by Gail Hamm, program director
I just had to share an experience I had last week as I took part in our new Tai Chi class. I had an idea of what it would be like, but I did not anticipate that I would like it so much.
First, you have to know that I do not like to exercise. I get bored, as well as challenged by shortness of breath. What I found was that I could actually follow the instructor, Susan Swardenski, and do the moves she demonstrated. They are soft and slow and designed to not strain the body. I did know I was getting a workout, however, because I had to remove my jacket when I became too warm. And breathing deeply at times caused a bit of lightheadedness. My body was probably shocked that it was finally getting the oxygen it needed!
Susan explained that Tai Chi is rooted in the martial arts. The moves are designed to keep the body balanced and promote increased body awareness by engaging the mind as well as the body. It’s not like other exercise I am familiar with, in that it is not about building muscle mass. It’s about promoting better health through movement, no matter what your abilities may be. It tends to decrease tension and can increase one’s ability to manage fatigue and pain.
There were 14 of us….. people with cancer, caregivers, and staff. Only a few had previously been in a Tai Chi class. We were of all ages and our abilities varied considerably…from people who moved fairly easily to those who chose to do all the exercises in a seated position.
I can’t wait for the next session of Tai Chi. By participating in this class, I hope to gain better balance, an increased lung capacity, and overall better health. Now it’s time to practice the home work we were given last week: …breathe slowly…in….and …. out …..in….and….out….in….and….out…..
When he was five years old, I had to explain to my son, that while God gave me many good gifts, he didn’t give me the gift of a singing voice. With the compassionate heart of a child my son quickly assured me that my singing was beautiful. I know better but, I still like to sing.
The memory of that conversation makes me smile. I think acknowledging shortcomings and being able to laugh at our fumbles and foibles is a wonderful road to acceptance. Sure, there are values and ideals that we hold dear and for which we should always strive. But, how many times do we place unnecessary, even impossible expectations on ourselves and others?
What would happen if the house wasn’t vacuumed today or the car washed before the weekend? What would happen if we looked at life with new eyes? If we learned to say, “Oh well, let’s give it a try anyway and see what happens!” When was the last time that you laughed at the project that didn’t go according to plan?
Laughter can have great healing power for the soul and the body. The great American painter Grant Wood said: “I found the answer (to how and what to paint) when I joined a school of painters in Paris after the war who called themselves neomeditationist. They believed an artist had to wait for inspiration, very quietly. And they did most of the waiting at the Café du Dome or the Rotonde with brandy. It was then that I realized that all the really good ideas I’d ever had came to me while I was milking a cow. So I went back to Iowa.
Give it a try, roll with the punches, laugh when it doesn’t turn out exactly right and know how good that laughter feels. Good for the soul and the body.