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Moving Through the Tree of Life: Where Tai Chi meets Kabbalah

As an acupuncturist and t’ai chi/qi gong teacher—now retired—I see the world through the 5-element lens of Chinese cosmology: Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire. Each element connects us to Nature and to the characteristics of that element manifested in each person. 

Judaism uses a 4-element lens, related to the 4 worlds of Kabbalah: Earth, Air, Water and Fire. They describe our connection to the world and the balance needed to align our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual worlds.

I had an intuitive sense that these two systems fit together.  As I practiced tai chi and qi gong, I felt the alignment of the 4 worlds through my body. However, I couldn’t figure out where the missing Chinese Wood element fit into the Jewish mystical 4-element model.

Then one day as I was doing t’ai chi in front of a majestic pine tree, I had an “Ah ha!” moment. With my feet planted in the Earth and my head reaching toward the Heavens, my mind and my heart opened. I found the missing Wood:  the tree I was dancing with was also in me!

As I returned to regular consciousness, I was flooded with images of trees in Judaism: the Tree of Life; the Torah itself; the atzei chaim (Torah rollers); the Etz Chaim Hi prayer; the Sephirot and the many different kinds of trees and references to trees in the Torah.

As these two systems came together in my mind, I realized that many of the traditional Chinese movements resonated with Kabbalah’s 4 worlds/elements.  Moreover, Jewish symbols—like the Magen David (shield of David/Jewish star) and the Shiviti (4-letter name of G!d) could be interpreted through t’ai chi/qi gong movements and “fit” over our bodies. 

The congruence through movement of the two mystical traditions inspired me create, “Moving Through the Tree of Life: Where T’ai Chi Meets Kabbalah.”  Participants in my live and zoom movement workshops experience their Judaism in a new embodied way that leaves them relaxed, grounded, and connected to the Source of All.


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