Orangeville, Ontario Canada, May 2013

logo-1The neurosurgeon told me the disease would eventually require surgery. It’s called lumbar spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal that causes leg weakness. I asked him if there is a form of exercise I can do to keep it at bay. He said no and to call him when the pain gets intolerable. Well, I wasn’t going to sit around waiting for that to happen. I made up my mind to keep moving and to learn Tai Chi. (p235) …

Since that conversation with the neurosurgeon, I’ve become more aware of how important it is to think positive and act courageous. My motivation to do so arose out of my annoyance at the surgeon’s response, which was to operate without giving credence to any therapeutic alternatives. When I first got the diagnosis, fear surrounded me. I began envisioning myself crippled, bent over, in a wheelchair, or in constant pain and confined dscn2030_bto bed. My thoughts just wanted to go there, but my heart knew better. Hope is eternal and healing, worry is debilitating. Some people live their entire lives dreading the worst and die in the process of emotional turmoil. The key is to overcome anxiety and make proactive choices. I made the choice to keep moving. (p235-236) …

My diversified life continues to whisk me back to Canada. This time I’m heading to Orangeville, Ontario, to volunteer at the International Center of the Taoist Tai Chi Society … It was established in 1984 in a rural location near Orangeville. It quickly became a gathering place for practitioners from around the world to study and train in the arts founded by Master Moy Lin Shin. My work will include setting up the Health Recovery Program, assisting in the program and then cleaning up afterward in a span of two weeks. (p236) …

DSCN3193_cropWhile driving down the lane, I recognize familiar buildings, the most impressive of which is the nearly five-thousand-square-foot Great Hall of the Three Religions. In this pagoda-like, pink-trimmed temple, guests and members can observe the unified teachings of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Every morning at 7:30, people gather to chant. Having previously observed it, I find the fast Chinese chant directly in contrast with the slow, melodic music of the Gregorian chant. Yet, each fulfills ancient traditions. (p240) …

The huge Practice Hall is a big part of this area. It houses the giant paper dragon that “performs” at various events like the annual Awareness Day for Taoist Tai Chi in downtown Toronto. Its length takes up the entire circumference of the building. I once watched about thirty people gently put it to bed. Most of its body is hung from above, dscn2097_bwhile the large, bulky head rests closer to the floor. The process of tucking each section into its proper place is tedious. Several times they had to stop, back up and start all over. The hall is also decorated with ornate Chinese lanterns and strings of colorful triangular banners. The atmosphere of the practice hall is intended to enhance our Tai Chi. (p240-241) …

After dinner we are invited to join Tony’s class. More than 150 people file into the hall and start practicing before Tony arrives. My body likes doing Tai Chi. This is my way of keeping the spinal stenosis in check. (p242) 

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