A couple years ago my good friend Larry Ronaldson referred me to a high school student named Tom Scarcella. Tom was born with Central Core Myopathy, a condition where muscle cells are devoid of mitiochondria (the “power plants” of cellular activity; they also assist in cell growth and signaling). The effect of CCM is to keep muscles underdeveloped and easily tired. Doctors didn’t give him much hope. While his body was fragile and fatigued easily, Tom had a keen mind and an indomitable spirit.
When I introduced him to energy medicine and taijiquan, he drank it up immediately. His father, Mike, and his friend, Patrick joined him as regulars in taiji class. His energy, resilience, strength, endurance, and confidence all grew exponentially.
Recently Tom was asked to write an essay for college. He was kind enough to share it with us:
Tell us about a book, artwork, or lab experiment that changed the way you see the world. What was it about the work that affected you? How did your world become different? (500 words or less)
When life gives you Central Core Myopathy instead of lemons, it’s not so easy to make lemonade. I was born with a rare muscular disease that leaves me weaker than the average kid. I’m not riding a wheelchair and I’m not crippled, but I do have much less strength and stamina than most people. As a child, I spent a lot of time scooting before I could walk. My doctor said I “would never be a Phil Simms”. He seemed to be right, because I certainly never joined any sports teams. Fortunately, I had friends, good grades, and a loving family. Still, there was always that whisper of limitation that caused me anxiety and insecurity. As I got older, I began to think of what I could not achieve.
Last year, in a fated coincidence, I was turned on to Tai Chi and Eastern philosophy. Encountering Through the Western Gate by Rick Barrett opened me to these things and allowed me to see the world in an entirely different light.
It made me realize I had potential in ways I would have never imagined. What were once barriers became possibilities.
The book explains that although science is indispensable, rigid adherence to it closes us to important aspects of our existence. Therefore, we must travel through the “gate” of Western thoughts and assumptions to experience the world beyond our traditional mindsets. It is an intricate subject, but it centers around “chi”, or life energy. We are all born with chi; but it takes physical discipline and focused concentration to harness its power for significant physical, mental, and spiritual benefits.
Practicing Tai Chi produced a physical metamorphosis in me. For example, many people asked if I had gotten taller. The truth was that my posture improved. My vitality increased dramatically, and I no longer felt the need to take naps after school. More importantly, I learned that you do not need brute physical strength to be strong. My balance improved, my reflexes became faster, and I gained the confidence of knowing I will be able to defend myself. All of this convinced me that I can experience this world without fear.
On a broader scale, the practice of Tai Chi and the study of Eastern philosophy awakened my spiritual side. It showed me there is knowledge to be found everywhere. I started appreciating nature, and understanding the intangible and dialectical qualities of all things. The world feels infinitely larger now that I am open to all its gifts.
I am still on my journey through the Western gate, but I have reached a central realization: our mind has a tremendous influence on how we experience the world. While my disability presents certain limits, it was really the self-doubt that made me “incapable”. Discovering this allowed me to remove the limits I had set on myself and the world around me. By knowing I can make lemonade out of my inherent situation, I can start living life to the fullest.