Mindfulness meditation is the awareness arising out of paying attention to present moment experience without judgment. In meditation we focus on our internal experience (not what’s going on externally), we make a sustained effort (but with no attachment to outcome), and we observe our experience as the present moment unfolds just as it is, however it is (without judging it as good/bad, right/wrong, like/dislike, etc.). To stay anchored in our present moment experience, we use techniques like focusing on our body sensations, the breath, or emptying our mind of thoughts with each exhale.
In this beginner-level challenge participants will learn to meditate and develop a daily home meditation practice with simple, easy-to-follow instructions and guidance. Participants will commit to sitting in meditation and using the techniques for at least 5 minutes a day, every day, for 30 days. We will meet each week for 4 weeks. Each meeting will begin with some brief instruction on the technique used for that week, followed by 20-minute practice of that meditation technique. We will then review some practical tips that can help you develop your home practice. In our week 1 meeting, we will focus on body awareness. In week 2 we will focus on awareness of our breath. In week 3 we will focus on awareness of our mind. In week 4 we will practice using all of these techniques.
Week 1 technique/instruction: Awareness of Body. Relax the entire body from head to toe every time you exhale. When you get distracted by sounds, thoughts, whatever (and this will happen often), just notice it and return to relaxing the entire body every time you exhale. Practice for at least 5 minutes every day in week 1.
Week 2 technique/instruction: Awareness of Breath. Count "one" every time you exhale and continue up to "ten," then start over at "one" and continue. When you get distracted, just notice it and return to counting your exhalations, starting over at "one." Practice for at least 5 minutes a day every day in week 2.
Week 3 technique/instruction: Awareness of Mind. Empty the mind of all thoughts every time you exhale. When you get distracted (and this will happen very often), just notice it and return to emptying your mind of all thoughts every time you exhale.
Week 4 technique/instruction: Awareness of Body, Breath, and Mind. Practice using any or all of the techniques we have learned in weeks 1, 2, and 3. Choose a single technique that works for you or try each in a progression, starting with body, then breath, then mind. When you get distracted, just notice it and return to practicing your technique.
Week 5 In our last meeting we will sit together for 20 minutes using any or all of these techniques. Then we will review, offer some final practical tips for continued daily home practice, and close. Accept the challenge and join us!
Happy World Tai Chi and Qigong Day!
World Tai Chi and Qigong Day was first launched in 1999 in Kansas City, Missouri, where the Kansas City Tai Chi Club held a public demonstration and class with over 300 attendees. With coverage from CNN Headline News, the event quickly gained national, and then international attention. The event has been proclaimed or recognized by the Governors of 25 U.S. states, the Senates of California, New York, and Puerto Rico, the United Nations World Health Organization, and by countries as diverse as Brazil and Croatia.
World Tai Chi and Qigong Day is held every April 30th in hundreds of cities in over 80 countries around the world, and has led to programs being developed to present Tai Chi from places as varied as schools (from preschools to high schools to universities), prisons (such as the infamous Folsom Prison, where Tai Chi was found to drastically reduce recidivism rates in prisoners) to large corporations. WTCQD was created with the following purposes as the guiding intents:
"One World, One Breath" is the motto of the organizers of the event, and it's a powerful one! What a beautiful concept - using Tai Chi and Qigong to not only heal ourselves, but to bring people together and create healing around the world.
So: what are you doing to celebrate World Tai Chi and Qigong Day?
Are you, or someone you know, dealing with Parkinson's disease? If so, Tai Chi may provide needed help.
In an article for Harvard Medical School's Harvard Health Publications blog, Dr. Peter Wayne (author of the excellent "The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi: 12 Weeks to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart, and Sharp Mind" and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School) discusses the effectiveness of Tai Chi as a safe, side-effect free treatment for Parkinson's symptoms (such as tremors, loss of balance, freezing of movement, sleeping problems, and more).
Referring to a study in the famed New England Journal of Medicine by a team at the Oregon Research Institute, he noted that researchers had found that study participants who did Tai Chi twice a week were significantly stronger and had better balance, fewer falls, and slower rates of decline in motor control than participants who did either strength training or stretching!
He also noted that other studies have shown that Tai Chi improves overall quality of life not only for people with Parkinson's disease, but for their support partners as well. Not only that, but it is safe, with very little risk of practitioners (even those with Parkinson's) getting hurt because of their training.
Dr. Wayne goes on to talk a bit more about Parkinson's, noting how the brain disorder affects more than one million Americans, and impacts muscle control, leading to symptoms like trembling, loss of facial expression, and even changes to thinking skills and memory. He notes that, since the New England Journal of Medicine study, Tai Chi classes just for people with Parkinson's disease have been appearing, but this is far from an indictment: he, along with several colleagues at the Harvard Medical School, the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, along with Tai Chi experts, have developed a 12-week Tai Chi Program for Parkinson's patients of their very own.
This team have also begun a new study that will be used to guide future studies into the health benefits of Tai Chi, especially for those recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He believes that more hospitals and treatment centers will develop and host Tai Chi programs of their own as more scientific evidence mounts regarding the benefits this practice holds for those with Parkinson's disease, as well as others.
We have found these results to support our own work with Tai Chi students dealing with Parkinson's and other degenerative ailments, and have seen some amazing recoveries from regular practice of this gentle healing art.
The National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has compiled the results of 20 scientific studies into the health benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong - and the list is pretty amazing. For example, practicing Tai Chi can help:
While they have gathered fewer studies on the benefits of Qigong, what they have seen indicates that it helps with:
It's great to see not only the scientific community continuing to research the benefits of these amazing healing arts, but to also see that research supported and shared by the Federal government.
Now, WE know that there are many more benefits to be gained from practicing Qigong and Tai Chi...and you have probably experienced some of them yourself! We'd love to hear about your experiences - please share them on Facebook and the comments below.
In our last post, we introduced the concepts of yin and yang theory. This time, we will overview the 5 Relationships of Yin and Yang
In this post, we will introduce the concept of yin and yang, one of the fundamental concepts underlying Chinese culture, including medicine and the martial arts (such as Tai Chi).
The yin-yang theory, originating in ancient China, is a method for observing and analyzing the material world. It is a philosophical conceptualization describing the two opposing natures which may be observed within anything. The Chinese people understand that all aspects of the natural world have a dual nature: day and night, up and down, hot and cold, and so on.
The symbols of water and fire symbolize yin and yang. Everything in the natural environment may be classified as yin or yang. Those with fire properties of:
Within the field of medicine, different functions and properties in the body are associated with yin or yang. For example, the qi of the body, which has moving and warming functions are yang while nourishing and moistening functions are yin.
The yin-yang nature of the universe is not absolute but relative. Yin may transform into yang and vice versa. This is referred to as the inter-transformational nature of yin and yang. Any phenomenon may be infinitely divided into its yin and yang aspects. For example: day is yang and night is yin. However, morning is yang within yang and afternoon is yin within yang. The first half of the night is yin within yin and the second half yang within yin. It can be seen that yin and yang are at the same time opposite and yet interdependent.
So there it is: an introduction to yin-yang theory. Our next post will look at the relationships of yin and yang and how they interact. Stay tuned!