Tai Chi for Health Community

"Our Tai Chi Community: A Web of Golden Threads"

Marianne Walch

  By Marianne Walch, Ph.D.

  (Originally presented at the morning assembly, June 2014 week-long USA workshop, St. Louis.)
 
Download for print

If you’re here, it’s probably a safe assumption that you love the feeling that you are having right now, sitting among your tai chi peers, colleagues and friends – sharing the exciting challenges and fun of this week.  Probably one of the reasons that you first fell in love with tai chi and stuck with it is our wonderful tai chi community and the camaraderie, friendships, positive energy and support that come from being a part of that.  And of course, it’s not just one community, but rather an interconnected web of relationships.

Dr. Lam has done an amazing job of fostering a global Tai Chi for Health community through his personal outreach.  He lets each of us know that he cares about and supports our individual journeys, and we feel connected not only with him personally, but with every other person who practices or teaches the Tai Chi for Health programs.

We can’t all be Dr. Lam, but it’s just as important that we foster and participate in our own Tai Chi for Health communities, however large or small.  If you are a teacher, you notice that most people who attend your Tai Chi for Health classes begin to feel the benefits fairly quickly.  But what keeps students coming back for weeks, months or years, is a continuing sense of connection with you and their classmates, as well as the knowledge that we as teachers respect and value the presence of each of them in our classes.

I’m sure that each of you has, at some time, used the phrase “my tai chi community” in a conversation.  I invite you to reflect for a moment on what those four words mean to you. 

Close your eyes, if you’re comfortable doing so, and take a few slow, deep breaths.  Now say to yourself the words, “My Tai Chi Community.”  As you do this…

  • Visualize the faces of the people in your tai chi community, whatever that means to you this morning.

  • As you become aware of individual faces, think about what each of those people contributes to the community, and to you personally.

  • Think about what you contribute to that community and what you personally contribute to each individual member of it.

  • Finally, think about the group as a whole - the experiences and energy that you generate collectively.

  • And, open your eyes…

When I close my eyes and reflect upon that phrase, I picture one of my very first tai chi communities – a group of women who first met ten years ago in Pat Lawson’s 24-forms class at the June workshop and who quickly became friends.  We called ourselves the “Yang Sisters,” and have stayed connected, to varying degrees, ever since, even though we seldom see one another in person.  I think of the fun we’ve had when we our journeys do intersect.  And I think of the love and support we gave to one another as one of us, our dear Cyndy Fels, fought and eventually lost her battle with cancer.

I also picture the faces of my local Southern Delaware tai chi community, the teachers we’ve trained, the friends we’ve become, and the diversity of people who study and practice with us.  I see in my mind the World Tai Chi & Qigong Days that we’ve celebrated together in our small beach town.  Dozens of people – students, teachers, all ages and colors, gay and straight, many with cancer or Parkinson’s disease, one over a hundred years old -- standing or sitting all together, playing tai chi forms.

Our contemporary American culture is very good at keeping us apart.  We’re involved in our own busy lives -- hooked up to media and technology – increasingly detached, with precious little time or inclination to reach out -- to work, talk and play with people who are different from us.  This often makes it difficult to feel a sense of community.  It’s easy to become isolated. 

But people who feel a sense of belonging tend to lead happier and healthier lives.  We know it intuitively, and studies show this.  And that’s what I see in my tai chi community – a sense of belonging.

So, what actually makes a community strong, what makes it thrive?

Several qualities stand out that seem to make my tai chi communities special and strong.

  • One is a genuine sense of friendship that often exists among us, a real pleasure in sharing time and practice together, a quality of mutual trust and support.  Have you ever had a friend from whom you’ve been separated, but when you finally reconnect you pick up conversations right where you left them years before?  That’s how it feels with my tai chi friends, with all of you.  It’s a yin and yang flow of connections that always returns to a stable center.

  • Second is a mutual respect for each person’s unique life journey.  I believe that strong communities are those where members are humble.  Tai chi practice helps open us to things beyond our small ego minds.  We somehow find it easier to disbelieve our judgments of others and connect to them through the lenses of our souls.

  • And third is the synergy that comes from recognizing that we all have different gifts and can all contribute.   Our tai chi community not only has members with different talents - it is a place where community members respect those who are different from them.  I see this as I catch small glimpses of your lives and work on Facebook.  I’m a biologist, and one of the basic principles of ecology is that all biological communities are made stronger by diversity.  

Recognizing some words here?  Strength. Friendship. Humility.  [Make the wushu salute]

In fact, each time we salute one another we acknowledge that behind all our differences and beneath all our diversity, there is a unity that makes us one.

We are each a thread in a big, golden, interconnected and flowing web. It doesn’t matter if you’re a leader like Dr. Lam, an instructor, or someone who just loves to play.  There are no big threads, or little threads.  Your golden thread is equally critical in supporting this web that is our community.

And I salute you!


Marianne Walch is a Senior Trainer and TCHC board member from the Delaware shore.
mwalch@tchc.info


Hall of Happiness
By Anne Plyler

I always include poetry related to Tai Chi in our classes. One of my favorite poems, “Hall of Happiness” was written by Chen Man-ch’ing (29 July 1902 - 26 March 1975) and posted in his NYC Tai Chi Studio in 1973. This has a special significance for folks in Asheville as his son, Patrick, owned and operated a wonderful Chinese Restaurant here for years, The China Palace.

It was in this restaurant that health care professionals and martial artists collaborated in early 1999 with Dr. Tingsen Xu, the grandmaster who led the successful FICSIT trial at Emory University. This trial brought Tai Chi for fall prevention to the attention of the medical community. This brainstorming focused on how to increase Tai Chi’s presence in Asheville, NC. Out of this event, the first Tai Chi for Seniors program at our local hospital evolved. Here’s one translation of the poem:

May the joy that is everlasting gather in this hall. Not the joy of a sumptuous feast, which slips away even as we leave the table; nor that which music brings - it is only of a limited duration. Beauty and a pretty face are like flowers; they bloom for a while, then die. Even our youth slips swiftly away and is gone.

No, enduring happiness is not in these... We may as well forget them, for the joy I mean is worlds away from these. It is the joy of continuous growth, of helping to develop in yourselves and in others, the talents and abilities with which we were born - the gifts of heaven to mortal men. It is to revive the exhausted and to rejuvenate that which is in decline, so that we are enabled to dispel sickness and suffering.

Let true affection and happy concourse abide in this hall. Let us here correct our past mistakes and lose preoccupation with self. With the constancy of the planets in their courses or of the dragon in his cloud wrapped path, let us enter the land of health and ever after walk within its bounds.

Let us fortify ourselves against weakness and learn to be self-reliant, without ever a moment's lapse. Then our resolution will become the very air we breathe, the world we live in; then we will be as happy as a fish in crystal waters. This is the joy which lasts, that we can carry with us to the end of our days. And tell me if you can; what greater happiness can life bestow?”

Anne is a teacher from Asheville, North Carolina.
www.wnctaichiarthritis.com

 

Hall of Happiness
By Anne Plyler

I always include poetry related to Tai Chi in our classes. One of my favorite poems, “Hall of Happiness” was written by Chen Man-ch’ing (29 July 1902 - 26 March 1975) and posted in his NYC Tai Chi Studio in 1973. This has a special significance for folks in Asheville as his son, Patrick, owned and operated a wonderful Chinese Restaurant here for years, The China Palace.

It was in this restaurant that health care professionals and martial artists collaborated in early 1999 with Dr. Tingsen Xu, the grandmaster who led the successful FICSIT trial at Emory University. This trial brought Tai Chi for fall prevention to the attention of the medical community. This brainstorming focused on how to increase Tai Chi’s presence in Asheville, NC. Out of this event, the first Tai Chi for Seniors program at our local hospital evolved. Here’s one translation of the poem:

May the joy that is everlasting gather in this hall. Not the joy of a sumptuous feast, which slips away even as we leave the table; nor that which music brings - it is only of a limited duration. Beauty and a pretty face are like flowers; they bloom for a while, then die. Even our youth slips swiftly away and is gone.

No, enduring happiness is not in these... We may as well forget them, for the joy I mean is worlds away from these. It is the joy of continuous growth, of helping to develop in yourselves and in others, the talents and abilities with which we were born - the gifts of heaven to mortal men. It is to revive the exhausted and to rejuvenate that which is in decline, so that we are enabled to dispel sickness and suffering.

Let true affection and happy concourse abide in this hall. Let us here correct our past mistakes and lose preoccupation with self. With the constancy of the planets in their courses or of the dragon in his cloud wrapped path, let us enter the land of health and ever after walk within its bounds.

Let us fortify ourselves against weakness and learn to be self-reliant, without ever a moment's lapse. Then our resolution will become the very air we breathe, the world we live in; then we will be as happy as a fish in crystal waters. This is the joy which lasts, that we can carry with us to the end of our days. And tell me if you can; what greater happiness can life bestow?”

Anne is a teacher from Asheville, North Carolina.
www.wnctaichiarthritis.com

 

Tai Chi for Health Community, Inc. is a charitable organization under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3).
  Content copyright 2013 - all rights reserved.     Privacy Policy     Contact Us    

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software