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.