Calming the Heart: Qigong & Tai Chi with Bruno Ballestrero
By Sarah Hodges
As a child with two parents who worked as Freudian psychologists, Bruno Ballestrero, an inquisitive young boy from Buenos Aires sensed something missing in the air of his Argentinian home. “Growing up in a family where putting things into words served as an important tool, I felt that just talking didn’t do enough to bring positive change. Something was missing,” remembers Bruno, Still & Moving Center’s Qigong/Tai Chi class teacher.
Influenced by the popular kung fu TV shows and movies of the 1970s that he was watching with his family and the Asian mindset that they portrayed, Bruno started practicing judo at age 4. Perhaps his judo practice led him to the early realization: “I’m thinking too much. How can I still my mind?”
At age 14, Bruno had the good fortune to encounter a wonderful teacher who taught him meditation and qigong in the park. In these practices, Bruno discovered an answer to his youthful longings. He could feel calm within himself when he went into the breath, into a slowed down, deep listening of the body, into the stillness of standing meditation. “When I started training and learning tools like meditation, I felt I could overcome my racing mind. My mind began to feel more calm, clear, empty,” recalls Bruno.
Seeking mastery on the physical plane and peace in his heart on the spiritual plane, Bruno went on to pursue a number of different martial arts, from judo to aikido, to kung-fu, and muay thai.
“After years and years of practice and working with many master teachers, I wrestled and sparred with people who trained in jiu-jitsu, Chinese wrestling, and judo and found that they knew how to wrestle much better than I, in a specific, more sportive way,” Bruno explains. His training had offered him a more holistic way of balancing the mind and body, and this experience of wrestling with others ignited an interest within him to seek a master who could teach him the martial aspect of tai chi. His seeking brought him to Master Chen Zhonghua. “Master Chen, who I’m now studying with knows Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art, not just as a meditative movement.” He also learned ways of movement that gave him more balance in his body so that his back didn’t hurt as it had in previous sparring and training.
Bruno eventually focused his training on tai chi and qigong, finding the most benefits from these methods.
In the beginning, tai chi changed Bruno from the inside out, teaching him to still his mind. As he gained more finesse in the martial techniques, Bruno began to change himself from the outside in. “The outer work with the body eventually affected my inner sense of responsibility in taking care of myself, my loved ones, the animals, the planet, and all people as best I can,” Bruno shares. Expanding and growing our inner world takes us out beyond our bubble of ‘self’. Here we can find the wish for deeper harmony for all beings.
Bruno has taught tai chi, qigong, and Shaolin kung fu professionally since 2004, and continues to share these centuries-old practices as powerful tools for mental, physical, and spiritual health. “I see how even as I grow older, I can continue to balance my body and mind in a holistic way,” says Bruno.
Qigong is the Chinese internal art of cultivating one’s vital energy. Movements aim to improve the overall health and well-being of the practitioner, including strengthening the immune system, “cleaning” the mind, and calming emotions.
Bruno’s training and dedication brought him another great gift. In 2005, while training kung fu and tai chi in Buenos Aires, Bruno met his wife Catherine, a vibrant girl from Hawai’i. They moved to O’ahu in 2012 so that his wife could fulfill her dream of having their first child on her home island. Now with two young sons of his own, Bruno explores how to model at least the inner skills that he has learned from his tai chi and qigong practice.
During his time on the island, Renée Tillotson got wind of Bruno and took a class from him. Impressed by the skill and depth of his teaching, Renée invited him to come teach tai chi, kung fu, and qigong classes at Still & Moving Center, which he did. Even though he and his family moved back to Argentina in 2019, Bruno continues to teach for us through the magic of online classes!
“Life is not always going to offer a perfect situation for inner peace, and I still feel tested in moments, but now I have great tools to use and to teach others for mental clarity and calmness.”
Tune into Gems from the Wisdom Traditions a Conversation Circle on December 10 when Bruno will share with us his insight on Calmness.
Classes with Bruno at Still & Moving Center:
Qigong LIVE, Online with Bruno Ballestrero
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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)