Good morning! My name is Kathy. Let’s greet our friends.
Today we’re going to learn a new spiritual practice. Who remembers what a spiritual practice is? It is an activity that cultivates spirituality.
What are some examples of spiritual practice? (Prayer, meditation, yoga, etc.)
Today, we’re going to learn about another, called t’ai chi ch’uan. Who here has heard of it? Has anyone done it before? Does anyone do it regularly at home?
Where does it come from? (China) What does “t’ai chi ch’uan” mean? It means “supreme ultimate fist” or “boundless fist”.
T’ai chi ch’uan started thousands of years ago as a martial art, sort of like karate. Back then, it had both fast and slow movements. But when the Manchurians took over the country, the new emperor saw how healthy the people were and wanted to learn it. But the master teachers didn’t want the new emperor to know all of their secrets, so they only taught the slow movements. Then the people saw this and started doing it too, until many learned it. It is still widely practiced today.
So how can a martial art also be a spiritual practice? Aren’t martial arts just for fighting? T’ai chi is called a “soft” martial art, which means that it uses both meditative and physical elements. It uses an internal power, a power inside of you.
The term “t’ai chi” refers to the ancient Chinese idea of the interplay between two opposite yet complimentary forces—called Yin and Yang—that are the foundation of creation. Who here has heard of Yin and Yang? Perhaps you’ve seen the symbol for it.
Yang means sunny, and yin means shady-they are opposites. Yin and Yang stand for opposites like night and day, white and black, happy and sad. But together they represent a balance in nature and in life. So, when you practice t’ai chi, you find yourself feeling more balanced, calm and clear-headed.
Let’s try some t’ai chi ch’uan. First, take off your shoes if you’d like and place them behind you. Spread out so you don’t touch the person next to you when your arms are stretched out. Next, we need to find our balance position. To do this, stand with your feet a bit apart. Now gently rock forward and backward without lifting your feet or any part of your feet off of the floor. Next, rock your body from left to right, again without your feet coming up off of the floor. When you do this, you will be able to feel when your body has gone too far. The trick is to not go too far. You also need to relax your muscles. Do the forms without talking or giggling.
OK, let’s try the form called Raising the Arms—
Opening the Chest
Separating the Clouds
Painting a Rainbow
Now that you have an idea of how to do t’ai chi, let’s form a circle. (Move round table to center)
T’ai Chi as a Spiritual Practice
You may have gone to a park or forest preserve and seen a group of people practicing t’ai chi. I wonder why people would do it outside?
In t’ai chi, finding balance is important. And many religions connect finding balance with being in natural surroundings. Although t’ai chi is not a religion itself, it does have some of the same beliefs as the Chinese philosophies of Taoism and Confucianism.
Let’s do the forms we learned again while listening to the nature sounds. There should only be silence, except for the nature sounds. While doing the moves, your muscles should be relaxed, not tense.
Do each of the forms. When finished, pause for a few seconds.
May each of you find good balance this week as you go through life.