Bill McMillan teaches Qigong class at Breast Cancer Resource Center
First, about the pronunciation: Qigong sounds like “chee-gong.”
Second, about its meaning: “Qigong has been described as a mind-body-spirit practice that can help to improve one’s overall well-being through slow-flowing movement, deep rhythmic breathing and focused intent.”
Third, about Bill McMillan: He was leading an hour of Qigong at 11 a.m. Thursdays at the Breast Cancer Resource Center, where he was named the Judy Blanco Volunteer of the Year for 2020.
“Bill not only volunteers his time but generously offers his knowledge, experience, patience, compassion and healing presence to the clients of the BCRC. When all of our programs transitioned to virtual during the pandemic, Bill didn’t skip a beat, offering his weekly Qigong classes through Zoom,” said Silvana Kelly, executive director.
“He always takes his time to answer questions during and outside of the sessions. He sends articles on the practice of Qigong and alerts us to any other Qigong lectures or opportunities to learn within the community. Bill continues his own education by attending classes.”
During a phone interview from his Santa Barbara home, Mr. McMillan said, “Think of Qi as energy or life force, and Qigong is the practice of working with this Qi. When there is illness, there is not enough Qi flowing through the body. Qigong is the practice of gathering and moving Qi through the body.
“Qigong is a kind of moving meditation, moving the body in a particular way very gently to open the body so that Qi can flow,” he told the News-Press.
He pointed out that there are many different forms or practices of Qigong.
“The one I practice is called Yuan Gong Qigong, which is part of a larger system of a general life cultivation program called Ren Xue. One of my primary goals in working with cancer patients is to help them relax their minds and bodies. Many studies have shown that Qigong is beneficial to the immune system because it works with the stress that makes the immune system struggle.”
Even more important than stress reduction is the idea that cancer patients can have control over their treatment, according to Mr. McMillan.
“For example, many feel a sense of helplessness and betrayal. In working with their minds, it helps strengthen the feeling that they are choosing how they heal. They are working with their doctors instead of giving the doctors complete control over their treatment.”
A native of St. Louis, Mr. McMillan graduated from St. Louis Country Day School in 1970, earned his bachelor’s degree in American civilization at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., and his master’s degree in education at Washington University in St. Louis.
After teaching social studies and American history at Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh and Head-Royce School in Oakland, he went to John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill for a master’s degree in political psychology.
For 20 years, Mr. McMillan was a marriage and family therapist, specializing in working with families, individuals and veterans before he retired.
The prospect of knee replacement surgery led to his enthusiasm for Qigong.
“I’m an old jock and have had many injuries and surgeries. I was scheduled for a knee replacement when my wife suggested we attend a Yuan Tze retreat in 2012 near Fresno,” said Mr. McMillan. “While we were there, the pain in my knee was gone, and I canceled the surgery. In fact, I was so impressed that I began six years of teacher training with Ren Xue in New Zealand.”
He added that at the end of the training, he ended up having both knees replaced, which hasn’t restricted his fitness activities.
As a certified Qigong teacher, he has taught in many settings, including the Cancer Center of Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae.
In 2018, Mr. McMillan and his wife, Kim Shelton, a documentary filmmaker, moved to Santa Barbara to be near Ms. Shelton’s father, who lives at Valle Verde retirement community.
No sooner had the couple unpacked the boxes in their new home when Mr. McMillan began the Qigong sessions at the BCRC.
“Under Bill’s guidance, Qigong has become a very popular program, and the clients often share how much this class supports their well being. As one client recently said, ‘I can feel myself being healed in Bill’s class,’ ” said Ms. Kelly.