I am pleased that we will be providing a place for a Tai Chi class beginning this month with classes each Monday at 10:00 a.m. This is another way that Immanuel Church continues to reach out to the community around us, and it also offers all of us a way to achieve better health. If there is enough interest, I am hopeful that we may be able to offer additional classes on evenings or weekends for those who work during the day.
One of the books that I read during my sabbatical last year was The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi. In this book, the author describes how the ancient Chinese practice of Tai Chi holds promise for making Western medicine more holistic. Tai Chi often leads to more vigor and energy, greater flexibility, balance, and mobility, and an improved sense of well-being. The latest research lends support to claims that Tai Chi favorably impacts the health of the heart, bones, nerves and muscles, immune system, and the mind.
The Western medical community has increasingly relied on a reductionist framework for managing disease and training physicians. The central tenet of this model is to focus on root causes of disease, for example, infectious agents, genetic or developmental abnormalities, or injuries. Of course, reductionism in medicine has led to tremendous successes; however, it has its limits and downsides. This is especially the case in complex chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, or recurrent low-back pain, where a single factor is rarely solely responsible for the disease. Rather, multiple factors are often identified, and the disease evolves through complex interactions between them. There is often a lack of communication among specialists and lack of coordinated care.
A regular Tai Chi practice can heighten bodily awareness and inner focus, help with balance and fall prevention, enhance natural breathing and heart health, and help attain peace of mind. And it can be begun at any age. The growing problems associated with our fast-paced, multitasking, overstimulated, more-is-better lifestyle can be counteracted by the “meditation in motion” of Tai Chi. It can help us navigate life with less stress and more balance.
Two things that we can all agree are needed in modern Western culture are less stress and more balance. I can attest personally that it is stressful when you have been trying since the month of May to convince the prescription side of your health insurance provider that you met your medical deductible in February. Indeed, if we are able to reduce our level of stress, we can readily see and feel the benefits to our health. We can all benefit from less stress.
Similarly, we can all benefit from more balance.
We need a balance between rest and activity, between work and play. When we are out of balance, either physically or emotionally, then our health begins to fail. Tai Chi derives its name from the concept of yin and yang, also known as the Tai Chi symbol. At the physical level, Tai Chi aims to strengthen, balance, and coordinate the left and right halves of the body, the lower and upper halves, and the extremities of the body with the inside or core. At a more subtle level, Tai Chi integrates body and mind, using rhythmic, conscious breathing, focused attention, heightened self-awareness, imagery, and intention. There are simple exercises in the book that I mentioned earlier that are helpful in beginning the practice.
If we can begin with ourselves, and look for ways to reduce stress and to enhance our balance, then there may yet be hope for our world. There may yet be a chance for peace and justice.
Blessings and Peace,