I tried T’ai chi when I was 25 years old. Since I was (and still am) very impatient, I found it far too slow so I quit after a few classes. Jump ahead 30 years and it’s now the right speed. I started last year knowing that I needed to find a way to relieve the overwhelming amount of stress I was experiencing at that time. I ended up selecting T’ai Chi for several reasons:
- I had heard T’ai Chi being referred to as Moving Meditation. I thought this might work better for me than Yoga which I have tried multiple times.
- I am of Chinese descent and I thought that this was a way to connect with my heritage
- I already have arthritis in my fingers. Look at these knuckles, especially the middle finger. My elderly mother has arthritis and osteoporosis amongst other things, and due to her lack of exercise, she is bound to a wheelchair. If I live to be as old as she is, I want to prevent that from happening to me.
I decided on the Taoist Tai Chi club simply because there is a studio close to home. I took a crash course to learn all 108 moves over an 11-hour beginners’ weekend. Although I have participated in hundreds of aerobics classes, I was surprised to find that not only was I struggling to memorize the sequence of moves, I had also developed 2 left feet. Nonetheless, I remained enthusiastic and dutifully attended class 3 times per week.
Taoist T’ai Chi surprised me in many other ways.
- There is no syllabus in Taoist T’ai Chi. No precise and predetermined execution of movement and placement like there is in ballet. Master Moy’s philosophy was to customize the move to the individual since each person will have different issues
- Taoist T’ai Chi is about continuous improvement and learning. Even for those who have studied for decades. It does not remain static. It lives.
- I still find it a bit on the slow side but that no longer annoys me. In fact, I strangely enjoy the minutiae that can sometimes be Taoist T’ai Chi
- I have strengthened my core.
- I sweat.
- The membership is primarily Caucasian
- There is no judgement
I am not sure if all my expectations were met with Taoist T’ai Chi but I can say that I have made progress. My mind stays relatively uncluttered while in class and when practicing. If I am thinking about anything at all, it’s about executing the corrections I’ve been given. I don’t worry, my mind wanders much less than when I have tried to meditate in the past. I feel calm. Taoist T’ai Chi has been an anchor during my year of transition to retirement. It has provided me with focus, regular exercise, volunteer opportunities and of course, social interaction. While the membership itself is not very Asian, the society’s principles are. Sometimes I stare at the posters littered around the studio. The one that resonates most with me lists the 8 virtues. Filial Piety, Sibling Harmony, Dedication, Trustworthiness, Propriety, Sacrifice, Honour, and Sense of Shame.
Each virtue is described in more detail on the http://www.taoist.org website but when I look at the poster in class, I try to think of how I exhibit (or don’t exhibit) the characteristics. While I am FAR FAR FAR away from being a model for the 8 virtues, the poster regularly reminds me of the characteristics and behaviours needed to become a better human being. I try to work on one thing at a time. I’ve spent 55 years developing some bad attitudes and habits, it’ll take a while.
This sounds like a cliche but Taoist T’ai Chi is for everyone and anyone. I am only in mid-life and still healthy but there are many members who have serious health issues who practice T’ai Chi. Some suffer from severe diseases (like Parkinsons) that affect mobility. Others have had terrible accidents that resulted in limited movement. There many other members who practice T’ai Chi for the mental relaxation and physical exercise. Every member has his/her personal story. Some are in the video below.
So all in all, I am grateful that I found Taoist T’ai Chi. I feel that it’s helped me both physically, mentally and emotionally. I thank my lucky stars that I am healthy. Practicing this art form is a way of staying that way. It is something that I will continue even if I embrace other forms of exercise and/or meditation. It has certainly earned a continued place in my life.