Every other week I teach Tai Chi to Alzheimer’s residents. It is different than other classes. Everyone sits in a circle, many in wheelchairs, walkers and some walking slowly to a chair. So, we sit. Seated Tai Chi. It is always an experiment as I feel the energy, sense what will work that day. I used to make a lesson plan but it was useless. I must be in the moment, their moment and my own, to hold the attention, to encourage the movement, to bring laughter as we practice this ancient art.
I first worked with institutionalized people in 1979 taking art into dark halls to people society had forgotten existed. Fellini let them out on the streets, focuses a camera and his films burgeon with a plethora of color, intensity, oddity and magic.
I am not comfortable going into dementia units where once my mother spent her last eight years. But I go, each time remembering her, sending her spirit a brightness of light and gratitude and love. And I look unto blank faces and await an awareness of the moment we spend together.
Today I took a large metal healing bowl and invited each individual to listen first as I tapped a clear sound near ears that do not always hear and then ran the wand along the rim so a deep murmuring of sound rose up into our blended auras. Lift your hands and feel the vibration, I invited. Some felt the energy, the chi, some didn’t. Touch the bowl and feel, I said. The delight that jumped from arthritic fingers to wrinkled faces that smiled suddenly filled my heart. They heard the sound, felt the energy.
Then we did Tai Chi 24, Yang Style. At the end of each session I demonstrate the form and explain what I am doing and how they just practiced the arm movements.
On a spring day we all felt the vibrant chi of sunshine and shifting energy.
How does it work, I ask peering into the toilet reservoir and not paying attention I think of the old reservoir behind the lemon orchards where we’d ditch school to skinny dip. Carpinteria High School nestled in fading lemon orchards with halls my mother had walked, stifling classrooms and only the intention to escape into the open air of freedom.
Freedom is a place in the brain you go when you can’t sleep…and dawn finally closes your eyes. There you are in front of floor to ceiling plate glass windows looking out at thirty seven shades of green with Beamer at your heels.
Heels glued to the floor as the wind rages, whipping trees like grass and now it is inside the house, inside wind pushing you to the left and yet your feet stay rooted. Root, sink in Tai Chi and connect with the Earth and yet the dream wind rages on and everything is asunder and you see Eileen and you call out for help.
Help, you don’t think she can hear you over the roar of wind and she does and she stops your turning. You are safe and your cell alarm tinkles and you pull your wind-swept self into daylight and think it is still not saved. Saving daylight will just be six more months where you can learn to get up when you can’t sleep and find freedom in moving not rampaging about on monkey wings.
You’d like to settle back into sleep, knowing the snooze will alert you several more times and there isn’t enough time to email Eileen a thank you for being a dream helper. Helpers in dreams need daytime acknowledgment. You learned that in Cultural Anthropology class in college, class that brings you nuggets to polish.
Polish, peer within, examine your dream to see what you are rooted to, say thank you to Eileen.
It is not hard to speak feline. First you must listen. Hamilton has a lot to say and I talk back with pigeon-cat words. For many days in a row he said the same thing: I want my own Facebook page. Really? The dogs don’t have their own page. I’m quite willing to share. His answer was always the same: No.
So, yes, Hamilton Maserati Prince now has his own Facebook page. He will undoubtedly accept your friendship. He likes distance relationships. Up close and personal, he is quite picky. Of course, that’s just my point of view.
Stay tuned for more about THE Hamilton (that’s how he’d like to be referred to, or so he said on Facebook.)