Orangeville, Ontario Canada, May 2013

DSCN2037_bA tradition Master Moy incorporated into the Taoist Tai Chi Society is celebrating certain occasions with a Chinese Banquet. Tonight we board school buses and travel to Toronto to celebrate Mother’s Day at Dim Sum King Seafood Restaurant in the heart of Chinatown, Master Moy’s favorite place. This is one of three Chinese banquets the International Society hosts each year; the others are on Thanksgiving and the Chinese New Year. …

fresh_catch_bThe Toronto banquet consists of a twelve-course meal lasting five hours. We are entertained by musicians and singers, introductions of dignitaries who say a few (or more) words, and table talk. Several people at my table are French-speaking. My rusty French is tested; we nod and smile a lot. … There are approximately three hundred people in attendance; service is unhurried, hence the length of time. it is a wonderful introduction to the Chinese culture, as well as a testimony to the merits that the Taoist Tai Chi Society has bestowed upon Toronto, thanks to Master Moy. (p247-248)

In his youth, when he was suffering from poor health, Master Moy made a vow to Kuan Yin (Guanyin), the bodhisattva (Deity) of compassion, that if his health improved, he would devote his life to helping others. Master Moy Lin Shin made good on his vow. (p249)

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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)

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) 

Canadian flagA meandering relationship with all things Canadian comes to mind as I embark on the final leg of my Gypsy journey. Traversing through this country played a significant role in my emotional development, from childhood to adulthood to senior citizen. Each trip, with the exception of the first, provided leeway for loving Canada. For this reason I selected Orangeville, Ontario, to conclude my adventure as a way of traveling full circle in my lifespan. (p225)

I often wondered if Canadians were different from us and if their shoreline is as rocky as ours. My family told me that Canada is a friendly country, but I was skeptic after Canadian soldiers invaded our side of Lake Eerie. (p226)

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silver cabin

Not long after my initial exposure to Canada’s soldiers my family dragged me on a camping trip to Burnt River in Ontario, Canada. We crossed the USA/Canadian border in Buffalo, New York. The men came to fish; the women were destined to cook the fish, trout to be exact. I suppose my only purpose was to discover how much I hated everything about camping. I was perfectly satisfied living in the city; the great outdoors was not appealing. Besides, I was still wary of our northern neighbor. All the same, what I thought inside never made it to my lips, and even if it had, it wouldn’t have changed things, so off I went with my family. Deep down I was scared and uneasy–everyone else was excited. (p227) …

me and aunt jeanne at the outhouseIt wasn’t until we ventured inside the cabin that I understood there was no indoor plumbing (or maybe I was the only one who hadn’t been told). The upshot of this fostered an unpleasant thought: we would be forced to walk outside and into the woods to use the bathroom. The biggest, most disgusting part of camping was using an outhouse. I refused to go there and instead left my waste and tissues at the base of many pine trees. (p228)

Mother and I carried buckets down the steep descent to the river to collect spring water. On the way down, I started counting the days till we’d be back home to indoor plumbing. I convinced myself that after this wilderness adventure, I’d appreciate city life even more so. …

scanNow you need to know that this part of Burnt River is far from tame. Fast and furious rapids are plentiful because of the hilly terrain. Flat, bed-size rocks protrude at an angle in the fast-running water, which border the bank on our side of the river. The surface of the rocks is smooth, but traversing them on a slant is tricky.

… That’s when I spotted my first snake. It was fat and gray, coiled up in between my mother and me. When I screamed, “SNAAAAAKE!” my mother (precariously hunched over the water on a rock that slanted downward) almost slid into the rapids. I froze, unable to help her. Fortunately, she hung on and pulled herself back up, but she suffered a long, bloody scrape down the side of her leg.

When we came home that summer, I was convinced I’d never return to Canada. I also knew I didn’t like the wilderness, an outhouse, snakes, bears, and on and on. My checklist of things I despised grew. I decided to start a list of things I cherished, knowing that would be far more enjoyable. (p230-231)

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Please note: my gypsyjourneypag.com website is no longer available. I will be using this blog to post excerpts, pictures, memories from the book. Address is pag213.wordpress.com. Thank you.

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Living in a natural habitat, away from city lights and smog, a person gains a new perspective of the Earth and the vastness of the universe. …

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Come visit my 1950’s childhood Christmases in Cleveland, when I was smitten with the snow !

May peace prevail on Earth!

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