Newsletter #54 - February 2006
In this issue:
-- From Me to You, by Dr Lam
-- Letting Go of T'ai Chi, by Shelia Ray
-- Tai Chi for Arthritis program and British Heart Foundation, by Stuart Innes
-- TCA Poetry, by Eileen Landry
-- Spreading Balance, Harmony & Peace through Tai Chi, by Susan Scheuer
-- Humor - Elderly Man with Hearing Problem, by Dr Bob McBrien
Click on the title to read the article, and here to read all previous newsletters
The January workshop in Sydney was inspirational. The flow of positive energy and the harmony was almost visible. In all of our annual one-week workshops, we start the day with a morning talk and demonstration. One participant told me about one of the morning talks:" the first speaker, Jef, was so inspirational, I thought any more talk would spoil it; when Lesley came out. Well Lesley was so great that I did not quite want to see the third speaker. At the end I realise all three speakers are just as incredible, but have entirely different approaches to, 'Tai Chi outside the Box'. Together they made an awesome complementary package!" My thoughts exactly! In this issue, Shelia's (the third speaker) talk is the first article; the others will follow next month.
I would like to introduce and welcome Ralph to the editorial board of this newsletter. Ralph Dehner is the Program Manager of the Mighty Vine Wellness Club, a nonprofit fitness and wellness center serving the mental health community and the general public. He has a background in Occupational Therapy and is a Master Trainer of the Tai Chi for Arthritis program, you can view more information about Ralph at this link.
- "Let Go of Tai Chi" is an "outside the box" view of tai chi by Shelia Ray. This topic is a regular in the last few annual workshops. People approach it differently - hence offering helpful aspects from different angles.
- The "Tai Chi for Arthritis Program and British Heart Foundation", by Stuart Innes.
Stuart, a Tai Chi for Arthritis instructor, emailed me this link about a story from the BBC:
Well-done Stuart! Everyone in the tai chi community is proud of you and your students.
- I always admire poets. Eileen has written a poem about the Tai Chi for Arthritis program, she must have known Stuart was going to be featured by the BBC.
- Susan Scheuer presents another view of the "Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis" workshop in Florida during October of 2005. Susan has recently be nominated and accepted as a senior trainer of the program, congratulations Sue.
- Dr Bob McBrien has been a regular contributor. He has a great sense of humor, this month his character is an elderly gentleman with a hearing problem.
Our featured product this month is the new program:
Tai Chi 4 Kidz - A fun activity to develop children's concentration and coordination
Kids love to learn and they learn very fast especially when engaged in a fun activity. This specially designed tai chi program emphasizes the fun element while developing their mind and body. It is designed in several small building blocks to capture their attention, incorporating imagery and games to add appeal to kids. We have found that kids really enjoy learning it. Teachers and parents have also found improvement in their children's sport and academic studies after doing tai chi. For more information go to this link.
This video or DVD is normally retailed at USD 19.95, for this month it will cost $14.95.
This month's most useful letter is written by David Watson, he wrote: "I am new to Tai Chi and am relying upon your DVD's to learn. I am extremely pleased with your 24 Form program and will learn more in the future (48 Form, Sword, Sun)...Even though I have paid in full for your programs, I will always owe you a debt for giving me the opportunity to learn tai chi. Thank you." Thank you David 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 and advise your postal details. You can read his thread at this link.
Looking forward to see you in June at the one-week workshop in Indiana, USA.
Paul Lam, MD
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LETTING GO OF T'AI CHI By Shelia Ray
The very act of letting go implies that we are in possession of a thing. When we apply this concept to Tai Chi, we understand that without learning and practicing the form, we do not posses Tai Chi awareness. But this awareness is not a product of perfected moves and steps only. While good form is vital to the overall experience, it is not the end goal for the serious practitioner.
Most of us came to the workshop in Sydney knowing a little tai chi and wanting to know more. We worked hard to learn new forms and to find depth in the forms we knew. It was a week of hard work, testing our bodies and our minds; and by now "We got it !", so why am I asking you to let go of it ?
Because there comes a point in our practice where we must learn to let go of the form, the perfectionism, and of the ego. As we begin Tai Chi, the ego is good because it helps us to see what we can achieve. It's powerful, fun and exciting. But like anything we practice to learn, e.g., piano, dance, even cooking, there comes a time when we must let go of trying to follow the prescribed pattern and let the art move through our souls. It's at this point by letting go of the form we can realize the true meaning for our study. It is to integrate the tai chi principles into our daily lives- Yes, we've all heard that before and know the importance of that aspect of tai chi training: But we must even let go of that; otherwise we might judge others who are not using tai chi principles in their lives. We can only be accountable for ourselves and we can only show by example how tai chi plays into our lives.
Try letting go in life so that the principles can apply to life and then your life will influence your tai chi. If we can surrender in movement, the form will express the surrender. And that's what I'm speaking of here: Not only the power of letting go in general, but the power of letting go of the form itself.
If we constantly train to perfect the moves of tai chi, we can't realize the true bliss of doing tai chi. By letting go of the form wonderful connections can happen. First the moves connect together effortlessly, then we can connect to the true essence of blending with our environment, with others, and with the universe itself. We must learn to let go of the form to find the connectedness we are seeking.
I urge you to release the exactness in order to embrace the wholeness that is T'AI CHI.
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On answering my phone one morning I was greeted with "Hello my name is Toni DeFreitas. I am looking to set up a Tai Chi class for heart failures patients. Would you be interested in running the classes?"
The Hastings based scheme, (on the south coast of England), was proposed by Dr Hugh McIntyre, a lead consultant in heart failure at the Conquest Hospital in St Leonards-on-Sea, and setup by Toni de Freitas the Cardiac Improvement Manager and Sarah Terry the British Heart Foundation Heart Failure nurse for this area.
The British Heart Foundation approved the scheme for people from the Hastings/St Leonards-on Sea area who have suffered heart failure.
Two months later on May 3rd the first class commenced. We would have 8 weekly one hour sessions to see how effective it proved to be. I was slightly concerned that 8 weeks would not be enough to allow the benefits of Tai Chi to be appreciated, and had initially argued for 12 weeks. However, health budgets reared their ugly heads and we had to settle for 8 weeks.
After only 4 weeks the team decided to extend the program.
Students can now attend a total of 24 weekly sessions during which time they will learn the basic 12 movements and the reverse TCA form. We also spend time learning some basic Qigong, balance exercises and walking. I try to keep the classes fun, and usually introduce a blatant deliberate mistake into the lesson which normally brings out yells of "wrong"!
Another important aspect I try to put across to the students is that Tai Chi is not about coming to the class once a week and "waving your arms around", but absorbing the principles of Tai Chi into everyday life. We practice moving around "in the kitchen" in a Tai Chi way, being rooted, avoiding the "angry shoppers" in the streets, flowing through crowds of people like water and learning tai chi walking.
All the students have diagnosed heart failure.
All the students GPs have been informed of the Tai Chi and they have the opportunity to decline that their patient attends.
To evaluate the sessions the medical team use the Minnesota quality of life assessment tool and patient satisfaction questionnaires.
Some quotes from the students;
"Tai Chi has made a difference to my breathing."
"Tai Chi has made a difference to my posture, breathing and circulation."
"I can now walk up the hill outside my house without having to stop to recover my breath."
All the students wish to continue onto the advanced block of Tai Chi, and there after would like to be able to continue learning Tai Chi.
In August BBC television (and the local radio and press) came and filmed a class in progress for a news item about the benefits of Tai Chi for recovering Heart Patients.
The news item generated a great deal of interest, which has resulted in classes soon to start for: Psychiatric patients; a community centre in a deprived area of Hastings and a number of elderly persons centres.
An additional new class for Heart Patients is also scheduled to start in the nearby town of Bexhill on Sea in January. The initial results of the program have been very encouraging, with the initial benefits of the Tai Chi classes plain to see. I feel very proud to be associated with this trail to improve people's lives, and lucky to have been given the skills to do so.
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TCA Poetry by Eileen Landry
Sun rises & sets
The horizon it's canvas
Color presses forth
Opening & Closing Hands
Openness is a short distance
Single Whip (Right)
is master of a fool's defense
Keep secret the gaze instead
Waving Hands In The Cloud
Move in Quick, slowly
Watch nothing but be alert
Hold nothing but be enclosed by it
Opening and Closing Hands
The furthest distance is often next door
Brush Knee and Twist Step (Left)
If you are hit by a log
light a match
Playing the Lute (Left Hand in Front)
If tied by rope
Slide through it
Step Forward to Deflect Downwards, Parry & Punch
Always be ready to laugh
& the wind will carry you forward
Apparent Closing Up
Find honor in pulling back
Retreat is the father of readiness
Embracing the Tiger and Pushing the Mountain
What is absent to the eye
can change the heart
Opening and Closing Hands
What approaches slowly
may soon leave
Upper and lower play equal parts
left to right on the horizon
All settle in a single moment
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Spreading Balance, Harmony & Peace through Tai Chi by Susan Scheuer
At his Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis workshop, Dr Lam stated that Tai Chi is about becoming one with nature. Pondering that idea made me realize what an important and valuable contribution we are making in our Tai Chi classes to furthering balance, harmony and peace in the world.
The process begins within each of us when the Tai Chi seed has been planted, and slowly grows and spreads outwards. At the end of each practice session we take home with us a sense of balanced relaxation and a greater feeling of well-being. Inevitably this affects those with whom we come into contact.
Though the focus of Dr Lam's program is mainly on the physical benefits of Tai Chi, as an added bonus we find that our minds and we as spirit are enhanced too. Through its very nature, Tai Chi brings us into a state of balance and harmony with the natural order of the universe.
If we allow Tai Chi to work on our mind as well as our body, we notice that our hard edges start to soften, our rigidity lessens and the 'chips on our shoulders' gradually lose their hold and disperse. We begin to realize that wherever we go we are spreading an air of calm and centeredness, stability and acceptance. We learn to relate to others and our natural environment in a more harmonious fashion and resolve our difficulties in more balanced ways.
Anyone attending one of Dr Lam's Tai Chi workshops for the first time will be struck by the friendship and camaraderie that is immediately evident. At the end of the June 2005 workshop in Florida, I was speaking with the catering manager. He commented: "I'd be happy to have this group back here anytime! Everyone was so easy to get along with and there was no trouble at all." We are remembered for our friendliness and cooperation which had given him a trouble-free week, in contrast to his other experiences with visiting groups!
In the days following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, I noticed that students in my classes were really preoccupied and distressed. Thoughts of all those unfortunate, displaced people who were in need of so much assistance weighed heavily on their minds. What could we possibly do to help? We sent out our loving thoughts to those in distress and then we focused inwards and centered our attention on our Tai Chi movements. In this way we could strengthen ourselves to better deal with our own individual challenges in life.
Just like ripples spread outwards in a circle when a pebble is dropped into water, so the benefits of our Tai Chi practice spread out from where we are - to our families, our friends, our work colleagues and everyone with whom we interact. Who knows, our influence may spread even further than we are immediately aware.
I like to think so!
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An elderly gentleman had serious hearing problems for a number of years.
He went to the doctor and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed the gentleman to hear 100%.
The elderly gentleman went back in a month to the doctor and the doctor said, "Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again."
The gentleman replied, "Oh, I haven't told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I've changed my will three times!"
I hope the workshop was as successful as last year.
I plan to get to the June workshop.
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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.