Newsletter #60 - August 2006
In this issue:
-- From Me to You, by Dr Lam
--Request for information about innovative ways of using Tai Chi for Health, for the Korea conference, by Pam Kircher, MD
-- Effective Teaching Is Building Community, by Russell Smiley, Ph D
-- Why Russ Won, by Keith Root, TCA,TCD instructor
-- Tai Chi for Beginners, Intermediate and Beyond - A Personal Journey, by Sandra Pruzansky
-- How Tai Chi has changed my life, a letter to Dr Lam from Sherry Jones
--Can You Tell a Joke? by Dr Bob McBrien, Instructor: Tai Chi for Health
Integrating modern knowledge with the ancient wisdom of tai chi. I’m thinking about that a lot this month. The International Tai Chi Conference for Health, to be held in Korea, December 4th to 7th, will bring together tai chi practitioners, modern research workers and anyone involved in promoting tai chi for health.
The world is becoming a smaller place. We’re enjoying the advantages of integrating East and West. We appreciate the benefits of different cultures, among which are the opportunity to taste diverse food and the friendship of people from different backgrounds. The ideal objective of a closer world is to bring all the good things from different cultures and backgrounds and integrate them with modern knowledge, resulting in a more progressive and enjoyable world.
i think tai chi for health is an appropriate step in this direction. For more information about the conference, contact the organisers on the following website: www.taichiforhealthconference.org.
In this newsletter:
Please read Dr Pam Kircher’s request for information about innovative uses of Tai Chi for Health programs for a presentation she’s giving at the conference.
Enjoy Professor Russ Smiley’s (yes Smiley and he’s a very happy, friendly teacher just like his name) talk entitled ‘Effective Teaching Is Building Community’ that he gave at our June workshop in Terre Haute, Indiana, USA. Russ is a Professor of Health at the Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota. He has a PhD in education and is also a tai chi teacher.
More on Russ. Congratulations to Russ who recently received the 2006 Distinguished Faculty Award at his college. This honour has to do with his teaching of tai chi. Keith Root tells us how Russ was chosen for the honour.
Sandra Pruzansky shares with us her personal journey in tai chi. A health professional, Sandra studied for 30 years with one of the original and oldest schools of tai chi in the USA - the school of Grand Master Cheng Man-Ching. Sandra is also a senior trainer of the Tai Chi for Health programs. You can find more about her from my website by going to Instructors/senior instructors/USA.
Sherry Jones has written her story about the amazing medical and life challenges that she has encountered and how tai chi has changed her life. It moved me so much to find out how tai chi has helped her. I guess that’s why we are all so enthusiastic about tai chi. I’m hoping you are all finding that tai chi adds much more to your life.
Dr Bob asks, are you one of those people who say "I just can't tell a joke?" Improving your Healthy Humor Quotient (HHQ) will occur through daily practice. Bob gives us a few hints how to go about it.
August’s product of the month
Purchase any DVD/video and receive 50% discount on ‘Tai Chi for Back Pain’ DVD or video.
For more information and to order your copy at our special price go to our online shop. When making your purchase, please quote SP0806 to get your special discount.
Our online shop has been upgraded
The online shop has been upgraded to show prices in the following currencies - $AU, $US, pound & euro, therefore it is now more convenient and easy for you to use.
Review of the month
Congratulations to Maree Lamb for winning a tai chi music CD for this review of the Tai Chi for Osteoporosis DVD:
'Congratulations Dr Lam and your team, this one is another winner. We as leaders know that TCA is very effective and safe for osteoporosis when practised as recommended, but this DVD gives some very good information from respected doctors and from Osteoporosis Australia that will definitely help clients to understand their condition and how the set can help with management. And as usual, instructions and demonstrations are very clear. Thanks again for a brilliant resource to get my people up and moving!'
You can read Maree’s full review on the Forum page on the website.
Thank you Maree for your review. Please email us at [email protected] with your postal address so we can send your prize to you.
Enter your review of any of our products on the website and you will have a chance to win a tai chi music CD too.
Upcoming workshopsby Dr Lam
Christchurch, New Zealand
Explore the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Stockport, Manchester, United Kingdom
Tai Chi for Diabetes Update and Enhancement Workshop
Tai Chi for Diabetes Instructor's Training
Explore the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructor's Training
Tai Chi for Back Pain Instructor's Training
Memphis, TN, USA
Explore the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Caldera, Oregon, USA
Tai Chi for Back Pain Instructor's Training
For more information about these and other workshops by authorised master trainers or to register go to the workshops calendar page of the website.
Photos of past workshopsare posted on our website. You can order a CD with professional quality digital photos in full size (each photo has 8 million pixels – large enough to print a sharp A3 photo.) You can use them for non-commercial tai chi promotion, your class advertisement, private viewing, print them out in full colour, or send to your friends. Please note that the photos are copyrighted and you should contact us if you wish to use any of them commercially. To place your order go to the workshop photos page on our website.
Paul Lam, M.D.
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I will be giving a keynote presentation in Seoul in December about the practical aspects of tai chi. I plan to discuss the various creative ways that we are using Dr Lam’s Tai Chi for Health programs in our own communities. For example, some people are using tai chi for people with MS, for children with ADD, and for relaxation and exercise in the workplace. I would really love to hear from you if you are using the Tai Chi for Health programs in innovative ways. Our innovative ideas will be a springboard for researchers to explore a wider variety of ways that tai chi might benefit people. You can contact me at [email protected]. Please do that right away as I am currently preparing my talk. Thanks so much for your contribution to the success of this session!
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Ultimately, when we have a successful tai chi class, we have created a safe space where the participants have formed a common bond around tai chi, developed a connection with you and other students, and formed a community. Teaching is working with people.
Having gone through the formal graduate school educational experience to “become” a teacher, I played the game and emerged with graduate degrees and pieces of paper that implied that I could teach. The simple formula to create a teacher was learning theories, memorizing lectures and book knowledge, practicing teaching, playing with simulations, and doing research. On paper it looked good. In reality there was big void in knowing about the big picture, how to connect from the heart with students and colleagues, and how to nurture myself on this mystical journey. Having the best skills and knowledge from higher education did not guarantee my success as a teacher. Practice and experience taught me that there is much, much more to be learned …and this comes from truly connecting with people and forming communities.
At the June 2006 tai chi workshop in Terre Haute, Indiana, we formed a community with old and new friends who all brought a similar desire and passion to learn tai chi. Dr. Lam has held the big picture for over 10 years and has traveled the world sharing his dream. As master trainers, senior trainers, instructors, and tai chi players, we believe in his mission. Many of us teach his model to others, while others embrace the contribution of tai chi to the health and betterment of others. Regardless, we are all members of an ever-growing community which circles the globe.
Wherever we go, we build community. It requires us to embrace others, connect with our students, and learn about ourselves. We form intimate communities with spouses and significant others, colleagues, family and close friends. These relationships need to be cultivated and nurtured. Our friends from this conference can help us learn and grow. I advocate keeping in touch throughout the year with an email, telephone call, or a meeting over tea. Share your successes and challenges and stay connected. Build a support team with other TCA, TCD or TCBP instructors. This experience called life on planet earth is meant to be shared with those we care about and who care about us.
My students are my best teachers. They make what I do possible. They challenge me. They make me look at life from another perspective. They keep bringing me back to the present time (This is what Caroline Demoise calls the “beginners mind” from her presentation earlier in the week).
In your classes, honor each individual’s learning process and purpose for being in your class. Listen with your ears, eyes and heart. Encourage feedback from students and other teachers so that you can stay engaged. Play tai chi with a purpose and make it fun and exciting. Bring an open heart, enthusiasm, and a big smile to class. Throw a surprise birthday party, bring tea or treats. Make the tai chi class fun and memorable. Greet each person in every class, and build rapport. Realize that you may not always have the answer (and may need to acknowledge such) but be willing to find the information. Know that sometimes life takes students away from tai chi, and this is not a reflection on you. Remember that no person can change another without their permission. All we can do is give students wings, and encourage them to fly. Empower each individual in class to be the best that they can possibly be.
The third component of building community is embracing and nurturing your own body, mind and spirit. This is the one aspect of teaching effectively which is sadly overlooked in many formal educational training programs. Who is more intimately qualified to know you than you? Pat Lawson said we are given a map, but we have the power to determine how we get there.
Learn to nurture and love yourself. Stay engaged in your process by reading, writing, taking classes, meditating, practicing tai chi, etc.—whatever fills your glass, bubbles your qi, and gives you passion. Life is an adventure.
Know your learning style, as well as know how to recognize this in others (from Cynthia Fels’ presentation at June 2006 workshop), and use your learning style strengths in your self-care.
Realize that there is no right answer, but a multitude of possibilities which can be explored. Learn about how you manage conflict. Perhaps there are other ways of approaching a situation other than being confrontational? Can you separate your stuff from what is really happening? If it is a repeating situation, maybe you have something to learn?
Stay amused. Laugh at yourself. Find the humor in each situation. Laughter keeps you light, reduces tensions, releases joy juice (endorphins), and helps you to more easily keep moving through your process. When I get stuck and have difficulty finding amusement, my wife’s favorite saying comes to mind: “I can’t wait to see how this turns out to be perfect!” And it has always turned out perfect for my life. In hindsight, everything has its perfection.
As human beings we walk upright with our feet grounded on the earth and our head suspended from the heavens. We greet others with open arms and open hearts. This was no accident. We are designed to engage and connect with one another. Teaching tai chi is connecting people and building community on a global scale.
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In June of this year, a long-time friend of mine and tai chi partner was presented with the 2006 Distinguished Faculty Award. His name is Dr Russell Smiley and he’s a TCA Master Trainer in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. His full time job is Professor of Health at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota.
This spring, the Graduation Committee contacted students who were graduating with the class of 2005–20006. They were asked to consider a faculty member who had made the greatest impact on them during their college career at Normandale. This professor would receive an award at the graduation ceremony. It came as no surprise to me that Russ won the award. Here are a few comments from the students.
- Dr Smiley is a wonderful professor because no question is ever a dumb question.
- After taking Tai Chi I and II, Qigong and Stress Management, I now know I can do anything.
- Even when I am not currently enrolled in one of his classes, he still takes the time to answer my questions.
- Thanks, Dr Smiley for helping me find my way in life.
- His classes have opened up a whole new world for me.
I’ve heard similar comments from our TCA students, TCD students and TCA instructors in the certification workshops. The comments generally center around the same attribute — patience. He has the most patience of anyone I know. In my opinion, patience is one of the most important assets one can have when teaching tai chi or anything elseCongratulations, Russ!
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My personal journey really began when I was 4 years old. My mother enrolled me in a ballet class. I loved it but could not continue for the next season because my parents said that it was too far to travel. I was crushed.
Over the years I moved further and further away from my body, engaging in more intellectual pursuits. I hated gym class. In those days we had a lot of team activities. The teachers chose the most athletic children to be team captains; the captains, in turn, selected their team members. I was always the last one chosen. Often I convinced my doctor that I had some ailment that would allow me to be excused from participating in class.
It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I reconnected with my body. Some musician friends gathered to do music improvisation. In order not to be left out, those of us who were not musicians joined them with movement improvisation. I learned, once again, that I loved to move but I began to recognize limitations. I had images of how I wanted my body to move but could not figure out how to move my body to fit my images. I realized that I could attend dance class again; this time there was no one to stop me.
A friend and I looked for a modern dance class but the only class being taught at a time that was convenient for us was something called tai chi chuan. We had never heard of it, couldn’t even pronounce it but the description sounded interesting — slow, graceful flowing movement. We signed up. Little did I know that that was the beginning of a lifelong journey that was to encompass far more than moving my body.
Some people are naturals at tai chi movement, what I call genetically gifted tai chi players. I am not one of those people. Though I couldn’t figure out how to shift my weight to one leg in order to move the other, there was something about the energy in the class that drew me in. The instructor said that to become proficient would take a lifetime commitment. Since I was commitment phobic, I was surprised that I even gave this serious thought. And even more surprising, I decided that I was ready to make that commitment. I knew at some deep level, though I had no words for it, this tai chi thing was about far more than movement.During the first few years I worked mostly at the gross physical level, increasing my body awareness in order to execute the movements of the form. Even though I was still frustrated at my body not being able to move in the ways I wanted it to, I continued to practice and went to classes regularly. I began to notice that tai chi was affecting all aspects of my life. I grew up in a large city and had very little awareness of the natural world. I started to notice the change of seasons. I began to apply tai chi principles in my daily life. My relationships with people changed dramatically. I softened, was more cooperative, less combative; when I met hard with soft, others softened. I noticed that when I practiced I became more focused in other areas of my life. Though I still had difficulty balancing on one leg, I noticed that there was more balance in my life.
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Dear Dr Lam,
You asked me to write my story, so I am. I hope others can find hope from it.
My first experience with tai chi was in college in the fall of 1991. I took a T'ai Chi Ch'uan Yang-style class from a master from the Republic of China, Mei Hsiu Chan, and through her, I learned to love tai chi. We became good friends and would practice together, whenever we could, outside of class.
I became somewhat of a challenge for Mei Hsiu. First of all, I broke a bone in my foot while walking with a friend. Mei Hsiu designed a program for someone on crutches.
Then in my senior year of studies of special education, I was injured in a car accident. Even after three months of physical therapy, I was in great pain. I thought my career in special education was over before it even got started. I did not say anything to Mei Hsiu, but she could tell the pain I was in. She asked me to come to her apartment and after positioning me, she told me my pain was going to come out of my back and that I would feel it happening. I did not understand, but went along with it. Next thing I know, it felt like a dagger came out of my back and after this, I did not feel any more pain in my back. Mei Hsui was physically weakened by this and I realized what a wonderful thing she had done. I did not know such a thing was possible. My knowledge of Chinese medicine was very limited. She recently told me she has been practicing Chan’s Qi Gong for 38 years and she had used her powerful healing power to solve the problems in my back.
My years at college in the 1970s, majoring in pharmacy, ended when it was discovered I had a severe case of endometriosis that threatened my life. It was massive and was growing on my diaphram muscles. But, I came through my second attempt at college, thanks to Mei Hsiu.
I got to enjoy five years of teaching before the next big tragedy struck. I gradually lost the use of my legs and felt dizzy 24 hours a day. It was a quite miserable and disabling existence and I became depressed and gained a lot of weight. I ended up going to a stress therapist. No one could tell me what was wrong. I was tested for everything and in fact saw an MS doctor for 3 years. He was totally amazed that I was not in extreme pain when he looked at my MRI and found I had spodylosis of the spine, a bulging disc, and a herniated disc. I told him about Mei Hsiu and he said he had heard of such things, but had never seen anyone who had experienced it. This did not change the fact I could not get my muscles to work, and was getting very weak. After seeing many doctors, the best they could figure, by my tests, was that a virus was attacking my central nervous system.
It took me two years to be able to walk again at a normal pace. When I was strong enough, I started going to yoga as well as water exercise classes. Yoga helped me even though I had to constantly tell myself to keep trying with the slow progress that I made in balance, flexibility, and strength.
I was then diagnosed by a rheumatoligist with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. This just added to the ever-growing list of things I had to deal with. And later my primary physician diagnosed me with pre-diabetes.
I thank God for helping me, sending me wonderful people like Mei Hsiu,giving me the strength to endure the process, and giving me hope to strive on towards my goal. Ilonged for my tai chi, but in the area of Texas I live in, if you said "tai chi", they though that you had sneezed!
As I became stronger, I became confident enough, along with the encouragement of a friend, to become certified to teach the water arthritis classes through the Arthritis Foundation. Then came the opportunity to teach the MS approved water aerobics class I had attended myself. These were wonderful opportunities for me to help others and give them hope. Best of all, I lost 68 pounds. But I soon became a victim of the available treatments for arthritis and now have permanent kidney damage.
When I found out about the Tai Chi for Arthritis certification classes in Angleton, Texas, taught by Troyce Thome, it was like a dream come true. A part of me was afraid I could not do it, but I went through three days of intense training and was not in pain. I was sore and very tired, but afterwards, I could not have felt better.
Hank Hoaldridge, the administrator of the Burleson Community Education, called me and said he wanted me to teach tai chi. I ended up teaching 8 classes a week. But I wanted to reach more people. So, I took Dr. Paul Lam's Tai Chi for Arthritis DVDs to my fitness center manager, my physical therapist, my rheumatolgist, and the hospital education directors. Then I got the Tai Chi for Diabetes DVD and took it to my doctor. All are very supportive of the program. Hopefully together we can start to meet the growing demand for Tai Chi for Health in my area of Texas.
My friend, Robert Cisneros, has given me the idea of teaching Dr Lam's Tai Chi for Kids in the school system. Perhaps it will be a great start towards better health for our children.
My rheumatologist tells me I am doing better than any of the fibromyalgia patients he has. Plus, my doctor is excited because my blood sugar and blood pressure are normal.
Anyone who has been around me very long knows that I get really excited when it comes to Dr Paul Lam's Tai Chi for Health programs. I am now certified to teach Tai Chi for Arthritis I and II, Tai Chi for Back Pain, and Tai Chi for Diabetes. I have grown much in tai chi since I started and expect to grow more in the future and to expand my abilities. Since I attended your workshop in Terre Haute, I know I have a lot of fellow instructors who will help and encourage me and who feel much the same as I do.
Dr. Paul Lam, your Tai Chi for Health is the best thing that has happened to me recently (except maybe finding out I am going to be a grandmother). I hope many more or your students’ stories will have a happy ending too!
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Improving your Healthy Humor Quotient (HHQ) will occur through daily practice. It seems that enjoying a good laugh is a social experience.
One way to nurture your own HHQ is to tell others a joke or story.
Sharing a good laugh seems to double the potency of a good laugh. How often do you hear someone say, "I just can't tell a joke?" Or, "I would like to share a good story with my friends, but I always forget the punch line."
Here are a few tips for improving your skill as a jokester.
- Collect a library of jokes or stories that made you laugh.
- Practice telling a joke or story in private (something like singing in the shower).
- When you have practiced with a good joke, tell it three different times to three friends or family members. By telling the joke or story three times you have a chance to improve on the delivery.
- You might begin with short jokes (one-liners) and move on to longer jokes when you have developed your skill.
Following are a few samples for your practice. These are called one-liners.
- Two cannibals were dining on a circus clown, one asked the other. "Does this taste funny to you?"
- Epitaph for a hypochondriac: I told you I was sick.
- Bumper sticker: My border collie is smarter than your honor student.
There are two parts to telling a joke, the set up and the punch line. The skill of getting the laugh is in the timing. Tell the set up, pause to generate interest and deliver the punch line.
For example: "Do you know what the epitaph is on the hypochondriac's tombstone?" (Pause for a few seconds) "I told you I was sick!"
When the joke succeeds the laughter that follows is a warm connection between the joke teller and the audience.
Finally, be sure that the subject matter does not offend or put down anyone. Healthy humor involves creating good feelings not resentments.
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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.