Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Burn Me with Your Beauty Then

"How many million Aprils came
before I ever knew
how white a cherry bough could be,
a bed of squills, how blue
And many a dancing April
when life is done with me,
will lift the blue flame of the flower
and the white flame of the tree
Oh burn me with your beauty then,
oh hurt me tree and flower,
lest in the end death try to take
even this glistening hour..."
Sara Teasdale, Blue Squills, 1920  

April:  Quotes, Sayings, Lore, Chores

Monday, April 14, 2014

Talent is a Species of Vigor

"The chief condition on which, life, health and vigor depend on, is action.  It is by action that an organism develops its faculties, increases its energy, and attains the fulfillment of its destiny."
-   Pierre Joseph Proudhon   

“They who lack talent expect things to happen without effort. They ascribe failure to a lack of inspiration or ability, or to misfortune, rather than to insufficient application. At the core of every true talent there is an awareness of the difficulties inherent in any achievement, and the confidence that by persistence and patience something worthwhile will be realized. Thus talent is a species of vigor.”
-  Eric Hoffer

Lifestyle Advice from Wise Persons 

The Good Life 

Nine Essentials for Lifelong Vitality

"1.  Moving with Attention, Wake Up to Life, Mindful Movements
2.  The Learning Switch, Bring in the New, Lifelong learning, Retraining
3.  Subtlety, Experience the Power of Gentleness
4.  Variation, Enjoy Abundant Possibilities
5.  Taking Your Time, Slowing Down, Not Rushing, Luxuriate in the Richness of Feeling 
6.  Enthusiasm, Turn the Small into the Great
7.  Flexible Goals, Make the Impossible Possible  
8.  Imagination and Dreams, Create Your Life
9.  Awareness, Cultivating Mindfulness, Thrive with True Knowledge"

Move into Life: The Nine Essentials for Lifelong Vitality  By Anat Baniel.  New York, Harmony Books, 2009.  Index, bibliography, 306 pages.  ISBN: 9780307395290.  VSCL.  


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Garden Planted with Summer Vegetables

Karen and I worked in our "Sunny Garden" yesterday.  We planted some summer vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, corn, and squash.  

Our last frost day is April 15th in our area.  Today, the high temperature was 81F, sunny, with no clouds.   

Gardening provides the opportunity for constructive action, exercise, amateur botany studies, attention to particulars, a 'restoration of the five senses,' artistic creativity, and quiet contemplation.  

The photos were taken around 6 pm in the afternoon.  

Looking to the south.  Karen is standing in what is left of our Winter garden: onions, Swiss chard, cabbage, and garlic. In the foreground, we need to get some work done on weeding and preparing the compost area, enclosing with concrete blocks

Looking to the North.  I am standing in the portion of the garden used for summer vegetables. We weeded and tilled the soil in this garden last weekend.  We had fertilized with cow manure last December. 

Staking up the first tomato:

Karen watering the plants in this garden.  We will put in drip lines to each plant in early May ... which makes watering much easier and more effective than watering with a hose.  I will put down straw around each plant for mulch and water conservation.  

A view, looking south, of part of our South Orchard.  We will be mowing with our John Deere tractor and Echo weed eater this coming Sunday.  

The Spirit of Gardening:  Over 3,800 Quotes, Sayings, Poems, and Facts.  Compiled by Mike Garofalo. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Qi Force for Fighters: A Skeptic's Reply

I recently read an interesting post by David Gaffney, a Chen Taijiquan expert, titled:  "Is "Qi" Relevant to Today's Taiji Boxer."  I recommend that you read the short article now.  My response below will not make sense without reading his post.  I did not agree with Mr. Gaffney, and responded as follows in comments to the post:  

Mr. Gaffney, 

I enjoyed reading your Chen Taijiquan book.  Your worldwide Tai Chi adventures are also fascinating. 

Qi (Chi) is certainly not a real "thing” or an actual "process" like a chemical element, a cell, a tornado, a bicep, an earthquake, or a rose which have worldwide trans-cultural meaningfulness and which can be accurately measured, quantified, referred to, and explained.  The concept of "energy" in physics, chemistry, and biology is not something vague, unmeasurable, or justified by feelings.  

It is more difficult to measure or quantify “feelings” as every psychologist knows, although attempts to specify degrees of feelings are commonplace.  Yes, the Olympic medalist has very high levels of pride, accomplishment, success, etc. 

Qi, however, is used by some to refer to special powers, siddhis, or magical forces.  For example, a few advocate that if you practice Taijiquan vigorously enough and diligently follow the Master’s instructions you might someday have these extraordinary Qi or Empty Force powers to defeat much stronger opponents in real fights.  We can, no matter what the culture, clearly sense a person’s strength, agility, speed, youthfulness, bodyweight, flexibility, experience, and martial arts skills; but, their mastery and use of Qi is much more nebulous, vague, and often spurious.  I suggest that serious fighters would benefit more by doing calisthenics, aerobic conditioning, practicing techniques and sparring; rather than trying to unclog blocked Qi in the Shaoyin Heart channel of the hand.  

A number of Tai Chi Masters, e.g., Yang Jwing Ming, Bruce Frantzis, Peter Ralston, David Gaffney, etc., talk in detail about their extensive background and hard training in vigorous and competitive martial arts in their youth. Is their past training the real source of whatever martial skill they possess in their old age rather than cultivating their Qi powers? 

It is not ridiculous to question vague ideas, and it is useless to agonize about vague and metaphorical ideas.  We can enjoy and benefit greatly from Taijiquan practice, and never have been concerned at all about how many different ways the Chinese use the word ‘Qi’ in colloquial language, metaphors, or supernatural allusions.  Going out with a hot woman on a hot date may feel very good, but reading 11°F (-10°C) on my outdoor thermometer is understood everywhere as not being hot.  Baseball metaphors pepper our American speech, but you will never hit a home run by talking.    

I agree that higher levels of Taijiquan expertise require more knowledge and appreciation of Chinese history and culture.  So, we keep on learning; but we don't need to believe in mysterious unmeasurable forces without empirical justification. 

The Chen style of Taijiquan is, in my opinion, of greater physical conditioning benefit that the Yang, Wu, or Sun styles.   

Yoga is also filled with much pseudo-science about the supposed existence of prana and seven chakras; and, the questionable meaning and value of mantras, praying, withdrawal of the senses, vegetarianism, sexual abstinence, siddhis, deep meditation, purifying yourself, worship of a personal god, scriptural studies, and strictly obeying the guru (master).  However, if you want to "earn" a certificate to teach yoga, be prepared to justify and to explain these esoteric and religious viewpoints.  Many yoga and tai chi "masters" don't allow any questioning or objections to their esoteric party line.  I remember well one bogus Anusara Yoga "master" teacher of mine telling us to feel the divine Grace flowing from our Crown Chakra to our Inner Heart and out to our hands.  After I protested this confusing nonsense, the uncomfortable teacher gave me a refund on the tuition to get me away from her lair of acolytes.    

Another way of explaining the undeniable health and fitness benefits of Taijiquan, sans Qi, is found in "The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi" byPeter Wayne, PhD, 2013.  

"Let the Force be with you," or be a real force.  

-  Mike Garofalo, Cloud Hands Blog

The following UTube video shows the Tai Chi Master Huang displaying his sparring skills with his many students.  You be the judge.  Is this an incredible display of Qi Force, empty force, prana Power, martial skill, an audition of amateur stuntmen, adoring students pretending, or humbug?


The following UTube is a farcical spoof of a "battle" between Tai Chi Masters.  Does it show lack of respect?  Or, is it hard to respect the pretensions of some people about their Qi powers?  Maybe yes and/or maybe no?  It made me smile. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, Chapter 66

Daodejing, Laozi
Chapter 66

"That whereby the rivers and seas are able to receive the homage and tribute of all the valley streams, is their skill in being lower than they;
It is thus that they are the kings of them all.
So it is that the sage ruler, wishing to be above men, puts himself by his words below them;
And, wishing to be before them, places his person behind them.
In this way though he has his place above them, men do not feel his weight, nor though he has his place before them, do they feel it an injury to them.
Therefore all in the world delight to exalt him and do not weary of him.
Because he does not strive, no one finds it possible to strive with him."
-  Translated by James Legge, 1891, 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  

"Rivers and seas are rulers
 of the streams of hundreds of valleys
 because of the power of their low position.

 If you want to be the ruler of people,
 you must speak to them like you are their servant.
 If you want to lead other people,
 you must put their interest ahead of your own.

 The people will not feel burdened,
 if a wise person is in a position of power.
 The people will not feel like they are being manipulated,
 if a wise person is in front as their leader.
 The whole world will ask for her guidance,
 and will never get tired of her.
 Because she does not like to compete,
 no one can compete with the things she accomplishes."
 -  Translated by John H. McDonald, 1996, Chapter 66  

江海所以能為百谷王者, 以其善下之, 故能為百谷王.
是以欲上民, 必以身下之.
欲先民, 必以身後之. 
-  Chinese characters, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 66  

chiang hai suo yi neng wei bai gu wang zhe, yi qi shan xia zhi, gu neng wei bai gu wang. 
shi yi yu shang min,  bi yi yan xia zhi. 
yu xian min, bi yi shen hou zhi. 
shi yi sheng ren chu shang er min bu zhong. 
chu shang er min bu hai. 
shi yi tian xia le tui er bu yan. 
yi qi bu zheng gu tian xia mo neng yu zhi zheng. 
-  Hanyu Pinyin Romanization, Daodejing, Chapter 66

"The Rivers and the Seas (because they seek a lowly place) are Lords of a hundred valleys
Let your love flow, seek a lowly place, you will be Lord of a hundred valleys.
That is why if the self-controlled man desires to exalt the people, in his speech he must take a lowly place; if he desires to put the put the people first he must put himself after them.
Thus, though he dwells above them, the people are not burdened by him
Though he is placed before them, the people are not obstructed by him,
Therefore men serve him gladly, they do not tire in serving him.
Because he does not strive, no one in the world can strive against him."
-  Translated by Isabella Mears, 1916, Chapter 66  

"Los grandes ríos caudalosos y el mar
     se pueden hacer reyes
     de los incontables arroyos de montaña por un motivo:
Porque están my por debajo de ellos.
Así son capaces de hacerse reyes
     de los incontables arroyos de montaña.
Por este motivo, se quieres estar por encima del pueblo,
Te debes colocar invariablemente
     de modo que los sigas desde artás.

Por este motivo, el sabio
     Occupa su lugar arriba, pero al pueblo
          no le parece una carga pesada;
     Occupa su lugar al frente, pero el pueblo
          no lo considera un estorbo.
Por este motivo lo veneran de buena gana
     todos los que están bajo el cielo,
     pero sin sentirse nunca apretados ni acosados.
Porque él no se opone nunca a los demás;
Por eso no puede oponerse nunca a él nadie
     de los que están bajo el cielo."
-  Translated by Alejandro Pareja, 2012, based upon the William Scott Wilson translation into English, Capitulo 66

"Oceans and mighty rivers are as kings to all the valleys, because they lower themselves to the level of the valleys:
That is why they are as kings of the valleys.
Therefore the Sage, if he would be above the people, must in speech seem to put himself below the people.
If he would lead the people, he must place himself behind them.
Thus, although he is above the people, he is not a burden to them;
Although he goes ahead of the people, he does not block their way.
Thus, the whole world willingly follows and esteems him and is not irked by him.
And because he does not contend, no one contends with him."
-  Translated by Herman Ould, 1946, Chapter 66  

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

Taoism: A Selected Reading List 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ba Duan Jin Chi Kung

I frequently teach the Chinese Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung exercise and fitness routine in my Taijiquan class and my Yoga class.  Naturally, I include many comments about Shaolin and Daoist fitness and healthy living concepts. 

This Eight Treasures exercise and fitness routine has a varied and long history with ancient roots back to the Animal Frolics Dao-yin exercises of 300 CE.  Some of the Eight Treasures exercises involve toughening, courage, and fighting and were used in military exercise and conditioning drills.  Many versions of the Ba Duan Jin include 12 exercises or more.  
Back in 2002, I created the webpage titled:  The Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung.  
The Ba Duan Jin Qigong form includes eight basic exercises to help you keep limber, become stronger, improve your balance, and increase your stamina.  There are opportunities for squatting movements and postures to strengthen the legs.  
The entire Eight Beautiful Tapestries Chi Kung form is normally done while standing, although there are some versions done in a seated posture for meditative purposes or for frail persons. 

There are numerous versions of this popular Chi Kung form.  There are many good books, instructional DVDs, and UTube videos to choose from on this topic.  My webpage includes a long bibliography on the Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung with citations for resources, links, videos, books, and instructional DVDs on the subject.  
I make a number of comments about each of the eight movements, including comments about the movement variations, physical training targets, muscles worked, attitude, internal alchemy (Neidan), benefits, options, comparisons with yoga asanas, and breathing patterns.  
I offer my own version with fairly detailed comments on each of the eight movements.  Here is my one page class handout for the Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung class. 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Chang San-Feng, Taoist Grand Master

Chang San-Feng, Taoist Grand Master: Bibliography, Quotes, Writings, Lore, Encounters
Research by Mike Garofalo

    "Zhang Sanfeng ("Zhang Triple Abundance" or "Zhang Three Peaks") is a famous Taoist said to have live between the end of the Yuan and beginning of the Ming periods.  His historical existence, however, is unproved.  In early biographies―including the one in the Mingshi (History of Ming)―he is usually said to be a native of Yizhou (Liaoning), but other sources give different birthplaces.  According to these works he was seven feet tall and had enormously big ears and eyes, his appearance suggested the longevity of a turtle and the immortality of a crane, and his beard and whiskers bristled like the blades of a halberd.  He tied his hair in a knot and, regardless of the season, wore only a garment made of leaves.  In his youth, Zhang is supposed to have studied Buddhism under the Chan master Haiyun (1021-56), but then mastered neidan and reached immortality.  He was known for his extraordinary magical powers as well as his ability to prophesy.
    In the first years of the Ming period, Zhang reportedly established himself on Mount Wudang (Wudang Shan, Hubei), where he lived in a thatched hut.  With his pupils he rebuilt the mountain monasteries destroyed during the wars at the end of the Mongol dynasty.  From Mount Wudang, Zhang went to the Jintai guan (Abbey of the Golden Terrace) in Baoji (Shananxi), where he announced his departure, composed a hymn, and passed away.  Later he came back to life, travelled to Sichuan, and visited Mount Wudang.
    The belief in the real existence of Zhang Sanfeng during the Ming Dynasty is reflected in the emperor's continued efforts to locate him.  The search for Zhang started in 1391 by order of the Hongwu Emperor (1368-1398) and was extended from 1407 to 1419 by the Yongle Emperor (1403-1424).  Both sent out delegates several times, but they all returned without success.  Promoted by the Ming emperor's interest, a cult developed around Zhang that spread widely and lasted until the later years of the Qing dynasty.
    As time went on, the legends about Zhang Sanfeng multiplied and became increasingly exaggerated.  Zhang is known as the founder of taiji quan (a claim without historical evidence) and the patron saint of practitioners of this technique.  During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a connection to the sexual techniques (fangzhong shu) was also established and texts dealing with these practices were ascribed to him.  The belief that Zhang was the master of Shen Wansan, a popular deity of wealth, led to his own identity as a god of wealth in the seventeenth century.  The Western Branch (Xipai) of neidan and various Qing sects also regarded Zhang Sanfeng as their first patriarch."
-  Martina Darga.  The Routledge Encyclopedia of Taoism (EoT), 2008, 2011, Volume II, p. 1233-35, article about Zhang Sanfeng in the EoT by Martina Darga. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Summer Garden Preparations

Karen and I have been working in our garden in the recent weeks.

Our large "Sunny Garden" needed some work: weeding, fertilizing, tilling, pruning, thinning, etc.

Before we began (photo from 2013): 

Here is how the Sunny Garden looks after our gardening efforts (photos from 2013).

Monday, April 07, 2014

Tai Chi Broadsword Practices

"The single edged, curved bladed dao, or saber, dates from around the 13th -14th centuries. The curved blade was introduced to China as a result of the Mongol invasions, and its popularity is shown by the fact that it had eclipsed the straight bladed jian as the dominant military side arm from the 15th century onward. The "willow leaf" (liu ye) dao is an old blade pattern which displays considerable variety in shape and dimensions. Generally averaging about 26 -30 inches in length, its blade curves gently throughout its entire length. The blade may remain almost the same width for its whole length, or it may gradually taper towards the point. It often had a sharpened back edge, indicating a higher degree of sophistication in its technical usage. A military issue weapon, its blade shape, size, types of fittings and ornamentation were regulated by documented imperial specifications. Each blade size was intended for a specific military application. For example, a relatively short dao might be used by vanguard troops scaling walls on climbing ladders, where a long, difficult to draw sword would be awkward to put into use. The willow leaf saber was almost completely eclipsed by the "oxtail" blade pattern made for civilian use by the mid 19th century."

- David F. Dolbear, Introduction to Antique Chinese Swords of the Qing Dynasty Period

The following webpages include links, bibliographies, lists of movements, techniques, history, quotations, and resources.

Broadsword: All Styles

Chen Taijiquan Broadsword

Yang Taijiquan Broadsword

Cloud Hands Taijiquan

I practice the Chen Taijiquan 23 Movement Broadsword Form. Here is a list of the 23 movements of the Chen Broadsword form.  

The Complete Taiji Dao"The Art of the Chinese Saber. By Zhang, Yun.  Blue Snake Books, 2009.  464 pages.  ISBN:1583942270.  "This is a very complete book about the Chinese saber, or Dao. It presents the history, mechanics, skills and philosophy of Taiji Dao. There is a detailed description of the traditional Taiji Dao form, including applications for combat with many photos. There are descriptions and photos of two-handed Dao skills and fighting skills training. There are over 1,000 photos. Paperback. 427 pp. 8 X 10."   "The Complete Taiji Dao introduces the principles and practice of Taiji Dao and provides illustrated discussions of the history of Chinese swords. The book covers the history and features of the dao; the Taiji principles from which Taiji Dao practice derives; the basic skills and techniques of the art; detailed descriptions and photographs of the traditional Taiji Dao form; and Taiji Dao fighting principles and training methods. Broad in scope and detailed in its presentation of the principles and practice of Taiji Dao, The Complete Taiji Dao represents a significant contribution to the field of traditional Chinese weapons practice."  VSCL.


Taijiquan broadsword forms are quite easily adapted for practice with a wooden cane.  

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Strength Training Advice

The New Rules of Lifting: Six Basic Moves for Maximum Muscle  By Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove.  New York, Avery Penguin Group, 2006.  Index, 301 pages.  ISBN: 978158333389.  VSCL.  

"1.  The best muscle-building exercises are the ones that use your muscles the way they were designed to be used.  The Basic Exercises:  Squat, Deadlift, Lunge, Push (Bench Press), Pull, Twisting, Combo Moves. 
2.  Exercises that use lots of muscles in a coordinated action are better than those that force muscles to work in isolation.
3.  To build size, you must build strength.
4.  To build size and strength, you must train hard but less frequently, with plenty of recovery time between workouts.
5.  The goal of each workout is to set a record.
6.  The weight you lift is a tool to reach your goals.  It is not a goal in itself.
7.  Don't "do the machines."
8.  A workout is only as good as the adaptation it produces.
9.  There is no magic system of exercises, sets, and reps.
10.  Don't judge a system by the physique of the person promoting it. 
11.  You'll get better results working your ass off on a bad program than you will loafing through a good program.
12.  Fast lifting is not more dangerous than slow lifting. 
13.  A good warm up doesn't have to make your body warm. 
14.  Stretching is not warm up. 
15.  You don't need to warm up to stretch.
16.  Lifting by itself may increase your flexibility. 
17.  Aerobic fitness is not a matter of life and death. 
18.  You don't need to do endurance exercise to burn fat. 
19.  When you combine serious strength training with serious endurance exercise, you body will probably choose endurance over muscle and strength."

“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” - Thomas Jefferson

"Everyone has the ability to accomplish unique feats, everyone. You choose this. Become someone great in one other life. Forget about failing to many. Who cares? Doesn't matter when you start or finish, just start, no deviations, no excuses." - Tom Platz

“To feel strong, to walk amongst humans with a tremendous feeling of confidence and superiority is not at all wrong. The sense of superiority in bodily strength is borne out by the long history of mankind paying homage in folklore, song and poetry to strong men”. - 'Dr. Squat' Fred Hatfield.

"There's more to life than training, but training is what puts more in your life." - Brooks Kubik

"Working chest, delts, tris, and biceps works approximately 10% of your overall lean body mass. Working hard on deadlifts (bent legged, trap Bar, or sumo) or squatting (not necessarily at the same time) works more like 70% of your musculature at once and sends a strong message to your body to get better at growing now!" - Wesley Silveira

"If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous." - Bret Contreras

101 Bad Ass Training Quotes

Strength Training for Persons Over 55 Years of Age 

Saturday, April 05, 2014

"Walk," Joy Replied

"People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle.  But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.  Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes.  All is a miracle."
-   Thich Nhat Hanh

"Now shall I walk
or shall I ride?
"Ride," Pleasure said:
"Walk," Joy replied.
-   W.H. Davies

"The Road goes every on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And wither then?  I cannot say."
-   J. R. R. Tolkein, Lord of the Rings

"... in the distant woods or fields, in unpretending sprout-lands or pastures tracked by rabbits, even in a bleak and, to most, cheerless day, like this, when a villager would be thinking of his inn, I come to myself, I once more feel myself grandly related, and that cold and solitude are friends of mine. I suppose that this value, in my case, is equivalent to what others get by churchgoing and prayer. I come home to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home. I thus dispose of the superfluous and see things as they are, grand and beautiful. I have told many that I walk every day about half the daylight, but I think they do not believe it. I wish to get the Concord, the Massachusetts, the America, out of my head and be sane a part of every day."
-   Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 1857 

Ways of Walking: Quotes, Sayings, Poems, Lore   Complied by Mike Garofalo

Friday, April 04, 2014

Daodejing, Laozi, Chapter 67

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
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!
I 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   

"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 

"The inhabitants of the world all say that I am greatly tolerant, although I have the appearance of incompetence.
This apparent incompetence is the result of my very greatness.
In the case of one who is possessed of more than ordinary ability, he sets his mind constantly upon even the smallest matters. 
Now there are three things which I regard as precious, which I grasp and prize. 
The first is compassion; the second is frugality; the third is not venturing to take precedence of others modesty. 
I prize compassion; therefore I am able to be fearless.
I prize frugality; therefore I am able to be liberal.
I prize modesty; therefore I am able to become a leader of men.
But men of the present day abandon compassion, yet aim at valiancy;
they abandon frugality, yet aim at being liberal;
they abandon modesty, yet aim at leadership.
This is death to them. 
Now when one is compassionate in battle, he will be victorious.
When one is compassionate in defending, his defenses will be strong.
When Heaven intends to deliver men, it employs compassion to protect them."
-  Translated by Frederic Henry Balfour, 1884, Chapter 67

夫唯大, 故似不肖.
若肖, 久矣其細也夫.

-  Chinese characters, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 67  

t'ien hsia chieh wei wo tao ta ssu pu hsiao.
fu wei ta, ku ssu pu hsiao.
jo hsuao, chiu yi ch'i hsi yeh fu.
wo yu san pao.
ch'ih erh pao chih.
yi yüeh tz'u.
erh yüeh chien.
san yüeh pu kan wei t'ien hsia hsien.
tz'u ku nêng yung.
chien ku nêng kuang.
pu kan wei t'ien hsia hsien. 
ku nêng ch'êng ch'i ch'ang.
chin shê tz'u ch'ieh yung.
shê chien ch'ieh kuang. 
shê hou ch'ieh hsien.
ssu yi.
fu tz'u yi chan tsê shêng.
yi shou tsê ku.
t'ien chiang chiu chih.
yi tz'u wei chih.
-  Wade-Giles Romanization, Tao Te Ching, 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  

"En el mundo todos dicen que soy grande
y no lo parezco.
Porque soy grande
no lo parezco.
Si lo pareciera hubiera dejado de serio,
y hace mucho tiempo que sería pequeño.

Poseo tres tesoros que guardo:
el primero es amor,
el segundo es moderación,
el tercero es humildad.
Por el amor puedo ser valeroso.
Por la moderación puedo ser generoso.
Por la humildad puedo ser el primero.
Pero sin amor no se puede ser valeroso,
sin moderación no se puede ser generoso,
sin humildad no se puede ser el primero.
De otro modo se camina a la muerte.

Quien ataca con amor, vence.
Quien se defiende con amor, es firme.
Quien por el cielo es salvado, le protege el amor."
-  Spanish Version Online at RatMachines, Capitulo 67  

"All the world avows that while my Taoism is great, it is yet incompetent!
It is its greatness which makes it appear incompetent.
If it were like others, it would long ago have been recognized as incompetent.
But I hold fast to three precious things, which I also cherish.
The first is gentleness.
The second is economy.
The third is humility.
With such gentleness I can be daring.
With such economy I can be generous.
With such humility I can be great in service, as a vessel of honour.
But in these days men forsake gentleness and become only obtrusive.
They abandon economy and become only excessive.
They relinquish humility and strive for precedence, and thus for death.
Gentleness is ever victorious in attack and secure in defence.
Therefore when Heaven would preserve a man it enfolds him with gentleness."
-  Translated by Walter Gorn Old, 1904, Chapter 67  

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

Taoism: A Selected Reading List

Thursday, April 03, 2014

I'm Telling You the Story She is Thinking

"Take a deep breath of all the stories that live here. A re-ligious act, to be true to the origin of the word “re-ligios”- to re-tie, re-link - is to find ways to re-connect, re-turn, re-imagine.”

In the colder and darker season of the year, we are allowed to say,

“Ts' its' tsi' nako, Thought-Woman, the Spider named things and as she named them they appeared.
She is sitting in her room thinking of a story now
I'm telling you the story she is thinking.”
-  Keresan Pueblo introduction

Strings on Your Fingers by Mike Garofalo

Spider Grandmother weaves the Grand Cosmic Web and then spins off the planets and stars in the Navaho myths.  Zuni myths say the Spider Grandmother gave the art of string figures into the hands of the children.  Spider Grandmother is a powerful earth spirit being, the primary Creatrix of the cosmos and mind, a source of boundless imagination and the creation of the new.  An archaic Goddess of Weaving is essential to a pleasant life for all our people. 

Many Stars, Son-thlani, or Spider Grandmother’s Web is one of my favorite Navaho string figures to make.  I usually do the Spider Web (Jayne SF51) string figure first, for ritual purposes, to remind myself of my debt to all the people who have helped me learn to make string figures, everyone past and present are here symbolized as the Cosmic Web of Spider Grandmother.  
The image above is of the string figure called The Apache Door (Jayne SF12) known to many string players.  A different Navaho string figure, with a criss-crossing web pattern, is called Many Stars (Jayne SF51).    

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Delusions Unravelled and Warded Off

I recently read  completely, for the second time, the bold, incisive, and clear minded 2006 book by Richard Dawkins called "The God Delusion."  I agree with and support most of his accurate and decisive criticisms of religious beliefs and their negative effects on our world.  This book is essential reading for the 20% of Americans who say they have no religious affiliations and beliefs.  We need to be informed and speak out clearly. 

Last Friday morning, a well dressed man came to my house to proselytize for his fundamentalist Christian church in Red Bluff.  He invited me to attend the Lord's Supper at his Church, and began to lecture me about Christianity.  Yes, another persistent salesman for the God Delusion at my door.  

I politely spoke to him in these terms: "I was forced to attend Catholic schools until the 12th grade.  I am a college graduate, and am very knowledgeable about the many religions in our world.  I've not been a member of any church, or participated in any church services since I was 15.  I am a humanist and atheist.  I have lived a long, happy, productive, moral, prosperous, and satisfying life with few if any religious beliefs.  I am lucky to live in America were we can live in relative peace in a secular state. Please, sir, you need not return again to my home to preach to me."  

Not giving up, after not listening or understanding what I just said, he began spouting biblical passages so as to do his self-appointed religious salesman duties.  I listened politely for another minute.  Then, I said, 'Confucius said, "Don't do to others what you don't want them to do to you."  You don't want me to come to your house to annoy you by lecturing to you about the sensible and good reasons for not accepting the delusions the Christian religion; therefore, please stop talking to me and do not return to my home again to preach to me.  Good day, Sir.'

My Own Views on Religion and Theology

Check out the sidebar in this blog for more links to websites about "Free Thought."

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.  By Christopher Hitchens.  Twelve, 2009.  336 pages.  ISBN: 978-0446697965.  VSCL.  A strong critique of the negative impact of religions.  Uses many historical facts from the last 100 years.  Wide ranging and penetrating arguments.  Includes an intense criticism of Islam, Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity, and Zionist Judaism.  

Dawkins, Richard.  The God Delusion.   Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin, 2006, 2008.  Index, notes, bibliography, appendices, 463 pages.  ISBN: 978-0618918249.  VSCL.  A bold, incisive, convincing, and clear minded critique of religious beliefs and religions and their negative and pernicious impact on our communities, societies, nations, and the world.  I've read this book more that twice, and find it uplifting, brave, and to the point.  His analysis of the negative social and moral effects of religion are accurate and compelling.  Guaranteed to make you Brighter!  

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Rooted They Grip Down and Begin to Awaken

April Gardening Chores in Red Bluff

Mow lawns and field.
Watering as needed.
Clean up and weed vegetable gardens.
Dig, roto-till, and amend garden soil.
Clean up hiding places for bugs.
Clean up dog feces. 
Protect new tree trunks from sun - white paint.
Fertilize berry vines.
Enjoy the many roses, pyracanthas, trees, lavender and bottlebrush in bloom.  
Spray trees and shrubs - borers.   
Plant summer vegetables. 
Shape shrubs.
Weed, weed, weed ....
Fertilize lawns.
Prune shrubs after flowering.
Write a poem.  Keep a garden journal.
Plant perennials.
Prune evergreens.
Plant seeds.  
Hummingbird feeders cleaned and in place.
Remove dead branches and trees.
Use straw as mulch.
Don't get sunburnt.
Flush driplines and check to make sure they are working properly.
Sit and observe.   


"All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines—

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches—

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind—

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf

One by one objects are defined—
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance—Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted they
grip down and begin to awaken."
-  William Carlos Williams, Spring and All

April:  Quotes, Sayings, Lore, Celebrations

Monday, March 31, 2014

Taiji Cane

Taiji cane forms are typically performed slowly and deliberately.  Hard and powerful strikes are seldom used in T'ai Chi Ch'uan walking stick forms.  The pace of the Taijiquan cane forms are seldom fast and vigorous.  There are few if any vigorous leaps and jumps.  Taiji forms seldom use very low stances.  Taiji cane forms are particularly suitable for fit persons over 50 years of age.  Good examples of a Taiji Cane Form are: the Standard Beijing 24 Form with Cane created by Master Wen-Ching Wu; the Eight Immortals Cane Form, Part I, created by Master Jesse Tsao;  the Plum Blossom Taiji Cane Form; the Tai Chi Stick 18 Form;  the Bodhi Dharma Walking Stick Form; Master Michael Gilman's Three Powers Cane Form; the Wu Tang Cane Form of Master T.T. Liang; the Standard 32 Sword Form; etc.  

There are also many examples of more vigorous "Taiji" cane forms, with hard strikes, leaps, fast moves, spins, and low moves.  Taijiquan saber or broadsword forms are readily adapted for use with a cane, and some are fast and vigorous.  Normally, Taijiquan sword forms are not very well adapted as cane forms, but I practice the Standard 32 Sword Form with my cane as do many others.  Karate, kung fu, Shaolin, Bagua and HsingI cane or stick forms are often fast, vigorous, powerful, twisting, agile, and with some very low stances.  Of course, when first learning any new cane form, begin with a slower, more deliberate, less vigorous practice to help the body adapt to the moves of the new form.  Thus, even a fast and vigorous cane form from any style can be done more in the "Taiji" fashion outlined and shown above.  

Many Qigong (Chi Kung) forms can also we done while holding a cane.  Adaptations are quite easily arranged.  Most often, however, Qigong forms are adapted or created for use with a short 6"-12" wooden stick called a Tai Chi Ruler or Bang.  

I consider a cane or walking stick to be, normally, a straight strong wooden stick with a curved (hook) handle that is from 30" (76 cm) to 42" (107 cm) long.  The cane will typically extend from the floor to the height of your hip socket and maybe up to your belly button.  The cane might also be made out of plastic, aluminum, steel, or rattan.  The cane might have a straight rather than curved or hooked end with a round ball shaped (pommel) end or some sort of straight or carved handle at the end.  The cane might be very simple, natural and plain; or be carved, painted or decorated.  

Each day I use an Instructor's Walking Cane, 40" (103 cm) long and 1" (2.54 cm) in diameter, purchased from Cane Masters.  This cane weights 1lb, 2 oz (510 gm).  This beautiful martial arts combat cane is made of pure hickory heartwood, has multiple notches at three key gripping points, has a ample rounded hooked horn, and has a rubber covered tip inserted over the tip end.  I also own the same Instructor's Walking Cane made of oak - a gift from my children.  I am 6'6" (198 cm) tall, and a 40" cane (103 cm) is perfect for using on my long walks and for my Taiji cane practices.  The only weapon I practice with on a daily basis is a wooden cane; and the only weapon I teach now in my Taijiquan classes is the cane.  Also, whenever I take a walk, anywhere, I bring my cane along for support, exercising the arms, and for self-defense.     

Taijiquan Cane Weapon Research, Bibliography, and Practices

Way of the Short Staff

Long Staff Weapons Practices 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Music for a New Age

I enjoy listening to New Age Music when I walk, read, and garden.  A good list of choices for New Age music is the Grammy Award for the Best New Age Music Albums.  

I use the MP3 format on my Sony Walkman MP3 players.  I can take my favorite music anywhere. 

I have written before about how I enjoy the music of Robert Mirabal, aka Johnny Whitehorse, e.g., 'Totemic Flute Chants.'  I also enjoy Steven Halpern, Kitaro, and cello music. 

Lately, I have been listening to the music by the Paul Winter Consort, specifically Crestone and Miho: Journey to the Mountain. Both ablums won a Grammy Award.  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Winds Whisper to Us Walkers

"Discipline is the impossible conquered by the obstinate repetition of the possible."
 -  Frederic Gros

"If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking.  Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk."
-   Raymond Inmon

"The art of walking is at once suggestive of the dignity of man.  Progressive motion alone implies power, but in almost every other instance it seems a power gained at the expense of self-possession."
-   Henry Theodore Tuckerman

"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds."
-   Edgar Abbey
The Seven Paths: Changing One's Way of Walking in the World.  By Good Buffalo Eagle.  Anazi Foundation Book.  Berrett-Koehler Pubs., BK Life, 2013.  120 pages.  ISBN: 978-1609949198.  Light, Wind, Water, Stone, Plant, Animals, We.  

A Philosophy of Walking  By Frederic Gros.  Translated from the French by John Howe.  Verso, 2014.  288 pages.  ISBN: 978-1781682708.   

The Ways of Walking  Compiled by Mike Garofalo.  Quotes, Sayings, Information, Bibliography, Links, Notes, Observations.  

Yesterday, during my morning walk, the winds were blowing from the southeast at a speed of 15 t0 25 miles per hours.  The sky was filled with large dark rain filled clouds.  It gently rained occasionally.  I was immersed in Seven Realms: Light, Wind, Water, Stone, Plant, Animals, and We. Another "peak experience" based on 'Being-Values' ... as per Abraham Maslow's analysis. 

Shown below, in a photograph from July, is my daily walking path. It is a .35 mile, asphalt paved, cul-de-sac, Kilkenny Lane, in Red Bluff, California.  Kilkenny Lane moves in an east-west direction from the front of my home to Highway 99 West.  I practice Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Kung in the paved circular area in front of my house shown the shadowed foreground of this picture.  I rarely encounter a car on Kilkenny Lane.   

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, Chapter 68

Dao De Jing, Laozi
Chapter 68

"He who excels as a warrior is not warlike.
He who excels as a fighter is not wrathful.
He who excels in conquering the enemy does not strive.
He who excels in employing men is lowly.
This is called the virtue of not-striving.
This is called utilizing men's ability.
This is called complying with heaven-since olden times the highest." 
-  Translated by D. T. Suzuki and Paul Carus, 1913, Chapter 68   

"He who in Tao's wars has skill
Assumes no martial port;
He who fights with most good will
To rage makes no resort.
He who vanquishes yet still
Keeps from his foes apart;
He whose hests men most fulfill
Yet humbly plies his art.
Thus we say, 'He ne'er contends,
And therein is his might.'
Thus we say, 'Men's wills he bends,
That they with him unite.'
Thus we say, 'Like Heaven's his ends,
No sage of old more bright.' "
-  Translated by James Legge, 1891, Chapter 68  

"An effective warrior acts
not from nihilistic anger,
nor from desire to kill.
He who wins should not be vengeful.
An employer should have humility.
If we wish for peace and unity,
our dealings with our fellow man
must be without desire for self-advantage,
and carried out without contention."
-  Translated by Stan Rosenthal, 1984, Chapter 68  

-  Chinese characters, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 68 

shan wei shih chê pu wu.
shan chan chê pu nu.
shan shêng ti chê pu yü.
shan yung jên chê wei chih hsia.
shih wei pu chêng chih tê. 
shih wei yung jên chih li.
shih wei p'ei t'ien ku chih chi.
-  Wade-Giles Romanization, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 68  

"The great commander is not a warlike man,
The hardest fighter is not a man of wrath,
The greatest conqueror shares not in the strife,
The great employer treads the workmen's path.
This is the virtue known as "striving not,"
The wondrous power of utilizing men,
And this is called the fellowship with Heaven,
The fellowship the ancients followed then."
-  Translated by Isaac Winter Heysinger, 1903, Chapter 68  

"A good captain is not impetuous.
A good fighter is not angry.
A good conqueror does not engage his adversaries.
A good user of men makes himself inferior to them.
This may be called the Virtue of not striving.
This may be called the strength to use men.
This may be called the acme of conformity to heaven."
-  Translated by Jan J. L. Duyvendak, 1954, Chapter 68   

"Un buen soldado nunca es agresivo; un buen guerrero nunca es irascible.
La mejor manera de conquistar a un enemigo es ganarle sin enfrentarse a él.
La mejor manera de emplear a alguien es servir bajo sus órdenes.
A esto se llama la virtud de la no-lucha!
A esto se llama emplear las capacidades de los hombres!
A esto se llama estar casado con el cielo desde siempre!"
-  Translated into English by John C. H. Wu, Spanish version by Alfonso Colodrón, 2007, Capitulo 68  

"The best soldier is not soldierly;
The best fighter is not ferocious;
The best conqueror does not take part in war;
The best employer of men keeps himself below them.
This is called the virtue of not contending;
This is the ability of using men;
This is called the supremacy of consorting with heaven."
-  Translated by Ch'u Ta-Kao, 1904, Chapter 68  

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

Taoism: A Selected Reading List