport, the warm welcome in Kundawell by two lively girls, assistants of Master - Lily and Xiang, who gave me some tea, which followed by an invitation to lunch; then greetings from the Master, who was sitting at a table with his colleagues, enjoying light, homely conversation - immediately relieved the tension. From a total stranger you became a part of the friendly Kundawell family.
After lunch, Xiang volunteered to go with me to a local shop to buy a special kind of Chinese yogurt, which I had read about on the plane in my Beijing guidebook.
Every evening the girls brought to my room the schedule for my treatments for the next day, along with a basket with exotic fruits. The schedule consisted of three appointments: a session with the Master himself, another one with an image therapist and massage therapist.
To describe the treatment with the Master is easy and impossible at the same time. It was as though his hand, like some kind of an X-ray, was going right through you, but the heat, coming from his hand, did not burn you; it instantly warmed up all the body.
The Master by nature is a reticent man, and it felt uncomfortable to distract him with questions during the treatment. But one phrase struck me: "You are familiar with everything here, aren’t you?" As if he had read my interview, where I mentioned that "my past was associated with China ..." With regards to medical diagnosis, the Master showed me the problem that provoked all others. By the way, the Master decides on the duration of your stay and treatment. To me he suggested two weeks.
I have been practicing Qigong for more than three years, but I never felt “the hot red energy ball " - the purpose of the "Refining Qi" exercise. Like the prince from an old children's fairy-tale film "Cinderella" has admitted: "I'm not a magician, I'm just learning", even though I became a personal student in Yurmala. But as soon as the Master put his hand on me, the "red ball" began to burn like a small piece of coal. I feel the presence of that heat even today.
Strangely enough, sometimes, during meditation entire passages of my writing come to mind. Before I used to run for some paper and a pen to note it down. Now I wait for the end of meditation.
The Master appointed Katya to be my image therapist. On the day of my arrival, November 3rd, she had received from the Master a new title: image therapist of the second level. Within a few days Katya got ill (viruses roam not just in Europe!), and the Master asked Tanya to tend to me. Communication with both of them gave me some unforgettable moments, when we talked “with our souls and about our souls”.
Li Binglin and Zhang Zihui are the two high level massage therapists. Li spoke a little English, and Zhang, at who's sessions you could hear even men moaning (but after just a few sessions, the pain disappeared), kept repeating a single phrase in Russian: "Painful is good, not painful – not good!" I confess that I also moaned and the stars were flying from my eyes, but then came an extraordinary lightness.
Every morning (before breakfast) we had an hour of exercises, and after dinner we meditated the same amount of time. A young man, Alexei, led classes in an easy, relaxed manner, with lots of fun and without making a guru of himself. I think this approach to teaching and communication was introduced among the employees by the Master himself, whose authority is undisputed, but who remains natural and approachable.
In Kundawell shop I bought a few of the Master's books for my fellow Qigong practitioners in London (once a week we get together in my house for practice). The Master signed them, which made everybody extremely happy. By a friend’s suggestion (and with the help of Lily and Xiang) I got some bracelets made of black "magic" stone Bian-shi (it is believed that they are the fragments of ancient meteorite) for my daughter, my mother and my friends. The bracelets were also blessed by the Master. Whenever I look at my bracelet, I think of the Master's warmth, attention and care.
The woman in the shop and I laughed heartily at my clumsy attempts to say some phrases in Chinese. The indispensable Lily and Xiang solved another language problem during he purchase of Chinese massage “swatters”. They are “simply a must”, as the English say. I also brought to London many varieties of white FuJian tea from Mingxun – the Master’s younger brother.
As for our daily bread: the food in Kundawell was rather insipid (as many people were not allowed to eat salt and hot spices), but varied: plenty to choose from for both meat eaters and vegetarians.
Our group consisted of interesting and creative people. Kundawell brought all of us closer together. I am still in touch with some of the patients. A talented girl from Tyumen sends me her deep and rather sad poems. I get wonderful sketches of Chinese old men writing hieroglyphics with water on the sidewalks from a young woman artist from Yaroslavl. With a friendly couple from Lithuania, who have lived together many years, we exchange our experiences of practicing Qigong. During the tea ceremonies at Kundawell we were entertained by a young musician from Belgorod, who was playing the guitar. Tea ceremonies were arranged alternately by Alexei and our guide in Beijing, Vitaly. On Sunday (treatment free day) we went with him to the Temple of Heaven, visited a restaurant, where everyone had to cook a tasty dish by themselves, using raw meat and vegetables, in special “hot pots". Vitaly invited us to a popular student cafe, called “Sculpting in Time". I could not believe my eyes: it is the title of the book written by Andrei Tarkovsky, with whom I worked in Sweden filming his last film "The Sacrifice”.
And how can I forget our trips to Mariinsky Theatre performances? To come to Beijing to see a ballet with Russian prima ballerina Ulyana Lopatkina! A miraculous event! But miracles continued on my arrival back to London: as soon as I landed I went to see the Beijing opera (the first time in my life). One of the performances was called "Farewell My Concubine", as the famous film of Chinese film director Chen Kaige.
Our guide to "La Bayadere" and three contemporary ballets was Olga Markovna. On the day of my arrival to Kundawell she also received a qualification of image therapist of the first degree. I did not get treatments from Olga Markovna, but we spent two wonderful evenings together.
The Centre for the Performing Arts is located near the largest square in the world - Tiananmen Square; it resembles a giant ostrich egg with a Yin and Yang symbol. The transparent "egg" lies in the lake, where Beijing ducks are swimming (famous Chinese dish). We could not find the tunnel that connects the park to the theatre for a while. It is very impressive: you enter the theatre, and the water is above you!
Two weeks passed like one day. During this time, I felt that all of us are the Master's nestlings, who came to his nest to be healed and to get strength.
To the airport I was accompanied by our helpful driver Wang Hailiang. He was a real gentleman. He spent a lot of time with me, waiting in a long queue to go through customs. We waved to each other for a long time as if we were close relatives.
For me Kundawell definitely became a part of my home. The only wish I have is that at the end of the treatment each patient would be provide with a printed drawing by the Master of his/her diagnosis, preferably with a translation into English or Russian. During the first session the Master draws a model of man with long ears, like Buddha’s, on his computer, which flags your "problem areas".
Another thing I noticed in China is that there are drafts everywhere, and Kundawell is not an exception. The Chinese people have immunity to drafts - they adore the fresh air, and for the Russians it is a real problem. In short, “he who is forewarned is forearmed".
In Kundawell I met the most wonderful, passionate and enthusiastic team! Life here is in full swing all year round: lectures, seminars, courses on Image Medicine, not to mention the regular treatment of patients. The Master has dedicated all his life to his patients, to promoting Zhong Yuan Qigong and Image Medicine, and in some way it is a "sacrifice", because he devotes all his time to people who need his help, and to Kundawell.
In Kundawell we all were under the protection of the great Master - in his sphere and in his light. There are not many like him in the world. The Master shared with us his knowledge and his wisdom. While such light exists – there is hope to improve not only our health and our state of mind, but also to improve our fragile world: to maintain its balance and harmony, to avoid self-destruction.
My favourite phrase of the Master is: "It's all in our Mind – it can master any kind of energy, it can protect us and it can cause us harm ..."
I want to come back to Kundawell, which in 2015 celebrated its seventh¬-year anniversary, a lucky number! I wish Kundawell a long life and prosperity! My deep gratitude to the Master and everyone I met there! And for those who are still "sitting on the fence”, thinking whether to jump or not - definitely: fly to Kundawell!
P.S. Before Christmas my cardiologist arranged a consultation. After the revision of all the tests, an echocardiogram and ECG scan he canceled the operation that was scheduled on January 2016...
Layla Alexander-Garrett - author of the book "Andrei Tarkovsky: the Collector of Dreams”, organiser of the festivals of Andrei Tarkovsky and Sergei Paradjanov.