Balance and Tai Chi

The New York Times recently published an article titled Can You Pass the 10-Second Balance Test?” in which they linked tai chi with greater balance and longevity.

As the author Hilary Achauer noted,

“Balance training is an important but often-neglected skill, one that impacts both our longevity and our quality of life, beginning around age 40. … Falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths worldwide, yet doctors don’t have an easy way to check balance, like they do blood pressure or pulse. … Balance training goes hand-in-hand with strength training. The stronger the muscles in your legs, glutes, feet and core, the better your balance. You can improve your balance by taking Tai Chi or yoga classes, but weight training, dancing, rock climbing or aerobics classes are also excellent ways to work on your balance skills.”

Read the full article here:


Recording of “The Practice of Loving Water”

In case you missed the March 28th discussion of “The Practice of Loving Water,” here’s the recording:

Here are some additional resources:

“Loving Water Across Religions” 
Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology “Spotlights” conversation with Sam Mickey and Elizabeth McAnally. January 18, 2021.  

“Integral Water Ethic” 
Deep Water Initiative Podcast with Charlie Forbes and Elizabeth McAnally. March 10, 2019. 

“Water as a Bodhisattva”
By Jay McDaniel. Open Horizons. January 20, 2021. 

“Bowl of Tears” 
Ritual from The Work That Reconnects.  


Opening & Closing Reflections:

“The Summer Day” 
By Mary Oliver 

Who made the world? 
Who made the swan, and the black bear? 
Who made the grasshopper? 
This grasshopper, I mean— 
the one who has flung herself out of the grass, 
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, 
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down— 
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. 
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. 
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. 
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. 
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down 
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, 
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, 
which is what I have been doing all day. 
Tell me, what else should I have done? 
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? 
Tell me, what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life? 

“Blessing for Water”  
By Starhawk in The Earth Path

Praise and gratitude to the sacred waters of the world, to the oceans, the mother of life, the womb of the plant life that freshens our air with oxygen, the brew that is stirred by sunlight and the moon’s gravity into the great currents and tides that move across the earth, circulating the means of life, bringing warmth to the frozen Arctic and cool, fresh winds to the tropics. We give thanks for the blessed clouds and the rain that brings the gift of life to the land, that eases the thirst of roots, that grows the trees and sustains life even in the dry desert. We give thanks for the springs that bring life-giving water up from the ground, for the small streams and creeks, for the mighty rivers. We praise the beauty of water, the sparkle of the sunlight on a blue lake, the shimmer of moonlight on the ocean’s waves, the white spray of the waterfall. We take delight in the sweet singing of the dancing stream and the roar of the river in the flood. 

We ask help to know within ourselves all the powers of water: to wear down and to build up, to ebb and to flow, to nurture and to destroy, to merge and to separate. We know that water has great powers of healing and cleansing, and we also know that water is vulnerable to contamination and pollution. We ask help in our work as healers, in our efforts to ensure that the waters of the world run clean and run free, that all the earth’s children have the water they need to sustain abundance of life. Blessed be the water.

Precious rain!

So grateful for all the rain we’ve been getting lately here in the Bay Area. More rain is coming this Sunday, so our class will meet online instead of at Ohlone Park. If you’re free at 10am PDT this Sunday, October 24, please join us! Register here.

I’m also offering an online class on Friday, November 12 at 3:00pm PDT. Register here. 

Hope to practice with you again soon! More details about classes can be found here.

Cancer Support Community’s Hope Walk

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.

Spring Blessings

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

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.


Two new videos!

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.

“Slow down. Pay attention. Breathe. Flow.”

Elizabeth McAnally - taiji photo for Botanical GardenThe 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.


“What can water teach us?”

Esalen ocean
Photo credit: Elizabeh McAnally

I recently wrote a short article for 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.

You can read the full article here.

Reflections on Taiji

sean and mePhoto taken by Paul McNees

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.