I’m happy to share two new videos. The first one is a virtual class filmed by the UC Botanical Garden in July 2020 in the Redwood Grove.
The second one is a Zoomcast conversation that I had with my dear friend Michelle Hobart on “Water Ethics, Taiji, & Spirituality.” We discussed some of the teachings of water, including interdependence and compassion, as well as the responsibility to ripple out care to all bodies of water and our whole our Earth community. Having practices such as taiji or meditation can provide a space to contemplate how to be of service and find meaningful action.
The April newsletter of the UC Botanical Garden highlighted programs at the garden to give a taste of what we do. Here’s my contribution describing our Integral Taiji and Qigong classes:
“Slow down. Pay attention. Breathe. Flow.” I often bring up these instructions in our Integral Taiji & Qigong classes at the UC Botanical Garden. In our classes, we focus on cultivating the energy (qi) that flows through our body and the world around us. You can practice anytime by simply slowing down your movements, increasing your sense of awareness, breathing deeply, and flowing gracefully. One basic practice is to slowly and fluidly imitate different plants, animals, and elements (earth, air, water, and fire). With mindfulness, imagine that you can trace the energy of the other beings in the world with your movements. If you’re standing by a tree, feel your body become the tree. Or if you’re near a creek or the ocean, let your hands and arms flow like the water. Bring this mindfulness of healing energy with you as you move throughout your day.
I recently wrote a short article for AllCreation.org entitled “What can water teach us?” In it, I explored some connections between water and taiji.
Here’s an excerpt:
One of my personal spiritual practices is a blend of taiji (tai chi) and qigong, Chinese martial and healing arts that involve working with the vital energy of the body, mind, and cosmos through slow, meditative movements. Throughout my twelve years of practice, I’ve become aware that taiji and qigong teach me how to flow like water and notice the flows of energy present throughout my body and the world. I especially enjoy practicing near bodies of water, because I can more vividly include water in my meditations and move my body like water under its guidance. Embodying the flows of water through such imaginative imitation is very inspiring and instructive for me, physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually. Through their wise movements, taiji and qigong practices can provide a vivid, bodily-felt sense that all things are composed of qi (chi), energy or life force. Humans and the world are intimately interrelated with this cosmic stuff of life. And that, to me, feels profoundly confirmed by water. Because water flows within our bodies and throughout the world, there can be no rigid distinction between self and other. This kind of reciprocity—the reciprocal relationship between the elements in the body and the elements in the world—this is what taiji and qigong can teach and also what water can teach.
I’ve been reflecting lately on the first taiji course I took, “Integral T’ai Chi” with Dr. Sean Kelly at the California Institute of Integral Studies. I consider Integral T’ai Chi to be one of the most influential classes I took at CIIS. Sean is an excellent t’ai chi and qigong instructor, and he makes the practice accessible, fun, and highly meaningful. When I enrolled in the course back in Fall 2006, I had no idea that t’ai chi would shape my life in the way that it has. T’ai chi helps me slow down, breathe deeply, pay attention, move mindfully, and vividly experience qi — the life force that flows in and as all things. The integral practice of t’ai chi has become a way of life for me, and I can’t thank Sean enough for training me in this practice for over a decade now.
I wanted to let you know that I am transitioning out of my role as the teacher of the Integral Taiji & Qigong class at CIIS. I’ve really enjoyed my time practicing with you all over the past 7 years that I’ve been leading the class. However, I feel that I can’t continue teaching the class at CIIS because I need to focus on finishing my doctoral dissertation and graduate in May 2017. Simplifying my calendar will help me carve out more time for writing.
To give you context, I’ve been teaching 10 1-hour classes each semester for the past 2 years. (In prior years, I had been teaching up to 14 classes each semester.) In order to receive a modest stipend from Student Alliance for teaching the classes, I am required to attend the mandatory Student Alliance meetings. While these meetings are very interesting and a great way to build community, they are also time-consuming. This semester alone, I’ve spent over 60 hours total teaching the classes, attending the Student Alliance meetings, and commuting between my home in Berkeley and CIIS. While this has been time well spent, my top priority at this stage is finishing my dissertation.
It’s been a blessing to have been given this opportunity to teach, and I’m so grateful to you all for helping me develop my teaching style and deepen my understanding of taiji and qigong. I will continue to offer private lessons for individuals and groups, so don’t hesitate to contact me if you’re ever interested.
I wish you well, and I look forward to seeing you again soon!
Tai chi is mentally, as well as physically, grounding. I’m finding it the perfect antidote to the pace set by the digital world; having been seduced for years by the delights and benefits of click-of-a-button rewards, I’m relearning that working slowly, with method and intention, can be just as gratifying.
The practice of mindful walking, says Thich Nhat Hanh, is a profound and pleasurable way to deepen our connection with our body and the earth. We breathe, take a mindful step, and come back to our true home.
Your brain on meditation: calm, clear and confident. Your brain on Tai Chi: calm, clear, and confident. As a practitioner of both meditation and Tai Chi, I can attest to the shared outcomes of each practice.
But, I’ve seen students wrestle with the challenge of finding time to do both. While it’s optimal to sit in meditation, it’s often not necessary — especially if you practice Tai Chi. The common denominator may be that both Tai Chi and mindfulness meditation focus your attention on the breath. That single focus may help your brain make lasting changes that impact the way you see (and cope) with things.
The benefits of tai chi are numerous. Here’s a recent article on how tai chi helps with Parkinson’s disease:
Tai chi, a type of exercise that guides the body through gentle, flowing poses, may help some of the worst physical problems of Parkinson’s disease, a new study shows.
If further studies confirm the findings, experts say it appears that tai chi might be an effective therapy for improving a person’s ability to walk, move steadily, and balance. Tai chi may also reduce the chances of a fall.
I’m excited to share videos of various taiji and qigong exercises to help others in their home practice. I’m very grateful to Student Alliance at the California Institute of Integral Studies for granting funds for this video project.