Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Qigong Classes in the Beautiful North Sacramento Valley

Study with Mike Garofalo in Beautiful Red Bluff, California

Beginning T'ai Chi Ch'uan Options:  Yang 24, Chen 18, Sun 24, Cane 18
Beginning Chi Kung Options: Eight Brocades, Animal Frolics

Lectures, Private Lessons, Classes, Consulting,
Workshops, Questions and Answers
Reasonable Hourly Rates
Instructor:  Michael P. Garofalo, M.S.

Excellent Recreational Opportunities for Persons of All Ages in the North Sacramento Valley
The Perfect Weekend Getaway for You, Friends and Family
Beautiful Scenery, Pleasant Weather, and Clear Skies for the Outdoor Enthusiast
Activities: Sight Seeing, Walking, Shopping, Spas, Reading, Relaxing, Internal Arts Studies
The Valley Spirit Center includes extensive gardens for Tai Chi practice and a Sacred Circle
A Full Array of Services and Excellent Accommodations in Redding or Red Bluff
Contact Mike: Email or Phone 530-200-3546

Private Lessons and Weekend Training is available!!

Mike teaches the Eight Section Brocade Qigong, Five Animal Frolics Qigong, Five Elements Qigong, Magic Pearl Qigong, Dragon Qigong, Temple Qigong, Muscle-Tendon Transformation Qigong, Dragon Qigong, Meditative Walking and Standing, Standard 24 Movement Yang Style Taijiquan, Chen Style Taijiquan 18 Movement Form, and cane weapon practices and forms.  Information and handouts are available online

Nearby cities: Chico, Orland, Corning, Los Molinos, Red Bluff, Cottonwood, Anderson, Redding.  Chico is 40 miles south of Red Bluff, and Redding is 40 miles north of Red Bluff.  Sacramento is 130 miles south of Red Bluff.  San Francisco is 175 miles southwest of Red Bluff.  Eureka is 180 miles west of Red Bluff.   

Enjoy the weekend in beautiful Tehama County!  There are many nice motels in Red Bluff.  There are many recreational opportunities in our area.  The quaint town of Red Bluff features Victorian style homes, many antique shops, and beautiful parks along the Sacramento River.  There are many fine restaurants, motels, and cultural events in both Chico and Redding.    

Soak up some country atmosphere!  Come to Red Bluff and learn Qigong and Tai Chi Chuan.  
Contact Mike or Karen Garofalo by Email

                        Sundial Walking Bridge in Redding, California.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Figs for Breakfast

We are blessed with a bountiful supply of fresh figs.  We have planted six different varieties of figs, and enjoy the produce from twelve fig trees.   

The common fig (ficus carica) thrives in the hot and dry summer season in Red Bluff, California.  



The fruit of a fig is pollinated by a unique insect, the Fig Wasp.  

"In an orchard there should be enough to eat, enough to lay up, enough to be stolen,  and enough to rot on the ground."
-   James Boswell   

The ants and birds eat to their hearts content.  We all steal the fruit from these ancient trees. 

Trees:  Quotes, Poems, Sayings

Monday, August 29, 2011

Eastern Mysticism

"For the Eastern mystic, all things and events perceived by the senses are interrelated, connected and are but different aspects or manifestations of the same ultimate reality.  Our tendency to divide the perceived world into individual and separate things and to experience ourselves as isolated egos in this world is seen as an illusion which comes from our measuring and categorizing mentally.  It is called avidya, or ignorance, in Buddhist philosophy and is seen as the sate of a disturbed mind which has to be overcome:

'When the mind is disturbed, the multiplicity of things is produced, but when the mind is quieted, the multiplicity of things disappears.'

Although the various schools of Eastern mysticism differ in many details, they all emphasize the basic unity of the universe which is the central feature of their teachings.  The highest aim for their followers - whether they are Hindus, Buddhists or Taoists - is to become aware of the unity and mutual interdependence of all things, to transcend the notion of an isolated individual self and to identify themselves with the ultimate reality.  The emergence of this awareness - known as 'enlightenment'- is not only an intellectual act but is an experience which involves the whole person and is religious in its ultimate nature.  For this reason, most Eastern philosophies are essentially religious philosophies."

-  Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics, 25th Anniversary Edition, p. 24  

Nature Mysticism:  Resources, Quotes, Notes

Gardening and Mysticism

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tai Chi Fan

There are many T'ai Chi Ch'uan exercise forms which make use of a fan.   Most are shorter forms, under 25 movements, but some, like the famous Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan Form have over 50 movements.  Most are done slowly and softly, but some include vigorous and fast movements.  The majority favor the Yang Style of Tai Chi Chuan.  

Tai Chi Fan: Bibliography, Links, Resources, Notes, Lore, Quotations. Research by Mike Garofalo.  I welcome any comments, suggestions, additions, or ideas regarding this webpage.

One of the most popular Tai Chi Fan forms was created by Professor Li Deyin (1938-).  It has 52 movements.  I includes slow and gentle movements in the first half of the form, then the second half is much more vigorous.  This Tai Chi Fan form is for athletic and intermediate Tai Chi students. 

Here are some instructional resources for learning the Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan Form.  

Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan. Routine 1, created by Grandmaster Li Deyin (1938-). Instructional DVD, 65 minutes, by Master Jesse Tsao. Tai Chi Healthways, San Diego, California. "The most popular Tai Chi Fan form ever practiced in China. The routine was created by Grandmaster Li Deyin, Jesse Tsao's teacher since 1978. There are 52 movements in the whole routine based on the characteristic Tai Chi posture with the fan's artistic and martial functions. Master Tsao presents demonstrations at the beginning and end. He teaches step-by-step in slow motion, in English. There are plenty of repetitions of movements in both front and back view. It is a good reference for home study, or a resource for instructor's teaching preparation." Cost: 35.00 US. Demonstration.

Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan Instructional DVD by Professor Li Deyin. Narration in English. "A fan routine, created by Professor Li, which combines the gracefulness, centrality and continuity of Taiji with the power, speed and fierceness of Wushu. It is designed as an addition to the exercises for health, and has received massive interest and support throughout the world. In this DVD, Professor Li provides in-depth teaching with Mrs. Fang Mishou performing detail demonstration."
Vendor 1. Cost: $35.00 US.

Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan, Form 1. List of 52 movement names, directions, instructions, and notes by Mike Garofalo.

I compiled the following list of UTube demonstrations of this Tai Chi fan form a couple of years ago.  Some of the videos may no longer exist.  

Tai Chi Kung Fun Fan, Form 1. UTube Video, 4:02 min. Lady in white on a stage in Japan. My favorite! "First Form of the Xiyangmei Taiji Kungfu Shan (Taiji Shan). Recorded in Tokyo, Japan when the group headed by Li Deyin went to give an exhibition in 2006." 

Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan, Form 1. UTube Video, 3:59 min. Three performers in white outfits.

Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan, Form 1. UTube Video, 3:59 min. Demonstrated by Patty Lee. Lady in a yellow outfit in a field with a backdrop of mountains.

Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan, Form 1. UTube Video, 4:02 min. Lady in black practicing in a dance studio. What is the song used in many of these videos (by Jackie Chan)??

Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan, Form 1. UTube Video, 3:42. A group of Master Fay Li Yip's students performing outdoors.

Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan, Form 1. UTube Video, 3:53 min. A group in black outfits performs outdoors in Madrid, Spain. Some members need more group practice.

Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan, Form 1. UTube Video, 5:57 min. Two ladies in red outfits perform outdoors in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan, Form 1. 中國太極功夫扇

Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan, Form 1. UTube Video Subject Search.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Advice for Young People

Advice for Young People

"Young people need compassion and guidance, not obscure mysticism.
Here are some guidelines for young people:

Remember that you are always your own person. Do not surrender your
mind, heart, or body to any person. Never compromise your dignity for
any reason.

Maintain your health with sound diet, hygiene, exercise, and clean
living. Don't engage in drugs or drinking.

Money is never more important that your body and mind, but you must
work and support yourself. Never depend on others for your livelihood.

Choose your friends and living situation carefully, for they will
influence you. Find a mentor you can trust, one who can answer your
every question, but never give up responsibility for your own life. No
one lives your life for you.

A good education is always an asset.

Emotions are transitory and are not a good way to make decisions.

Every day, you must make decisions. Everything you do will have
irrevocable effects upon your life. Before you go down any path,
consider carefully. Rivers very rarely reverse course.

Know evil, but do not do evil yourself. Remember, there is a way
out of the delusions of life. When you weary of the world, find someone
who will show you Tao."

-  Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao: Daily Meditations

Friday, August 26, 2011

Why that's me!

"Now the secret is that the other eventually turns out to be you.  The element of surprise in life is when suddenly you find the thing most alien turns out to be yourself.  Go out at night and look at the stars and realize that they are millions and billions of miles away, vast conflagrations far out in space.  You can lie back and look at that and say, "Well, surely I hardly matter.  I am just a tiny little speck aboard this weird spotted bit of dust called earth, and all that was going on out there billions of years before I was born and will still be going on out there billions of years after I die."  Nothing seems stranger to you that that, or more different from you, yet there comes a point, if you watch long enough, when you will say, "Why that's me!"  It is the other that is the condition of your being yourself, as the back is the condition of being the front, and when you know that, you know you never die."
Alan Watts, Swimming Headless, 1966

I first heard Alan Watts speak at California State University at Los Angeles in 1966.  I had read The Way of Zen and Beat Zen and Square Zen while in high school in 1962.  I was also well versed in the books by D. T. Suzuki.  Mr. Watts was a charming and engaging public speaker.  He made us laugh and he made us think. 

In 1966, I was then an undergraduate majoring in Philosophy at CSULA, and working 30 hours per week at the City of Commerce Public Library.   Since then, I've read all of the books by Alan Watts, and have listened to audiotapes of his lectures and radio broadcasts.  He was definitely an intellectual and lifestyle influence in my life.  

For me, the "realization" comes while gazing at our garden.  Within this experience are myriad levels of complexity: ordinary human level, microscopic, molecular, atomic, subatomic ...  This spot of earth has been here for millions of years and will continue long after I die.  We animals and plants come and go, interdependent, interrelated, inter-being, a changing manifestation of the Here-Now.  

This peach, these peppers,
These grapes, these tomatoes
Will all soon become me.
Such a tasty fact.
I am That and That is Me. 
Bless the garden!
Bless the kitchen!
-  Mike Garofalo, Pulling Onions


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Floating Down to Die

The cottonwood tree is slowly loosing its leaves, or should I say that the leaves are one by one letting go to float down to their death.  

"When the still air and still in summertime
A leaf has had enough of this, it seems
To make up its mind to do; fine as a sage
Its drifting in detachment down the road."
-  Howard Nemerov, Threshold


"The foliage has been losing its freshness through the month of August,
and here and there a yellow leaf shows itself like the first gray hair
amidst the locks of a beauty who has seen one season too many."
-  Oliver Wendell Holmes

When I return from the gym at around 7:20 pm, after teaching yoga or taijiquan, I enjoy walking around in the garden, watering, and just sitting outdoors.  The air has cooled somewhat and the sun is very low in the western horizon.  The leaves of many plants are beginning to perk up again after a cool drink and less sunshine and heat.  

“That beautiful season - the Summer!
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light;
and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.”
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Inebriate of Air - am I -
And Debauchee of Dew -
Reeling through endless summer days -
From inns of Molten Blue.”
- Emily Dickinson, No. 214, St. 2, 1860

"Gardening helps us realize somatically, viscerally, the laws of growth and gradual unfolding.  We can't pull the plants up to make them grow, but we can help facilitate and midwife their blooming, each in his own way, time, and proper season.  I have learned a little about patience and humility from my gardens.  It's so obviously not something I'm doing that creates this miracle!  I also like to reflect upon and appreciate the exquisitely, evanescent, transitory, and poignant nature of things in the garden. 
If you love the Dharma, you have to farm it.
Go to a garden
And just stand in it.
Breathe in the air, the fragrances,
the light, the temperature,
the music of the different plants, insects, birds, worms,
   caterpillars, grasshoppers, and butterflies.
Inhale the prana (cosmic energy) of all the abundantly
   growing things.
Recharge your inner batteries.
This is the joy of natural meditation."
-  Lama Surya Das, "Awakening to the Sacred," 1999


The colorful gate pictured above is located at the entrance to our Sacred Circle Garden in Red Bluff, California.  The color green symbolizes Earth, yellow symbolizes Air, red symbolizes Fire, and blue symbolizes Water. This photograph was taken two years ago.  Some of the plants have nearly doubled in size since then.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Meetings with Master Chang San-Feng

Master Chang’s Pepper Talk

Coming through the
clear and cloudless skies
whereabouts known
the master comes walking to my home.
Smiling, herbs in hand,
stepping over dry wheat, star thistle, bindweed, dry land,
startling and scattering a guinea hen band,
onward walks that tall and dignified man.
He strolled past the fence and
into the gardened land.

”I see your peppers green, yellow and red,
spicy hot, like a sharp fajing strike
from that old fellow Chen Wang-ting’s
hidden fist’s bite.”

“Listen, a woodpecker knocks,
your garden becomes more mysterious,
the six sealings are all leaky,
the four closings are all openings.
Step back, raise your arms in joy,
play Cloud Hands in realms of cloudlessness.”

“Plant the seeds of progress with practice
daily, sun after sun, at dawn
to be done, by you,
the chosen one.”

“Do not neglect fasting the mind,
and, for you, fasting the flesh,
until you are as fast as the Tameless White Tiger,
lean as Xuan Wu’s Snake General,
still and strong as the Black Tortoise,
and worthy of Lao Tzu’s wisdom.”

“Become graceful, gentle, manly, clean.
Court the Jade Maiden, fairest Grace,
Go to Her for your fate to spin,
Weaving beauty till the end.”

“Let the Yellow Dragon stir
the waters of your blood and brain,
build up your bones, break bad habits,
root deeper into the earth, fill youself with energy,
strengthen your spirit, and lengthen your days.”

“Take these herbs with tea,
my friend in the five realms;
I’m going now,
flying west to the sea.”

I picked up the herbs and an acorn squash,
looked up,
and a single cloud passed by
in the clear gray cloudless sky.

-  Michael P. Garofalo
   Valley Spirit Garden
   Red Bluff, California
   August 23, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dao De Jing by Lao Tzu, Chapter 10

"creative spirit
vital soul
wondrous bodymind

can you combine these into one phase
and gently hold onto it

one phase one part one moment

can you commune with
and direct the elemental force of life
and enter into the rebirth of gentleness
and be like a newborn  

can you wash and cleanse your mystic inner vision
while clearing it of the refuse left behind you
     ordinary sight

is it possible for you to stay out of your own way
while being your own leader

can you stomp the earth
look to the heavens while being receptive
possessed of quietude

can you be knowledgeable and clever
and regard it as whimsical 

create and nourish
let all creation be the worlds
not your own

have fun when you work
work when you have fun

be a leader without appearing to be
and you will personify fine uncarved wood
in the hands of a master carpenter

can you guess who this master is."

-  Translated by the Reverend Venerable John Bright-Fey, 2006, Chapter 10

The Whole Heart of Tao: The Complete Teachings from the Oral Tradition of Lao-Tzu.  By John Bright-Fey.  Birmingham, Alabama, Crane Hill Publishers, 2006.  376 pages.  ISBN: 1575872471.  The Reverend Venerable John Bright-Fey, Sifu Fey, is the 12th generation lineage holder of the Blue Dragon Order of Esoteric Zen Buddhism, a distinct line of knowledge descended directly from Shaolin Temple. Sifu Bright-Fey teaches at the New Forest Center for Contemplative Living, Birmingham, Alabama.  This version of the Tao Te Ching is both a translation by a Chinese scholar and a fascinating interpolation based on his religious training.  He uses a schema of interpretation for lines in each of the 81 Chapters of the Tao Te Ching based on the concepts of the Taoist Mind (mindset and world view), Taoist Body (day to day concerns of living), Taoist Hand (training techniques by a Cultivator of the Tao, spiritual disciplines) and Taoist Heart (core and cherished beliefs) [p.21-].  His rigorous experiential approach resonates with my training in Taijiquan, Qigong, gardening, spiritual practices, and ritual.   

Monday, August 22, 2011

Faceless Obscurity

"What is the color of your head from the standpoint of your eyes?  You feel that you head is black, or that it has not any color at all.  Outside you see your field of vision as an oval because your two eyes act as two centers of an ellipse.  But what is beyond the field of vision?  What color is it where you can't see?  It is not black, and this is an important point; there is no color at all beyond your field of vision.  This little mental exercise gives us an idea of what is mean by the character hsüan.  Although its dictionary definition is "dark, deep, obscure," it actually refers to this kind of no color that is the color of your head - as far as your eyes are concerned.  Perhaps we could say that the invisibility of one's head, in a certain sense the lack of a head, is the secret of being alive.  To be headless, or have no head in just the same sense I am talking about, is our way of talking about the Chinese expression wu hsin, or "no mind."  As a matter of fact, if you want to see the inside of your head all you have to do is keep your eyes open, because all that you are experiencing in the external, visual field is a state of your brain."
-  Alan Watts, Swimming Headless, 1966 

"Easter Wisdom, Modern Life: Collected Talks, 1960-1969."  By Alan Watts.  Novato, California, New World Library, 1994, 2006. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Wuxing (Five Elements) - Table of Correspondences

I continue my research into the Chinese Five Elements Theory (Wuxing). 
There are many books and webpages with a Table of Correspondences for the Five Elements. 
Mine is located at:

Compare this Five Elements Table with the ones I prepared five years ago for the Eight Trigrams

I used the Eight Trigrams schema and Western Four Element schema for the design of my Sacred Circle Garden

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Walking Practice Suggestion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking Meditation

Walking Quotations

Walking in the Garden

General Index to the Cloud Hands Website

Standing Meditation, Zhan Zhuang, Standing Like a Post

Standing Meditation - General

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Sunny Garden Is Producing as Expected

Back in May of 2011, I worked hard to establish a new garden area in full sun for growing vegetables.  We planted it with tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons, beans, and other crops.  The south portion is used for our compost pile, while the center and north portions of the "Sunny Garden" are used for crops.  Here is how it looks today:

Back in May it looked like this:

When I work on improving this garden in the Spring of 2012, I plan to add drip irrigation lines and provide more space between the plants. 

Sunny Garden Project

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Roads Go Ever On

"Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,

And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains of the moon.

Roads go ever ever one
Under cloud and under star
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
An horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known."
-  J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Lately, because of an infected toe, a recurring problem, I must abstain from walking for a few days.  I do very much miss my walks at daybreak in the cool summer morn. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Five Elements Qigong

I've been studying a number of books and Internet resources about the subject of the Chinese Five Elements Theory.  The Five Elements are more often referred to as the Five: Movers, Energies, Transformations, Phases, Powers and Forces. The Five Energies are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. 

I prepared a brief 2 page document about a gentle five movement Qigong set based on the Five Elements.  The document is titled:  The Five Elements Qigong and Internal Training Methods.  It will be used by our Valley Spirit Qigong Study Group in Red Bluff, California.  It is a read only PDF document.  The "Internal Training Methods" refer to visualizations, meditations, Taoist readings, mystical practices, and feng shui that will be discussed in our Study Group; and which are only hinted at in the brief list of correspondences under each of the Five Elements. 

I highly recommend the new book by Dr. Steven Liu and Jonathan Blank called "Secrets of the Dragon Gate: Taoist Practices for Health, Wealth, and the Art of Sexual Yoga."  The variety of creative practices and methods for health and well being are very useful and explained clearly. 

Five Elements Qigong: Bibliography, Links, Resources, Lessons, Quotations

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Taijiquan Resources

For a variety of Taijiquan bibliographies, link lists, resources, lessons, lists and quotations please go to:

Cloud Hands Website

Online since 2001. 
Over 1.5 million webpages served each year. 

Created by Michael P. Garofalo, Valley Spirit Taijiquan, Red Bluff, California

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Round Earth Rolls

"This grand show is eternal.  It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising.  Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and glowing, on sea and continues and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls."
-  John Muir

"But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee."
-   William Shakespeare,  Sonnet XVIII

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Building Through Repetition


"My prayer beads are strung on my life span.
I am not allowed to skip a single bead :
Sometimes the bead is a seed. Or a bone.
Or jade. Or dry blood. Or semen. Or crystal.
Or rotted wood. Or a sage's relic. Or gold.
Or glass. Or a prism. Or iron. Or clay.
Or an eye. Or an egg. Or dung. Or a ball.
Or a stone. Or a peach. Or a bullet.
Or a bubble. Or lead. Or pure light.
No matter what the next bead is, I must count it,
Perform my daily austerities.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Until repetition becomes endurance.

People seldom understand the power of repetition. What is repeated
over and over again can become enduring; what is done in a moment is
seldom lasting. If farmers do not tend to their fields every day, they
cannot expect a harvest. The same is true of spiritual practice. It is
not the grand declaration or the colorful initiation that means
anything. It is the ongoing, daily living of a spiritual life that has
meaning. Our progress may range from dull to spectacular, but we must
accept both. Each and every day should be linked together, strung into a
long line of prayer beads.

In life, you don't know how many beads you've counted already, and
you don't know how many are yet to come. All that matters is fingering
the one that comes to you now and taking the spiritual significance of
that moment to heart."

365 Tao: Daily Meditations
Deng Ming-Dao
ISBN 0-06-250223-9

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Garden Sights

Insects are everywhere at this time of the year.  Some of the dragonflies have quite spectacular coloring patterns.  Yesterday, Karen saved the life of a beautiful dragonfly, an Aeshna multi-colored blue-eyed Darner dragonfly.  The dragonfly was caught in a large spider web on tomato plants in our new sunny garden.  She released the dragonfly.  It rested on the straw until departing.  

We have many peaches, plums, figs, pears, and apples on our fruit trees at the present time. We enjoy eating ripe peaches every day.  Squash and pumpkins are also plentiful. 

All photographs by Karen Garofalo.  All rights reserved. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cannon Fist Form, Loajia Erlu, Chen Taijiquan

I keep my notes about the Chen Taijiquan, First Frame, Second Form, Laojia Erlu, on a webpage at the Cloud Hands website.  This form is widely known as "Cannon Bashing Fist" or "Cannot Fist" (Paocui). 
This is a vigorous and dynamic Chen Taijiquan form for intermediate and advanced students. 

Bibliography, Links, DVDs, Resources, List of Movements, Videos, Notes
By Michael Garofalo

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chakras - Color Associations

You might find the following mnemonic device useful in helping to remember the order and colors associated with the chakras in the esoteric human body. 

Remember the following name:   Roy G. Biv

Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Doing Taijiquan at a Faster Pace

For two decades I have practiced Yang and Sun Styles Taijiquan at a slow, steady, even, smooth and meditative pace.  Since I began to practice martial arts routines and forms with a cane weapon, and with my beginning the practice of Chen Style Taijiquan, I have been increasing my speed and power while doing these forms.  This has posed a new challenge for my cardio-vascular conditioning level, for my physical agility and coordination levels, and for my 65 year old body overall.  I really enjoy the new challenge. 

"Chen Style Taiji is perhaps the most overtly martial of all Taiji styles.  Most Chen Style forms are fast.  These include Second Form (Cannon Bashing), saber, double saber, spear, long staff, short staff, three-opponent staff, flaive, punching bags, and several combat exercises.  The only two forms that are decidedly slow are the First Form and the straight sword.  

Kinetic movements (meaning, again, movements that depend on momentum) must be trained at speed.  Any time you have a weapon in your hands that swings or spins, you must actually swing it or spin it in order to learn its behavior.  If you try to practice it slowly, you will not receive feedback from the weapon's own kinetic properties, and will consequently never learn how to exploit them.  Without kinetic training, you will always be fighting the weapon.  

In certain situations, you need to wield your own body kinetically.  Chen Taiji's Second Form (Cannon Bashing) is designed for exactly that purpose.  Any movement in which you sweep, leap, close quickly with the opponent, change orientation in mid-air, or swing around to attack from a different direction must similarly be trained at speed.  These are all movements that exploit the body's mass and momentum."
-  Mark Chen, Old Frame Chen Family Taijiquan, p. 86

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Sitting in the Shade

I enjoy relaxing outdoors in the late afternoon and evening hours.  Our summer daytime temperatures in the North Sacramento Valley near Red Bluff, California, are normally in the upper 90's.  We often have a mild breeze coming from the south in the afternoon.  After 4 pm, I sit in the shade by our small pond.  Large eucalyptus trees shade the area. 

Large cottonwood trees line the north edge of this small ditch pond. 
Today, the irrigation ditches were flowing freely and we had nine hoses
slowly watering our trees.   

I sip iced tea and relax.  Sometimes my cat joins me.
Today I listened to Lee Riley's shakuhachi flute music,
"Music for Zen Meditation."

Looking to the north gives me a grand view of many trees and shrubs. 
The ground is quite dry and all the spring grass is now brown and
shriveled away.

"I exist as I am, that is enough,
  If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
  And if each and all be aware I sit content.
  One world is aware, and by the far the largest to me, and that is myself,
  And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand
        or ten million years,
  I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness, I can wait."
-  Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1855, I Celebrate Myself, Line 413 

Monday, August 08, 2011

T'ai Chi Ch'uan Standard 24 Movement Form

Taijiquan Standard Simplified 24 Movement Form in the Yang Style

Research by Michael P. Garofalo

- Bibliography, Links, Online Videos, Resources

- List of 24 Movement Names in English, Chinese characters, Chinese Pinyin, French, German and Spanish. Source references for movement names.

- Descriptions of each of the 24 movements with B&W line illustrations.

- Performance times, sections, quotations, notes on learning.

- Standard, simplified, Chinese National, Orthodox, 24 Movement Form in the Yang Style of Taijiquan.

- List of Movements

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Single Whip Posture of Taijiquan

"Single Whip strikes a majestic pose.
Unobstructed are the mai luo passageways.
The spirit perked, the form alert.
Arms like a snake span East to West.
Attack the head; the tail swings to defend.
Attack the tail; the heads springs to counter.
Attack the center; head and tail jump to act.
Top and bottom and the four sides are thus guarded.
With the readiness of a stretched bow.
Where is the source of this ingenious posture?
Follow the backbone joints to its core."
- Chen Village Taijiquan Song
Translated by Sim and Gaffney, Chen Style Taijiquan, p. 72

Chen Style Taijiquan: The Source of Taiji Boxing. By Davidine Siaw-Voon Sim and David Gaffney. Berkeley, CA, North Atlantic Books, 2002. Index, charts, 224 pages. ISBN: 1556433778. Provides an excellent introduction to Chen style Taijiquan history and legends, outlines the major forms, discusses the philosophy and foundations of the art, and gives very good information on training methods, push hands, and weapons. Very well written, highly informative, and a unique contribution to the field. Essential reading for all learning the Chen style of Tai Chi Chuan.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Arriving Where We Started

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploration
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
-  T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding

I the practice of Taijiquan we begin and end in the Wuji posture. 

Friday, August 05, 2011

Guardians of the Gates: Warrior Kings of the Buddha

"Virudhaka, Guardian of the South Gate, 
The Boundless Diamond King, Tseng-chang Tian, with shimmering sword in hand,
Blue as the Great Sky,
Spurring growth, increasing grandeur,
Subduing demons, frightening evil ones, cutting through ignorance,
Vowing to help everyone master limitless approaches to Dharma.  

Dhritarashtra, Guardian of the East Gate,
The Powerful Diamond King, Ch‘ï-kwo Tian, in tune with the Wise,
White as the Shining Sun,
Protector, Energizer, Honoring the Three Treasures,
Keeping Treasured Kingdoms whole, Saver of the Earth, 
Helping unravel the illusions of self, and freeing the slaves of Mara,
Vowing to aid all who strive to achieve the Supreme Awakening.

Vaishravana, Guardian of the North Gate,
The All Hearing Diamond King, To-wen Tian, listening to the endless sorrows,
Yellow as the Mystic Rose,
Seated and Silent, Compassionate,
Silencing the falsehoods, Singing the Dharma, Preserving the Word,
Vowing the eradicate vexations without end.  

Virupaksha, Guardian of the West Gate,
The All Seeing Diamond King, Kwang-mu Tian, unblinking in the face of death,
Red Eyed and Ever Vigilant,
Visionary of the Diamond Kings, Seeing the Unseen,
Subduing serpents of vice, keeping enemies in the dark, holding the Sacred Vajra,
Vowing to help Enlighten Sentient Beings without number.  

These Four Diamond Kings protect all Earthly and Sacred Worlds,
Faithfully Guard the Four Gates to Shambhala's Realm,
Active day and night on Mt. Sumeru and in the Ten Thousand Realms,
Rewarding the good and reforming the evil ones,
Overcoming all obstacles,
Fearless Defenders of the Middle Way,
Bodhisattvas ferrying followers to the Other Shore,
Grinding potions with mortar and pestle to Lessen the Pain, 
Sending Dragons into the deepest seas, riding Tigers to the Mountains,
Moving the Vast Clouds with Their Hands;
Yet, the Four Diamond Kings all bow in deep respect,
Honoring the Great Dharma Lord they forever serve."
-   Mike Garofalo, Above the Fog

The Bodhisattva Warriors.  The Origin, Inner Philosophy, History and Symbolism of the Buddhist Martial Art within India and China.  By Shifu Nagaboshi Tomio (Terence Dukes).  Boston, MA, Weiser Books, 1994.  Index, bibliography, extensive notes, 527 pages.  ISBN: 0877287856.  VSCL.   

Learning the Chen Style of Taijiquan: Section I, Movements 1-6

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Cane Weapon in Tai Chi Chuan

I practice with my cane every day.  It is the only weapon I use.  A wonderful Taijiquan tool. 

Way of the Short Staff

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Chen Taijiquan Old Frame First Form (Lao Jia Yi Lu)

Chen Style Taijiquan, Old Frame First Form, Lao Jia Yi Lu.  By Michael P. Garofalo.  140Kb+.  2007-2011.  Detailed bibliography of books, media, and articles.  Extensive selection of Internet links.  List of movement names in English, Chinese characters, Chinese Pinyin, French, German, and Spanish; and citations for sources of the movement names.  Detailed list of DVDs and videos available online.  Extensive notes on the author's learning the Old Frame, First Routine, Lao Jia Yi Lu; and on learning Chen Style Taijiquan.  Record of performance time of this form by many masters.  Breakdown by sections of the form, with separate lists for each section.  General information, history, facts, information, pointers, and quotations.  

Section I, Movements 1-6, Chen Taijiquan, Old Frame, First Form 


Monday, August 01, 2011

Out of the Blogging Loop

Both Karen and I have had numerous health problems and surgeries in the last few months.   All our efforts have been focused on helping each other recover and regain our health.

California laws changed in June 2011 with regard to webmasters with associate accounts.  California now demands that Associates pay California sales taxes.  We, of course, paid California income taxes in the past on all Amazon income.  Amazon has chosen to refuse to pay any California sales taxes.  Amazon has now stopped paying Amazon Associates in California for all our link referrals from our websites and blogs that lead to purchases at Amazon.  Amazon, of course, continues to benefit from all link advertising referrals from former Associates; it just does not pay them anything.  This has resulted in a decrease of our web based income by $150 per month.  What a disappointment for us!  We feel ripped off by both Amazon and the State of California.

No Tai Chi Chuan, Qigong, or Internal Martial Arts publisher, business, author or teacher has ever given us any money to advertise their products or services.  Nobody has ever financially sponsored our non-gardening websites or blogs in any way. 

We are semi-retired, working four part-time jobs, and may need to prune back and discontinue our websites or blogs that cost us annual fees for web hosting and domain registration.  We may, like thousands of others, just bow out gracefully from any more blogging or webpage creative work.