When I was on a maternity leave eighteen years ago, I signed up for Tai Chi classes at the neighbourhood community centre. Every Friday at 1:30pm sharp, Master Kwan, a volunteer in the community centre, walked into the recreational room with a kettle of freshly brewed tea and a tape player. As the quiet Chinese instrumental music started to flow out of the player, peace descended and filled up the room. The tables and chairs piled in the corners faded away and the modest room turned into a Zen temple. The teacher shared two hours with his five students in meditation and flow of movements. Master Kwan never talked much, but somehow words came through his small eyes behind his spectacles. I even sensed plenty of unspoken encouragement and pride for his students.
I dropped out of those classes when I went back to my office routine. Life went on with more kids at home and promotions at work. Over time, those Tai Chi classes became a distant and joyful memory.
Eighteen years later, as I began my sabbatical, I wondered whether those Tai Chi classes still existed. I showed up at the community centre on a Friday before 1:30pm and waited, excited but prepared for disappointment. Soon enough, four students appeared. Teresa must be in her late 70’s now, but looking same or younger than eighteen years ago. At 1:30pm sharp, Master Kwan came in. Same body, lean and light; same face, smooth with the black rimmed spectacles. He acknowledged me with his usual mild smile, as if I had never left. There was the same aluminum kettle with the long sprout that poured tea for all of us; the same black tape player that trickled the same ancient music; and of course, the same eighty-five Tai Chi movements that have been practiced for hundreds of years.
As my breathing got deeper and deeper with each movement, the weight of the past 18 years began to float and dissipate in the air, as if nothing had gone by all these years, not even time. Clock does not tick in this room.
Who says that one cannot stop time? My Tai Chi Master can.