Newsletter #147 - November 2013
* There are places left at the Sydney One Week Workshop in 2014.
* The USA June One Week Workshop is now online.
During my 39 years as a family physician I greatly enjoyed interacting with and helping my patients. I developed relationships with entire families, and looked after them through the generations. Being able to almost instantly help and alleviate people’s conditions is very gratifying.
At the same time I was developing my Tai Chi for Health vision, and it has become increasingly important to me. We have reached so many people - the latest estimate is 5 million! That doesn’t include the people who have learned from my instructional videos/DVDs and from students not taught by our certified instructors. If each of those people becomes healthier and enjoys life more that adds up to of lot of happier people! Not to mention the ripple effect on their families and friends.
Tai Chi for Health has changed the lives of many people. Among the many people I met on this tour is Will who has a lung condition where the average survival rate is two years. After six years he is still doing really well and enjoying life. Will explained to me that the Dan Tian Breathing Method has improved his lung capacity and given him stronger Qi (life energy) hence improving his condition and significantly contributing to his survival. Since the beginning of the Tai Chi for Health vision I have met countless people who tell me how much it has improved or saved their life. Every story is an invaluable reward for me.
Three months ago I retired from medical practice. I still continue to be involved in medical research and I still regard myself as a doctor, but now I am practicing preventative medicine, The world is my waiting room, my potential patients are everywhere and with the help of my tai chi colleagues the size of my practice is unlimited!
I wasn’t sure if I was ready for “retirement”, but now I realise I have not retired, simply refocused. My excitement and energy is unbounded and I have decided to devote the rest of my life to the Tai Chi for Health vision. I hope you will join me on my journey.
In Knoxville I was interviewed for a live local news show, where the female presenter (in her high heels!) joined me to try tai chi. The interview was so popular that an outdoor broadcast unit came to the Depth workshop the next day to interview me again, and this time many of the participants joined me to display Tai Chi for Arthritis.
Later in Florida our Tai Chi for Beginners workshop featured in the local press, and they have asked for a follow up article. All this media interest shows that the Tai Chi for Health vision is spreading far and wide!
A reminder that November is Diabetes Month in the USA, and 14 November is World Diabetes Day. Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States alone have diabetes. Another 79 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $245 billion. My Tai Chi for Diabetes program is proven to help with the management of diabetes, and is part of the Health series, which is on special offer this month.
Raymond Lau demonstrates how the tai chi principles can be utilised to assist the growth of the Tai Chi for Health program. (Part One)
Monica Petras tells us how she overcame her fears and found confidence through tai chi.
Sang Myeong tells us about his first TCA Instructor workshop for Parkinson’s Patients. (Part One)
Ruth writes a letter to Dr Lam about their meeting 20 years ago
Caroline Demoise talks about how we are always a student in every tai chi class even when we are the teacher.
Dr Bob McBrien dispenses his regular dose of humour.
This Month’s Special
DVDs make a wonderful and thoughtful Christmas gift for family and friends. Buy any Health Series DVD and receive a 30% discount. Click here to place your order. Please use coupon code MSP1113.
Upcoming Workshops by Dr Paul Lam
Nov 02-03, Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Walla Walla, WA, United States
Jan 06-11, One Week Tai Chi Workshop
Sydney, NSW, Australia
Apr 05-06, Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Jun 07-08Tai Chi for Energy Part 2
Jul 03-04, Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Jul 05-06. Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructor Training
Jul 05-06. Tai Chi for Osteoporosis Instructor Training
Jul 05-06. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Jul 17-18. Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Jul 19-20. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Jul 19-20. Tai Chi for Diabetes Instructor Training
Jul 31-Aug 01, Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Aug 02-03, Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Sep 27-28, Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Oct 04-05, Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Many other workshops conducted by my authorised master trainers are listed in the Workshop Calendar.
Yours in Tai Chi,
It has been said that the heart of the matter is often the matter of the heart, and the best way to get to the matter of the heart is to ask the “why” question. It is important that we answer the “why” question first, before we consider the “what” and “how” questions, because the “what” and “how” questions relate more to the mind. Conventional wisdom tells us that the heart must first be convicted, before the mind can be aligned, so that the action can be consistent.
In the same vein, the Tai Chi for Health Institute (TCHI) need also to ask the question “why do we exist” before we ask “what must we do and how can we grow”. This is a question of our purpose and vision. In this regard, I believe we have an excellent answer. The purpose of TCHI is to empower people to improve their health and wellness and the vision is making Tai Chi for Health accessible to everyone for health and wellness. This is a very laudable purpose and vision indeed, for all of us in TCHI have a common passion to see Tai Chi for health being promoted to all people, so that they can benefit in health and wellness.
In the World Health Organisation definition, there are six dimensions to health and wellness. They are:
Social - having positive relationships
Intellectual - acquiring knowledge and skills
Physical - caring for one’s health
Vocational - finding fulfillment through work and volunteerism
Emotional - managing and expressing feelings
Spiritual - appreciating life, having values
Indeed, a person can only be truly well if all six dimensions of health and wellness are healthy.
How then can we achieve good health in all six dimensions? My proposition is that we can actually achieve this by unlocking the potential of the Tai Chi for Health program in the following ways:
Social - practicing and learning tai chi together builds positive relationships
Intellectual - learning tai chi is acquiring knowledge and skills, the limitless depth of tai chi also means that we need lifelong learning to gain mastery
Physical - Tai Chi for health program has been proven to improve one’s health
Vocational - volunteering to teach tai chi classes brings fulfilment through work and volunteerism
Emotional - tai chi helps us make friends and calm our emotions and mind, so that we can manage and express our feelings to one another better
Spiritual - Tai Chi for Health programs certainly helps us to appreciate life more, and have values that are more selfless
The keys to unlocking this tremendous potential lie in our purpose and vision as well: to empower people to improve health and wellness by making Tai Chi for Health accessible for everyone.
How then can we empower people and make Tai Chi for Health accessible for all? As much as the magic of tai chi lies in the tai chi principles, I believe the magic of the growth of Tai Chi for Health (TCH) program will depend on the tai chi principles as well.
Tai chi movements should be slow, continuous and smooth. In addition, the movements should also be against gentle resistance. Translated into growing the Tai Chi for Health program, our efforts should be slow, continuous and smooth. In change management of a complex adaptive system, speed in execution may not always be helpful. Oftentimes, slow deliberate actions are more helpful than fast but meaningless activities. Persistence and perseverance are also required in order for our efforts to be continuous. We must not be afraid to fail and try again, to fail and try yet again, learning from our mistakes as we press on to our purpose and vision. Our actions should also be smooth, sensitive to the culture and context of the situations that we are operating in. Gentle resistance can be translated into constructive conflict, a necessary ingredient for an organization that is eager to learn from one another, and to maximize the engagement and potential of each and every individual member.
In tai chi, the posture should be upright and the weight transfer should be deliberate, and balance, when moving forward or backward. Translated into growing the Tai Chi for Health program, we ought to be upright in our character and values, and also demonstrate empathy in our relationship building. Be careful to listen to one another before we give appropriate comments or advices. Be sensitive to the emotional transference in our communications and dealings, so that we can keep it positive to build up one another.
The third category of tai chi principles refers to the “internal”, that of “Jing” and “Song”. Simply translated, “Jing” means to “remain focus in the practice of tai chi“ and “Song” means to “open up the joints”. “Jing” can be translated into mindfulness, the purposeful intentional self-awareness that allows us to observe our own perceptions, thoughts, feelings and actions on a moment-to-moment basis, and to understand the internal and external factors contributing our own reactions. “Song” can be translated into openness in our minds and hearts, so that we can accept what is not our own, see the positive in everyone and every situation, so that we can build on the positive in every circumstance.
Practicing tai chi by observing the principles will help cultivate and flow the “chi” (energy) and focus the “yi” (intention). In the same manner, nurturing and growing the Tai Chi for Health program by observing the principles will help cultivate and flow the “trust” and “align” our purpose and vision. Trust and alignment are the two most important factors in our success as an organization.
(Part two of this article will be included in the December newsletter)
back to top
There were so many inspirational stories from the people at your Toronto workshop, my story is not very dramatic but here it is: my mother passed away when she was only 40, and I was 16. I used to get pretty decent marks in school so my parents wanted me to go to medical school. After she passed, it was harder for me to study because we have no relatives in Canada (we came from Italy in 1967) and all of a sudden I was an adult, taking care of a house and 2 younger brothers because my father was always at work.
I finished high school and wanted to study art history but my father insisted I go to university to be a doctor. I was a student at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus, where our Tai Chi for Energy workshop was held. I hated every minute, from the boring classes to the 1 ½ hour bus ride to get there. I have always enjoyed languages, so instead of dropping out of school I thought I would change my classes and study French and Italian.
I knew my father would be very angry and disappointed, but I made an appointment with the Language Dean.
In the Humanities building I came up to a concrete balcony overlooking an open area on the floor below, and ahead of me was a row of office doors. I was so frustrated and scared that I gave up and left and never made it to that appointment. That view of the balcony, the open space below, and the offices stayed with me like a snapshot from a nightmare for 32 years. It represented a turning point in my life; if I had not given up I may have started on a path of my choice.
I was nervous to come back to the Scarborough campus, but I could not believe it when I saw Room H305 was right at the end of that hallway. I avoided it all day Saturday, but on our morning break on Sunday I ventured to the end of the hallway and dared to look around. It was pretty scary so I started crying and was late back to class. For most of that morning I had a headache and a sore neck. As I worked through the moves with the rest of the participants I started feeling better, the headache slowly eased off and my neck didn’t feel so tense.
During the last break in the afternoon I went back to the balcony, and I didn’t feel so scared and overwhelmed anymore. I may not have lived up to my parents’ expectations, or become a languages teacher, but I have a wonderful family and a lot to be grateful for. What are the chances that of all the spaces Pamela could have booked for your workshop she chose where I went to school, and of all the rooms on campus she chose one around the corner from where I had fled 32 years ago? Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but your Tai Chi for Health helped me face my fears.
My family never camped because my mother had polio and got tired very easily, but my husband introduced me to camping and we have done a lot of it with our daughters. The only problem was that I had a phobia of bears, and lots of times would not hike to beautiful spots because I was so afraid of encountering a bear on the trail. I would literally have panic attacks while we were hiking. Our daughters are not afraid of bears and wanted to camp in the back-country, on sites that could only be reached by hiking or canoeing, but I was too afraid to try this.
This year I turned 50, and I was tired of being afraid. We bought equipment to camp in the back-country, and planned a week in the middle of nowhere with our girls, in Killarney Provincial Park. But I thought first we had to try out our new equipment closer to home so my husband Frank and I camped for the first time on a back-country site, and I was a bit nervous. I got to the site, which was very isolated, and it was so beautiful! I could not figure out why I wasn’t having a panic attack! It was so relaxing, and I really enjoyed it. I thought, “How have I changed? Why am I not terrified?” I knew it was partly that I was tired of fear controlling me, but also I realized that I had been practicing your tai chi program for a bit! The moves and the breathing helped me to relax, and I felt peaceful, and I realized that there was nothing that wanted to harm me, and if I wanted to camp here it was perfectly OK.
Well, we all come to our destinations by different paths, but I am very glad that my path has led me to your wonderful program! Thank you again for all the time and dedication that you put into sharing your work. When I got home on Sunday night my daughter asked, “So, did you meet your hero?” and I said “Yes, and he completely exceeded my expectations!”
back to top
Sang Myeong, Master Trainer, Korea
Hello everyone, I am Sang Myeong. Since I finished MT training this January, I joined two Tai Chi for Arthritis workshops as a mentee. It was a nervous experience, and I knew I made a lot of mistakes during my time. But my mentor, Rhayun, made me so comfortable and confident, so I made a plan to do my own workshop in September.
As you know, I am doing tai chi because of Parkinson's disease. Tai Chi for Arthritis is main exercise program of our Parkinson's disease center in my hospital, and we found that it is one of best exercise for the patients with Parkinson's disease. Since I came back to Korea after my happy sabbatical year in Sydney, I started to practice with my patients. Because I realized that the most important thing is enjoying the tai chi movements, and because we had a plan to make patients become instructor to encourage the other patients to move by themselves, we very slowly tried to make them feel the movements.
You know that people with Parkinson's disease are slow so they try to do things as fast as they can. And, you know that it is not easy for them to learn the complex movements due to the disorganized motor networks of their brain. Furthermore, they did not understand why they should become an instructor. So, it was not easy to make them enjoy the slow movements and have confidence about what they were learning. It took about a year until some of the patients showed their intention to become instructors. After the MT training workshop, we started to prepare the Tai Chi for Arthritis workshop. We encouraged them to feel the movements and the principles of tai chi, and also tried to make them confident about their practice.
It is a great challenge for them to participate whole day workshop because of the strength and fatigue. Also some of the advanced patients have a motor fluctuation (meaning their symptoms get better and worse depending on the time of medication). As the workshop drew closer, we were concerned if they could finish the full day program. However, eight patients applied for the workshop without fear or reservation.
I cannot remember how I did, what I said, and how the time passed at the workshop. But I can remember that they were great between the young and healthy people. After the first day, we could see some patients exhausted and tired, but the next morning they came to the place earlier than any others. Until the demonstration at the end of the workshop, they did really well. One more thing I can remember is that I really try hard to stay calm, so I can finish the workshop.
The patients were wonderful. They are going to join together to teach other patients in our center. It will be a bigger challenge for them, but they will do a great job.
(Next month Sang Myeong will give helpful suggestions for working with Parkinson’s patients.)
back to top
Dear Dr Lam
Thank you for teaching us Tai Chi for Energy in Minnesota last weekend! The workshop was even more healing and helpful than I could have imagined.
With appreciation and respect,
back to top
Caroline Demoise, Master Trainer, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
After a major relocation to another part of the country with all the stress that entails, my attention turned to creating a new lifestyle and being open to new experiences. It always takes some time to create opportunities that align with your current interests and integrate yourself into a new location. As I value keeping physically fit, I found a facility to work on strength training where I could participate in another master trainer’s community tai chi class.
When I am a student in her class my mind can focus internally on my own form since I don’t have to talk. I can be focused in practicing internal principles as I listen to how she explains underlying tai chi concepts and movements of this form. This experience of being in her class made me acutely aware that we are students all the time whether we overtly take on the role of teacher or student. These roles we play in life are artificial constructs created by society to identify our place in this reality, but the truth is we are all learning all the time from every situation we participate in during our experience in earth school.
My first awareness in this new role in a TCA class was how relaxing it was to be a student. Noticing how much energy it really takes to manage a class of twenty to twenty five adults all at very different levels in their learning process confirmed what I had been feeling about the energy instructors expend during a class. There are products to bring and sell, questions to answer, motivation to provide that appeals to a wide range of interests, and of course excellent modelling of tai chi movement to provide as students look to you for cues as they struggle to get through the form. Knowing what needs reviewing, how to explain and correct a form without discouraging those who have not yet internalized it and keeping those long term students happy in the process are all part of a good instructor’s teaching skill. To quietly support this process I positioned myself on the end of a row to be able to provide visual guidance when we got to the more challenging leisurely tying coat movement toward the end of the short Sun sequencing.
Being in a class with a form that I know so well that I sometimes find myself teaching in my dreams at night is an experience rich with opportunity for introspection. I have noticed how my personality shapes itself to the task at hand, how the pressure of fulfilling the role as teacher colours my thinking and consumes my energy. I recognize that as a teacher I suppress some of my innate spontaneity and playfulness. I am aware that I experience more stress teaching than being a student. All this is food for contemplation. We are always balancing our various bodies (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) to find the right balance between our limited physical and emotional energy and our unlimited mental and spiritual energies that we use in creating our life.
Being a student is good for the soul; good for your own form as well. If you are an instructor or teacher, you might like to experience being a student sometimes and notice what it teaches you.
Dr Bob McBrien, Master Trainer, Salisbury, MD, USA
A paraprosdokian is a sentence where the last part of the sentence is unexpected and the reader or listener has to re-interpret the first part. It is frequently used to generate a humorous or dramatic effect. Winston Churchill was known for using paraprosdokians.
Following is Churchill's use of the technique it is said to be a true event. Apparently Churchill and Lady Astor did not like each other. This exchange was said to occur when the two were at high tea or other high society event:
Lady Nancy Astor: "Winston, if you were my husband, I'd put poison in your coffee." Winston Churchill: "Nancy, if you were my wife, I'd drink it."
Here are more paraprosdokians:
Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening' and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.
You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.
I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.
Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
She got her good looks from her father; he's a plastic surgeon.
Send your favourite example to firstname.lastname@example.org
Do visit The Tai Chi for Health Community USA Facebook page and 'like' it.
back to top
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.