For some months now, The Church Within has been host to Barbara Kanzanjian’s teaching of William C. C. Chen’s style of Tai Chi Chuan. This came about because I attended Barbara’s class at another venue that proved to be less than consistent in their ability to offer space and, being who I am, I invited the class to our space for practice and to meet our community. What I hoped was that folks from the church would find a home in a martial arts practice as I have done over the last decade.
While tai chi is markedly different in many ways from the karate I have studied over the years at Broad Ripple Martial Arts, it still offers a nearly identical list of benefits for body, mind, and spirit. In the course of our time in tai chi class, we have silent meditation, teachings on movements and their applications, time for practice, and one-on-one assistance from Barbara. We also end in silence followed by a reading of Taoist poetry that Barbara has chosen. Our work with the form, besides the benefits of health and self defense, is a way of moving into silence. Much as the forms in karate, there is a way of moving and practicing that brings the mind spiraling in from the busy-ness and chaos of the world-at-large into the center of being and a quieting of the mind. We move into the quiet.
As I shared above, I invited Barbara and the class to The Church Within so that we could continue our practice and so that the class could meet the community of the church . Something beautiful has happened that I hadn’t expected. We have several folks who have started tai chi with us for the first time and who are not regular attenders of our church. They have, though, become part of our church family.
Every year we get a collection of paper stockings that have a child’s name, age, and gift wishes printed on them. Folks from the seats on Sunday mornings get a stocking or two and do some extra shopping for these kids. Once they’ve gotten the gifts gathered, they wrap them and attach those name tags to the gifts so they can be given to the Concord Center and then to the families for whom they were purchased. When the members of the tai chi class walked in and saw the holiday decorations and the little stockings hanging up, they immediately started grabbing a stocking of their own and had the gifts bought, wrapped, and back to church the very next week.
It was so beautiful to see this kind of outside group that I had gotten to move into the church shift from being something that we hosted to being something that is just another amazing part of who we are. We are a different kind of place and the way we engage the community around us is growing all the time.
I would love for more folks to engage this tai chi practice as part of their experience of The Church Within. We meet in 6-week sessions with a one week break in between. Barbara teaches beginning students on Tuesday nights from 6:30-7:30. Advanced students meet from 7-8 and beginning students are welcome to watch the last 30 minutes of the advanced class. More information is available on facebook.