In November 2014 I accepted an invitation from the International Directors for an extended stay in Orangeville. The hardest bit was leaving my family for 9 weeks; they are grownups and live independent lives but it was still difficult and I missed the regular contact. We hadn’t been separated for that length of time before; in May I would miss sharing a birthday with them and one of my son’s birthdays later in the month. However, without my health and strength I would be of little help to them either.
I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis in my spine in September 2014. There were several fractures in the lumbar and thoracic spine and evidence of some deterioration in the hip too and it had come ten years early.
The spine was noticeably painful and debilitating; I lost height and was crippled with pain and fear and was losing confidence in moving and being myself – a physically active and engaged individual. My career with clay seemed like a lifetime away and there would be no return.
In this miserable, negative place I lost sight of what my life had been up to this point: walking regularly, lifting and moving buckets of ceramic materials, my work with clay and a commitment to improving my health through Taoist Tai Chi since 1992. The commitment to my own health in this way has involved engaging in various aspects of the administration of the society from making the tea, helping in the kitchen, offering accommodation, instructing at beginner and continuing classes, taking intensives, writing reports and taking on the responsibility as one of the Directors and Trustees in GB since 2010.
My body and mind had forgotten how flexible and stretched my ligaments and tendons, supporting the bone structure, would still be from regular practice of tai chi and ‘putting pennies in the health bank’ over the years. Taoist Tai Chi involves not only the daily practice of foundation movements but also a flexible way of thinking; so once I was helped, by a senior instructor and long term student of Mr Moy, to stretch out my spine once more, I stood up straight. The practice hall in Orangeville was packed that night and I was aware of the collective support of those around me when I lifted my head and saw the smiling faces which mirrored my own amazement at what the spine had managed to do in the Toryu. There are times, now, when my spine is so aligned that I regain 3-4 cm in height and I feel like I’m walking on air!
I learnt to concentrate my efforts through three simple, but not easy, steps of Danyu, Toryu, Rest. Slowly over that three weeks I began working deeper into the bone and the spine became stronger and my impatience with my body, lessened and I began to heal. Chanting most days, over 9 weeks, helped in so many ways, one of which was strengthening the spine while kneeling; it can sharpen the thinking process and develop a more flexible way of being too so the mind lets go of worries and tensions and the body can heal while the spine is aligned and I could dispense with analgesics.
Mr Moy’s generosity and compassion can be expressed in many ways – not least in the volunteers, who shopped, prepared, cooked, washed up, cleaned and maintained our International Centre when I went to rest. Mr. Moy really knew what he was doing when he set up the Taoist Tai Chi Society and I thank him daily for his own diligence.
The mind played and plays a large part too; over the weeks, months and years of doing Taoist Tai Chi we are constantly challenged as we develop our understanding of the Taoist Arts. Flexibility of mind and body can lift the spirit and in looking out we can see what is happening around us; where we can be useful to others and where help is and isn’t needed. No ‘magic pill’ – daily practice is essential; there is no better way to aid one’s own ongoing recovery.