Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sustainable Return - Newsletter 2010


Alliance for the Great Lakes

On behalf of the Tai Chi Center of Chicago, Sas Stark has maintained a volunteering position with the Alliance for the Great Lakes for the past two years.

Waterkeepers Alliance

We tried to volunteer for the Waterkeepers Alliance to find out they do not have a chapter here in Chicago...yet. When we consulted WA and explained our interest in having a Chicago chapter, they asked how many members belonged to my 501c3, and how many people would fit in my boat? We would love to help Waterkeepers Alliance but currently we only own a blow up canoe!


Roots for Christmas

We put trees under the AIR catagory, since they inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen.

For those that celebrate Christmas with a Christmas tree and would like a "green" alternative follow this link to a living Christmas tree service called, Roots for Christmas. They will drop off a live tree to your home or business for the Christmas holidays. After the holidays have passed they will then pick it up and re-plant it in the Chicago area.


The Prairie Restoration Project

On April 11, 2010, six members of the Tai Chi Center of Chicago joined Stuart Goldman, a naturalist from the Cook County Forest Preserve, Laurel Ross, a botanist from the Field Museum, and John Diversey, a steward of prairie land on the farm of Angelic Organics (Rockford IL.), in a controlled "burn." Follow this link to read more or to sign up to volunter for the next burn!

The Magic Hedge Project

On November, 6 2010, eight members of the Tai Chi Center of Chicago joined Steward David Painter in planting 7,300 Marram Grass roots. To read more about the importance of the Magic Hedge follow this link.


Year of the Tiger - Save the Tiger

On February 20, 2010, the Tai Chi Center of Chicago celebrated the Year of the Tiger with a fundraiser called Year of the Tiger - Save the Tiger a collaboration between the school and Wildlife Conservation Society. The mission was to learn more about the magnificent Amur tiger, and to receive donated funds from anyone who loves and cares that he/she continues to have a place to live within its natural habitat. Nearly $1,500 was raised to help protect the Chinese Amure Tiger!


Elizabeth and I completed a busy year two of beekeeping, to help the honeybees survive Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a syndrome affecting bee populations worldwide since 2006. The USDA reported that American beekeepers lost another 33.8% of their honeybee population in the winter of 2009-10.

I had heard a beekeeper will kill up to 5 hives in the learning process. After I killed off two hives in year one, it was time to get some advice.

I took a 5-hour workshop in Crestone, Colorado with one of my heros, Corwin Bell, a "bee-whisperer", which included a road trip with my oldest daughter Emilie (who I thank for her willingness to spend 40 hours in the car with her mother!). Corwin taught beginning and intermediate techniques for listening to the bees and caring for the health of the hive naturally, without pesticides, the use of sugar or even smoke. He demonstrated how he tracks and catches swarms of bees. Corwin keeps his bees and naps on his hives in Eldorado Springs, a beautiful canyon just outside of Boulder. His hives have suffered no colony collapse disorder. He is the founder of beeguardian.org , a group committed to the survival of the honeybee. www.backyardhive.com is his internet site where he sells his beautiful, hand-crafted, topbar hive, which we use.

Next Elizabeth and I took a seminar attended by over 50 midwestern beekeepers with internationally-renowned beemaster Gunther Hauk, a man who has dedicated himself to the care of bees through his biodynamic bee sanctuary, Spiknard Farm, recently relocated to Floyd, Virginia, which also suffers no colony collapse. We hosted him for a weekend conference, during which time he viewed and diagnosed the hive, trees and garden at Grace Street.

We also had an afternoon consultation with Julio Tuma, master beekeeper at the Garfield Park Conservatory, Growing and Green Living and genius PHD biology student at University of Chicago. He uses both topbar and Langstroth hives at Garfield Park and teaches their beekeeping classes. I would highly recommend taking a class with Julio. His enthusiastic & visual explanation of the biology of bees is a great introduction for anyone curious about bees or beekeeping.

The bees are currently in hibernation in their topbar hive, within an open-ended wood structure (built around the hive to protect against the winter elements) at the Grace Street garden. This hive is named Hope, since we don't yet have faith, but we surely hope they will survive the winter.

P.S. I would like to thank Elizabeth, because late in season I suffered a bee sting gone wrong, and she graciously jumped in and became the full-time beekeeper for the remainder of the season. I will use the winter to consider my beekeeping future.

I am thankful for the downtime of hibernation!


Biodynamic Stir

We hosted a Biodynamic stir at the Grace Street garden on the 21st of November. The stir was led by Bob Bower and Ben Wilson. Bob is the farm manager for the community supported agriculture farm (CSA), Hawthorne Valley Farms, in Ghent, NY, and former field manager at Angelic Organics for 15 years. Ben is the Biodynamic preparation specialist at Angelic Organics. Angelic Organics is the largest CSA farm in the US, serving 1500 families in the Chicagoland area, and is featured in the film, "The Real Dirt on Farmer John".

Twenty people attended the outdoor event, where we first prepared and applied a Biodynamic poultice for the ailing 100 year-old horse chestnut tree, consisted of cow manure, ground bark from the tree itself and other herbal preparations. Once applied the snow and rain will slowly wash the thick mud-like remedy into the dirt surrounding the tree. The roots will then re-absorb it and draw it deep into the interior of the tree.

Next we "stirred" a Biodynamic preparation for the dirt, which meant the 20 attendees took turns seated over 5 gallon buckets of cold water, up to their elbows, stirring the addition of dry preparations into the water in a clock-wise and counter clock-wise fashion for 60 minutes. We then applied the preparation over the entire garden.

Finally we observed Ben as he "stirred" and applied a preparation toß the compost piles.

Biodynamic agriculture is a system of organic farming used to enhance soil quality. (Think alternative to commercial fertilizer). Typically used on farms in the US, we believe it can also be used on urban gardens of smaller scale.

Everyone took home a small amount of the Biodynamic preparations for their gardens.

Water Stirring

In response to the growing concern over the integrity of our urban drinking water, we are trying different processes to clear the water and "enliven" it. (Did you know that the city has no system for removing our ingested pharmaceuticals in our drinking water?) City waste water can be recycled and treated up to 20 times! For further reading, try The Big Necessity, by Rose George.

Elizabeth has researched the work of Viktor Schauberger, an Austrian forest warden, naturalist and Biomimicry experimentalist. Biomimcry examines the systems and processes in nature in order to solve human problems. He believed that water was healthiest when in constant flow or motion in rivers and streams in a rounded (not straight direction). He created a theory of "structured" water. (To read more on Viktor consider reading Hidden Nature, The Startling Insights of Viktor Schauberger by Alick Bartholomew.)

There are many systems for filtering water. Elizabeth and I both use a Multipure carbon filter. I have used a Britta carbon filter at work.

After filtering, we both have begun to "spin" our drinking water using a vortex system. One way is to use an electronic jug with a paddle that spins the water. Another is to use two glass egg-shaped vessels with a common neck that creates an hour glass shape when the vessels are connected. Spinning the vessels by hand in the clock-wise and counter clock-wise manner uses gravity to create the vortex, draining the water from the full egg, down into the empty egg.

Once the water is spun, it stays enlivened for up to 36 hours depending on the vessel in which it is stored.

I recently purchased a ceramic egg for storage, which is believed to keep the water cool and moving in a circular motion, used a far back as the Egyptians. Elizabeth is looking for research to determine if spun water tests prove the quality changes after the spinning. Meanwhile, many report the taste as rounder and softer.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Elizabeth Wenscott - Annual Newsletter 2010

A Year in Retrospect

Less then a year ago I was given a copy of an article called, The Power of Curiosity Discover how cultivating an inquiring mind can help you lead a happier, healthier life, by Todd Kashad Ph.D.., Experience Life Magazine. In the article Todd asks the question “What do we want most in life? The answer he discovered was based on a year long study of more then 10,000 people from 48 countries... drum roll please.... HAPPINESS.

Happiness was viewed to be more important than success, intelligence, knowledge, maturity, wisdom, relationships, wealth and a sense of meaning in life!

What Todd continues to say in this article was that most people miss achieving happiness because time and time again they focused on what they THOUGHT would make them happy instead of nurturing and cultivating happiness through the joy of curiosity.

Curiosity! Yes! I love curiosity. This is the one, single word that can express my dedication to the art of tai chi for 29 years. It is curiosity, the desire to know through exploration and investigation. It is what has motivated me as a student, and it is what I hope will motivate you in your own practice, whether it is Tai Chi, Yoga, Qigong or Meditation.

Over the years studying with my teacher Grandmaster Hsu Fun-Yuen, students would come up to him and ask "How long will it take to learn Tai Chi and be good at it?" or "What can I expect the benefits of all this hard work and practice will add up to?" He would always answer these open ended question with a snicker in his voice and a crooked smile, and say... “How deep is the ocean? How high is Heaven?"

Hsu, just like anyone that loves what they do (or is learning to love what they do) know that curiosity blended with practice and dedication is the vehicle and skill, health and happiness are just a few of the gifts.

This has been a great year the for the school because every single teacher at TC3 oozes curiosity and happiness for what they do. Below is my brief description of what each department accomplished.

The Tai Chi Program
Year of the Tiger came in with a roar, and TC3 and friends of TC3 raised nearly $1,500 dollars for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s, Save the Amur Tiger program! As a result 6 of us very lucky people got to go to the “Behind the Scenes at the Field Museum,” thanks to generosity of Bill Stanley and Laurel Ross! Looking ahead put this date on your calendar, February 5, 2011 Year of the Rabbit Celebration and Fundraiser.

  • Another successful turn out for World Tai Chi Day & Qigong Day
  • Seminars included Tai Chi Sword with Meridian Stretches and Da Lu.
  • Sas Stark launched the free Outdoor Tai Chi class.
  • Intensive Tai Chi continues to grow on Sunday mornings at 9am.
  • Ellen Sullivan competed in the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne read article.
  • Martha Fourt performed Tai Chi Sword at the Thousand Waves fundraiser
  • Dan Menzel made a few more "When is the Best Time For Tai Chi?" Videos.
    Jen Shen Chuan and Tai Chi Chuan in the Fog
    Wave Hands Like Clouds
  • Ravenswood Artwalk 2010 was considered by many “their favorite” to date. I don’t know... I have loved them all, but what made this year extra special was that we had an actual art opening the night before hosted by Laurie Cohen and Artist in Residence Christine Wallers.

    Qigong Program
    Don Tomei and Sharon Fierro received their Advanced Level Training in Qigong.

    Sharon Fierro has been helping to expand the Qigong Program by offering 8 Brocades Qigong Seminar and other enhancement classes.

    Yoga Program
    Tracy Von Kaenel offered the most creative, curiosity-driven, special summer yoga program to date. Classes such as; Choose Your Focus, Yin Yoga, Core/Cardio Focus, Philosophy Yamas, Sensory Yoga with Gong Bath, Partner/Wall, Yoga at the Lake, Yoga with live violin, and even a Guest Instructor.

    The Environmental Arm - Sustainable Return
    Has been extremely active this year! To see all that we have done, please read, Lisa Hish’s newsletter below.

    What is Next? How can You Help?

    What is Next in 2011?
    Tai Chi Fan with Chee Zhou will be offered in the new year.

    A top secret surprise for the Yoga program is just around the corner.

    How can You Help?
    Promote the school! Each class needs students. No students... no classes. You can help all the programs by telling everyone what you know about TC3. Also, you can also place our beautiful postcards anywhere you can think of (we have 5,000 of each!).

    Thank You's 2010
    I would like to thank the following students and friends for their generous help and timeliness:

  • All the teachers and assistant teachers, without you there would be just me.
  • Christine Wallers, Steven Leavitt, Kipling Swehla, Laurie Cohen, Dan Menzel, and Andrew & Casey Calhoun for fulfilling another great year of art and music for the Ravenswood ArtWalk.
  • Paul McEntee, CPA extraordinaire.
  • Sas Stark, for making everything in print look pretty.
  • Don Tomei, for making everything sound pretty.
  • Dan Menzel, for taking care of anything that requires manly muscle.
  • Ben Liberman, for keeping my computer working.
  • Dave Cole, for being the “man with the keys,” learning to speak to my plants, and for keeping the school on time.
  • Laurel Ross, for ideas in keeping the school connected to the natural world.
  • Lisa Hish, for always keeping me on my toes.
  • All the founding members!

    Final Notes

    Double Happiness
    Double Happiness is when happiness collides with happiness making it even bigger! This year the school celebrated two marriages; Kipling& Natalie, his very own princess bride, followed by the school's first “in house” marriage between Christopher & Sara (Thompson) Zalek! Congratulation to you all!

  • Sas Stark - Newsletter 2010

    Reflections of my last year begin personally. The passing of a loved one and the turn in health of others close to me have filled my life with change, challenge and a lot of “unexpected”. Changes that contain my deepest lessons yet in balance, true alignment and the flow of life and energy – in other words how to keep my head above water and do it with grace, ha ha!

    For the past twelve months I made a choice to be present for the loved ones around me who were in need, and to offer unconditional love and support where I could. To do that, do it well, travel and keep a modicum of sanity, I needed to find a fuel to allow myself to flourish without becoming drained. Of course you would think food the obvious choice for fuel, but I was looking for something to replenish the light, laughter, love and the spirit that rises to meet the tumbles life throws your way. Already I knew Tai Chi and the family of friends who practice at school were my foundation. I decided my next step was to reenergize my core (air out my soul, fluff up my positive energy) by boosting my connection with heaven and earth and grounding in nature and the outdoors.

    I love being outside (tough for a redhead) and the occasional outdoor event through TCCC led me to my biweekly Saturday mornings at Welles Park this Summer practicing Tai Chi with all who could join. It showed me that a mere hour spent among the blossoms, tree roots and squirrels can fill you with wonder, contentment and a little joy. The opportunity to observe the environment, the changing seasons and elements, the rhythms of life while you’re in the slow moving exploration of the Tai Chi form provides a peek at a deeply rooted and connected source. A source with the power to fill me up with the fuel I needed. The contrast of an hour practice indoors to an exploration outside on spongy resilient earth and brilliant sky, provided a wonderful alignment to my perspective and a renewed connection to the earth.

    So, with this small taste of the unlimited me and the promise of a new year, I share with you an idea that you are more than you appear to be. Dig deep while practicing at home, at school and outside wherever your heart connects and fill up with what fuels the true you. And while you are at it, think of where you would like to practice Tai Chi outside in the Chicago area. Where would you like to spend an hour sinking deeply into the earth, extending high up into the atmosphere and expanding outward to the warmth of the horizon? I’ll meet you there.

    Christopher Zalek - Newsletter 2010

    Growth and Integration

    The roots dig deeper, the branches reach higher, the trunk grows stronger. If I were to use two words to describe the Tai Chi Center of Chicago's development throughout 2010, those words would be growth and integration.

    There is a more tangible sense of cohesion within the teaching body of TC3. We've achieved higher goals and taken on greater responsibilities throughout the year. It feels as though the school is breathing more fully, taking one step closer to “being its own size.” Can you feel it?

    The energy derived from that growth has been channeled deeper into our relationships within the community. This year we've expanded beyond Ravenswood ArtWalk and World Tai Chi & Qigong Day by reaching out further, compassionately, in new and creative ways. More involvement with local environment issues and movements. Free Tai Chi in the park. The launching of my own Tai Chi blog called Tai Chi Method Blog. Integration means we are thriving. Diggit.

    Next year, next year... with all of this energy stirring, who knows? Very exciting stuff. And don't you find it curious that the students are learning Da Lu on the cusp of the New Year? Seriously, I'm on the edge of my seat.

    Dan Menzel - Newsletter 2010

    On the cloudiest of days,
    the sun still shines the best, 
    however it shines only above the clouds, 
    yet it is shining non-the-less!

    I may not always see the many different circumstances in my life in this light at first, but it is definitely there. The key I have found is to stay soft (or open) to the many possibilities in each and every circumstance that arises. Especially in our perceived busy, intense, trying times that exist while dancing in the wake of our current societal frictions. I've found it is best to find the positive side to every situation. There is always one present if only I am willing to take the time to ground myself within...

    You may ask, "How does one confront these troubling situations in life?" I must respond, "With Tai Chi principles of course!" As I will try to illustrate to you here, and as I always try to instill in myself and in my students, Tai Chi practice is not only the physical act of doing the form. It is also the focus on the details of everyday life through the eyes of a Tai Chi practitioner. The style we practice is known as the "long form," not because it takes so long to go from the beginning posture to the final posture, but because it is all one continuous flow of postures, including all of the subtle "in-betweens", that is never really ending. My Tai Chi training has shown me over the years that life is the same. It's not merely Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc., but one continuous flow, including all of the subtle "in-betweens." It is less like "I can't wait until Friday" and more like "every day is like the weekend.”

    What does this mean? Tai Chi practice has taught me the importance of internal quiet as I practice. Internal quiet allows me to navigate through the external noises of my life, such as traffic, airplanes, construction, music...well, the list goes on. But there are internal noises as well. Perhaps the boss at work has upset me, or the darn car wont start. Probably the loudest noise to me is my own voice within my head! The plethora of phone numbers, meetings, grocery lists, as well as the stresses of the unknowns, my own self-doubts, endless chatter from within, right? Well, the good news about the practice of Tai Chi Chuan is that it helps me to quiet this internal noise as I concentrate on my practice. The thoughtful diligence I am referring to can be as simple as focusing on breath, or weight distribution, or just spending the few minutes a day exploring the center of my own gravity. Focus on a personal or physical attribute in a positive light, and really give it its due.

    Much like a walk within the serenity of the woods, a person walking their own path has many choices. At first glance a fallen tree may seem an obstacle, but through thoughtful diligence I may find my way around it or through it. I might discover a secluded spot beside a beautiful river or amongst a grove of pine trees, and maybe I will be lucky enough for "When is the Best Time for Tai Chi!” Yaaay! What a gift this would be! I believe this is how daily life could (and should) unfold for us all.

    One mindedness through the use of many tools crafted by centuries of past lineages.
    Oh, the benefits of this simplicity seem endless. The concepts are reinforced by the transformations in various people’s lives that I have witnessed over the years. I have seen how, after just a few months of practice, the calm sets itself into the shoulders and faces of students who started the introductory class with the hope of some kind of relief, and yet a tinge of doubt. And the ones who have persevered in practice, including myself, become like "bees to honey"! As time goes on, the Tai Chi practitioner can then recognize (from a quiet state) where the "noise" is present in their peripheral surroundings, and thus direct or "connect" to that situation by "listening" and using the internal techniques that are encouraged in class. To me, there is no greater gift than to be totally in tune with one’s surroundings. (insert big smiley face here).

    The last step is to "apply.” What does this mean? Apply can be as easy as walking in the opposite direction from a perceived conflict. It’s hard to say what the situation would call for. Perhaps it is something as inert as somebody griping at the coffee shop about the price of tahini in Tahiti! Sometimes the most effective positive action can be just a smile, or a pat on the back, or a warm smile and a thank you. You've totally disarmed the griper and perhaps made their day a little nicer. As I shed the din of everyday life and begin to transform myself, I can cause a perceptual change, which, in turn, transforms my surroundings by the way I interact with sureness and calm.

    I have learned that Confucius was right about reciprocity being the one word that we should live by. "Do unto others," if you will. The key is to approach everything in life as if doing "the long form.” Everything we do, everything we touch, everything we feel and connect to. One world, one living organism, one life for each of us, which is as simple as breathing air. Let's embark upon this path together through the application of the basic fundamentals of Tai Chi Chuan!

    Which, by the way, are presented in the one-month introductory classes and thoroughly explored in the Ongoing Program designed by Master Elizabeth Wenscott and the lineage of Tai Chi Masters before her.
    All the best in 2011

    Tracy Von Kaenel - Newsletter 2010

    2010 has been a year of change. As with all times of change some is uplifting, some is challenging. Several of the regular yogis in the program had lifestyle changes that moved them to different states…I miss them. Many yogis lost their jobs along with thousands of other Americans…I grieve with them. There were a couple yogis that went through the pain of divorce… I sympathize with them. Many yogis (including myself) dealt with debilitating injuries or physical setbacks…I empathize with them.

    But the one thing that held us all together through it all was the yoga. The pure essence of the teachings of peace and stillness. The reminder that when we come to the mat we are coming home to that peacefulness, no matter what craziness surrounds us in our outside world. And, that coming to the mat also helps us to find the positives of life. To reaffirm our resolve. In fact this year also proved to be quite positive with two yogis finding the joy of a new marriage. And we welcomed a brand spanking new little yogini into the world. Also, one of our yoginis got to try out her teaching skills for the first time on the wonderful students at the TCC, to rave reviews. Beautiful blessings all of them.

    So as it was in the entire universe, the yoga program felt the flux of a challenging year. And we recognized the blessing of having this comforting, supportive, enriching place and practice to come to. Having the gift of a yoga practice helped us through the tough times and deepened our joy in the happy times. How lucky we all are to have this practice and this beautiful space of serenity to practice in.

    Namaste. Tracy Von Kaenel

    Don Tomei - Newsletter 2010

    True to his nature, the Tiger has been kind to our program this year, granting us new students to keep us fresh, and old students to keep us wise.

    The practice goes ever deeper and ever wider as we explore the vastness of our essence and work to harness the abundant yet elusive chi.

    Mind leads breath.
    Breath leads movement.
    Movement propels energy through time.

    And time transforms energy into new mind.

    Spring emergence leads to:
    Summer explosion, which leads to:
    Autumn contemplation, which leads to:
    Winter gestation, which leads to…

    And so, again…

    Sharon Fierro - Newsletter 2010


    Our Saturday qigong program continued to grow in 2010 reaching new levels of participation in our wellness qigong classes. We reached just over 30 different people this year by offering group, semi-private and private qigong to students of all ages and stages. We experienced an increased number of referrals, principally from current students of the school; although, several new students came from other business sources currently being developed. We participated in school events, including World Tai Chi & Qigong Day and Ravenswood Art Walk, which increased awareness and participation. The Tai Chi Qigong Healing Institute published my article on Mindful Body Conditioning (with an emphasis on such practices as qigong, tai chi, yoga and meditation) providing an additional opportunity to build awareness.


    In 2010, I created Mindful Body Conditioning (Path to a Fit Body & Clear Mind) to build awareness and help individuals achieve balanced strength, health and wellbeing through the blending of Eastern and Western mind/body fitness practices. By providing high quality qigong instruction, custom designed fitness programs, leadership and guidance as a coach, educator and motivator to a committed group of clients and students, I hope to expand the reach of The Tai Chi Center programs in 2011 and beyond.


    In November, we expanded our qigong program offering to include 8 Brocade Qigong. Although we launched this new form to those with wellness qigong experience, it is open to all. Those participating in the first of two 8 Brocade seminars and the related ongoing semi-private classes are finding this form challenging, a little more “Tai Chi like” and “artistic”. The group seems pleased to be expanding their qigong knowledge and practice. The 2nd 8 Brocade seminar will take place in January 2011. As a part of the ongoing 8 Brocade classes, I am also introducing Open Channel Qigong.


    In June, Don Tomei and I had the opportunity to study further with Dr. Aihan Kuhn. We received advanced qigong instructor training designed to initiate the process of understanding and learning how to be a qigong healer. The subjects that were introduced in this seminar were the body’s meridian system, the five elements and yin yang theory. This is complicated stuff which requires further study. I am looking forward to continuing my studies with Dr, Kuhn, Elizabeth and Lisa. In addition, we learned several forms of qigong designed for more specific needs including: total body/brain; brain & memory; emotional balance and nervous system and autonomic function. With further education and training planned for this next year, we hope to incorporate what we have learned into our classes at The Tai Chi Center in the near future.

    During this past year, my Tai Chi work continued and expanded to include Tai Chi Sword, Neigong Meditation and Ta Lu. This work continues to expand my knowledge of these ancient healing arts, as well as to inform my teaching. I am grateful to Elizabeth for these generous gifts. My work with Lisa Hish over the past year has also provided a wealth of knowledge and insight which has proven invaluable personally and professionally. Thank you both!

    In addition, I would like to acknowledge and thank my other teachers at the school: Don, Chris, Sas and Dan, as well as my students and tai chi brothers and sisters who have contributed significantly to this year of personal and professional growth. You make it a joy and it is my pleasure to work with each of you!

    I continue to be inspired and moved to action by the Tai Chi Center community. I am excited to begin again, after a 30 year hiatus, learning and playing the guitar..yet another gift joyfully received!

    2011 PLANS

    Looking forward to 2011, my plans remain constant. I hope to continue to foster a peaceful/healing class and personal practice. My goal, in concert with Don and Elizabeth, is to contribute significantly to the enhancement and expansion of the qigong class offerings/program. My intent is to build awareness in our community of the many benefits of the practice of qigong and tai chi through as many avenues as practical. By reaching out through the Tai Chi Center, The Tai Chi and Qigong Healing Institute and Mindful Body Conditioning and targeted wellness centers, I hope to expand the number of people we serve. With careful listening and attention to the voices and needs of our community, I will focus on more formal methods of information sharing and communication. Continuing education in both eastern and western exercise, wellness and spiritual practices will continue to serve as a cornerstone of my life. I look forward to sharing, giving and receiving the gifts of qigong and tai chi, while keeping a smile in my heart.

    Christine Wallers - Newsletter 2010


    2010 was a year of building and transformation in the studio space housed within the Tai Chi Center of Chicago. Writing this on a dreary day in Chicago, Christmas trees fly by strapped to suv's. It is still kind of warm and I am hoping for some snow to transform the gray and make things magical. Reflecting on the year it is with a strong recollection of the seasons each one long definitive, quintessential, personal.

    I felt closely aligned to the seasons in my studio practice as well. In the early winter months I produced nothing of significance; at least I thought. My mind and pencil flitted from one idea to the next losing interest and momentum. I reached for another set of tools, carved, drilled and hammered with the same result. I made some preliminary sketches for an installation and filed those away. At the very edge of winter up against spring, I produced a drawing, an exciting, fragile, hopeful little thing that took me by surprise. I had initially sat down with the sole purpose to make an intricate drawing that would hold my attention and help calm the mind. One drawing spun off the next, spring through summer and into fall. As we approach the first full day of winter, these drawings are still going, vibrating in a slightly different manner.

    Things that Sting are a series of dense and tightly knit drawings that emphasis structure, repetition and random patterning. Different values or intensities of graphite line build a scaffold that hold an ethereal, yet pulsating and unsettling mass together.

    Along with the drawings I am in the process of editing a little film piece shot in b&w and on 16mm film. During the summer filmmaker and friend Eric Stewart and I took to some Chicago rooftops and back yards to film bees. Stay tuned as I am very excited to see in which way we individually choose to transform the footage. Until then, you can go to Luminous / Shadow Project for a little tease!

    Kipling Swehla - Newsletter 2010

    Without going outside, you may know the whole world.

    Tao Te Ching #47

    It is often taught that if you want to learn how to live properly, simply observe Nature. Conversely I would say, if you want to know Nature, explore your internal self. The laws of the universe can be seen replicated within the micro and macro, the internal and external, the physical and energetic.

    Rather than reminisce about my internal contemplations during 2010, I’d like to reflect on society’s experience over the last 10 years. People have been suffering from the greatest economic decline since the Great Depression. The cliched musing comes to mind, “How can a loving God allow suffering?”

    Last year in a breaking news story, it was announced that a drug company was so successful in eliminating pain, that elderly people who had suffered for years from debilitating pain, were able to participate in sports and activities not enjoyed for decades. The unforeseen result of this miraculous breakthrough, was emergency surgery to replace joints suddenly ground down to nothing as a result of over-activity. Pain is information!!!

    Western practitioners love to eliminate the symptoms while ignoring the cause. Western civilization is replicating this behavior in response to the Great Recession. On November 2nd, the American people, in a sweeping voice of anger and dismay, sent the message “Cut our Taxes! Quit spending our money!!”

    In the 6 weeks since, the Federal Reserve has responded by printing gobs of new money in an attempt to provide cheap cash and the government has extended tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires in an attempt to stimulate economic growth and job hiring. The immediate effect has been escalating commodity prices and a stock market which has risen almost 4% in a few weeks. Sadly this is evidence that the money is being used by corporations and the wealthy to protect their investments by buying stocks and commodities. Essentially they are building higher walls and digging wider moats to help separate the growing rich from the expanding poor.

    You may be wondering what does this political observation have to do with meditation? Everything! All you have to do is observe yourself and you recognize a huge problem in having a growing division between the wealthiest 10% and the poorest 90%.

    On a physical level, you could say,

    The foot bone connected to the leg-bone,
    The leg bone connected to the knee bone,
    The knee bone connected to the thigh bone,
    The thigh bone connected to the back bone,
    The back bone connected to the neck bone,
    The neck bone connected to the head bone.
    Dem bones, dem bones gon-na walk a-roun'

    This verse is literal in economics and is supposed to be how the Trickle Down theory works but, like the 1920’s when the division between the wealthiest 10% and the other 90% was enormous, though smaller than it is today, the middle and lower class had little to no expendable money due to high unemployment and low wages yet despite the slow economy, stock prices went up 600% in 8 years (not dissimilar to the recent surge in home prices and the more recent surge in commodities) because instead of investing in the well being of people less fortunate, the wealthy put their money into stocks and commodities driving prices up causing an artificial bubble. When the bubble popped, you saw Trickle Down economics at its realistic worst. For people to think they can exist and thrive in this bubble is sadly naive.

    There’s also an internal, spiritual aspect to this as well. The writer/ philosopher, Ayn Rand insisted that altruism is unnatural and unrealistic. Humans live only to pleasure themselves and are only concerned for their own happiness and well being. If you come from the perspective of western religions, in which you perceive yourself to be a capsule, completely created and entirely divided from God or in Rand’s case if you believe in a complete absence of a greater being then this theory may seem plausible. It is not. It is an immature, short sighted thought. You can build a bubble around you, but as you try to avoid or ignore those less fortunate than you, you only make your world smaller and smaller.

    From the Eastern spiritual view, it’s clear that we are all interconnected. We are all the energy that is the Tao. We are all interconnected like drops of water merging and flowing together in a river. The pattern of inseparable connectivity to other people like the bones in the human body is again replicated in the solar system. Life emerged from the oceans, which is swayed by the moon, which revolves around the earth, which revolves around the sun which provides the heat and light and energy. Individuals are just as equally intertwined with the sun and moon and oceans and environment as they are with every other living human and creature on the planet as are their bones to other bones and their cells to other cells.

    Through meditation and tai chi you become aware of the internal flow of energy within your self. Next you become aware of the flow of energy in others and your connection to them. Truly profound happiness can only come from the absence of suffering world wide. In the elderly, beauty radiates from those that have lived a beautiful life. Yet in this capitalistic world of the bubble generation, we rely on plastic surgery to paint a happy face, to have money buy us the facade of happiness. A happiness that can only be skin deep.

    Lisa Hish - Newsletter 2010

    Health Department


    This was a quiet year for the health department of the Tai Chi Center. Only one health course was held in 2010; Five Element Stretching, which was taught within the sword seminars. Sas Stark and I taught  the series of four classes demonstrating the 5 element stretches & discussing the theory.  We introduced the meridians, (lines of energy within the body that the chinese have used within their 2,000 year old medical system, in both acupuncture & acupressure). For one of the classes, Elizabeth wore a full-body unitard with the meridian map, well-worth the price of admission!

    If while in class or while doing the various tai chi forms you find an area of tightness in your body, I encourage you to ask Sas to demonstrate the corresponding 5 element stretch to help you explore it.  As for future health classes, we will re-commit to an ongoing health class once the schedules of interested students ease up; perhaps in 2011?

    On a personal note, after a debilitating fall 5 years ago and 40 pounds later, I have been cleared for 15 luxurious minutes of movement a day!  I have been rehabbing this spinal injury with the professional care and support of both Dr. Xue Hua Feng, Acupuncturist, and Dr.Neil Sussman, Chiropractor. The injury required me to halt my entire personal routine of physical activities (tai chi, yoga, pilates, and dance class).  Fortunately it left me free to continue in my professional practice of shiatsu accupressure.

    I cannot tell you the depth of my excitement to return to Tai Chi class and move once again. I look forward to my return to other activities as my spine heals further;  I only need 6 segments of 15 minutes to make it back into the rest of my classes.  This five years of forced stillness has left me with a lasting respect for those who live in  bodies with physical limitations, whether temporary or ongoing.

    A couple of thoughts if you see me in class:

    1. Don't follow me!  Even though I have taken classes on and off for years doesn't mean I remember the forms.

    2. As  I am on a daily limit of 15 minutes and the form runs 13-22, you may see me complete the form without arms, stepping off the floor before completion,  while foregoing the        exercises. Please bear with me during my slow re-entry to class.

    I look forward to an active and engaging 2011!


    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary

    Sustainable Return has a really cool volunteering event to tell you about.

    Join the Tai Chi Center of Chicago in helping to plant 7,300 Marram Grass roots! Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary a.k.a. "The Hedge."

    Saturday, November 6th
    Help plant 7,300 Marram Grass roots!
    9:00 a.m. - Noon
    With Stewards David Painter and Leslie Borns

    For more information about this much needed, volunteering event please visit Grass Roots at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary. If you decide you would like attend please let me know asap so that I can inform David.

    Lisa and I will see you there at 9am!!!


    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Ravenswood Artwalk @ Tai Chi Center of Chicago

    2010 Special Events - 9th Annual Ravenswood ArtWalk
    October 2nd & 3rd
    (Art Opening, October 1st, 6:30-8:30pm)

    Ravenswood ArtWalk is two days event dedicated to honoring and celebrating artists and industry in the Ravenswood Corridor. The event 300 artists and local businesses! For the 9th RAW, the Tai Chi Center of Chicago (TC3) featured several artists in conjunction with various performances made by the instructors and the student body at large.

    This year the theme of our show in RAW is Lineage.
    A sense of Lineage is a wonderful gift. To know where you come from and to understand the challenges your predecessors faced and overcame is a symbolic map of sorts that can give you the coordinates of choice. Choices as to what direction you want to take that will lead to a story that you want to tell and pass on.

    Whether it is a biological map passed on through your ancestry; a skill based map passed on from teacher to student; or even an environmental map passed down for over 4.5 billion years; all life and death tells a story.

    Each of the pieces on display, or performances made tell a story of time passing and that we, the viewer, are also just passing through while history is in the making...

    Demonstrating Master Instructors of the Tai Chi Center of Chicago:
    Elizabeth Wenscott - Man Jiang Hung Jian (Sword)
    Chris Zalek - Forms, Weapons, Application
    Sas Stark - Forms, Weapons, Application
    Don Tomei & Sharon Fierro - Wellness Qigong

    Exhibiting artist:
    Christine Wallers (Artist in Residence) - Drawings, Projected Video, and Installation Prototype
    Steven Leavitt - Painting
    Andrew & Casey Calhoun - Musical Guest
    Kipling Swehla - Photography
    Dan Menzel - Stained Glass and Foil
    Laurie Cohen - Photography

    This years schedule of events.

    6:30pm - 8:30pm - Art Opening

    9:30am - 3:00pm - School Demonstrations Schedule
    9:30am - 10:30am - Qigong Introductory with Sharon Fierro (Participation welcome and FREE)
    11:00am - 12:00pm - Tai Chi Introductory with Chris Zalek - (Participation welcome and FREE)
    12:30pm - 1:30pm - Andrew & Casey Calhoun - Musical Performance
    1:30pm - 2:15pm - Qigong with Don Tomei and Sharon Fierro - (Participation welcome and FREE)
    2:15pm - 3:00pm - Demonstrations lead by master instructors, along with members of the TC3
    3:00pm - 6:00pm - Art Viewing

    11:00am - 6:00pm - School Open House - Art Viewing

    for more information about this event visit Ravenswood Artwalk @ Tai Chi Center of Chicago

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010

    Summer Events - 2010

    Follow this link for an update on free classes, special classes, special events, video's and more... then pass it along!

    Summer Events - 2010

    Sunday, May 2, 2010

    Tai Chi Sword - 4 Parts

    Below are the dates of the Tai Chi Sword 4 Part seminar.

    May 2, 2010
    June 6, 2010
    July 18, 2010
    August 22, 2010

    Above are the names of the postures. Click on the image to make larger and to print.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    It Takes A Village

    Hello everyone,

    Here are ten photos from the "prairie burn" which we conducted yesterday at the farm.  The ten of us burned three plots of prairie grasses and forbes that were planted at the farm ten years ago.  A great way to spend a gorgeous spring day!

    The burn was at Angelic Organics, the organic and biodynamic CSA farm in Rockford.  It was led by Stuart Goldman, a naturalist from the Cook County Forest Preserve, Laurel Ross, a botanist from the Field Museum, and John Diversey, a long-standing supporter of the farm, who planted and maintains the prairie grass plots as another excuse to be outdoors! The Tai Chi Center-Sustainable Return (the environmental arm of Elizabeth Wenscott's tai chi school), acted a partner and supplied us, the volunteer bodies: Estrella Hirsch, Sas Stark, my 21 year-old daughter, her friend Charles Phillips, and myself. Lori Diversey and the family dogs, Abbey and Bernie provided moral support and some great cookies!  Elizabeth documented the event on using video and taking many photographs.  These will appear on her website at a later date at: http://www.taichicenter-chicago.com/sustainable_return.html

    Prairie Restoration - Controlled Burn
    The plants and animals of the prairie ecosystem are adapted to fire and thrive within it as part of their life cycle,  The above-ground parts of grasses die every fall, creating thatch that keeps the ground cool and moist.
    But in spring, plants need light and heat,  Fire recycles nutrients from the thatch to the soil, so other plants can use them.  In the spring, fire-blackened soil warms quickly, which helps plants get an early start.

    Lisa Hish

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    World Tai Chi & Qigong Day - April 24, 2010

    Have you wondered what Tai Chi or Qigong could do for you?
    Do you want to know why so many health and aging experts recommend these practices to promote long, healthy life?

    Find out for FREE!

    Join us on World Tai Chi & Qigong Day for a celebration of the health and longevity that Tai Chi and Qigong practitioners have enjoyed for thousands of years. On this special day, our teaching staff and students will travel the Northcenter community leading FREE guided practice sessions in both Tai Chi and Qigong.

    All levels of experience are welcome in this once a year event.

    9:30 - 10:30 am Qigong @ the Tai Chi Center of Chicago
    11:00 - 12:00 pm Tai Chi @ the Tai Chi Center of Chicago
    (4043 N. Ravenswood Ave. Suite 228)
    12:30 - 1:00 Tai Chi & Qigong @ Northcenter Town Square
    (corner of Damen Ave. and Bell Plaine Ave.)
    1:30 - 2:00 Tai Chi & Qigong @ Wells Park
    (between Montrose Ave. and Sunnyside Ave. on Lincoln Ave.)
    2:30 - 3:00 Tai Chi & Qigong @ Giddings Plaza
    (between Leland Ave. and Lawrence Ave. on Lincoln Ave.)

    If the weather is not ecceptable for the outdoor activities, all scheduled events will resume at the Tai Chi Center of Chicago.