Newsletter #119 - July 2011
- Humour, Laughter and Radiant Health, Bob McBrien
June has been a very exciting month. After the inaugural Tai Chi for Energy Instructors Training Workshop in Singapore, I conducted five workshops in the USA, including the one week annual workshop in Terre Haute. We have informative, insightful talks and videos which I will share with you in upcoming newsletters. Immediately following the annual workshop, the Second International Tai Chi for Health Conference was held at the state of the art auditorium at the Indiana University Medical School. Many prominent researchers on tai chi and mindfulness attended, I will be requesting some of the presenters for a summary to share with you next month. My conference talk on what makes a Tai Chi for Health program will be posted in September.
This month's video clip, 'Tai Chi Outside the Box' is Shelia Rae's talk at the annual Sydney workshop held in January 2011. I hope you enjoyed last month's video clip of Sun 73, 'Under the Tuscan Sun' at the Master Trainers' workshop in Tuscany. My article this month on 'Wholesome Jing', is the theoretical concept of the in depth training in this workshop. It can be applied to any forms of tai chi, especially the new Tai Chi for Energy program. The Tai Chi for Energy DVD of this program is now available online.
I am excited to be conducting the first Tai Chi for Energy instructors training workshop, Georgia USA in October. Although this workshop is fully booked, we do have a waiting list in case of cancellations. One of the reasons I composed this program, is we often hear people say tai chi is too slow for them. Of course this is not true. In order to give them no excuse not to try tai chi I have combined two of my favourite styles, Chen and Sun in this program. Chen style is vigorous and complex, combining fast and slow movements with powerful spiral force. Sun style incorporates unique qigong (life energy) movements with agile stepping. These two seemingly contrasting styles have complementary internal energy. Just about everyone who has tried or seen the program has given me great feedback; it is presented in eight real time lessons, the same way as I would teach the program in a class. Do give it a try.
In this Newsletter:
Dr Lam sees wholesome jing as a direct and pure internal force which is the true essence of tai chi.
According to Caroline Demoise, a jing mind is an essential inteal component of tai chi. It helps you make effective decisions, reduces stress, supports rebalancing of the central nervous system to produce vibrant health.
Find out what Shelia Rae meant by Doing, Not Doing and Teaching tai chi 'Out of the Box' in her presentation in the annual Sydney workshop last January.
For Ernie Hall, Tai Chi for Health can include people with many different types of chronic disease and disability, helping them return to a sense of well-being and improved quality of life.
- 42 Sword Forms DVD
Combined 42 Forms DVD
Click here for more information or to place an order.
Upcoming Workshops: by Dr Paul Lam
Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Tai Chi for Diabetes Instructor Training
Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Tai Chi for Diabetes Instructor Training
Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis Workshop
One Week Tai Chi Workshop
Yours in Tai Chi,
There are several Chinese pin yin characters pronounced as jing (also spelled jin), these including; quiet, force, and semen. The tai chi character for 'mental quietness' is the same as the Chinese character for 'quiet'; internal force is often call the internal jing, and semen is considered closely related to qi. In this article, we will discuss jing as an internal force.
In classic tai chi it is said, "The yi drives the qi, and the qi drives the jing." This means that the mind, body and spirit work together, as an integrated force, with the yi being your intention or mind-power, the qi your life energy, and jing your internal force. The practice of tai chi is a means of getting to this stage of integrated force. In the West, we often consider the end-result to matter most. Wholesome jing is the end result of moving the tai chi way, using the internal principles and external forms.
I perceive wholesome jing as a direct and pure internal force and just like wholesome food is good for you, wholesome jing is the true essence of tai chi that is good for all tai chi practitioners.
Wholesome jing has several essential ingredients:
• The mind is focused. Your mind must be quiet in order to foster the qi. A stressed and jittery mind is no where near as effective as a mind focused on the tai chi moments.
• The eye is the window of the mind. Your vision indicates your intention (yi). Thus, there is a strong correlation between your inner self and the direction of your gaze. During tai chi practice, looking eye level - at the point where you intend to deliver energy - is helpful in creating wholesome jing.
• The dan tian directs. Jing comes from the feet through the dan tian and is then expressed by the hands or feet. The dan tian is the commander. During tai chi practice, coordinate your limbs with the dan tian and song all joints and muscles to allow the qi - which is stored in the dan tian - to flow through, the more song the better qi flows.
• Spirals are everywhere. Look carefully, no matter what style or which movement, within each there can be a spiral force. A powerful wholesome jing is most effectively expressed in spiral. Spiral force is known as the silk reeling force and is the core power of Chen-style tai chi. In Chinese, it is named chan suu jin. During tai chi practice, imagine the spiral of a screw thread path. The spiral can be any length of that path's curve, generated by movement of the dan tian. The spiral can be tight and sharp like almost like a circle, or a gentle curve that can be barely visible in the form of a gentle spiral. When you have spirals in your mind, you will create spirals.
As your ability to make spirals progresses, connect the movements into a continuous path as a horizontal figure eight in three dimensions. This can be practiced during the Wave Hands in Clouds movement.
In summary, incorporating tai chi principles fosters the qi (life energy) to be strong and wholesome. The dan tian (commander) coordinates the qi so it is efficient. Chen (sinking) gives a firm supporting base for power, and Huo (agility) enables moving the power which, ultimately, is most resilient and powerful in a spiral. These are the components of wholesome jing, a direct and pure internal force.
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Caroline Demoise, Master Trainer, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
A jing mind is a quality that allows you to listen to all the incoming force in your life and respond effectively. A peaceful mind is not held hostage by strong emotions. In addition to helping you make effective decisions in life, having a jing mind reduces stress, supports rebalancing the central nervous system to produce vibrant health and is an essential internal component in taijiquan training.
Your mind is like a sense organ. Your ears hear only a segment of the full range of sounds produced in nature. Your eyes see only part of the entire spectrum of light. Like these senses, your mind only entertains a limited range of thoughts, ideas and perceptions compared to those available through infinitely possibility. What people think about and perceive differs from culture to culture.
Minds process data. The mind is used as a thinking tool to help you function successfully in the world. This is mind in yang mode. But mind is bigger than thinking and analysing data. Mind has a yin mode that helps you with intuition, and sensing internal energies. Mind is capable of awareness and sensing the internal realm when it slips into the yin mode of stillness. When you are quiet and open to awareness, your mind listens for information and notices things you may miss when you are absorbed with thinking. In tai chi, martial artists use touch to listen to the energy of their opponent. Here touch senses something more than the softness of skin or the texture of clothing fabric. You are sensing the person's energy and intention. A quiet, jing mind helps you focus more intensely and precisely on listening to energy.
Jing mind helps you function more effectively in everyday life. If you are faced with a crisis and can maintain the relaxed, focused quality of a still jing mind, you will know precisely how to respond effectively and efficiently. Ideas will come to you if you don't panic, slip into overwhelm or become tense and anxious. Even in an ordinary situation when you want a creative thought, a new perception on how best to arrange the furniture in your living room, relaxing into jing mind will make a creative flow of information and insight available to you that is amazing. These new insights expand the range of possible options. Having a jing mind gives you more mental tools and expands your awareness of the world around you. A jing mind perceives more of reality.
Cultivating jing mind in tai chi practice or in any aspect of life begins when you slow down. Moving slowly invites your mind to calm itself naturally. Take a deep relaxed abdominal breath. Focusing on breath counteracts active thinking. Visualize a beautiful sunset over the water and notice how you shift into silence. Affirm an intention for your tai chi practice like "My mind is quiet when I do tai chi" to enhance the transition from thinking mind to jing mind. Give your mind a task to do that isn't thinking while you practice. You might choose to notice your alignment as you move or be aware of your breathing. Feel how your muscles relax as you flow from movement to movement and be in the present moment as you practice your form.
Jing is a quality of mind, an internal stillness, which is quiet and deep. It is a meditative alignment with Tao. Thoughts not focused on dissolve into the background, allowing you to experience peace. In the silence you can focus on practicing the principles in your form. Jing is a quality of mind worth cultivating through tai chi practice.
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Shelia Rae, Master Trainer, Memphis, TN, USA
When Dr Lam asked me to give a talk at the Sydney workshop on the subject of Tai Chi "Out of the Box", I wondered what was he thinking! What did tai chi out of the box mean to him? Did he mean DO tai chi out of the box, like spontaneous qigong- let go of the form and just let the tai chi move you? Did he mean practice tai chi principles outside of the form? Or maybe he meant me to talk about teaching tai chi outside the normal classroom environment?
After some thought on ‘what does he mean', I came to the realization that although the topic was his idea, it was not his perspective he was interested in, but mine, and here it is, broken down into my three choice of topics: DOING tai chi, NOT-DOING tai chi, and TEACHING tai chi out of the box.
1) DOING tai chi out of the box: First of all, isn't just the practice of tai chi ‘out of the box' for most people? In our busy, bustling lives, the thought of slowing down, staying in the present, enjoying movement that has all the benefits of exercise, but doesn't look like exercise, enough for outsiders to think everyone doing tai chi is ‘out of the box'? If that is the outsiders' opinion, then I'm happy to live outside of the box. In fact, I'd like to organize a FLASH MOB, getting other tai chi-ers to meet in a public place and begin to do tai chi, seemingly randomly, but in sequence for all to see and maybe even to join in if brave enough! I like to show others that tai chi is fun, not as serious as we look sometimes. I do work hard at tai chi to learn the movements that involves and integrates both mind and body, and sometimes in my practice, my body works better than my mind, and I forget the sequence, but I continue to move using tai chi principles and the movements in my body, and gradually my mind will connect to my body and both mind and body moves as one, remembering the sequence.
To me tai chi is an art, once the principles are understood, you can let go of the form and come back to it easily. I don't stop to wonder how, I just DO tai chi – sometimes the form is in the correct sequence and sometimes it is not. For tai chi outsiders, I am viewed ‘out of the box' for doing tai chi, but I think tai chi insiders probably view me outside the box as well. Regardless of what others may think, I think by doing tai chi, it becomes my tai chi, and I love the exploration.
2) NOT DOING Tai Chi, is my practice in everyday life of tai chi principles; Going to the grocery store, I practice ‘white crane spreading wings' as I reach for goods on a high shelf, or I practice ‘snake creeps down' as I reach for good on a low shelf. I keep my back straight, go down in one leg and up in the other with my can of beans in my hand. I move through out the store from my centre. I lived in rural Colorado when my daughter was a teenager, and like most teenagers, she was not always content with watching the deer and the antelope play, but wanted to go downtown to the mall; a trip and a place I abhorred, but I would take her. As she gleefully walked every corridor, I would imagine a string from my center pulling me forward and find myself walking effortlessly, not using my feet to propel me; the string that I imaged was on a reel, propelling me forward.
Before this imagery, I was tired at the mall, but with the help of this image, I, too had fun and was not dragging my feet. After many Saturdays at the mall, my body could easily move from my centre. Now I'm practicing silk reeling while shopping; something I've learned from watching Dr Lam. You might have noticed when talking to him, his body is moving in almost unperceivable spirals – he's practicing tai chi! Another thing I've leaed from Dr Lam is to ‘listen to the incoming force', a principle I knew to be important in push hands practice, but think how valuable this concept is when dealing with verbal communication or conflict. To really listen to what someone is saying, then re-directing and giving back to them their ideas in a less combative way is certainly practicing tai chi principles in daily life. That is tai chi out of the box worth cultivating!
3) Teaching Tai Chi out of the box: When I first started teaching tai chi, I thought I should have a studio/dojo with tai chi pictures and symbols, waterfalls and fresh air, candles and soft music to set the stage for the peacefulness that tai chi brings. Let me tell you, that's a great thought, but as my teaching expanded to prisons with concrete walls and no windows, rehabilitation centres where tai chi was just an adjunct therapy for those undergoing detoxification, and assisted living facilities where I had to compete with bingo in the background, I learned that tai chi brought peace within regardless of the environment. I have learned so much from my experiences with prisoners, children, older adults and those struggling with chronic disease. I learned that I didn't need my concept of an ideal environment to bring internal calmness to those that needed it most.
My out of the box realization is that meditation of any form is easy when the environment is peaceful, but more rewarding when you can achieve peacefulness within chaos. Try teaching out of the box; in the US, many of us have taught in the workplace; one MT in Miami helped a corporation lower their insurance rates by using tai chi classes to help employees to quit smoking. Now that's tai chi out of the box – find your own interest and take tai chi with you; you'll find your own tai chi out of the box most rewarding. There are no limits to where you can teach tai chi. Limitations live only in our minds, but if we use our imaginations, the possibilities become limitless. If you think you don't know enough to teach, just think of it as sharing what you love with others, and know the student may forget what you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel; and that's what's important to us all: The way we feel, and make others feel when we do tai chi in or out of the box.
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Ernie Hall, Senior Trainer, St. Joseph, MO, USA
The versatility of Tai Chi for Health sets we teach is remarkable. Modifications of basic Tai Chi for Arthritis movements, such as Seated TCA, allow us to be inclusive of people with many different types of chronic disease and disability, including but not limited to those with arthritis, diabetes and osteoporosis.
Teaching tai chi to groups or individuals with special needs or requirements is a challenge well worth considering. It is important to know what our students can and cannot do with respect, compassion and understanding of their condition. Safety is always a critical consideration. Next consideration is the ability to assimilate form, either physically or through visualization. Many tai chi instructors are challenged by exceptional students including Special Olympians, rehabilitation, post-rehabilitation and hospice patients in hospital and residential settings. For whom is tai chi appropriate? The answer is virtually every body.
The art of tai chi transcends physical restraints, promotes confidence and reinforces the possibility of extended independent living. One of my early challenges was introducing tai chi to a group of stroke survivors with unique abilities to move and communicate. Care-givers and students were equally surprised how visualization can be employed when range-of-motion is limited or use of a limb is not possible. Another support group included the hard-of-hearing. It is possible to lead a group with help from sign-language interpreters.
Our hospital's oncology cancer centre offers tai chi classes as part of a complementary therapy program. Participants reduce stress in the presence of fatigue and find that the sessions promote healing and return to a sense of well-being and improved quality of life. One woman remarked that the tai chi we practice is a special type of self-defence. We can stand up, or sit tall, and fight cancer. We sometimes practice basic TCA while holding scarves which were formerly used to cover heads after hair loss from chemotherapy.
Teaching and learning is a continuum, ever changing and seldom static. We move with our students through respect and understanding of all conditions toward health and wellness, and in so doing teacher becomes student and student becomes teacher. The intrinsic rewards are well worth the effort for both the student and the instructor.
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By Tamara Bennet and Hazel Thompson, Senior Trainers, Auckland and Christchurch, NZ
Former New Zealand Rugby player and builder Toi Walker took up tai chi in order to alleviate his chronic pain from sports injuries. He found it so helpful for his own symptoms that he began working with a group of senior citizens, teaching them Tai Chi Arthritis. He was also a community health worker for Maori, working for an organisation called Whaiora Whanui meaning the "whole well being". He worked with youths as an educator in drug and alcohol, smoking and sexual health awareness.
Toi became a Master Trainer in 2006. He began working with the New Zealand Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) on the delivery of their Falls Prevention Programme, training instructors in Tai Chi Arthritis. This quickly developed into a full time job, with Toi travelling throughout the North and South Islands to train and update instructors.
With funding being cut back on the Falls Prevention programme, Toi is now about to embark on a trial of the effectiveness of tai chi in the workplace.
Toi's tai chi style is unique, with a strong strength and "Mana" apparent from his Maori ancestry. He has a wonderful ability to include humour and fun while teaching, without losing the strong principles and essence of the Tai Chi for Health programme. Toi is a humble man and teacher. He openly shares any limitations he may have, which encourages and allows others feel more confident to work within their comfort zone. This quality is often rare in the tai chi world, where competition can often cloud over safety.
Toi recently shared with participants at a workshop, that when he first discovered the Tai Chi for Health programmes, his goal was to be able to execute a tai chi form and look exactly like Dr Lam. Toi's own tai chi grew when he realised that he was a unique individual, like everyone is and his personal tai chi journey was to allow his own personality to develop and grow his tai chi.
Toi discovered tai chi at a young age and although he came from the background of vigorous contact sports he discovered that the softer movements of tai chi could be very effective in alleviating his symptoms. Tai chi has changed his life, and he is living proof that it is an exercise suitable for all ages and abilities.
Toi discovered that his tai chi journey was very individual.
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Dr Bob McBrien, Master Trainer, Salisbury, MD, USA
"Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!"
"We repair what your husband fixed."
"Push. Push. Push."
END OF NEWSLETTER
Waing: 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.