Orangeville, Ontario Canada, May 2013

IMG_10_0068A year or more after practicing Taoist Tai Chi in Louisville, I heard a few members speak of their visit to the International Center in Orangeville. They had participated in a program called Health Recovery. The program is open to all and is specialized for people responding to aging, chronic illness or the consequences of injury. The movements are adapted, as needed, for people with reduced mobility. I was interested in learning ways that would help rather than hurt my injured back. Others showed interest in the program, too, and four of us Kentucky members headed north to Canada.

Gordon_Andrew_bDuring that first visit, I witnessed many unique lifestyles. All week long I watched people who were confined to wheelchairs, walkers or canes, sitting as they practiced Tai Chi. They never complained; to the contrary, they talked about how their conditions had improved since coming to the center. I enjoyed being with them because of their uplifting attitudes, and they modeled patience and the gift of gratitude. The main lesson for me was learning how to live with pain. I will never be pain-free again. However, finding gratitude for everything, including the pain, allows an openness to and a befriending of all that is. Complaining only enhances pain.

Today I am back to assist in the Health Recovery Program, accompanied by several other volunteer assistants from Canada and the United States. The instructors … meet with us each morning to discuss our tasks. We are each assigned at least one person with whom to companion  … (p243-244)

Our instructors are dedicated to helping people learn the health benefits of Tai Chi. They explain that their intention is to have the caregivers participate in Tai Chi too. They need it more than their challenged partners do because they are responsible for lifting and tending to them. By the end of the week, I see their goal accomplished in (several) ways. … (p244-245)

… a young woman here with her husband, is wheelchair-bound. She regularly attends Health Recovery programs and sits immobile in a stationary chair in the back of the room to do Tai Chi. She works hard. … . At our last class, (she) asks all of us if she can do Tai Chi amid the group in her wheelchair because she really wants to be an active participant. She places herself in the middle, her husband practicing beside her. She manipulates her wheelchair to keep up with everyone. 

pat,cristy,carla_pat cropWitnessing the progression of these participants gives me the resolve to keep practicing, too. (p245-246)

The final day of Health Recovery arrives … My body is limply relaxed yet energized. When a marathon Tai Chi session ends, my body bends like a weeping willow tree, and my legs collapse into a baby squat. It is the goal of Tai Chi–to return to our infant flexibility. It is the most limber I can get … (p248)