Newsletter #57 - May 2006
In this issue:
-- From Me to You, by Dr Lam
-- Flowmotion, by Porsche Ing-Johnson
-- Feedback on Pat's article on "Effective Teaching", by Jay McGough
-- The Write Way to a Healthier Life, by Sue Smith-Heavenrich
-- Your Today, by Dahlis Roy
-- Gaining Depth in Sun Style Tai Chi: A Unique Opportunity, by Dr Doug Rabb
-- Dr Bob's Humor
-- A question about Qi, answered by Dr Lam
I am packing my bags ready to leave for more tai chi workshops to be held around the world. I look forward to seeing some of you soon in Hong Kong, Barcelona, Michigan or Terre Haute. During my travels I will be collecting useful ideas about teaching and learning tai chi , cultural and social highlights and, most importantly, your inspiring stories about tai chi, for next month's newsletter.
Last month I passed on an invitation to you to attend the first international conference about Tai Chi for Health, which is to be held from December 4-7, 2006 in Seoul, Korea. The website is now functional except for online registration, which will be available soon. To view the program, go to the conference website at http://www.taichiforhealthconference.org.
- Porsche, who tells me her mother named her after her favourite car, is, unlike her mechanical namesake, a spiritual person. Her article Flowmotion is beautifully written and I think you will enjoy it as much as I did.
- We regularly receive feedback about this newsletter. Jay, an excellent tai chi teacher/student has had the benefit of working with Pat, the author of an article about teaching tai chi in last month's newsletter. Jay's feedback is especially helpful because she can tell us first hand about her own experience of the author's teaching.
- Sue is a regular contributor who incidentally is a professional writer as well as a tai chi teacher. Writing for health is an excellent idea; I can see the similarity to tai chi for health.
- Dahlis is a tai chi teacher, painter and writer. Her painting, pictured here, comes with just two simple messages for you. She tells us that Master Weiqi uses the phrase "Your today - My yesterday" as an inspiration for his new tai chi students, meaning, "I was a beginner once, like you". Another useful phrase is 'My today - Your tomorrow', meaning, "Now I teach as well as practise , and one day, you can too!"
- Doug tells us about a unique opportunity this year for Tai Chi for Arthritis and Tai Chi for Diabetes instructors to learn directly from Master Zeng Nailiang, former Head Coach of China's National Wushu Team, an acknowledged and well published expert on both the Sun Style and Modern Combined Competition Styles of Tai Chi, who is also dedicated to researching and teaching the health benefits of Tai Chi. Master Zeng Nailiang is one of 6 Grand Masters of the most famous styles of tai chi who will be presenting at the International Forum on Taijiquan 2006, to be held this July 17-21 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.
- Dr Bob McBrien is as open-minded in his humour column as in his tai chi. This month's humour was contributed by Russ Smiley and Ralph Dehner. Dr Bob says: "One source of healthy humour is a well crafted pun. This form of humour is often called a 'groaner' since when we get the punch line we often give out what Ralph Dehner calls a 'good abdominal groan' . We could think of it as a 'dan tien' exercise. Here are a few puns to enjoy and pass on." Feel free to send your contributions to Bob through this newsletter.
- I love being able to answer your questions in the forum on my website (under the section "Ask Dr Lam" ). This month there was an excellent question about qi that is worth repeating in this newsletter for you all to read.
The most helpful product review this month came from Bill Galvin. He says about the Tai Chi for Diabetes DVD: "The movements are precise, well explained and easy to follow." You can read Bill's full review on the website atthis link.
Thank you Bill for your review. We would like to send you a Tai Chi Music CD for being our Letter of the Month winner. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to give us your postal address.
Enter your review of any of our products on our website at this link, and you will have a chance to win a Tai Chi Music CD too.
This month we're got a special offer for you - buy any one DVD or video (VHS), and you get a free DVD or video of the same or lesser value. Please indicate your free choice in the comments section.
To place your order or for more information go to this link.
For Australian readers, please note there are three workshops in July in Sydney; Tai Chi 4 Kidz (an inaugural event); Tai Chi for Arthritis; and Tai Chi for Back Pain. Hope to see you in one or all of these workshops.
The June one-week workshop in Terre Haute, Indiana, USA is nearly fully booked, so if you want to enrol, please contact us as soon as possible.
You can find more information about all our workshops in thecalendar.
Paul Lam, M.D.
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Flowmotion: the universe's natural flow, timing, and rhythm
Tides of aquamarine turquoise, majestic indigo, and deep blue waves wash over my mind and flow through my heart as I contemplate the many beautiful jewels of thought 2005 has left me. This year has schooled me with a multitude of experiences that have broadened my view of the depth and breath of our earthly existence. And I wonder if I would have thrived instead of survived some frustrating moments if I had understood better the universe's flow. I have learned there is a vast difference between being a student and taking an active part in your growing in life. One can be passive while the other lends itself to change.
Do you fear change or do you understand it to be the only constant in life? Do you recognize its hand and await anxiously for it to take hold of you? Do you realize its strength…allowing its beauty to capture your heart? Do you wait patiently for its effects to see what interesting and wonderful things it brings to you? Or do you shutter in darkness and sneer when it creeps into your “perfect” life?
OR do you find yourself hateful, bitter, and frustrated… when things don't happen as quickly as you want so you find yourself trying to control the “FLOW” in your life and the lives of others? This is a bad place so beware when you are there. Leave it and let go quickly or it will bring pain. Know you cannot control the flow. It is not yours to control.
Tai Chi takes center stage
I attended a tai chi class and the teacher said, as tai chi students you need to practice the art with some drama. What he meant was that there are certain things you need to be aware of like: the foot stance, body alignment, loose wrists, etc… and if you do these things you will look like you really fit the role or play the part well of a tai chi practitioner. But I was thinking further on this theme and these thoughts flooded my mind of tai chi‘s dramatic performance in our lives…
Shakespeare said, we are just “actors, and all the world is a stage”. So, in life as well as on stage, choose your role wisely and perform well but know at any time your script may be changed, rewritten, revised. Sing, dance, and act, knowing full well you cannot control the sound, music cues, lighting, other actors, props, and audience. But this unknowing is also a blessing because it shows you your potential unleashed, your “trial by fire”. It is an unforgettable experience full of phenomenal signs of an exciting journey. Your journey, your knowing, your unknowing, and your growth potential all showcased before you.
Shine forth with your blessed talent knowing full well the stage is a living, breathing creature. However, you can find peace in your experience by understanding this: when the moment arrives, the time of preparation has passed. So concentrate on PREPARATION - being ready when the director yells “action”. Be FEARLESS because you have rehearsed your part perfectly and are prepared for any scenario. You will not be broken because you know in your heart you were born to play this role. Really, you should await anxiously backstage because you are excited to perform, have a love affair of the work, and feel amazing sharing this with others. You have studied your craft relentlessly and your time has come to show the world your passion. They will be swept into the beauty of it… and make no mistake so will you.
For nothing can take this “knowing” from you unless you give it away. And the only way you do this is by tragically not recognizing what the flow has meant to teach you - your whole life… you belong exactly where you are. You may lose your place on stage, and/or you may forget your lines. But listen closely to the other actors (Masters/teachers), your audience (students), always tuning into the music on stage and it will cue you back to your place and life's script.
The Flow continued
Live the good life by always loving what you do, who you are, and aligning yourself (with your life's purpose) with the flow of the universe - these guides will never fail you. Look for light in darkness and never think you are alone because you are not. There are others who wait patiently for your success. Feel this power; it is genuine.
Be patient, willing to wait for all good things to come to you through the flow. Don't force anything. Prepare and you won't feel like you are behind the eighth ball but instead you will drive the energy, moving the ball forward. Move it with your mind, heart, and body - because it is a combination of all. For example, you may be waiting for your classes to fill with tai chi students. It will happen and sooner than you know. So live for it. Hope for it. Recognize it. Then, realize it.
Live the abundant life with pure intention. Make sure your reasoning is not clouded with ambition instead of love for your students and the art. Remember pure love for your students and pure love of the art. They flow from the same origin - a pure place in the seat of the soul - your heart. After all, we are as we surround ourselves with. The energy and light you give off will be absorbed by all within your presence. Then their light should be embraced by your spirit - synergistically transformed in radiance a million fold back to them.
Tai chi and theatre flow together as one
So choose wisely your path and allow it to lead you to your rightful destiny. Feel the flow in your lives. My theatre teacher told me there is always music playing on stage. Whether you tune in to hear it is your choice. You can hear it, dancing to its magical rhythm allowing it to instantly free your soul. Or you can close yourself off to the natural sounds and energy around you. So choose carefully.
Also realize a negative experience may not be intentional. It may simply be a result of you not recognizing the flow in your life. The thoughts that come into your mind you ignore, the feelings that come into your heart you push out, and the energy that enlivens your body you turn from. This is not purposeful; rather you are ignorant and naïve not stubborn. Well, actually some of us are stubborn.
Some may try to swim against the natural flow riding waves of opposition, then fight against the current. If this is you - quit being so stubborn. Believe me, I know this scenario well too. But I have come to learn it is much easier to surrender to the flow, give your blessing to it, and enjoy the journey. Don't think you will drift aimlessly because you don‘t know the exact location of your travel and destination. You won‘t because it keeps changing. That is the beauty of the flow - it changes with your soul's experiences. But it will always inspire, teach, and ultimately carry you to a peaceful shoreline. Don't think, just be. Being is enough because…
This flowmotion of chi energy is a blessing. It is a powerful source of inspiration, motivation, and it will rock your world, stripping you to the very core elements of your life - if you allow it. Don't guide it, let it guide you. Don't control it; LIVE it. And don't just live it, love it into your life one moment at a time; one breath at a time. One inhale, one exhale until it is a full natural breathing rhythm of your soul. Yes, one beautiful moment at a time till it embraces your spirit and its music moves through your life like wind through bamboo. Be flexible to any wind of change. As the wind cannot be seen, it is there, it is here, it is everywhere you are. Sometimes it is a strong presence, sometimes gentle as a whisper. So close your eyes and take a deep breath, anticipating with joy the change it will bring into your life.
Wash away the negative thoughts but hold tightly to the beautiful jewels of this past year. Listen meditatively with your whole being, cultivating more patience for 2006… welcoming the universe's blessings in its powerful flowmotion.
This article is dedicated to my sister's father-in-law who passed away on New Year's Eve 2005. He will be missed. He thought he had the flu, went into the hospital, was diagnosed with leukaemia and died within a week. Please remember LIFE is precious. Live in the Flowmotion of peace, always grateful for every breath you take. But my sister is 5 months pregnant and knows her father–in-law has held her baby boy; their spirits passing together between heaven and earth. LOVE Life in 2006!
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I've just read Pat's article on being an effective teacher and thought it was very good. Her points make a lot of sense and will inspire me in my teaching.
I currently teach ten classes a week and am constantly striving to improve. I receive good feedback from my students and like to take particular care with them as individuals. I have certainly found your "stepwise" method of teaching to be most effective. As a tai chi student (which I continue to be so that I can go on learning, improving and deepening my understanding of Tai Chi) I have sometimes found it difficult to grasp a new movement that is taught in the more traditional “watch and learn” mode.
I think Pat's article should be a handout for all students who undertake your leader training courses.
Pat also practises what she says - I have always found her to be a most effective and caring teacher.
Albury Wodonga, Australia
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A couple years ago I read Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way. I was looking for ways to nurture my creative spirit, and many friends suggested her book. “Use morning pages,” she wrote.
“Do morning pages,” my artist friends echoed. Morning pages are simply three handwritten stream-of-consciousness pages. Trusting the master, I grabbed a spiral notebook (my son had written only a few notes in that semester's economics class…), my favorite pen and a cuppa coffee and began writing. I wasn't sure how writing page after page of “remember to feed the birds and make sure to wash karate uniforms” was going to help me write brilliant prose, but I dedicated myself to the practice.
Every day I sat down and wrote. Not at the same time every morning, and some days barely making it before noon, but I wrote three pages. Daily. And I began to notice something changing. I still wasn't slapping brilliant prose onto the page, but I was more focused when I sat down to write later in the day.
After a few months I added writing to the end of my day, jotting down five things I am grateful for in a small “gratitude journal”. Again, an idea shared by others. I enjoy reflecting at the end of the day upon those things that are good in my life. Most days they're simple gratitudes: watching the chickadees at the feeder, or listening to the frogs at night. This time of year I am grateful when I can drive home with all the groceries (and not have to walk that steep half-mile home laden with heavy bags).
As I continued this practice of writing, both morning and evening, I began to feel calmer, more content with my life. Even when events seem to spiral out of control, writing about things helps me put them into perspective. In many ways it is the same sort of peaceful contentment I feel after doing my tai chi forms. My body is relaxed, and my mind is open to ideas, and ready to focus. Like tai chi, this writing has become a mindfulness practice.
Recently I learned that writing helps reduce stress and may even improve your ability to fend off pesky colds. Research shows that people who express their feelings on paper, and use their writing to reflect upon and process daily events, score better on “well-being” tests and get sick less often. In one study, college students who wrote about things that stressed them (over the six-week period of the study) had a higher number of active T-lymphocytes – key immune system cells.
Other researchers have shown that journaling helps decrease symptoms of asthma and arthritis, improves cognitive function, and counteracts many of the negative effects of stress. All you need is a pencil, a notebook, and a few quiet minutes to write. Even people who write for 5–10 minutes during a lunch break have found it beneficial.
What is this “journaling” that is so beneficial to your health? It is the practice of keeping a notebook that explores your thoughts and feelings surrounding the events of your life. Journaling is more than “dear diary” stuff; it goes beyond simply recording the day-to-day happenings. Using writing this way, journaling, you write in detail, examining your feelings and thoughts as if discussing them with a trusted friend -- or therapist.
Journaling is more than simply venting your frustrations, however. Writing in this fashion helps you clarify thoughts, and may even help you solve problems. Journaling helps you process events by exploring and expressing the emotions surrounding the events.
The neat thing is you don't have to be a writer to journal; you don't even have to know how to spell! So, want to give it a try?
First, you need a journal to write in. Any kind of notebook will do. Some people choose bound journals to write in, but I like to write in spiral notebooks. They're cheaper, and I do a lot of morning pages.
Then you need something to write with. I am partial to gel pens, and have been known to write in different colors depending on my mood. Remember, the idea is to write longhand, so choose your tools with a mind to comfort.
Like tai chi, journaling begins with a moment of preparation. Whether I am writing at my dining room table, sitting beneath a tree, or snuggled up in a quilt with a steamy mug of cocoa, I begin by laying my journal and pen down, closing my eyes, and taking a few slow, deep breaths. Then I begin writing. I don't think too hard about what I want to say - I just start writing. Sometimes words pour out of my pen; other mornings I have nothing to say and begin by writing about what I see outside my window. On desperate days I have written, “… here I am on the first line and I have 74 more lines to fill with words and nothing to say.” Once I get the ink flowing, words come.
The idea is to not think too hard about what you want to say, just let your pencil dance across the page. However, if you have issues in your life that cause you stress and concern, you might start with one of those to get the ink flowing. Some topics to get you rolling: something you are worrying about; dreams; something you've been avoiding for days (weeks? months? years?); childhood memories and the surrounding feelings; what was important to you five years ago, and what's important now; if you could have three wishes.
Don't worry about grammar! When you write morning pages, or any sort of journaling, don't worry about your spelling and grammar. These pages are for you. As long as you can read them, that's all that counts. If you don't know how to spell a word correctly, then spell it the way it sounds. And in morning pages, who cares whether you forgot a comma or let a participle dangle! The important thing is to “just do it”.
Notice that “journey” and “journaling” begin with the same five letters. I have always felt that writing is a journey to your soul. Now, according to researchers, it is also a journey to better health. Try it for a month, and see where it takes you.
Sue Smith-Heavenrich practices writing and Tai Chi in Candor. For information on classes, contact Sue at (607) 659-3022 or email email@example.com.
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Your today, by Dahlis Roy
Dahlis is a tai chi teacher, painter and writer. Her painting, pictured here, comes with just two simple messages for you. She tells us that Master Weiqi uses the phrase "Your today - My yesterday” as an inspiration for his new tai chi students, meaning, "I was a beginner once, like you”. Another useful phrase is 'My today - Your tomorrow', meaning, "Now I teach as well as practise, and one day, you can too!"
Click on the image to see an enlargement.
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In my article on Tai Chi and Doubleweightedness, which appeared in this newsletter (Issue 42, Jan. 05), I shared some insights I gained from a workshop on Sun style tai chi conducted by Master Zeng Nailiang, former Head Coach of China's National Wushu Team, an acknowledged and well published expert on both the Sun and Modern Combined Competition styles of Tai Chi. My little article seems to have raised more questions than it answered judging from the number of responses in the online Tai Chi Productions Discussion Forum: (www.taichiproductions.com/forums/) as well as personal emails.
We have a unique opportunity to get these and other questions resolved, or at least discussed further, as not only is Master Zeng returning to North America this summer, but he is being joined by the senior masters of the six most famous family styles of tai chi and the modern school for the International Forum on Taijiquan 2006. (for more information see www.taijiforum2006.ca/). This is the first time that these six masters have gathered together outside of China. This is only the second forum of this kind ever held. The first was held in 2003 at South China Normal University in Guangzhou, China, and it has already been decided that the third will be in Hong Kong.
The International Forum on Taijiquan 2006 will be held this July 17-21 at Confederation College in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. It will begin with a two day academic conference with the following six masters as keynote speakers: Master Chen Zhenglei representing the Chen family style; Master Yang Zhenduo, Son of Yang Chengfu and great-grandson of Yang Luchan, the founder of Yang style tai chi; Master Wu Wenhan representing the Wu (Hao) style; Master Eddie Wu Kwong Yu, head of Wu family and Wu Style tai chi chuan, 5th generation direct descendant of the Wu family; Master Sun Yongtian of the Sun family tai chi, and of course Master Zeng Nailiang representing the modern style, 24 forms, competition forms and so forth. The academic conference will also have many featured speakers, concurrent sessions, and poster sessions and demonstrations. (See the website for details: www.taijiforum2006.ca/agenda.htm). There will be ample opportunity for question and answer sessions with each of the masters.
During the final two days each master will conduct workshops. Each will teach a 16 form set in his particular style created specifically for this kind of conference. The workshops are designed and scheduled for depth or breadth or a combination of the two. It is possible to learn two complete 16 movement forms of two different styles, or to take only one complete 16 movement form and a selection of other masters' classes in order to get the flavor of several different masters personalities, teaching styles and a taste of the character of the various styles. For example, since I teach principally Tai Chi for Arthritis, which is of course based on Sun style, I am signed up for the complete form with Master Sun Yongtian, but I also intend to take a number of classes with Master Wu Wenhan since I understand that Sun Lutan, the founder of the Sun family style came to tai chi partially through the Wu (Hao) style, which I know very little about. Of course I have to take at least one class with Master Yang Zhenduo, just because he is Master Yang Zhenduo. He will be assisted by his grandson Yang Jun, a sixth generation Yang family master who has been trained since the age of five to carry-on the Yang Family traditions. I would also recommend classes with Master Zeng Nailiang, particularly to Tai Chi for Arthritis and Tai Chi for Diabetes instructors who have not yet had the opportunity to study with him, as he is dedicated to researching and teaching the health benefits of tai chi.
I hope to see many of you this July at the International Forum on Taijiquan 2006. If there is any difficulty in accessing the website or online registration, it can also be reached through: http://pengyou-taiji.ca. The registration form does allow for a 10% discount for groups of 15 or more. I would recommend that TCA and TCD Instructors take advantage of this. Some of your more dedicated students might be interested as well.
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One source of healthy humor is a well crafted pun. This form of humor is often called a "groaner" since when we get the punch line we often give out what Ralph Dehner calls a "good abdominal groan". We could think of is as a "dan tien" exercise. Here are a few puns to enjoy and pass on.
1.Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married...
...The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent.
2. Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other:
"Does this ...taste funny to you?"
3. An invisible man marries an invisible woman...
...The kids were nothing to look at either.
4. Deja Moo: The feeling that you've heard this bull before.
5. I went to Wal-Mart to buy some camouflage pants...
...I searched for an hour but I just couldn't find any.
6. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving again that…
... you can't have your kayak and heat it too.
7. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, This produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him ...
...A super calloused fragile mystic vexed by halitosis.
These "groaners" were the contribution of Russ Smiley and Ralph Dehner, Master Trainer in Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
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“What is best for long-term health?
1) To maintain a good chi (qi) flow by consistent tai chi practise, or
2) To build up chi (qi) in the body, like charging a battery?”
Dr Lam's answer:
According to traditional Chinese medicine, all living beings are born with qi -- a gift of life from the creator. Qi is life. It evaporates as we get older and when qi is exhausted, so is our life.
Qi circulates continuously throughout a living body to push blood, fluid and internal energy along the meridians (energy channels). The more our qi is balanced and the stronger its flow, the more serene and healthy we are.
Regular tai chi practice will bring in more qi; improve its flow and balance. Each time you practise it's like charging a battery or like depositing money in your bank account. Regular deposits maintain a good flow. Without any deposits, your account will dry up. Each deposit is a new charge. So when you practise tai chi, you increase your qi as well as its circulation.
In short, just keep practising regularly and as much as you can and that will take care of your qi.
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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.