Thanks for Giving, the Tai Chi Way
On September 16, 2013, my 27 year personal
Tai Chi, Qigong and Meditative Arts career reached a high point. That's the date
I started teaching Tai Chi and Qigong as a volunteer at the James J. Peters VA
Medical Center, in the Bronx NY.
Three months earlier, a student of Empire
Tai Chi, my organization, identified herself as a clinical social worker at the
VA. She asked if I would be interested in teaching a 10-week program for
Veterans at the Bronx center. She then arranged an appointment with the Director
of Rehabilitative Medicine and we discussed the needs and goals of the veterans.
The Tai Chi program was to be part of their pain management program. When the
first weekly class was ready to begin, the 18 allocated class spaces were filled
and there was an 18 person waiting list.
Having spent the majority of my
professional life as both a marketing consultant and seminar speaker, and for
the past 25 years owner of Empire Tai Chi, I am used to looking out at large
groups. It's my comfort zone. However, when standing in front of these veterans,
warriors and heroes, there was a point that I was speechless. The gender,
generational and ethnic diversity was normal for most classes - a benefit of
teaching in a diversified and urban market place. It was not unusual to see
students using wheel chairs, walkers or canes. That's the norm for Empire's
Special Population classes. However, knowing the reason that many of these
challenges were man-made and these individuals voluntarily threw themselves in
harm's way to protect our country, was a Spiritual experience.
By the end of the first class, I
transitioned to riding a high that I had received from the energy, incredible
humor, sense of camaraderie and positive outlook of these Veterans. The level of
questions and interest, whether standing, seated or standing with support and
the effort being made to connect to what was being presented was beyond what I
was used to experiencing in any of our traditional Tai Chi classes.
The class was composed of veterans
spanning the period between World War II and Afghanistan. I can guest that the
ages were from the mid 80's to mid 20's. The class criteria were: you must be
able to enter and leave the class room by your own devise. Care givers were not
permitted to help an individual enter or be present. Students received medical
clearance from the Rehabilitative Medicine Dept. Students could participate in
standing without support, standing with support using a chair turned side ways,
or sitting. Individuals who used a cane, walker or wheel chair were required to
take the class seated.
The syllabus has evolved from Empire Tai
Chi's teaching Tai Chi & Qigong for over 20 years at the Burke Rehabilitation
and Research Center in White Plains NY. Burke is an American Tai Chi & Qigong
Association authorized teaching center. The VA program includes Diaphragmatic
Breathing Exercises, Visualization and Meditation, Endless Circle Qigong and
Empire's Tai Chi's modified Wu-Chi Tai Chi form.
The students in this special class have
given so much to this country that I feel it a great honor to give my Tai Chi
instruction back to them as a way to say "thanks"!