The workshop started with Tai Chi sets and then the President of the Society in Great Britain, Crispin Barker, welcomed everyone and introduced the workshop leader Marsha Eberhardt, President of Fung Loy Kok. 16 different countries were represented including Australia, Canada, USA as well as 13 European countries; a really “international” International Workshop.
Marsha drew us in and together with interesting observations and insights into the Taoist path and how our training in the internal arts is about so much more than just physical health, important though that is.
The opening chapter; our journey had begun…
After choosing group leaders we were introduced to the workshop co-ordinators who would help us with our care-taking tasks. It was striking to see how many people were involved in this and of course they represented just one layer of volunteers looking after the workshop.
Over the 5 days we found ourselves drawn deeper into the internal work of Taoist Tai Chi™ through instruction, practice, helpful imagery, informative talks about physiology and anatomy and personal stories and experiences both from the past and those happening right there in the workshop.
The structure of the workshop soon gave the training a rhythm which provided some familiar, secure base from which to investigate and improve our internal universes: breakfast, chanting (before the 10am start of the workshop for those who wished – and many did), sets, standing, walking, foundations, instruction, sharing, questions, observations, group practice, lunch, tasks, sets, talking, sharing, dinner, set, foundations, sharing. Every day was different and unique but recognisable and with a friendly face, just like the dedicated breakfast and kitchen teams. It was a rich mixture and soon we were open and wanting to tell and hear stories and experiences of our tai chi.
We felt really immersed in the path that Marsha had outlined and described to us, engaged in an exciting adventure of exploration and discovery. As we told our stories we were also creating new ones, new biographies, fresh perspectives, and horizons. The moves we knew so well in the bodies we knew so well fell away revealing new moves and invigorating our bodies with new energies. During the process pains, stiffness and habits fell away clearing a space for the spirit. Day by day this was more and more visible in everyone; we were taller, more upright, happier and our eyes shone more brightly. We were more aware and acknowledged each other with more clarity. We were waking.
When Marsha talked she talked directly to our hearts. When she talked about dual cultivation of body and mind as a way to fan the spark of goodness we all have, were born with, we understood because we felt it happening – right there and then. When she told us how the Taoist Tai Chi™ arts help us be better in the world by removing the dust of the world we understood because we felt the dust dropping away from us and could see more clearly what was important in our lives.
Through this process of transformation that we were offered and participated in we realized how the circulation can be altered by our intention, our movement of mind and body, and our balance. We moved from the muscular and mechanical to the elastic, the sticky, pushing from the feet and simultaneously pulling up from the ground, letting go and lengthening, hanging the spine and dropping to separate, allowing the body to stretch and open. It all felt so good. So this is what it is to be a human being.
From the tor-yu and dan-yu to the first moves of the Tai Chi set, wave hands, hit tiger and even a little lok hup on the last day, we explored these ways of moving and made new connections. Everyone was together in their journey but it was individual and personal; our discoveries were our own, our challenges were our own but it was so nice to be able to share with everyone and to be able to relate to everyone’s experience because however individual, from 2 months experience to 30 years experience the process was the same, the common denominator that harmonized and levelled us and brought us joy.
Posture affects the emotions, Crispin explained, during a talk where he shared his knowledge, gained from physiotherapy as well as Taoist Tai Chi™, about the skeleton and the internal organs. We could feel it. The straighter, more aligned we became, the better we felt.
On Friday we were once again honoured by the presence of Kenny McAskill, the Justice Minister for Scotland, a member of the Scottish Parliament who has a genuine wish to see people be the best they can be and enjoy quality of life, and consequently fully appreciates what it is that we do and how we help people. We invited him to a presentation about the Fenway, made by Edinburgh branch President, Ken MacLachlan and he was interested to learn of the Scottish connection between Edinburgh and Dunedin (the Gaelic name for Edinburgh), Florida.
It was such a rich week and we seemed to look at Taoist Tai Chi™ from every angle. On the last day Marsha told us that Master Moy Lin Shin had once said that a monk on the mountain was ok, a monk in the town was better, but a monk in the city was best because that’s where people need the most help.
This help meant that together we’d somehow rewritten our stories. We came to the workshop as supporting characters in other people’s narratives, our energies scattered and spirit diluted by the demands of the world but we left as the main characters in our own stories, our energy increased and centred and spirit collected and strong once again; more able to share this help with others. We remembered the way, stepping more definitely on the path, living in the legend that Master Moy scripted for us. How can words express our joy and happiness to be on this journey together? How can words express our gratitude and good fortune? They cannot. As Marsha told us, Master Moy said we can only say thank you for this gift by sharing it with others. So we left with light hearts to go back to our classes and say thank you.
In the grand, beautiful and historic city of Edinburgh we felt ready to go back to the hustle and bustle of city life with balance but already many of us had our minds on the upcoming workshop in Madrid and also our appetites had been whetted for the workshop in Helmond in January.
Moved by the spirit of helping others an unprecedented number of people stayed behind after the workshop to help clean and tidy the centre before they continued their journey home. You really made a difference.