Our blog

Daily inspiration + Information

Wu Tao helped Sandy recover from a Stroke


Here is a wonderful article by one of our instructors Sandy Macfarlane detailing her personal journey with Wu Tao.  What a story she’s got to share! Her experiences through marriage breakup, 2 strokes, a heart attack  AND a powerful out of body experience moved me deeply.  She is one amazing and inspiring woman!  Thanks Sandy for sharing your story so honestly and poetically!

My Way with Wu Tao   by  Sandy Macfarlane

Traded in for a younger model after thirty-one years married, my second Saturn Return came CRASHING in  My meltdown began.

Alone at night I needed to light candles. Candles everywhere gentle, warm, nurturing light all around me. Alone I ‘danced’. My mind stopped when my body moved and my nights became moving meditations.

Time evaporated. I moved ‘till I dropped. I slept. I dreamed – such dreams.

I’d always dreamt of feeling my body taking me ‘dancing’ but in much earlier ballet days when the end of year recitals saw me as a mushroom or a tree I figured others had decided those dreams were not about to be realised!

I never buy, and seldom read, the newspaper.
Left and forgotten by a passing friend, THE AGE rested on my table, unknowingly a gift.
Leafing through the pages, there, seemingly ten feet tall, was a tiny advertisement for Wu Tao Dance. I read it all and felt a ‘must have’ feeling deep inside. I called the number giving no thought for the time difference between East and West Australia. A very polite, sleepy and long suffering ‘Michelle’ answered and gave me all I needed to know.

The nearest class was the following week in Melbourne two and a half hours drive each way. Despite the five hour drive I knew I had to go.  Over coffee two friends heard my plan and said they’d love to join me. So at 6.45am on said day, coffee in hand, we three jaunted off to Melbourne, took our class, had lunch and drove back home in time to collect their kiddies from school. We did this for the six weeks of the class.

I really felt I wanted to go further with this and enrolled to teach Wu Tao.
Michelle suggested I train in Sydney. To my horror that meant driving the eight hours to Sydney. I was terrified but we all know (or we do now) that challenges are there for a reason.  Arriving at Narrabeen was an amazing personal accomplishment and the fabulous almond croissants at the nearby bakery were manna. Our dancing, of course, made our deliciously indulgent breakfasts totally justifiable!

During one lunch time during training, I met and talked with one of the trainees. She told me all about Art Therapy, where the courses were and how and she was enrolling. Do I believe this? Another gift? I had always wanted to be qualified as an Art Therapist and here was someone telling me all about it. I didn’t understand about the Universe’s gifts and support at that stage so just thought AMAZING.  She never returned and I never saw her again. Was she a gift there to tell me?

There were quite a few life changing episodes with my Wu Tao training not least, as an Obstetrician’s daughter, getting my head around my having chosen my parents and that I was a Spirit having a human experience.  Art and dance became so entwined in my understanding that I absolutely knew I had to also enrol in Transpersonal Art Therapy. That is a story in itself.
With four more trips up to Sydney, my confidence was back on track, driving became a beautiful experience through the country side – yet another gift.

After completing all the training requirements and teaching for several years in the country towns in and near my home, life was feeling busy and pretty satisfying. Sharing Wu Tao with many who could not otherwise access it was a joy. We all had a ball and loved the dances, along with the country morning teas after our sessions, outside in the Summer and inside around someone’s roaring fire on the snowy Winter days.

I loved being a Chatelaine. Hosting an instructors’ retreat at my country house was just so special. Sharing that time with several other beautiful supportive Wu Tao Souls is a time I’ll always treasure.

Life moved on.
I eventually sold my peace of heaven on earth and while waiting to physically move life took another turn.

“You go and take those paintings around to Julia while I get dinner” Jane called.
I was down in Melbourne staying with friend Jane attending a dream workshop over a weekend. My paintings needed to be left with my cousin Julia while I was moving – hence Jane’s suggestion.

I drove to Julia’s just off Smith St. and delivered the paintings. As I drove back to Jane’s I remember turning around over Smith St thinking – “lots of lights but not many cars for such a busy main thoroughfare.” Driving back up Alexander Parade I became aware of ‘drifting along’ not driving the car but somehow getting where I need to go. All at once my body morphed into energy. My body became like the branches of a tree or the land in a delta. These were the colour of my earthly body and the spaces between became filled with dark blue green, as if fluid was flowing. Was this the sea of the unconscious? It doesn’t matter it was absolutely glorious.

I remember turning right over Alexander Parade into Rathdowne St again thinking “where are all the cars?” I now knew the angels were driving the car. I just totally surrendered to whatever it was that was happening to me. I had absolutely no fear at all. I remember saying “If you want me now take me, I am ready to come.”  Both my boys appeared as energy on either side of me and I felt a peace that is impossible to explain. I have no idea how long all this was.

Jane’s tiny garage proved no problem for my drivers and I came to a halt feeling unbelievable peaceful also knowing something was very strange. Thankfully realising too that the fates had not used their scissors.

Jane called down to me from the upstairs kitchen with dinner ready.  Her stairway up has no sides or backs and as I looked through the ladder-like stairs I knew I could not walk up them. I crawled up and then stood. Jane thought I was drunk but when I sat and then fell off the chair she called 000.

I’d always wanted to do the ambulance siren thing and this was my night! Everything, up until I was admitted to St Vincent’s A and E, was quite quite beautiful.  Yes, I had had an Out of Body experience, but I had also had a stroke!
It had to be a stroke of LUCK. If I’d been at home I would not be here writing this.

I was hospitalised for two weeks then transferred for another two weeks of hospitalised rehab which is where Wu Tao again blessed my life.  The stroke had affected my left side and I had to learn to walk again but I was lucky speedy attention had prevented irreparable and permanent paralysis. The fact that I was fit and had danced Wu Tao regularly for about five years had an enormously positive impact on my general recovery. During gym sessions at rehab I practised my Wu Tao dances. Not only were the physical part of the dances important but the cognitive exercise in remembering the steps and where they fitted with the music was a massive challenge and brain exercise.

In the book “The Brain That Changes Itself” It details the now proven thesis that the brain pathways can alter to re-establish a damaged body function by neurologically making and taking new routes around the damaged brain area. This was certainly the case for me. Movements took me longer but after many months practice I was able to do all the original dances – albeit I am still a bit wobbly on the Earth left leg balances! How blessed and lucky I felt.

I remember standing in my kitchen with my friend Karen, the first morning home from rehab, with no idea how to make porridge. For the first time I suddenly felt very scared.  So I danced, it at least, was something I could remember and do.
I was not permitted to drive for three months. Town was an eight kilometre drive and walking was impossible so again I turned to my Wu Tao dances for balance physically and mentally. They were a comfort too in this strange ‘new’ world.
I had to move out of my house and property ten days after I returned from rehab – a mission in itself. My sister appeared from New Zealand. CEO of packing and sorting, she made decisions my brain, which was feeling and behaving like boiled cabbage, could not.

Wonderful friends helped me in so many ways with my exhausting move. Finally I was driven to friend Cherry’s place where I slept for three days. My well-meaning son rang to ask me how I was and what my goals were. My reply that I wanted to be able to walk at least a kilometre without stumbling put things in perspective for him.
A stroke is a traumatic brain injury so exhaustion was a huge feature in my now strange existence. Having Wu Tao there, just there, was something that was comforting and made sense. I had to sleep often, many times nodding off to Wu Tao music.

Again life moved on and I improved greatly. My life was now nomadic as I could not decide where I now wanted to live. I danced whenever I could find a space large enough.  I took a house sit for friends in New Zealand. My mother was diagnosed with Dementia and needed to be moved into a home. My family needed help to clear her house for sale and to finalise ‘family matters’. This was May 2011 eight months after my stroke. All went well and I danced in the now almost empty house. I regularly went to Yoga with a friend and felt life again was on the UP.

Coffee after Yoga was always enjoyable added to this day as I was going with friend June to stay at her country house out of Auckland. I had a headache but didn’t pay much attention to it. We stopped at a fabric shop, which I had always wanted to visit, when I had a vision of a huge white slater bug eating my brain and when the shop assistant’s face turned to water I rather urgently told June to get me to hospital. We were five minutes from a large city hospital. How blessed and protected am I? Within minutes I had had the necessary treatment and scans which told me I had had a second stroke…. This time it had affected my eyes and I felt as if I was wearing blinkers, like looking through a tunnel. A doctor told me that was all I would probably ever see. Apparently I was not very polite to her!!!!

After being transferred to another city hospital closer to my family I spent two weeks there trying to SEE. At first I could read little. I walked around the wards trying to read the notices on the walls. People brought me books but I could not read them because I could start at the left and read to the right of the page but I could not find my way back to the beginning of the next lower line. I kept missing dinner orders at hospital until I realised they were written in three columns – Dinner – Lunch – Breakfast but I could not read across a ‘landscape’ page and never saw the ‘Dinner column!! Things have greatly improved but I still don’t automatically see the first couple of columns of the newspaper and the ‘A” key on this so often comes up as ‘S’.

After constant practice things became much better and again Wu Tao provided a challenge to surmount. Balance became an issue but I was determined not to lose the emotional strength Wu Tao gave me so I danced and danced. It was my personal, rehab as, unlike muscles, there is no hospital rehab provided. Only time will regenerate nerve damage which is what my second stroke was. There is much I could say here but it is not directly connected to Wu Tao and this is a Wu Tao story.

Again I was cared for. I listened and felt the Universe had stopped me in my tracks and a permanent return to Australia was not in the greater plan. I moved into the empty house my mother had now vacated and set about rehab again. While feeling like a refugee with borrowed everything Wu Tao was a constant, a daily ritual. Friends came and joined me from time to time. It was lovely dancing with them but I knew I did not have the energy to start teaching and giving out to others. I needed it for my own healing and that it gave me in spades.

After eight months I moved into a new terrace house that had been built in an old quarry in the city. A new suburb, so different for me but somehow it felt right.  Over the next year I met and made masses of new friends. Yes I felt it was the right choice. I walked each day and danced when I could. Each Thursday a group of us climb the local extinct volcano. It is known s Maungakeikei – ‘the Watchful Mountain’ I like that. I really feel the Air dance needs to be done up there.
I still love creating my garden and having friends to stay. I dance for myself and feel it is, once again, part of me.

One Thursday last August 2013 after our morning walk I felt a little tired so lay down for a rest. I felt something like indigestion and then a gentle but strange ache in my forearms. I rang my neighbour to ask what he thought. The next thing I found myself in an ambulance once again off to A and E this time Auckland hospital. Cutting fairly long stories short; 2 weeks later I was discharged after a heart attack and a triple bypass operation. No more plunging necklines!!

My beautiful sons came from Australia one before and during my hospital experience and one after when I was home. Then my wonderful new friends and neighbours cooked for me, cleaned for me, shopped for me, drove me, and sat with me. How blessed am I and how well the Universe has orchestrated where I am.

It took quite a long time before I was able to use my arms or stretch my body so I played Wu Tao music and visualised doing the dances. They say athletes do that so I figured it wouldn’t do me any harm!  I was never a gym or boot camp exercise person but my rehab this time sees me at the gym three times a week – looks like the Universe had other ideas – it was going to get me there regardless of my protestations!!!!!  I am now negotiating a time that I can dance after my exercises at the lovely big space in the gym.

So there we are. Wu Tao has been my constant companion through a fairly challenging and totally unplanned ten years.
In one of my early dreams I saw a large image in the sky above a beach – The letters C.A.T. appeared. COURAGE, ACCEPTANCE and TRUST came to me. They have given me strength when I needed it.

Just as Belle gave Michelle the gift of Wu Tao so Michelle has given it to us so dance it, live it, and enjoy it.  For me it has been a wonderful and enjoyable companion and has been a large part of giving me my life back.
Blessings to you all.

Sandy Macfarlane