The fourth session of this year’s Lent course explored the use of Tai Chi as a way into silent contemplative prayer. Originally a form of Chinese martial art (not to be confused with Tai Kwon Do!), Tai Chi is commonly practised throughout China (and the Western world) by large groups of people of all ages in outdoor green spaces. A series of slow fluid movements with breath control, this really can be done by absolutely anyone, with health benefits reported for those suffering from conditions such as osteoarthritis and asthma. If standing for Tai Chi is too strenuous, then do it seated!
But what does Tai Chi have to do with Christian Meditation and silent contemplative prayer?
Rev Lorraine Cooke explained her Tai Chi journey, begun for health reasons, but that had unexpected spiritual benefits. Tai Chi helped her to still her mind and to be open and receptive to God. She made reference to “Be Still and Know” – that silent prayer, simply ‘being’ in the presence of God, enables us to have a 2-way communion with Him, rather than a 1-way stream of petitions.
So what was my experience during the session? The gentle movements did indeed help me to slow and settle my mind into spiritual stillness. For the first time in several weeks my stress-headache (a constant companion these days) temporarily lifted. When I made eye-contact with others in the group a quiet smile of shared understanding was exchanged. we finished with 10 minutes of seated silent meditation, and I went home refreshed and relaxed.
Rev Lorraine very thoughtfully prepared a leaflet for us that explains Tai Chi and how it helped her. You can download it here: Tai Chi leaflet
The participants in this session very generously allowed me to take photos, so here we are: