Tennis, dancing, massages and meditation keep Malaysian grandmother happy and active at 78, Lifestyle News
One of the striking things about Marguerite Brodie is her posture.
At 78, she carries herself with admirable strength and grace, and it’s the result of decades of dancing and tennis, combined with Rolfing (a holistic method of manipulating the body’s fascia or connective tissue) and Dharma practice (applying Buddha’s teachings in daily life). life).
From her home in Kuala Lumpur, the grandmother-of-six reflects on how these elements gradually shaped her life after the 1984 tragedy.
The daughter of Eurasian parents with Hakka Chinese and Anglo-Scottish roots, Brodie grew up on the island of Penang in Malaysia. She met her Malaysian Chinese husband in Kuala Lumpur in 1966 and they had five children together. When the youngest was a newborn, Brodie’s husband was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.
As a devotee of India’s spiritual leader, Guru Sai Baba, he wanted to avoid surgery or any type of conventional medical treatment.
“But I was a young mother, I was afraid of losing him and I felt intense pressure from his family, so he ended up having surgery in the UK, where surgeons removed his spleen, a kidney and part of his pancreas,” Brodie said.
Chemotherapy with excruciating side effects followed, and after battling it for four years, he died at the age of 45. Her husband’s death has marked her in many ways and she lives with regret that she did not honor her wish to avoid treatment.
“He taught me that if you think something is important, do it that way and don’t waste time changing other people’s opinions,” she says.
Brodie, then a widow with five children aged four to 15, had to put aside almost everything except motherhood for years. When her youngest was 12, Brodie started following her passions again.
“I’ve always liked to dance,” she says. “The moment I was able to focus on myself again, I took up folk dancing, enrolled in Latin ballroom dancing school, and went out on Fridays to dance.”
Brodie’s newfound freedom coincided with the arrival of salsa in Malaysia and it became his new thing. In 2001, she won first place at the Ritmo Latino Kuala Lumpur Salsa School Championship.
However, despite dancing every week, Brodie found that she wasn’t as flexible as one would expect and there were some things she was unable to do.
“For example, I wasn’t able to stand up straight and lift my leg like a ballet dancer,” she says. Unconventional therapy would change that – during a visit to Los Angeles in 2000, Brodie was introduced to Rolfing, a technique developed by German physician Ida Rolf in the 1940s.
Also known as structural integration, Rolfing is based on the idea that the “energy field” of the human body benefits when aligned with the Earth’s gravitational field.
“Gravity is what keeps us on Earth and it’s what shapes our bodies,” Brodie says.
At Rolfing, practitioners stretch and manipulate the body’s connective tissue network called fascia. After her Rolfing experience, Brodie went to study structural integration in the US state of Hawaii and graduated from the Guild for Structural Integration in the state of Colorado in 2004.
She now offers Rolfing sessions in her private practice at her home in Kuala Lumpur. Her Rolfing room is down the hall from her Dharma room – the place where everything comes together.
Brodie became a Buddhist after her daughter and son-in-law invited her to a retreat in Penang, Malaysia. There they met Kyabgön Phakchok Rinpoche, a new generation Tibetan Buddhist master.
“I saw the retreat as a way to spend time in a beautiful hotel by the sea with my daughter and granddaughter – but I had no intention of going deeper into Buddhism,” says Brodie . But on the fourth day of the retreat, when asked if she would like to “take refuge” with the master – to perform a religious practice – she said yes.
She lined up with her followers, and when she reached the altar where the master was seated, he took her hand and ritually cut a lock of her hair. That’s when something happened to him.
“I realized that I was intrigued by this new world. Since I had the chance to try something new at an older age, I might as well do it right,” she says.
In many ways, Brodie’s life today revolves around his Dharma practice. She retreats to her dedicated room for about two hours a day, and it has been a regular part of her daily routine for three years.
She begins by paying homage to her teachers, then reads texts in the Tibetan language, meditates and sets her intention – whether for the day or for life.
“Dharma was the missing link in my life. The most important thing it taught me was patience and confidence that everything will happen at the right time,” she says. She remembers how, when everyone was falling apart during the pandemic, she thrived despite living on her own and not being able to see her family.
“The beauty of Dharma practice is that you don’t get distracted by things going on in the outside world — especially the negative things,” she says.
Brodie grew up in a Christian household – her mother sent her and her five siblings to Sunday school and the family always attended church services. “But I never felt religious and frankly the only thing I looked forward to at church was seeing the boys,” she jokes.
She dislikes religions that dictate how one should live one’s life and loves the freedom that Buddhism offers.
“At first I was afraid of having to compromise on the sensual pleasures of life like going out, dancing and enjoying a good glass of wine – but I learned that in Buddhism you alone are the judge of what suitable and appropriate for yourself,” she says.
With most pandemic restrictions lifted in Malaysia, Brodie is back to his weekly tennis routine on Tuesdays and Thursdays, dancing whenever possible, teaching his Rolfing clients about four times a week and practicing Dharma daily.
Brodie eats a “pretty reasonable” diet, drinks lots of water, and will continue to inspire others with his infectious zest for life and balance of physical and mental well-being.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.