I was first introduced to the practice of Tai Chi in 1994 during a training experience at the Harvard Mind Body Institute, a Division of the Harvard Medical School. I was impressed that this esteemed Medical School was including Tai Chi as one of the ways they were teaching their medical residents, community health providers and patients alike to improve health and lifestyle where traditional western medical treatments had failed to provide a solution.
I learned that Tai chi is a form of exercise, a “soft martial art”, a mindfulness practice (a way to increase awareness without judgment of what’s going on in the mind, body and emotions) and a nice way to connect with like-minded people. I found the gentle flowing sequence of movements relaxing and centering. I liked the opportunity to get my breath, my movements and my mind in synch. And I was impressed by the joy I experienced being in synch with the other participants who were moving together with uncommon grace. I made a commitment to myself to explore ways to integrate my new found interests – Tai Chi, Yoga and Meditation – into the traditional psychological services we were offering at our Counseling Center, when I returned home following my training in Boston.
We first introduced Tai Chi at Gurnee Counseling Center after creating a room big enough for a class in our newly constructed facility in 2002. Our first Tai Chi instructor was Dr. Feng Liu – a local physician trained in both western medicine and in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She, like many Tai Chi practitioners, believed that the movements in Tai Chi practice opened “energy meridians” in the body, unblocking pathways to both physical and psychological health and healing. Tai Chi practitioners access, utilize and generate chi – “vital energy”. I sometimes practice Tai Chi when my energy is low in order to re-energize myself. At other times, I can utilize the same movements to quiet myself, to settle myself down. I’ve found that there’s a connection between intention and outcome.
At the urging of my Tai Chi teacher, I began teaching Tai Chi at GCC in 2005. My class is available to anyone in our community, free of charge. During the hour long class on Tuesday nights, we practice a Tai Chi warm up, we practice elements of the Yang 24 Form, and we finish up the class with 10 minutes of sitting meditation.
The composition of our open ended class varies in age and skill/experience level on any given night. Regardless of whether the participant is brand new to Tai Chi or a more seasoned practitioner, all seem to get something they came for:
- A way to calm down, let go of the stresses of the day or worries about what the future might bring
- A chance to learn or refine an interesting and fun skill they can practice on their own
- A chance to “come back home to one’s self” after a day of responding to the demands and expectations of others
- An opportunity to connect with others interested in meditative practices
- Something to help participants set the stage to have a good, restful night sleep
To find out more about our Tai Chi class at GCC, call Jennifer at 847-336-5621 ext. 136. Or send her an email at email@example.com. Or call me at 847-336-5621 ext. 121 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to having you join me on Tuesday nights.
Phil Kirschbaum, LCSW