TO SAY THAT MY LIFE HAS CHANGED WOULD OBVIOUSLY BE AN UNDERSTATEMENT
It’s easy to write a testimony after a course with you, because life always is more colorful, vibrant, exciting and lovely for months afterwards. So I decided to write a testimony now, with the last course having been in February 2014 in Killarney. And once I sat down and started typing, I realized how extraordinary my journey so far has been in my humble opinion. So this “testimony” has ultimately become a small tale of how it all came to be.
Edit: My apologies, this has become much longer than I anticipated. This is now probably way too long for a testimony. But I really enjoyed writing it and I hope you enjoy reading it, too!
To say that my life has changed would obviously be an understatement. I never had any life-threatening illnesses I had to overcome, never had any real goals I wanted to achieve. Yet so much has happened.
But how did I even discover Shaolin Wahnam?
One fine day, in February 2010, I was browsing through the internet, looking for dancing classes in Bern. I can’t remember how it happened, but I ended up stumbling over the website of Shaolin Wahnam Switzerland. At first I thought: “What a strange website. So outdated and the colours are terrible!” But I kept browsing and eventually read the article “Showing respect to the Master”. This changed everything. So, feeling very curious and intrigued, I took a glance at who was behind it all, and saw that there were classes being offered in Bern! I also thought that “Roland Mastel” looked quite handsome and likeable, so I sent him an e-mail.
What followed was an extraordinary exchange between Sifu and I that culminated in Sifu offering me his classes for free until August 2010. Of course, I was very skeptical at first and didn’t really trust Sifu’s generosity and very directly told him that I was wary and asked what he wanted in return. To my astonishment, his only demand was that I practice what he teaches and that I would attend the Praying Mantis course in September 2010. So I did.
Never before had anyone been this generous and kind with me, except of course my own family. I was very, very impressed and very touched, to be quite honest. Sifu displayed the qualities of a true master from the very start and made sure that I understood that this was part of the 10 Shaolin Laws. Again, I was very impressed. I still have those e-mails somewhere. Being a tiny part of Sifu’s own journey was incredible and I am forever grateful :). But more to that later.
A sprained ankle
I was all about Kung Fu in the beginning and thought that Qigong was simply a nice addition to the “really cool” Kung Fu. To be honest, I didn’t really believe in it at first, despite having Qi flows and a wonderful experience with a really fast, almost miraculous recovery. I would like to tell the story, if I may.
I used to have very weak ankles, resulting in me spraining my tendons every once in a while by falling over out of nowhere. Very painful! After another such incident, a doctor put a plaster on me and said: “You have to keep wearing this for 6 weeks, and do 8 weeks of therapy afterwards to recover.”
I was shocked! “Whaaaat, NO WAY! This takes way too long!” I then talked to Sifu and told him that I would be unable to attend his classes. He simply said: “Well, we shall see about that.” The next day, I went home and took off my plaster with a knife and a pair of scissors and practiced stances, mainly goat stance. After three weeks, my ankle was fully healed, my pain was gone and I haven’t had any problems since. It seemed miraculous to me! After a call with the doctor, he said that he knew from the very beginning that I would be a hopeless case and would do as I pleased. I was very headstrong back then, that’s for sure.
So yes, I was all about Kung Fu. Some people in Wahnam might not believe this, because I focused a lot on Qigong in the past years :)! But I was almost addicted, everything was KUNG FU! I practiced a lot, learning how to fall properly, trained my agility on frozen ice until my shoulders were bruised blue and nagged my seniors into helping me with combat sequences. Today, I shake my head at how stubborn and headstrong I was then, so much worse than today! Yes, maybe I was a bit too “hardcore”, but oh well. I’ve become too soft now, so it’s time to find the Golden middle I suppose, haha :)!
Woohoo -- Winter Camp 2011, Saariselkä
But my journey didn’t really kick off until the Winter Camp 2011, in Saariselkä. Wow, what a crazy and intense experience that was, for all of us, from start to finish (pun intended). I also took my very first big Qigong course there, Sinew Metamorphosis. I thought, “Since you’re already travelling there, you might as well do this course too. Can’t hurt, right?”
I had NO idea what I was in for, goodness me.
Cleansing started almost immediately and I remember that an older lady threw up at the beginning because the exercises were so strong! If I remember correctly, you even shortened the hours of the course because it was almost too intense! That’s so typical, Sigung, your teaching is just too good! It's ridiculous :).
I had cold showers down my back all the time, but it wasn’t because I was cold. Something in me came loose from the very first day. And even though we had the incredible opportunity to be able to share delicious breakfast with you, Sifu, Markus Sisook and others every single day, I eventually ended up feeling too ill to join you. Whenever I was in your or Sifu’s presence, it triggered my flow and I ended up feeling sick and was unable to eat or even get out of bed early. Imagine that. Fabienne and NO EATING? What is the world coming to!
I felt extremely uncomfortable the entire time after the first day of Sinew Metamorphosis, fidgeting and aching with something I couldn’t name. During the second day of the Sinew Metamorphosis course, I could barely sit still because I thought I was going to throw up. I loved listening to your explanations, but that day was the first and only day where I sincerely hoped you would keep your explanations as short as possible!
I was able to let go after the exercise “Immortal Clears Eyes”, if I remember correctly. The flow was SO strong and I couldn’t keep in the screaming and crying. I remember thinking “I’m going to die.” I am not being dramatic when I say that I really, sincerely thought I was going to die. That was the first and only time where I felt as if the Qi flow controlled me, not vice versa.
But afterwards, I got up as if nothing happened, not knowing how deeply this experience would change me in the coming months. I had a similarly strong experience back at home after class once, scaring the living daylights out of my classmates, hahaha :D! I’m sorry I missed the look on their faces, actually.
The Flower Set and Asking Bridge course afterwards were a complete joy and courses that have benefitted me in ALL aspects of my life ever since. Absolutely incredible. But nothing tops Sinew Metamorphosis, the one course I didn’t expect any rewards or even benefits from. It was a very good lesson to learn.
Next breakthrough -- Valentine’s Course 2014, Killarney
The following months, even years, were intense as well. Lots of highs and lows, but I developed tremendously, as many were kind to comment. Of course, simply living life as a young girl, going from 20 to 24 years of age caused a lot of that change, but Shaolin Wahnam just always gave it that extra boost. I had the incredible fortune of meeting you every year so far. Many courses came and went, and all of them have impacted me in many ways and helped me grow even further.
Yet the Valentine’s Course 2014 has been so very, very special.
- 36 Strategies have given me a lot of confidence, as Sigung was incredibly kind and patient in answering things I didn’t fully understand. I use many of these strategies unconsciously, but I will now devote a little more time to understanding their philosophy and practical applications better, so that I might use them more efficiently. I won’t be able to attend the strategy course in Ireland (Harvest Festival), but I can still succeed with what I have already learned! Such is the efficiency of your teaching!
- Bone Marrow Cleansing has given me a new dimension of how to look at things. I can’t fully explain it, but it has enabled me to see situations and people much more clearly, without effort. It’s a little bit scary sometimes :). My skin looks really pretty, too!
- 108 Yang Style Taijiquan was incredible beyond words. I was able to hold my own, despite being 220 pounds heavy and having little to no confidence. I was allowed to demonstrate in front of the class and Sigung was so kind to me and complimented my Taijiquan. I felt lifted up by everyone in the room and I think of that elating feeling whenever things get a little bit rough in life.
- But most importantly, it has given me a link to Ireland and I finally learned how it feels to love and forgive myself. That alone is priceless.
Being part of a VERY large family
The Wahnam family is wonderful. My development has been shaped not only by you and Sifu, but many other Wahnam members, directly or indirectly. Sifu always really encourages the exchange with others, too! So many beautiful and kind people in this family, and interacting with them has really helped me develop even more!
There were also some not so comfortable times. Times of doubt, fear, anxiety, disappointment, anger. And this just goes to show that no, this has nothing to do with the Shaolin Wahnam Institute and its incredible methodology, but it has everything to do with all of us being a family and that we are still very, VERY human. Some of us are more estranged than others; some are really close, just like in my own family. Some might not even like each other that much, but that’s completely alright! That’s normal in all families; it doesn’t mean we respect each other any less. I like to do my own thing, to go out and make new experiences; yet knowing that Sifu and other people always have my back makes me stronger and confident. It’s fantastic to always have a place you can return to.
I’m still glad we don’t have to meet for Easter or Christmas, though. The logistics would be impossible! We’d have to rent a football stadium to accommodate all the students!
I apologize if the following sound presumptuous, strange or even arrogant. Expressing feelings via text isn’t always easy, but I write from the heart and I know that Sigung will understand, as he understands many of us better than we sometimes understand ourselves.
What you have achieved is beyond anything I have ever seen or probably ever will. You are an incredible person and have achieved SO much, yet you are kind, generous and humble. I remember that, when first meeting you, I thought that you were too perfect and it sometimes intimidated me. But now, over the years, I not only realized that nobody is perfect, but that I can reach this level of happiness, vitality, kindness, generosity, humility and spirituality myself.
Even Sifu, who is also one of the best teachers I have ever seen, was never perfect. He has always been just himself and I had the extraordinary privilege to see Sifu’s growth from a young, extremely talented Sifu to a (still young) true Master, in presence and skill. Maybe Sifu was all that before and I just couldn’t see it. But in any case, Sifu has changed a lot over the years, and I finally figured out that that it’s alright if I change, too. That it’s alright to leave past failings behind and to not question my progress. I have very clearly grown over the past years and will turn 25 tomorrow, which is still quite young. I couldn’t be happier!
I have all the tools needed and many people have kindly commented that I have some skill, so I finally understand that I CAN do this. It will take a lot of work and I will still have some stubborn and arrogant phases, BUT I will always get back on track eventually. And if I’m too lost or frustrated or sad to figure things out myself, Sigung, Sifu and other Wahnam family members always show me the path. Without pressure, without judgment. And in a society as judgmental and fast paced as today, this means everything and I couldn’t be more grateful.
In the beginning of my training, I used to fear what would become of Shaolin Wahnam once you chose to retire or move on to your chosen heaven. This might all sound very strange, but I was sincerely afraid to “lose” you once I first met you. Sigung inspires a lot of love, respect and admiration in people, so maybe my initial clinginess and “fear of letting go”, coupled with my young age, was a little bit understandable.
But now I know that no matter what happens, your generosity, wisdom and kindness has already been spread all over the world. And it will prosper, grow, bloom and be passed down all over again, with or without you. I firmly believe that you have been chosen for greatness by divine intervention and that all of us are, too. I know that many in the Wahnam family already know this, but now I finally realize it myself and am able to acknowledge this with all my heart. Of course, not many of us will achieve even remotely as much as Sigung, but I hope you know what I mean to say.
I realized that just because you will eventually grace your chosen heaven with your presence, it definitely doesn’t mean that Wahnam will be gone. Things will surely be different, but nothing will be gone. And even if it did, if the name “Wahnam” disappeared in a hundred/thousand years, it would be a shame, but also wouldn’t matter that much in the end. The legacy has been spread and will keep spreading for many more years to come, for many generations. As long as we remember our lineage, love and respect our past Masters with all our hearts and stay true to the teachings, we will be fine. I sincerely apologize if these are strange or even morbid things to say, but realizing all of the above gives me peace and makes Smiling from the Heart even easier, no matter what. Maybe I can support Joan Siguma with her build of a Wahnam centre in Ireland one day to help keep the name alive, but that’s just wishing out loud :).
Whether I myself will be part of the “official” Wahnam legacy remains to be seen. I am only now ready to become a good student. But what I do know is that part of the legacy already lives on in the way I live, laugh and love. And this is only thanks to you and Sifu, and many other Wahnam members. Maybe I will be ready to tell Sifu one day, too. But until then, I thank YOU. For Everything.
I can’t wait to see you in August and I wish you the happiest, most wonderful and blessed days until then and all the days that come after.
With a huge smile from the heart,
10th July 2015