Monday, May 31, 2010

Leap into the Boundless

"Forget the years, forget distinctions.  Leap into the boundless and make it your home."
-  Zhuangzi

This past week, I have been reading various translations of Chuang Tzu.  

My notes are found on a webpage on Master Chuang (Zhuangzi) in my Ripening Peaches Notebook.  

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tasting Cherries

Be humble, for you
are made of
beans and seeds.
Be noble, for you
are made of
rivers and sunshine.
Be joyful, for you
have tasted one of
Xiwangmu's peaches.
Above the Fog

"Alfred North Whitehead once pointed out that when we really understand the biological and physiological functioning of the human body and the behavior of the molecules which constitute it, it becomes impossible to entertain the notion of a discontinuity between the the body and its external environment.  Living on this mountain, I can't help but realize that my body is completely integrated with the body of the mountain.  Every time I drink the water that spills out of it into the mountain stream, the cells of my body assimilate it.  My body is now largely composed of the water that comes from this mountain.  We grow our food in the mountain's soil.  The plants start out as a sing seed, and, by taking water, light, and minerals from the mountain, eventually manifest themselves as fruits, vegetables, flowers.  Thus, we take the mountain into our very being; we consume it.  Our septic system even returns our waste to the mountain.  How could we feel separate from it?"
-  John Daido Loori, Three Gates of Zen, p. 159 

Interdependence: Quotes, Poems, Sayings 

Our cherry trees have lots of ripening fruit these days.  What a delight to eat them and share them with the birds. 

I am a machine that turns beans into memories. 
This cabbage, these carrots, these potatoes, these onions ... will soon become me.  Such a tasty fact!
Pulling Onions


Friday, May 28, 2010

Sleep as Meditation

Nearly every night of my 64 years of living I have slept soundly.  I sleep peacefully for 6 to 8 hours every day.  I am not conscious of thinking much while sleeping, except when I remember having a dream (which I seldom do).  I am calm and still while I sleep.  My experience of sleeping is one of a quiet, peaceful, pleasant, restful, and satisfying experience.  I seem to be in a state of relaxed unconsciousness, but can wake up fairly easily if the need arises.  Generally, I am untroubled while sleeping, don't worry, don't seem unhappy, and don't harm others.  I don't mull over problems, philosophize, plan, or fret while sleeping.  When I awaken from a sound sleep I feel refreshed, restored, rejuvenated, and good all over. 

The reason I bring up my sleeping habits is to point out that many of the meditation techniques I have studied for the last 50 years assign a purpose to meditation that I have already achieved while sleeping: not thinking, no preferences, non-dualistic, blissful, peaceful, re-energizing, pleasurable, etc.  Or, meditation experts describe a method or procedure for meditating that has many of the features that I already embody while sleeping: remaining still, being calm, breathing regularly, closing one's eyes, relaxing, etc..   

Sleeping Your Way to Nirvana

I am doing some research on this topic and will post my findings in my Pathways in the Green Valley Blog.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sacred Spaces

"Waking, sleeping and dreaming are liminal activities, and the very act of breathing may be construed as liminal. Spirals, labyrinths, mazes, tors, mounds, stone circles, groves and sacred enclosures are liminal spaces opening into other realities and other modes of being and thinking — as are winding woodland trails, oak stands, clear streams and mountains.  ...  We each approach the liminal in our own way and our own time, and the lens through which we filter our liminal experiences is a unique and very personal thing. For some of us, the gateway lies through church services and collective ceremonies — for others it is private prayer, meditation and silence — for still others, the way is through loving observation of the natural world, personal ritual, carefully crafted rites of passage and the old seasonal festivals. Sunrise, noon, twilight and midnight are liminal times of day when according to ancient lore, divination and magic could be worked by those skilled in such arts — such times would have been fearful and vulnerable intervals for those without magical gifts or the protections of the Craft."
-  Kerrdelune, Beyond the Fields We Know

Sacred Circles

Druid Practices 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dragon Qigong

Take a look at my new webpage on Dragon Qigong.  I will be adding instructions for each movement during the month of June. 

For information about Chinese Dragons Lore and Daoist Inner Alchemy, check out my Realms of the Dragons Blog

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Taijiquan Sword: Standard 32 Form in Yang Style

I made a few changes to my popular webpage on the Standard 32 Sword Form.  This form is the standard simplified Beijing Taijiquan sword form. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Be Like Water


The Nature of Goodness, Easy by Nature, Be Like Water, The Placid and Contented Nature, Low like Water 易性
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 8, by Lao Tzu

"One of universal nature is like water;
He benefits all things
But does not contend with them. 
He unprotestingly takes the lowest position;
Thus, he is close to the universal truth.
One of universal virtue chooses to live
In a suitable environment. 
He attunes his mind to become profound. 
He deals with others with kindness. 
In his speech, he is sincere.
His rule brings about order. 
His work is efficient. 
His actions are opportune. 
One of deep virtue does not contend with people:
Thus, he is above reproach."
-   Translated by Hua-Ching Ni, 1979

"True goodness is like water, in that it benefits everything and harms nothing.
Like water it ever seeks the lowest place, the place that all others avoid.
It is closely kin to the Dao.  
For a dwelling it chooses the quiet meadow; for a heart the circling eddy.
In generosity it is kind,
In speech it is sincere,
In authority it is order,
In affairs it is ability,
In movement it is rhythm.
In as much as it is always peaceable it is never rebuked."
-   Translated by Dwight Goddard and Henri Borel, 1919   

"The highest excellence is like that of water.
The excellence of water appears in its benefiting all things, and in its occupying,
Without striving to the contrary, the low place which all men dislike.
Hence its way is near to that of the Tao.
The excellence of a residence is in the suitability of the place;
That of the mind is in abysmal stillness;
That of associations is in their being with the virtuous;
That of government is in its securing good order;
That of the conduct of affairs is in its ability; and,
That of the initiation of any movement is in its timeliness.
And when one with the highest excellence does not wrangle about his low position,
No one finds fault with him."
-   Translated by James Legge, 1891 

"The best are like water
bringing help to all
without competing
choosing what others avoid
hence approaching the Tao
dwelling with earth  
thinking with depth 
helping with kindness
speaking with truth 
governing with peace 
working with skill
moving with time 
and because they don't compete
they aren't maligned."
-   Translated by Bill (Red Pine) Porter, 1996

Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing)  by Lao Tzu

Realms of the Dragons

Ripening Peaches: Daoist Studies and Practices

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dharmapada Sutra: Buddhist Proverbs

Dharmapatta Sutta

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

Sunday, May 16, 2010

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

Dragon Qigong

Silk Reeling

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tai Chi Chuan 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

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Daoist Dragon Qigong

Taoist Dragon Qigong, Long Chi Kung
Bibliography, Links, Resources, Quotes, Notes, Lore
By Mike Garofalo

Fire and Water, Yang and Yin, Male and Female, Tiger and Dragon;
Transforming, one into the other, as Summer into Winter, Day into Night;
Interpenetrating, evolving, changing, becoming, beginning-ending.
The Tai Chi, the Grand Ultimate, the Supreme Ultimate:
The Sacred Ridgepole,
With left and right, above and below, front and back.
Blue Dragons and White Tigers - endlessly.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Taoist Retreat of the American Dragon Gate Sect

This past weekend I attended a Taoist Retreat led by Shifu Michael Rinaldini, Taoist priest and qigong teacher.  Mr. Rinaldini is the founder and leader of the American Dragon Gate Taoist Lineage (ADGL). 

This retreat was held at the Catholic Youth Organization Camp in Occidental, west of Santa Rosa, California.  The CYO facility was in excellent condition and clean, and located in a lovely hilly woodland area.  The chefs provided us with very good food.  I really liked the outdoor areas for training in taijiquan, qigong, and for long walks on gravel roads in the woods. One large outdoor chapel in the woods reminded me of a Druid Nemeton, and I enjoyed sitting there for hours. This is an excellent facility for a retreat.

It took me five hours to drive from my home in Red Bluff to Occidental, through mostly rural areas.  Springtime is quite beautiful in northern California, but such a long drive does discourage me from attending again.  

The cost of the retreat was surprisingly inexpensive.  

A group of 9 men and women attended this retreat, a few for all of the three days (Friday to Sunday); but the majority for much shorter periods of time. Shifu Rinaldini led us in seated meditation (Zuowang), reading Taoist scriptures, qigong, sipping tea, taiji ruler, and walking practices. Some chose to ask to speak privately with Shifu Rinaldini for guidance in meditation or qigong; but, he did not initiate private conversations with participants.  The retreat was held mostly in silence.

The spiritual theme of this retreat was "Not Two." The philosophical underpinnings of this topic are directly from the Chinese Chan (Zen) Buddhist tradition.  The anti-rational Chan koan method of "Not Two" places emphasis upon serious experiential non-intellectual striving, a non-judgmental awareness, having an experience beyond words, not thinking, a non-dualistic consciousness, letting go of preferences, working hard to open and reveal the "Original Mind," and fully realizing fundamental emptiness while sitting and forgetting (Zuowang) or while quietly walking.

Shifu Rinaldini has specific demands of participants in terms of attendance, practice, attitude, and having a zeal for silent sitting.  You need to be clear ahead of time about his expectations.  

The qigong practices were satisfactory and non-vigorous, and persons with little experience with qigong could easily participate in the exercises.  Beginners and intermediate students could learn something about qigong from Shifu Rinaldini. 

The attendees seemed sincere and dedicated, and quite friendly when we were allowed the opportunity to chat only during meals. 

The next Taoist Retreat of the American Dragon Gate Taoist Lineage led by Mr. Rinaldini will be held at the same location on September 24, 25, and 26, 2010.

Personally, I have no need to repeat the experience of attending this Taoist Retreat for a variety of good reasons.  Rather than speak of them publicly, I will take counsel from Zhaungzi: "Great wisdom is generous; petty wisdom is contentious."

Friday, May 07, 2010

Requiem in Pacem

John Daido Loori, 1941-2009, Zen Priest and author, New York, Mountains and Rivers Order

George Leonard, 1923-2010, journalist, author, educator, Aikido teacher, California

K. Pattabhi Jois, 1915-2009, Astanga Vinyassa Yoga teacher, India

Monday, May 03, 2010

Tai Chi and Qigong in Red Bluff, California

At present, I teach at the Tehama Family Fitness Center in Red Bluff California on Monday from 5:30-7:00 pm and on Saturday from 9:30-11 am.

I also teach at the Valley Spirit Center.

I teach the Standard 24 Form Taijiquan, the Yang Family Traditional Long Taijiquan 108 Form, the Chen Taijiquan 18 Short Form, the Standard Competition Sun Taijiquan 73 Form, the Standard 32 Movement Sword Form, the Eight Immortals 36 Cane Form. All of my teaching in documented at my Cloud Hands Website.

Currently, we are studying the Chen Taijiquan 18 Movement Form, the Standard 32 Movement Sword Form, and the Wild Goose Qigong Form.