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March 08, 2011

Taoist Tai Chi and Green Tea

A Lake on Salt Spring. Nothing to do with Tai Chi except in its Asian-type feeling.

I decided to sign up for Taoist Tai Chi recently and I've been to three classes. I'm not sure why I signed up. It may have been the influence of the ninja healer. Perhaps it was my fond memories of Karate Kid, the original film, reignited by watching Karate Kid the remake. Maybe the price was just right.

We've probably all had the experience of watching people do Tai Chi. I would often pass people in Stanley Park,  usually Asian people, as they did Tai Chi in the morning. I'd look at them quickly and think, "Why the heck would anyone want to do that?"  "It's so S.L.O.W." Now,that I'm a newbie Tai Chi mistress, I'm liking it even if I'm guessing that at times, I look like an overweight ballerina on crack in slow motion.

There are 108 moves. It's a bit like a more sophisticated version of Twister without all the entanglement with others unless you accidentally step on others' heels. Our classes take place in the bottom of a church in Ganges. Half the room is full of the "continuing students" and a smaller portion is dedicated to us, the beginners. 

There are 108 moves in Taoist Tai Chi. I like the names of some of those moves. Single whip. White Snake Turns and Puts Out Tongue. Fan penetrates through the back. Hands Like Clouds. Go back to ward off monkey. Grasp a Bird's Tail. Isn't that beautiful? It's like poetry. Until you see me executing it that is.

Our instructor is a Caucasian guy whose name I can't even recall at this point. He's a good instructor. The other thing I like about Tai Chi is the civilized practice of having green tea before the end of the class.

While I was drinking my green tea during the last class I asked one of the other participants what prompted him to sign up. "Quadruple bypass," he said, matter of factly. "Oh." I said half tentatively. I wasn't expecting such a dramatic answer. I didn't know the two correlated. 1. Quadruple bypass. 2. Tai Chi.  I'm not sure if he's a writer or an actor but he described his heart attack and his out of body experience in such a way that made me think he's used to thinking about audience. He was really getting into the telling of the experience and I found it really amusing.

According to Frank, (I just recalled his name), your whole life does not flash before your eyes when you die. Thank God for that. Once is enough. There is, however, a really bright white light. Frank said that the second time he got "the paddles," he came back. He said it was as if he had to fight to come back and make a conscious choice to be here. "Really", I said. Just like Sylvia Browne has described, I thought to myself.

I also got to look into the very Danish-looking face of a nice old guy named Henry who has very sparkly eyes. Henry brings eggs to Tai Chi. You can buy them. They are blue and speckled. I'm guessing that Henry might be in his late 80s. He wears really heavy shoes and his work pants are the best "flood pants" I've ever seen. I imagine him living in some shack, chicken coop out back, general domestic disarray keeping him upright.

Whenever Henry enters the room, he grabs the hand of the nearest lady in a greeting. I found that out the first night. His hands were freezing. Last week Henry had to sit down a lot. "My doctor would be really angry with me if he saw me here." His foot hurt.  "Nothing like following doctor's orders," I said with a smile. I really like Henry's personal energy.

Most of all I like the focus that Tai Chi requires. You have to really think about the movements and you lose yourself in the moment. It's a bit like doing a crossword puzzle, physically, with your body I mean.

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