Columbus, Ohio USA
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Healing Zone at ComFest
By Darryl Mendelson

June 2009 Issue

Photo ComFest 2007 - This year the festival is scheduled June 26-28, 2009.

Performance and healing arts have always been an important part of the Community Festival in Columbus. In the early ‘70s, ComFest built a huge homemade inflatable structure that held art and performances inside. In the ‘80s, many different versions of an arts stage were tried. These were usually presented in a tent that sometimes included visual art, acoustic music and children’s entertainment as well as performance and healing arts. This led to a handmade dance stage that eventually became the Live Arts Stage.

The Live Arts Stage has presented chanting, poetry, improv, theater, hip hop, drumming and dancing, puppets, youth performers, bagpipes and storytellers, traditional, ethnic and acoustic music as well as other demonstrations of dance, performance, and healing arts.

Originally, classes and workshops were scheduled nearby, off-stage, starting as early as 8 a.m. In 2007, ComFest added a Healing Tent near the Live Arts Stage where those of us organizing these programs were better able to present classes, lectures and workshops. Because some workshops were also held in the area outside the Healing Tent itself, and because of the peaceful spiritual vibration manifested there, we named that area the Healing Zone.

A major purpose of the Healing Zone has been to present some of the ways we can maintain health by using alternative and traditional medicine to treat our bodies and nurture our spirits. Ancient traditions provide many natural paths to self-healing that offer us time-tested methods showing how we can prevent illness and live to our full potential. Preventive medicine is an important health care issue that is just beginning to be explored. We can learn methods to heal ourselves of many ailments without relying solely on doctors and expensive, often dangerous pharmaceuticals. Keeping one’s immune system strong is the best way to stay healthy and prevent disease.

This year, we are offering workshops and presentations as well as performances by leading teachers and practitioners of many forms of healing arts. These healing artists represent a small segment of the many excellent teachers in Columbus. In addition to these local practitioners, we will be bringing in two outside teachers.

Our featured healing artist this year will be Master Zhongxian Wu, who also participated in ComFest 2007. Master Wu exemplifies the relationship of the healing arts to other arts. He has committed himself to the lifelong pursuit of the ancient arts of internal cultivation through the classical Chinese wisdom traditions, which include the study of Chinese painting, calligraphy, classical Chinese music and dance as well as qigong (chi kung), martial arts, Chinese medicine, Chinese astrology and Yijing (I Ching) science. Master Wu has studied with some of the finest teachers in these fields and is dedicated to the support of everyone who is on this path to healing, peace, harmony, and enlightenment.
What all these traditions have in common is qi (chi). Qi can mean “breath,” but a more accurate term is vital energy or life force. Qigong (chi kung) is the science or exercise of cultivating the body’s internal energy (which the Chinese have been researching for the last 4000 years). Qigong by itself or in conjunction with taiji (tai chi) helps develop energy, promote health, aid in self-defense and help prevent illness and achieve mental and spiritual peace. Over his past 20 years of teaching, Master Wu has seen many people cure themselves of physical and mental suffering, and through their inner cultivation, transform their lives to peace and harmony.

Master Wu will be giving workshops in qigong (chi kung), Chinese calligraphy, Yijing (I Ching) and herbal medicine and other aspects of traditional Chinese medicine. At the Live Arts Stage on Saturday, June 27, he will be performing his own music on an ancient Chinese instrument called qin, and then he will be part of a tai chi demonstation featuring live music by Paul Brown. Master Wu will be leading ritual shaking at various places throughout the festival. Dancing and music are forms of vibration, as is shaking. When practicing qigong, Master Wu always begins with shaking in order to open the pores, connect with the shen (spirit) and qi fields, and communicate with the universe. 
Master Zhongxian Wu, born on China’s eastern shore in the city of Wenlin in Zhejiang province, was inspired at an early age by practicing qigong and taiji and recognized the immediate strengthening effects of this practice. He has written two books in English. His first was Vital Breath of Dao: Chinese Shamanic Tiger Qigong. He will be giving several workshops on this unique form of qigong. His second book in English on the I Ching is entitled Seeking The Spirit of The Book of Change and was published in May 2009. He has written a number of books in Chinese and many articles for journals and magazines, and he is the subject of numerous articles and interviews. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon. For more information on Master Wu visit his website at

Our other guest healing artist, Frances Gander, blends five-element acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, enriched by techniques and theories from other traditions. She teaches tai chi (taiji) and chi kung (qigong), traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, healing foods and herbs and more. Graduate of the Traditional Acupuncture Institute in Columbia, Maryland, she has been in practice since 1993. Her healing arts are enhanced by nearly 30 years of internal arts practice (taijiquan and qigong). Gander runs the Three Treasures Health Center in Athens, Ohio, and publishes the Journal of Martial Arts and Healing.  Her Web site is

Some of the local healing artists that are planning to give workshops include Sipra Pimputkar, Allison Fritz, Stacey Wiggins, Dr. Sandy Golenberg, Lori Moffett from Alphastate, Brandy Zink, Meg Scott, Kimberly Kalfas, Chen Taiji of Ohio, Heather Tapia and Caroline Schleppi. Workshop areas of interest will include Hatha, Laughter and Restorative Yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong, polarity, natural childbirth, nutrition and Living in the Love Vibration.

For more information on the Healing Zone, contact Darryl Mendelson at or call Monkeys Retreat at 614-294-9511. Be sure to check out the new ComFest Web site for updates this month at

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