Monday, April 30, 2012

As Brisk as Boys

"The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy, walk and be healthy. "The best of all ways to lengthen our days" is not, as Mr. Thomas Moore has it, "to steal a few hours from night, my love;" but, with leave be it spoken, to walk steadily and with a purpose. The wandering man knows of certain ancients, far gone in years, who have staved off infirmities and dissolution by earnest walking,--hale fellows close upon eighty and ninety, but brisk as boys."
-  Charles Dickens  

The Ways of Walking

"It’s all still there in heart and soul. The walk, the hills, the sky, the solitary pain and pleasure–they will grow larger, sweeter, lovelier in the days and years to come." 
-   Edward Abbey  

When I am not scheduled to work at my part-time job for the elementary school district, I get outdoors and start walking at 6 am.  In between each lap of my walking track (.6 miles round trip [pictured below]) I practice Taijiquan forms [e.g., Sun Style Single Whip Left pictured below].  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Springtime Gardening Work

Karen and I worked outdoors for 5 hours on Saturday and 8 hours on Sunday.  We finished preparations of our Sunny Garden and planted many seedlings.  We mowed all the grass and weeds in our main outdoor yards.  We pulled the small DC pump from our field well because it was not working.  We cleaned up the Sacred Circle garden.  Busy, busy ...  It was fun! 

"All good work is done the way ants do things: Little by little."
-  Lafcadio Hearn

"This is the real secret of life - to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now.  And instead of calling it work, realize it is play."
-   Alan Watts, Work as Play  

"Every kind of work can be a pleasure. Even simple household tasks can be an opportunity to exercise and expand our caring, our effectiveness, our responsiveness. As we respond with caring and vision to all work, we develop our capacity to respond fully to all of life. Every action generates positive energy which can be shared with others. These qualities of caring and responsiveness are the greatest gift we can offer."
-  Tarthang Tulku

Our Iris garden is in grand form at this time of year.  

Saturday, April 28, 2012

From the Decaying Tree

"The smell of the sea hugged the fog in the redwood trees,
All cool and dank, dimly lit and rank with green,
And in shadowed limbs the Stellar jays jabbered free,
And me, standing silently, an alien in this enchanted scene.

From behind the mossy grey stumps
the sounds of footsteps crunching fronds of ferns
caught my suddenly wary mind ...

"Hello, old friend," said Chang San Feng.
"Master Chang, what a surprise," said I.
Master Chang sat on a stump, smiled, and said,

"Can you hear the Blue Dragon singing in the decaying tree;
Or is it the White Tiger roaring in the wilderness of your bright white skull?
No matter!  The answer is in the questioning; don't you Chan men see?

In the red ball flesh of this decaying tree
Sapless woody shards of centuries of seasons
Nourish the new roots of mindfulness sprouting. 
Yes, Yes, but how can it be?
The up-surging waves of life sprout forth from the decaying tree,
As sure as sunrise rolling over the deep black sea. 
Coming, coming, endlessly coming; waves of Chi

Tan Qian's raven roosts for 10,000 moons
     in the withered branches of the rotting tree;
     then, one day, the weathered tree falls,
     nobody hearing, soundlessly crashing
     on the forest floor, on some unknown noon. 

Over and over, over and over, life bringing death, death bringing life,
Beyond even the miraculous memories of an old Xian like me;
Watching, watching, sequestered from the strife,
Turning my soul away sometimes because I cannot bear to see. 

Even minds may die, but Mind is always free
Bounding beyond, beyond, far beyond you and me;
Somehow finding the Possibility Keys
And unlocking the Door out of the Voids of Eternities."

Master Chang somehow, someway,
slowly disappeared into the red brown heart of the decaying tree.

Then the squawk of the jay
opened my mind's eye to the new day -

-  Michael P. Garofalo
   Meetings with Master Chang San Feng
   Remembering Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, Chapter 65

Dao De Jing, Laozi
Chapter 65

[When studying ancient texts and scriptures, we also learn by disagreeing with or doubting what they say.  It is unwise to worship and revere any old book or scripture or document whether it be the Tao De Jing, the Bible, the Koran, or the Constitution of the United States of America.  "True Believers" can be shortsighted and quite mean-spirited at times, and I find dogmatists are less useful than dogs. Times change, knowledge and information expand, science advances, populations expand, philosophies evolve, worldviews recede from popularity, empires collapse.  I recommend that you aim to be mentally flexible, pragmatic, informed, good, skeptical, open-minded, tolerant, evolving, relevant, and current.] 

"The ancients who showed their skill in practicing the Tao did so, not to enlighten the people, but rather to make them simple and ignorant.
The difficulty in governing the people arises from their having much knowledge.
He who tries to govern a state by his wisdom is a scourge to it;
While he who does not try to do so is a blessing.
He who knows these two things finds in them also his model and rule.
Ability to know this model and rule constitutes what we call the mysterious excellence of a governor.
Deep and far-reaching is such mysterious excellence, showing indeed its possessor as opposite to others, but leading them to a great conformity to him."
-   Translated by James Legge, 1891, Chapter 65   

"The ancients who were well versed in Reason did not thereby enlighten the people;
They intended thereby to make them simple-hearted.
If people are difficult to govern, it is because they are too smart.
To govern the country with smartness is the country's curse.
To govern the country without smartness is the country's blessing.
He who knows these two things is also a model like the ancients.
Always to know the model is called profound virtue.
Spiritual virtue, verily, is profound.
Verily, it is far-reaching.
Verily, it is to everything reverse.
But then it will procure great recognition."
-   Translated by D. T. Suzuki and Paul Carus, 1913, Chapter 65   

"The ancients who were most adept at ruling did not try to enlighten the people, but instead gradually made them stupid.
The people are difficult to govern because they are clever.
Hence, the nation's malefactor is one who uses cleverness to govern.
While the nation's benefactor is one who does not use cleverness to govern.
To understand both of these is also to harmonize with an eternal pattern.
To understand and harmonize with that pattern is called Profound Te.
Profound Te is so deep, so far-reaching.
It causes things to return and eventually reach Great Confluence."
-   Translated by Tam Gibbs, 1981, Chapter 65 

Those who, in ancient times, were eminent for the practice of Tao, abstained from enlightening the people, and kept them simple.
The difficulty of governing the people arises from their excess of shrewdness.
He who employs shrewdness in governing a State, becomes a robber of the State;
he who does not do so, is a blessing to it.
The man who knows both these things presents an ideal of good government, and a knowledge of this ideal
constitutes Sublime Virtue.
Sublime Virtue is deep and far-reaching, and is in direct opposition to all objects of desire;
thus it is able to bring about universal accordance with the Tao."
-   Translated by Frederic Henry Balfour, 1884, Chapter 65    

"In days gone by, those who knew how to follow the Dao did not seem enlightened but ignorant.
The reason why people are hard to govern is because they know too much.
And so to use knowledge to govern a country is to be its curse.
Not to use knowledge to govern a country is to be its blessing. 
There are two primal principles, and to understand them always brings the deepest virtue (De).
How hidden, deep and far-reaching virtue (De) is.
It makes all things return to their source and so attain oneness."
-   Translated by Tim Chilcott, 2005, Chapter 65  

"In olden times those who were most practiced in the Tao did not use their knowledge to instruct the people;
they used it rather to keep them simple.
It is when they are overstocked with learning that the people are hard to govern.
To govern by adding to the people's store of learning is to prey on the country;
To govern by decreasing the people's store of learning is to be a blessing to the country.
He who is familiar with these two methods will not want for a touchstone.
Always bearing this in mind, he will be able to draw on the Mysterious Power;
This power is infinitely deep and far-reaching, and, unlike all things else, goes back and back,
Until it attains to complete Unity."
-   Translated by Herman Ould, 1946, Chapter 65  

"Those skillful in the ancient Tao
Are not obvious to the people.
They appear to be simple-minded.
People are difficult to lead
Because they are too clever.
Hence, to lead the organization with cleverness
Will harm the organization.
To lead the organization without cleverness
Will benefit the organization.
Those who know these two things
Have investigated the patterns of the Absolute.
To know and investigate the patterns
Is called the Subtle Power.
The Subtle Power is profound and far-reaching.
Together wtih the Natural Law of polarity,
It leads to the Great Harmony."
-   Translated by R. L. Wing, 1986, Chapter 65 

"The ancients who mastered the Tao did not make the people sharp and clever.
Instead, they made the people simple and deep.
The people are hard to govern
When they are too clever and know too much.
To govern the people with cleverness is to bring about calamities.
To govern the people with simplicity is to bring about blessings.
To know these two alternatives is to have the standard of governance.
To understand the standard of governance is to have sublime virtue.
Sublime virtue is deep and far-reaching.
Though it runs counter to the common way,
It follows the great way of the Tao Eternal."
-   Translated by Yasuhiko Genku Kimura, Chapter 65  


Chapter and Thematic Index to the Tao Te Ching


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Elegant Ebullience

Practicing Taijiquan and Yoga outdoors provides me with the opportunity to physically and mentally express grace, style, and elegance.  It also allows me to become more intimate with the complexity and beauty of the natural world.  The graceful elegance of the "grand ultimate" (Taiji) forms raises my spirits, causes Qi energy to bubble over, fills me with an elegant ebullience.  

"Beauty is excrescence, superabundance, random ebulience, and sheer delightful waste to be enjoyed in its own right."
-   Donald Culross Peattie, An Almanac for Moderns    

"The foundations of the world are to be found, not in the cognitive experience of conscious thought, but in the aesthetic experience of everyday life."
-   Alfted North Whitehead  

"Elegance means appreciating things as they are. There is a sense of delight and of fearlessness. You are not fearful of dark corners. If there are any dark, mysterious corners, black and confusing, you override them with your glory, your sense of beauty, your sense of cleanness, your feeling of being regal. Because you can override fearfulness in this way, tantra, or the highest stage in Tibetan Buddhist practice, is known as the king of all the stages on the path. You take an attitude of having perfectly complete and very rich basic sanity."
 -  Elegance, Ocean of Dharma, Shambhala Publications

"It is only necessary to behold the least fact or phenomenon, however familiar, from a point a hair's breadth aside from our habitual path or routine, to be overcome, enchanted by its beauty and significance ... To perceive freshly, with fresh senses is to be inspired."
-   Henry David Thoreau  


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Yoga Classes in Red Bluff, California

Michael Garofalo teaches yoga classes at the Tehama Family Fitness Center in Red Bluff, California.  

Here is his current yoga teaching schedule:

Monday 5:30 – 6:30 pm
Tuesday:  5:30 – 6:30 pm
Thursday:  5:30 – 6:30 pm
Saturday:  11:15 – 12:30 am

These classes feature an eclectic blend of Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, and Chinese Qigong Yoga.  All these practices emphasize flexibility, correct alignment, being quiet, balance, efficient breathing, coordination, and composure.  Hatha style Yoga includes strength building, balancing exercises, modern Yoga postures, inversions, Warrior poses, and longer stretching sequences.  Vinyasa style Yoga emphasizes flowing movements, strength, building warmth, and coordinated breathing.  Chinese Qigong style Yoga includes standing stretching exercises, energy (Qi) work, flowing movements, and the animal frolics.  We will also introduce participants to numerous techniques used to reduce stress, uplift mood, improve concentration, and explore mind-body-spirit consciousness.   

Valley Spirit Yoga
Instructor:  Michael P. Garofalo
YogaFit Level IV Certified Yoga Instructor (200 Hours)
Group Fitness Instructor Certified (AFAA) 2012-
® Trained Instructor 2012-
Personal Fitness Trainer Certified (2007-2009)
Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) Certified
M.S., B.A. Philosophy

For More Information You are Welcome to Telephone Mike at 530-200-3546

Valley Spirit Hatha Yoga Website

Mike has completed the YogaFit Level IV Teacher Training certification (200 hours.)  Mike has taught Qigong (Chinese Yoga) and T'ai Chi Ch'uan since 2000, and has practiced these internal martial arts since 1986.  He has been teaching Hatha Yoga at the Tehama Family Fitness Center since 2004, and was formerly the Yoga Director at TFFC.  He has also completed 36 hours of formal training in other styles of Yoga, and over 600 hours of Qigong and Tai Chi training.   

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sun Style Taijiquan

Sun Style Taijiquan 73 Movements International Competition Form: Bibliography, Links, Lessons, Quotations

Sun Style Taijiquan Sword (Jian) 62 Movements Form:  Bibliography, Links, Lists, Quotes

I had some comments and questions this week about the Sun Style of Taijiquan:

"Hello Mike, I have now decided (after about 4 years of Sun 97 form) that I would like to do the Swordplay of Sun Jian Yun....... I have the instructional DVD and have looked your website over and am pleased to see what you have available as helps.  You mentioned you have learned the Sun Taiji Jian 62 form and used the resources you list.  A couple of questions please: Since I don't have a lot of room.... 6' x 15', I am sort of curious about some hints you might give me to learn the sword without cutting up my table and chairs lol. Secondly, I am looking into a wooden sword for learning practice.... does that sound good to do?  Because of the weight difference should I just go ahead and look into a spring steel one?  Lastly, I see there is a "collapsible" sword (I guess that's what you call them) do you have any thought on that?  Any and all hints and pointers would be so greatly appreciated. (I am as you are in that I am the "lone" Sun shi player in Central Illinois -- Danville -- just west of Indy about 90 miles on the Interstate) I do teach 24 form and Tai Chi for Health at my community college -- I am certified in Dr. Lam's Tai chi for Arthritis.... second time) Thanks for your help in advance."  From Victor V, 4/21/2012
My response: 
Great to hear about your steady practice of the Sun 97 Form.  Nice to hear that you are teaching the 24 form for its health benefits. Dr. Lam has done a lot to popularize Sun Shi Taiji. 
I favor a steel Jian double edged Tai Chi sword that is stiff and straight.  I use the Paul Chen fully tempered high carbon steel Tai Chi sword - around $120.00.  I do not like the Wushu flexible and light steel swords that wiggle and twang; or the funky unattractive collapsible Tai Chi swords that I have seen.  Wooden jian sword replicas are light and generally inexpensive - and quite popular. For indoor practice, maybe you can use a short wood dowel of 2 feet for $3.00 ... a "magic wand" jian.  
I use a cane for practicing my Tai Chi cane forms, saber forms and sword forms outdoors.  I know that most Taiji weapons' players would insist on practice with a proper steel sword or saber; so I'm in the minority on this recommendation.  A good, properly sized, martial arts cane is very easy to carry anywhere and nobody notices.  It is a "real" weapon.  I practice forms more because I use a cane.  I use a pure hickory heartwood cane, Instructor's Walking Cane, 40" (103 cm) long and 1" (2.54 cm) in diameter, from Cane Masters.  
Best wishes, Mike

"Love your website, surprised you didn't have this link. My favorite for the Sun 98.
Sunstyle taijiquan performed by Master Wang Yanji. Maste Wang studied wushu- martial arts from family Li, And has studied to the Chinese many martial arts famous experts."
Regards, tcsail09
I added this UTube Video (7:21 minutes) to my list of Sun 98 resources today. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

SilverSneakers® Training Workshops Attended

Kevin Weaver and I attended the training sessions for the SilverSneakers
Muscular Strength and Range of Movement (MSRM) class and SilverSneakers Cardio Circuit class this weekend.  We drove down to Emeryville (near the UC Berkeley campus in the Bay Area) on Saturday afternoon, stayed at the Hilton Garden Hotel, then attended the training workshop on Sunday at In Shape Fitness Center from 9-5 pm, and then returned to Red Bluff (a 3 hour drive).  The excellent course trainer was Donna Horwitz. 
I learned a great deal about leading a SilverSneakers Muscular Strength course for older adults and seniors.  The training manual was useful, and I got a DVD with a master lesson for each course.
I will be substitute teaching in Kevin's SilverSneakers classes when he needs to be out of town.  I hope to teach two Muscular Strength classes of my own starting in August.   
Kevin was an enjoyable and interesting companion.  He is a Taijiquan and Qigong Master.  He teaches many fitness classes at the Tehama Family Fitness Center, and is a Personal Fitness Trainer. 
Funding support from the Tehama Family Fitness Center made our attendance at these training workshops possible.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Months and Seasons Webpages Series

All avid gardeners are keen observers of the impact of the seasonal changes in their local environment.  Garden work projects must be carefully timed with the flow of the seasons and weather changes so as to minimize wasted effort, prevent wasted time, reduce costs, and maximize their gardening effectiveness and success. 

Those who enjoy outdoor activities and outdoor sports plan their activities around the cycle of the seasons.  Vacations and outings are carefully scheduled with the weather in mind. 

Persons interested in NeoPagan religions and Nature Worshippers play close attention to the “Cycle of the Seasons.”  Holy Days and Rites are planned and celebrated based upon a seasonally based liturgical cycle.  


I live in the Northern Hemisphere at latitude 40°10' North, in Red Bluff, California, in the North Sacramento Valley.  Cities with a similar northern latitude include Beijing, Barcelona, Chicago, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Madrid, Naples, New York, and Vladivostok.    


When I created my Months and Seasons Webpages Series I made the following assumptions.  First, the resources (i.e., quotations, poems, sayings, facts, links, citations, etc.) would be organized by months and seasons so as to be relevant to me, a person gardening and walking and enjoying nature studies in the Northern Hemisphere.  Second, resources chosen would be relevant for a gardener and nature lover.  Third, resources chosen would reflect my interests in NeoPagan customs, Indo-European myths and lore, Far Eastern worldviews, nature mysticism, ecology, and the Green worldview. 


Every year, the most popular webpages that I have published have been the 26 webpages in the Months and Seasons Webpages Series.  These "Cycle of the Year" webpages are served very frequently to readers all around the world.  Since they are so popular, I offer the webpages in this series at both my domains: and  I try to make additions and improvements to some of these webpages every month.  I use Google Analytics and my Internet web host's (Blue Host in Utah) statistical programs to keep track of how many times these webpages (excluding counts of graphics served on these webpages) were served by my Internet web host to readers in 2011.  

1,287,000 Webpages Were Served in 2011 from the Months and Seasons Webpages Series by Mike Garofalo

February   82,100 
March   103,700 
Spring   84,700
April   67,200 
May   62,100
June   42,600
Summer   40,300
July   41,800 
August   68,500
September   85,900 
Autumn   23,800 
October   103,800 
November   105,000
December   117,100    
Winter   55,700
Index   83,500 
Total   1,287,000

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Dao De Jing, Laozi, Chapter 66

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
Chapter 66

"The sea is the ruler of the rivers,
Because it lies below them.
Thus a ruler should always:
Speak like a subordinate, and lead by following after.
The ruler stands above, and no one feels the weight.
The great rivers and streams all pour their tribute of the world onto the seas.
The seas gain this tribute and are called high and mighty because they lie low, humility gives the sea its power.
It is for this reason that the followers of Tao humble themselves before mankind.
They speak in tones of humility and lowborn status.
They do not attempt to lead, but learn to follow, and find themselves leading the people from behind.
In this way the wise sovereign will rule over the people, but they will not feel his weight.
He will lead the people, but they will not feel slighted or displeased.
The people will gladly uphold and support such a one as this.
The master does not strive, in this way no one can strive against him."
-   Translated by John Dicus, 2002, Chapter 66  

"The sea is the ruler of the rivers,
Because it lies below them.
Thus a ruler should always:
Speak like a subordinate, and lead by following after.
The ruler stands above, and no one feels the weight."
-   Translated by Ned Ludd, Chapter 66  

"That which allows the rivers and seas to serve as kings of the small valley streams,
Is their ability to be below the small valley streams.
Therefore, they can serve as the kings of the small valley streams.
The Sage's presence at the front of his people, results from putting himself behind them.
The reason he is above them is that in his words he is below them.
But although he is on top of his people, they do not regard him as heavy;
And although he is in front of his people, they do not regard him as posing a threat.
All under heaven delight in advancing him while never tiring of him.
Because he does not compete,
No one in the world can compete with him."
-   Translated by Robert G. Hendricks, 2000, Chapter 66  

"The reason why the sea
is king of all the valleys and the streams
is because it lies beneath them,
and so can act as king.
So anyone who wants to rule the people
must speak humbly to them;
Anyone who wants to lead the people
must follow them as if behind.
Those who are enlightened stand above the people,
and yet the people do not feel weighed down.
Those who are enlightened stand in front of the people,
and yet the people do not feel obstructed.
The whole world joyfully supports those who are enlightened
and never tires of doing so.
Because those who are enlightened contend with no one,
no one contends with them."
-   Translated by Tim Chilcott, 2005, Chapter 66  

"Why is the sea king of a hundred streams?
Because it lies below them.
Therefore it is the king of a hundred streams.
If the sage would guide the people, he must serve with humility.
If he would lead them, he must follow behind.
In this way when the sage rules, the people will not feel oppressed;
When he stands before them, they will not be harmed.
The whole world will support him and will not tire of him.
Because he does not compete,
He does not meet competition."
-   Translated by Jane English, 1972, Chapter 66 

"Why are the oceans and rivers kings of all the valleys?
Receiving all the watercourses in tribute.
Because they are benevolently the inferiors of all the valleys with regard to levels.
That is why all the water flows towards them.
Following this example, the Sage who wishes to become superior to the common people should speak in words beneath himself, speak very humbly of himself.
If he wishes to become the first, he should put himself in last place, and continue to do so, after he has been exalted. 
He could then be elevated to the highest peak without the people feeling oppressed by him; he could be the first without the people complaining about him.
The whole empire would serve him with joy, without becoming weary of him.
For, not being opposed to anyone, no one would be opposed to him."
-   Translated by Derek Bryce, 1999, Chapter 66 

Chapter and Thematic Index to the Tao Te Ching

Friday, April 20, 2012

Blog vs Webpage Usage Comparisons

The main purpose of this blog is to direct readers to the hundreds of webpages published on my two websites:

Green Way Research 2003- 

Spirit of Gardening  1999-

In the month of March, 2012, there were 8,026 page views of the Cloud Hands Blog.  When I post everyday to the Cloud Hands Blog, I have the greatest number of blogpage views.  Since 2005, there have been only 100,518 page views of this blog. 

In contrast, my website Green Way Research ( gets more active usage.  For the last six months, 10/1/2011-3/31/2012, this website has recorded 538,090 page views, 378,035 visits, with 78% new visitors.  The most popular Taijiquan and Qigong webpages on this website, excluding 13 from the Months and Seasons Webpages Series, are: 

Webpage                                  Page Views (10/2011-3/2012)
Standard 24 Form                           39,988
Eight Section Brocade                     10,154
Staff Weapons                               9,205
Yang Taijiquan 108                         8,919
Short Staff                                    7,822
Sword Taijiquan 32                         7,499
Trigrams                                       6,002
Bagua                                          5,972
Wuji Standing                               5,471 
Fan                                              3,745
Chen Taiji 18                                 3,037

My website The Spirit of Gardening (, for the past six months 10/1/2011-3/31/2012, has recorded 560,292 page views.  Some of the most popular webpages on this website, excluding 26 from the Months and Seasons Webpages Series, include the Flowers, Cliches, Trees, Weeding, Seeing, etc.  The most popular series of my webpages from The Spirit of Gardening website are the Months and Seasons webpages. 

With the current trends of usage I can estimate/predict the following number of webpage views and blogpage views in 2012 as follows:

Cloud Hands Blog                 84,000
Green Way Research         1,100,000
Spirit of Gardening            1,200,000

Estimated Total Page Views in 2012 of 2,384,000

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I, A Bell Awakened

"A certain day became a presence
to me; there it was, confronting me -- a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day's blow
rang out, metallic -- or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can."

Denise Levertov, Variation on a Theme by Rilke
(The Book of Hours, Book I, Poem 1, Stanza 1)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Look Behind You

Zen's Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings.
By Andy Ferguson. Foreword by Reb Anderson.
Boston, Wisdom Publications, 2000. Glossaries, name lists, bibliography, index, 518 pages. ISBN: 0861711637.

A monk asked, "What is Tongan's arrow?"
Daopi said, "Look behind you."
The monk asked, "What's back there?"
Daopi said, "It's gone past already."
- Zen's Chinese Heritage, p. 257

I started reading the literature of Zen (Chan) when I was fifteen. Fifty one years later, I still can sit up straight after grappling with a clever retort, a puzzling non-sequitur, a zany twist on some allusion, a bold example, an illogical brain-lock, or a slap of cold water on the face provided by a confident Zen man. I still like to smile when pondering the mystery of whatever "It" is. I treasure the Chan playfulness, practicality, humor, and seriousness.

Anyone studying Taijiquan and Qigong will quickly come into contact with the legends and lore of Taoism and Chan Buddhism (Zen). A quick look at the sidebar of this blog points to some of my own studies in these areas. 

"Looking behind you" is used as a metaphor for considering your past, being ready for surprises, seeing if somebody has got your back, something we cannot do easily, etc.  

At another level, "looking behind you" or keeping attention on what is behind you is important in martial arts practice.  Consider this:

"When you are in a matching situation with your opponent, there are three circles of offensive and defensive domains or territories. These circles are large circle (Chang Ju, i.e., long range), middle circle (Zhon Ju, i.e., middle range), and short circle (Duan Ju, i.e., short range). These circles are also called rings. In a battle, you should not stay in the same rign, which allows your opponent to set up a strategy against you easily. Your rights should be variable, random and confusing to your opponent. Not only just the size of the rings, but also the height of defensive and offensive actions should vary as well. When this happens, you will generate more confusion for your opponent and this will allow you to execute your techniques effectively and efficiently."
- Yang, Yu (Ban-Hou) 1837-1892
Translated by Yang, Jiwng-Ming, Tai Chi Secrets of the Yang Style, p. 24

Most people doing Tai Chi will be concerned about the following three circles. The first circle is the area in which you are standing. Where are you rooted? How is your footing? Are you stable, balanced, and in control? Are you safe? It includes the spherical area your arms and legs can extend to while keeping at least one foot rooted. What is the surface like upon which you are standing?  Is it soft, hard, slippery, uneven?  
The second circle is the area into which you are stepping next. Is it safe to step? Will you be able to stay stable, balanced, and in control as you step into one of the eight directions? It includes the spherical area your arms and legs can extend to as you step and move in a new direction. Will the first circle support your full weight on one leg as you move into the second circle? What is behind you?  What is the surface of the ground like ahead, behind, and to either side.  
The third circle is the area into which you can walk, move freely, and move around in safely. It may be the whole area of a park, the dojo or kwoon, your backyard, your back porch, or as far away as you can walk.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What if Prayers Were Our Beautiful Speech?

"What if our religion was each other
If our practice was our life
If prayer, our words.
What if the temple was the earth
If forests were our church
If holy water - the rivers, lakes, and oceans.
What if meditation was our relationships
If the Teacher was life
If wisdom was self-knowledge
If love was the center of our being."
-  Ganga White, for the Rainforest Benefit, New York City, April 1998

Yoga Beyond Belief: Insights to Awaken and Deepen Your Practice.  By Ganga White.  Forewords by Mark Schlenz and Sting.  Berkeley, California, North Atlantic Books, 2007.  Index, 232 pages.  ISBN: 1556436467.  VSCL. 
Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening.  By Stephen Batchelor.  New York, Riverdale Trade, 1998.  Notes, 127 pages.  ISBN: 1573226564.  VSCL.  



Monday, April 16, 2012

Green Things Growing

Karen and I enjoyed gardening from 7 am until 3 pm on Sunday.  It was a clear skied day with bright sunshine and temperatures in the mid 70's.  It was delightful fun but tiring. 
We had not been able to garden much because it had been raining for a long time, our lawn mowers needed repairs, and other duties had kept us working indoors. 
We cleared our sunny vegetable garden of all weeds, and will plant next weekend.  Our frost date is April 15th in Red Bluff, so we don't plant summer vegetables in the open outdoors until after April 15th. 

"If your purse no longer bulges
and you've lost your golden treasure,
If times you think you're lonely
and have hungry grown for pleasure,
Don't sit by your hearth and grumble,
don't let mind and spirit harden.
If it's thrills of joy you wish for
get to work and plant a garden!

If it's drama that you sigh for,

plant a garden and you'll get it
You will know the thrill of battle
fighting foes that will beset it
If you long for entertainment and
for pageantry most glowing,
Plant a garden and this summer spend
your time with green things growing."
-  Edgar Guest, Plant a Garden

Our small front lawn area on Saturday before mowing:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sun Style Internal Martial Arts

Sun Style of Taijiquan International Standard Competition 73 Movements Form

Research by Michael P. Garofalo, M.S..  Notes from 2005-2012.  

This webpage includes an introduction, information on the Sun Taijiquan form, a large collection of quotations about Sun Taijiquan, a detailed bibliography, extensive links, references to video and DVD resources, and suggestions for learning the international competition Sun 73 form.  A detailed comparative list of the names of each of the 73 movements is provided, with source references, and the movement names are given in English, Pinyin Chinese, Chinese characters, French, German, and Spanish.  A detailed description of the first 40 movements is provided along with instructions, commentary and general comments.  Black and white line illustrations for each movement sequence (1-40) are provided. This is the most detailed and complete webpage on the subject of the Sun Taijiquan 73 Competition Form available on the Internet.  

I will complete my study and analysis of the Sun Taijiquan International Competition 73 Movement Form by 2015.  I only know and regularly practice movements 1-50 of this competition form at the present time.   

Sun Lu Tang's Internal Martial Arts: Taijiquan, Baguazhang, Hsing I Quan, Weapons, and Qigong

Students of Sun Taijiquan now have more English language resources on the Traditional 98 Form created by Grandmaster Sun Lutang and published in 1921.  For examples: 
Traditional Sun Style Taijiquan  By Tim Cartmell and Troyce Thome.  Boston, McGraw Hill Learning Soulutions, 2010.  222 pages.  ISBN: 0078039142.  This is the most detailed instruction that I have seen on the Traditional Taijiquan 98 movement form created by Grandmaster Sun Lutang.  Saddleback College Course CPS7, Mission Viejo, California.  VSCL. 

Traditional Sun Style Taijiquan.  Instructional DVDs by Tim Cartmell.  "This 5 DVD set includes complete and precise instruction of the entire traditional Sun style Taijiquan form. Every posture and movement of the long form is covered in full detail, in addition the DVDs also include detailed instruction of postural alignment, power building exercises, footwork, methods of partner testing for every posture in the form and numerous demonstrations of the martial applications of the form movements."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Teaching Tai Chi

I have learned more about teaching Tai Chi from reading the following book by Dr. Paul Lam and Maureen Miller:

Teaching Tai Chi Effectively.  By Paul Lam, M.D. and Maureen Miller.  Tai Chi Productions, Narwee, Australia, 2nd Edition, 2011.  Index, 225 pages.  ISBN: 098035739X.  "Simple and Proven Methods to Make Tai Chi Accessible to Everyone."  VSCL.  

One challenge I face when teaching at the fitness center is that I have complete beginners, intermediate students, and advanced students all attending the same two classes together.  I teach too quickly for the beginners, and get into too much step-by-step detail for the advanced students.  I need to figure out a better way of dealing with this challenge.  
I need to be silent more often.  Students are really not interested in stories and facts about the history of Tai Chi.  I ramble a bit much.  
I've been better about giving more breaks to allow students to rest and get a drink.  
I'll ask for input and questions from my students more often. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, Chapter 67

Dao De Jing, Laozi
Chapter 67

"In the world each says
My Tao is great and seems to lack resemblance
In the end only great therefore seems to lack resemblance.
It looks like resemblance goes with the long-lasting
With what is tiny as well.
In the end I possess three principles I am obtaining yet defending
One, say compassion
Two, say thrift
Three say lack of venturing to act to precede the world.
Compassion, so be able to be brave
Thrift, so be able to expand
Lack venturing to act to precede the world
So be able to perfect tools of growth.
Right now, abandon compassion just to be brave
Abandon thrift just to expand
Abandon being behind just to precede
Death goes with these.
In the end with compassion
A war happens and next comes conquering
Keeping to it happens and next comes solidity.
The heavens attain helping
It happens that compassion is defending."
-  Translated by David Lindauer, Chapter 67

"Everyone, says that my Tao is great,
seemingly different (from yours).
Because it is great, it seems different.
If it were not different,
it would have vanished long ago.
I have three treasures which I hold and keep.
The first is mercy;
the second is economy (thrifty);
the third is daring not to be ahead of others (which draws jealousy).
From mercy comes courage;
from economy comes generosity;
staying behind ensures maturity and fulfillment.
Nowadays men shun mercy and be brave;
abandon economy and be wasteful;
do not believe in humility, but always try to be the first.
This ensures death.
Mercy brings victory in battle and strength in defense.
If God wants to save him, makes him have mercy." 
-   Translated by Tienzen Gong, Chapter 67 
"All in the world call me great; but I resemble the unlikely.
Now a man is great only because he resembles the unlikely.
Did he resemble the likely, how lasting, indeed, would his mediocrity be!
1 have three treasures which I cherish and prize.
The first is called compassion.
The second is called economy.
The third is called not daring to come to the front in the world. 
The compassionate can be brave;
The economical can be generous;
Those who dare not come to the front in the world can become perfect as chief vessels.
Now, if people discard compassion and are brave;
If they discard economy and are generous;
If they discard modesty and are ambitious, they will surely die."
-   Translated by D. T. Suzuki and Paul Carus, 1913, Chapter 67

"The Tao may appear to be idealistic, but if you can put it into practice, you realize its greatness.
There are three traits which are required. 1. Compassion. 2. Patience. 3. Humility
Compassionate and you can face things the way they are.
Thus you can forgive yourself of any mistake.
Patient and you remain unmoved until the right opportunity arises.
Humble and you overcome self-importance, thus the ego.
In following the Tao, these are your three most valuable treasures."
-   Translated by David Bullen, Chapter 67 

"The world calls my Tao great but myself insignificant.
Yes: the clearer Tao manifests the more meaningless the ego becomes.
Worth nothing and without duration is he who wants to rate and be of importance.
Three treasures I guard which endure: the first is compassion the second frugality the third modesty.
Compassion makes me brave frugality generous modesty a carrier of the eternal.
Today the inconsiderate is called brave the spendthrift generous the go-getter progressive. 
They are progressing away from the essential thing toward decay toward death while the compassionate conquer through gentleness remaining in existence through non-resistance.
Heaven fills with compassion those it wants to preserve."
-   Translated by Schmidt, Chapter 67

"All the world says that, while my Tao is great, it yet appears to be inferior to other systems of teaching.
Now it is just its greatness that makes it seem to be inferior.
If it were like any other system, for long would its smallness have been known!
But I have three precious things which I prize and hold fast.
The first is gentleness; the second is economy; and the third is shrinking from taking precedence of others.
With that gentleness I can be bold;
With that economy I can be liberal;
Shrinking from taking precedence of others, I can become avessel of the highest honor.
Now-a-days they give up gentleness and are all for being bold;
Economy, and are all for being liberal;
The hindmost place, and seek only to be foremost;
Which in the end is death. 
Gentleness is sure to be victorious even in battle, and firmly to maintain its ground.
Heaven will save its possessor, by his very gentleness protecting him."
-   Translated by James Legge, 1891, Chapter 67  

"Everyone under Heaven regards my Tao as Great, resembling nothing else.
Great, yes; that is the reason it resembles nothing else.
If it resembled anything else, it would have slight chance of survival.
I have three Treasures to hold and protect.
The first is Compassion.
The second is Economy.
The third is not presuming to be the First under Heaven.
Compassion permits Courage.
Economy makes Generosity possible.
Not presuming to be the First under Heaven is a quality of Leadership.
Now, abandon Compassion and consider Courage.
Abandon Frugality and consider Generosity.
Abandon Humility and consider Leadership.
Impossible !
Now, Compassion in battle leads to Victory; Compassion in Defense lends strength.
Heaven will assist the commander who exhibits Compassion."
-   Translated by Karl Kromal, 2002, Chapter 67 

"Everyone says my Dao is so great that it does not look like anything.
I say because it is so great, it does not look like anything.
If it were like anything, it would have disappeared long ago.
I have three treasures to keep and protect:
The first is kindness, the second is thrift, and the third is not fighting to be first.
Only if you are kind, can you be brave;
Only if you are thrifty, can you be generous;
Only if you do not fight to be first, can you be a leader.
However, the people today are not kind but brave,
Are not thrifty but generous,
Are not humble but want to be leaders.
These people are destined for failure.
With kindness, when you fight, you will win; when you defend, you will be strong.
If the heavens wants to save someone, it will always give him kindness as his defense."
-   Translated by Xiaolin Yang, Chapter 67 


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Laojia Yilu, Chen Taijiquan (Old Frame, First Form)

"When practicing Taijiquan, the requirements for proper practice are as follows: keep the head erect naturally (as if it were suspended by a string attached to the top of the head), stand naturally upright, relax the shoulders and drop the elbows.  Bring the shoulders slightly forward and lower the waist.   Let the internal energy (qi) descend, and breathe naturally.  With the hips relaxed and the knees bent, round the crotch, i.e., the legs should form a rounded shape.  With solid and empty clearly separated, the upper and lower parts of the body move in harmony with each other, blending hard and soft, fast and slow movements smoothly.  External movements of the body should describe an arc (i.e., should follow circular paths) with the internal energy within the body following a spiral path.  With the waist as an axis, movement of the torso leads the movement of the limbs, with a spiraling or twining type of movement.  Gradually, a type of internal energy is produced which is seemingly soft yet not soft, seeming hard but not hard, and which can easily change between extremely heavy or incredibly light action.  Your movements appear outwardly soft but are inwardly firm, like iron wrapped in cotton.  If in the entire set of movement there are not any breaks in the continuity of movement or any motions that don't follow a smooth circular line, then that is the correct way."
-  Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei, Chen Style Taijiquan, Sword and Broadsword, p.64   

Chen Taijiquan Old Frame First Form: Bibliography, Links, List of Movements, Notes, Quotations, Resources.  By Mike Garofalo. 

A new Chen Taijiquan book is now available:

The Five Levels of Taijiquan  By Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang.  Commentary by Master Jan Silverstorff.  Translated by Christina Schulz.  Singing Dragon, 2012.  112 pages.  ISBN: 184819093X.  [Rather expensive at $26.37 for 112 pages.]


Wednesday, April 11, 2012


"Spiritual success is gained by daily cultivation.
If you practiced for the day, then you have won.
If you were lazy for the day, then you have lost.

Self-cultivation is the heart of spiritual attainment.  Gaining insight and ability is not a matter of grand statements, dramatic initiations, or sporadic moments of enlightenment.   Those things are only highlights in a life of consistent activity.

Whatever system of spirituality you practice, do it every day.  If it is prayer, then pray every day.  If it is meditation, then meditate every day.  If it is exercise, then exercise every day.  Only then will you be able to say that you are truly practicing spirituality.

This methodical approach is reassuring in several ways. First, it provides you with a process and a means to maintain progress even if that particular day is not inspiring or significant.  Just to practice is already good.  Secondly, it gives you a certain faith.  If you practice every day, it is inevitable that you will gain from it.  Thirdly, constant practice gives you a certain satisfaction.  How can you say to yourself that you have truly entered a spiritual path unless you can
look back on years of daily practice and take comfort in the momentum that it has given you?"

-  By Deng Ming-Dao
365 Tao: Daily Meditations
April 4   Day 94

Scholar Warrior: An Introduction to the Tao in Everyday Life.   By Deng Ming-Dao.  Harper San Francisco, 1990.   Index, bibliography, 351 pages.  ISBN: 0062502328.  VSCL. 

Friday, April 06, 2012

Retreat Time

We have Spring Break (Easter Vacation), starting today, from my part-time job at a elementary school district.  I get off, without pay, from April 6th to April 15th.  

I am going to focus on:
1.  Learning and practicing the Chen Style of Taijiquan, Old Frame, First Form, Lao Jia Yi Lu
2.  Gardening projects 
3.  Improving my Sacred Circle Garden
4.  Walking adventures
5.  Celtic and Germanic NeoPagan spiritual readings and practices
6.  Preparing for Walpurgis Nacht  
7.  Writing some poems 

I will take a brief retreat from blogging in Cloud Hands until next Thursday, April 12th.  

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Learning Chen Taijiquan #2

We don’t "really learn” Tai Chi by listening to, imitating, and following a live Tai chi instructor, or reading Tai Chi books, or watching Tai Chi instructional DVDs.  The “learning” comes from practicing Tai Chi, playing Tai Chi, moving by Tai chi, and feeling Tai Chi.  We move from being awkward and uncomfortable to moving gracefully, fluidly, easily, confidently, and beautifully.  Live and virtual Tai Chi instructors provide us with information and ideas about what Tai Chi has been for others and could be for us, its rich history, and provide us with a model of how a "form" might look and be realized as expressed by their body-mind.  Our instructor's "mind" set or intention is important - depending, for example, on whether they emphasize martial applications or they are a New Age energy arts dancer.  Likewise, our own progress in "learning" will depend upon our own "mind set" of intentions, dedication, toughness, the courage to go beyond our limitations and failures, and our willpower.  Learning Tai Chi is always a complex matrix of interactions, lived experiences, daily training, and accumulated muscle memories.  Less thinking and more practice, training, and doing will result in the greatest learning.  Repeated movements are the foundation for Tai Chi learning.  

"Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states."
-  Carol Welch 

"Knowing is not enough, we must apply.  Willing is not enough, we must do." 
-  Bruce Lee  

"It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new.  But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful.  There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power."
-  Alan Cohen