Newsletter #146 - October 2013
I was teaching in the beautiful town of Leuven, Belgium, and the day after the workshop was a national holiday. Fairs and markets popped up everywhere, and the town was packed with sightseers. As I indulged in my usual pastime of taking photos of the local produce I noticed a young man watching me. Having caught my eye he asked me “Excuse me, are you Doctor Lam?” Joris is a charming young music student who has been studying my Tai Chi for Beginners DVD and finds it very useful for stress relief. He had no idea that I was even in Europe, never mind Leuven, and I was amazed that he spotted me in the busy holiday crowds. I am always delighted to see younger people who enjoy tai chi; growing up in today’s high tech world can be challenging, and they have found a wonderful antidote to their daily stress.
I asked for your stories of how you used technology. Many of you have told me that you plan to start taking your DVD player to class so you can show your students my demonstrations, but my friend John Bouttell from the UK has gone one step further:
Thanks John, I love video as a learning tool, and this is a great suggestion.
You might remember Dr Jason Chang who attended several of my workshops. Jason and his colleagues have done a study on elderly who have cognitive impairment (senility or Alzheimer's disease) and arthritis. After teaching them 20 weeks of Tai Chi for Arthritis, the outcome is less pain and better mental state. Great work Jason! See the publication here.
Thanks also to Philomena Kaarma who sent me this link to a very positive news article about the Tai Chi for Arthritis program:
In this newsletter
Young Person’s Scholarship Winner Ann Swanson writes about her experience at the June workshop
Reverend Doctor Bruce M Young shares the story of Tai Chi for Health in Maine
Denny Robinson gives us an update on her tai chi progress
Knee replacement surgery gave Dick Aft a whole new outlook on meditation
Caroline Demoise contemplates how focusing on the underlying principles of tai chi affect your life.
Dr Bob McBrien dispenses his regular dose of humour.
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Many other workshops conducted by my authorised master trainers are listed in the Workshop Calendar.
Yours in Tai Chi,
Paul Lam, MD
Bruce M. Young, Ed.D., Senior Trainer, Maine
In the late winter of 2009 I was encouraged to write an article for the Tai Chi for Health Community newsletter about the progress Dr Lam’s Tai Chi for Health programs were making in Northern Maine, USA. I had been told by a master trainer at that time that he could not believe a tai chi program could have such success in rural Maine. I entitled that article, “Tai Chi Is Alive and Living Well in Northern Maine.” When I wrote it, I was serving as pastor of the United Methodist Church in Lincoln, Maine; and had been teaching a small TCA for class on Monday evenings for 7 years. The class had 10 to 12 students, eight of whom became regulars. Three of those folks would eventually become TCA and TCD certified instructors, and would continue and expand the program in Lincoln when my wife, Kitty, and I moved south 50 miles to Bangor. (By the way being 50 miles farther south does not change our status, we are still considered to be living in Northern Maine.)
Over those first seven years, we were fortunate to meet Master Trainers Marty Kidder and Pat Lawson. They came to Lincoln for the first time in July of 2006 to conduct a TCA instructor’s workshop for Kit and me, and 6 of our students. Since that time they have come back every summer to train instructors at workshops first in Lincoln and for the last 3 years in Bangor.
This year Kit and I hosted our 7th annual Tai Chi for Health programs workshop in Northern Maine in early July. Over the last seven years we have offered TCA, TCD, 73 Sun, and TCA Fall Prevention workshops in Lincoln and Bangor Maine. As I said we started small with 6 participants and have grown. Last year 12 folks attended a Tai Chi for Diabetes instructor’s workshop in Bangor, and this year the attendance was 19 for the Tai Chi for Arthritis and update workshop in Bangor. We hosted a successful TCA workshop in the South Portland, Maine with Marty’s help for the Arthritis Foundation in 2010, and a TCE workshop with Dr Lam last fall, also in the South Portland. When we started these workshops in 2006, Kit and I were the only continuously certified Tai Chi for Health program instructors in the state. Now there are programs and certified teachers in Lincoln and Lee in Northern Maine; in Bangor and Augusta in Central Maine; and in Portland and South Portland in Southern Maine. Those who have attended these workshops and classes have returned year after year; and they have shared with their friends and neighbors the quality and benefits of attending.
I concluded the article for the TCHC newsletter in 2009 with the following: “It is not always the location that makes a program successful, but rather it is the quality of the program. The Tai Chi for Health Programs Dr Lam has developed are good enough to sell themselves.” Because of these programs, tai chi is not only still alive and living well in Northern Maine, but it is now growing and thriving throughout the State of Maine!
NOTE: The picture attached was taken in front of two of the many vaults in the Hammond Street Senior Center in downtown Bangor where the TCA workshop was held in July. The building which now houses the senior center was at one time a Federal Bank. You may note that the picture is captioned “Tai Chi for Arthritis: A ‘Safe’ and Effective Program”
Denny Robinson, Instructor, Ontario, Canada
l first met Dr Paul Lam while l was living in England, (check out my article in Aug 2005.) I emigrated to Canada in 2008 when l was very sad to see there was no Paul Lam's Tai Chi for Health in Ontario. I was fully intending to start up classes again once my family and I had landed here. Unfortunately with looking for a home, trying to re-establish our business (which didn't work out) and helping our autistic son to re-settle it was all very overwhelming.
Then I started lapsing my daily tai chi practice. Bad news! My fibromyalgia and arthritis was getting the better of me. I was struggling day to day. I was on the edge of a breakdown knowing full well what l needed was to get back my daily tai chi routine. I was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin Lymphoma. I also needed knee surgery and various tests, scans, biopsies etc...
When I was examined by Doctors, naturopaths etc., they would comment I was pretty strong; I didn't need chemo, only 3 weeks of daily radiation. I healed quickly, then I had knee surgery, again healed quickly then a short while after a lumpectomy was needed. I eventually just recently got my all clear. A couple of weeks ago I looked up Paul's website as the thought had come to me that l really needed to take up tai chi again on a daily basis. My teaching certificates had expired so I was excited to see a workshop in Toronto for Tai Chi for Energy. That's exactly what I needed! I was able to achieve a new Instructors Certificate and I'm now in the process of starting new classes here in my new country of Canada.
I now know what a very important/precious part of my life is my daily tai chi exercises. That and prayer and the gathering together with other tai chi students kept my body and mind from completely giving in. I'm looking forward to a healthy future meeting with new tai chi friends this side of the pond.
Dick Aft, Cincinnati, USA
Tai chi is for balance. Meditation is for other people. These things were clear to me before I had total knee replacement surgery. I’ve learned better.
Whilst experiencing post-surgical discomfort in the hospital, it occurred to me that going through the 24 Forms positions that I had been practicing for several years might provide a helpful diversion. Using slight hand movements and all of the focus I could muster, I worked at doing the routine. The more I thought about the sequence of tai chi moves, the more I escaped from the moment. Thoughts of my aches and pains were replaced by efforts to remember and visualise the slow and weight shifting moves that Michael Porte has been good enough to teach to me.
The definition of meditation that makes the most sense to me is “emptying or concentration of mind.” While I never would have guessed that I would make use of meditation, I found it to be an effective tool. It really did allow me to fully replace thoughts of my surgical wounds with the concentration required by my “mental tai chi”. Remembering what to do while parting the horse’s mane and afterwards took every conscious thought.
Tai chi is still for balance. But now, meditation, tai chi style, is for me!
Caroline Demoise, Master Trainer, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
When you explore the art of tai chi, you will discover that the guidelines for tai chi movement are somewhat different from how we move in daily activities. Tai chi walking feels very different from how you normally walk. In everyday walking, as you step there is weight on that leg, while in tai chi walking you place a weightless foot in front of you and gradually ease the weight into that leg. This unique pattern brings the focus of conscious awareness on how movement takes place. Adopting beginner’s mind helps you change a lifelong ingrained habit like walking.
Focusing on how tai chi movements are done is equally as important as being concerned with the shape of the external movements. A sequence of twenty one movements has an underlying fluidity that connects them all together as one, although within that flow each movement does have a completion before flowing on to the next. Like learning a different language, tai chi has a unique inner structure. The tempo of tai chi movements is slow suggesting thoughtfulness or awareness. A quality of grace exudes from someone who is in the flow of tai chi and moving from an inner focus. A peaceful energy exudes from the person whose movements are a meditation on alignment, breath and inner tai chi principles.
Extracting the most benefit from tai chi comes when you embrace the internal principles of this art, learning tai chi as a toddler would learn to walk, from the inside out, from trial and error, with little concern for the mistakes that are part of the learning process. When your focus remains on the desire to learn, the persistence to accomplish something and the enthusiasm that comes with learning a new skill, you will be successful. Tuning in to the energy of tai chi movement is a good place to begin. Tai chi has its own unique frequency which you must match to produce movement that is slow, smooth and continuous. When you practice tai chi principles, you will learn to produce movement that emits a different vibration.
Being open to the unique rules of the game will open an alternate universe on how to live in the world. This happens slowly over time as tai chi movement becomes familiar and comfortable. Wanting the good feeling that comes during your practice time to extend into the rest of your life leads you to apply these new rules and principles to other times of the day than your tai chi practice time. Little by little tai chi leads you down a path of awareness, contemplation and awakening. Embrace tai chi with an eagerness to listen, a willingness to be taught and a commitment to change. Tai chi will inform your outlook on life and transform your consciousness if you are truly open.
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Dr Bob McBrien, Master Trainer, Salisbury, MD, USA
It is a five minute walk from our home to the campus of Salisbury University where I spent my career. In coffee shops near the campus we are able to watch students meeting, studying and enjoying their coffee. It is always enjoyable to hear young people having a good laugh. Parents send almost 2,000 students to begin their first semester away from home. It can be stressful for both student and parent as the family makes adjustments.
Healthy humor can help with the transition. One example: A father and son exchanged the e-mails below.
I am $ettling in to the $eme$ter and my cla$$es are going well. I am enjoying my $cience and $ociology cla$$e$. $aturday$ are O.K. We have a few coffee $hops nearby. I relax and have coffee with my friend$. You won't believe how much a cup of coffee co$t$. Hope to hear from you $oon dad, say hi to mom.
Your $on, John
Thanks for the email. It is good to kNOw that you are settling down. I NOticed that you did NOt mention how the food is. Do they serve your favorite NOodle soup?. Things are NOrmal here. Your mom and are I preparing for our trip to NOrth Carolina. We'll let you kNOw when we arrive there.
We send love, dad
Readers with similar humorous experience with parents and children at university can send them to me at: email@example.com
Do visit The Tai Chi for Health Community USA Facebook page and 'like' it.
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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.