I spent this morning reading some of the stories Iâ€™ve written over the years. I thought now that I have a blog with a comment button, I could re-post some favourites and see if I could stir up any discussion.
What I thought I could do is massage some of the old writings, bring them up to date, or add to the outcome. But, since this whole blog thing is really just a personal, public practice, (wrought with bad punctuation) what I discovered reading from my past isâ€¦ I am very different today AND I am exactly the same. Everything and nothing has changed!
One story I wrote in November of 2007 made me smiled. So, Iâ€™ve decided to once again tell the story of Milt.
My first student
My very first Tai Chi student was a man in Eugene, Oregon, named Milton. His daughter wanted me to work with him. She thought the movement and concentration would be good therapy. Milt was recovering from a stroke. I agreed to meet with him for private lessons and I’m not sure who learned the most, me or Milt!
As a result of the stroke Milt lost his short term memory. He couldn’t remember anything that had just happened. Each week, was like a brand new time for Milt. I would always introduce myself to him and explain why I was there. It was like having your first tai chi lesson again and again and never remembering that you even had a tai chi lesson. But, each week at every lesson, we would move. I would ask Milt to raise his hands and lower them again. He was able to do it with me, but when asked to do it on his own, well, he didn’t know what he had just done, so, he couldn’t. What his skill was though, was his ability to mirror me. Extremely well. If I reached out to correct him on a posture, he would reach out to correct me! But then the next week, we would do it all over again from the beginning, brand new.
As time passed the experience we shared, started to move to a different part of Milts brain, and the short term, became the long term. He would remember that he had met me, but not always why I was there. He could remember to move slow, but not any set or form.
One day, Milt’s wife called me laughing so hard, you could tell she had been crying. She said, “I wish you could have seen Milton this morning!” He had been getting dressedÂ and she said he was moving in slow motion and had one leg in the air as he put on his underwear. “What are you doing, Milt?â€ she asked, “Tai Chi,” he so proudly remembered!
I tell this story, because, even if this is an extreme case, it is in a sense how all of us learn. For some reason, as adults, we think if we are shown something once or twice, we should be able to master it. I do this myself and I see this in the classes I teach. Students become full of frustration, embarrassment, and at times shame, because they can’t remember or don’t understand, the lesson in front of them.
Milt had none of those feelings, in a sense, he was the perfect Tai Chi student. He took what came his way and did his best with it. Best of all, he practiced when remembered.