Locals + Culture

A Space for Everyone

5/15/2024 | Meg Raby Klinghoffer | Cody Derrick
Lauren Kerr

"Our lovely friend and cityhome ally Meg has been coming to our gatherings for years. She shared a few words with us that she wrote about her experience. We asked her if we could share it here. Lucky for us, she said yes. Thank you Meg. For being you, and for bravely educating the world on what it means to live in a more inclusive place." -Cody Derrick

More of this, all around! 

Thursday mornings at cityhomeCOLLECTIVE in downtown Salt Lake City with Scott White, is a gift to the senses that gently invites attendees into their authentic selves in a communal, intentional way—through qigong. As an autistic female and full time employee of the nation’s leading nonprofit in sensory inclusion, KultureCity, I’d say it's an example of true inclusion and, perhaps, puts the framework of a neurodivergent brain at the forefront of its innate practices. Are those words spoken aloud before or after the practice—that neurodivergent brains are at the forefront? No. Are they completely obvious to someone who is neurodivergent? Yes, and that is something so wonderful. It’s me getting to be myself and watching others in my local community try it out. 

Perhaps Huang Ti, the creator of qigong in 300 BC, was neurodivergent, because the experience is visceral, freeing and full of stimming, a form of repetitive movement that leads to homeostasis or a self regulatory state—to Chi. Seven of the eight senses are addressed individually and simultaneously throughout (and I just learned that all eight can be addressed in very sacred qigong classes. Amazing!) The visual sense is met with a candle-lit room and dozens of bodies equally spaced around. The olfactory sense is met with the fragrance of the candles—and let me tell you, Cody Vaughn Derrick, founder of cityhome, is king of scent selection—not too strong nor too soft. The tactile sense  is met through planting your feet metaphorically into the ground and through your fists and open hands as you create melodic beats against your body. The proprioceptive sense, or where your body is in space, is met with exploration of body movements that leave you grounded and very aware of your own space. The vestibular sense, or the ways in which one’s inner ear equalizes sending one’s body into stability or off-balance is met with twisting and turning, reaching and swirling. The auditory sense is met with ethereal and intoxicating sounds of both the quiet music and Scott’s voice guiding you through your experience. It’s met with the peaceful sound of breath. And finally, the interoceptive sense, those messages our brain receives for hunger cues, body temperature regulation and emotional awareness, are met with questions and comments interspersed throughout, “Notice how you feel” and “Do what feels right to you.”

At one point in the practice, everyone is encouraged to make noise as they please—an invitation to vocal stim. Being hyper aware of energy and emotion, if you had a camera on me, I’m pretty sure you’d see me break out into smiles as I take it all in. You’d also see my face contort into sorrow as there are very real sadnesses and pain people in the class bring in with them. I can feel it. 

What is practiced within the class is the way of life for neurodivergent individuals. From qigong movements like, “Flowing Through Turbulence” and “Expanding Your Light,” accessing Chi is a reflexive practice for neurodivergent individuals, which is why it is so important to champion unmasking. If neurodivergent, be neurodivergent. There is health and homeostasis in being what your neurology pushes you to be. In essence, neurodivergent two-year-olds, 13-year-olds and 92-year-olds are born with brains that protect them and naturally try to push them into homeostasis—to let go and to move their bodies in ways they need to, to reach a state of peace and balance. Qigong on Thursday mornings at cityhome amplifies all of this and invites everyone of all neurologies to access their Chi. It recognizes the health and need of neurodivergent individuals folded into the world population. A balancing act. 

I mean, if this doesn’t scream “different, not less”—

or perhaps it shifts the narrative a bit: the neurodivergent brain works in different ways and many of these ways are optimal (and yes, I know not all the ways are optimal). What I see in qigong class are rhythms and movements of belonging, and if I might say, without a speck of arrogance, the neurotypical would gain an optimal world experience if they would stim and let go in ways the neurodivergent does.

Call the office for info on qigong and other events, or pop by for a menu with calendar details

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