by Todd Nichols
Todd Nichols is a Qigong teacher who has actively shared Qigong and Power Breathing at veteran facilities during the past five years, achieving outstanding results. Anger and alcoholism are the norm for far too many veterans, and Nichols is breaking through by helping them achieve a new form of natural “high” through Qigong.
Additionally, Nichols has shared Qigong at several drug rehabilitation centers. His insights as a Qigong teacher working with veterans and others battling substance abuse are profound.
No mistake in life has troubled me more than not serving in one of the branches of our nation’s military. I have a great admiration for the men and women who serve, and who have served, in our armed forces. After missing that opportunity myself, I have discovered a new way to support our men and women who have served—by sharing Qigong with veterans who suffer mental trauma and addiction due to their military service.
The biggest challenge in my work teaching veterans about Qigong has been gaining their trust. In the view of many servicemen and servicewomen, an individual who never wore their uniform cannot understand what they endured. Veterans immediately want to know if you’re one of them. In the beginning this was difficult for me.
Veteran hospitals and service centers are tough facilities. I’ll never forget my first time teaching and being let in the locked door and hearing the sound of it quickly and forcefully shutting behind me. One veteran in a wheelchair was trying to escape. Other chairs were weighted down with sand so they couldn’t be thrown. During this first class, doctors and social workers were coming in and interrupting. Many veterans were medicated and dealing with obvious challenges. Some appeared physically fine, but it was clear that their mind waged an emotional war inside. I noticed one large man sitting in a state of shock, staring staring straight ahead making a low-pitched sound.
My direct exposure to the mental health struggles of veterans has enlightened me. Most Americans likely do not realize that 22 U.S. veterans commit suicide each day. That is a staggering statistic, one that I alone can’t change. I can do my best to help those who attend my classes, and I also hope to train instructors who can reach and provide the healing power of Qigong to more of our veterans.
Over time, I have become less self-conscious about my lack of military service, and my students have become more trusting. During Qigong breathing exercises, old mind patterns can be temporarily bypassed. The feeling of Qi in the environment is so strong that it gives everyone in the room a natural high. Many vets report that this Qi energy has been invaluable in helping them to replace harmful addictions.
Recovering heroine addicts need a powerful approach to break the addiction, and I quickly realized that I needed to “wow” them immediately with Qigong—to make a quick, memorable and powerful statement. I accomplish this and gain their trust through the Breath-Empowerment and the 9-Breath Method exercises. I have the group of usually guarded and apprehensive veterans take huge breaths, swallow it and hold it in their bellies. The crammed room becomes momentarily silent; then, the smiles begin, and I begin hearing the scattered giggles.
I love to see students’ resistance turn to wonder. They tell me, “Wow, I feel electricity, and my body is warm and tingling.” Without the breathing tools, many veterans would give up before benefiting from the immense healing rewards.
When I began teaching Qigong to veterans, my work was not very respected. Today, I teach three classes each week in a mental health and substance abuse center for veterans in Florida. The doctors, nurses and social workers now respect our activities and do not disturb our classes. In fact, these classes are now part of the center’s curriculum, which is amazing progress.
Through the successes I have seen, there is a great need for more instructors of Qigong who can share the healing powers of Qigong with our veterans. They have sacrificed so much for us and for our country, and Qigong provides a powerful way to help them overcome their traumas and addictions.
Jeff Primack’s 2016 Qi Revolution will take place in the Austin Convention Center Aug. 26-28. The event is $99 for two full days and one evening of training. The event is open to the public. Firefighters, police officers and current and former servicemen and servicewomen are admitted free of charge. For more information, call 800- 298-8970 or visit www.QiRevolution.com. See display ad on page 3.