This is my experience with two great people I’ve met on the path. Wilson Pitts and Chinese Dr. Amy Ballons (Tseng, Ching Ying).
Amy came up from North Carolina to give acupuncture to her group of patients in early 90’s. I had been informed to go by Wilson, who was a long time patient of her. Wilson had a small publication called the ‘Tao Experience Foundation’ in which he wrote many articles on TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), Diet, Tai Chi Chuan, Pakua Chang, and Qigong as well as other informative articles. I had been told about Tai Chi from my Karate friend while in high school in Virginia Beach. He gave me a book on it, and the Edgar Caycee New Age store at the beach had a class. During that time, I used to do a lot of skateboard competitions and had many injuries from falls on the streets and half pipes. While in college at VCU, my sister suggested I go to the park where Wilson was teaching. From that time, Wilson taught me some Tai Chi basics, the first section of Yang short form, Ba dua jin, Huashan Animal qigong, a Huashan Qigong set, and the 5 elements Pakua and Hsingyi. In the Spring of 1991 I was with friends down by the James river climbing rocks and fell. I had a hairline fracture in the scaphoid bone in my wrist.
I went to get acupuncture. Amy asked if I had been doing the diet in which I said yes. She began to take my pulse and she told me straight away I was malnourished. I was vegetarian at the time for 2 years starting in high school. “Your kidneys are weak, drink more water”. Another thing she noticed from my pulse was how weak I was. “Do you take long naps?” I said yes, because I thought naps are ok, but she said, “You don’t need to nap, you’re not a baby anymore, you should meditate.” Her pulse taking abilities were amazing, I had seen often confirming with female patients, the patients were ovulating just by pulse alone.
She proceeded with acupuncture in my wrist, but also placed them along points on front of body and a second session on points in the back of my body. I must admit that it was an introduction to a state of relaxation I had never felt before. Even as someone interested in eastern culture, meditation, and developing a “Buddhist heart, Taoist Mind” I was not relaxed. Amy was a meditation master in Taiwan and suggested I learn TM (Transcendental Meditation) since it was practical for people these days. Meditation would be a replacement for naps and rest the mind. She also said about being vegetarian, “You’re not a monk, you need to eat meat, you live in this world, not a monastery”. She explained bluntly that we live in a society where “Qi (vital energy) is the most important thing” we need. Monks do not live in normal society, so their lifestyle allows them to be vegetarian.
It was decided… eat a balance of grains, meat, and vegetables. Also increase of ‘warm’ foods and elimination of ‘cold’ and ‘fire’ foods from meals. My wrist pain improved from the years of skateboard falls and the rock climbing break. At that time, my energy still was not where I am today, but it really was getting progressively better. I also got to learn TM from Dr. Jonathan Shear who was a philosophy professor at VCU. From him I had to do the preliminary lectures, interview and application process, and do the ceremony to get my ‘personal mantra’ based on Ayurveda astrology. After the check up sessions, it greatly improved my meditation and concentration ability. On a side note: Jon was also a practitioner of Guang Ping Tai Chi in which he was a student of Kou Lien Ying while in San Francisco. He later was a fellow student of Weiqi He of Fu Zhong Wen’s Yang Tai Chi, and while we were in Shanghai, he met Dr. Li Li of a student of Ma Yu Liang of Wu style Tai Chi and became a Wu style practitioner.
In subsequent visits by Amy, she was always someone to impart wisdom. One time She put a needle in my forehead at the ‘yin tong’ point and my forehead went red immediately. “You think too much” she said. She was always right and her special talent was face reading. She asked my Chinese zodiac sign and I said I was born year of the Rat. “Oh you will be really sad if there is something you don’t get, and you tend to think more than you can do.” There was never a time where anyone who was her patient wasn’t amazed by her skills, and everyone who knew her, flocked whenever she came to town.
One of my favorite sayings she told me once was based on some over-training I was doing. As I got overly involved in Chinese martial arts, I was practicing Chang Chuan, Pakuachang, and Tai Chi while also being assistant coach to children and adult classes at the recreation center with Coach Weiqi. I was also doing Goulin qigong from Weiqi’s husband Coach Xu. “Tai Chi is there for you, you don’t have to be there for Tai Chi,” Amy said. I often hear that in my head when I start to get overly interested in training like a mad man. Training should not have to stress you, but be of great benefit to your overall health.
At one of the earlier sessions of acupuncture she told me that, “You cannot force Qi” in the aspect that you cannot make Qi grow inside. It was a lesson of relaxing and using the mind to sense your current state of ‘Qi awareness’ and using what you got. Once I told her I was taking American ginseng. I was about 24 or 25 years old. She said, “Your not an old man, you don’t need that.” She always recommended ginger tea in the morning with breakfast and small cup of peppermint tea with licorice root in the evening. There was another occasion she did acupuncture and the needles were stuck or hard to take out without having to massage the points around the needle. People were asking her why they were getting stuck…“He does Kung fu“, she said, “His body needed acupuncture so bad that it would not let go of the needles.”
Now 20 years later, I cannot express how grateful I am to have met Wilson and Amy. Both have been extremely valuable to my life in many ways. I am not sure where I would be in life if it wasn’t for their compassion to help others. The TCM diet, ancient knowledge, systems of qigong, massage, martial arts, and meditation have a great deal of value for people as we move towards globalization. It’s so true that we really are responsible for what we put in our body.