Newsletter #71 - July 2007
In this issue:
-- From me to you, by Dr Lam
--Tai chi for health: the future, by Caroline Demoise
-- Unlocking your tai chi genius, by Jay Van Schelt
-- Go Vols!: An account of the annual workshop, by Sheila Rae
-- A tai chi/qi gong class with the dementia unit, by Annemarie Groth-Juncker MD
-- Book review by Sheila Rae: Drawing silk, by Paul Gallagher
-- Tears of joy: LeeAnn’s Papa, by Jef Morris and LeeAnn Tuesca
-- Walking the labyrinth, by Lesley Roberts
-- Humor, laughter and radiant health, by Dr Bob McBrien
I am very pleased to report that the one-week annual workshop in Terre Haute, Indiana, USA was a great success. It was a most exciting and fulfilling time for everyone. Shelia Rae has written a summary of the workshop for us and we feature several photos of it. I hope you can come and join us next time.
I keep hearing stories of how the tai chi for health programs are helping people from all walks of life. Recent examples include, in Victoria, Australia, the Arthritis Foundation has gone into partnership with the State Government to bring the Tai Chi for Arthritis program to the community. The University of Barcelona in Spain and the University of Miami, Florida, have started forging bonds of collaboration for research into the effectiveness of tai chi for health programs. In the USA, many chapters of the Arthritis Foundation have reported on the popularity and wonderful results of the Tai Chi for Arthritis program. The University of Tennessee has had great success over the years with their project for older people using the tai chi for health programs. Many instructors involved with the above projects participated in the recent Terre Haute workshop.
At the workshop, five participants were recognised with a special award for their outstanding contribution in using tai chi to help others. Tony Garcia, for example, has had MS for 15 years but has turned his disability into ability by teaching tai chi full time to help many people with MS and other chronic conditions improve the quality of their lives. Sue Covert, a physical therapist, tai chi instructor and writer, has interviewed these five inspiring people and we will publish her stories about them in next month’s newsletter.
During the workshop we were faced with several health challenges. Two participants, LeeAnn and Brian Tuesca, had to leave after only two days when LeeAnn’s father became seriously ill due to a complication which arose during surgery. Jef Morris led a meditation class dedicated to sending positive energy to LeeAnn’s father. At roughly around the same time, LeeAnn told us, she arrived at the intensive care in the hospital, touched her father, and felt something. Incredibly her father started getting better after that. A study has been done that showed sending positive thoughts to people who are recovering from heart attacks improved their condition significantly compared to another group of control patients who only received the same medical care. In this newsletter, we print a full account from Jef and LeeAnn on how tai chi can be more than just exercise.
The photos for several recent workshops have now been posted on the website. You can order a CD of professional quality photos taken at your workshop online now.
A new North American distributor
I would like to thank you all for your support for my products. North American subscribers please note that Sheila Rae has now taken over the distribution of products in USA and Canada. You can find her contact details on the Contact us page on my website. Sheila is a Master Trainer for the tai chi for health programs and has been a tai chi and qigong teacher for many years, so when you contact her you will have the advantage of her expert advice on what DVD/book/CD/chart would suit you best.
I’d like to remind all certified instructors of my tai chi for health programs that you can get a 30% discount when you order ten or more items. To celebrate Sheila’s appointment, this month we have a very special offer. The first three instructors who send Sheila an order for 10 or more items will get a gift certificate of USD$100 to use with their next order.
New product release: Tai Chi @ Work
We’ve just released a new product, Tai Chi @ Work, which demonstrates how the wisdom of ancient tai chi principles can be applied in today’s workplace.
I have worked with a team of tai chi, health and business professionals to create Tai Chi @ Work, an innovative program especially designed to manage stress. In it, using a simple, easy to learn tai chi set, I share the secret tai chi principles that turn stress into a source of strength.The program has three warm-up exercises, three movements from three different styles, three principles to incorporate and three cooling-down exercises. It has been designed to be flexible in its format, so that it can be used at practically any time and in any place.
Tai Chi @ Work is available as a self-teaching DVD. Please contact us for more information.
In this month’s newsletter
There were a number of useful and insightful articles written for the workshop that I will share with you throughout the next few months. We start this month with an article by Caroline about the future for tai chi for health programs and one from Jay about unlocking the tai chi genius within you.
Also in this newsletter:
- Sheila gives us an account of the recent US annual workshop.
- Annemarie tells us about a tai chi/qi gong class with a dementia unit.
- Sheila reviews a lost classic now back in print, Drawing Silk, by Paul Gallagher.
- Jef and LeeAnn write about the tears of joy they shed for LeeAnn’s Papa during his recent health crisis.
- Lesley tells us how she found calmness and tranquillity ‘walking the labyrinth’.
- Dr Bob believes a key to the high quality of the annual workshop, was the amount of laughter and fun everyone experienced. He gives us another dose of humor to round out the newsletter.
July’s product of the month
Tai Chi @ Work is our featured product this month. In July, if you purchase two copies of Tai Chi @ Work you can get free of charge either another copy of Tai Chi @ Work, worth US$24.95 or a music CD worth US$15.95.
For more information and to order your copies, go to the online shop on my website. In the comments section, please quote SP0707 and tell us which free gift you’d prefer.
Product review of the month
Congratulations to Betty (Escan), of Florida for winning a tai chi music CD for this review of the ‘Explore the depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis’ workshop.
“Having a weekend of tai chi with Dr Lam is an opportunity not to be missed! …I like the June workshops as an opportunity to learn a new form. However, the weekend workshops offer special opportunities to network with other tai chi enthusiasts and to improve your tai chi, whether you work with one of the master trainers or have the chance to work with Dr. Lam himself. My advice is to attend a workshop near you!”
You can read the full text of Betty’s review on the website.
Thanks Betty for your review.We would like to send you a tai chi music CD for being our winner. Please email us at email@example.com and give us your postal address.
Enter your review of any of my products in the Forum and you will have a chance to win a tai chi music CD too.
Upcoming workshopsby Dr Lam
July 21–22, Stanmore, Sydney, Australia
-- Tai Chi for Diabetes Instructor's Training
-- Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructor's Training
-- Tai Chi for Arthritis Update & Part II Workshop
-- Tai Chi for Diabetes Update and Enhancement Workshop
August 18–19, Stanmore, Sydney, Australia
Therapeutic Tai Chi for Physical Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapy Professionals
August 25-26, Brisbane, Qld, Australia
Explore the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
September 14-15, Zurich, Switzerland
Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructor's Training
September 17-18, Zurich, Switzerland
Tai Chi for Diabetes Instructor's Training
September 21-22, Stockholm, Sweden
-- Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructor's Training
-- Tai Chi for Arthritis Update & Part II Instructor's Training
Find out about other Tai Chi for Health workshops conducted around the world by me or my master trainers on the workshop calendar page on the website.
Yours in tai chi,
Paul Lam, MD
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What is the trend in modifying of contents of tai chi?
The trend is to simplify tai chi by beginning with the easier movements and working toward more difficult physical movements. The trend is to slow down and feel our bodies as we move, To spend more time really learning the simple movements by breaking them down into small, easy to learn segments and savoring them with repetition, savoring them with repetition, while thoroughly enjoying the learning process. The future is calling us to deepen our skill in teaching to match how we have modified the contents and to become more deeply appreciative of simple movement and of the depth within a simple movement.
Shift the focus from emphasis on external to “awareness of internal as you teach simple external movements”
Seniors and people with health challenges generally have more difficulties with external movements. Even healthy people over 40 can find learning the external movements of tai chi challenging. I know I did when I began tai chi at that age. Paul has done a wonderful job of creating his family of tai chi health programs with simple movements that almost everyone can learn.
Where I would like to see us go in the future with tai chi for health is to enrich these simple movements, these simple forms with more awareness of our physical bodies, more awareness of our energy bodies and more awareness of our connection to nature.
It is easier to teach people how to become aware of their energy body, which is what we are really cultivating through tai chi, than it is sometimes to teach them external movements. In my classes, I have been exploring how to get people connected to themselves at a deeper level, through awareness of their energy body and through awareness of themselves as an expression of spirit. And I am finding a receptivity in people and an ability to connect with themselves as more than a physical body that learns a sequence of tai chi movements.
How does this translate to curriculum?
In class we emphasize making the experience of learning and growing together more important than progress with learning movements or completion of the form. We teach people to enjoy the process as it is unfolding. We break the movements down into smaller and smaller segments and find creative ways of using repetition to reinforce the learning of physical skills that lead to good external form.
We intersperse this with teaching people how to breathe abdominally and practice that alone and then with simple arm movements. This skill will eventually transfer into abdominal breathing during form practice.
We encourage people to feel the movements with their awareness, to feel deeply connected to themselves and do the movements from the “inside out”, with a quality of feeling and observing with their mind how it feels when they do a simple movement. We teach them how to use their minds as they learn tai chi and relax into their bodies to feel the movement.
We encourage people to slow down, to create a spaciousness in which the mind can lead the body through each part of the movement, a consciousness where they are looking for the energetic feeling of a movement and expecting to feel their energy as they move. And by looking and expecting, they will begin to feel. And it will bring a new and exciting dimension to exercise and practicing tai chi.
When we modify the contents of tai chi, we must also modify what we value in our students, what we encourage from our students and what we celebrate with our students.
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Many years ago I heard a story about a man named Buckminster Fuller. This man was a very intelligent individual; he was the leader of a college and is credited with discoveries like the geodesic dome and other important findings in science. Some would call this man a genius. The story I was told goes like this.
Dr Fuller, in his later years, was being interviewed by a young college student. She asked him, “What is it like to be a genius?” Dr. Fuller replied, “What do you mean?” The young student said, “I would like to know what it is like to live a life as a genius?” Dr Fuller replied (as a genius might), “Lets set a context so that we can discuss this point”.
“What you are calling a genius is someone who comes into a new situation, makes one or two mistakes and then gets it. This information can then be leveraged into new situations in the future. So, for instance, you learn how to insert a key and that a key opens a lock. You can then know how to use another key in another lock and also know that if it turns it is the right key. Although this is a simple example you get the point. Once you 'get it', In other words, know something, you can then use that knowledge to understand more quickly in new, similar situations.
“Now lets look at those you might say are not geniuses; what we might call a normal person makes somewhere from 80-90 mistakes and then they 'get it'. And what we might call a mentally handicapped person makes 200-300 or more mistakes and they 'get it'. The important thing to know is that the 'getting it' is the same for the genius, the normal person and the mentally handicapped person. Once they 'get it' they can then leverage this information to a new situation, they can understand how a key works. In this aspect of life they are a key genius.”
Now we come to the interesting part of this story and how it pertains to tai chi. Tai chi as an art is very complex and subtle. Anyone who has tried to learn it will tell you, it takes a great amount of dedication and practice to develop skill. While this is true I have over the years also noted that many people start doing tai chi and very quickly become discouraged because they believe that they will never be able to “get it” with tai chi. The idea that most people come with is that they have to reach a point where they are doing tai chi “right”. The story of Buckminster Fuller’s conversation addresses this point of doing it “right” and points out how to become a genius of tai chi. It takes a few steps:
- Find a safe environment to learn in. This environment should have people who are knowledgeable about the subject and who can also communicate in a way that you understand. This information hopefully is shared with you in a way that is loving and supportive, not harsh and condescending.
- Make as many mistakes as you can as quickly as you can so that you finally “get it” and in this way you will also unlock your own genius.
So to sum it up, the suggestion of Dr Fuller is; find a safe environment and make many mistakes as quickly as you can so that you “get it" and you too will know what it is like to live the life of a tai chi genius.
I would add a few last thoughts. It was my pleasure to spend a week at the annual workshop in Indiana at St Mary of the Wood College, during June of 2007. Many people came together from all over the country and the group of more than 100 had many different levels of skill and experience, from the mastery of Dr Lam, to the skills of the Master Trainers, right down to the people who came to learn tai chi for the first time. All of us together created the safe environment necessary to unlock the genius, a space where one found words of encouragement and kindness. I cannot imagine anyone in this environment hearing the harsh words of “you are not getting it and you should just give up”. So we satisfied the first step.
Next we spent the week learning new and different moves, we made many mistakes and so we moved towards being a genius. My class of the 24 Forms started out with most of them not knowing the form. By Wednesday night they were sure that learning this would be an insurmountable task. But they pressed on and made many more mistakes. On Friday they were practicing for the final demo and we made more mistakes. On Saturday morning (unfortunately I had to leave early to catch a plane) the group performed the 24 Forms for me and I saw the genius display itself. This group, I was informed later by my assistant Keith, nailed the demo.
I am sure that every group that demonstrated their new-found genius on the Saturday can relate to this experience. It is my hope that you will all continue to take the steps in your life to unlock your genius in as many areas of life as you can. So feel free to make a mistake, it is only a step toward unlocking your genius.Peace and wellness to you all.
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The USA week-long workshop in Terre Haute, Indiana, brought 126 participants from 27 states and 5 countries to the Heartland of America. As everyone gathered for the first assembly, Dr Lam gave recognition to all by a show of hands, and as each state was called there were whoops and hollers of pride from the participants of their states. The loudest of all were the participants from the great state of TENNESSEE.
Of all the states, Tennessee had the largest attendance, which was in a large part due to the University of Tennessee Extension Employees sent by the University to support the successful Tai Chi for Arthritis Program in place there. In 2005, Dr Barbara P Clarke, Professor and Co-director of UT’s Center for Community-based Health Initiatives, partnered with the Tennessee chapter of the Arthritis Foundation to provide TCA instructor training to over 60 University Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Employees who now have on-going classes in the many rural counties in Tennessee.
Not only are these dedicated extension employees bringing tai chi to populations that would have never been exposed to the art, some of them have begun their own tai chi path that led them to spending a week of their time to learn more tai chi for themselves.
And, as we all know, the more tai chi we learn the more we can share with others. I am proud of my fellow Tennesseeans for their representation and their energy that added to a most successful, fulfilling workshop for everyone.
See you next year!
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They were brought in on wheelchairs, using walkers or holding hands. “Where are we going?” They were restless, looked confused and bewildered.
After some commotion we settled in a circle and started loosening arms and legs and doing our warm-up. Some people fell asleep, others did some movements, and some followed every move.
We then practiced deep abdominal breathing. I saw their bellies moving in and out. Did they understand my instructions or maybe were just able to copy me?
I put on tai chi music and started simple qi gong movements in rhythm with my breath. One or two started to move their arms, more followed, some closed their eyes. Grace started to sing gently while moving her body and arms. A magic peaceful spirit spread through the room.
I changed movements. Some tried very hard to do it just right, others seemed to be in a different world, moving with eyes closed, exuding inner peace. A few fell asleep for a while, then started again.
We did our tapping sequence of head, arms, body and legs. Tapping the brain, one lady exclaimed: “Brain, I don’t need it any more!”
Time was up. I went from person to person to give each a back rub. “That feels so good, thank you.” One lady got up and made me sit on her chair. ”I want to give you a back rub. I don’t know how, but it is the least we can do for all you give to us.”
Another lady seemed asleep. “No, no, I am not asleep, I am just feeling good”, she said.
Was it tai chi? How can these severely demented people understand? They did. Not with their brain. The people who could no longer follow the movements seemed even more deeply engaged, with their breathing and their whole body.
I felt the chi in the room, I felt humbled. They had captured the spirit of tai chi at the deep level I am aspiring to for myself. We communicated.
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The tai chi world has long awaited the reprint of Paul Gallagher’s Drawing silk as a manual for traditional tai chi chuan training.
Complied from 40 years of research and practice of tai chi and Taoist arts, the reader is presented not only with an essential guide to correct practice and study, but also with the classical writings of the early masters, in an easy to understand format.
Questions are answered and forms are discussed in detail; yet beyond this scope of the expected, there are also insights into nutritional science, herbology, geomancy and Chinese etiquette for martial arts to form a composite whole of the philosophy interrelated with tai chi chuan.
It is practical, inspiring and entertaining on a level that keeps the reader wanting more from this brilliant scholar of the Taoist life arts.
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Dear LeeAnn and Brian,
It has taken me a day or two to recovery from the strong experiences of the 10-day workshop. I wanted to get some perspective on how the events unfolded, and how the effects of Dr Lam’s training contributes to the quality of our workshop experience.
I feel that the benefits of Dr Lam’s training are the real basis for how the events of last week came to be. I am so very grateful your Papa did so well, and you all were there when he needed you. I would be honored to someday meet him in person, but in the mean time, I will continue to keep you all in my prayers and meditations.
In your email about your Papa, you inquired if someone would read your email at a morning talk, or meditation: I would like to offer my thoughts and include your email in an article for the newsletter.
Tears of joy: LeeAnn’s Papa, by Jef Morris and LeeAnn Tuesca
As I returned to teach the Tai Chi for Arthritis certification workshop, part of the 10-day US International Tai Chi for Health Workshop in Terra Haute, in June of this year, I was reflecting on how well each participant was advancing. Advancing in their own healing experience by using the tai chi exercises, and learning how to teach the movements in a safe and effective way.
When I opened the door I was shocked to find some of the participants in tears, and one participant said to me, “Jef you had better sit down, there is something you need to read”. So I sat down, and started to read your email, but after a while I could read no further. Not that it was difficult to read, but I could not see, for my tears got in the way of my vision.
Another participant offered to read LeeAnn’s email about her Papa. Here’s what LeeAnn wrote:
The Vanderbilt surgeons told me and my mother that my father had a rare genetic disorder that they discovered during his heart bypass surgery. He underwent six bypasses and afterwards discovered this disorder. Because of this, he had to suffer through two more surgeries to repair the vessels leading to his heart. The surgeons said this was THE most serious kind of cardiac surgery anyone can have. The surgeries were very intense, very serious and lasted for 15 hours. They also said that they had to use all the available blood in the hospital to keep him from bleeding to death.
The nurses in the cardiac intensive care unit said they had not experienced such a medically demanding patient in a long time. The main nurse today said usually they have one nurse assigned to a patient after heart surgery to watch them closely and the nurses usually get bored. My dad required three nurses and they said they were busy all night long attending to him. The surgeon cancelled all the surgeries and procedures he had scheduled to perform for the rest of the week so he could keep a careful eye on Papa.
All this happened most of the day Tuesday and half day Wednesday. Brian and I finally made it back home Wednesday afternoon, anxious, worried, exhausted. The nurses said he was stable at the time. When I was allowed to visit my dad the doctors said they were trying to decrease the sedation he was under so they could begin assessing his neurological functions. They said they were trying to get him to open his eyes and squeeze their hands but couldn't get him to respond. When I walked in the room, Papa promptly opened his eyes and tried to smile around all the tubes coming out of his mouth. I want to be careful here and explain that I don't think it was me. Some of it was, being his daughter, his only child, yadda, yadda, yadda. But, I truly believe that I brought all of the positive healing energy from my Tai Chi brothers and sisters at the workshop to my dad.
They sedated Papa again to allow his body to rest. I spoke to Shelia after that and she told me to expect to receive positive energies from everyone at Wednesday night's meditation. The meditation was going to be dedicated to him. So at around 9:30 Terre Haute time, I was allowed to visit my dad again. I placed my hands comfortably on Papa and felt a surge of warmth and tingling go through me and to him. After that, I felt an incredible peace and knew that all would be well.
Today, Thursday, the surgeon visited with us and said that he is amazed at how well Papa is doing. He didn't expect him to be improving so well this early after the gravity of all he had experienced. The night nurse tonight said she hadn't seen my dad since he went in for his third surgery. She was one of the three that hovered over him that first night. She said she was stunned to see how well he was doing. She was hoping that he was stable but didn't expect to see the dramatic improvement in his condition. They expect to take him off the ventilator tomorrow because he is doing so well.
I'm giving you all this detail because I want everyone to know what a direct impact you have had in helping my Papa. Like many, he had a very poor and traumatic childhood. He rose above all his adversity and has become a dedicated husband, a loving father and a respected leader in his community. He is certainly deserving of the prayers and positive energies you all have concentrated his way. He has been an instrument in his local community in helping children read and grow toward better lives. Because of each of you, the town and county will continue to benefit from his talents and goodness.
With our loving Tai Chi community you have shown that Tai Chi is not merely a form of exercise for the muscles. It is an exercise of the spirit. Don't place your measure of achievement on how well you do at Saturday's demonstration. You have already demonstrated your achievement in my Papa.
After hearing from LeeAnn, we were inspired to continue to practice, with a deeper sense of wonder. The tai chi exercises produce results; the results have different effects, dependent on the person. The tai chi classics remind us to relax. In order to relax you have to focus; to focus you have to relax.
When Dr Lam talks of the Three Awareness: Posture, Breathing and the Situation, in tai chi classes we can focus and relax. We develop a deep, but growing internal awareness. On one level, we begin to sense our joints opening and closing, and in time we come to know how it feels when the waist commands our movements and balance.
But the challenge remains, how do we integrate the Three Awareness in the Situation of our daily lives?
When we decided to share our meditations during the workshop, I was inspired by the compassionate gift from Xavier Gibert, of Barcelona. Xavier realized how moved I was on hearing the monks chanting the mantras of Awakening and the mantras for the Road of Blessings, so he gave me his CDs.
It was these mantras we absorbed in our meditations, morning and night, around our tai chi training. Integrating the Three Awareness into our meditation posture, relaxed and comfortable, and focused breathing, to open our hearts to the Situation.
On Wednesday, I announced there were three participants of the workshop that day were in great pain and suffering. One was suffering pain in the body, one was suffering pain in the heart, and the third was suffering of the mind.
We dedicated our meditation to our friends in pain, by opening our heart energies, absorbing the healing sounds of the monks chanting. This was Wednesday evening from 9pm. to 10pm.
After the meditation, one of the workshop participants came into the room, and we talked for the next two hours. The impact of change can be very uncomfortable, when it comes to what we believed to be true, and at the thought of losing what we have come to love.
It is these experiences of life that can create great stress, and make what is already difficult, more complicated. It is also at these times we learn, and grow.
When we integrate the Three Awareness in these Situations, we come to understand a deep love is needed to support each other, and so many in the world. In our meditation, we offered our understanding and deep loving energies to those in need.
Later the next day, I saw the lady who had been in pain in her body. It appeared to have been a passing of a kidney stone, sometimes a quite painful process. Her comment to me was that at some point she felt she was talking with me, but I was several floors below. The kidney stone had passed and she was feeling much better.
As I turned from that conversation I was stopped in the hall by another participant. Her comment to me was she had attended a couple of meditation sessions, and had concluded that meditation was just not her scene. She found it impossible to quiet her thoughts.
But then she went on to say that sometime during her tai chi training that afternoon, she realized her mind was quite clear. She could not explain this clarity, and the only thing she could connect it to was that maybe something did happen in the meditation.
I encouraged her to continue to integrate the Three Awareness in her meditations and her tai chi training. To put her focus on her breathing in whatever the Situation. In many ways it is like the water that flows under the bridge.
The traffic on the bridge, like our thoughts, comes and goes. The water flowing under the bridge, like our breath flows. The more we connect with the flow, we move in harmony with the changing universe. Developing an deeper understanding the natural order of things, in the chaos that surrounds our daily lives.
There is one more moment I would like to share: it was while walking with one of the workshop participants, who also attended the meditations. Her concern had become great, for she was afraid the meditations were too strong and dark energies were being stimulated and maybe she should stop.
When she went into more detail, I came to understand the meditation and tai chi training did stir her emotions and she had been feeling well. While walking on the campus one afternoon, she felt a great heaviness, almost like slipping into a great sadness or depression. This is not what she wanted at all. So she prayed to the Lord, please do not let this happen to me– then at that moment the chapel bell rang four times... It was not the quarter- or half-hour, so she asked someone passing by why did the chapel bell ring four times? The person passing explained it was the five-minute bell before a scheduled funeral, and people were gathering for the service.
Upon understanding the Situation, we talked about the Secret, the Law of Attraction, the Yin and Yang of energies. We want to learn what to attract, but we must also learn what to avoid. When you apply the Three Awareness in this Situation we can understand how we can be feeling fine one moment, and then the next moment we feel bad.
Our first reaction is what does this Situation mean in relation to my past, or my future? We do not realize how quickly we mentally time-travel. It is like the story of watching a beautiful horse approaching you, and you get on the horse and ride it wherever the horse is going, forgetting what you were doing, or how you are actually feeling at this very moment.
Instead, we are physically present and feeling fine, but mentally time-traveling. We filter the Situation in relation to our past, or our fears for our future, and this causes us to react. Reacting is not the same as acting. Reacting is often based on our fears: acting allows us to create the living potential in each Situation.
When we lose our focus of the Situation, we become physically tense and uncertain. When we relax and regain our posture, and breath we can focus on the Situation. The more you practice the more you will develop a deep understanding of your internal awareness. The more you integrate your awareness, the traffic on the bridge will continue, and you gain in experience, how to be comfortable with uncertainty.
When we think of family, it is not something so easily defined or communicated, but you know your family is there, because you can feel them in your heart.
LeeAnn reminds us, “With our loving tai chi community, you have shown that tai chi is not merely a form of exercise for the muscles. It is an exercise of the spirit.” I feel that one effect, an aspect of the results of training with Dr. Lam, is how we come to care for our selves, each other, and so many in the world in great need.
When we integrate the Three Awareness, our tai chi training and family, I feel we are standing on firm ground. For this is cause of tears of joy:rest well Papa.
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Destination Indiana; not only was my mission to have a great week of tai chi with my global family but I also had an odd request from one of my hometown students. As I left class, she had placed a medium-sized stone in my hand with her name etched onto it and requested that I ‘Chuck it in a bush somewhere in America’. Mary knew she would never get the chance to travel there but had a deep need for some part of her to be in a spiritual place across the pond.
So into my luggage went the stone and away I flew. On the second day I began to feel the responsibility of my ‘stone mission’. I couldn’t just chuck it into any old bush but I needed to work out where it should go. It came to me early on that day that any place in the venue for the annual workshop would be appropriate, as it was called St Mary of the Woods and my friend’s name is Mary. It was also a very beautiful and spiritual place, with calmness and tranquillity. So I decided that as my inherent need was always to follow my star and be guided by it in all areas of my life, this would now also help me to do the right thing. I call it playing Tic Tac ‘Tao’ with the universe.
On the fourth day I heard of and visited The Labyrinth, I had never seen one before but there before me was a complex tessellating pattern that curved and twisted and turned back on itself in the most intriguing way. I only vaguely understood its meaning, that this was a place that people came to be guided, to find truths or to heal but I knew right then that this was the right place for Mary’s stone.
Setting out early before breakfast, I walked the stone through the labyrinth and sat in the middle tying to work out where to place it. Remembering what I had read, I headed for the quadrant relating to nature, which to me translated as being at one with the universe. I knew this would be a great place for Mary to connect herself with. I pressed the stone firmly into place and took a picture of the labyrinth from a distance, then the quadrant and finally a picture of the stone in the quadrant.
In the gift shop I found a card featuring the outline design of the labyrinth – the perfect way to convey her gift. I put a small ‘x’ to mark the spot so that Mary could trace her way to her stone with a toothpick on the card, then inserted the series of photos, a brochure about St Mary’s of the Woods and posted it to my dear student Mary. It felt so great to have been able to fulfil Mary’s wishes with such a feeling of completion. As a result, Mary was overjoyed, even overwhelmed by her newfound feelings of connection and has been much more open and confident in our group since she received her gift.
People ask me why did I bother, to which I answer, it was no bother, it was delightful and intriguing and fun. I learnt so much from this simple task and it put many things into perspective. It underlined my desire and wish to help others and that often we don’t necessarily have to understand their needs to be able to help. We should share our fragilities as well as what we feel strong and good about – it makes us more real and we should care enough to make time to do these things even when this often frenzied world would try to steal this time away from us.
As I sat back from the labyrinth I realised that I had been walking my own personal, portable labyrinth every day for the last 20 years. I take it with me everywhere I go. You see, for me, when I do my tai chi forms, it like walking a labyrinth. I like to just ‘be’ and sometimes with ‘just being’ comes contemplation - on the meaning of life, my hopes and fears, anger and joy, peace and freedom.
Tai chi is my healing labyrinth, the place that allows me to feel whole, the place where my troubles find resolution, a place without judgement, where my sadness finds peace and my spirit soars. As I step each form, my load seems to lighten, the pathway seems clearer, another knot releases in my shoulders or another ache in my heart and without it I would be incomplete.
Walking the labyrinth with all its twists and turns is like life: we walk our pathway and become who we are. So, long may I continue to walk my tai chi labyrinth with a spring in my step and with great joy in my heart.
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Leaving the June tai chi workshop in Terre Haute and traveling home to Maryland allowed time for reflection on the many positive experiences the workshop provided participants and staff.
A key to the high quality of the program, people and training in tai chi was the amount of laughter and fun we experienced. A major theme of these essays for the newsletter is the understanding that, when we have a healthy sense of humor and laugh often, the quality of our life improves and our outlook on life is optimistic.
Walking past groups of students practicing, in my own class, Sun 73 in-depth, and in the 9am daily meetings, I witnessed laughter, poking fun at our humanness and folks having fun. The result was an environment that can best be described as a community of wellbeing.
This sharing of joy within the group, discovering how to laugh at our mistakes, and the genuine caring students felt from the workshop staff resulted in a demonstration of the healthy and peaceful environment tai chi has been promising planet earth for a long time.
Here are a few bits of wit to add to your healthy humor library.
Daffy definitions from the Washington (D.C.) Post:
- Coffee (n.): the person upon whom one coughs.
- Flabbergasted (adj.): appalled over how much weight you have gained.
- Frisbeetarianism (n.): the belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
- Inoculatte (v): to take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
- Caterpallor (n.): the color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating
END OF NEWSLETTER
Warning: Dr. Lam does not necessarily endorse the opinion of other authors. Before practicing any program featured in this newsletter, please check with your physician or therapist. The authors and anyone involved in the production of this newsletter will not be held responsible in any way whatsoever for any injury which may arise as a result of following the instructions given in this newsletter.