Friday, June 30, 2006

Baguazhang - Wudang

"Baguazhang, originally called Turning Palm is a very tradtional Wudang style of wushu. Since the propogation of Baguazhang by Dong Hai Chuan (1813-1882) over one hundred years ago during the Qing Dynasty, there have been many inheretors of the style. Presently, there are styles which have originated from Yin Fu, Cheng Ting Hua, Liu Feng Chun, Li Chun Yi, Huang Bo Nian, and Jiang Rong Qiao.

The basics of Baguazhang is walking in a circular fashion utilizing the walking in the mud step. The stepping of Baguazhang is centered around the cyclical changes of motion. The basic stepping method includes raising, lowering, hooking, opening, advancing, closing, blocking, crossing, and turning all of which is the manifestation of change within Yin and Yang. Baguazhang is based on circular movements with hitting points. The practitioner spirals to the left and turns to the right whereupon the opponent cannot come near. The two main palms are the dragon and ox-tongue palms.

The main fighting characteristics of the style is to push, to hold, to carry, to cling, to move, to grab, to encircle, to intercept, to hook, to hit, to block, to close, to weave, and to poke. The basic palm mentods include the Eight Mother Palms, the 64 Palm style, the Eight Animals, Dragon shape Palm, Swimming Dragon Continuous Palm, Nine Palace Palm, Thirty Six Leg Methods, Seventy Two Leg Methods, etc...

Baguazhang also has an extensive array of push hand methods and weapon sets utilizing the Bagua Broadsword, Bagua Straightsword, Cresent Moon Knives, Bagua Spear, Bagua Staff, etc."

Yongian Taiji Martial Arts, Introduction to Wudang Wushu

Bagua Zhang: Bibliography, Links, Quotes, Resources, Notes

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Feedback from Readers in June 2006

"I was so happy to read your walking meditation. I wrote to my sweetie to get him to go outside and walk. That writing made me remember. My garden is awake but I have a few problematic areas from a bad wind storm. I never give up even when adversity comes. I have to place a few annuals to cover the spots until things heal. Thank you for your thought-provoking website. It inspires me to write and observe my garden more."
- Anetta Barnes, 6/1/06

"And while I'm throwing a whole lot of the world's most glorious things at you, I will tell you that one of my favorite websites to stroll through is Michael Garofalo's Spirit of Gardening, which has a lot to say about complexity and simplicity."
- Lisa Schamess, The Truth Hurts, 6/5/06

"This is the best collection of quality quotes I have ever seen! It has great related links too. I appreciate the vegetarian quotes since I have been a vegetarian since the age of 13. This is my second year as a gardener. I have an herb garden with 12 herbs that are flourishing and a vegetable garden. I'm looking forward to exploring more of your sites."
- Yvonne Bergeron, 6/4/2006

"I like your website. It is so nice that you already have the Taijiquan Camp information on it. I am going to pass that to my Qi Dragon people to read about our recent camp."
- Liping Julia Zhu, 6/20/2006

"No suggestions. Just writing to say.... Wow! What an exhaustive list you've compiled! I am studying Qigong and T'ai Chi in Portland, OR, with a deeply Taoist teacher, and it has changed my life in many ways. My teacher is leaving to go live in a monastery in China, returning actually. So, I am curious who else is out there teaching, and it's a lot! I don't think I'll easily find another teacher so steeped in the deep mysticism of taoism, so I may simply practice and practice and when the right teacher is there....I'll find them. Anyway, just want to express my gratitude to you for putting so much information in one place. You seem like a good man!"
- Benno Lyon, 6/16/06

"Hello Mike, Greetings again from Portland, OR. Just used one of your delightful quotes as a footnote for our condo community veg garden emails I just sent out. I did a search on your site and could not find one of my favourite little poems, though it may be there. So, I thought to share it. Planting One for the mouse One for crow. One to rot, One to grow."
As always, grateful thanks for the wonderful website to browse, I spend hours just reading and enjoying. Hope you had a good visit to Portland to see your children earlier this spring. My husband and I are transplants from South Africa and thoroughly enjoying our NW gardening experience. Best to you, Terese."
- Terese, 6/19/2006

"I wish you had been around back in 1972, I might have stuck with Taijiquan. Now I'm having to start all over. Very good website! Thanks."
- James Moore, 6/21/06

"Your website is excellent. It is a great feeling to find someone like yourself who values Chinese cultural practices so much."
- Master Xiansheng Bing YeYoung, Sacramento, CA, 6/27/06

The Spirit of Gardening

Cloud Hands: T'ai Chi Ch'uan and Chi Kung

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

George Xu's Tai Chi Chuan Camp 2006 Photographs

Photos of the 2006 Taijiquan and Qigong Camp in La Honda, California, June 13-18th, are now available online, thanks to Peter Hicks, at Yahoo Photos.

I reported on this camp previously in this blog.

Taijiquan Camp 2006

Master Yun Yin Sen leads our group in practicing Li He Ba Fa Taijiquan (Six Harmonies and Eight Methods).

Taijiquan Camp 2006
Master George Xu, Mike Garofalo, Master Yun Yin Sen.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Taijiquan Movement Essentials

"Gao Fu, a Chen style master, was asked this question: What makes a T'ai-Chi movement a T'ai-Chi movement? Her reply was that if the intent leads the energy and the energy leads the muscles and bones then it's a T'ai-Chi movement. If the mind goes directly to the muscles and bones, bypassing the energetic level, then it's an ordinary movement. I like this definition because it's principle-based rather than tradition or form based. It also implies that in order to feel into the inherent balance underlying the surface of anything (T'ai-Chi means essentially unforced balance) I have to surrender to that holistic body intelligence that I call "energy". I can't force it or have it on my own terms. I don't make it happen, I allow it to emerge. I don't train to increase this balance since that is impossible. I train to increase my experience of that balance and innate intelligence, to give it more avenues through which to express itself and because it's a pleasure to participate in the movement of the universe.

This is a pretty abstract definition. Practically speaking I would also add that a good T'ai-Chi movement should be rooted in the feet and powered primarily by the legs. The waist should direct that leg generated power with some degree of turning. The power should move up the spine and gather strength between the shoulder blades and finally issue out the arms to the hands. This is easily said, but in practice many T'ai-Chi practitioners end up powering their movements with their waists or arms. If the waist powers the movement, the root usually ends up being in the pelvic floor instead of the feet. This usually results in knee problems as the legs are not grounded and end up twisting. If the movements are powered by the arms one ends up with so-called "local strength". Local strength means the arms move separately from the ripple or wave of power coming up from the feet and legs. Gao-Fu's definition is profound but general. It implies that in order to improve my experience of personal and universal balance, not to mention martial ability, I need to stop forcing the muscles and bones through the use of will power. I need to relax into the "energy" level of awareness and let the muscles and bones follow."
- Gene Burnett, Questions and Answers

Monday, June 26, 2006

Tchoung Ta Tchen, 1911-2000

Taijiquan Master Tchoung Ta Tchen
August 23,1911 - February 22, 2000
Tribute and Biography

Tchoung Ta Tchen

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Wudang Qigong

"The Eight Verses of Wudang Mountain Badunjin :

1. Lift the ground and hold the sky to take care of the three internal cavities
2. Draw a bow to the left and right, just like shooting a vulture
3. Lift the hand up singly to tone and caress the spleen and the stomach
4. Look backwards to cure the five strains and seven injuries
5. Reach down the leg by both hands to strengthen the kidney and the reproductive organ
6. Swivel the head and rock the bottom to calm down
7. Rotate fists and stare to add stamina
8. Vibrate the back seven times to expel illness

The first segment takes care of the three chiaos (internal organs), the second segment strengthens the heart and the lung, the third regulates the spleen and the stomach, the fourth cures strains and injuries, the fifth toughens the kidney and reproductive organ, the sixth calms the nervous system, the seventh increases stamina, the eighth gets rid of illnesses. It has materialised the merging of the theory and movements of Badunjin with clinical sports, as well as specified the importance of life-nourishment and health-preservation. Badunjin Qigong, uplifted by the modern medical confirmation from Chinese and western professionals and scholars, continues to be revitalised and made to perfection. Thus it has been made even more suitable and practical to serve the needs of the modern era, and advances with time.

The theory and movements of Wudang Badunjin is thorough; it is safe and easy to learn, and has a wide application on medical cure. Externally, it exercises the skin, muscles, tendons and bones; internally, it strengthens the organs, improves the circulatory system, and consolidates the spirit of well being. Its movements involve breathing naturally, and are smart & light, continuous and lively, elegant and beautiful, stretchy and graceful, alternating relaxing with tightening, synchronising harmoniously, can be fast or slow but with distinct rhythm, can be complicated or simple, active or quiet, and cohere the opening with the closing. It stresses on the mutual use of toughness and gentleness, the training of the internal and external body parts, the merging of activity and quietness, the balancing of the left and the right, the top and the bottom, alternating the real and the virtual, and nourishing both the body and the spirit. The amount of exercise and the length of the practice session can be adjusted anytime, and it can be practised alongside with other exercises. Age, sex, body nature, location, equipment, time, season, etc do not restrict the practice. It can be practised individually, with the whole family, or with a group. The all-encompassing effect and value of its body-strengthening and medical aspects is evergreen."

Wudang Mountain Badunjin Qigong 20Kb. Original (in Chinese) written in Hong Kong by Woo Kwong Fat, the 28th Generation Master of Dragon Gate Branch, Wudang Mountain.

Eight Section Brocade Qigong (Baduanjin)

Wudang Qigong

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Role of Humor

"What allows the energy you work with, gather and create a life of its own is humour. Humour is a lightness that admits of other possibilities. Combine that admission with hearty connectedness and those possibilities become incorporated into a body teeming and seething with life. If humour is maintained then those incorporated possibilities – each one a thread of energy if you like – remain in some way distinct – do not agglutinate into one amorphous mass – and there quickly comes a point where the combined intensity and complexity of these interacting threads develops into what feels like awareness.

Humour is not taking things, especially the self, seriously. It confounds the logical, rational, linear mind, which always struggles to force your movements into some preconceived template, with an element of play which revels in the surprises inherent in the unfolding of creative and natural processes. In a way humour is the most valuable possession you have because it allows you to put up with anything, not with resignation but with a smile – a mood and energy that is always opening and searching not for comfort and ease but for those threads that can be brought into the whole to transform it into a vehicle capable of thrusting you to the next level; humour finds fuel everywhere. Humour also admits that sneaking feeling that you are getting it wrong – that your efforts to do and to make are coming from a part of you – your conditioning – foreign to your essential nature. Humour is a natural and gentle way of applying shocks to your conditioning – unsettling it and loosening its iron grip sufficiently for your essential nature to momentarily peek through. This essential nature, so used to being plastered over, pushed into the background and over-ridden by the bullying conditioned and conditional mind, has a completely different relationship with reality than that mind: soft, playful, interactive, ringing with laughter – imagine children at play – but it needs years of gentle coaxing and encouragement before it will venture forth and take the lead in your life. Scars don't heal overnight. Humour – the touch of lightness that refuses to linger for too long and never repeats itself (jokes are rarely funny second time round). Your conditioning needs repetition to survive and it uses up most of your vital energy in the process of constantly reviewing and recounting its domain – imagine the lonely miser pointlessly counting his money each evening before he can sleep. Your conditioning is telling you the same joke over and over and because you don't realise it's a joke you listen and approve. Humour is the only effective way to cut through this – because it is so gentle its blade is very keen."
- Steven Moore, 6/11/06, Tai Chi Heartwork

Friday, June 23, 2006

Zhang San Feng and Wudang

"Mount Wudang, also known as Can Shang Mountain or Tai He Mountain, is located in the Qin Ling Mountain Range of northwestern Hubei Province. Because the scenery around Mount Wudang is so majestic and beautiful, it has been given the name The Famous Mountain Under Heaven. Wudang is a major center for the sudy of Daoism and self-cultivation.

The legendary founder of Wudang wushu was Zhang San Feng. Zhang San Feng was a Daoist who lived in these mountains to cultivate the Dao during the Ming Dynasty. Zhang San Feng was born in 1247 A.D. in the area of what is known today as Liao Ning. Zhang San Feng is a very famous figure in the history of Chinese wushu. His martial abilities and healing techniques were superb and he was known to have cured many people of illnesses. This brought about great admiration from the common people. The emperor of the Ming Dynasty erected a monument on the mountain to commerate the contributions of Zhang San Feng. During Zhang's younger years he met Daoist Huo Lung (Fire Dragon) with whom he studied the Dao. After attaining the Dao, Zhang moved to Wudang Mountain and cultivated an additional nine years. Many historical documents suggest that Zhang San Feng was the person responsible for synthesizing the wushu of the common people with the internal methodology and philosphical principles of Daoism. Wudang wushu is primarily known for its internal styles.

Zhang San Feng created Wudang wushu by researching the basic theory of Yin and Yang, the Five Elements, and the Eight Diagrams (Ba Gua). Wudang wushu has a very close relationship with the theories of Taiji, Yin and Yang, the Five Elements, the Eight Diagrams, and the Nine Palaces. Zhang San Feng was able to incorporate the Daoist practice of changing the Essence into Internal Energy , Internal Energy into Spirit , and Spirit into Emptiness to form the theory of Wudang wushu."
- Introduction to Wudang Martial Arts

Chang San-Feng

Grandmaster Zhang San Feng: Bibliography, Resources, Links, Quotes, Notes

Wudang Qigong

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Benefits of Exercise for Seniors

The latest issue of AARP Magazine (August 2006) has an article that gives evidence from various scientific studies that support the conclusion that regular exercise helps you to:
1. Improve short term memory.
2. Increase sexual function.
3. Heal faster.
4. Reduce hot flashes.
5. Improve creativity.
6. Reduce pain.
7. Save money.
8. Increase your life span.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Invest in Losing

"Aggression is not the way of tai chi.

The Art of War is about deception. Only a fool proclaims their skill. Better to be quiet, passive, yielding. When you yield in the face of aggression, you win on two counts:

The aggressor thinks they have the advantage
You create space – for staying calm and for opportunity
Withdraw is one of the 13 postures. Tao Te Ching speaks of the importance of not presenting an aggressive front. Be receptive.

In partner work, you must be prepared to lose. If you have skill, this becomes a lure."
- Dynamic Balancing Tai Chi, 6/19/2006

I think it was Professor Cheng Man-Ching who said,
"Invest in losing."

"Getting to the top of the mountain is easy,
it's leaping off the top that's difficult."
John Kells

"This reminds me of something Garrison Keillor said on Desert Island Discs a few years ago - that the most important thing in life is to go beyond where your talent will take you. For that you need a lifetime of single-minded application, immense hard-work and above all grace."
- Tai Chi Heartwork, 6/14/06

"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me,
I know that is poetry.
If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off,
I know that is poetry. . .
Is there any other way?"
- Emily Dickinson

Daruma Dolls Information

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Tai Chi Sword Practice

"To tell the quality of a person’s tai chi forms, we need to examine the following: (1) The angles of the body when performing each posture and the transitions between each movement; (2) the pace of the movements; (3) the height of each posture.

A person is considered a good practitioner when he/she can carry out every movement gracefully, with coordination and precision. A good tai chi practitioner keeps the almost same height during the execution of the form. He/she does not bob up and down. The ending form finishes in the place the opening form began. The form is practiced in a constant and regular pace. The movements of the limbs should be coordinated with the waist.

All postures should be erect, coordinated, continuous, flowing, and balanced throughout the forms. The whole body should be relaxed. Each posture demostrated Eight Balances: 1. Top and Down balance; 2. Front and Back blance; (3) Left and Right balance; 4. Inside and Outside balance. These Eight Balances or Harmonies come from Taoism, the foundation of Tai Chi."
- Cheng Zhao, Ph.D, Terre Haute, Indiana, Tai Chi Sword

Monday, June 19, 2006

Master George Xu's Taijiquan Camp 2006

I very much enjoyed the T'ai Chi Ch'uan and Qigong Camp last week from June 13th to June 18th.

Around 35 Taijiquan, Qigong, Chinese Kung Fu and martial arts enthusiasts trained together at the San Francisco Jones Gulch YMCA Camp for 6 days. People of all ages attended - from persons in their 20's to people in their 70"s (e.g., Master Yun is 73 years old). There were many highly skilled teachers and advanced players who attended this camp. The camaraderie and enthusiasm were excellent. Women and men trained long and hard for up to 9 hours each day.

George Xu Taijiquan Camp 2006 - Group Photo

The YMCA Camp is located in the dense redwood forests between San Francisco and Santa Cruz, about 15 miles south of Half Moon Bay and 12 miles east of the Pacific Ocean. The YMCA Camp facilities were quite satisfactory and the food was ample and tasty. The environment is very beautiful in this area.

We were led by Master George Xu and visiting Master Yun Yin Sen from Shanghai, China. We did various qigong forms each day, practiced Liu He Ba Fa, the 10 Animal Xing-Yi, Chen Style Taiji, and played Push Hands.

Master Yun Yin Sen started internal arts in Yang Style Taiji. Since 1980 he studied with Zhang Chang Xin in 6 Harmony-8 Method, Liu He Pa Fa and Yi Quan Zhang Zuang (post standing). Zhang Chang Xin was one of the top students of Wu Yi Hui, founder of the form. Also since 1882 he studied with Han Qiao (Han Jiao), Lu Gui Yao, Liang Qi Zhong, all masters of 6 Harmony-8 Method (more). In 1992 he became Anhwei Province 6 Harmony-8 Method Association Secretary and is now President. In 1997 he received the government sports association second degree master's certificate. From 1979-2005 he has been been invited to performances and lectures internationally, very active in the world: 1999 to Russia, 2002 to London and 2003 to England.

Many students have studied with Master Xu for over a decade. He showed why their deep respect is well founded. Master Xu provided many valuable insights into the internal energy aspects of the Taijiquan and Kung Fu arts.

I was a bit sore and tired at times, but felt I was well conditioned for the camp. I have lots more to learn as a tai chi and qigong practitioner.

Websites of people who attended workshop:

Master George Xu. Master of Taijiquan: Chen Style, Wu style, qigong, XingYi, and weapons forms. San Francisco, CA. He leads workshops, retreats, and is featured in many instructional videotapes.

Shanti School of Taijiquan. Susan A. Matthews. M.S. She gives seminars and private instruction, produces videotapes, and provides information on taijiquan, qigong, and a variety of health topics.

Liping Julia Zhu. She was our translator, along with Master Xu, for this event. She is an accomplished qigong teacher and award winning taijiquan performer.

Peter Hicks was kind enough to provide us with photos from the camp. These are now available online at Yahoo Photos.

Working Your Way Through the Mysterious Labyrinth of Tai Chi. By Walter Capps. © 1995. PDF Format, 707Kb. 75 pages. Studies in Chen Taijiquan based upon the teaching of Master George Xu. Appendix, glossary, index. For more information, email the author.

Cloud Hands: Taijiquan and Qigong. By Michael P. Garofalo, M.S.

More photos of the Camp.

2006 Camp Information Post

Chen Style Taijiquan

Silk Reeling Exercises

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Entrance to the Liminal

"I suppose the simple truth of the matter is that I have always been enthralled by doorways, windows, gates, thresholds, hearths, chimneys, hidden forest trails, gaps in the hedgerow, garden hollows and portals of any kind. It isn't unusual to find me standing lost in thought in front of a newly discovered gateway or curled up in my Morris chair at home with a mug of tea and a faraway look in my eye, thinking about such places and where they go. I'm entranced by their situation, their architecture, the materials of which they are formed, and even their color, as much as I am by what lies beyond them.

Liminal spaces can be compelling, and they can exert a powerful tug on the sensibilities. Every hero's journey or heroine's journey begins with a call to adventure, with one breathtaking, serendipitous, watershed moment in which she or he recognizes a liminal space, responds to its eldritch music and steps across the threshold into another realm. No hero or a heroine here (at least in this lifetime), but the presence of a gateway, any old gateway, calls to me in a voice as lyrical and compelling as that of the mythic sirens, a mere glimpse or a casual mention of one, and off I go.

Mircea Eliade once wrote of doors and thresholds as being both symbols and passages, as places where the passage from the profane to the sacred world becomes possible. The philosopher Martin Heidegger described thresholds as joinings or spaces between two worlds, potent common or middle grounds which hold, join and separate two worlds, all at the same time. In other words, thresholds are sacred places which form a boundary between what is "here" and what is "there", but they are in themselves neither here or there.

Within the seemingly empty space of a doorway or a threshold, one sometimes senses ancient, wild and chaotic forces in motion, and thresholds have the power to open a cranny or passage between this world and the other side, allowing those tumultuous forces to blow through. Cultures from ancient times to our own knew it, and they took special measures to secure such places, carving arcane protective sigils on their door lintels, inserting sprigs of rowan and Brigid's crosses into the doors themselves, burying pins and needles beneath their hearth stones, sweeping and blessing their thresholds, and nailing horseshoes above their doorways."

- Kerrdelune, Beyond the Fields We Know III

When I begin a Taijiquan form, moving from standing still (Wuji) to raise hands and then lower hands (Yang and Yin), this is a threshold or doorway for me. Through this beginning movement I enter into a new level of being and open myself up to new experiences. I leave the realm of the ordinary and step into the realm of the spirit.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Walking with the Breath

"Begin by walking your normal walk a little more slowly. Become aware of your breath, breathing through you nose, and count the number of steps that you go with your inhale. Count the number of steps that you go with your exhale. Continue for several minutes in this way, blending your breathing with your walking, and your walking with your breathing.

Drop your shoulders and keep your back straight. Let the tension in your body fall to your center, where it blends with your breathing. Let your breathing sink to your center as your muscles relax. Use the same kind of breathing pattern as you practiced in lying-down meditation: relax on the inhale, set the hara as the start of the exhale. Practice bringing this rhythm into your walking. To set the hara for walking, place your hand on your lower abdomen (below your navel). Keeping your knees slightly flexed, tuck your tailbone ever so slightly forward. This should have the effect of rocking your hand slightly inward, creating a sense of roundness in your lower abdomen. Don't tuck too much, otherwise walking will be uncomfortable. With the slightest tuck, imagine your center becoming a perfectly round globe, which then becomes the center of your walking motion.

Allow the number of steps that go with each breath to increase as feels natural; as your body relaxes, your breathing will tend to slow down. In particular, let your exhale lengthen, growing two or three times as long as your inhale. Don't force your breath to lengthen; simply invite it to stretch out. Continue to breathe with your walk, allowing your body to move evenly from your center.

Feel your feet touch the earth. Feel the stability of each step as your weight rolls from heel to toe, from heel to toe.

Keep your head erect. Don't watch your feet or the ground as you walk. Let you eyes take in all that is around you, keeping your vision as broad as possible. Rather than focusing narrowly on each object with the center of your eye, see everything all at once by using peripheral vision. Take in the sounds, the smells, the beautiful, the not-so-beautiful; take in everything evenly - and be caught in none of it. If you find your attention wandering off, come back to your breath and blend it back with your step. Come back to your center. Come back to your feet feeling the earth. Come back to your senses.

Continue to walk. Enjoy your breath, body and mind - moving in this simple harmony, alive in this moment, and awake to what this moment offers."
- Ginny Whitelaw, Body Learning, (Berkeley Pub. Co., 1998), p. 56.

Walking Meditation

Walking Quotations

Walking in the Garden

General Index to the Cloud Hands Website

Standing Meditation, Zhan Zhuang, Standing Like a Post

Standing Meditation - General

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Raise Your Head High

"To prop up the head is to raise the crown of the head properly. In Taiji Quan, make sure that the head is upright, the crown flat, the neck straight and the chin drawn in. It is required that the baihui acupuncture point at the crown of the head is propped up gently as if lifted up by a robe. At the same time, the crown of the head must be kept so flat that a bowl of water placed on it would not spill. To keep the head upright and the crown flat, the neck most be straight and the chin drawn in. But if overdone, this position will make the neck stiff and the movements unnatural. Therefore, in propping up the head, excess effort should be avoided. It must be natural. Once the crown of the head is raised properly, the energy will be summoned and the movements will become steady and sturdy."

- Li Xingdong, Basics of Taiji Quan (Beijing, Foreign Language Press, 2000)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Ten Steps to Failure

Ten Steps You Can Take to Guarantee Failure

"1. Make your goals vague.
2. Make your goals difficult to visualize.
3. Think and speak negatively about your goals.
4. Avoid planning incremental steps.
5. Don't Do - Talk.
6. Wait until you are motivated.
7. Don't set a date.
8. List why it's impossible.
9. Don't research your goal.
10. Think of anything except your goal."

Achieve It: Ten Steps You Can Take to Guarantee Failure

Friday, June 09, 2006


"Dear Mike, I would like to invite you to participate in the growing Neigong.Net project. I look forward to hear from you. With peace, Thomas Dyhr Thomas."

"’s vision is to engage people around the world in the internal exercises of neigong to find peace and happiness. is devoted to the conversation about internal exercises associated with the the chinese term neigong in a vast sense including connected areas. Neigong (neikung, neigung): internal exercise or skill. Neigong includes qigong breathing exercises, loosening exercises and different forms of energy (jing) exercises. You find neigong in the internal martial arts of the orient (neijia) as Tai Chi (taiji) Baqua, Hsing Yi, Ichuan (Yiquan, Dachengquan, Zhan Zhuang). And you find neigong in meditation, qigong (chi kung) and yoga. The project beginning intention is to create a serious living neigong source of original texts, exercises, references, comments, books, neikung masters, events etc.’s long term goal is to create and maintain the worlds largest information database on the subject. All created, constantly developed and maintained by the users of the site in the spirit of open source projects and projects like

Everybody is invited to participate in the development of the site to the benefit of the growing neikung community through out the world. Its my hope that can help facilitate an open and truthful conversation about the arts in spirit of the renowned Taiji Master Cheng Man Ching: “To share good things with others is my true heart’s desire.” My warmest welcome to you all."

Here is an example of a recent post
about Standing Meditation:

"Stand with feet apart at shoulder width, toes point forward or slightly outward. Bend the knees and sit down slightly, weight centered firmly on the soles of the feet. Keep the head and spine erect from tip to tail, chest empty (i.e. relaxed and slightly concave, never stuck out) and stomach full and relaxed, not pulled in. Gaze straight ahead, eyelids hanging relaxed over the eyes. Rest the tip of the tongue on the upper palate behind the front teeth, let the lips and the teeth hang slightly open. Arms hang by the sides. The body should feel perfectly poised, relaxed but not slack, breathing completely natural and no joint locked, as if the body is suspended in air, hanging from the top of the head by a string.

This is the basic standing posture. Stand like this for a few moments relaxing the whole body and collecting one’s thoughts before assuming the following posture.

Raise the arms to shoulder level, keeping them curved as if holding a ball in each arm. Keep the fingers apart slightly curved, palms pointing in and slightly down. Hands are at shoulder distance apart, and about three fists distance from the chest. Elbows should be slightly below the level of the wrists. Shoulders must be relaxed, not hunched, with a slight sense of outward stretching, so the chest feels open, neither sticking out nor constricted. Curved arms should also have a slight sense of inward force, as if not letting a ball drop, though no physically in tension.

The posture is most suitable for those without any particular illness to strengthen the constitution, prevent illness and promote health into old age."

Traditional Chinese Therapeutic Exercises: Standing Pole
J.P.C. Moffett, Wang Xuanjie
Foreign Languages Press May 1994
ISBN: 7119006967
Pages: 49-52

Also, take a look a my Standing Meditation webpage.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Qigong - Eight Section Brocade

"Other theories suggest that the Eight Brocades are a collection of various Taoist breath exercises with influences coming from the Buddhist patriarch Bodhidharma's works, the I chin ching and Hsi sui ching (Muscles Changing Classic and Marrow Cleansing Classic); or, that the Sung dynasty military leader General Yueh Fei invented the exercises. These two highly improbably founders serve more to validate the practice of the Eight Brocades within the Buddhist and martial arts schools.

The development of the Eight Brocades is rather clouded. All the various schools have claimed it as their own invention, and have inserted their own ideas. It has even been presented as twelve exercises, or the Twelve Brocades (shih erh tuan chin). The exercises also appear in a more dissected manner with many additions, under the heading Internal Kung for the Four Seasons (nei kung szu ling), as twenty four exercises for specific periods of the year. In martial arts, the Eight Brocades have become a system of not only standing postures but also sword and staff forms. They are now being presented as a form of qigong, a term that did not appear until 1910 in a book entitled Shaolin Tsung fa (Shaolin Orthodox Methods). The author used the term generically to cover a wide range of ideas, including respiratory and meditative exercises directed at mobilizing the breath. Qigong is not in any sense a traditional Taoist term, but has since been adapted to many Taoist works.

Since no clear evidence exists as to when the Eight Brocades were first developed, the answer as to their origin really depends on which school or thought of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, medicine, or martial art you wish to believe. Each school seems to have its own unique evidence and prejudice."
- Stuart Alve Olson, Qigong Teachings of a Taoist Immortal, p. 26

My detailed webpage on the Eight Section Brocade Qigong will give you many additional leads to the history and practice of this popular qigong form.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Tai Chi Chuan

Lately, I've been adding a number of new references to books, magazine articles, and Internet resources to my webpages on Taijiquan and Qigong at the Cloud Hands website:


Qigong Resources

Walking Meditation

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Tree of Contemplative Practices

Tree of Contemplative Practices

This is an excellent chart provided by the
Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.
They offer a variety of electronic versions of this
"Tree of Contemplative Practices."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Pulling Onions Again

"Some failures increase our energy and resourcefulness.

"Seeing" is not "believing."

We often overestimate what we can accomplish in a day,
and underestimate what we can accomplish in a week.

The real "miracle" is cause and effect.

Gardens are demanding pets.

Time is something everyone runs short on and finally runs out of.

Be careful not to stand up for that which will cause your downfall.

An important gardening judgment - When to Do Nothing!

Moving the mind from the head to the heart gives birth to the spirit.

Remember that moles and voles also need to make a living; preferably in somebody else's garden.

If you want to know who I am, eat my food with me.

A garden is made up of stories, not things.

The little choices, day after day, are the biggest issue."

- Mike Garofalo, Pulling Onions
Over 600 aphorisms about gardening, living, and the Green Way.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Reading Recommendations

Books that I am currently reading:

365 Days of Walking the Red Road: The Native American Path to Leading a Spiritual Life Every Day. By Terri Jean. Avon, Massachusetts, Adams Media Corp., 2003. 360 pages. ISBN: 1580628494. A collection of quotations arranged by the days of the year. Includes facts and biographies pertinent to Native American culture.

The Long Road Turns to Joy: A Guide to Walking Meditation. By Thich Nhat Hanh. Berkeley, California, Parallax Press, 1996. Revised edition. 74 pages. ISBN: 093807783X.

Chi Walking: The Five Mindful Steps for Lifelong Health and Energy. By Danny Dreyer and Katherine Dreyer. New York, Simon and Schuster, A Fireside Book, 2006. Index, 258 pages. ISBN: 0743267206.

Mount Analogue. A Tale of Non-Euclidian and Symbolically Authentic Mountaineering Adventures. By René Daumal. Translated from the French by Carol Cosman. Woodstock, New York, Overlook Press, Tusk Ivories, 2004. 120 pages. ISBN: 1585673420.

Food for Solitude: Menus, Meditations to Heal Body, Mind and Soul. By Francine Schiff. Rockport, Massachusetts, Element Press, 1992. 271 pages. ISBN: 1852301813.

Websites that I enjoyed visiting:

Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

Tai Chi Heartworks

Dynamic Balancing Tai Chi

A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings Notes on the Way

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Internal and/or External

"The most basic and important difference between internal and external martial arts is the method of generating power or "jing" (manifest energy). At the root fundamental level, the most important factor which qualifies an art as internal is the use of what the Chinese call "complete," "unified" or "whole body" power (jengjing). This means the entire body is used as a singular unit with the muscles of the body in proper tone according to their function (relaxed, meaning neither too tense nor too slack). Power is generated with the body as a singular unit, and the various types of energies (jing) used are all generated from this unified power source.

The external martial arts, although engaging the body as a whole in generating power sequentially, do not use the body in a complete unit as do the internal martial arts. The external styles primarily use "sectional power" (ju bu li), which is a primary reason they are classified apart from the internal arts. A variation of this sectional power in the external arts is the special development of one part of the body as a weapon (iron palm, iron broom, etc.). The internal tends to forego these methods in favor of even development of the whole body, which m turn is used as a coherent unit.

Xing Yi Quan, Tai Ji Quan and Ba Gua Zhang all have unified body motion as their root; hence, they are internal styles. However, since each of these styles emphasizes different expressions of this unified power, they are not the same style.

- Tim Cartmell, Internal vs. External Martial Arts

Friday, June 02, 2006

Working in the Garden

"Man was not made to rust out in idleness. A degree of
exercise is as necessary for the preservation of health,
both of body and mind, as his daily food. And what
exercise is more fitting, or more appropriate of one who
is in the decline of life, than that of superintending a
well-ordered garden? What more enlivens the sinking
mind? What is more conducive to a long life?"
- Joseph Breck

Green Way Wisdom - Work

Mike Garofalo, Gardener
Woking on a new fence to increase the
size of the kitchen garden by 33%.

This is Gardening Kung Fu - skills acquired by long hours of hard work.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Unhurried When Hurried

"To be able to be unhurried when hurried;
To be able not to slack off when relaxed;
To be able not to be frightened
And at a loss loss for what to do,
When frightened at at a loss;
This is the learning that returns us
To our natural state and transforms our lives."
- Liu Wenmin

"I you want to follow the doctrine of the One,
Do not rage against the World of the Senses.
Only by accepting the World of the Senses
Can you share in the True Perception."
- Seng-ts'an

Zen Poetry An extensive collection of quotations and sayings, guides, bibliographies, links and resources. Compiled and indexed by Michael P. Garofalo.