This article is offered initially to the group of Shintaido practitioners who attended this year’s British Daienshu, the title and theme of which was “New Life”. It may later find its way to a wider world of Shintaido folk, and beyond, but I’m writing essentially to the group who gathered at Worth school, whom I now see vividly in my mind’s eye.
What follows is deeply personal, but could not have happened without the power, energy and nurturing capacity of that group.
When we gathered for the opening ceremony, each of us was invited to say something about how we felt to be there. My contribution was to say that I had recently attended a Tai Chi retreat week-end, the theme of which was The Heart, and that I’d felt a sense of relief and release at that event. In fact, the retreat had a massive emotional impact on me, which enabled me to realise, directly and for the first time in my life, that my heart had suffered a profound trauma when I was a teenager.
The cause of the trauma was my father’s heart attack, unexpected and fatal. Although I had realised that I’d suffered emotional damage, I had never before connected this directly to my heart, either as a mechanical organ or as a centre of feelings. So, I arrived at the Daienshu feeling blessed with a newly liberated heart and ready to embrace the possibility of an accompanying New Life. The whole experience of the event confirmed and reinforced my sense of hope and fresh opportunity. I left (I think along with everyone else) on a high.
A couple of weeks after the Daienshu, by some strange quirks of fate, I found myself taking my son to a healing centre where he was to receive Oxygen Therapy as a treatment for his debilitating symptoms of long covid. The regime entailed 20 sessions of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, each of an hour + duration, delivered over a five-week period. I was the chauffeur, and I’d been wondering what on earth I was going to do with myself whilst Sam was having the treatment.
As we drew up to the centre, I clocked the fact that the building was surrounded with a beautiful and extensive garden. To me, the garden looked like it was a dojo. My head, and my body were both still full of Daienshu feeling, so it was immediately obvious that I should use the waiting times practising Diamond 8, Taimyo, Tenshingoso and various favourites from the qigong catalogue. And that’s exactly what I did, thinking that I was practising in the secluded privacy of this gorgeous garden.
After three days, as I was walking back into the centre, I encountered a woman, wearing a name badge identifying her as a physiotherapist, who told me that she’d been watching me and asking what I’d been doing. She seemed pleased with the answer, and took me immediately to meet the centre’s clinical director.
He told me that he was recently appointed, was submitting a proposal to amalgamate the centre’s existing M.S. section with a new Parkinson’s provision, with the intention of developing a range of separate but integrated therapies for their client group. He added that on the original list of therapies, including physio, occupational, aqua, art and singing, he had wanted to offer qigong, but hadn’t been able to find anyone to provide it. So, now I have been appointed as a new member of the team of therapists. My role is to provide Amma massage, and a cocktail of movement routines based on Shintaido, Tai Chi and Qigong.
New Life? I would say so. And going back to the Daienshu, one of my strongest impressions was of how many of the participants had somehow managed to integrate and blend Shintaido into both personal and professional aspects of their lives. I had internal voices saying “I wish”, and “if only”. Now it feels like that’s a dream come true for me. Big time.