Dorothy Wilhelm: Finding your spot is just a question of balance
I didn’t get to see the eagle. It came and went while I was driving the one-way circle of roads between the Point Defiance Zoo and the Japanese Pagoda (under construction).
I was not exactly lost. I get lost on the way to practically everything, but in this case, I knew where I was. I was searching for the World Tai Chi Day Celebration. It was the celebration that was lost.
I found the park with no problem. It stays pretty much in the same place. But I had no luck finding signs showing the way to the festivities. I drove around in circles, one way, for most of an hour. I surprised several groups of picnickers who seemed glad to see me, and a romantic young couple who did not.
Tai Chi practitioners are pretty laid back folks and are very comfortable with receiving signs from the universe. I endorse this attitude, but would have preferred paper and marking pen in this case.
Tai Chi has been an incredibly valuable addition to my life, increasing my flexibility and agility. I’ve never qualified for a drill or dance team in my life, and in high school I was always put beyond the outside edges of audience sight with instructions to twirl a pair of Indian Clubs (so called because they came from India in the 1800s).
I’ve always wanted to dance. Inspired by “Dancing With The Stars,” I once signed up for a dance class, but I injured a groin muscle and I had to quit. Didn’t seem fair. It wasn’t even my groin muscle, but they made me quit anyway.
After my hip replacement surgery, my doctor insisted that I begin some regular exercise “at least half hour a day.”
“Surely I don’t have to do that,” I protested.
“No, you don’t,” he responded pleasantly. “And I don’t have to treat you, either.”
With the situation clearly explained to me, I decided on Tai Chi classes twice a week, practicing daily, and adding a half-hour walk on the days between. The change has been striking in terms of improved mobility and balance.
I like the fact that Tai Chi is a very gentle and very low-impact martial art. One is not left with aching muscles. An Australian study found Tai Chi had the same effect as brisk walking on heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones. Other studies have reported that it can lower blood pressure, improve balance and circulation. Lately, there’s been some evidence it’s even helpful with Parkinson’s-like diseases. One study says it “makes seniors feel empowered.” I’m not sure what that means but I’ve enjoyed meeting very inspiring people of all ages, including one classmate in her 90s, who seems to learn a lot faster than I do. But then, everyone does.
My instructors who answer to the inscrutable names of Gary and Tai Chi Steve talk about the lineage of their teachers. “Your Great Great Grand Teacher taught this.” It’s a question of balance I learn; of how and when to relax, reach out and take an empty step. (emptysteptaichi.com
Of course, I finally found the World Tai Chi Day Celebration with the help of a family of five who were hiking in the park. I learned later that while I was looking for my missing associates, a young bald eagle joined the group briefly, swooping onto a low branch and taking an interest in the proceedings until he was frightened away by the enthusiasm of the crowd – or perhaps he simply decided the Yang Style Short Form was not for him.
Red in the face, out of breath and out of sorts, I had planned to demand to know why there were no signs for the celebration and what were they thinking, anyway? But then I looked around and saw that there were 75 people who had found the spot, with no apparent trouble at all. Sometimes you just have to know when to take that empty step, take a deep breath, and be quiet.
“Did you have trouble finding the place?” someone asked.
“No, trouble at all,” I answered firmly. “It’s just a question of balance.”
South Sound resident Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional speaker who speaks nationally about how to use laughter and creativity to manage change. Her teeny tiny book, “No Assembly Required,” will be out in June. Contact her at Dorothy@itsnevertoolate.com.