Taiji and qigong are great practices to help unwind and de-stress, cultivate peace, and connect with the vital energy flowing through the world. Plus, it’s never too early to start working on balance to prevent falls!
I hope you’ll join me for an upcoming class. We meet on Sundays at 10am at Ohlone Park (in the block between Sacramento St. and California St.). I’m also offering an online class via Zoom on Wednesday, May 5 at 3pm Pacific Time. See details here.
There will be no class on May 9, as I’ll be participating that day in the Cancer Support Community’s Hope Walk to raise money for their wonderful organization. I’m walking in honor of Myrtle McAnally, my 99 year old grandmother who is a stage 4 colon cancer survivor. And I’m walking in memory of my family members who have died from cancer: my grandfather Charles Remmel McAnally, my aunt Iva Kemp, my uncle Joe Kemp, and my great-aunt Ida Mae Cheek. If you’d like to donate to the Cancer Support Community, you can do so here.
I’m excited to let you know that I received my second Covid-19 vaccination this past Saturday. Feeling so grateful that the vaccine is becoming more available each day. Sending prayers that this pandemic will be over very soon!
Every day I count my blessings that I have the practices of taiji and qigong to help me find a calm center in the midst of this turbulent world we live in. I keep reflecting on the numerous benefits of these contemplative practices.
Taiji and qigong help me:
slow down pay attention breathe flow
These practices are crucial to my well-being. And practicing with others is always special. I hope you’ll join me for an upcoming class.
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.
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.