Huntsville Times (United States): Falun Dafa - Southern style

Workshops bring Chinese exercise to Huntsvillians
 

Sunday, April 03, 2005

In his well-worn blue jeans and suspenders, Tom Bailey would look at home on a work crew or maybe in a bowling alley.

You wouldn't necessarily expect to see him practicing the slow, rhythmic moves of Falun Dafa, an ancient Chinese exercise.

But, on Saturday, he was among a small group of people meeting at the main branch of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library for a workshop on Falun Dafa. The Southern Falun Dafa group offered the program to introduce the practice to the area.

The group plans to have another workshop this Saturday, said Dr. Jason Wang, a research scientist at Alabama A&M University and a proponent for practicing Falun Dafa, which is also known as Falun Gong. The group hopes to hold regular sessions to show people the benefits of the exercise.

"Everyone who practices it feels so good," said Wang. "We want others to benefit."

The exercises in Falun Dafa are hand and arm movements as well as stretching, all while holding your body in specific postures. The movements create a flow of energy through the body, proponents of the exercise believe.

Despite its peaceful philosophy, Falun Dafa practitioners have been persecuted in China. Then Chinese President Jiang Zemin banned the practice in 1999, seeing it as a threat to his regime, said Wang. Since it was banned, about 1,600 Falun Dafa followers have been killed and hundreds of thousands jailed or sent to labor camps or to mental hospitals.

The Communist government has seen the meditative exercise as a "threat to the [CCP's] control of people's minds," said Wang. "That's the reason why they persecute these innocent people."

Bailey, 57, learned about Falun Dafa about two years ago after discovering a book about it. He had been looking for a way to deal with the post-traumatic stress he has had as a Vietnam veteran.

"This is some of the best help I've ever had in some of the things I've had to deal with," Bailey told the group.

The book he bought had a toll-free number for more information about Falun Dafa. Bailey called and was put in touch with Dr. Wade Yang, who gave him private lessons. Yang, who is an associate professor of food engineering at Alabama A&M, conducted Saturday's workshop.

Bailey now often practices Falun Dafa on his own, finding the exercises to help make him feel calmer. Two to three weeks after he began to learn the controlled and steady movements of Falun Dafa, he said he found he was sleeping better and had more energy. He also has found the philosophy of the practice - truthfulness, compassion and tolerance - makes him feel more peaceful.

Falun Dafa is spiritual, said Wang, but it's not a religion. It's what is known as a "cultivation" practice, which helps "make the heart peaceful," he said.

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