(Clearwisdom.net) Each weekend, early morning visitors to the Cove might see a small group of people meditating or executing a series of slow body movements on the grass at Ellen Browning Scripps Park.

Every Saturday and Sunday at 8 a.m., people from all over San Diego, including a few La Jolla residents, congregate at La Jolla Cove, where they spend two hours engaging in the practice of Falun Gong.

Falun Gong consists of "one hour of sitting meditation, and one hour of standing movement," explained Frank Eaves of Mira Mesa, who has practiced Falun Gong since 1999. The movements "look like Tai Chi, it's Tai Chi-like, (but) it's not Tai Chi."

The group first began gathering in La Jolla in September 1999, led by Shi-Zhong Chen, a researcher at the Scripps Research Institute, and his fiancée, Lillian Zheng of Scripps Ranch. But no one technically leads the group of 10 to 15 people.

The activity is choreographed with prerecorded Chinese music, interspersed with gentle instruction from the father of Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi.

Falun Gong is a branch of Qi Gong, a generic term for techniques designed to bring about physical and spiritual health, sometimes called "Chinese yoga." The name "Falun Gong" literally means "the practice of the Wheel of the Dharma," and has commonly become synonymous with both the regimen and the movement.

The two-hour regimen is broken down into five parts: Buddha showing the thousand hands; standing stance exercise; penetrating the two cosmic extremes; Falun heavenly circulation; and strengthening supernormal powers, involving hand, leg and even tongue movements.

Local practitioners rave about the mental, physical and spiritual benefits of Falun Gong, which they refer to not as a religion but as a spiritual practice.


"Every day there's stories about people being cured, miraculously cured, of illnesses. Cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, people stop smoking, stop drinking alcohol," said Arleen Freeman, a former La Jolla resident and Falun Gong practitioner since 1999. "Every one of us has a story to tell."

An intruder attacked Freeman in her home in 1996. She suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and began drinking. After seeing an ad in a local paper, she attended a nine-part Falun Gong lecture series at UCSD, and then attended the weekend exercises. She credits her recovered mental health to her practice of Falun Gong.

"Falun Gong is not only part of the body, its part of the mind," said Zheng. "If you want to behave as a good person, your health can be recovered. The most important thing is to be a good person. Because that's how you make your body good, too."

The spiritual teachings of Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, are based on the principles of zhen, shan and ren, which are translated as truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance.

"In everything we do, all the time, we look at at our actions and we see if they're consistent with being truthful, compassionate, and tolerant," Freeman said.


"On a basic level, each of us are asked to give up our attachments," Eaves said, whether that is "an attachment to smoking, an attachment to alcohol."


"The energy channels in the body are blocked, and that creates illness," Freeman explained. "These exercises open up the energy channels and strengthen them."


The Chinese government outlawed Falun Gong shortly thereafter, and continues to prosecute anyone caught practicing Falun Gong or possessing Falun Gong materials.

With the assistance of organizations such as Amnesty International and Friends of Falun Gong, local followers have orchestrated campaigns raising awareness and pressuring the Chinese government to relent in its campaign against the Falun Gong.

Currently, local followers are trying to pressure the Chinese government to release Dr. Charles Li of Menlo Park, who returned to China in January of this year, and was arrested at the airport as he deplaned.

The local Falun Gong followers also speak regularly at the San Diego City Council, encouraging the council to pass a resolution protesting the mistreatment of Falun Gong followers in Yantai, San Diego's sister city in China.