“I had the opportunity to study Qigong with Randy last summer. I was inspired by his quiet strength and calmness, and wanted to try to capture that for myself. He is a patient, dedicated teacher, whose passion for Qigong is evident in every aspect of his life.”
– Susan, Age 50, Insurance Representative
“Today marks the thirty-third day since I signed a contract with you. In looking back some thoughts arise: why did I start this practice, what challenges have come up; where am I now. I had not consistently stood before; a personal commitment seemed the only way to keep from lapsing. I decided to stand for a minimum of ten minutes each day, and I have done so every day since.
Why standing meditation, why Tai Chi? I was looking for a change in the way of looking at things. Perhaps I was unconsciously seeking something to replace a tired points of view or habits. Through meditation I hoped to better hear the quite voice inside that might point toward a more satisfying future. I have to admit, I have been in a state of tension for a while, unsure how to proceed, unsure how to address frustrations.
The next challenge has been tightness in my upper back. I could not stand for more than 5 minutes without tension and pain arising. Attention to posture and relaxing has helped the tension go away. Drop the shoulder blades, curve the coccyx, pull the head back and chin down. These were like mantras. And slowly I have been able to move from achieving an upright stance through muscle contraction to letting my arms, shoulders, back, hips become relaxed, almost light, enough to hold the position with no strain.
Meditation has changed habits, brought a few insights, and has definitely allowed me to come down to a less frustrated and less self indulgent attitude. When I started I realized that meditation was not “compatible” with drinking. This realization allowed me to quit drinking a typical 1 to 4 cups of wine or beer after work. The change was neither a deprivation nor a struggle. Drinking had become a too frequent crutch. What has slipped into the gap left by wine? I eat more, or at least eating occupies more of my consciousness, but perhaps this will be replaced by some other thing. One day you made comments about me needing to be very ready before starting anything. A thought came that a more compassionate course of action would be to not hold back from trying things, thus share and involve others more. This thought helped me decide sign a contract with you. I have also begun to feel less put upon by tasks I must do. I seem to have a little reservoir of calm or patience available when my wife or kids make demands. Just the act of following through on my commitment, despite lots of opportunity to lapse, has given a bit of confidence and a sense of accomplishment.”
– Bruce, age 49, Environmental Safety & Health Specialist
“As the old saying goes: “when the student is ready, the teacher will show up”. Last January, I saw an email announcement that a lunchtime Tai Chi class was being offered just one floor down from my office. I told myself that I didn’t have any more excuse for not going to find out more about the class. After the orientation, I decided to join the class to give my body and mind some nurture during the workday. It didn’t take long for me to find out that Tai Chi was a more vigorous form of exercise than it appeared to be. Doing Tai Chi was not just moving my arms around in a circular fashion slowly. I discovered many different muscles I didn’t know I have. I didn’t expect to work up a sweat in a Tai Chi class but I did.
SiFu also taught us a form of standing meditation called I Chuan. Doing I Chuan is certainly different than anything I have done before. Clearing my mind and being still for a period of time was a totally new exercise to me. One that I have been doing every night since I first learned it a year ago. Relaxing my body and mind and breathing deeply certainly helped me to fall asleep faster, and fall back to sleep better. The breathing exercises and I Chuan also helped me with my stress from work and home. I am staying much calmer.
I also noticed my flexibility has improved since I took up Tai Chi. I could touch my forehead to my knee when I do my leg stretch warm-up exercise now. I can do my wide stance leg stretching with more ease than a few months ago. My thigh muscle must be a bit stronger now because I could switch sides on the wide stance stretch semi-gracefully. My balance is definitely better now than I first started Tai Chi. The Hsing I practice walk helped me to concentrate on weight shift and stability. The mind has just as much to do with my stability as the muscles.
I am so glad to have SiFu Randy as my teacher. He is so patient, putting up with how slow I learn, and all the stupid questions I ask. He can always find another way to break down the move to show us. I enjoyed the comradery of all the sisters and brothers studying Tai Chi at Chiron. They are always very helpful and I treasure their friendship.
I am starting to learn the Tai Chi broadsword set, and Hsing I. I am excited about all the new challenges ahead.”
– Sylvia, age 53, Scientist
“In January 2004 I was assigned to the top research study in the company. I experienced some hostility from the study group because there had not been a representative from my department on the team before in previous versions of the trial and they did not understand my reason for being there. Being new to the company, new to my department and new to the team that was not welcoming was very stressful. In addition, I teach in the evenings and am completing my Ph.D. dissertation. So I was starting to feel overwhelmed. After my weekly team meetings I was experiencing physical symptoms: upset stomach, headaches, nervousness, etc.
I saw the advertisement for the Yoga and Tai Chi Classes and decided to try Tai Chi because I had practiced Chi Gong for 5 years. The Chi Masters went back to Korea in December 2003 and I was exploring a new affiliation group. So it was great to have the class right within walking distance, after my team meeting and before my Tuesday department meeting. I thought it was a perfect example of synchronicity.
Over the year of practice I found that I feel calmer, less agitated and more focused than I had been prior to practice. My physical symptoms and the anxiety I felt prior to the study meetings dissipated. In addition, I have been able to teach and work on my dissertation data analyses in a more relaxed state of mind. I am able to flow easily with the events in my environment and am less reactive.
Other physical benefits that I can name are increased ability to balance. I have a slight curvature in my spine which makes it difficult to maintain balance. Now I can stand on one foot longer than I could prior to taking the class. My leg muscles are stronger, I am calmer and more focused and I feel generally better fit than I did when I started the classes.
I will continue to practice and perfect my movements over the next year and start the sword training.”
– Laura, age 58, Ph.D.
“I decided to attend our Tai Chi classes primarily to improve my balance and coordination in the hope that my equestrian skills would improve—and so that I would be less likely to fall off my horse or fall anywhere for that matter. I have never considered myself particularly athletic or coordinated. I struggle to allow my body to be—I guess the word would be spontaneous. The Tai Chi classes have actually helped my riding, but they have also had other benefits.
The greatest benefit for riding for me so far has been the breathing meditation. It has allowed me to relax and focus which in turn allows the horse to relax and focus. Horses are incredibly sensitive to body language and emotions, so it really helps them if the rider is able to get rid of extra thoughts and motion. The rider’s intent must be absolutely clear. There are also the benefits of improved balance, flexibility, and strength. I am slowly starting to feel that I am stronger and that I’m more balanced when I ride. A big improvement for me is in my overall confidence in the saddle and just working around the horses.
Another benefit that keeps me coming back to the classes is the reduction in stress that builds up during the workday. I find that I can concentrate and be more effective after the classes. If things get a little too crazy, I can close my door and do some breathing or even practice some of the movements. I am able now to recognize when I am holding tension in my body and do something about it. Another advantage of the classes at Chiron is the opportunity to interact with individuals that I would otherwise be very unlikely to meet. The kind of help and caring that is shared during the classes would be a great model for the company as a whole.
Although I have only been participating in the Tai Chi classes at Chiron for about six months, I am starting to notice the physical and mental health benefits in many aspects of my life. I am definitely stronger and more flexible now. I may even have lost a couple pounds. In the past I have had both shoulder and hip problems. There has been definite decrease in discomfort. The mental benefits have even been greater for me than the physical ones. I think that learning how to learn the physical moves has been a real confidence booster for me. I still struggle, but it seems to be getting easier with time. I am finding that I am able to concentrate and focus better now-especially with physical coordination challenges. I am better able to allow my mind to connect with my body without analyzing every move first.
I hope to continue with Tai Chi and see increased benefits over time in even more aspects of my life.”
– Linda, Scientist