Newsletter #49 - September 2005
In this issue:
-- From Me to You by Dr Lam
-- Humor - Laughter by Dr Bob McBrien
-- Dear Paul by Hazel Thompson
-- Thanks from the Florida Workshop by Asiah Ismail
-- Building Alliances, Many Paths, One Truth by Jef Morris
-- To Live Forever and Be Forever Young by Chaz Walter
Click on the title to read the article, and here to read all previous newsletters
One of my patients told me that her husband went to a tai chi class; he was told laughter is forbidden during the class. I found it unbelievable as laughter is not only the best medicine but it helps students to relax and learn better. It certainly makes one happier. So happens Dr McBride sends me his article about laughter.
- Dr Bob McBride from Maryland, USA in the accompanying article, tells us that laughter as shown by studies improves health.
- And as for tai chi making people happier, read about the observation from Hazel's 92-year-old student and Asiah's "confession" to her husband.
- Jef Morris' talk "Building Alliance" at the Florida workshop gave us a lot of food for thought regarding the development of tai chi in the Western world.
- Seventy-four-year-old Chaz shares his secret of tai chi in "To Live Forever and Be Forever Young."
I hope to meet up with you in one of the forthcoming workshops:
-- September 24 - 25. Barcelona - Tai Chi for Arthritis
-- October 8 - 9. Zurich - Tai Chi for Arthritis
-- October 15 - 16. Florida - Explore the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
-- October 22 - 23. Durango - Explore the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
-- October 29 - 30. San Diego - Tai Chi for Back Pain
There is now a link on the navigation bar for photos of workshops, try it out.
Our featured product this month is the Combined 42 Forms Volume 1 and 2 on DVD. Previously only available in two videos (retail price $79.90 for set of two videos), we have just released it on ONE DVD. Normally retailing at USD $65, you can purchase the DVD for USD$45 (saving USD$20). Click this link to place your order:
This month's most useful letter is written by ptirone "The participants in my classes LOVE your products... They find them very clear and easy to follow and really supportive of their learning. They also love seeing the full form put together and executed by Dr. Lam -- the way he moves is so inspiring to all of us!" at this thread. Thank you ptiron for your feedback. We would like to send you a Tai Chi Music CD for being our Letter of the Month winner, please email us and advise your postal details.
Paul Lam, MD
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Dr. Bob McBrien
Salisbury, Maryland, USA
Remember the old saying that "humor is the best medicine?"
Health scientists are publishing research that offers support to this wise saying.
When we have a healthy sense of humor and laugh often, the quality of our life is high and our outlook on life is optimistic. If we are coping with the stress of our job, dealing with illness or confronting a difficult person, the ability to find some humor in our day can make the situation manageable.
Mind/body explanations of the humor and laughter capacities we all have may be of interest. Having a sense of humor and finding the joke in life is viewed as a psychological event; our mind is at work. Laughing with all of its physical responses is obviously a body event.
Some of the findings of research on humor show that 100 good laughs equals 10 minutes on a rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike. Think of a good laugh as "internal jogging." While laughing, we reduce some of the stress chemicals that are bashing our cells. At the same time, our immune system is getting a boost. And concurrently, our diaphragm, abdominals, respiratory, and back muscles are having a workout.
Meanwhile we are feeling good, having a bit of fun and momentarily disconnecting from the pressures of living in our multitasking world.
One more benefit: Victor Borge said, "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." When we are having a laugh and having fun, our relationships get stronger.
Have you had your minimum daily requirement of laughs today?
Here are a few samples:
- The epitaph on the tombstone of a hypochondriac:
"I told you I was sick!"
- Walking along the wall surrounding the psychiatric hospital, Jerry could hear a strange chant: "13-13-13-13."
Curious he noticed a small opening in the wall, just large enough to peek in. As he looked into the yard, a fist appeared and hit him on the nose.
As he fell back he could hear the voices chanting:"14-14-14."
- The sign on a plumber's truck:
"A flush is better than a full house."
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Thanks for your e-mail. It was good to hear from you. I know you're very busy, but I have to share this with you (with the greatest respect). When I teach the Arthritis or Diabetes form, I always wear my "Dr Paul Lam" t-shirts, and explain to the class that you designed the forms, and why. If any one wants "homework," I recommend your books and DVDs, etc.
However, Elizabeth, aged 92, came to class this week with your Tai Chi for Diabetes DVD and told me how much she had enjoyed watching it. Then she said, "He's almost as good at teaching it as you. Did you teach him?" I promise that I did put her right, so your reputation is safe - for now!
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I attended your tai chi workshop for the first time in Sarasota, Florida last week. The workshop has stirred up my qi which has made me very happy. I feel like I am floating up in the air, and my love for tai chi has grown even more than I expected.
One evening while my husband and I sat down, I looked at him and said I have a confession to make. "I fell in love with Dr. Lam." At first he looked at me with big eyes, shocked as any husband would react. Then I started to laugh, said I fell in love with your character. You are a very humble human being in this modern world. You have given so much to the life of human race yet you don't brag about it. Like your wife had said why a somebody would wants to be a nobody.
Your love and compassion for people is very much noticeable even from the very first time I looked at you. In my spiritual world, I like to believe you have transferred your tai chi spirit into me with only the little contact we had at the workshop. I came out feeling too happy as if I had been given a handful Valium or something. Then I told myself that I have to calm down, and remember the Yin and Yang concept way of life.
I want to thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. I intend to support your work as much as I can. I am currently trying to introduce the Tai Chi for Diabeties program to the hospital I work with. I have donated your book to the local library and a retirement center in Naples Florida. I have been a registered nurse for 25 years, practicing yoga , Reike and tai chi for two years.
To make a long story short, my husband said he will encourage me to attend your workshop again in the future. I am so blessed to have the greatest husband in this whole wide world.
P.S If you find this letter to be hilarious, you're welcome to share it with your wife and others.
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In many ways I feel I am a TCA Instructor, and a part time farmer. While I aspire to be a safe and effective TCA iInstructor, I realized in order to fully experience this part of my life, I needed to have key alliances in the communities where I share my practice. This is where the planting of the seeds of practice should be recognized and nurtured.
Internally, the keys to our success are in the quality of our Tai tai Chichi and the method in which we teach. When we live the three golden rules, we commit to life to do no harm, and equally to be the best TCA iInstructor. It is in the integrity of our commitments that attracts our students, and inspires our students to become TCA Instructors.
However, we all face three key external barriers to our success:
1) Where should we provide our service to the community?
2) Who is the client we need to pay for the services we provide?
3) How do we evaluate the success and effectiveness of the service we provide?
"Starting with the end result in mind," as Dr. Lam would remind us, we should begin with a clear vision. Given we have been provided valuable training to deliver a low cost intervention for several chronic health conditions, the method used in defining who our clients are becomes fundamental to our success.
For most Instructors, the person living with a chronic condition is the client. Many potential TCA students are already going to an existing community service provider organization. These community service providers are funded by other organizations, whose mission is to channel funding to provide safe and effective interventions, that can be replicated. The purpose of this funding is to bridge targeted gaps in service, and foster innovative community collaborations.
When we were presented with the opportunity to discuss the safety and effectiveness of TCA, and listened to the goals of the community service providers, and the organizations that funded them, I came to realize that in providing TCA classes, we are meeting the needs of many individuals and many organizations.
Linking TCA to Local Community Consortiums
The mission and the goals of the administrator of a senior center, a recreation center, a chronic disease health foundation, the department of
parks and recreation, the local health department, and the local agencies for the aging, all share the same goals as TCA.
With this expanded horizontal and vertical understanding of who my clients are, opportunities for growth happens from many directions. The more the local service providers know that you are the local TCA Instructor, the more students you will have to work with.
The service providers and their funding organizations face the same challenge that we confront, building and maintaitaining sufficient capacity to meet the needs of an expanding and aging client base. We are all attempting to measure effective outcomes from our efforts.
On one side, the service providers lack the skills that TCA provides. On the other hand, funding is available to assist the service providers to bring TCA's health benefits to their clients.
When TCA sits at the table with community benefactors, corporate sponsors, community service providers and foundations, TCA becomes part of the local continuum of health care. Members of the consortium will provide support for TCA's effective service, and this meets the our mutual goals, short and long term.
It is in the cultivation of these key relationships that TCA joins others in the community, where we can provide in service staff training, ongoing classes, and also have a stable income for our practice.
The Challenge: How to Fund TCA Classes
The second external barrier to our success is understanding who is the client we need to pay for the services we provide. Clearly as individual participants find value in TCA they will provide some income.
In the beginning, after many free classes, at many different locations, some of the classes worked well and continue;, some of the classes have ended. We were able to collect enough testimonials, and review them with the service provider administrative staff, their medical health professionals and the organizations that fund them.
While much effort goes into teachiching TCA, some effort should be invested in documenting and communicating the effectiveness of TCA to other body practice professionals and to medical professionals. We have regular referrals from yoga instructors, pilates trainers, reiki practitioners, and medical professionals. Some of those referrals have now become TCA iInstructors.
When funders consider TCA, many times they have researched Tai tai Chichi and have made inquires for references for safe and effective instructors. The investment of our time in attending meetings, participating in community forums / health fairs, providing free demonstrations, and answering questions, all pays off when the person who signs your check gets confirmation that the investment of funding has produced something in return.
The key principles for success in business has been stated as location, location, location.... or for us, practice, practice, practice,.... now we can see that relationships, relationships, relationships, are also key.
Our success is influenced, or limited by the quality of our external relationships, just as the quality of our own personal practice reflects in
the quality of our students-,... and all of this results in the stability of our income.
The quality of the key funding relationships provides the bridge in funding that is needed to attract and retaitain students long enough for the health benefits to begin to manifest.
Many Ways Measure Success:
But how do we evaluate the success and effectiveness of the service we provide? One way to express our success is by the number of TCA iInstructors that continues to grow. Another is to know how well the iInstructors are not only retaitaining students, but the retention rate has growth.
Individually, we aspire to be effective TCA instructors, and we know it takes time, determination and consistency. It takes time to teach classes, to maintaitain our own personal practice, and to meet our other personal obligations. Yet each day presents us with the time and opportunities for practice.
Students find their tTeacher in their mundane ordinary activities. For a good tTeacher realizes that in the mundane, nothing is sacred. Further in sacredness, nothing is mundane. When you knowingly practice this way, picking up what comes to hand, we define TCA as a landmark on the landscape, for future generations. It is in our day- to- day activities, that TCA becomes part of the local landscape.
John Daido Loori, Abbott and gifted teacher of the Zen Mountaitain Monastery, a gifted teacher once said, "What we are talking about is a rice field. The field is dependent on the people to plow the field and to plant the rice. How all of this comes to us is a great gift, we should not miss."
What I take from this idea is Tai tai Chichi practice, like a rice field, requires cultivation of our community's resources and coordination of our efforts.? Like with many things, there is much to be discussed and many meetings. However, it is when we perceive the task before us as the mundane, and thus filter our perceptions, what manifest are those time consuming activities that seem to have no relationship with Tai tai Chichi practice.
When we practice, we take great care that the practice space is safe and has good surroundings. Creating good surroundings, often takes much more than that which meets the eye. It is in the way we practice, one by one, person to person, in the practice hall or at a community meeting. Each relationship presents an opportunity to demonstrate that what we do is something of significance.
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I recently finished reading a wonderful book about the legendary Lakota warrior Crazy Horse-The Journey of Crazy Horse, by Joseph M. Marshall. What struck me most was how the elderly in that time and culture were respected, honored and looked to for advice and guidance, something that seems all but lost in today's busy world.
I suppose this caught my attention because I am now one of those elderly although I don't feel old. I am reminded of it almost daily by such things as Senior shopping day at the local supermarket where I get a senior discount on my purchases. I don't knock such reminders but it does still surprise me when the clerks don't even ask "Are you a senior citizen?" It seems that only yesterday I was a borderline senior.
I have some thoughts and feelings that I'd like to share about being an elder who has been fortunate to have studied tai chi over the last 30 years. Not that I have reached some sort of enlightenment or have become a master of anything. What I have discovered though could be of some interest to those who have chosen to take tai chi into their lives.
We who study and practice tai chi probably know the phrase "To live forever and be forever young" as one of the major goals of Taoism. I especially like the forever young part. For me feeling young is about the quality of life in other words, to have an attitude about and the physical ability to live as fully alive as possible each moment of each day that I am fortunate enough to have (from the forever part of the phrase).
For example, in the Fall2002, Vol. 3, No.4 issue of the Journal there is a wonderful article by Chungliang Al Huang, "Gateway to Mystery," where he talks about watching older people in their 70s, 80s and 90s doing 'tai chi in China, and he says that there's such beauty there, like watching a beautiful old tree. And it is inspiring for him, ike the poetry of the beauty of these old people. What he doesn't say is how these old people feel doing their t'ai chi. He talks a lot about the aliveness, the experience of aliveness, and how a person comes alive during tai chi.
That's some of what I want to share. Certainly, I feel that I have surrendered the part of looking beautiful, but when I do t'ai chi I feel beautifully alive in the moment and that is what Al Huang calls "that rapture."
That is what I try to convey to my t'ai chi students who are mostly seniors-the elders. It's difficult to give them that sense of rapture, but my goal is to help them get to the place where they can experience it. More about my teaching later in this article.
About Al Huang, it was in the mid-seventies when I began studying t'ai chi. My first experience was with Al-weekend workshops and sometimes longer. He taught the true nature, the essence of t'ai chi, beyond the form. Being in a class with Al was a delight. Doing a motif from the form one minute and dancing to the Bee Gees or the Pachebal Cannon the next. The stress he would put on the learning process, the sense of wonder and play in the discovery of being open to what was happening in the moment.
Unfortunately I was young-45 then-and impatient. I wanted the form, the whole form right away. As his workshops became more difficult for me to attend in terms of time and cost (I was raising families and had a busy work schedule as art director in a large corporate setting), I started bouncing around, experiencing other schools and teachers, some good, some not so good. I studied and learned the Cheng Man-Ching Yang style and eventually, in the early '90s, started teaching it. During those years I began to realize the nature of what I had had with Al Huang and what was missing in my practice. Perhaps this was the "Wisdom of Age" we hear about.
Perhaps it was having had some of my life experiences, the ups and downs, the difficult and the easy. Then there was the coming together with a new partner who matched me in many ways, common interests in meditation practice and t'ai chi - and returning to my lifetime dream of fine arts and painting full time. All of this, and my realization that how we live in the world is t'ai chi. The sense of living the Tao every day accepting and being open to what comes; to see the reality of life as it unfolds, and not get caught up in the illusion of how we want it to be. To relax and enjoy a sense of play and of humor, to be able to laugh. This can often offset being judgmental.
The doing tai chi becomes the being tai chi and brings mindfulness that helps me to remain in the moment, to appreciate nature and the wonder of being fully alive, and, I hope, to be in harmony with all of nature. Also, it brings the gift of listening, not only to the world around me but to those inner voices that seem to know the truth. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a teacher of mindfulness meditation, recently wrote a poem that seems to embody the spirit of "To live forever and be forever young." His words seem to reflect my occasional experience as I do a round of t'ai chi, and when it happens I find it a most wondrous experience:
Have you ever had the experience of stopping so completely,
of being in your body so completely,
that what you knew and what you didn't know,
that what had been and what was yet to come,
and the way things are right now
no longer held even the slightest hint of anxiety or discord?
It would be a moment of complete presence, beyond striving, beyond mere acceptance,
beyond the desire to escape or fix anything or plunge ahead,
a moment of pure being, no longer in time, a moment of pure seeing, pure feeling,
a moment in which life simply is,
and that "is ness" grabs you by all your senses,
all your memories, by your very genes,
by your loves, and
welcomes you home.
Jon Kabat-Zinn (2005). Coming to Your Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness. NY: Hyperion Press, p. 243
I realize I am writing this to be read by people who are already tai chi practitioners to whom much of the above is "of course." To practice the form and study the classics-the Tao Te Ching or even The Tao of Pooh-for some length of time provides a transcendence where one can simply be tai chi. Yes, of course, but it took me some 20 years to experience that. And it seems that only in the last 10 or so years I experience my life as living tai chi, certainly not as completely as I would like, but then I am human and therefore not perfect.
I would like to share how this sense of living tai chi affects my teaching as I grow older. In 1999 I met and began studying with Dr Paul Lam. I became certified to teach his Tai Chi for Arthritis (TCA), Parts I and II. Because of the nature of my teaching venue-a hospital health system and limited class format which catered mostly to senior citizens-I recognized that arthritis was only one of the physical problems many of these seniors were dealing with. So I set up my classes to emphasize and focus on the health benefits of tai chi, using TCA as a base and incorporating additional simple Qigong movements to suit the needs of the particular students in each set of classes.
I try to teach in a responsive way and to structure each class according to what the students demonstrate they need, and not what I think they would need if I followed a firmly set format. A class spans six to eight one-hour sessions, and my goal is to provide each student with a solid practice that they can take home, do, and benefit from,with an additional follow-up class of four to six sessions for those who wish to do more or solidify their practice. I call my classes T'ai Chi for Health.
In the six years that I have been teaching this model, I have met some wonderful, courageous people,seniors with the true sense of wisdom and humor that is recognized and honored in our Native American culture as a wise sage or elder. Some of these folks have physical problems that leave me in awe of how they can keep going, yet they come to every class, often with a twinkle in their eyes and a willingness to try, to do, and to laugh at themselves when they stumble.
I feel humbled and honored to be able to share with them my appreciation of tai chi as a way of life,a way that, while it may not cure physical ills or work miracle cures, may alleviate troublesome symptoms, such as balance problems, and bring a better quality of life to their daily activities.
I believe that I have been blessed to have good genes, or maybe I'm just lucky, but those elders seem to recognize me as a fellow (74 years old) elder who just maybe has benefited from practicing this tai chi thing, and who is able to step forward and sideways without falling over. And so they come and we play "follow-the-leader" games as we share our tai chi experience, feeling younger by the minute.
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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.
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