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.