Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Closest Thing to Doing Nothing is Walking

“To walk is to lack a place.  It is the indefinite process of being absent and in search of a proper.”
-  Michel de Certeau 

“I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit.”
-  Henry David Thoreau 

“Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It's best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking.”
-  Rebecca Solnit  

“Walks. The body advances, while the mind flutters around it like a bird.”
-  Jules Renard  

"Walking is the perfect way of moving if you want to see into the life of things.  It is the one way of freedom.  If you go to a place on anything but your own feet you are taken there too fast, and miss a thousand delicate joys that were waiting for you by the wayside.”
-  Elizabeth von Arnim  

“I find more pleasure in wandering the fields than in musing among my silent neighbors who are insensible to everything but toiling and talking of it and that to no purpose.”
-  John Clare 

"Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them.  Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the outdoor world; and talking leads almost inevitably to smoking, and then farewell to nature as far as one of our senses is concerned.  The only friend to walk with is one... who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared.”
-  C. S. Lewis

“After a day's walk everything has twice its usual value.”
-  George Macauley Trevelyan

Walking: Quotations, Poems, Sayings, Lore, Information 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wudang Chi Kung: The Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung

"The Eight Verses of Wudang Mountain Badunjin :

1. Lift the ground and hold the sky to take care of the three internal cavities
2. Draw a bow to the left and right, just like shooting a vulture
3. Lift the hand up singly to tone and caress the spleen and the stomach
4. Look backwards to cure the five strains and seven injuries
5. Reach down the leg by both hands to strengthen the kidney and the reproductive organ
6. Swivel the head and rock the bottom to calm down
7. Rotate fists and stare to add stamina
8. Vibrate the back seven times to expel illness

The first segment takes care of the three chiaos (internal organs), the second segment strengthens the heart and the lung, the third regulates the spleen and the stomach, the fourth cures strains and injuries, the fifth toughens the kidney and reproductive organ, the sixth calms the nervous system, the seventh increases stamina, the eighth gets rid of illnesses. It has materialised the merging of the theory and movements of Badunjin with clinical sports, as well as specified the importance of life-nourishment and health-preservation. Badunjin Qigong, uplifted by the modern medical confirmation from Chinese and western professionals and scholars, continues to be revitalised and made to perfection. Thus it has been made even more suitable and practical to serve the needs of the modern era, and advances with time.

The theory and movements of Wudang Badunjin is thorough; it is safe and easy to learn, and has a wide application on medical cure. Externally, it exercises the skin, muscles, tendons and bones; internally, it strengthens the organs, improves the circulatory system, and consolidates the spirit of well being. Its movements involve breathing naturally, and are smart & light, continuous and lively, elegant and beautiful, stretchy and graceful, alternating relaxing with tightening, synchronising harmoniously, can be fast or slow but with distinct rhythm, can be complicated or simple, active or quiet, and cohere the opening with the closing. It stresses on the mutual use of toughness and gentleness, the training of the internal and external body parts, the merging of activity and quietness, the balancing of the left and the right, the top and the bottom, alternating the real and the virtual, and nourishing both the body and the spirit. The amount of exercise and the length of the practice session can be adjusted anytime, and it can be practised alongside with other exercises. Age, sex, body nature, location, equipment, time, season, etc do not restrict the practice. It can be practised individually, with the whole family, or with a group. The all-encompassing effect and value of its body-strengthening and medical aspects is evergreen."
-  Wudang Mountain Badunjin Qigong 20Kb. Original (in Chinese) written in Hong Kong by Woo Kwong Fat, the 28th Generation Master of Dragon Gate Branch, Wudang Mountain.

Wudang Qigong

Eight Section Brocade Qigong (Baduanjin)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bounty of Peaches

We have a number of peach trees in our orchard.  The numerous varieties of peaches ripen here in June, July, and August.  We eat, preserve, and give away.  Birds also enjoy the peaches. 

"If any sense in mortal dust remains
When mine has been refin'd from flower to flower,
Won from the sun all colours, drunk the shower
And delicate winy dews, and gain'd the gains
Which elves who sleep in airy bells, a-swing
Through half a summer day, for love bestow,
Then in some warm old garden let me grow
To such a perfect, lush, ambrosian thing
As this. Upon a southward-facing wall
I bask, and feel my juices dimly fed
And mellowing, while my bloom comes golden grey:
Keep the wasps from me! but before I fall
Pluck me, white fingers, and o'er two ripe-red
Girl lips O let me richly swoon away!"
-  Edward Dowden, In the Garden VI: A Peach

The Peaches of Immortality and the Queen Mother of the West, Hsi Wang Mu

The saint of longevity, Shou, sits inside
the Sacred Peach.  In his hands he holds
a sacred peach and a dragon staff. 

In the picutre below, Dongfang Shuo, circa 100 BCE, steals a sacred peach.

"Domestic wall-hanging embroidered with the image of Hsi-wang-mu,
the Queen Mother of the West, with phoenix and offering dish, and
three bats (fu) pun symbol for happiness.  The Eight Immortals appear
at the sides.  Late nineteenth century, Ch'ing Dynasty.  110" x 59''."
Looks to me like She is carrying four peaches on the offering dish. 
Tao: The Eastern Philosophy of Time and Change 

"The peach (Prunus persica) is a deciduous tree, native to Northwest China, in the region between the Tarim Basin and the north slopes of the Kunlun Shan mountains, where it was first domesticated and cultivated.  It bears an edible juicy fruit also called a peach.  The specific epithet persica refers to its widespread cultivation in Persia, whence it was transplanted to Europe. It belongs to the genus Prunus which includes the cherry and plum, in the family Rosaceae. The peach is classified with the almond in the subgenus Amygdalus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated seed shell.  Peach and nectarines are the same species, even though they are regarded commercially as different fruits. In contrast to peaches, whose fruits present the characteristic fuzz on the skin, nectarines are characterized by the absence of fruit-skin trichomes (fuzz-less fruit); genetic studies suggest nectarines are produced due to a recessive allele, whereas peaches are produced from a dominant allele for fuzzy skin.  China is the world's largest producer of peaches."
Peach - Wikipedia

Monday, July 27, 2015

Daodejing Chart

Tao Te Ching
 Chapter Number Index

Standard Traditional Chapter Arrangement of the Daodejing
Chapter Order in Wang Bi's Daodejing Commentary in 246 CE
Chart by Mike Garofalo
Subject Index
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50
51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60
61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70
71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Desirable Virtues

Thirteen Necessary or Desirable Virtues

1. Temperance.  Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2.  Silence.  Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
3.  Order.  Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. 
4.  Resolution.  Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5.  Frugality.  Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; waste nothing.
6.  Industry.  Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
7.  Sincerity.  Use not hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
8.  Justice.  Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9.  Moderation.  Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10.  Cleanliness.  Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation. 
11.  Tranquility.  Be not disturbed by trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable. 
12.  Chastity.  Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
13.  Humility.  Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

-  Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography 1771-1784
   From The Portable Enlightenment Reader, edited by Isaac Kramnick, 1995, p.484

How to Live a Good Life: Advice from Wise Persons


A Philosopher's Notebooks

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Walking: Thy Lasting Youth Defends

“Of all the causes which conspire to render the life of a man short and miserable, none have greater influence than the want of proper exercise.”
-  Dr. William Buchan, 18th Century Scottish physician

 “Exercise thy lasting youth defends.”
-  John Gay, British poet

“Resting is rusting.”
-  Helen Hayes

"Exercise may do more than keep a healthy brain fit: New research suggests working up a good sweat may also offer some help once memory starts to slide- and even improve life for people with Alzheimer’s.  The effects were modest, but a series of studies reported Thursday found vigorous workouts by people with mild memory impairment decreased levels of a warped protein linked to risk of later Alzheimer’s — and improved quality of life for people who already were in early stages of the disease.  “Regular aerobic exercise could be a fountain of youth for the brain,” said cognitive neuroscientist Laura Baker of Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, who reported some of the research at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.  Doctors have long advised that people keep active as they get older. Exercise is good for the heart, which in turn is good for the brain. Lots of research shows physical activity can improve cognition in healthy older people, potentially lowering their risk of developing dementia.  How much exercise? In studies from North Carolina, Denmark and Canada, people got 45 minutes to an hour of aerobic exercise three or four times a week, compared to seniors who stuck with their usual schedule."
Exercise is Good for the Brain

"The street curves in and out, up and down
in great waves of asphalt;
at night the granite tomb is noisy with starlings
like the creaking of many axles;
only the tired walker know how much there is to climb,
how the sidewalk curves into the cold wind."
-   Charles Reznikoff, Walking and Watching

"Thoughts come clearly while one walks."
-   Thomas Mann

"Happy is the man who has acquired the love of walking for its own sake!"
-   W.J. Holland

 Walking: Quotes, Sayings, Poems, Information.  Compiled by Mike Garofalo.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Dao De Jing, Laozi, Chapter 6

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
Chapter 6

"The manifestations of Infinity never cease manifesting.  
Infinity is the primal creator, the oneness of male and female.
Infinity is the gate though which heaven and earth manifested.
It is invisible to the senses, yet totally permeates all things.
It is inexhaustible and eternally available for any purpose."
-  Translated by John Worldpeace, Chapter 6

"The Tao is called the Great Mother:
empty yet never-ending,
it gives birth to unlimited worlds.
It is always at hand within you.
Use it gently, and without force."
-   Translated by Rivenrock, Chapter 6 

"The unlimited capacity of valleys;
the unbelievable power of Spirits;
and the unending life of immortality are called the Profound Origin Mother.
The beginning of the Profound Origin Mother is the root of Heaven and Earth.
Endlessly, endlessly!
It is existing.
Yet its usefulness is invisible."
-  Translated by Tang Zi-Chang, Chapter 6

"The valley spirit dies not, aye the same;
The female mystery thus do we name.
Its gate, from which at first they issued forth,
Is called the root from which grew heaven and earth.
Long and unbroken does its power remain,
Used gently, and without the touch of pain."
-  Translated by James Legge, 1891, Chapter 6    
"The valley spirit dies not, aye the same;
The female mystery thus do we name.
Its gate, from which at first they issued forth,
Is called the root from which grew heaven and earth.
Long and unbroken does its power remain,
Used gently, and without the touch of pain."
-  Translated by Stephen McIntyre, 2009, Chapter 6 
谷神不死, 是謂玄牝.
-  Chinese characters, Chapter 6, Tao Te Ching

ku shên pu ssu, shih wei hsüan p'in.
hsüan p'in chih mên.
shih wei t'ien ti kên.
mien mien jo ts'un.
yung chih pu ch'in.
-  Wade-Giles Romanization, Chapter 6, Tao Te Ching  

"The valley spirit that doesn't die we call the dark womb
as real as gossamer silk and yet we can't exhaust it.
The valley spirit that doesn't die we call the dark womb the dark womb's mouth
we call the source of creation as real as gossamer silk and yet we can't exhaust it."
-  Translated by Red Pine, Chapter 6

"The spirit of the valley does not die
It may be known as the mysterious feminine
The gateway of the mysterious feminine
May be known as the source of heaven and earth
Endless, continuous, seeming to exist
To practice this is not effort."
-  Translated by Bradford Hatcher, 2005, Chapter 6  

"La Esencia del Todo no muere.
Es la Mujer Misteriosa, Madre del Universo.
El camino de la Mujer Misteriosa
es la raíz del Cielo y de la Tierra.
Su duración es perenne, su eficiencia infatigable."
-  Translation from Wikisource, 2013,
Capítulo 6  

Valley Spirit, Gu Shen, Concept, Chapter 6 

"The unlimited capacity of valleys;
the unbelievable power of Spirits;
and the unending life of immortality are called the Profound Origin Mother.
The beginning of the Profound Origin Mother is the root of Heaven and Earth.
Endlessly, endlessly!
It is existing.
Yet its usefulness is invisible."
-  Translated by Tang Zi-Chang, Chapter 6

"Der Geist des Tals stirbt nicht,
das heißt das dunkle Weib.
Das Tor des dunklen Weibs,
das heißt die Wurzel von Himmel und Erde.
Ununterbrochen wie beharrend
wirkt es ohne Mühe."
-  Translated by Richard Wilhelm, 1911, Chapter 6

"The Tao never dies;
It is a deep womb.
And the opening of the womb
Is called the root of heaven and earth.
It exists for ever,
And its use can never be exhausted."
-  Translated by Gu Zengkun, Chapter 6

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 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, July 23, 2015

Martial Arts Cults

Is Your Martial Art a Cult?

Posted at Mokuren Dojo

  • The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.‪ 
  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.‪ Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).‪ 
  • The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).‪ 
  • The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).‪ 
  • The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.‪ 
  • The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).‪ 
  • The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).‪ 
  • The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.‪ 
  • Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.‪ 
  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.‪ 
  • The group is preoccupied with making money.‪ 
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.‪ 
  • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.‪ 
  • The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Learning Taijiquan

The most frequent question I am asked is "Where I live there are no Taijiquan teachers of the the Taijiquan style X that I want to learn.  How do I go about learning Taijiquan Style X?"

You always need to learn Tai Chi by observing someone doing the Taijiquan form you are studying, and listening carefully to their instructions.  Fortunately, in 2015, for most Taijiquan forms, you have from two to ten different choices of very knowledgeable instructors or Masters who teach the Taijiquan form that you are learning by means of good instructional DVDs or videos.  Also, for some popular Taijiquan forms there are excellent books or manuals available for the form you are learning, or very good online webpages on the form.  Sometimes there are VCDs that can be played on a home computer.  Finally, there are some online courses and UTube demonstrations of the form you are learning.  

You are learning the "basics" from a good live teacher and/or a good writer.  All Taijiquan is learned this way.  

My own webpages provide extensive bibliographies of these many learning resources.  I also provide many suggestions and remarks about learning specific forms using DVDs, videos, and books, e.g.,  Standard 24 Taijiquan Form.  

Instructional DVDs come in NTSC and PAL formats, with NTSC format being used on DVD players in the United States.  If you are purchasing your DVD from outside the United States it is most likely in the PAL format and will not work properly on your DVD player.  Caveat Emptor.  

I use a small desktop DVD player.  My Vzon model, playing the NTSC format, has a hand held DVD controller and controls on the machine.  I no longer use instructional VHS videos, because you can't as easily cue as with DVDs. 

You want to purchase a DVD that teaches the Taijiquan form.  You want an instructional DVD, not a demonstration DVD.  Advanced Tai Chi students can sometimes learn from a demonstration DVD, but not without much difficulty.  All Tai Chi learners can benefit from a good instructional DVD that breaks the form down into discrete sections (lessons, blocks) and provides detailed verbal instructions on how to perform the movements in each section.  Sometimes a section is called a "lesson" and might include three or four movements of the form.  The best instructional DVDs feature frequent repetition of a movement, clear voice over narration, the use of different camera angles for showing a movement sequence, sectional performance demonstrations, and complete demonstrations of the form from a front and back view.  It is essential to get the narration in the language you use, because it is very hard to read subtitles and carefully study the the movements visually at the same time.   

Study each DVD lesson carefully, make notes, memorize the names of the movements in that lesson, then immediately practice each lesson until you can perform the movement sequence in the lesson on your own.  Repeat, repeat, repeat!!  Don't move on to the next lesson until you can perform the movements in the lesson you are studying on your own.  Give yourself a little slack and accept being just "satisfactory" at performing each lesson.  Over time you will refine and perfect your performance.   

After learning the first lesson, then proceed in the same manner to learn the second lesson.  Then combine the first and second lesson and practice them together until you can perform them on your own.  Don't move on to lesson three until you can easily and smoothly perform lessons one and two combined.  To "learn" means to me to be able to remember and easily, consistently, and smoothly perform a sequence of movements on your own.  Study Lesson 1, practice and learn Lesson 1; study Lesson 2, practice and learn Lessons 1 + 2; study Lesson 3, practice and learn Lessons 1 + 2 + 3; study Lesson 4, practice and learn Lessons 1 + 2 + 3 +4, etc. 

As with all learning the keys are: daily study, careful study, paying attention, remembering, daily practice, patience, repetition, visualization, verbal cues, making notes, and confidence.  Take your time, don't rush, be patient.  The process of learning might take months.  

"With the development of information technology, the learners should further enhance their knowledge and perfect their skills through reading books and using the multimedia resources, such as video tapes and VCDs.  Sometimes, to some extent, you can master the competition routines even without a coach in person.  Quite a number of people are known to have learned and practice Tai Ji Quan by using the multimedia teaching materials and some even won places in competitions besides keeping fit.  But of course, if given a chance, it is always more beneficial to learn personally from masters."
- The Competition Routine of Sun Style Tai Ji Quan, Edited by Zhong Shan, p. 138.  

Here are some suggestions from Robert Chuckrow: 

"Whereas a form-instruction video is no substitute for a qualified teacher, those who live far from any teacher are still better off learning from a video than if they had no instruction at all. For those who have a teacher, a video can augment and accelerate the learning process. Finally, those who have had prior instruction in internal arts should be able to attain a substantial benefit from a video.

One method of learning a form from a video is to repeatedly do the entire form or blocks of the form along with the video. However, this method is not efficient because there is insufficient opportunity to reinforce each movement. A better way is to refrain from doing movement while watching the video (DVD). Rather, it is good to choose a small block of material, watch it a few times. Then, without any major physical action, visualize the sequence of movements as clearly as possible. Next, go back to the beginning of that block of material, and view and visualize it again a few times. Only after clear and complete visualization is achieved should the movements be attempted physically.

At first it will seem extremely difficult to work this way. With persistence, however, it is possible to achieve a level of visualization so intense that the imagined movements are almost as vivid as those seen on a TV screen. The dividends of the process of visualization are twofold: (1) By subduing the physical aspects of movement (e.g., balance, coordination, kinetic sense, timing), you can completely focus the mind on the details of the movement. (2) By cultivating the ability to visualize and mentally encompass complex details, you become increasingly able to observe and learn new movements quickly, especially in situations where it is not feasible to move while observing (e.g., dreams, teacher showing movements while the class watches). Referring to the dimension of self-defense, the more you can observe and mentally encompass the movements of the opponent, the greater the advantage achieved."
- Robert Chuckrow, The Tai Chi Book, YMAA Publication Center, Boston, MA, 1998, pp. 119–120