When Taoist Tai ChiTM first came to Ottawa in 1977 we were given a small jade tree that is now so big it takes at least three people spreading their arms to encircle it. It’s not just the tree that has grown these past 35 years; the branch has gone from about 20 people in one rented space to more than 600 members across 10 locations, including a building we own that boosts a commercial kitchen. In this case the jade tree’s fabled ability to bring prosperity, sharing and friendship seem to have done the trick! It is no wonder that the jade tree that was selected as the theme to represent the branch’s growth over 35 years.
Celebrations began September 8, when a public demo was planned in downtown Ottawa and Gatineau, during which a dragon danced to attract the crowds. A thunderstorm with severe rainfall cancelled the outdoor plans, but that did not stop us from gathering for a barbeque at our head office location! There were food, speeches, demos of each set, a slide show of photos chronicling our branch history and of course our jade tree on display. That evening we also started building a new jade tree; branches were drawn on our mirrors and green paper leaves were taped onto them. On each leaf a member wrote how Taoist Tai Chi has benefited them. Reading the leaves tells an incredible story; Taoist Tai Chi has given members strength, provided a sense of community, helped them breath, walk and be pain-free. It is no wonder the branch has grown!
At our banquet on September 28 we had guest public officials, more speeches and musical entertainment, not to mention the six-course meal masterfully prepared by volunteers. Orchestrating such an event requires many volunteers coming together, willing to share their time and develop new or deeper friendships to bring prosperity to the group. It takes more than a jade tree; it takes a jade tree and a lot of volunteers! The event was a success and a great opportunity to get to know each other better.
Our two-day national workshop starting the next day gave us the opportunity to meet even more friends, new and old, and continue sharing with each other. There were 107 of us being led in a review of some of the material from this year’s Continuing Instructor Training week. We did foundation exercises as well as wave hands, the kicks sequence, parting wild horse’s mane and fair lady works shuttles—plenty to keep us occupied! We spent much of the time working in small groups, which gave each of us the opportunity to receive individual suggestions as well as learn by observing others.
As usual, not all of the weekend was hard work. In fact, it seemed there was a fun youthful energy to the entire weekend. Plenty of opportunities for tai chi humour, such as using “the right foot at the right time… sometimes it’s the left foot.” Other times the humour is even drier, such as the familiar question and answer, “What about breathing?” “Yes. That’s a good idea. Do that.” This time around the answer to a different question was, “Face the wall until you don’t.” The answer got more than a few chuckles!
The atmosphere was relaxed especially during break times and the quality of conversations never ceases to impress. Everything from careers, weddings and families to stories about our community history and personal affirmations of the benefits of Taoist Tai Chi. A few times the health recovery program was talked about with quick highlights of some of the incredible transformations that have taken place, such as arriving in a wheelchair and leaving it behind when they left a week later. These are always touching reminders of some of the reasons we come together to play tai chi and contribute to the growth of the Fung Loy Kok Institute of Taoism.
Everyone is welcome and we do our best to accommodate, from ramps and handicapped washrooms, to food restrictions and scent-free environments and even to adjusting the lighting to prevent a migraine. Whether the person is brand new or has been with the community for over 30 years. Because as we have learned, it’s not just about helping ourselves, it’s also about helping others and giving thanks for the opportunity to help. Sharing, growing friendships and developing prosperity, just like our jade tree. Here’s to 35 years of Taoist Tai ChiTM in Ottawa and many more to come!]