Category Archives: Costa Rica

Sharing more than 108 moves in Costa Rica

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If Taoist Tai Chi™ was just about 108 moves, what would be the point of offering a demo?  But, you know, there is so much more that is involved when we share a demo.

     To the outside observer, at the beginning, we are just a bunch of happy, smiling people, dressed alike, that practice some movements that are allegedly going to make you feel good both physically and mentally. But when you take a closer look, if you keep training your eyes you´ll have the chance to marvel at the power of these internal arts for health because within minutes you will be able to see a change on people´s faces –  going from tired and concerned to relaxed and enjoying that moment of life.

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     In the past few weeks, we were invited to participate in several different demos, invitations that came from people that had heard, here or there, that Taoist Tai Chi™ could help. We shared with many groups; a Women´s Heart Clinic, Fibromyalgia patients at a Pain Clinic, a Stress relief workshop, and a Senior´s Day celebration at a community Health Clinic. We were also invited to celebrate World Arthritis Day, where two of our members, Marielos Murillo and Liseth Weigelt, offered impressive testimonials in which they talked about their own experience and how the practice of our arts gave them back a sense of enjoying life, and how not to be defined by a label describing a health challenge; this way both were able to build a powerful connection with the attendants.

     Last, but not least, we attended a cultural celebration at a primary school near our main Centre in Heredia, sharing a few minutes of tai chi with the toddlers; it’s quite an amazing experience.

     In two of the demos, we followed latin dances (which were fast and loud), so people were too tired (if not exhausted) to practice tai chi standing on their feet. This lead us to begin seated, and after a few minutes people began to feel better – happier, more relaxed and energized.

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     But a demo is not just a gift for others. It touches all the members that open their hearts to be involved. One of the stories we have heard about Master Moy is one where he tells a group of members,  “Don´t think you are doing this for yourself, you are doing this for humanity”. We can apply this principle to each demo and share tai chi with people that can benefit greatly from its practice just as we do. In this process, when we put aside our own needs and go talk to others, we start understanding what it means to be more than 108 moves. In that process our health improves, our ego diminishes, and for sure we can do our part to build better communities and societies one demo at a time.

Join the next demo at your club, you´ll have fun!

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Autumn Moon Banquet in Costa Rica

Enjoying ourselves with an exquisite banquet, more than 70 members of the Costa Rica Taoist Tai Chi Association celebrated the Mid-Autumn Moon Banquet last Saturday, September 13th. Our MC was Liseth Weigelt, a 24-year-old young woman diagnosed 10 years ago with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, who has been practicing Taoist Tai Chi for the past 2 years, gaining lots of benefits for her physical health and wellbeing. After spending 5 hours preparing 300 won tons for the banquet with two other members she was on her feet for another 5 hours MC ing. After starting her Taoist Tai Chi on the floor as she was too weak even to sit, and her contribution was a pure joy to experience.

AMB Tine (4)Many new members received the opportunity to learn more about diligent practice, responsibility and propriety when she shared the legend of Chang-O, entertaining everybody with beautiful images of the story, one of the most important holidays in Chinese communities around the world. Tales of mooncakes and the Jade rabbit followed before a beautifully scripted and managed links to testimonials from Marielos and Fransisco and illustrated sections on our help with families in need in the community and the development of our three new satellite locations. We had 12 new members from Tibás alone, for their first Banquet.

Autumn Moon 2014 (58)The special guest table included Mr. Rafael Gamboa, the building owner; Mrs. Roxinia Arguedas, our accountant and Dr. Ricardo Sáenz, Rheumatologist, who came with his young daughter. Dr. Sáenz has been frequently referring people to the arts without knowing who we were, but aware of the benefits of practicing Taoist Tai Chi arts. In gratitude to this selfless recommendation to his patients we wanted to receive him as our special guest for the night.

Starting with Indonesian prawn crackers and 3 different won ton varieties made by three Club members, DJ, Katherine, and Liseth, we opened the menu and relished the flavors of a great Chinese dinner.

The music came along with three Club members: Phillip Reed, guitar; Dimas Barrantes, voice and harmonica; and DJ Gonzalez guitar with a very sweet melodic voice (I guess that three was our lucky number for the evening!)

During the banquet we shared stories, images and videos about CIT Week & International Awareness Day, also about our next big new International Centre project, The Fenway! It was an opportunity to remind all the attendants of the many ways we can be involved in its development, showing that when we come together, we practice more than 108 moves and we can make this is an opportunity to keep offering the arts for future generations to come.

Without a doubt…a lovely evening!

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A taste of Holland in Costa Rica

Part of the end year seasonal celebrations in the club is a Christmas Party for members and their families. This year had a Dutch theme and Tineke and Marjon with other member’s family and friends provided an amazing experience of cultural exchange. From samples of breakfast foods to cheeses and tulips, traditional dress, clogs, music and dances to try, images of the Netherlands through the seasons – a great chance to enjoy sights sounds and tastes of many aspects of Dutch life.

A special effort was made by Alejandra who learned about Black Pete (Sinterklaas helper) then with costume (17th-century page in a colourful dress, with a lace collar, and donning a feathered cap) and make up gave a superb portrayal of the traditional character. Cleaning off the makeup was a challenge but she had a lot of fun and really entered into the spirit of the role providing treats and jokes and encouraging participation of everyone. Tineke narrated the traditions of Christmas in Holland and facilitated the learning of dances which got everyone moving. Dancing with clogs was a new experience several tried and accordion accompaniment of Maas provided a really great feel to the experience.

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A diverse and wonderful session of music followed with violin, guitars, harmonica and vocals with Andres, DJ and Dimas contributing with their different styles and Percy’s husband Olger and sons played as a trio for the first time.
The participation of these very gifted set of family members further enriched the evening.

We rounded off with a raffle of traditional Dutch fare and one of Victoria’s paintings (Aves de paraiso flowers) for families in need.

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A light in the window is burning brightly.

A year ago (on the blog) I shared some reflections on Master Moy sharing part of his vision with us “that if someone really needed help wherever they lived, they would be able to find a light in the window in our home and come and find help”.

This year we have been able to provide ongoing support for many families with food, clothes, school items beyond the resources of many, and frequent visits to review specific needs and help with them. With the experience and connections of members we have also been able to help some to traverse the complex administration systems needed to acquire appropriate documentation for children and permission to access services which they will need in the future. We have developed links with other organizations to help in shared efforts to bring relief to the suffering of those less fortunate in our communities.

This past Christmas Season we were able to offer parties for families in need that we support both in the Heredia area and Orotina (over the mountains on the west side of the country). For many, these events provide the only opportunity for the families to go anywhere together as a whole just to enjoy being. This year the traditional games were extended to include pinning the tail on the donkey and a “tug of war” and the sitting on balloons to burst them was hugely animated. We offered photos of the children from last year’s party which Mum’s and Dad’s seemed equally delighted to select. There were games and music for young and old, plenty of food and one member’s mother made beautiful festive bags we filled with fruit, nuts and candies for the children to take home. There were supplies of food and hygiene materials to carry families through the season and much cause for joy.

The party in Orotina was in a more rural area and the fiesta was outside allowing us to also make giant bubbles and enjoy the celebrations of life surrounded by abundant vegetation and blue skies. It was great to see the children working together to paint thank you posters to the many members and friends who have provided the support and resources throughout the year. Then the games and piñata outdoors were enjoyed with equal relish to those indoors (from the party at the Clubhouse) and it is amazing the huge quantities of food little bodies can pack away. One or two grandmas we overjoyed to receive fabric dolls as they had never had one in all their lives. The logistics were a challenge but several members were able to offer transport for food parcels, various supplies, prepare food and collect and return the families from a wider area. The experience was appreciated by all and offered the opportunity for more members to share some time with the families in need. The party was during the day but it was late at night before we finished delivering the last of the food parcels and balloons to some families further afield.

We offer a few images that capture some of these moments of pure joy and lift the spirit.

– Peter Turner, Heredia, Costa Rica.

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Reflections on the journey one year later on – Part 2

Supporting governments, communities and international organizations to improve their management of disaster, environment and territory issues. This is my passion in over 30 years of continuous work in these fields, since I was a young volunteer in the Costa Rican Red Cross. Simultaneously, for over 20 years, I have been suffering from problems in the spine and joints, at the point of reaching a collection of over 10 herniated discs in the whole spine and needing a series of surgical interventions.

During an assessment mission of housing reconstruction after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, I was in the riverbed of an urban watershed in Port au Prince when a sudden and heavy rain began. I was there was against all medical recommendations prohibiting me any type of physical exercise that could generate a spine crisis. When attempting to flee from the imminent danger I felt deep inside me that something bad was happening. I left Haiti and began a process of accelerated degradation, which ended at the doors of the operating room, with a perennial pain and almost condemned to immobility. That’s when I started to do Taoist Tai Chi.

Daily practice of Taoist Tai Chi not only reversed the problem and brought me back from the threshold of surgery, but also has been slowly reconstituting me physically and mentally. Today, not only have I been able to return to practice my work, but to forgotten practices such as hiking and walking. Today, when I look at the bright colors of yellow barks and jacaranda I do not have to look them from afar. As in my youth, now I can go into the woods to feel in my skin the bark of the trees and the caress of the wind.

After starting the practice of Taoist Tai Chi, between 2011 and 2013, I have provided training for over 150 young professionals in African countries and in West Timor; I have been over 15 times around the world, passing through deserts and perennial streams, between islands, archipelagos, volcanoes and continents, again, supporting communities, organizations and governments. I have renewed my energy, along with wife Melissa and my daughters and son: Elena María, Gabriel, Sofia, and the newcomer Eva, who – with his 10-month-old – is filling our life with peace and happiness.

In this dynamic, every day and every moment offers me with opportunities for Tai Chi, to fill my column, my tendons and my heart with a powerful energy that resides in me. An energy that I put into circulation, in a perennial spiral leading from the foot to the head, filled with peace and healing my body and my mind. Sitting, standing, walking, climbing a step or just waiting in a line, are no longer routine or boring practices, but opportunities to seek balance, stillness filled with movement, or movement full of roundness and calm.

Taoist Tai Chi is health in community, a connection with the movement of the world, which synchronizes the waves of the sea with the cycle of the flowers; it is to breathe and smile as foot and hand find themselves in balance rotating and rising, while shoulders and elbows favour the impulse of gravity, in counterweight; while we look at the winding invitation of the journey of life … of plenitude.

– Luis Rolando Durán Vargas, 2013.

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Taoist Tai Chi a path of hope and life – Part 1

A Personal Story from Luis Rolando Durán Vargas (Part 1)

“You have ten discs compromised in your spine; you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and other degenerative diseases… actually, you are not able to walk normally and neural pain doesn’t let you to sleep more than three hours. You are about to lose your right foot’s functionality, and in the same leg you don’t have any reflexes or strength. Your lumbar spine requires an urgent and intensive intervention… we should remove three discs and perform a fusion with titanium.”

A devastating diagnosis
Six specialists consulted agree in the general diagnosis with few differences in terms of details. For more than one month I wake up at night with intolerable pain and my capacity of movement is completely reduced. For a person whose work involves traveling the world, visiting remote communities in different countries, and spending long hours in front of a computer, both diagnosis and solution was devastating. It almost implied abandoning the way of life in which I had invested my energy and passion, a lifestyle that allows me to work accordingly with my beliefs: for over thirty years I have dedicated myself to actions in disaster risk reduction, humanitarian assistance, and to the strengthening of human and technical capacities in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.

Let’s do Tai Chi
My wife, a woman of strength and firmness of mind, most affected by the situation, but with a passionate heart, reiterated her support and solidarity to me, in what it was necessary to undertake. More over, she also made a proposal that was to utterly change the course of events: let’s do Tai Chi – she told me – I have seen many impressive testimonies of its power for healing. Not only did I accept the challenge, but also I decided to do it with conviction, putting apart all reticence and scepticism. When I came to the Costa Rican branch of the Taoist Tai Chi Society for the first time, I did it dragging my legs, physically and spiritually supported on my wife shoulders. The instructor, Peter Turner, explained to me his own journey, that kept him out of a wheelchair, and also how Tai Chi could be the solution to my problem.
A millimeter of difference..
I started a working process specifically to address my spine condition. During weeks, in sessions that seemed eternal, I dedicate myself in doing a single movement – the dan yu – using a bar in the wall and a chair. With almost no mobility in my leg, my right foot enfolded like a cocoon and frequent neural pain, the healthy parts of my body started to inform the weakened ones how to move. Working together every two or three days, or more if necessary, the instructor supported me to correct the position and to strengthen the spirit. I discovered how a millimeter of difference in alignment could generate such a difference in revitalising force and balance.

Energy & Hope
In a short period I could feel the balance arriving, and how tedium, pain and desperation changed into surprise and joy. In two months I was able to walk again, I could sleep and rest, and energy and hope replenished my life. In four months of consistent diligent daily practice, and a glimpse of a wisdom of millennia, the situation change completely. With some bewilderment, doctors concluded that surgical intervention was no more necessary, and that I was able to go ahead with my life. Without analgesics, anti-inflammatories, physiotherapy or injections…

 

Discharged
At this stage, the trial by fire was to resume my normal activities. In November 2011, four months after the starting of my Tai Chi journey, I travelled to Africa where I spent one entire week teaching to a group of young professionals of four different countries, in aspects of local development, risk reduction and disaster preparedness and response. Some weeks after that, a MRI confirmed what was observed: the conclusion was that from the three original lumbar discs compromised only one was still slightly affecting the nerve. During my last visit to the hospital I have been discharged and the doctor has confirmed that I am in a very good condition, with symmetrical strength and reflexes in both legs.
Nowadays, Taoist Tai Chi is an element of my life, not something that I do when something hurts or when I remember.
The balance of the body, the round, light, quiet and powerful movements are in my heart and keep taking me by this path of health and happiness.
– Luis Rolando Durán Vargas, 2012.

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A lovely start to a New Year in Costa Rica

Moved, informed and grateful
Our New Year Banquet and celebration of the Lantern Festival was celebrated with guests including the owner of the building we rent and call home, together with a Doctor from the main hospital in the Capital and another form the local health service and their families. They were moved, informed and grateful for the experience.

In harmony with the cycles
We reflected on the activities of the year past and looked forward to the year of the Wood yang horse sharing some aspects of that symbolism; considering that if we choose to be in harmony with the cycles this would be a good year to start afresh and pace yourself well, with new growth and the fire to see it through in a balanced manner.

Sharing images
We shared images of the some activities that reflect that the “light in the window” continues to burn brightly; visits to families in the communities with food, clothes, school items etc, parties for the families at Christmas both locally and in Orotina (a more rural area). Images of pure joy, a reflection of what we can accomplish together in the simple action of service to others. We talked about demonstrations through the year, TV coverage, seniors homes visits, presentations at health fairs and conferences, our new locations in Grecia making its first steps and the International workshop we had just enjoyed, deepening our understanding and renewing our commitment to grow.

Heart stirring testimonials
We shared images of the Dutch flavoured Christmas party and heard testimonials that stirred the heart. Liseth’s journey with juvenile arthritis from being confined to bed, through working on the recovery practicing the arts prone, then seated and now standing, giving her hope and the capacity to embrace life. She is an inspiring and wonderful example of how trust in Taoist Tai Chi can change our lives and add life to our years. A lovely start to a New Year and we wish to share a few of these images and reflections in a series of short blogs to follow.

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

 

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