Thursday, June 21, 2012

Chair Tai Chi

Complements of the internet

It did not go as I expected.
Not at all.
I walked into a room of elderly men and women, all of whom were sitting in wheelchairs.
Seventeen people were asleep.
Two ladies were wide awake and ready for me.
One gentleman looked awake, blue eyes bright and cheerful, but in the next instant, he had dozed off.

My whole lesson plan flew out the window.
I had prepared a short talk on the origins of Tai Chi, along with a brief description of this ancient practice, and its associated health benefits.

No one would have understood a word.

I stood in the centre of the room, ladies and gentlemen seated all around me, while I moved among the residents, like a floating cloud or a butterfly.

My intention was to hold a class, as in demonstrating tai chi moves in front of a group of people. They would be sitting in neat rows watching and participating as much as possible, taking into account any physical disabilities.

It did not happen that way.

I had forgotten that most people residing in nursing homes were there for a reason. They no longer had the mental capacity to stay alone in their own homes.

Over the previous week, I had researched the internet and my own memory banks, to come up with a program of tai chi moves suitable for people in wheelchairs. I had practiced those moves at home, over and over until I was satisfied.

It did not matter one iota.

The two sweet old ladies who actually followed my moves, became tired very quickly. I had not thought of that, even though I knew the residents were elderly.
As a result, short frequent breaks needed to be incorporated into an already pared down version of my original plan.

But despite all this, I felt the atmosphere was comfortable, respectful. Serene actually. Nurses were compassionate and patient. My sweet old ladies smiled. One of them complimented the colour of my blouse -  roses and cream.
The blue-eyed gentleman caught my eye once or twice as I was "sweeping lotus petals in the stream" and I wondered if there was a spark of interest somewhere deep down in the centre of his being. In a place normally hidden from ordinary eyes.

Next week, I will go back and try again.
This time I will be ready.

This time I will work with a much smaller group - those who are awake and interested.
This time I will make a point of reaching out to connect with each dear soul, before beginning the structure of a class.

Will Chair Tai Chi benefit this group of soon-to-be-ancestors?
Will it strengthen each tired body, sharpen each cloudy mind and nourish each fragile soul?

I hope so.