Monday, August 31, 2015

Remember the Songs and Become Alive

"However that may be, I now wish that I had spent somewhat more of my life with verse. This is not because I fear having missed out on truths that are incapable of statement in prose. There are no such truths; there is nothing about death that Swinburne and Landor knew but Epicurus and Heidegger failed to grasp. Rather, it is because I would have lived more fully if I had been able to rattle off more old chestnuts — just as I would have if I had made more close friends. Cultures with richer vocabularies are more fully human — farther removed from the beasts — than those with poorer ones; individual men and women are more fully human when their memories are amply stocked with verses."

Richard McKay Rorty, 1931-2007  American Philosopher
   The Fire of Life, 2007

Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature: Thirtieth-Anniversary Edition

"We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea."
-  A. C. Swinburne, "Garden of Proserpine"

Last night, Karen and I watched a fascinating and touching documentary about the efforts of Dan Cohen to bring music to persons in nursing homes.   "Alive Inside: Music and Memory", 1 hour and 20 minutes.  A worthy cause!!  A fascinating discussion about how music effects our minds from infancy to old age.  How is it that you can remember the verses to songs you learned when you were three years old? 

As for Tai Chi Chuan and music ... I recall only T. T. Liang recommending you play music while practicing Taijiquan and timing your moves to the music as if dancing.  Maybe Sophia Delza also advocated doing Taijiquan to music since she was an expert on Asian dancing.  Now, in 2015, you can use an IPod or Sony Walkman or other devices to play digital music and listen on ear phones or ear plugs while practicing Taijiquan or Qigong.  I have also purchased and listened to prerecorded music especially designed for specific Taijiquan forms or Qigong which are timed to match a proper performance of the form.  I know that the Tai Chi Kung Fu fan form is specifically timed for performance to a specific piece of music.  I am not particularly fond of the tuning and twanginess and lively pace used in traditional Chinese music, but anyone can find music they favor to suit the ambience desired for Taijiquan or Qigong practice.  I like a lot of New Age music or Japanese Zen flutes. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Walking - A Catalyst for Deeper Awareness

A cornerstone of my weekly fitness practices is walking.  

Looking east on Kilkenny Lane near Red Bluff, California.  I walk 3.6 miles on this cul de sac lane, four days each week, in the morning.  I walk at daybreak on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday morning throughout the entire year.  

The photographs on this post were taken in early November.  It is one of my favorite  seasons for walking in the morning. 

Occasionally, a car might use this country lane, and I move to the side of the road.  It is a very safe, peaceful, and quiet place.  

Sometimes I listen to my MP3 player while I walk.  Sometimes I walk in silence.   

Sometimes I take my dog, Bruno, for a walk.  Most often, I walk alone.  

"Putting facts by the thousands,
into the world, the toes take off
with an appealing squeak which the thumping heel
follows confidentially, the way men greet men.
Sometimes walking is just such elated
-   Lyn Hejinian, Determination

"Every day, in the morning or evening, or both, take a walk in a safe and peaceful environment for less than an hour.  The can be a great fountain of youth.  Choose a place to walk that has no kind of disturbance.   Walking done in a work environment and when your mind is busy is different; it is not as nutritious as the walking you do for yourself in the morning or evening in a quiet, peaceful, and safe place."
-  Master Hua-Ching Ni, Entering the Tao, 1997, p. 135


Looking to the northeast on Kilkenny Lane.  Mt. Lassen (10,000 feet) in the distance is capped with a little snow.  These photos were taken in the Autumn.   

"Walking is the natural recreation for a man who desires not absolutely to suppress his intellect but to turn it out to play for a season." 
-  Leslie Stephen  


Looking west on Kilkenny Lane.  The red leafed autumn colors are from Raywood Ash trees. The Yolly Bolly mountain range (7,000 feet) is to the west of the North Sacramento Valley. 

So, see you on the road.  You are welcome to join me on Kilkenny Lane for walking and Taijiquan.    

"The interior solitude, along with the steady rhythm of walking mile after mile, served as a catalyst for deeper awareness.  The solitude I found and savored on the Camino had an amazing effect on me.  The busyness of my life slowly settled down as the miles went on.  For a good portion of my life I had longed for a fuller experience of contemplation, that peaceful prayer of the heart in which one is able to look intently and see each piece of life as sacred.  Ten days into the journey, totally unforeseen, the grace of seeing the world with startling lucidity came to me.  My eyes took in everything with wonder.  The experience was like looking through the lens of an inner camera – my heart was the photographer.  Colors and shapes took on nuances and depths never before noticed.  Each piece of beauty appeared to be framed: weeds along roadsides, hillsides of harvested fields with yellow and green stripes, layers of mountains with lines of thick mist stretching along their middle section, clumps of ripe grapes on healthy green vines, red berries on bushes, roses and vegetable gardens.  Everything revealed itself as something marvelous to behold.  Each was a work of art.  I noticed more and more details of light and shadow, lines and edges, shapes, softness, and texture.  I easily observed missed details on the path before me – skinny worms, worn pebbles, tiny flowers of various colors and shapes, black beetles, snails, and fat, grey slugs.  I became aware of the texture of everything under my feet – stones, slate, gravel, cement, dirt, sand, grass.  I responded with wonder and amazement.  Like the poet Tagore, I felt that everything “harsh and dissonant in my life” was melting into “one sweet harmony”."
-  Joyce Rupp  

Study Tai Chi Chuan or Chi Kung or Philosophy with Mike Garofalo

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pulling Onions Again

The most important Master to follow is Self-Mastery.
Freedom opens a few doors and closes many more.
A callused palm and dirty fingernails precede a green thumb.

Don't sell the present short on the promises of "when." 

Most tire from hatefulness; cheerfulness is abiding.
As you move your hands so you move your mind.
Stubborn facts are loosened up with novelty.
A sure path to the perversion of truth is to make it into beliefs or dogmas. 
Wishes are like seeds, few ever develop into something.  

My mind is a sea I cannot see into; I merely skim along its surface.
Absolutes squirm beneath realities. 
The fear of the Lord is a cornerstone of indoctrination and the beginning of the end of wisdom.

The act, the deed, the doing are the primary considerations.  Stupidity and shallowness are increasingly popular. 
Wherever I go, something new becomes me.
Two essential tools for a lifetime of sexual pleasures are: vivid erotic fantasies and skillful masturbation. 
There is not much to say about "The Unknown." 
To garden is to open your heart to the sky. 

Be careful not to stand up for that which will cause your downfall.    
Borderline cases are were events really become interesting. 
Gardens are demanding pets.
There is no 'i' in "team;" but there is an 'm' in my, me, and mine.   

God and I get along fine, he ignores me all the time and I ignore him.  
Nonsense can sometimes improve our sense and senses. 
When all the chores are done, the avid gardener will invent some new ones. 

Prohibitions focus our aim on better choices and actions. 
Stupidity and shallowness are increasingly popular. 

Objectivity is a product of our agreements, and an important feature of my imagination. 
Hearing the cat purr when we pet them gently matters far more to us than whether the cat's fur is black, white, or orange. 
If you think you are damned if you do or damned if you don't, your not thinking creatively enough. 
The ten thousand things are more enchanting than the Silent One. 
To lift the mind, move the body.  

Pulling Onions: The Quips and Sayings of an Old Gardener.  Over 852 sayings.  By Mike Garofalo

Friday, August 28, 2015

Chapter 1, Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Dao De Jing, Laozi
Chapter 1

"Existence is beyond the power of words
To define:
Terms may be used
But are none of them absolute.
In the beginning of heaven and earth there were no words,
Words came out of the womb of matter;
And whether a man dispassionately
Sees to the core of life
Or passionately
Sees the surface,
The core and the surface
Are essentially the same,
Words making them seem different
Only to express appearance.
If name be needed, wonder names them both:
From wonder into wonder
Existence opens."
-  Translated by Witter Bynner, 1944, Chapter 1

"The way that can be spoken of
Is not the constant way;
The name that can be named
Is not the constant name.
The nameless was the beginning of heaven and earth;
The named was the mother of the myriad creatures.
Hence always rid yourself of desires in order to observe its secrets;
But always allow yourself to have desires in order to observe its manifestations.
These two are the same
But diverge in name as they issue forth.
Being the same they are called mysteries,
Mystery upon mystery -
The gateway of the manifold secrets."
-  Translated by D. C. Lau, 1963, Chapter 1 

"The Tao that is the subject of discussion is not the true Tao.
The quality which can be named is not its true attribute.
That which was before Heaven and Earth is called the Non-Existent.
The Existent is the mother of all things.
Therefore doth the wise man seek after the first mystery of the Non-Existent, while seeing in that which exists the Ultimates thereof.
The Non-Existent and Existent are identical in all but name.
This identity of apparent opposites I call the profound, the great deep, the open door of bewilderment."
-  Translated by Walter Gorn Old, 1904, Chapter 1

"Nature can never be completely described, for such a description of Nature would have to duplicate Nature.
No name can fully express what it represents.
It is Nature itself, and not any part or name or description abstracted from Nature, which is the ultimate source of all that happens, all that comes and goes, begins and ends, is and is not.
But to describe Nature as "the ultimate source of all" is still only a description, and such a description is not Nature itself.
Yet since, in order to speak of it, we must use words, we shall have to describe it as "the ultimate source of all."
If Nature is inexpressible, he who desires to know Nature as it is in itself will not try to express it in words
Although the existence of Nature and a description of that existence are two different things, yet they are also the same.
For both are ways of existing.
That is, a description of existence must have its own existence, which is different from the existence of that which it describes.
And so again we have to recognize an existence which cannot be described."
-  Translated by Archie J. Bahm, 1958, Chapter 1   

道可道, 非常道.
名可名, 非常名.
故常無, 欲以觀其妙.
常有, 欲以觀其徼.
此兩者, 同出而異名.

-  Chinese characters, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 1

tao k’o tao, fei ch’ang tao.
ming k’o ming, fei ch’ang ming.
wu ming t’ien ti chih shih.
yu ming wan wu chih mu.
ku ch’ang wu, yü yi kuan ch’i miao.
ch’ang yu, yü yi kuan ch’i chiao.
tz’u liang chê, t’ung ch’u erh yi ming.
t’ung wei chih hsüan.
hsüan chih yu hsüan.
chung miao chih mên.
-  Wade Giles Romanization, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 1  

"The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao.
The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name. 
Conceived of as having no name, it is the Originator of heaven and earth;
Conceived of as having a name, it is the Mother of all things.  
Always without desire we must be found,
If its deep mystery we would sound;
But if desire always within us be,
Its outer fringe is all that we shall see.  
Under these two aspects, it is really the same;
But as development takes place, it receives the different names.
Together we call them the Mystery.
Where the Mystery is the deepest is the gate of all that is subtle and wonderful."
-  Translated by James Legge, 1891, Chapter 1 

"The Tao that can be spoken of is not the constant Tao.
The name that can be named is not the constant name.
The nameless is the beginning of life.
It is the mother of the ten thousand things.
Remove your desires and you will see the mystery.
Be filled with desire
And you will see only the manifestation.
These two are the same
yet, they diverge in nature
as they issue forth.
Being the same, they are the source
but the source remains a mystery.
Mystery upon mystery,
The gateway of Tao's manifold secrets."
-  Translated by Kari Hohne, 2009, Chapter 1

"Camino que se puede describir de manera articulada
     no es el Camino Invariable.
El nombre que se puede decir en voz alta
     no es el Nombre Invariable.
Con la boca cerrada y las cosas sin definir,
     estás al principio del universo.
Si haces definiciones, eres la medida de toda la creación.
Así, estando siempre sin deseo,
     miras en lo hondo de lo trascendente.
Albergando constantemente el deseo,
     todas las cosas que te rodean te estorban la vista.
Estos dos entran en el mundo semejantes,
     pero sus nombres son diferentes.
Semjantes, se llaman profundos y remotos.
Profundos y remotos y más aún:
Esta es la puerta de todos los misterios."
-  Translated by Alejandro Pareja, 2012, based upon the William Scott Wilson translation into English, Capítulo 1

"Tao called Tao is not Tao.
Names can name no lasting name.
Nameless: the origin of heaven and earth.
Naming: the mother of ten thousand things.
Empty of desire, perceive mystery.
Filled with desire, perceive manifestations.
These have the same source, but different names.
Call them both deep - Deep and again deep: the gateway to all mystery."
-  Translated by Stephen Addis and Stanley Lombardo, 1993, Chapter 1  

"The Way that can be told of is not an Unvarying Way;
The names that can be named are not unvarying names.
It was from the Nameless that Heaven and Earth sprang;
The named is but the mother that rears the ten thousand creatures, each after its kind.
Truly, “Only he that rids himself forever of desire can see the Secret Essences”;
He that has never rid himself of desire can see only the Outcomes.
These two things issued from the same mould, but nevertheless are different in name.
This “same mould” we can but call the Mystery, Or rather the “Darker than any Mystery”,
The Doorway whence issued all Secret Essences."
-  Translated by Arthur Waley, 1934, Chapter 1 

A typical webpage created by Mike Garofalo for each one of the 81 Chapters of the Tao Te Ching (Daodejing) by Lao Tzu (Laozi) includes 25 different English language translations or interpolations for that Chapter, 3 or 4 Spanish language translations for that Chapter, the Chinese characters for that Chapter, and the Wade-Giles and Hanyu Pinyin Romanization of the Mandarin Chinese words for that Chapter.  Each webpage for one of the 81 Chapters (Verses) of the Tao Te Ching includes extensive indexing by key words and terms in English, Spanish, and the Wade-Giles Romanization.  Each webpage on a Chapter of the Daodejing includes recommended reading in books and websites, a detailed bibliography, some commentary, research leads, translation sources, and other resources for that Chapter.   

Chapter 1, Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Chapter and Thematic Index (Concordance) to the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

English Language Daodejing Translators' Source Index

Spanish Language Daodejing Translators' Source Index

Ripening Peaches: Taoist Studies and Practices

Taoism: A Selected Reading List

One Old Daoist Druid's Final Journey  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sacred Circle Garden

The four-quartered Circle of Magick is a central element in most Western magickal rituals. It is called the "portal between the worlds," a means of connecting with the Deities, Spirits, and Elemental Powers of a realm beyond the material universe. It is envisioned as a vortex with which we focus on our own innate psychic powers, called forth by ritual actions from the subliminal depths of the mind and soul. It is a "sacred space," a sanctuary for communion with the old ones, the deities of our faith.
Many levels of symbolism are intrinsic to the Magick Circle. Among these metaphors are metaphysical and mystical concepts that describe the greater reality within which our lives are experienced. The four "corners" of the Circle of Magick correspond with the compass directions and their associated Elements (Earth, Air, Fire or Water). A fifth Element, Spirit, is often associated with the center of the Circle or with the Circle as a whole."
- Bran the Blessed, Circle Symbolism

Valley Spirit Sacred Circle

Karen stands near in the center of the Valley Spirit Sacred Circle. Behind Karen is the yellow post which marks the Eastern direction, and the Element of Air, Mind, Consciousness, or Intellect; and the Eastern Quadrant is planted with five olive trees, the sacred plant of Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom. Further behind Karen, 26 feet from the center, are some of the seventeen posts marking the boundary of the outer fifth circle. This photo was taken on February 4, 2007.  Here are some more pictures of the gradual construction of our Sacred Circle Garden. 

Sacred Circles
Bibliography, Resources, Links, Quotations, Notes
Researched by Mike Garofalo

One Old Daoist Druid's Final Journey

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Improve Your Mood

Boost Your Mood, Pick Yourself Up
Revitalize Yourself, Banish the Blues  

Be grateful for the good in your life.   
Give yourself permission to be human.
Brighten someone’s day. 
Learn something new. 
Listen to upbeat music.
Do some exercise on a regular basis.
Simplify your life, remove clutter, and clean. 
Go for a walk. 
Enjoy sex and discover romance. 
Get organized.
Do a good deed or volunteer.  
Smile and put on a happy face. 
Indulge your senses. 
Seek and cultivate beauty. 
Take time to breathe deeply. 
Look at some old photos. 
Focus on the positive. 
Forgive yourself. 
Get some fresh air. 
Eat often and eat light. 
Begin a program of meditation or contemplation.
Talk with your physician or counselor.   
Cook and prepare a lovely and tasty meal. 
Eat something nutritious like nuts or fruit. 
Pamper yourself.
Alter your routines in some way. 
Have confidence. 
Talk with your spouse. 
Fake it till you make it. 
Sign a song out loud. 
Tap into your creative side. 
Take up a mind-body practice like Taijiquan, Qigong or Yoga. 
Inhale a calming scent. 
Sit quietly, rest, or sleep. 
Brainstorm a problem for solutions. 
Avoid bad or negative companions, and find good friends. 
Watch a good non-violent movie. 
Work in the garden. 
Cool down strong emotions. 
Take some vacation time for relaxation and retreat. 
Look on the Bright Side.
Small steps of progress are better than no steps. 
Avoid watching the news for a week. 
Don’t take yourself too seriously. 
Focus on past successes, not failures. 
Create a wish list and make one wish come true.
Explore ways to boost your self-esteem. 
Focus on what you can control and what you can change.
Get some more sunlight on your body. 
Choose your attitude and how you will react to life's events. 
Spend less, avoid shopping. 
Stop all cussing, swearing, or rude language. 
Keep a journal or express yourself in writing. 
Go easy on yourself and yield.  
Count your blessings. 
Spend some time with children. 
Take a long shower or refreshing soaking bath. 
Get relevant and accurate information. 
Chat with a friendly person or neighbor.
Things change and time heals. 
Adapt, adapt, adapt. 
Agree to disagree; you don’t need to win every argument.   
Think fast.
Consider vitamin or herbal supplements that lift mood. 
Seek professional help for serious mental health problems. 
Read something inspiring. 
Avoid comparing yourself to others, and envy is a waste of time.
Try praying or chanting. 
Evaluate and revise your goals. 
Don't sweat the small stuff. 
Pet your dog or cat and care for them. 
Get a massage.
Enjoy a non-competitive sport. 
Try fasting or staying up all night. 
Donate your stuff, your skills, or your time.   
Forgive and forget. 
Dance till you are tired. 
Punch a bag or bang on a drum. 
Stop using any recreational drugs. 
Spend some time with children. 
Abandon false ideas and unrealistic aims. 
Enjoy a refreshing drink. 
Make someone laugh. 
Allow yourself to be eccentric, and enjoy some silly thoughts.
Have a bowl of soup or a cup of tea. 
Less talking and more doing. 
Get up, dress up, and show up. 
Observe nature carefully and respectfully.
Visit your public library and borrow some beautiful books. 
Be less self-centered and selfish. 
A spiritual advisor, rituals, or religious beliefs can sometimes help.
Love expands your horizons of caring and happiness. 
Accept the fact that some things are broken and can't be fixed.
Memorize and inspirational saying, prayer, poem or quote. 
Call or visit a sick person. 
Play a game. 

By Mike Garofalo
Valley Spirit Center
Red Bluff, California  

Ways to Lift Your Spirits (3 pages, PDF Format)

Virtues and Good Character

Fitness and Well-Being

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Need Good Luck? Earn It!

No luck, good luck, or bad luck ... living involves dealing with the surprises and capriciousness of events in our lives.  

"Your competition is not other people but the time you kill, the ill will you create, the knowledge you neglect to learn, the connections you fail to build, the health you sacrifice along the path, your inability to generate ideas, the people around you who don't support and love your efforts, and whatever god you curse for your bad luck."
- James Altucher

"Diligence is the mother of good luck."
-  Benjamin Franklin

"Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity."
-  Lucius Annaeus Seneca

"The only good luck many great men ever had was being born with the ability and determination to overcome bad luck."
-  Channing Pollock

"Luck is the residue of design."
-  Branch Rickey

"Luck, bad if not good, will always be with us. But it has a way of favoring the intelligent and showing its back to the stupid."
-  John Dewey

Monday, August 24, 2015

24-Form Taijiquan

"At this period of wushu, the Nanking Central Kuoshu Institute in 1956 tasked the choreography of a Taijiquan routine what would be more suitable for popular dissemination among the masses, in keeping with the government's egalitarian agenda.  The traditional forms were just too long and time consuming to practice, and the traditional methods too arcane and demanding for mass propagation.  The challenge was to reduce the one hundred-odd movements of the traditional Yang Style Taijiquan, prevalent then, to its core, by removing the many repetitive movements as well as the less essential ones.  Thus, the 24-Form Taijiquan set was created.  Instrumental in this simplification effort was Li Tianji (1913-1996) who had been appointed a wushu research fellow at the Institute.  Under official auspices, the 24-Form Taijiquan quickly became the standard form, taught throughout China as part of physical education curriculum in schools and colleges.  It is perhaps the best know Taijiquan form in the world today.  As widespread as it is, the 24-Form is at best an abridged version of the traditional Yang form, a synopsis of the art."
-  C. P. Ong, Taijiquan: Cultivating Inner Strength, 2013, p. 7.  

I practice this Taijiquan form twice every day.  It takes from 5 to 7 minutes to perform.
You can do this indoors by adjusting to the space available, or outdoors.  When done slowly and gently you don't need to do any warmup exercises unless your knees are problematic.  A lovely Taijiquan form!  Good for persons of all ages.  This form is a cornerstone of my personal T'ai Chi Ch'uan practices. 

The first Taijiquan form I learned in 1986 was the Standard 24 Movement T'ai Chi Ch'uan Form in the Yang Style of T'ai Chi Ch'uan.  At that time there were no books or instructional videotapes on this popular form.  Since that time, nearly 25 years have past.  Now there are dozens of books and instructional DVDs and webpages on the subject of the 24 Form. 

Mike Garofalo 'Playing the Pipa'

My webpage on the Standard 24 Taijiquan Form has been the most popular webpage on the Cloud Hands Website for many years. In the sidebar of this blog, you will find a quick index to this webpage.

Standard Simplified Taijiquan 24 Form.  Research by Michael P. Garofalo, M.S. This webpage includes a detailed bibliography of books, media, links, online videos, articles, and resources.  It provides a list of the 24 movement names in English, Chinese, French, German and Spanish, with citations for sources of the movement names.  It provides detailed descriptions of each movement with black and white line illustrations and  photographs.  It includes relevant quotations, notes, performance times, section breakdowns, basic Tai Chi principles, and strategies for learning the form.  The Peking (Bejing) Chinese National orthodox standard simplified 24 movement T'ai Chi Ch'uan form, created in 1956, is the most popular form practiced all around the world.  This form uses the Yang Style of Taijiquan.  Published by Green Way Research, Valley Spirit Taijiquan, Red Bluff, California:  Webpage URL:  File size: 269 Kb. 

This webpage provides many good suggestions for a person learning this form on their own if there is no Tai Chi class in their area. 

The best book that I have seen on the subject is:

The Yang Taiji 24 Step Short Form: A Step by Step Guide for All Levels
By James Drewe
London, Singing Dragon Press, 2011.
382 pages, black and white photographs, charts, detailed descriptions, training tips.
I give information on many other fine books by other good authors on the 24 Form in my webpage: Cheng Zhao,
Foen Tjoeng Lie, Eric Chaline, Le Deyin, etc.. 

My students tell me that their favorite instructional DVD on the 24 Form is:

Tai Chi - The 24 Forms
By Dr. Paul Lam

I have taught this lovely Tai Chi form to hundreds of people since 2000.  Everyone tells me how much they enjoy learning and practicing this gentle form.

I also teach and enjoy playing the
Chen Style Taijiquan 18 Movement Form created by Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei. Actually, in the last year, I prefer practicing the Chen 18 Form more. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Summertime Gardening Coming To An End

This past week, the daytime temperatures have ranged from 95-105F, humidity under 30%, gentle breezes, and terrible air quality due to the many fires west of us in the Yolly Bolly mountains and Trinity range.  Three fire fighters have lost their lives while battling these terrible forest fires.

Our summer garden has been productive this year in terms of tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, kale, zucchini, herbs, and cantaloupes.

We have been pulling up vegetable plants in our sunny garden that have run their course and are now fading away.

The daytime heat has stressed all the plants despite reasonable watering.

The Spirit of Gardening:  Over 3,500 Quotes, Sayings, Facts, or Poems.  Compiled by Mike Garofalo.

The Month of August

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Bull Crap Qigong

In nearly all of the photographs of persons doing standing meditation their faces are impassive, close mouthed, neutral, glum, even mean looking.  Do you ever see any pictures of persons doing Zhan Zhuang with a nice smile on their face?  Don't the majority look rather stern, stiff, and aloof?  Is the coolness, toughness, frowning, and closed eyes of these faux standing posts a defiant reaction to the many other people who look at them and smile or laugh at them?  Is the gruff expression a bodily mudra to affirm the Buddhist claim about the inherent unhappiness and suffering of human existence?  Is the Yiquan toughness required to endure this demanding standing physical exercise the source of this hard, 'don't mess with me' facial expression?  Persons doing hours and hours of seated zazen mostly look, to me, just tired, frustrated, aching, and pissed off about their inner insights.  C'mon Man!  Why all the serious. sad. and stern looks?  

I don't resist smiling or having pleasant and easy going look on my face when I do seated or standing meditation.  I've read about smiling meditation, laughing yoga, smiling heart qigong, and Inner Smile Taoist Neidan.  Seek and embrace more options than glum, neutral, stern postures and attitudes.  More Yin, Less Yang!!

Hours and hours of these standing or seated "meditation" practices are often just boring, dull, uneventful, uninspiring, and non-productive for me.  Twenty minutes a couple of times a week are more than ample.  I lay odds that if you try to do standing meditation for an hour a day you will end up frowning, stiff, tired, grumpy, and ready to quit.  It would be far better to take a walk each day and enjoy yourself.

I enjoy doing Chi Kung (Qigong) and yoga movements because they are fun and provide fitness exercise variety.  However, when the qigong or yoga teachers drone on about invisible organs and esoteric anatomy, contradict one another, discourage questioning, are vague and confusing, share only anecdotal reports of benefits, overuse flaccid metaphors, worship specific lineage traditions and bad mouth competing styles, don't explain much or seldom talk, or are too secretive ...  then I just loose my interest and move on.  I recommend learning early on about how to smell out that kind of bull crap qigong or bull crap yoga.  

I would question the claims that long sessions of standing post will make your legs stronger, build up your Qi, or give you super powers (siddhis) of some kind.  I would argue confidently for more benefits to your legs and overall fitness from walking, jogging, squats, weight lifting, stretching, form practice, sports, and other leg intensive exercises.  Since there is no known way of quantifying and measuring Qi, how do you know you have built up, increased, or amplified your Qi??  And, as for those super powers, they are the unreal stuff of our playful imaginations, fantasies, Wuxia novels, comic books, and motion picture special effects. 

I don't deny that a few, rare, and unique persons have unusual and powerful inner martial arts skills.  Likewise, a few yogis are superior contortionists and gymnasts that can do extreme postures.  But, so what!   So you can defeat everyone you meet in push hands, so you can stand on one leg for two hours, so you can walk/run 70 miles in a day .... fine, and some of us will be amazed.  However, most reasonable people don't aspire to Olympic standards of performance, and don't need to endure the strict training regimes of the extremely rare Amazing Masters and Siddhi Adepts.  Further, I do not have much of a pressing need to fly up walls, defeat 40 swordsmen like the blind Zatoichi, repulse ten men with a single magical push, kill a man with the touch of a finger, disappear through walls (doors work quite well), read your mind (probably as hohum as mine), or live to 300 years of age and have to dutifully work at seven careers.  Since I am a poor swimmer, I might have an occasional need to walk on water, but I might die before completing the required discipline of forty days and nights in the desert alone fasting, doing yoga and chanting - so that particular unpleasant task and marginal benefit are now off of my bucket list. Playing drums, dancing, and chanting for three hours before walking on burning hot coals might appeal to some, but I will pass on that experience also. 

Some people claim profound inner experiences, mystical insights, revelations, epiphanies, ecstasy, personal gnosis, satori, kensho, illumination, or enlightenment as a result of enduring these strict bodily disciplines.  Even the Buddha tried these physical austerities for many years until he "realized" that enough is enough and that moderation is a better course.  I hear LSD takers and steady alcohol drinkers claim the same "benefits" of consciousness expansion.  Personally, I'd rather water my garden each day, do some Taijiquan, and read good books; and not be a drug user or face a cave wall in stiff seated meditation for seven years like the Bodhidharma.  Some say they practiced for many years, even decades, to gain a "glimpse" of some degree of profound, unified, or universal consciousness.  Seems to me like a very big investment of time and effort for very little return.  Sharpening your critical thinking and reasoning skills would reap more rewards.

Some people take up these hard physical practices because their guru, preacher, master, roshi, sifu, or other authority or leader tells them or orders them to do so.  Students are taught to trust, obey, submit, respect, and kow-tow to the guru.  I say, keep your independence!!  Sensibly respect and learn from worthy teachers, but don't be slavish.  Some degree of healthy skepticism is valuable.  Practice on your own rather than humble yourself before some faker, phony, braggart, secretive or expensive master.  Discover what works for you to earn better fitness and well being rather than dumbly following an unbending formulaic physical regimen lineage invented by some illiterate old man 300 years ago.  Not obeying a goofy or exploitative guru is quite sensible.  Some rich gurus, preachers and masters are often merely just trying to tap the soul of your wallet.  Beware of quacks, and keep thinking clearly.

Long periods of standing, fasting, sitting, and self-humiliation may be required as a kind of initiation or hazing ritual before the neophyte applicant is allowed into the practice group.  These disciplinary practices are to test the mettle, seriousness, intent and grit of the applicant.  Stories abound about monks being struck with a stick and rebuffed and made to wait standing outside in the cold for weeks until the master allowed them into the temple.  College fraternities have bizarre hazing rituals, and occasionally young applicants have died in the process.  Criminal gangs may beat up new members or make that potential gang member beat up, rape, or kill some enemy or random person before they are admitted to the gang.  ISIS recruits probably have to blow up some antiquity or decapitate a retired museum director to get into the inner circle of that cabal of True Believers.  Military recruits must endure Boot Camp to prove they have guts, are obedient, and have a killer attitude.   Sports have their "hell week" of double practices to test the toughness of new players. Likewise, new Tai Chi players may be made to stand like a post for long periods of time, maybe for weeks, before the exalted Taiji Wizard will teach them anything.  You have to prove to the regular members of the group that you are trustworthy, obedient, loyal, submissive, and can endure discipline.  In some cases it makes sense and the initiation is worth the effort; but, in many cases the hazing and self-humiliation are unnecessary and just humbug. 

Yes, I do exaggerate here to try to make a few points.  I do greatly enjoy and benefit from Taijiquan, Yoga, and Qigong.  But, in addition, being a doubter and skeptic and smiler all do have their own benefits. 

I might not push hands with this guy.
He probably could have flung my disrespectful and sassy rear end ten feet away.
Maybe not!  I'm pretty tough and strong myself - but with a smile.

Another sad looking group doing serious standing meditation to find inner peace.

The 'enlightened' and sour puss Bodhidharma. 

An unenlightened and smiling old Daoist Druid. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Dao De Jing, Chapter 2, by Laozi

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
Chapter 2

"When the world speaks of beauty as being beautiful, ugliness is at once defined.
When goodness is seen to be good, evil is at once apparent.
So do existence and non-existence mutually give rise to one another,
As that which is difficult and that which is easy, distant and near, high and low,
shrill and bass, preceding and following.
The Sage therefore is occupied only with that which is without prejudice.
He teaches without verbosity; he acts without effort; he produces with possessing,
he acts without regard to the fruit of action; he brings his work to perfection without assuming credit;
and claiming nothing as his own, he cannot at any time be said to lose."
-  Translated by Walter Gorn Old, 1904, Chapter 2  

"When all the people of the world know beauty as beauty,
There arises the recognition of ugliness.
When they all know the good as good,
There arises the recognition of evil.
Therefore: Being and non-being produce each other;
Difficult and easy complete each other;
Long and short contrast each other;
High and low distinguish each other;
Sound and voice harmonize each other;
Front and behind accompany each other.
Therefore the sage manages affairs without action
And spreads doctrines without words. 
All things arise, and he does not turn away from them.
He produces them but does not take possession of them.
He acts but does not rely on his own ability.
He accomplishes his task but does not claim credit for it.
It is precisely because he does not claim credit that his accomplishment remains with him."
-  Translated by Wang Tsit Chan, 1963, Chapter 2 

"Recognize beauty and ugliness is born.
Recognize good and evil is born.
Is and Isn't produce each other.
Hard depends on easy,
Long is tested by short,
High is determined by low,
Sound is harmonized by voice,
After is followed by before.
Therefore the sage is devoted to non action,
Moves without teaching,
Creates ten thousand things without instruction,
Lives but does not own,
Acts but does not presume,
Accomplishes without taking credit.
When no credit is taken,
Accomplishment endures."
-  Translated by Stephen Addis, 1993, Chapter 2   

"When all in the world understand beauty to be beautiful, then ugliness exists.
When all understand goodness to be good, then evil exists.
Thus existence suggests non-existence;
Easy gives rise to difficult;
Short is derived from long by comparsion;
Low is derived from high by position;
Resonance harmonises sound;
After follows before.
Therefore the sage carries on his business without action, and gives his teaching without words."
-  Translated by Ch'u Ta-Kao, 1904, Chapter 2 

"It is the world of man that defines ugly by comparing it with that which man calls beautiful.
Skillful is considered such by comparison to that which is called 'without skill'.
Alive and non-alive are delineated by nature.
Difficult and easy are abstracted by our perception.
Long and short are defined by the one against the other.
High and low are reckoned so by the contrast of the one with the other.
Music is seen as pleasing if the notes and tones are recognized as being harmonious with each other.
One in front, and one behind are recognized as one following the other.
It is for this reason that the sage lives in the condition of wu-wei (unattached action, or; doing-not doing),
And teaches without words.
He knows that names and images are fleeting, and all things will transform.
One who seems to follow tonight might lead another time.
He sees all that is done as neither large nor small.
All things are neither grand nor miniscule.
Actions are neither difficult, nor done with ease. He acts without expectation.
Things spring up around him, and he accepts them, but does not possess them.
Things go away, and he recognizes their departure without grief or joy.
When the work is done he leaves it be.
Because he does not dwell in it, it will last."
-  Translated by Rivenrock, Chapter 2  

"Beauty becomes recognized as beauty,
As its difference from ugliness is seen.
Goodness and love become recognized,
As their difference from evil and hatred is felt.

The Relationship of:
- Being and non-being is known through life and growth.
- Difficult and easy is known through achievement and completion.
- Long and short is known through form and contrast.
- High and low is known through relationship and position.
- Sound and voice is known through amplitude and harmony.
- Front and behind is known through position and sequence.

Wu-Wei graces the affairs of the Sage -
Teaching gracefully, Without words.
Receiving all happening as natural,
Without needing to judge or control.
Giving life and animation to all experience
Without needing to dominate.
Accomplishing, Without expecting reward.

In never assuming importance,
When the Sage's work is complete,
It remains, everlastingly."
-  Translated by Alan B. Taplow, 1982, Chapter 2  

天下皆知美之為美, 斯惡已.
皆知善之為善, 斯不善已.
-  Chinese characters, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 2 

t'ien hsia chieh chih mei chih wei mei, ssu wu yi.
chieh chih shan chih wei shan, ssu pu shan yi.
ku yu wu hsiang shêng. 
nan yi hsiang ch'êng. 
ch'ang tuan hsiang chiao. 
kao hsia hsiang ch'ing.
yin shêng hsiang ho.
ch'ien hou hsiang sui.
shih yi shêng jen ch'u wu wei chih shih. 
hsing pu yen chih chiao.
wan wu tso yen erh pu tz'u.
shêng erh pu yu.
wei erh pu shih.
kung ch'eng erh fu chü.
fu wei fu ch'u.
shih yi pu ch'ü
-  Wade-Giles Romanization, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 2 

"When everyone knows what beauty is,
There must also be ugliness.
When everybody knows what goodness is,
Then evil must also exist.
Therefore, the haves and the have-nots coexist.
Easy and hard become complementary.
Long and short differ in length.
High and low contrast in height.
Tone and pitch harmonise with each other.
The past is followed by the present.
Hence, the sage manages his affairs with non-action,
Teaches without utterance,
And lets everything develop without any interference.
Dao procreates but does not possess.
It facilitates development but does not gloat.
When it accomplishes his task, it does not claim credit.
As the sage does not claim credit for his success,
The credit cannot be taken away from him."
-  Translated by Han Hiong Tan, Chapter 2  

"Cuando se reconoce la Belleza en el Mundo
Se aprende lo que es la Fealdad;
Cuando se reconoce la Bondad en el Mundo
Se aprende lo que es la Maldad.

De este modo:
Vida y muerte son abstracciones del crecimiento;
Dificultad y facilidad son abstracciones del progreso;
Cerca y lejos son abstracciones de la posición;
Fuerza y debilidad son abstracciones del control;
Música y habla son abstracciones de la armonía;
Antes y después son abstracciones de la secuencia.

El sabio controla sin autoridad,
Y enseña sin palabras;
Él deja que todas las cosas asciendan y caigan,
Nutre, pero no interfiere,
Dá sin pedirle,
Y está satisfecho."
-  Translated by Antonio Rivas Gonzálvez, 2004, Capítulo 2

"The whole world knows: when beauty tries to be beautiful it changes into ugliness by that very fact.
The whole world knows: when kindness tries to appear kind it changes into unkindness by that very fact.
So close are Being and Non-Being that one arises from the other.
So suddenly easy becomes difficult short becomes long high becomes low loud becomes soundless the first becomes the last.
That is why the Sage strives to act without action to teach without speaking.
He lets things happen and does not try to stay them.
He labors and is not greedy.
He acts and does not demand anything.
He receives and does not retain anything."
-  Translated by K.O. Schmidt, 1975, Chapter 2  

"Wenn auf Erden alle das Schöne als schön erkenne,
so ist dadurch schon das Häßliche gesetzt.
Wenn auf Erden alle das Gute als gut erkennen,
so ist dadurch schon das Nichtgute gesetzt.
Denn Sein und Nichtsein erzeugen einander.
Schwer und Leicht vollenden einander.
Lang und Kurz gestalten einander.
Hoch und Tiefverkehren einander.
Stimme und Ton sich vermählen einander.
Vorher und Nachher folgen einander.

Also auch der Berufene:
Er verweilt im Wirken ohne Handeln.
Er übt Belehrung ohne Reden.
AlIe Wesen treten hervor,
und er verweigert sich ihnen nicht.
Er erzeugt und besitzt nicht.
Er wirkt und behält nicht.
Ist das Werk vollbracht,
so verharrt er nicht dabei,
Und eben weil er nicht verharrt,
bleibt er nicht verlassen."
-  Translated by Richard Wilhelm, 1911, Chapter 2

"Because the world recognized beauty as beauty, ugliness is known to be ugly.
Everyone knows goodness to be goodness, and to know this is to know what is not good.
Similarly, existence implies non-existence;
The hard and the easy complement each other; We recognize what is long by comparison with what is short;
High by comparison with low;
The shrill by comparison with the sonorous.
Before and after, earlier and later, back and front -
All these complement one another.
Therefore the Sage, the self-controlled man, dwells in action-less activity, poised between contraries.
He teaches without employing words.
He beholds al things that have been made - he does not turn his back on them.
He achieves, but does not claim merit;
He does not call attention to what he does, not claim success.
Regarding nothing as his own, he loses nothing that is his."
-  Translated by Herman Ould, 1946, Chapter 2 

"When people see things as beautiful,
ugliness is created.
When people see things as good,
evil is created.

Being and non-being produce each other.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low oppose each other.
Fore and aft follow each other.

Therefore the Master
can act without doing anything
and teach without saying a word.
Things come her way and she does not stop them;
things leave and she lets them go.
She has without possessing,
and acts without any expectations.
When her work is done, she take no credit.
That is why it will last forever."
-  Translated by John H. McDonald, 1996, Chapter 2   

A typical webpage created by Mike Garofalo for each one of the 81 Chapters of the Tao Te Ching (Daodejing) by Lao Tzu (Laozi) includes 20 different English translations or interpolations for that Chapter, 3 Spanish translations for that Chapter, the Chinese characters for that Chapter, and the Wade-Giles and Hanyu Pinyin Romanization of the Mandarin Chinese words for that Chapter.  Each webpage for one of the 81 Chapters of the Tao Te Ching includes extensive indexing by key words and terms in English, Spanish, and the Wade-Giles Romanization.  Each webpage on a Chapter of the Daodejing includes recommended reading in books and websites, a detailed bibliography, some commentary, research leads, translation sources, and other resources for that Chapter.   

Chapter 2, Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Chapter and Thematic Index (Concordance) to the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

English Language Daodejing Translators' Source Index

Spanish Language Daodejing Translators' Source Index

Ripening Peaches: Taoist Studies and Practices

Taoism: A Selected Reading List

One Old Daoist Druid's Final Journey  


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sitting Still

"The first level of stillness is about being with yourself in order to know yourself. This is accomplished by being wide awake and aware as you deliberately relax into yourself. The idea is to consciously enter into a state wherein you temporarily suspend everything you think you know about who you are, including anything you have ever been taught, and simply be attentive to what's going on right there where you are. You practice being quiet, both physically and mentally, as you pay attention to the sensations in your body, the various thoughts in your mind, and your current experience of being conscious and alive. You practice simple body-mind awareness, being conscious of the moment you are now in, and thereby experience with clarity the energy of you. You consciously experience yourself as you actually are. In this way you open yourself to a new, truer, less distorted experience of you and the world."
- Erich Schiffmann, Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness, 1996, p. 7. 

"Sit quietly
focus and forget
rest with the great achievement.
The ancient child asks
"what is the great achievement?"
It is beyond description in any language
it can only be felt intuitively
it can only be expressed intuitively. 
Engage a loose, alert, and aware
body, mind, and sound
then look into the formless
and perceive no thing.
See yourself as a sphere
small at first
growing to encompass
the vastness of infinite space. 
Sit quietly
focus and forget then
in a state of ease and rest
secure the truth of the great achievement.
Employing the truth will not exhaust its power
when it seems exhausted it is really abundant
and while human art will die at the hands of utility
the great achievement is beyond being useful.
Great straightness is curved and crooked
great intelligence is raw and silly
great words are simple and naturally awkward. 
Engaged movement drives out the frozen cold
mindful stillness subdues the frenzied heart.
Sit quietly
summon order from the void
that guides the ordering of the universe."
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 45, Translated by John Bright-Fey, 2006

"There are many matters and many circumstances in which consciousness is undesirable and silence is golden, so that secrecy can be used as a marker to tell us that we are approaching the holy."
-  Gregory Bateson, Angels Fear

"You are sitting on the earth and you realize that this earth deserves you and you deserve this earth.  You are there - fully, personally, genuinely."
-  Chogyam Trungpa

"Teach us to care and not to care.
Teach us to sit still."
-  T.S. Eliot

Ripening Peaches: Taoist Studies and Practices
Standing Meditation

Quiet in the Garden

Sitting in the Garden 


"If you cannot find stillness while sitting still, then find stillness while gardening."
-  Mike Garofalo, Pulling Onions

... or walking, doing Taijiquan, or reading ... 


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ten Buddhist Precepts

I vow not to kill.
By not killing life, the Buddha seed grows. Transmit the life of Buddha and do not kill.

I vow not to take what is not given.
The self and objects are such, two yet one. The gate of liberation stands open.

I vow not to misuse sexuality.
Let the three wheels of self, objects, and action be pure. With nothing to desire, one goes along together with the Buddhas.

I vow to refrain from false speech.
The Dharma Wheel turns from the beginning. There is neither surplus nor lack. The sweet dew saturates all and harvests the truth.

I vow not to sell the wine of delusion.
Originally pure, don't defile. This is the great awareness.

I vow not to slander.
In the Buddha Dharma, go together, appreciate, realize, and actualize together. Don't permit fault-finding. Don't permit haphazard talk. Do not corrupt the way.

I vow not to praise self at the expense of others.
Buddhas and Ancestors realize the vast sky and the great earth. When they manifest the noble body, there is neither inside nor outside in emptiness. When they manifest the Dharma body, there is not even a bit of earth on the ground.

I vow not to be avaricious.
One phrase, one verse--that is the ten thousand things and one hundred grasses. One dharma, one realization--is all Buddhas and Ancestors. Therefore, from the beginning, there has been no stinginess at all.

I vow not to harbor ill will.
Not negative, not positive, neither real nor unreal. There is an ocean of illuminated clouds and an ocean of ornamented clouds.

I vow not to abuse the three treasures.
To expound the Dharma with this body is foremost. Virtue returns to the ocean of reality. It is unfathomable--we just accept it with respect and gratitude.

Berkeley Zen Center, Buddhist Texts

The Ethical Precepts of Zen Buddhism: Links, Bibliography, Resources, Quotes, Notes. By Mike Garofalo.

How to Live a Decent Life: Advice from Wise Persons

Ethics, Values, Character


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.

The Spiritual Legacy of the Shaolin Temple: Buddhism, Daoism, and the Energetic Arts. By Andy James. Foreword by Dr. Jerry Alan Johnson. Summerville, MA, Wisdom Publications, 2004. 179 pages. I SBN: 0861713524.