Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 672 Health, Tai Chi and the lost wallet

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

It was eleven in the morning, our usual exercise hour, Brenda and I jumped on our bikes and took off for a ride along the SeaWall in Vancouver. We try to bike for about an hour or two most days. We hesitated because of the cool weather and gathering clouds but following our past experiences decided to go anyway, “When in doubt – go,” that’s our basic rule. It proved to be both good and bad.

On our bike ride that morning we came upon a solitary elderly Asian woman dressed in loose, black clothing, practicing Tai Chi along the sea wall. We stopped. She was so beautiful – framed against the blue water and large freighters waiting at anchor. Each movement was slow, measured, and flowing. She never stopped moving and yet it was so very slow that she seemed almost always on the edge of becoming fixed. Her flexibility and fluidity were inspirational. Everyone passing by looked back over their shoulder at her. We stopped and gazed from a distance: stood by our bikes and were transfixed. She would repeat some moves and then go right into something we had never seen before. She was still moving when we rode away.

Tai Chi has been a practice of mine for perhaps the last twenty-five years. It started as an attempt to cure a bad back. The doctor said it was the sciatic nerve that was the problem. I had twisted like I shouldn’t and the pain was terrific. I remember not being able to put any weight on my left leg for a couple of days. Then with great effort I managed to hobble, all stooped over, into the doctor’s office. Drugs, physical therapy and rest seemed to have little effect. Surgery was the next step. Then I heard of this guy who treated the back through Tai Chi. Throwing skepticism out the window, I began my study. It became a life saver – and a way of life.

Just yesterday a large picture jumped out at me in the Vancouver Sun newspaper. It was a color picture in the center of the page of perhaps a hundred people dressed in loose white clothing doing Tai Chi. The article talked of a recent study that resulted in very positive results for people that do Tai Chi over other forms of exercise concerning enhancing the immune system – specifically combating shingles which affects about one out of five seniors. I have never had shingles, but I have heard nothing good about having them. I think most of us retired folks would like to avoid them if we can.

I’ve read that millions of people do Tai Chi every morning all over China. I can understand why. When I took my first lesson in Tai Chi I swore that if it didn’t really help me that my first day would be my last day. Now it must be well over ten thousand days since that first day. Tai Chi remains a daily practice. That’s a long time.

My first teacher took me through a few Tai Chi moves and exercises that have lasted me all those many days. Then Brenda and I took lessons again. We met our new instructor in a video rental store. Her husband owns the store. We didn’t know that she had been a Tai Chi instructor in a Buddhist Temple in Vancouver. When Tai Chi was mentioned in passing one day, we got ourselves a volunteer teacher. We met in a park; usually Sunday evenings. This practice went on for the most part of a year.

The article in the paper reinforced my thoughts concerning the health values of Tai Chi. Seems like I regularly read of various other health benefits coming from a daily routine. Seeing the woman doing Tai Chi on that morning, reminded me of the beauty of this ancient, meditative practice.

But as I stated in the opening statement, this was a bike ride that returned both good and bad. The bad part – I lost my wallet. Yes, and the day before I had been to the bank. A few hundred dollars and of course, all of those cards: those cards that establish my identity as a person. Talk about a sinking feeling. And here I am in an age of identity theft and then I go and lose everything. Was it theft? Was it someone else’s fault? No such luck. No, it was my doing – plain and clear. I did not zip the pocket after putting my wallet into it.  I remember getting in a hurry to leave at the last moment and shoving the wallet in the shorts and heading for the door. I even recall thinking that I should secure the pocket, but didn’t. Carelessness, recklessness, stupidity – they all fit.

I’m not sure seeing the exhibition of beautiful Tai Chi balanced out the experience of losing the wallet. But in my mind, it was close. And as years pass by I know I would do it all over again.

This is Retirement Talk.






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