How psychological profilers help the police with major investigations – Tina Bexson reports for Midweek magazine

In the course of being de-briefed by the Senior Investigating Officer, Lee Rainbow is shown a series of photographs depicting the body of a woman who has been raped and stabbed. They include close-up evidence of her mutilated body. He glances at them with interest but he knows he will need to see exactly where the attack and subsequent murder took place before he can even attempt to begin the task of providing a psychological insight into the investigation.

As Senior Behaviour Investigative Advisor or Profiler for the National Crime Faculty, Rainbow offers police forces around the country his expertise on their major investigations, including those for rape, murder, stalking and extortion.

Visiting the scene of crime is a priority. “If you rely on photographs then you are only relying on what the police photographer thought was important,” he explains. “Most importantly the police are primarily concerned with evidence, whereas I need to draw up a profile of the type of man who is likely to have committed this crime.”

The woman in question was murdered in a copse at the end of a quiet side street in the Midlands. When he examines the area Rainbow looks for all the ways both the victim and the offender could have entered and left the location. “I need to look at what decisions he made, but you can’t analyse that unless you look at his alternatives, so I will also see if he would have had a better spot if he had carried on walking. Why did he do it where he did it and not elsewhere? What it an impulsive or planned attack? This gives me an idea of his local knowledge and what could have been going through his mind.”

Rainbow requests further information from the investigation team. He wants a statement from the woman’s parents on how she would react to strangers talking to her, etc. He is trying to get an idea of how she would look to the offender and why she was targeted.

Once he has had time to assimilate all the information, he may offer suggestions to the investigation. On a previous case of a man indecently assaulting girls at two spots off a busy road in a city centre, he interpreted from his research that the man was likely to spend many hours wandering around, fantasising and waiting for the right victim. So Lee suggested the police should put a camera on the only bridge that crossed the road. Other suggestions include interviewing the girlfriends of rape suspects for evidence of any unusual sexual activities that were paralleled in the crime.

If a subsequent forensic examination of semen found on the woman provides DNA samples the police are likely to carry out a mass screening of suspects. Profilers can be invaluable in providing some parameters of who to prioritise in that screening. “Criteria is background details such as suspected age, where he lives, details of his type of job, his marital status, but most of all, any previous convictions. Research indicates that 85% of rapists have previous convictions though very few of those are for sexual offences. So we look for other common offences such as forgery and theft.” Using a Serious Crime Analysis Section database, he finds data to support his inferences.

Although profiling, in this sense, is scientifically based, it is only an opinion. Rainbow believes that it should quite rightly not be used as evidence in court. “Its about prioritising the type of person who is likely to have committed the crime, its not about evidence”, he says.

Occasionally profiles can be so revealing that they lead to the police unwittingly identifying the offender.
During a previous case in which a woman was found stabbed and strangled in her own home, Rainbow drew up a profile which stipulated that the offender was in his late twenties, was employed at a high enough standard to allow him time off in the day, and probably lived within five miles of the crime scene.

Most importantly he said he would have known the victim personally. “There were two cups in the sink and you don’t make a cup of tea for an axe wielding murderer who has just broken down the door. I felt he had been shut out of her life for whatever reason and felt disgruntled by that. There was no sign of a struggle until they were in the bedroom. Because of the nature of the murder I also said he was probably more interested in the violent end of pornography. “

After reading the profile, an officer felt it was uncannily similar to an associate of the victim he had just questioned, though not as a suspect. The man was re-interviewed and he has now been convicted for the murder.

Part of Rainbows background reading for cases includes psychiatric, clinical and psychological papers on the personality types of various offenders. But he says he stays away from the “psychobabble” of decisions on motivations “because whether the offender raped a woman because his mother beat him as a child is not going to help you to detect him, he might not even be aware of why he did it anyway. Another misconception is that you call in a profiler because the crime is so weird that it’s assumed its been committed by a madman. It often hasn’t.”

However part-time profilers, who have the clinical experience from working with convicted offenders in their full-time job, are very much concerned with motivations, and especially with those who have been diagnosed with either a mental health problem or a specific personality disorder. Dr Raymond Travers, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist at Rampton Hospital applies both his academic knowledge and clinical experience to various issues of concern to the police during a major investigation. These range from whether a murder was pre-meditated, to whether an offender could be classified as psychotic, to whether an apparent murder victim could have committed suicide.

He has advised on many rape cases including that of the ‘DJ rapist’, Kevin Baker. On this ‘linked inquiry’, the investigating team wanted some psychological insight into whether the same perpetrator committed a series of rapes, which crossed the geographical boundaries of different police areas.

From the victims’ statements, Travers attempted to clarify patterns of behaviour, which he says, allowed him to think about possible motivating factors for the perpetrator.

“This gives me an indication of what kind of person the rapist could be and what kind of person he is less likely to be, which will help the police decide who they should interview. So I look at whether his approach appears very calculated and planned, or is it an opportunistic attack down a dark alley. How does his initial approach link to his behaviour during the event? What does he say and what emotional impact does this have on the woman?”

“The different ways in which he humiliates his victim is very significant. It can help determine what is making him tick. For example instructing the victim to engage in oral sex, but not to look. Why does he want her to close her eyes? “

Travers also tries to use his own personal reactions in an attempt to understand more about the mind of the offender. “If you are reading hundreds of rape scenarios then there is a vicarious sense of ‘excitement’ generated within you. I have to distinguish between the feelings, which are related to Ray Travers, and then look at whether my feelings are similar to those which could have been evoked in the woman. Or am I getting a hint of what is evoked in the perpetrator from what he is doing to the woman? From that I get a sense of what this means to the rapist. I know from my academic and clinical experience that certain feelings might be in common with a certain type of rapist.”

“Its never clear cut but you do find various traits which cluster in different intensities in different types of rapists whether they are an angry rapist, sadistic rapist or opportunist rapist etc. for example self love, narcissism, self-centredness are characteristics you find in all rapists, but you do not find a hatred of women in all rapists.”

He is keen to point out that the police only come to him if they feel they are struggling and that the insight he provides is taken into consideration as part of a much wider mass of information available to the police in all their various lines of enquiry.

“And It’s a slow process of reflection and consideration”, he adds. “I share with them my clinical judgement but I always remind them that it is only a judgement.”

© Tina Bexson

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BLOW: The True Story behind the film starring Johnny Depp

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‘BLOW’: The True Story behind the film starring Johnny Depp
By Tina Bexson for Hotdog Magazine

Johnny Depp starred as George Jung the small town boy who rapidly transformed into a bloated coke baron. Here is the true story behind the film:

It could have been a scene out of Scarface. A group of men are coolly snorting perfectly cut lines of pure cocaine from a silver platter as they eagerly discuss future business deals. But who’s that man, the one in the corner, frantically vacuuming whole boulevards up each nostril? The gringo whom the Colombians trusted to be their first link with the United  States and now responsible for importing more than 80% of his country’s cocaine supply?

Exceptional entrepreneurs come in many guises and occasionally originate from the most unexpected of beginnings. In 1950’s small town America, George Jacob Jung, is keen on fish, diligently attending a large tank of them in his bedroom where the walls are lined with clippings from the local Massachusetts’ paper singing his praises as a halfback for WeymouthHigh School. But in 1967 he lands on Manhattan   Beach in southern California where just about everyone he encounters has some kind of involvement in drugs. Although this fit 25-year old has never smoked as much as a cigarette before, he soon partakes – even if it does mean filtering the pot through a water pipe filled with ice cubes and crème de menthe so his throat can handle the harsh marijuana joints.

George has found his calling card. Likening himself to Butch Cassidy, he moves a rapidly expanding operation down to Mexico. By 1974 marijuana’s popularity almost matches that of alcohol and when he faces trial for possessing a truckload at the Playboy Club in Chicago he promptly informs the judge that “it is foolish to sentence a man to prison for crossing an imaginary line with a bunch of plants.” The judge, who doesn’t lack a sense of humour, abandons a three-year deal and sends George down to Danbury penitentiary for four years.

Perhaps his disdain for authority is linked to the fact that the ‘truckload incident’ took place eighteen months previously and the only reason he has to face the music is because his mother didn’t take too kindly to her federal bond jumping druggy son, and grassed him up to an FBI agent on his trail.

In one way or another, prison is a turning factor in most criminals’ lives. No, George doesn’t ‘see the light’, something far more ‘electrifying’ steadily sinks under his skin in the form of Carlos Lehder, his charming young Colombian bunkmate. The couple bond and George explains the workings of his pot business along with his views on existentialism. “It’s simple. It’s free will,” he would say. He spends even longer patiently listening to Carlos idolise the revolutionary Che Guevara. Then one day Carlos politely asks George, in his very careful but excellent English, “George, do you know anything about cocaine?”

Once he hears that cocaine sells for $60,000 a kilo in the States when it costs no more than $4,000 to $5,000 in Colombia, the tills ring very loudly. “I couldn’t believe it”, he remembers. “Here I was, a kid from a fucking shithole town like Weymouth, smuggling some lousy marijuana – and I thought that was money! – And all of a sudden I knew I was going to have millions of millions of dollars. I didn’t just get sent to jail. I got sent a gift! I was thankful they put me there. ‘Thank you, federal government. Thank you, fucking FBI. You don’t know what you did for me.’”

Their planning includes everything from methods of transportation to money laundering. Craving the thrill of risk, George is desperate to return to smuggling. What’s more, his whole amour-propre relies wholly on mastering the art of defying the system. Shortly after release in 1975, with his hunger still fully intact, he manages to do this very effectively indeed, despite being on parole. The first import of 15 kilos, for which George gets his calm and collected kleptomaniac girlfriend and her mate to bring back from Antigua in Samsonite suitcases, soon vanishes via wholesaler, Mr T, earning him $45,000 a kilo.

‘Silver Fox’, a suave and sophisticated lawyer, and his twin-engine Cessna 310, are recruited to fly 300 kilos of 100% pure cocaine from Medellin, Colombia, back via the Bahamas. The Silver Fox has excellent contacts in Nassau, where the plane is safely left overnight before re-fuelling and returning on a Sunday night with the “mom and pop planes” so it can get lost in the radar, enter the country illegally, and land at a private airfield in North Carolina. The goods are delivered to Mr T in jars of Coffee-mate with the seal expertly glued back on, accompanied by Wheaties and Dipsy Dooldles in a grocery bag. The maiden voyage produces a mammoth $90 million in eventual revenue, and the Colombians are shown for the first time that you can take massive amounts of cocaine and simply drop it into the United States where an equally huge market will lap it up within days. It’s the beginning of the Medellin cartel headed by the infamous Pablo Escobar with Carlos and George organising the transportation and distribution.

By the late seventies the Colombians are keener than ever to provide them with endless supplies for the West Coast where Hollywood in particular has made it not only acceptable, but fashionable too. George buys a fleet of Learjets since small planes and commercial airlines can no longer carry the load, let alone travel fast enough. Life is good: “I had unlimited access to Cocaine and even if I looked like Bela Lugosi, I still had the most beautiful women on the planet because everybody at that time, especially women, were in love with cocaine and of course in love with the money…I was no different to a rock star or movie star. I was a coke star.” Carlos though isn’t. He vehemently disapproves of mixing pleasure and business, referring to cocaine as “poison”.

George finds the sex equally pleasurable, as long as it involves a bit of S & M, and being manacled to the bed whilst given a good going over with a bullwhip by a prostitute clad in four inch heels and a spiked leather collar. The session has to end with two hours of sex for which he is fitted with a cock ring tightened at the base with two plastic clips so he won’t ejaculate until the appropriate time. Expending so much energy in the bedroom along with spending 25 hours a week on planes means that even the coke can’t keep George awake all the time. “I didn’t know where I was half the time,” he says. “I’d fall asleep in the plane and wake up in my seat not knowing whether it was the money I had with me or the cocaine or which airport I was landing at.”

The long-term plan has always been to set up home on the Barrier Reef, Australia or in the Costa del Sol, but not just yet, first he’ll make another couple of million. A perfect opportunity to do just this arises when Carlos temporarily disappears after his car is searched at a border crossing on his way to pick up $2 millions worth of cocaine from George in Florida. Presuming Carlos will get arrested, George realises he could quite easily take off and disappear with the coke. But instead, he unloads it, collects the money and hands it over. “I suddenly saw how this could be great for me, really help me get my foot in the door,” he says. “The Colombians would start seeing me as trustworthy. So I said to myself ‘You’re not just looking at $2 million here. What you’re looking at is $200 million!’” But blatant greed is not the determining factor in this decision, the self-esteem he receives from being “the golden goose” with the Colombians is much more important.

Speak to any illegally self-made millionaire, and they will tell you that one of the most burdensome things about hoards of cash is not only the counting, recounting, stacking, wrapping and packaging, but the decision on where to put it. When George has nearly $6 million in cash in one hundred dollar bills, which when piled in a single stack is as high as a two-story house, he decides to buy a storage property. This is a three-story cottage looking over Cape CodBay with specially constructed additional heating ducts in the basement to stash the cash. It beat his previous method of lining the floors and walls. And after he conveniently marries into a Colombian family in 1978, the safe house also proves useful in providing him and his young bride, Mirtha, with a very special fantasy room in which George can transform himself into ‘Georgette’, the slave of ‘Mistress Mirth’. This scenario involves a lot more than bullwhips and handcuffs.

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George’s cocaine use is also escalating out of control, with him regularly snorting up to 5 grams daily and experiencing frequent bouts of paranoia and the hallucinations of cocaine psychosis. Then, shortly after his daughter is born and after consuming a record 25 grams within 15 hours, he suffers one “sledgehammer” of a cocaine heart attack. With both his health and the new arrival to take care of, things inevitably calm down and some kind of normality reaches the Jung household.

Carlos, meanwhile, is obsessed with transforming Norman Cay in the Bahamas into something out of Dr. No. He’d managed to buy up almost every house on the island, build an elaborate entertainment complex including casino, and now has drug flights landing and taking off from the islands airstrip around the clock – all patrolled by viciously armed body guards accompanied by equally savage Dobermans. He is also beginning to lose his mind and talks incessantly of how cocaine is the atomic bomb and he is going to drop it on America. George has been unceremoniously dropped from this vast venture, just as he had previously been cut out as the middle man shortly after he’d introduced Carlos to one of his wholesaler friends a year before. “Bob Dylan said, ‘If you live outside the law, you must be honest.’ But I found that with the people you dealt with in the cocaine business, it didn’t really pay,” George later lamented.

Despite his new contacts via Mirtha’s family, and a rapidly expanding Panamanian bank account, George knows he has come out the loser. And one night whilst dining with his in-laws, he is handed an ice pick by an elderly aunt, who promptly tells him: “The whole is so small, a person doesn’t bleed. If you don’t get him now, everyone will look down on you.” George thinks slightly differently at the time: “I knew I wasn’t going to kill anyone with a fucking ice pick. If I was going to get someone, I was going to shoot him”, he recalls. But despite a later near fatal car bomb attack from Carlos, George never retaliates. Extreme forms of violence are not something he feels comfortable with.

This became particularly apparent during his first visit to Pablo Escobar, the man the Colombians now refer to as “the Godfather”. He vividly remembers those few days in Medellin: “Pablo took out this big fucking rock of cocaine and slams it on the table, then he takes a machete and hacked it in half. It was tinged blue, like the inside of a cave line with ice…We had a couple of large hits from his spoon…. He said he liked me and that I was a ‘good gringo’.” The next day George witnesses his first execution as Pablo shoots a police informer. It’s a frightening experience for him: “In their eyes I was supposed to be this big fucking American gangster, and they were all these macho guys acting casual about it, so I was trying to be casual too. Inside, I’m thinking, ‘Holy shit! I’m glad he doesn’t think I’m a maleton.’”

During the late summer of 1980 an undercover cop is assigned to stalk out George and this finally culminates in him being busted at one of his celebratory parties in the Cape. If convicted he will go down for at least ten years. So he skips out, and with Mirtha and the baby, takes off to Miami. All three are in disguise with new identities, but the next few years see a flurry of further arrests, jumping bail and spells in jail.

By 1985 Prince and Madonna are topping the charts whilst George is on the run, alone, now Mirtha has left him. He gets an old friend to fly in a load before planning to live down in Colombia, but the friend works for the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). The climactic bust takes place in a prosperous Fort   Lauderdale neighbourhood with George sitting in the house snorting cocaine in a state of absolute elation.

George agreed to testify against Carlos, and in doing so managed to walk out of prison in 1989, a free man, though flat broke since his $68 million in the Panama account strangely disappeared. He earned a living transporting fish up and down Cape Cod, taking home $150 a week, at least until 1990 when a former Newsweek editor, Bruce Porter, began research on a biographical account of George’s life, “Blow”, and they spend a year together re-visiting George’s old haunts. After all the excitement of the book being published in 1993 had died down, George went back into the pot business, and Porter believes, partly because of his tendency to brag, was soon arrested with 500 pounds of marijuana in his basement.”

Today George is in a New YorkState federal prison serving a 22-year sentence handed out in 1994. But at least he has recently been upgraded to “King of the prison” what with the likes of Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz turning up to visit him during the filming of “Blow”.

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His future is uncertain, and Porter, who keeps in regular contact with George in prison, says that despite his authority of the drugs world, “George is very naïve about the film business”. “He thinks that once he hits Hollywood on his release he will be taken care of by Ted Demme and all the others that played up to him during the making of the film. He translated that in his mind as love for George. His need for love made his judgements go out the window, and that is all connected with his self-loathing.”

So why did George return to smuggling having made such a miraculous ‘escape’ in 1989?  “He didn’t know what else to do but he didn’t really care about the money”, explains Porter, “it was the life style he craved because it was all he had to provide him with self-esteem, and he had no fear of the danger because he cared absolutely nothing about himself. This was what his mother had bequeathed him, and that, I think, is the key to George.”

© Tina Bexson

Tai Chi Retreat

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Tai Chi Retreat by Tina Bexson – Your Life Magazine

As the sun goes down in rural Hertfordshire, twenty people are wielding wooden sabres in an intricate non-contact sequence of jumping, stepping, hacking and cutting. It looks like some beautiful choreographed dance sequence with everyone in perfect unison, or may be it’s more like a crazed group of axe wielding maniacs trying to avoid the rabbit holes. I’m not sure, because I’m one of the wielders, but hopefully we look a little graceful as well as potentially martial. The weapons are then placed aside and we gather in a circle to end the session with the more calming movements of the ‘form’, while a cluster of on-looking monks sigh with relief.

We are on a Tai Chi retreat at the idyllic location of the All Saint’s Pastoral Centre in London Colney. During five days we will get the whole experience of this ancient Chinese martial art, health and exercise system: the history and philosophy, tai chi form, tai chi ruler, weaponry, chi kung, and the more sedentary study of meditation.

For me the retreat has been the piece de la resistance of taking Tai Chi lessons for the last ten months. I took the plunge into a more holistic form of activity partly because I wanted some balance to my usual antics of leaping around in an adrenaline fuelled manner whether at work or play. The calming effects have been uniquely surprising, but gradual and subtle, which leads me to believe they are genuine and long lasting.

The majority of my fellow Tai Chi people whose ages range from 27 to 77, have been at it for years and just watching these aficionados execute the Tai Chi form is an inspiration and revelation in itself. It includes moving backwards and sideways, twisting and turning, kicking and spinning, but all are achieved with a combination of fluidity, strength and grace.

The Chinese have practised special therapeutic exercises based on the observation of animals for centuries. During the Middle Ages they began mixing these with the techniques of kicking, punching and striking. In the 13th century the effect was further influenced by a Taoist monk, Chang San Feng who noticed the intricate side stepping and enfolding of a crane and the twisting and recoiling of a snake as they engaged in combat. When they added the medical knowledge of the energy structure of the body, the result became what is known as ‘Tai Chi Ch’uan’ (ch’uan can loosely be translated as ‘fighting). Since in more recent times there has been a renewed interest in the original principles of energy flow, today many people in the West are drawn to Tai Chi to explore its healing qualities. But Tai Chi is applied for both health and martial skills and both rely on the same energy pattern.

There are many different forms of Tai Chi, but we are practising the Cheng Man-ch’ing style of the Yang Short Form. Professor Cheng helped spread Tai Chi in the West during the last century by shortening the traditional ‘form’ into an eight minute sequence of 37 movements. Glyn Williams our charismatic teacher, who began practising in 1981, primarily recommends this style for its beneficial effects on all round health which include improved posture, blood and lymph fluid circulation, strengthening of bones, and the alleviation of conditions such as eczema, asthma, and arthritis. the movements are done softly and slowly, as though moving in water.

Tai Chi is an ‘internal’ martial art so we are minimising the amount of muscular effort and maximising the use of the mind to release ‘Chi’ (energy) via the body’s meridians. “The gradual building up of energy will release endorphins, relieve stress and so have a calming effect on the mind as well as your body”, explains Glyn. we don’t engage in full-contact Tai Chi, though Glyn is willing to show the martial applications for those interested. It is also useful to be aware when practicing the form that everyone of the movements has a martial application no matter how subtle this may appear.

This process of internalising the physical movements will only occur over time and with a lot of practise and patience. The retreat is a great way to get a kick-start on the practise front, but it helps enormously if you are relatively relaxed first. So at 6:30 every morning we gather in the tranquil Tower Room with our cushions and blankets for a two hour session of meditation and stretching exercises. Whilst listening to Glyn’s soft dulcet tones occasionally punctuated by sporadic bouts of snoring (only from the men), most of us are able to relax. Not finding meditation comes naturally, I usually fail miserably and start dreaming of doing the sabre or wait for the mid morning sessions of Chi Kung which I find much more conducive to relaxation. These are either gentle moving exercises with the feet firmly on the ground or standing and holding various postures for ten or fifteen minutes. The tai chi ruler or wand is sometimes used too. This is a sculptured wooden object used in slow rotational exercises that synchronise breath with movement.

The benefits of Chi Kung include the increased circulation of energy and it is especially powerful for self-healing. The standing generates a soaring feeling of heat in my blood, whilst simultaneously calming my mind. I have no desire to analyse or de-mystify the effects, only to be still and silent. My subsequent reactions are less self-conscious and more instinctual, and this is the time I want to start practising Tai Chi.

Wading through an eclectic pile of videos to absorb the various attributes of Tai Chi masters’ gives us a chance to rest our well worked bodies, and bloated stomachs after an enormous NUTRICIOUS lunch, but not for long. We are then asked to do the ‘form’ holding an image, which emphasises a specific aspect of what we have seen. This is surprisingly effective. Their softness is calming, while the passion and intent of the more martially inclined masters’ is contagious. It helps to imagine an opponent as you execute the moves, and this is one thing I have no trouble with. I also like the idea that the internalisation of physical responses will only come gradually, almost as though you are slowly training the subconscious.

Glyn is at hand to illustrate exactly which part of our imaginary opponent’s body each strike, punch, kick and push would be aimed at for those of us curious about the martial side. He is an expert at not only answering any question, but also answering any question with a demonstration if he thinks it’s necessary to show how something could work in practice, as some of us find out when he pushes us across the room with a powerful force that feels impossibly gentle. This shows us how much more effective you can be when you relax and sink. I get the impression it would take me more than a few decades to replicate.

The penetrative effects of Glyn’s favourite mantra: ‘only think when you have to, the rest of the time enjoy yourself’, are most noticeable when we all have a weapon in our hands, especially when someone suggests we imagine chopping heads off. In addition to the chopping, cutting and hacking movements of the sabre, we are instructed in the use of striking, blocking and poking with the staff, and slicing with the sword. There’s something uniquely satisfying about wielding one around in the open air, though our teacher is keen to point out that we must be relaxed to absorb the weight and project our chi through to its tip. He also says that our sense of balance and how we are as people will affect how efficiently we wield the weapons about.

The practice of push hands is central to the martial aspect of Tai Chi. This is based on the harmony of Yin and Yang, the two complementary forces of yielding and pushing. It’s performed with a partner and the aim is to neutralise your opponent’s use of force before applying a countering force of your own.
As with the form your overall goal is to be powerful without being hard or tense, and it makes you only too aware of your flaws in trying to be so. The general principles of give and take transcend into your everyday life too. “With Tai chi you become more sensitive so you learn more about your interactions with other people,” says Glyn. “You begin to see how your personal Yin and Yang balances in your work and your private life as well as in push hands.”

Despite the early starts the energetic atmosphere sustains us until the end of each day which is usually at 10:30pm, though the fanatics sometimes continue well into the night. Thankfully none are of the deadly serious ‘sandals and beards brigade’. A few are more than partial to a drop of whiskey as the grand master Cheng Man-ch’ing was himself. And on the last night the high spirits whether alcohol induced or of the more organic kind, enhance the hilarity as we watch those dramatic fighting scenes from the classic Bruce Lee movies.

If like me you are a relative beginner you can’t fail to be motivated by the wealth of experience on a retreat. As Glyn reminds us, concentrated practising in a large group means your own energy is amplified, and information is more easily retained since you are learning in beautiful peaceful surroundings without the distractions of home and work.

But it was the opportunity to live ‘Tai Chi way’, of living each moment as it comes, that most people cherished, including Lindsey Robertson, an IT customer services manager from London. “You can still live your daily working life in a Tai chi way too, but if you have no practise of doing that in the right surroundings then it is harder to do. Now I know that if I relax and visualise doing a Tai Chi form, I can stand on crowded tube when it stops in the tunnel in the sweltering heat and not get angry and upset.”

I can’t say I’m as tuned into living the Tai Chi way quite yet, but give me another year or so. In the meantime, I hope I continue to be less likely to ignite at the drop of a hat, appreciate the sustaining effects of gradual energy build up rather than the usual adrenaline rush, and fall asleep to images of past and present Tai chi masters competing for space inside my dreams.

© Tina Bexson

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FOR INFORMATION ON CLASSES NATIONWIDE CONTACT:
UK Tai Chi Association on 0141 810 3482 / http://www.taichiunion.com

Glyn Williams teaches classes for both beginners and advanced students at the City Literary Institute in London (0207 831 7831). He also takes private lessons. For information contact Glyn on 07956 318794.

The Tai Chi retreats are organised by Red Dragon Retreats. For information on the next retreat contact Stephanie Hayman on 01304 362 563 or email sa.hayman@virgin.net