Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Greetings

Best wishes for a wonderful winter season in 2009-2010.

Happy New Year!!!

May we all enjoy peace, prosperity, good health, and happiness!

Take a peek at my webpages on December, January, and the Winter Season.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bear Frolic Qigong

I've been busy updating and expanding my webpages on the Bear Frolic Qigong, and the Five Animal Frolics Qigong.

I should have the Bear Frolic Qigong webpage completed by the end of January, 2010. Take a peek and enjoy practicing the Animal Frolics as I have.

I plan to start adding video clips of me performing the Frolic Qigong exercises.

In 2010, I plan to work on various webpages at the Valley Spirit Qigong Website.

Lately, I've been practicing the Chen Broadsword 23 Form developed by Chen Zhaopei in the early 1930's and as taught by Chen Zhenglei in his book and DVD. I practice this form using my cherry wood cane.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Yi Jin Jing Qigong

Dear Mr. Garofalo:

I am in awe of your dedication to research anything and everything that is related to Taijiquan (and other topics). On a weekly and/or monthly basis I return to your website. Your work is really helping to deepen my understanding of martial arts. You write in amazingly clear and concise terms. Thank you so much. I believe that your work, presented so freely on the Internet, is really invaluable. It is a huge gift.

I do have a question for you. If you don't mind. I have been practicing Yi Jin Jing for a number of years, as taught by the Chinese Contingent on their first trip to North America (and Vancouver) many years ago. I enjoy doing the form with more vigor and muscular tension, like you describe. It would be fun and very interesting to try your version. I would like to know if you have an idea as to when you might be completing your descriptions? Will you be providing pictures (or video) of your version of Yi Jin Jing soon? I look forward to learning your walking version.

I currently practice with Grand Master Shou-yu Liang and Master Helen Liang in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. I train and practice, on a regular basis, 5 section, 24 form, 48 form, 32 sword, Sun, Fan, Chen, Xiao Yao, and various qigong exercises. So when I discovered your website online some time ago it was like finding buried treasure!

Last year, my Sifu gave me permission to teach and so now I have a small number of students that I instruct on the North Shore along with another Instructor who has been teaching tai chi for over 25 years. I teach only the basic forms, but in sharing what little I have learned about taijiquan I am learning so much more than I ever imagined. It is an incredible journey.

I look forward to your updates online.


Josie L., North Vancouver, BC

Dear Josie,

Congratulations on completing the first phase of your studies and becoming an Assistant Instructor. Your dedication to practice and learning is praiseworthy. Grand Master Shou-yu Liang is a highly respected master of various martial arts and qigong styles.

I'm pleased you found something useful on my webpages.

I do intend to complete my research and provide a description of the Yi Jin Jing Qigong (Muscle Tendon Changing Classic Qigong). I hope to complete this project in the late Spring of 2010.

Best wishes for good health and much happiness,


Monday, November 23, 2009

Eight Section Brocade Qigong

Hi Michael;
Thank you for putting the information regarding the eight section brocade on your website. I have been practising the Ba Duan Jin excercises as related on this website; but feel this may have overdeveloped my biceps without developing my triceps, leading to some problems in the arms. (I'm seeing a massage therapist to check out what's happening and get some stretches to help).

So I decided to try out the eight section brocade version instead. However, a question, if it's not imposing. As regards the 'separating heaven and earth' movement, when the arms are up and down, with the palms facing up and down, do the fingers point inwards, (ie; towards the body) or forward and backward? I feel I may have got this wrong when practising Ba Duan Jin and wish to be able to do this properly.

Thanks and best wishes,
Symon from England


There are numerous dumbbell exercises used to strengthen the triceps. Also, in the gym there are numerous tricep exercises using the pulley weights. You need to work the triceps from different angles to develop all three (tri) muscles in the back of the arm. Any decent bodybuilding or strength training book will show you what to do.

When I "separate heaven and earth" I flex both the wrist and hand. The upper palm is parallel with the ceiling and the fingers point towards inwards (towards the head). The lower palm is parallel with the floor and the fingers point inward towards the hips/thighs. Remember, you will see many variations in how the Ba Duan Jin is done. I use this exercise in my yoga classes.

Best wishes,


Eight Section Brocade, Ba Duan Gin Qigong

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Returning to Blogging

Greetings to everyone,

We have been busy on home improvement and gardening projects for the last 50 days.

Our children and their families are visiting, starting today. Everyone is coming to our home for the Thanksgiving week festivities. We all have much to be thankful for.

Over the last month we have had a good deal of rain in the North Sacramento Valley. Over 6 inches have fallen in the Valley, and the mountains have a good snowfall. An excellent start to the rainy season (October-April) in the Great Valley of California.

Check out my Qigong or Taijiquan webpages!

I've been feeling quite chipper and energetic lately.

Check out this UTube video of a 90 year old Qigong Master, Master Duan, from Beijing. He is the kind of gentleman who lives a lifestyle that inspires us all.

Best wishes for a happy holiday season,


Monday, October 26, 2009

Heavenly Essence Qigong

Yesterday, I attended the one day workshop led by Liping Julia Zhu titled "Qigong for Health, Part I." The worshop was held at the Green Gulch Zen Farm near Stinson Beach, north of San Francisco.

Liping Julia Zhu is a licensced acupunturist and Taiji/Qigong teacher in San Francisco.

She taught is Part I of the Heavenly Essence Qigong. Emphasis was placed on theory and an introduction to practices: seated meditation, standing sword fingers posture, massage, tapping and patting, shaking, standing gathering, and walking.

"In this series we will study fundamental theories on 6 Golden Keys in Qigong practice, useful techniques of collecting True Qi, expelling Sick Qi and nourishing Good Qi as well as the 8 dynamic Qigong exercises of Life Preserving π, Moving like a Pupa and Filling Qi into Body, Shaking Qigong, Walking, Running, and Sleeping Qigong, Kidney-Lifting Qigong, Sound Opening the Arm Meridians Method. The emphasis of this series is to equip you with efficient tools in building up health and facilitating healing with ancient Chinese Qigong methods."

Qi Dragon Healing Center

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Autumn Retreat from Blogging

This is a busy time of the year for us in the garden. Karen and I remove all the dying summer vegetables, weed, dig the soil, add manure, and let the soil rest. We start digging holes for planting shrubs and trees in November. We remove dead limbs and trees.

Karen and I have a number of home improvement and home repair projects scheduled for the next couple of months.

I have a number of major writing projects (e.g., the CUESD Technology Plan for 2010-2015, and the EETT ARRA grant, etc.) at work, with some tight timelines. Consequently, I will be working some overtime until the end of October.

My home office computer has been giving me many problems.

Consequently ... I will be taking a break from posting to my Green Paths and Cloud Hands blogs.

What little free time will be used on the Five Animal Frolics Qigong webpages.

Best wishes to all for a great autumn season,


Friday, September 11, 2009

Five Animal Frolics

This week, I will begin again to working on reorganizing, updating, and expanding my webpages on the Five Animal Frolics Qigong (Wu Qin Xi). I moved all the Wu Qin Xi webpages from the Cloud Hands website over to the Valley Spirit Qigong website.

This month, I will be working on developing and improving the Monkey Frolic webpage.

The exercise set is considered to be Daoyin, or what is now called Qigong (Chi Kung). In this context, the word "Dao" means to guide, lead, show the way, slowly, inch by inch. The word "Yin" means to pull out, draw out, or stretch. So Daoyin are mind-body exercises that show us how to draw out the potential for diseases and restore an integrated or balanced state of well-being in body and mind.

Many people credit the famous Chinese physician, Hua Tuo (110-207 CE), with developing a popular Daoyin animal frolics set which consists of exercises based on the deer, crane, monkey, tiger, and bear. Hua Tuo's best student, Wu Pu, lived to be over 100, and wrote that Hua Tuo told him:

"Man's body must have exercise, but it should never be done to the point of exhaustion. By moving about briskly, digestion is improved, the blood vessels are opened, and illnesses are prevented. It is like a used doorstep which never rots. As far as Tao Yin (bending and stretching exercises) is concerned, we have the bear's neck, the crane's twist, and swaying the waist and moving the joints to promote long life. Now I have created the art called the Frolics of the Five Animals: the Tiger, the Deer, the Bear, the Monkey, and the Crane. It eliminates sickness, benefits the legs, and is also a form of Tao Yin. If you feel out of sorts, just practice one of my Frolics. A gentle sweat will exude, the complexion will become rosy; the body will feel light and you will want to eat."

The Animal Frolics Qigong (Daoyin, Chi Kung, Yangsheng) webpage development plan in 2009-2010 at the Cloud Hands website is: I intend to develop the webpages on the Animal Frolics Qigong in 2009-2010 in the following order: 1) June - August 2009: Animal Frolics Qigong and the Crane Frolic; 2) September - October: the Monkey Frolic; 3) November - December: the Tiger Frolic; 4) January - February 2010: the Bear Frolic; 5) March - April: the Deer Frolic; and 6) May - June: Dragon Qigong.

How the Five Animals are assigned to the Five Elements varies according to the "authority" consulted. I have used the following table of correspondences:

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Adjusting Activities Because of Disease

Last July 14th, around noon, I became very lightheaded. I lost my strength, swooned a bit, and fainted for a few seconds. When I regained consciousness, I was very weak for two hours. I experienced some blurred vision for up to 20 minutes. I was very lightheaded for a half hour. I thought that my life as I had known it for 64 years was ending.

Paramedics gave me fluids, and transported me to the Shasta Regional Medical Center. I had a CT scan of my brain, an electro-cardiogram, and an examination by staff and a doctor. I seemed to recover, felt strong, and was sent home around 6 pm.

I rested for a week at home and followed up with visits to my primary care physician, and to my cardiologist. I did not have any of the lingering symptoms of a stroke or TIA.

I have felt some uncomfortable lightheadedness about five times since July. Periodically, I have some disequilibrium and balance issues.

I've have never before in my life felt profoundly lightheaded, suddenly very weak, or swooned and fainted.

These unpleasant experiences are new to me, and, of course, quite disturbing. I have had some disequilibrium and balancing problems for over a year.

Therefore, to deal with these health problems, my coping procedures will include:

1. Properly hydrate with water many times during each day. Dehydration can cause lightheadedness and weakness.

2. Stand up slowly and carefully: breathe deeply a few times, sit up straight, stretch out my legs, and prepare myself to stand up slowly. Orthostatic hypotension can cause lightheadedness.

3. Walk 3.5 miles at daybreak four days every week. Gently strengthen my heart.

4. Take all of my medications correctly and on time. I need to be especially careful when taking my diabetes medicine. Low blood sugar can cause lightheadedness.

5. Loose 20 pounds of my body weight before January, 2010.

6. Long term problems with diabetes include a deterioration of the peripheral nerves. I already have diabetic neuropathy problems in my feet and ankles. Autonomic neuropathy in diabetics is frequently connected with lightheadedness and fainting when standing up.

7. I do have "mild heart disease" and have tried to manage my Type II diabetes for 15 years. As a 64 year old man, I must be realistic about my health situation. Things are likely to go bad. Don't be a wimp! Steer clear of depression about these realities.

8. Update my will, and related details, and prepare for the inevitable visit from the Grim Reaper.

9. Don't take on too many new projects, activities, and tasks. Reduce work related stress. Stay calm and steady.

10. Have good and regular nighttime sleep habits.

11. Continue with my practice of Taijiquan, Qigong and Yoga. Explore how these mind-body arts might help with diabetes and heart disease.

12. Listen to and follow the advice of my physicians. Research my medical situation by reading what experts have to say.

13. Do not work outdoors in temperatures over 90 degrees F.

14. I don't smoke, drink very little alcohol, and don't use recreational drugs. I can't see how these indulgences would help with lightheadedness and imbalance issues.

15. Smile, laugh, enjoy each day, be productive, be helpful to others, and hope for the best.

So, my focus, for a few months, in this blog, may be on topics related to the above health and fitness concerns. My posts may also decrease.

Readers with some good suggestions about methods or practices for improving my health are welcome to share their ideas on the blog or write to me.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Family Visit Time

My daughter, Alicia Flinn, drove from Portland to Red Bluff last Thursday, and arrived in the afternoon. She brought her two daughters, Katelyn Alice (3) and Makenna Erin (1). So, we have been busy with grand-parenting activities with a 3 year old and a 1 year old child, and visiting with our daughter. They will all return home to Portland on Tuesday morning.

Photos and highlights of our family visit are on my Green Paths in the Valley Blog.


Alicia and Mike, daughter and father.


The blue hot rod was fun for Makenna and Grandma GG (Karen) in the front seat, and Katelyn and Grandpa Pacos (Mike) in the back of this speedster at Jackson Heights Elementary School playground in Red Bluff, California.

Everyone enjoyed themselves during our Labor Day weekend family visit.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Qigong Classes in Northern California

Qigong, Chi Kung, Dao-yin, Yangsheng Gong, Chinese Yoga
Current Qigong Class and Practice Schedule

Instructor: Michael P. Garofalo

Outdoors, Monday, 7:00 - 8:30 am, Valley Spirit Taijiquan Center (Red Bluff, CA)

Indoors, Monday, 5:30 - 7:00 pm, Tehama Family Fitness Center (Red Bluff, CA)

Outdoors, Friday, 7:00 - 8:30 am, Valley Spirit Taijiquan Center

Indoors, Saturday, 9:30 - 11 am, Tehama Family Fitness Center

Sunday, 7:00 - 8:30 am, Valley Spirit Taijiquan Center

We practice the Eight Section Brocade Qigong, Five Animal Frolics Qigong, Muscle-Tendon Transformation Qigong, Dragon Qigong, Post Standing, and some Hatha Yoga.

Valley Spirit Qigong Website

Blog Posting Schedule:

Green Paths in the Valley Blog: Posting on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday

Cloud Hands Blog: Posting on Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Cloud Hands: Taijiquan Website

Yoga Classes

Nearby cities: Chico, Orland, Corning, Los Molinos, Red Bluff, Cottonwood, Anderson, Redding

Tehama Family Fitness Center in Red Bluff, California

Contact Mike by Email

Monday, August 31, 2009

Dhammapada Sutta: Buddhist Proverbs

Dharmapada Sutra
Buddhist Proverbs from 100 BCE

Chapters 1-4, Verses 1-59

I. Twin Verses, Mind, Anger and Hatred, Discernment, Practice, Contrary Ways, Contrasting Pairs, Yamakavagga Verses 1-20

II. Vigilance, Watchfulness, Earnestness, Diligence, Zeal, Self-Control, Joy, Nirvana, Appamadavagga Verses 21-32

III. The Mind, Thoughts, Cittavagga Verses 33-43

IV. Flowers, Blossoms, Things of the World, The Flowers of Life, The Fragrance of Good Deeds, Pupphavagga Verses 44-59

Chapters 5-8, Verses 60-115

V. Fools, Evil Fruit, Ambition, The Childish Person, Balavagga Verses 60-75

VI. The Wise Man (Pandita), The Skilled Person, The Wise, Panditavagga Verses 76-89

VII. Infinite Freedom, The Venerable (Arhat), The Accomplished Person, The Arahant, Arahantavagga Verses 90-99

VIII. Better Than a Thousand, Thousands, Sahassavagga Verses 100-115

Chapters 9-12, Verses 116-166

IX. Good and Evil, Avoid Evil Deeds and Do Good, Consequences of Evil, Detriment, Papavagga Verses 116-128

X. Don't Punish or Kill, Don't Inflict Pain on Others, Overcome Desires, Train Yourself,
Avoid Violence, Evil Returns Evil, Dandavagga Verses 129-145

XI. Beyond Life, Old Age, Broken Down House, Illness, Death, Jaravagga Verses 146-156

XII. Self-Possession, Self Control, Propriety, Duty, Oneself, The Self, Attavagga Verses 157-166

Chapters 13-16, Verses 167-220

XIII. The World, Illusions, Neglect, Practice, Lokavagga Verses 167-178

XIV. The Buddha, The Awakened, Restrained, Unbound, Refuge, Buddhavagga Verses 179-196

XV. Happiness, Being at Ease, Bliss, Follow the Wise, Sukhavagga Verses 197-208

XVI. Affection, Pleasing, Sorrow, Attachments, Piyavagga Verses 209-220

Chapters 17-20, Verses 221-289

XVII Guarding One's Character , Daily Efforts, Controlling Emotions, Anger, Kodhavagga Verses 221-234

XVIII Impurities, Faults, Ignorance, Envy, Malavagga Verses 235-255

XIX The Righteous , True Sages, Wise Elders, Monks, The Just, Dhammatthavagga Verses 256-272

XX The Eightfold Path, Impermanence, Meditation, Death, The Path, Maggavagga Verses 273-289

Chapters 21-24, Verses 290-359

XXI Disciples of the Buddha, Contemplations, Forest Solitude, Miscellaneous, Pakinnakavagga Verses 290-305

XXII Woeful State , Sinfulness, The Results of Evil, Hell, Nirayavagga Verses 306-319

XXIII Elephant, Self-Training, Fellowship, Nagavagga Verses 320-333

XXIV Cravings , Bondage, Uprooting Evil, Weeds, Tanhavagga Verses 334-359

Chapters 25-26, Verses 360-423

XXV Refine Conduct, Bhiksu, Calm the Mind, The Five, The Monk, Bhikkhuvagga Verses 360-382

XVI A Brahmin, A Buddha, An Enlightened Person, The Holy Man, Brahmanavagga Verses 383-423





Chapter Topics (1-26)


General Subject Index

Friday, August 28, 2009

Whirling like a Dragon

"It is easier to leave a circle than to enter it.
The emphasis is on the hip movement whether front or back.
The difficulty is to maintain the position without shifting the centre.
To analyse and understand the above situation is to do with
movement and not with a stationary posture.
Advancing and retreating by turning sideways in line with the
shoulders, one is capable of turning like a millstone, fast or slow,
as if whirling like a dragon in the clouds or sensing the approach
of a fierce tiger.
From this, one can learn the usage of the movement of
the upper torso.
Through long practice, such movement will become natural."
- Yang Family Old Manual, The Coil Incense Kung

"Silk reeling (pinyin chánsīgōng, Wade-Giles ch'an2 ssu1 kung1 ), also called "Winding Silk Power" (chansijing) (纏絲), as well as "Foundational Training"(jibengong), refers to a set of neigong exercises frequently used by the Chen style, Wu style and some other styles of T'ai Chi Ch'uan. The name derives from the metaphorical principle of "reeling the silk from a silk worm's cocoon". In order to draw out the silk successfully the action must be smooth and consistent without jerking or changing direction sharply. Too fast, the silk breaks, too slow, it sticks to itself and becomes tangled. Hence, the silk reeling movements are continuous, cyclic patterns performed at constant speed with the "light touch" of drawing silk.

In common with all Qigong exercises, the patterns are performed in a concentrated, meditative state with an emphasis on relaxation. However, rather than being isolated exercises purely for health benefits, the focus is on strengthening and training the whole body coordination (nei jin) and grounded body alignment that is used in the Tai Chi form and pushing hands. Silk reeling is commonly used in Chen style as a warmup before commencing Tai Chi form practice, but its body mechanics are also a requirement of Chen Style Tai Chi throughout the forms. In other styles, silk reeling is only introduced to advanced levels. Many schools, especially those not associated with the orthodox Tai Chi families, don't train it at all."
- Silk Reeling - Wikipedia

Silk Reeling

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Staff - Martial Arts

Way of the Short Staff.
By Michael P. Garofalo, M.S.

A comprehensive guide to the practice of the short staff, cane, jo, walking stick, gun, zhang, whip staff, 13 Hands Staff, and related wood short staff weapons. A detailed and annotated guide, bibliographies, lists of links, resources, instructional media, online videos, and lessons. Includes use of the short staff and cane in martial arts, self-defense, walking and hiking. Separate sections on Aikido Jo, Cane, Taijiquan cane and staff, Jodo, exercises with a short staff, selected quotations, techniques, selecting and purchasing a short staff, tips and suggestions, and a long section on the lore, legends, and magick of the short staff. Includes "Shifu Miao Zhang Points the Way." Published by Green Way Research, Valley Spirit Taijiquan, Red Bluff, California. Updated on a regular basis since October, 2008. Filesize: 300Kb+. Related to Mike's popular webpage on the Staff.

Monday, August 24, 2009


October 25, 2009 Liping Julia Zhu, "Qigong for Health," Green Gulch Farm near San Francisco. Information. I'm going to this workshop, Liping is a a talented Qigong teacher and a lovely person. Also, I've always wanted to go to Green Gulch Farm - maybe Wendy Palmer will be working in the gardens.

October 14-18, 2009 Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang, at Grand San Carlos de Bariloch, in Argentina. Information

Friday, August 21, 2009

Right Leg Then Left Leg

"In summary, the walking process involves four stages: lifting, raising, shifting, and dropping. Your inhalation is coordinated with the lifting movement of the heel of your foot and your exhalation with keeping your foot lifted, while your toes are still touching the ground. Your inhalation is coordinated with the raising and shifting movements and your exhalation with the dropping of your foot. While you are coordinating your breath with your physical movements, remember to pay bare attention to what is taking place; avoid making judgments, decisions, or comments.

Observe the impermanent nature of your walking experience: the intention that precedes each movement, the movement itself, and every breath which rises and falls from moment-to-moment. When your mind shifts to another object of awareness, focus on seeing that it is also impermanent. Then, gently but firmly, place your attention back on your walking movements, coordinating them with your breath."
- Matthew Flickstein, Journey to the Center: A Meditation Workbook. Boston, Wisdom Publications, 1998. pp.127-132.

"I have two doctors, my left leg and my right."
- G. M. Trevelyan

Ways of Walking

Walking Meditation

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tai Chi Chuan Outdoors in Red Bluff CA

Since I returned to work this week as the Technology and Media Services Supervisor and Grants Coordinator for the Corning Union Elementary School District, I must change my morning outdoor taijiquan practice schedule.

Monday 6:00 - 7:30 am

Friday 6:00 - 7:30 am

Saturday 6:00 - 7:30 am

Sunday 6:00 - 7:30 am

In the morning, I walk, practice Taijiquan and Qigong hand forms, and practice cane, fan, and sword weapons forms.

Outdoor Practice Schedule

Indoor Taijiquan/Qigong Teaching/Practice Schedule

Indoor Yoga/Qigong Teaching/Practice Schedule

Monday, August 17, 2009

Metta Sutra

Metta Sutra

"This is what should be done
By one who is killed in goodness,
And who knows the paths of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.

Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be,
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be born,
May all beings be at ease.

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill will
Wish harm on another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Free from hatred and ill will.

Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding,
By not holding to fixed views,
The purehearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world."

- Traditional Buddhist Scripture, found in "Awakening to the Sacred"
by Lama Surya Das, 1999, p. 301

Lifestyle Advice for Wise Persons

Dhammapada Sutra by The Buddha

Tao Te Ching by Laotzu

Friday, August 14, 2009

Paths on Dry Ground

On my four days off work, I walk 3 to 4 miles each morning, starting at 5:45 am, in my rural neighborhood.


Ways of Walking

Walking Quotations

Walking Meditation

"Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune— I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.

The earth—that is sufficient;
I do not want the constellations any nearer;
I know they are very well where they are;
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens;
I carry them, men and women—I carry them with me wherever I go;
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them;
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)

You road I enter upon and look around!
I believe you are not all that is here;
I believe that much unseen is also here."
- Walt Whitman, "Song of the Open Road," Leaves of Grass, 1890.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cane Exercises

I continue to enjoy practicing exercises and martial arts forms with my oak cane. Each day, I practice the Eight Immortals Cane Form, Part I (Jesse Tsao), the Standard 32 Sword Form, and the Shaolin Kung Fun Cane Form (Ted Mancuso) all with my cane.

For more information:

Way of the Short Staff

Taijiquan Cane

Standard 32 Sword Form

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dao De Jing, Chapter 63

A Consideration of Beginnings, Deal with the Great While it is Small,
Do Without Doing, Difficult and Easy

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 63, by Lao Tzu

"Do without "doing."
Get involved without manipulating.
Taste without tasting.
Make the great small,
The many, few.
Respond to anger with virtue.
Deal with difficulties while they are still easy.
Hand the great while it is still small.
The difficult problems in life
Always start off being simple.
Great affairs always start off being small.
Therefore the sage never deals with the great
And is able to actualize his greatness.
Now light words generate little belief,
Much ease turns into much difficulty.
Therefore the sage treats things as though they were difficult,
And hence, never has difficulty."
- Translated by Charles Mueller, 2004

"Practice no-action;
Attend to do-nothing;
Taste the flavorless,
Magnify the small,
Multiply the few,
Return love for hate.
Deal with the difficult while it is yet easy;
Deal with the great while it is yet small.
The difficult develops naturally from the easy,
And the great from the small;
So the sage, by dealing with the small,
Achieves the great."
- Translation by Peter A. Merel, 1992

"Act without considering it to be acting.
Work without considering it to be working.
Taste without considering it to be tasting.
Big or small, many or few - respond to complaints with virtue.
Plan for difficult times when they're still easy to change.
What becomes enormous was once something minute.
All the difficulties in the world arise from what was originally easy to change.
Everything enormous in the world arises from what was originally minute.
It's natural for the wise person to end up not having to act on what's become
enormous, and therefore has the ability to achieve what's great.
You see, lightly making promises must show a lack of sincerity.
If many things are taken lightly, then many things will cause difficulty.
It's natural for a wise person to keep in touch with what might become
Therefore, he ends up without difficulties."
- Translation by Nina Correa, 2008

"Accomplish do-nothing.
Attend to no-affairs.
Taste the flavorless.
Whether it is big or small, many or few,
Requite hatred with virtue.
Deal with the difficult while yet it is easy;
Deal wit the big while yet it is small.
The difficult (problems) of the world
Must be dealt with while they are yet easy;
The great (problems) of the world
Must be dealt with while they are yet small.
Therefore the Sage by never dealing with great (problems)
Accomplishes greatness.
He who lightly makes a promise
Will find it often hard to keep his faith.
He who makes light of many things
Will encounter many difficulties.
Hence even the Sage regards things as difficult,
And for that reason never meets with difficulties."
- Translated by Lin Yutang, 1948

"Do that which consists in taking no action;
Pursue that which is not meddlesome;
Savor that which has no flavor.
Make the small big and the few many;
Do good to him who has done you an injury.
Lay plans for the accomplishment of the difficult before it becomes
Make something big by starting with it when small.
Difficult things in the world must needs have their beginnings in the easy;
Big things must needs have their beginnings in the small.
Therefore it is because the sage never attempts to be great that he succeeds
in becoming great.
One who makes promises rashly rarely keeps good faith;
One who is in the habit of considering things easy meets with frequent
Therefore even the sage treats some things as difficult.
That is why in the end no difficulties can get the better of him."
- Translated by D. C. Lau

"Do things non-coercively (wuwei),
Be non-interfering in going about your business (wushi),
And savor the flavor of the unadulterated in what you eat.Treat the small as
great and the few as many.
Requite enmity with character (de).
Take account of the difficult while it is still easy,
And deal with the large while it is still tiny.
The most difficult things in the world originate with the easy,
And the largest issues originate with the tiny.
Thus, it is because the sages never try to do great things
That they are indeed able to be great.
One who makes promises lightly is sure to have little credibility;
One who finds everything easy is certain to have lots of difficulties.
Thus, it is because even the sages pay careful attention to such things
That they are always free of difficulties."
- Translated by Roger T. Ames and David L Hall, 2003

"Act without doing;
work without effort.
Think of the small as large
and the few as many.
Confront the difficult
while it is still easy;
accomplish the great task
by a series of small acts.
The Master never reaches for the great;
thus she achieves greatness.
When she runs into a difficulty,
she stops and gives herself to it.
She doesn't cling to her own comfort;
thus problems are no problem for her."
- Translated by Stephen Mitchell, 2006

Chapter 63 Read by Mike Garofalo (WMA,3:41 Minutes, 886 Kb, 2006)
This reading uses the translations by Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall, and by Stephen Mitchell.

Notes on Chapter 63

Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing), by Lao Tzu (Laozi):
Bibliography, Links, Selected Translations, Commentary, Notes

Tao Te Ching, Chapters 1-20

Tao Te Ching, Chapters 21-40

Tao Te Ching, Chapters 41-60

Tao Te Ching, Chapters 61-81

Tao Te Ching, Chapter Index

Taoism: Bibliogrphy, Links, Resources, Quotations Daoist Perspectives

Qigong, Chi Kung, Dao-yin, Daoist Health Practices

Cloud Hands Taijiquan

Friday, August 07, 2009

Memory Improvement Techniques

Tamin Ansary gives us 12 Memory Tricks:

1. Pay Attention

2. Understand

3. Repeat and Apply

4. Group Items Together

5. Create Meaningfulness

6. Look for Patterns

7. Visualize

8. Connect with Humor

9. Connect it with Song, Melody, Rhymes

10. Associate with Something You Know Well

11. Link Learning to Environment

12. Relax

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Martial Arts Ethics

"Philosophical ideals in the martial arts:
1. To strive for perfection of character
2. To defend the paths of truth
3. To foster the spirit of effort
4. To honor the principles of etiquette
5. To guard against impetuous courage."
- Herman Kauz, The Martial Spirit: An Introduction to the Origin, Philosophy and Psychology of the Martial Arts.

Seven Essential Principles Of Bushido (The Way Of The Warrior):
1. GI: the right decision, taken with equanimity, the right attitude, the truth. Rectitude.
2. YU: bravery tinged with heroism
3. JIN: universal love, benevolence toward mankind. Compassion.
4. REI: right action - a most essential quality. Courtesy.
5. MAKOTO: utter sincerity. Truthfulness.
6. MELYO: honor and glory.
7. CHUGO: devotion. Loyalty.
- Taisen

"It is said that a calm and stable mind can achieve anything. This is an idea that I hold strong to. If we are not thinking with our wisdom mind then we are thinking out of impulse and reaction, like most animals do. This thinking out of impulse is known as the "emotional mind" (xin). The martial arts are very much a tool to shape reaction, both mentally and physically. Through diligent practice, and study of the martial virtues one can begin to act from the wisdom mind.

The virtues fall into two categories; morality of action, and morality of mind. Of those that are associated with action, there is:


as well as those which are associated with the mind:

- R. Scott Moylan, Wu De Quan

"We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thought. With our thoughts, we make our world."
- The Buddha

Monday, August 03, 2009

Dao De Jing, Chapter 6

The Valley Spirit, The Completion of Material Forms, The Infinitude of Creative Effort, The Mysterious Female

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, Chapter 6

"The Spirit of the perennial spring is said to be immortal, she is called the Mysterious One.
The Mysterious One is typical of the source of heaven and earth.
It is continually and endlessly issuing and without effort."
- Translated by Dwight Goddard and Henri Borel, 1919

"The Spirit of the Depths is immortal; it is called the Azure Heaven and the Mother Earth.
The passage through which these Two Influences emerge and enter is called the root of the visible creation.
They are ceaseless in action as though permanent, and may be drawn upon without ever being exhausted."
- Translated by Frederic H. Balfour, 1884

"The valley spirit never dies.
It is the unknown first mother,
whose gate is the root
from which grew heaven and earth.
It is dimly seen, yet always present.
Draw from it all you wish;
it will never run dry."
- Translated by T. McCarroll

"The valley spirit never dies.
It's named the mystic woman.
And the gate of the profound woman is the root that heaven and earth sprang from.
It's there within us all the while;
draw upon it as you will,
you can never wear it out."
- Translated by T. Byrn

"The mystery of the valley is immortal;
It is known as the Subtle Female. The gateway of the Subtle Female
is the source of Heaven and Earth.
Everlasting, endless, it appears to exist.
Its usefulness comes with no effort."
- Translated by R. L. Wing

"The valley spirit is not dead:
They say it is the mystic female.
Her gateway is, they further say,
The base of heaven and earth.
Constantly, and so forever,
Use her without labor."
- Translated by Raymond Blakney, 1955

"The spirit of emptiness is immortal.
It is called the Great Mother
because it gives birth to Heaven and Earth.
It is like a vapor,
barely seen but always present.
Use it effortlessly."
- Translated by John McDonald

"Like the sheltered, fertile valley,
the meditative mind is still,
yet retains its energy.
Since both energy and stillness,
of themselves, do not have form,
it is not through the senses
that they may be found,
nor understood by intellect alone,
although, in nature, both abound.
In the meditative state,
the mind ceases to differentiate
between existences,
and that which may or may not be.
It leaves them well alone,
for they exist,
not differentiated, but as one,
within the meditative mind."
- Translated by Stan Rosenthal

"The concept of Yin is ever present.
It is the Mystic Female from whom
the heavens and the earth originate.
Constantly, continuously, enduring always.
Use her!"
- Translated by C. Ganson

"The heart of Tao is immortal
the mysterious fertile mother of us all.
of heaven and earth,
of every thing
and not-thing.
Invisible yet ever-present,
You can use it forever without using it up."
- Translated by Brian Walker

 "The valley spirit dies not, aye the same;
The female mystery thus do we name.
Its gate, from which at first they issued forth,
Is called the root from which grew heaven and earth.
Long and unbroken does its power remain,
Used gently, and without the touch of pain."
- Translated by Stephen McIntyre, 2009

Valley Spirit (Gu Shen) Concept of the Tao Te Ching

Valley Spirit Versions

Daoist Perspectives

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Friday, July 31, 2009

Taijiquan Philosophy

"Tai chi existing without its philosophical foundation would become a hollow form of adult exercise, lacking not only the profundity of the art but its great health and martial arts benefits as well."
- Wolfe Lowenthal

"If you do not know how to manifest this internal understanding into martial actions, then you have only reached a low level. Similarly, if you practice tai chi chuan only focussing on the martial aspects, without pondering and understanding the theories, then the martial manifestation will be shallow."
- Yang Jwing-Ming

Taoism: Some Key Terms

Definitons provided by Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall in Daodejing "Making Life Significant": A Philosophical Translation (2003), p. 67:

wuming: Naming without fixed reference.

wushi: To be non-interfering in going about your business.

wuwei: Noncoercive action that is in accordance with the de of things.

wuyu: Objectless desire.

wuzheng: Striving without contentiousness.

wuzhi: Unprincipled knowing.

Chapter 63, Dao De Jing

"Do that which consists in taking no action;
Pursue that which is not meddlesome;
Savor that which has no flavor.

Make the small big and the few many;
Do good to him who has done you an injury.

Lay plans for the accomplishment of the difficult before it becomes difficult;
Make something big by starting with it when small.

Difficult things in the world must needs have their beginnings in the easy;
Big things must needs have their beginnings in the small.

Therefore it is because the sage never attempts to be great that he succeeds in becoming great.

One who makes promises rashly rarely keeps good faith;
One who is in the habit of considering things easy meets with frequent difficulties.

Therefore even the sage treats some things as difficult.
That is why in the end no difficulties can get the better of him."

Translated by D. C. Lau

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dao De Jing, Chapter 32

"The Tao, considered as unchanging, has no name. Though in its primordial simplicity it may be small, the whole world dares not deal with (one embodying) it as a minister. If a feudal prince or the king could guard and hold it, all would spontaneously submit themselves to him. Heaven and Earth (under its guidance) unite together and send down the sweet dew, which, without the directions of men, reaches equally everywhere as of its own accord. As soon as it proceeds to action, it has a name. When it once has that name, (men) can know to rest in it. When they know to rest in it, they can be free from all risk of failure and error. The relation of the Tao to all the world is like that of the great rivers and seas to the streams from the valleys."
- Translation by James Legge, 1891

"The Tao, eternally nameless
Its simplicity, although imperceptible
Cannot be treated by the world as subservient

If the sovereign can hold on to it
All will follow by themselves
Heaven and Earth, together in harmony
Will rain sweet dew
People will not need to force it; it will adjust by itself

In the beginning, there were names
Names came to exist everywhere
One should know when to stop
Knowing when to stop, thus avoiding danger

The existence of the Tao in the world
Is like streams in the valley into rivers and the ocean."
- Translation by Derek Lin, 2006

"Tao is absolute and has no name.
Though the uncarved wood is small,
It cannot be employed (used as vessel) by anyone.
If kings and barons can keep (this unspoiled nature),
The whole world shall yield them lordship of their own accord.

The Heaven and Earth join,
And the sweet rain falls,
Beyond the command of men,
Yet evenly upon all.

Then human civilization arose and there were names.
Since there were names,
It were well one knew where to stop.
He who knows where to stop
May be exempt from danger.
Tao in the world
May be compared to rivers that run into the sea."
- Translated by Lin Yutang, 1948

"Tao remains ever nameless. However insignificant may be the simplicity of those who cultivate it the Empire does not presume to claim their services as Ministers. If Princes and Monarchs could but preserve this simplicity, every creature in the world would submit itself to them; Heaven and Earth would be in mutual accord, and shower down sweet dew; the people would need no laws, but live in harmony of themselves. It was in the beginning that a name was fabricated for the Tao. This name once existing, Heaven, also, may be known; and such knowledge ensures the indestructibility of the doctrine. The presence of Tao in the world may be compared to streams which ever flow, and mountain-gorges which are indestructible, in their union with rivers and seas which are unfathomable."
- Translated by Frederic H. Balfour, 1884

"The Tao can't be perceived.
Smaller than an electron,
it contains uncountable galaxies.

If powerful men and women
could remain centered in the Tao,
all things would be in harmony.
The world would become a paradise.
All people would be at peace,
and the law would be written in their hearts.

When you have names and forms,
know that they are provisional.
When you have institutions,
know where their functions should end.
Knowing when to stop,
you can avoid any danger.

All things end in the Tao
as rivers flow into the sea."
- Translated by Stephen Mitchell, 2006

"The Way eternal has no name.
A block of wood untooled, though small,
May still excel the world.
And if the king and nobles could
Retain its potency for good,
Then everything would freely give
Allegiance to their rule.

The earth and sky would then conspire
To bring the sweet dew down;
And evenly it would be given
To folk without constraining power.

Creatures came to be with order's birth,
And once they had appeared,
Came also knowledge of repose,
And with that was security.

In this world,
Compare those of the Way
To torrents that flow
Into river and sea."
- Translated by Raymond B. Blakney, 1955

Taoist Perspectives

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Qigong, Daoyin, Chi Kung


Friday, July 24, 2009

Mike Garofalo's Teaching Schedule

I will return to teaching yoga at the Tehama Family Fitness Center in Red Bluff, California, on Tuesday, July 28th, at 5:30 pm.

I will return to teaching Taijiquan and Qigong at the Tehama Family Fitness Center on Saturday, August 1st, at 9:30 am.

I was on vacation the week before last, and recovering from a "heat stroke" type episode last week. It was over 100 F each day last week. I seem to be OK now.

Thanks to Tami and Terri (Yoga) and Kevin Weaver (Taiji) for filling in for me at TFFC.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tai Chi Yang Style Long Form

I have updated my webpage on the Yang Style Taijiquan Long 108 Form.

The webpage includes a bibliography, links, resources, lists of movements, instructions, tips, quotations, and learning tools.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Posting Schedule for Cloud Hands Blog

Blog Posting Schedule for 2009
By Michael P. Garofalo, M.S.

Cloud Hands Blog

Mind-Body Movement Arts
Mike Garofalo writes about Taijiquan, Qigong, Hatha Yoga, Walking, and Gardening
Posting On: Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Cloud Hands Taijiquan Website

Valley Spirit Qigong (Chi Kung, Daoyin)

Green Paths in the Valley Blog

Mike Garofalo writes about Gardening, Seasons, Nature, Rural Living, Lore, Wisdom and the Eight Ways
Posting On: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday

Spirit of Gardening Website

Months: Poems, Quotations, Lore, Garden Chores

Green Way Research

Sometimes, I use the same post, or close to the same post, with different post titles, on both the Cloud Hands and Green Paths blogs. There is only so much time available for writing posts.

Most of my research and writing efforts go into my wepages. Lately, for example, I have been working on the Five Animal Frolics webpages.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Nightime Contemplation

Taking some time at night to rest from summer labors.

"All through the deep blue night
The fountain sang alone;
It sang to the drowsy heart
of the satyr carved in stone.

The fountain sang and sang
But the satyr never stirred--
Only the great white moon
In the empty heaven heard."
- Sara Teasdale, The Fountain

July: Quotes, Poems, Lore

"Standing at the Mysterious Pass
Centered in the Eternal Now,
Balanced in Body and Open in Mind,
Rooted into the Sacred Space,
Motionless as the Golden Mountain,
Fingers around the Primeval Sphere.
Dragons and Tigers are still dreaming -
Ready for Rebirth.

I breathe in, the World Breathes Out.
The Gate of Space opens;
Heaven moves and Yang is born.
The hands move out, embracing the One.
The mind settles and is clear.
The Dragon Howls,
Ravens fill the Vast Cauldron,
Mind forms melt like mercury,
Spirit rises in the Clouds of Eternity.
Yin appears like the moon at dusk.

I breathe out, the World Breathes In.
The Doors of Emptiness close;
Earth quiets and Yin is born.
The hands move in, entering the One.
The body settles and becomes whole.
The Tiger Roars,
The Great Ox is nourished by the Valley Spirit,
Substances spark from flaming furnaces,
Essence roots in the Watery Flesh.
Yang appears like the sun at dawn.

Dragons and Tigers
Transformed within the Mysterious Pass -
Chanting and Purring.

- Michael P. Garofalo, Opening at the Mysterious Pass

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Epicurean Values

"The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure;
but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity."

"The most well-known Epicurean verse, which epitomizes his philosophy, is "lathe biōsas λάθε βιώσας "(Plutarchus De latenter vivendo 1128c; Flavius Philostratus Vita Apollonii 8.28.12), meaning "live secretly", "get through life without drawing attention to yourself", i. e. live without pursuing glory or wealth or power, but anonymously, enjoying little things like food, the company of friends, etc."

Epicurus, 341-271 BCE

Epicurean Philosophy Online

Epicurean History

From a Letter to William Short by Thomas Jefferson, 1819

"I take the liberty of observing that you are not a true disciple of our master Epicurus, in indulging the indolence to which you say you are yielding. One of his canons, you know, was that "that indulgence which prevents a greater pleasure, or produces a greater pain, is to be avoided." Your love of repose will lead, in its progress, to a suspension of healthy exercise, a relaxation of mind, an indifference to everything around you, and finally to a debility of body, and hebetude of mind, the farthest of all things from the happiness which the well-regulated indulgences of Epicurus ensure; fortitude, you know is one of his four cardinal virtues. That teaches us to meet and surmount difficulties; not to fly from them, like cowards; and to fly, too, in vain, for they will meet and arrest us at every turn of our road. Weigh this matter well; brace yourself up ..."

Syllabus of the doctrines of Epicurus (By Thomas Jefferson)

"Physical.—The Universe eternal.

Its parts, great and small interchangeable.

Matter and Void alone.

Motion inherent in matter which is weighty and declining.

Eternal circulation of the elements of bodies.

Gods, an order of beings next superior to man, enjoying in their sphere, their own felicities;
but not meddling with the concerns of the scale of beings below them.

Moral.—Happiness the aim of life.

Virtue the foundation of happiness.

Utility the test of virtue.

Pleasure active and In-do-lent.

In-do-lence, is the absence of pain, the true felicity.

Active, consists in agreeable motion; it is not happiness, but the means to produce it.

Thus the absence of hunger is an article of felicity; eating the means to obtain it.

The summum bonum is to be not pained in body, nor troubled in mind.

i.e. In-do-lence of body, tranquillity of mind.

To procure tranquillity of mind we must avoid desire and fear, the two principal diseases of the mind.

Man is a free agent.

Virtue consists in 1) Prudence. 2) Temperance. 3) Fortitude. 4) Justice.*

Monday, July 13, 2009

Qigong (Chi Kung) Benefits

Twelve Benefits of Qigong:

"1. Well-being and improved health. Qigong emphasizes the whole body, whole system health. While it is true that qigong will often cure specific ills, this is not the primary reason for practice. It is not only a matter of adding years to your life, but life to your years.

2. Clear and tranquil mind. When the mind is at peace, the whole universe seems at peace. World peace begins with you; it is your responsibility to find a peaceful heart and mind. Then you can heal and transform others just through your presence. If you have a tranquil mind, you will make better decisions and have the skill to know when act and when to be still.

3. Deeper, more restorative sleep. Qigong will help you find the deep relaxation and mental quiet necessary for sleep.

4. Increased energy, including sexual vitality and fertility. Qigong people have more energy; it can reverse energy and restore youthfulness.

5. Comfortable warmth. Qigong is great for cold hands and feet. Circulation improves, and the body generates more internal warmth when it is cold.

6. Clear skin. The skin, like the intestines, is an organ of elimination. According to Chinese medicine, as your qigong improves, your body eliminates toxins, and the skin becomes clear.

7. Happy attitude. There is an old Tibetan saying, “You can tell a Yogi by his or her laugh.” Correct and moderate qigong practice usually creates an optimistic and joyous disposition.

8. More efficient metabolism. Digestion improves, and hair and nails grow more quickly.

9. Greater physiological control. This means that aspects of the body that were imbalanced or out of control begin to normalize, for example, breathing rate, heart rate, blood pressure, hormone levels, and states of chronic inflammation or depletion.

10. Bright eyes. The qigong master’s eyes are said to glow in the dark, like a cat’s. The eyes also appear bright because the spirit and soul are luminous and the heart is open.

11. Intuition and creativity. Intuition and creativity generate each other and come from the same source, an awakened brain and being, an ability to think with the gut, to feel with the mind.

12. Spiritual effects. Advancement in qigong is often accompanied by a variety of spiritual experiences. For example, synchronicity, meaningful coincidences, become more common. When the qi is abundant, clear, and flowing, the senses perceive and are permeated by a sweetness. "

Adapted by Care 2 Health and Wellness

Adapted from:

The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing. By Kenneth S. Cohen. Foreword by Larry Dossey. New York Ballantine Books, 1997. Index, notes, appendices, 427 pages. ISBN: 0345421094. One of my favorite books: comprehensive,
informative, practical, and scientific.

The Way of Qigong. By Ken Cohen. 5 audiocassettes, 6 hours. Boulder, Colorado, Sounds True, 1993. ISBN: 1564552578.

Qigong (Chi Kung): Bibliography, Links, Resources, Quotations, Notes. By Mike Garofalo.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Refining Oneself to the End of Your Days

"T'ai Chi Ch'uan bases itself exclusively on gentleness, softness, naturalness and bringing you back to your original nature. Daily training makes the muscles and bones become softer and more pliable, and it especially causes the breath to become natural. These are the results of disciplining and refining the ching, ch'i, and shen to the end of your days. How then can you consider dispensing with your kung or wish to suffer bitterly."
- Chen Yen-lin, 1932, Cultivating the Ch'i,
Translated by Stuart Alve Olson, p. 30.

I find that emphasizing the quality of "Sung" while practicing Taijiquan or Qigong is very useful. For me, "Sung" includes meanings such as relaxed, loose, pliable, yielding, responsive, open, soft, flexible.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Taijiquan and Play

T'ai Chi Ch'uan is for me, among other things, a way of playing. Playing to lift my spirits, playing to meet a challenge, playing for delight, playing to show off, playing for exercise, playing for no reason at all.

"We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing."
- Charles Schaefer

"The true object of all human life is play.
Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground."
- G. K. Chesterton

"It is a happy talent to know how to play."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, July 06, 2009

Rooting in Taijiquan

By Sifu Yeung Yun Choi

"Therefore, rooting in Taijiquan should embrace the concepts of absorption, transmission and neutralisation of the incoming force with possible counter attack.

Relaxing the muscles of the body will produce a sinking effect, which will make full use of the body weight to absorb the incoming force. Being relaxed will also minimise resistance upon impact and allow the incoming force to shift the body mass. Thus, the resulting force will be the incoming force less the body weight and will be further reduced by shifting the body mass away from the original position. In a way, this is borrowing the opponent's force to move one's own body mass and deflection will come very easy to deal with what is remaining of the incoming force.

Extension or stretching of the tendons will facilitate connection of the joints, which will assist transmission of the incoming force to the arm, shoulder, mid-section, hip, thigh, calf, foot and to the ground. When a person is in a proper Taiji posture; he or she will experience this transmission. The incoming force will travel from the hand down to the foot smoothly. A good way to test whether one is in a proper posture or not is to apply a force on that person. Tension will build up to stiffen the part that is not extended nor relaxed otherwise it will be grounded. This is how one can "listen to forces" or "interprets forces".

Once transmission is facilitated then neutralisation is easy, by moving various joints or shifting the whole body with the legs depending on the magnitude of the force. The mechanics of the legs allows the rotation of the hip, opening and closing of the thighs, bending of the knees, and flexing of the ankles for neutralisation. Therefore, the movements of the legs can be a little subtle to accommodate the weight of the body, the incoming force and to initiate motion."

By Peter Lim Tian Tek

"Stability By Sinking (Wen, Chen)

Stability is a result of coordinated body structure in relation to the downward pull of gravity resulting in a net force against the earth from both body weight and downward projection of mass through a singular point identified as the root. Lowering the centre of gravity is essential to stability, we should lower it to the centre of the sphere of influence of our physical body.

Agility (Ling)

Agility is a result of non-double weighting and non-dead rooting. By only maintaining one point of substantial contact with the ground you gain the ability to move quickly, much like a ball which moves easily across the ground because it only has one point of contact with it.

The key is the word "centre". We should avoid "dead rooting". The idea is to lower your centre of gravity to your proper centre which is at the Tan Tien, there it should have a net downward force but is "hung" from the torso in the correct location. This would give you a centred but light feeling. If you are trying to get your centre to the oot of your feet, that is not centredness. Ask yourself where the centre of your body should be and there is where the mass of the centre should be. Some information on the external and internal methodologies adopted to train this. The external way of training is to force the centre down as far as it can go and then slowly the reaction force from the ground would build up the musculature to support the downward force back up to where it should be centred. The internal method would be to centre the centre of gravity first, get a proper structure to support it and when that is done then slowly lower the stance through time to foster proper development without sacrificing efficient structure and alignment."

Friday, July 03, 2009

Rooting and Sinking

"Rooting is the process of making a good connection to the ground in stances and during transitions. ... When we refer to rooting we are talking about rooting the legs (and thus the entire body) of the completed postures as well as the legs during the transitions as well. When we are trying to achieve rooting in Taijiquan, we should visualize below the surface of the floor or ground... much like the roots of a tree. The "Bubbling Well" an acupoint called Yong Quan (KI-1) located on the bottom of the foot should be used as the point from which this imaginary root extends into the ground from which to draw strength. Rooting in Taijiquan will transfer from foot to foot, but never stays equally rooted on the right and the left. The weight should remain on the outer edges of the feet and remain a slight gripping feel with the toes, the ball of the foot, and the heel. Although the Yong Quan never touches the floor, you should still focus on this area as the root of each movement. Techniques to build this skill vary from person to person. I recommend using different visualizations and thoughts to see what works best for each person."
-  David West,
Rooting in Tai Chi Chuan

"People lose root because they use the wrong part of the body to focus their strength. For example, when the shoulder moves first in an action to strike, it is incorrect. One should use the lower body to drive the force. No matter how hard one attempts to be soft, they will never truly relax and have power until the lower body drives the force.
Even when one uses the lower body to drive the force, the root can be lost because the shoulder, as well as any other joint or part of the body may interrupt the transference of power. When there is tightness or loss of coordination between the various joints and parts of the body, root will be lost. The hip, leg, etc. must act as one! Many times things inside the body fight against each other. For example, if the inguinal crease (part where the legs connect to the torso) at the hips is tight, the flow of energy will be broken in the body, breaking the root. When one practices in this way, the tightness or lack of body unity can give one the tendency to get injured. Sometimes one locks a joint. The hips and shoulders are typical joints that students will lock which breaks the root."
-  Gaofei Yan and James Cravens, "Rooting: The Secret of Getting Power from the Earth"

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Searching for Chimeras


"I have been meditating for a while. Trying to find truth and myself. I recently came to the point where no matter where I look I don't see myself and I can't find myself. I feel extremely empty and its kind of scary. Like being on the edge of a cliff and feeling like I could fall off or in at any moment. How does one learn to cope with this?"
- Ben


I don't much favor this "searching" or "trying to find" yourself, or as they say in traditional Vedanta based yoga, "Searching for the True Self." I once wrote a poem on this topic:

"Who am I?"

Such a strange question,
uttered endlessly, by
weekend seekers of the Lost Psyche.
Feigning amnesia,
they blather on about their "True Self,"
their Grand Soul lost somewhere outside their petty lives,
hidden away and blocked by fleeting fleshy passions,
stolen away by the finite soma and mundane mind.

Their Real Self: pure, eternal, blissful, free, true, wonderful;
right around the
supernatural corner,
waiting for them like a blind date.

You know who you are!

You are a unique body - interdependent with the watery world;
a boxcar of moving memories - a rich history;
known from the fruits of your work;
meshed with some family, holding somebody dear;
Somebody - unique as the fingerprint of your DNA;
named, spoken for, listening, and ...
Your search for "yourself",
your anxious questioning,
makes no sense.

A stale mantra,
a face before you were born koan:
"Who am I?", sterile, silly,
Yet, following an
irrelevant spiritual advisor's advice,
You try to figure it out, for hours and weeks,
befuddled, awed by your confusion, thinking
It's your puny powers of meditation or belief or determination
that keep you from
The Holy Grail of the Genuine Self.

You know who you are!

You might want to change who you are,
or forget who you were,
or tell others about who you are,
or learn why you get tricked into asking yourself this foolish question ...
but those are quite
different issues.
- Mike Garofalo, "Who am I," he asked himself,June 11, 2006
Above the Fog

I don't think meditation is a good way for finding truth. Philosophy is better.

So, what is sitting or standing meditation good for? In my opinion: calming the mind, resting, doing nothing, just sitting, lowering your heartbeat and blood pressure, sitting up straight, cultivating an Inner Smile, enjoying your garden ...

If the meditation techniques you have been practicing for awhile are just producing stress, anxiety, fear, angst, bewilderment, dread ... then stop that style of meditating. I suggest, instead, for you to get up at dawn, face the sun and say a Navaho prayer, and then go for a long walk.

Some meditation techniques are intended so make you realize that you are or have no eternal self, no substantive Ego, no everlasting soul, no True Self. Did not the Guatama Siddhartha Buddha or David Hume think this way? There is just Everything That Is and you are part of the What Is Now, a complex series of interrelationships, a bundle of sensations, a contingency with consciousness, impermanent at best, empty at the core, a snapshot out of the Great Video of Becoming.

There is a sense of "being true to oneself," authentic living, and remaining true and steadfast to your chosen values and chosen character. Many people live by the rules, customs, beliefs and fashions established by others. They have few core values, practices and habits freely chosen by themselves. I still think this is different from "finding the true self" spoken about by mystics and spiritual adventurers.

Embrace the fullness of the world, its beauty, its complexity, its power ... forget about searching for something or finding something. Everything is right before you.

As for the Cliff, yes, it is there. Michael Jackson and thousands of others fell off the Cliff this past week. In a snap of your fingers - you could be dead. To cope with this: courage, forget about the fact, move on, follow the path of peace, work diligently, do good, hike up to a cliff, taste the wild berries, and kiss your sweetheart today.