Two years ago, Bundoran woman Ann Keenaghan was on a flight to China when she got chatting to a man who was seated beside her.
It turned out that the man, Dr Shaofan Zhu, was a world-renowned doctor and master of the ancient Chinese practice of Qi Gong.
Ann became immediately interested in Qi Gong, having already studied Kinesiology, which is based on traditional Chinese medicine.
So began Ann’s journey to learn more and to begin training as a Qi Gong instructor.
Qi Gong is a holistic system of body postures and movement, breathing and Taoist meditation.
Ann has brought Dr Zhu to Ireland twice to deliver workshops in Qi Gong and they have proven popular with people from throughout Ireland, including Donegal. She is currently preparing to welcome him for his third visit in July. She says the growing interest in Qi Gong among people of all walks of life is partially driven by an appetite for deeper spiritual connection.
“Qi Gong can bring your energy into balance if you keep doing it, and can bring you into wellness,” Ann said, as she featured in RTE’s Divorcing God documentary.
“By the time you finish doing all the movements while paying attention to your body, your mind becomes calm. It has been passed down in China for thousands of years and has played a huge role in keeping the Chinese healthy” she added.
Ann is one of a selection of people, including her son Ruairí, who starred in Divorcing God with Oliver Callan. The documentary aired last Wednesday on RTÉ One and is now available to watch on the RTÉ Player.
In the programme, comedian and journalist Oliver Callan travels around Ireland interviewing different people on the topics of religion and belief.
Ann’s son Ruairí McKiernan also features in the Divorcing God documentary. Ruairí is a charity founder and social campaigner who recently completed a 7-year term on the Council of State. He has also been a practitioner and advocate of meditation and mindfulness for over a decade and previously contributed a chapter on their benefits in Sr Stan’s book Seasons of Hope.
He says a sense of spirituality is an important part of life for him and that this doesn’t require a belief in any particular religion.
“Something is missing in the realm of the soul. In some ways, the dominant religion now is the religion of the market, the religion of capitalism, the altar of consumption, money, image, fame, success.” Ruairí says in the documentary.
“There’s a lot of dysfunction, disease, loneliness, depression, suicide, and something is not right. I see people exploring Eastern traditions and pre-Christian traditions and maybe there’s a beautiful thing to emerge from the convergence of east and west.”
“Life is evolving, belief is evolving, and we need to be brave enough to evolve with it,” Ruairí adds.
Both Ruairí and Ann’s appearances in the documentary caught the attention of RTÉ broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan who tweeted her praise of mother and son.
I really enjoyed that @olivercallan documentary #DivorcingGod – very interesting. Liked it all but especially @ruairimckiernan &his Mum& of course the wonderful @andrewmmadden – congrats to all the team
— Miriam O'Callaghan (@MiriamOCal) June 12, 2019
Divorcing God also hears from a variety of voices with different views on religion and spirituality. These include atheists, academics, and a survivor of clerical abuse.
Divorcing God is available to watch until mid-July on the RTÉ Player. www.rte.ie/player/movie/divorcing-god/102644776272