Newsletter #68 - April 2007
In this issue:
-- From me to you, by Dr Lam
-- Why do you teach to people like us? by Jef Morris
-- How to improve tai chi, by Roberto Crea
-- Tai chi’s opening moves/Bodhidharma’s Journey, by Kevin McLaughlin
-- Learning Sun 73 Forms Tai Chi, by Cathy Brancheau
-- Tai chi on Thursday, a tribute to Suzanne McLauchlan by her students
-- Tai chi in Antarctica! by Lynne Russo
-- Positive humor for better health, by Dr Bob McBrien
Tai chi is an ideal exercise for health and with the increased ageing of the world’s population, it will inevitably become more popular. The opportunity to spread the message about tai chi’s health benefits through meetings and the media is getting easier by the day. I have had many opportunities to speak at scientific conferences and public meetings and have been interviewed around the world on television and for newspaper and magazine articles. Over the years I have found the same set of principles work for most occasions. In my book, Teaching Tai Chi Effectively, I devoted an entire chapter to explaining these principles. I have now published this chapter on the articles page on my website and it is available copyright-free for you to use for non-profit purposes. Read my article about public speaking and working with the media
Places at the immensely popular June annual workshop in Terre Haute, Indiana are going fast. If you want to attend, please enrol as soon as you can to ensure a place in your preferred class. Please don’t forget to tell your friends about it.
We’re also now accepting registrations for our mid-year workshops in Sydney, Australia. On 21-22 July we’ll be holding Tai Chi for Arthritis and Tai Chi for Diabetes instructors’ workshops, and update workshops for both Tai Chi for Arthritis and Tai Chi for Diabetes.
For more information and register for any of these workshops go to the workshops calendar page.
In this newsletter
We have a wonderful collection of stories and articles for you this month, including two more from the January annual workshop in Sydney.
- Jef gives us his answer to the question he was asked at a recent class in Korea for people living with a neurological condition, ‘Why do you teach tai chi to people like us?’
- Roberto discusses what we can do to increase the subtle feeling of well being that we all experience when we first start practicing tai chi.
- Kevin, who is a practising Buddhist, has written a very interesting article about the compatibility he sees between tai chi and Buddhism.
- Cathy tells us about her experiences in learning the Sun 73 Forms from my DVD.
- Suzanne is a very popular and effective teacher. Recently she celebrated a milestone birthday and her students surprised her with a TCA and 73 Forms Sun-style display, a cake and a poem, which they’d like to share with you.
- Lynne writes about her recent trip to Antarctica and explains the challenges involved in doing tai chi while wearing thermal underwear, outer clothing, fleece jacket, waterproof gear, 2 pairs of socks, knee high boots, life vest and backpack! She also shares with us some amazing photos of this wonderful continent.
- Dr Bob gives us some more examples of ‘positive humor’, humor that not only promotes better health, but also builds strong relationships.
This month’s special offer
In April, when you buy a copy of the Tai Chi for Diabetes DVD, you’ll get a Tai Chi for Diabetes wall chart, worth AU$8.95 or US$6.50, free of charge.
Tai Chi for Diabetes is designed to help prevent and improve control of diabetes by gently increasing physical activities, cellular uptake of glucose and relaxation. It enhances Qi (life energy), which will help control diabetes. This program can be used for general fitness and health and is supported by Diabetes Australia. The large wall chart outlines the Tai Chi for Diabetes movements with photos and descriptions. It is a useful resource for students or for instructors to place in a prominent position for their students' easy reference.
For more information about these products and to order your copy, go to the online shop. Please quote SP0407 in the comments section to get your free wall chart.
Product review of the month
Congratulations to Beulah Vail, of British Columbia, Canada, for winning a tai chi music CD for her review of the Tai Chi 4 Kidz DVD:
Thanks Beulah for your review. Please do let us know how it goes! 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.
‘I've always been interested in a tai chi program for children. I'm very excited about Dr Lam's Tai Chi 4 Kidz. I watched it and was thrilled to see such a wonderful program geared to children and the ways of effectively teaching, but in a fun and imaginative way. I'll be teaching it to kids camps this summer, ages 8-12: wish me well. I'll let you know how it went.’
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
May 11-12, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Therapeutic Tai Chi for Physical Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapy Professionals
May 17-18, Bradenton, FL, USA
Explore the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
May 19-20, Bradenton, FL, USA
Tai Chi 4 Kidz Instructor's Training Workshop
June 2-3, Terre Haute, Indiana, USA
Tai Chi for Osteoporosis Instructor's Training
June 4-9, Terre Haute, Indiana, USA
One Week Tai Chi Workshop
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
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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While we were in Korea [at the first International Conference on Tai Chi for Health], I had the chance to lead a class for people living with a neurological condition, similar to Parkinson’s, from 20 years old to over 60.
It was an honor… to look into their eyes...
After we had finished our practice, one of the participants asked me, ‘Why do you teach to people like us, with this condition?’
I told them I do this for my own health, and for my friend Tony, who has a similar condition to theirs. Tony and I have made a promise: we would share our practice with everyone, and when either one of us needed a caregiver, we would take care of each other.
But this question, why do you teach, reminded me of the Chapter of the Goddess from Vimalakirti’s Sutra:
Manjushri, the Crown Prince addressed the lay practitioner Vimalakirti: ‘Good Sir, how should a Bodhisattva regard all living beings?’
Vimalakirti replied, to Manjushri: ‘A Bodhisattva should regard all living beings as a wise person regards the reflection of the moon in water, or as magicians regard human form created by magic.’
Manjushri then asked further: ‘If a Bodhisattva considers all living beings in such a way, how does he or she generate the great love toward them?’
Vimalakirti said: ‘Manjushri, when a Bodhisattva considers all living beings in this way, he or she must think, just as I have come to understand the Dharma, so should I teach it to living beings – thereby, he or she generates the love, that is truly a refuge, for all living beings.’
‘The love that is peaceful, free of grasping.’
‘The love that is not feverish, free of passions.’
‘The love that accords with reality, because it is equaniminous in all three times.’
‘The love that is without conflict, because it is free of the violence of the passions.’
‘The love that is non-dual, because it is not involved in the external nor internal.’
‘The love that is imperturbable, because it is totally ultimate.’
I say to you, this love that he speaks of is not a love based on how you make me feel.
When you see a student with a chronic condition, what you feel is suffering, but it is not just about you.
Can you really see the student as a living being, inside the chronic manifestation?
The moon reflecting in water is not the moon. Such a reflection in calm water can be clearly seen, but when the wind ripples the water, the reflection becomes distorted.
What is the nature of this living being, beyond this chronic manifestation? Can we see the moon and appreciate its reflection?
So, ‘Just as I have realized this, so should I teach this.’
What is it that all living beings have in common, vital to life? Breathing.
Dr. Lam has offered us ‘3 Keys to Improve our Tai Chi – Posture, Breathing and the Situation’.
The posture we take is not just the alignment of bones. It is the posture we take when someone crosses the threshold of the practice floor, by cane, walker, wheelchair, or on the arm of a caregiver.
The student is demonstrating great determination. The tai chi instructor should in turn honor the student’s spirit’s search for peace, strength and control.
So much of generating this great love for all living beings is how the tai chi instructor is breathing before the student arrives.
How are you breathing now?
Can we really teach anyone without a direct connection with them?
When our normal breathing is the same as how we breathe while doing our tai chi, when we meet each other, we do so without judgment, grasping, or expectations.
The breath work – the QiGong within tai chi – produces results – it changes our habit of breathing.
In practice we have moments of feeling a deep well inside of us, a source of endless supply of peace.
In time, as our breathing generates longer periods of peace, even though the wind ripples the waters of our emotions, we come to understand that our true nature is grounded in an oasis of peace.
Peace has its own force, its own strength. I am like this, and you are like this.
Posture, Breathing, and the Situation.
Just like a teenager having a bad hair day. Perceived by the teenager as the end of the world. We know as adults that the teenager is having an experience out of context.
So too, we see people out of context; we apply labels, create hierarchies, we want to look younger.
Can we sense and breathe deep into our own well of peace, or do we fear what we see?
The situation, an opportunity to explore our ability to realign, to find peace in living through tai chi.
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How to improve tai chi is a very important question.It is a vital issue, because from this effort depends the quality of our life.
It is like asking ourselves, how can I feel better, what more I can do to increase this subtle feeling of well being, that we all experience when we first start practicing tai chi?
As beginners we come to tai chi practice from different ways: different needs and reasons bring us to this art. But we all have some things in common that make us very similar – we all share the same state of mind.This state of mind creates the reality in which we live. Our relations are determined by shared points, such as:
- We create an inside and outside world.
- Often we separate ourselves from others.
- Always we grasp what we like and push away what we don't like.
- Our life is spent in ongoing activities that just maintain and sustain those ideas, making them real, solid.
But this state of mind also creates suffering, a sense of separateness, our ego drives our choices and the mind activity goes over and over, exhausting energy and spirit.
On this basis we come to practice tai chi, but after a while we experience an indefinable sense of feeling good, we notice that something unusual is happening to us, the body too shows evident changes, less stiffness, more flexibility. It becomes healthier.
In this way we have a clear understanding that tai chi practice works for us, so we want more practice.
We try it in many ways, increasing the time dedicated to practice, learning new forms.
As the body gets better, the mind slows down, the elaboration of thoughts becomes less obsessive, we breath better, actually, we finally realize – we breath!
We feel really good and we want to further improve our tai chi.
Working on the form, looking for more precise movements, with time and efforts we find – a beautiful, harmonic expression of the body doing tai chi.
Now we see ourselves practicing: we feel our body doing tai chi. It seems incredible.
This awareness is something new, it makes us feel good – and we want more.
Trying to improve our tai chi, we also work with the speed. Slowing down, relaxing the body, with a natural breathing – and we find out that something magic happens. With a little automatic ‘click’ inside, we find ourselves jumping in another place, impossible to describe.
I do not have words to use, to convey the meaning of this experience.
There was no separation from things, trees and living beings, time disappeared – and the absolute sense of oneness, the total including feeling, was amazing.
But this state too disappeared. The experience was undeniable. Nothing after that was the same.
We really liked to be in this state, and we now want to improve our tai chi even more.
The effort is now directed on how to consolidate ours glimpses, and have easy access to this peaceful space.
Practicing slowing down the speed, looking for the meditative aspect of the practice, over time, helps us to find the key to open this door.
Suddenly, deeper levels of awareness can be explored, of how energy flows in our bodies.
Our life is not the same anymore.
We see ourselves differently, and also start to relate in another way to people; the perception to be present in the moment dramatically increases.
Practice is more mature, better health, less conflicts: we enjoy tai chi, and we have a good reason to be happy with ourselves.
But the risk of getting stuck at this point is high. If we think that being able to experience those ‘special effects’ is the goal of the practice, we lose: there is more.
Improving tai chi at this point is like an insatiable thirst. That thirst will be present in our life until we consider practice time and daily life as two distinct things.
Only by eliminating this separation, bringing them together, making them one, can we transfer the ability to be aware while doing a form into a bigger state of clear awareness in our daily life.
When this happens, you perceive yourselves as being in a bigger ‘FLOW’, which constantly includes everything.
At this point, the sense of oneness is stable; your awareness is extended; you can ‘see’ more than before.
- Compassion fills your life.
- Love is the way you express yourself.
A different mechanism is available to us. To move things and situations, at this deep level our thoughts, our dreams and our visions, as activities of our mind, are not experienced as an interference anymore, but they become the source, the origin of what we experience in our life.
An inner sense of happiness pervades your being and situations around you move in order to fulfill your dreams.
No need to make choices, things just happen: they are neither good nor bad.
Maintaining this awareness, of being in the ‘FLOW’, can become effortless in time, with practice.
The only thing that we have to do is be brave, accepting the idea that practice is life.
Trust first, then experience the teachings, there is not time to practice and time to do other things, IT'S JUST ONE.
This change can occur only if we practice, practice – if we take responsibility for our training.
And nobody can do it for us.
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At the end of my first tai chi chuan Yang-style lesson, six months ago, our teacher Pat Lawson performed the 24 Forms to display the basic program to her students. A student herself of Dr Paul Lam, she moved as gracefully as a panther in slow motion. I was entranced right from the opening moves.
That night at the Palm City, Florida, Recreation Center, I’d started learning Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane, but had great difficulty coordinating my footsteps with my arm movements. Pat’s explanation of the posture’s moves helped give me a mental picture of Parting the Mane. I worked with two other students who had also started learning the forms that evening. Then, I watched the more advanced students glide through the postures they were studying while I struggled to match up the relative positions of my hands while I made ‘C steps’ with my feet.
After a brief talk about the nature of chi, Pat had led us through a series of stretching exercises and foundation movements that included elements of qiqong. She cautioned us to work slowly towards the limits of our physical capabilities, and then arranged us into groups that were sorted by experience. Each one of the 15 students received personal attention, and was assigned a particular movement upon which to concentrate. I could see that the forms were being built gradually, employing many of the motions that were used in the warm-up session. I could also see that of my group, I was clearly the most awkward and physically inflexible. My peers treated me kindly, offering encouragement and coaching.
Within three weeks, I was working on the White Crane Flashing Wings form. I became confident that repetition and practice would lead to muscle memory, enabling me to produce a basic version of the forms that could be continuously refined and improved. Pat’s demonstration of the forms at the end of each class seemed to be a flowing, non-verbal answer to the ancient koan, ‘Why did Bodhidharma come from the West?’ My interest was increasing with each session.
Our weekly instruction regularly covered tai chi’s different applications, with a view towards integrating the internal arts, the martial arts, and the exercise and stretching benefits. Pat introduced the rooting techniques and the concepts of jing (mental quietness) and chen (sinking). As we advanced through the forms, she taught us to integrate these concepts into our movements. We learned how to circulate chi through the dantian, and also learned how to break an opponent’s nose. Learning to understand the self-defense effects of moves such as Turn to Deflect Downwards, Parry and Punch turned out to be a valuable teaching aid that helped fix the discrete elements of the posture in my mind.
Learning the 24 Forms, or at least piecing them together, became a daily passion. I referenced four different instruction manuals and Dr Lam’s DVD in an attempt to stay a few postures ahead of the class, so I would have some degree of familiarity when Pat introduced the new forms. Frequently, the text and photos in my basic primer needed further explanation. I cross-referenced the books and asked many questions at the weekly classes, both of Pat and of the more advanced students. I practiced relentlessly.
I also read ‘Tai Chi Classics,’ translated with commentary by Waysun Liao, as well as other literature relating tai chi to its Taoist roots. I am a practicing Buddhist, have taken the formal Vows of Refuge, and have received several empowerments and initiations. I found tai chi and Buddhism to be compatible traditions with some common origins. Tai chi breathing was integrated into my seated meditations, and Buddhist principles became part of my daily tai chi practice.
The basic understanding that yin exists within yang, and yang within yin is a corollary to the Buddhist principle of non-duality. Similarly, the process of yin becoming yang is wholly consistent with the Heart Sutra’s teaching that ‘Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form.’ Treated by the doctrine of impermanence, the root of Buddhism, this means ‘Form becomes emptiness and emptiness becomes form,’ a restatement of yin/yang Taoist philosophy.
After six months of study, I have put together a beginner’s version of the 24 Forms. I am learning to coordinate the in/out breaths with physical movements. But even after much practice, I still am capable of ‘blanking out’, and making significant mistakes. Currently, Pat and two of her senior students are helping me to improve Snake Creeps Down/Golden Cock Stands on One Leg. Pat has worked with me specifically in the area of weight transfer.
I am keenly aware that I am an absolute beginner. My tai chi skills and understanding will deepen with practice and study. Fortunately, I have a teacher and fellow students who foster the spirit of tai chi. Here is a summary of some of the insights I have gained.
Tai chi chuan/ Buddhist study
Buddhism teaches that Nirvana (heaven) exists right within Samsara (the earthly realm).
Daily tai chi practice should be considered spending time in the Heaven Realms.
Practice the 24 Forms as if you are on Mount Kailash (the sacred mountain) in the presence of Taoist Immortals and Buddhist Bodhisattvas.
By opening the ‘inner, transforming eye’ through the flow of chi, you can view Nirvana.
Your form may be imperfect and flawed, but an image of the ideal form exists within your mind.
The concept of ideal chi also exists within your mind.
In the Simultaneous Heaven Realm, your form and chi are flowing and powerful.
All sentient beings possess Faijing, the energy of Enlightenment.
Visualize an image of a dragonfly balanced on the slender stalk of a tickseed flower before you raise your arms in the opening form.
Through practice, achieve continuous improvement in your form. Develop the strongest tai chi possible within the framework of your physical capabilities.
Strive for flawlessness without ever being dismayed.
Both Tai Chi and Buddhist meditation train the mind to be serene and alert. Calm, abiding meditation (shamatha) produces the state of mind, relaxed and free from distractions, that is known as shoong among tai chi masters. The ‘every minute’ tranquility and awareness that allows the Buddhist to grasp the Clear Light of Enlightenment are the same qualities that enable the tai chi adept to perform the Grand Ultimate Exercise at its highest level. The practices and principles of these two great traditions have compelling and easily recognized areas of commonality. The Buddhas and the Taoist immortals have listened mindfully to the breezes rustling through the same bamboo groves.
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In May, 2006, three tai chi instructors from the Wolf Creek YMCA in Toledo, Ohio went to Lansing, Michigan for a Tai Chi for Diabetes instructors’ training workshop and met Dr Paul Lam for the first time, after having watched and emulated him on DVD for over a year. We could not have been more excited about this opportunity.
After we arrived at the training site and met a number of the other participants we discovered that we had done a remarkable thing by having taught ourselves the Sun-style 73 Forms solely from Dr Lam’s DVD. We were thrilled when Dr Lam voiced such surprise and praise when we told him that we had learned the forms and wanted to do them with him. We didn’t do the set with him but he did sit crossed-legged on a chair to watch a group of us do the set, led by master trainer, Dan Jones.
Dr Lam asked us several times to please write the story of how we had taught ourselves the 73 Forms from his DVD. Here is that story.
Our journey began with our lead instructor Becky Rahe. Becky is a fitness instructor at the YMCA and several years ago was asked if she would like to take an instructors’ training course for Tai Chi for Arthritis, sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation. Becky loved teaching and although she was not familiar with tai chi she unhesitatingly seized the opportunity. She became certified and started TCA classes at the Y. She practiced daily to ensure that she had the moves right and could teach them safely. This introduction to tai chi was to radically and unawaringly change her life. Becky found tai chi was becoming synonymous with inner peace. Some of the turmoil within her was dissipating, and she was loving it. She became passionate about tai chi. That passion showed through in her teaching and her conversations.
After almost a year of sessions with students coming and going she had influenced a small number of students to stay with the program. I was one of those who returned each session. I was fulfilling a childhood dream of learning a martial art and this style served my 60-year-old body well. As the class learned the 31 moves of TCA, we began to notice subtle changes. We could actually stand on one foot without losing our balance. We were turning our waists more and opening up our arms. We were able to maintain bent knees for longer periods. And, we were forming a camaraderie, striving for the same goal. We learned all 31 movements of TCA in several eight-week sessions.
‘What’s next?’ we asked. I laugh now to think how naïve we were to suppose that just learning the 31 moves was all there was to tai chi! Becky had been told that you could spend a lifetime just learning TCA, but she was not ready or able to teach the ‘more’ that both she and we students wanted. So we turned to one of Dr Lam’s brochures and noticed on the list of available DVDs one designed for those who had learned TCA. We ordered the Sun Style 73 Competition Forms and started learning the movements. Luckily the first sections were very similar to TCA so we got into it quickly.
At this point I had started working more closely with Becky and she and I attacked this new challenge together. We learned each movement one at a time by viewing and re-viewing the DVD. We stayed just ahead of the class and whenever they had questions about a move we would go back to the source and study Dr Lam’s directions and come back with clarifications. Luckily, most of the movements took more than one class period to teach and for the students to learn and remember. This gave us more time to prepare for the next move. The numbers in the class had started to grow. The students were excited about having kicks and jumps in the set.
Then the unforeseeable happened. I developed a spinal infection and was hospitalized for six weeks for back surgery and rehabilitation. Since I had to drop out of the class for about five months and since the numbers and levels in the classes had increased, Becky enlisted the help of Julie Oberhaus. Julie has a background in dance and enjoyed the grace and movement of tai chi. She quickly learned the moves of TCA and began the 73. So, looking back, this is one positive aspect of my hospitalization. Julie became a vibrant part of our threesome.
As an aside, Julie and I took the TCA instructor’s training course together, after I was able to return to class. This training was a real eye opener because we both went into it already knowing the movements. We were exposed to a whole new depth of tai chi. We began to realize that we had just barely scratched the surface of this fantastic internal martial art.
Meanwhile we pushed ourselves and the class to learn the complete Sun Style 73 Forms for the World Day of Tai Chi and Qigong in April, 2006. We wanted to demonstrate the set in hopes of drawing more people to our classes. All the students were enthusiastic about this goal and that motivated our practice. We succeeded in learning the whole set for Tai Chi Day but we immediately returned to the classroom to make the latter moves more a part of us. Today, after over a year of studying the set and after attending a workshop on the Depth of Sun 73 with Dan Jones, we are still improving – using the essential principles to guide our practice. Our ‘what’s next?’ now involves looking at a different level instead of looking for a new form to learn. ‘Keep practicing and it will come’ has become our mantra.
In May, in Lansing, that workshop was one of the best that I have ever attended. Dr Lam and Dan are phenomenal teachers. Their interest and attention were a magical motivating force that made us want to go even deeper into tai chi. We have grown. The more we learn, the more we know that there is so-o-o-o much more to learn. We can attest to the fact that you actually can spend a lifetime on TCA, or the 73 Forms. We never stop being students in tai chi. The journey is indeed the reward.
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This article was sent in by Maree Lamb.
In Mackay we have a very enthusiastic teacher called Suzanne McLauchlan. She has inspired us to improve our tai chi and to really enjoy doing it. Recently she celebrated a milestone birthday (one with a ‘0’) and we hijacked the class to show our appreciation with a TCA and 73 Sun display, a cake and this poem to show our appreciation for all her efforts. We would like to share it with you as it reminds us that tai chi is great exercise but always fun.
TAI CHI on THURSDAY
Thursday is a special day; we meet here at the Hall.
It’s not for idle gossip or to hear a Bingo call.
It’s not to dance or play or sit.
Or paint or stitch or chat or knit
Tai Chi is what we’re here for, so welcome one and all!
We come to make us stronger; we come to make us tall.
We come to shift our weight around to help prevent a fall.
Who leads us in this healthy quest?
Who shows us how to do it best?
Suzanne McLauchlan is the one; she keeps us on the ball.
The class begins with Greetings, then the warm - ups start
Tai Chi works its magic and we try to look the part
Our necks are long ‘cause golden thread
Is gently pulling on our head
Our feet are rooted to the earth, and joints all move apart
The Form is what we love the best
TCA and all the rest
Seventy-three and then Qi Gong
Please don’t fret if it goes wrong
Tai Chi is fun, it’s not a test
We do our toe kicks and single whips
Moving ankles, knees and hips
Repulsing monkeys, parry, punch
We turn into a lively bunch
But shuttling ladies? We need more tips!
Just when you think you’re quite a player
Suzanne says ‘There’s another layer’
‘Push through fog’ or ‘Go real slow’
We thought there was no more to know
Though we improve, our hair gets greyer!
We love this class, Tai Chi’s our passion
We come to get our weekly ration
Though fitness crazes come and go
There’s one thing that we all know
Tai Chi is never out of fashion!
So thanks from us for all you’ve done
You make Tai Chi a lot of fun
Happy Birthday from Thursday’s class
And we would like to raise a glass
To Suzanne at 60 – second to none! (Except maybe Dr Lam)
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On the last Saturday of the Tai Chi Workshop in Sydney 2007, I mentioned to Dr Lam that I would be in Antarctica 2 weeks later. His first word was WOW! Now after my return I'm still saying WOW!
I was privileged to travel, as a guest, on an expedition led by renowned scientists to Antarctica and the Chilean Fjords. I followed this with 3 weeks in South America.
Antarctica is surreal! Words cannot do it justice. It is desolate, majestic and overwhelmingly impressive. Standing on Antarctica assails the senses. The silence surrounds you, then suddenly an enormous roar and a glacier calves. The colours are amazing, there are so many shades of white and blue in the ice.
Our first landing was at Deception Island, which is a volcanic caldera. Part of the wall has collapsed creating an amazing natural harbour. Access is through a 200m wide entrance known as Neptune's Bellows. There is a submerged rock in the middle, just under the water, leaving just 100m in which to navigate in a ship, which is 20m wide. Our ship sailed through the opening and made anchor at Whaler's Bay, which was home to factory whaling ships as early as 1905. It is being maintained as an historic site. The site is a very important nesting site for Skuas, which make their nests on the pebbles. There are hot springs there; we had hoped to swim but a dry spell meant only 10cm of water.
On our first visit there, snow was virtually non existent, but ...
Cuverville Island, which supports one of the largest gentoo penguin colonies, was our next landing. My first impressions of landing at a penguin rookery were noise and stench. Penguins are beautiful! The chicks were beginning to venture out; they are cute and comical as they learn to navigate the rocks. On Antarctica, humans are not permitted to come closer than 5m to penguins or the rookery, but if penguins choose to come to investigate the visitors, we are able to remain still and allow penguins near. Penguins always have right of way!
Our next landing was an Argentine Station and rookery at Andvord Bay, deep into the Antarctic Peninsula. The bay is surrounded by mountains and alpine glaciers, and filled with icebergs. Seeing, and hearing, an iceberg explode was a highlight. It is one of the rare places on the Antarctic Peninsula where one can come ashore on the Antarctic Mainland.
The Argentine Base of Almirante Brown (an Irish immigrant) was our fourth landing. The base is closed now, but each summer Argentina sends a crew to repair and restore the base. We spoke to some young men who were there as part of army training. Many bases are being cleaned and rubbish from the past is being removed and taken back to their home countries for destruction. It is an interesting place to hike up the steep hill and enjoy a spectacular view of the whole bay. There are also many penguins to enjoy. Attempting tai chi up there, while wearing thermal underwear, outer clothing, fleece jacket, waterproof gear, 2 pairs of socks, knee high Wellington boots, life vest and backpack (I removed beanie and gloves) was a challenge!
A visit to Petermann Island, 65 degrees south, near the Antarctic Circle, was an opportunity to see Adelie penguins, Imperial ( blued-eyed ) cormorants and the world's southern most gentoo penguin colony. We saw occasional sea lions resting on icebergs and Minke and Humpback whales in the waters.
Apart from operational bases, only 100 people are permitted to land on Antarctica at any time to help preserve the environment and only under strictly controlled conditions during the Southern summer.
As we prepared to go further south, Antarctica showed its true colours with an horrendous storm meaning that we could go no further. This storm did have ramifications for us. Late afternoon we received word that a sister ship, on its return voyage to Ushaia in Argentina, was leaving Deception Island, and during the storm, hit the submerged rock and the keel was holed. Passengers were safe, with only a few minor injuries, but we were sent to support them. Ships from British and Argentine navy bases in the area also came to offer assistance. After travelling all night in the horrific conditions we reached the damaged ship. During the next day all the passengers were transferred, by Zodiac, to our ship. Conditions became somewhat cramped, but as there were no major health problems, we treated it as an adventure, a very different experience. We then spent 48 hours travelling in these conditions to take the passengers back to Argentina.
During the storm the winds were from Force 8 up to Force 12, and waves were around 10–15m, the highest reaching 25m. A strong ship and an amazing captain and crew saw us safely arrive. The young ship's doctor gained great experience in dealing with seasickness.
This exceptionally bad weather meant that we would not have been able to complete our program, even, without our adventure, so we continued on to the Chilean Fjords.
This trip was a truly awesome experience!
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‘Laughter is the shortest distance between two persons’
Not only does a good laugh promote better health, it also builds strong relationships. It makes sense to build quality in our relationships and positive forms of humor and sharing laughs helps us achieve that goal. I have pleasant memories of the laughs we shared during the Friday night social dinners at the June workshops Dr. Lam and his team presented in the USA. Good food, friendship and laughter brought us closer together as we shared the fun.
For this issue of the newsletter I have gathered some humorous statements kids made after instruction in their family’s religious practices.
A Sunday school teacher was trying to teach the little ones correct behavior while in church. Finishing the lesson, she asked, ‘Now why do we have to be quiet in church?’ A bright little girl answered, ‘because people are sleeping’.
A preacher was preparing to give the sermon for a children’s service. His practice was to invite the youngest kids to come forward and sit near him as he spoke. As they settled around him, he approached a cute 4-year-old girl and leaned down to ask, ‘Is this pretty dress the one you wear just for church?’ The little girl spoke up (directly into his microphone), ‘Yes it is and my mom says it is a b**ch to iron!’
Kids say the funniest things while learning to pray.
‘Our Father, who does art in heaven, Harold is His name. Amen.’
Margaret Mary carefully enunciated each word, right up to the end of the prayer: ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ she prayed, ‘but deliver us from E-mail.’
One child was overheard praying, ‘and forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.’
A little boy was overheard praying: ‘Lord, if you can't make me a better boy, don't worry about it. I'm having a real good time just like I am.
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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.