A Hongkonger's journey from 'left brain' operator to whole-body thinker

Judy Xu, daughter of a qigong master, quit the corporate world eight years ago to pursue mind-body balance and teach the West about Chinese medicine

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 July, 2015, 6:33am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 July, 2015, 6:33am

Ever dreamed of throwing in the towel on your corporate career? This month we meet three Hongkongers who've done just that, opting instead for a healthier career and life.

Judy Xu starts every day with the same ritual: after sipping warm water with lemon, she climbs the stairs to her rooftop and begins her tai chi practice as the sun rises. Once warmed up, she picks up her sword and repeats the movements, blade in hand, to get her heart pumping.

"You can move your qi through your body much better through practice with the sword," explains 38-year-old Xu. "As you move, you and the sword become united - it is very beautiful, and also fun."

Xu's daily practice is the fulcrum on which her life as a mother, holistic health coach, Chinese medicine nutritionist, and businesswoman is now balanced. She learned tai chi from her father, a qigong master, but like many people let her traditions slip as the rigours of life took hold.

Rediscovering the practice eight years ago has also enabled Xu to transform her career: she left her job as a product manager at Fuji Xerox to follow her life's purpose "to simplify Chinese medicine and convey its message to the Western world".

Xu moved to Hong Kong 12 years ago to do an MBA and later pursued her corporate career.

"But it was always just a job. I went there, gave my best, got the job done and that's it. I think a lot of people want to change and do something different but there's always a lot of fear. You are giving up everything stable and going against what society thinks is success."

During her first pregnancy she made the leap and dived head first into studies of Chinese medicine. In the same year she started an online business, bringing Chinese wisdom to the Western world. Hungry for more knowledge, she studied nutrition and opened a Chinese medicine clinic, Oriental Health.

Last year the opportunity arose for her to take over at Balanced Health - a modern alternative health practice in Central that integrates Chinese medicine with other mind and body practices.

"I've long had an interest in the mind-body connection. I believe it is very important and if we can integrate it all together, I think we can really achieve good health," she says.

"There's a saying in Buddhism: 'When the student is ready the teacher will appear'. I don't think any of my past working experience has been a waste. Once you are clear on your life's purpose, I think you're able to integrate all your experiences and resources towards where you want to go."

Some of my earliest memories are practising tai chi with my father. Growing up my mother was often sick and I remember he used to give her healthy "qi" every night. Some time ago I reflected on what I wanted to do with my life and realised I wanted to practise tai chi again. I searched and found a master, Joe Lok, with whom I practise once a week. Now, I practise every day.

I think differently these days. Before I was "left brain"; I was very good at Excel spreadsheets and was always thinking in numbers. At the back of my mind I know how to manage a business - I am a businesswoman at heart - but now I feel I think more wholly, with my body and my mind.

I believe in the importance of synchronicity: being in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. Before I used to work hard thinking it was the only way to do a good job. But I have found being "busy" doesn't serve me. I believe if you really connect with yourself and your purpose, things happen for you.

My purpose and passion is to help others find good health and purpose in their life. I work with clients at my clinics but also by going back to corporates to speak to their staff and customers. Even in my private life, my friends and family know me as a strong advocate for a healthy lifestyle.

For perfect health, I believe you need to have good food, good sleep, movement, stillness and time to cultivate a good mind-body connection.

To achieve greater balance in our lives is a matter of achieving small balances. In Taoism, we say " tian ren ke yi", which means heaven and people should be united as one. That is the optimal goal of balance, and I believe it's achieved through finding small balances. Is the food you eat balanced? What about the exercise? Nowadays people do a lot of "yang", high-energy exercise, and not enough "yin", calming movement. Are you emotionally balanced? Finally, there is work-life balance. Balance is about making the small decisions where we can have some of the greatest impact.

Whenever I feel my energy is a bit low I go for acupuncture or massage and I find my energy comes back very quickly. Only when you are in that centred space, with peace and calm in your heart, can you make good decisions and live well.