By Guy Djandi

Brauna Rosen: The secret of internal energy revealed!

We, at Hope & Cope, are privileged to have a volunteer who masters internal energy and reveals its secrets to those who are interested. You might be intrigued and ask: What is internal energy? What good would it do me? Qi Gong (pronounce Shigong) is an ancient Chinese art that comprises strategies and practices that help body, mind and soul. And for the past 10 years, Brauna Rosen has been our instructor, teaching Qi Gong on a weekly basis at the Hope & Cope Cancer Wellness Centre.

GD: Brauna could you please describe what is Qi Gong?

BR: It is an internal art in the Chinese tradition of harnessing and using our energy. Generally, people feel better with Qi Gong, they are in better shape to reach their goals in life, physically and emotionally. It allows them to unlock their internal energy and put it to good use.

There are three types of Qi Gong. First, the martial “external” form that is the most known because of its dynamic physical nature. Second, the medicinal form, which is used for healing in the traditional Chinese manner. And third, the spiritual type in which meditation is used to harness the internal “energy field” and directs it to heal the body and enhance concentration and well-being. It is more static and introspective. That last type is the one we mostly do here.

GD: Take us through a typical Qi Gong session and how the dynamic meditation is done.

BR: We start the session with warm-up exercises, followed by the meditation walk for a period of about 20 minutes, coordinating breathing, concentration and walking at a slow pace. Then we do various movements, some similar to tai chi style. Actually, session content depends largely on the number of people attending, their physical condition and experience. There are about 6-10 students per class. GD: What led you to volunteer with Hope & Cope and why do you still give your time? BR: I got to know the organization when my mother had cancer, many years ago. I also had friends who volunteered here. If I am still involved, it is because of the people I meet. Not only am I teaching, but I am learning as well. I share what I know and the more I teach, the more I learn. It is a two-way street. I am inspired by the participants in my classes. Overall, I feel I am contributing and useful.

Claudio Cignola: A “selfish” volunteer?

Now that we have your full attention, you are probably intrigued and want to know more! And rightly so. Meeting Claudio Cignola and hearing him talk about his involvement with Hope & Cope, one could easily come to that conclusion. “Since I started volunteering, I have received a lot more than I give. And to top it off, it makes me feel good. I get a lot of satisfaction from volunteering!”

Is it possible that Claudio is selfish and seeking only his personal satisfaction? Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, Claudio is fully engaged in whatever he undertakes and is totally committed to his volunteer work. He devotes six hours a week to Hope & Cope, in addition to all his other professional and personal activities. Open and jovial, he exudes energy and dynamism. He spreads his good humour generously even if life has not always been a rose garden.

Claudio was diagnosed with cancer just over three years ago. During the long and difficult months of treatment, he encountered many volunteers who supported, helped and guided him. Once he was in remission, he wanted to follow in their footsteps by getting involved with patients. The example of volunteers and the quality of Hope & Cope had made a lasting impression on him. “For me, it was the spark I needed, and I wanted to pay it forward, as the saying goes. Naturally, this led me to become a volunteer with Hope & Cope.”

Claudio is impressed by the diversity of volunteer work available at Hope & Cope. “All sorts of skills are needed to make this organization work. One could do administrative work at the reception desk, or devote time to wellness activities such as qi gong, or assist on the patient units and clinics at the hospital. I like to be on the move and to have close contact with patients, so I got involved in the hematology and oncology units”. These two units are Claudio’s domain. He is comfortable and at ease talking to staff and patients, sharing his smile and good humour. His open, engaging personality allows him to build rapport easily.

As a former medical sales representative for over 25 years, he has honed his people skills which are essential for his volunteer work. “I try to make patients feel at ease; I take the time to reassure them. Having been there myself, I know the stress they are going through and how difficult this period can be.” Claudio’s past experience with cancer allows him to adopt the right approach and demonstrate the empathy necessary to comfort patients.

How does he find the energy and the positive attitude to keep smiling in the face of adversity? His secret: “I had to stop navel-gazing and turn to the people around me. They are the ones who give me the energy and the rewards of serving them.” Claudio confides another secret: his 90-years old mother is also a source of inspiration. She knits caps for newborns in the hospital’s Neonatal Unit. Now that’s an inspiring example to all those who are interested in volunteer work!