Cloud Hands
Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Kung


Reflections, Notes, Suggestions, References, Questions and Answers, Links, Quotations
Valley Spirit Taijiquan Journal/Blog

December 2003

Index to the Valley Spirit Taijiquan Journal

Michael P. Garofalo



December 25, 2003, Thursday

Active with family visitors, friends, and neighbors during this Christmas week.  
Heavy rains for days.  Little physical activity.

Why do we so frequently see the appearance of 108 movements in the long form.  The Buddhist
rosary (mala) has 108 beads.  It also has some significance in Yoga.   I need to research this


December 24, 2003, Wednesday

After reading hundreds of pages written by Yoga experts and adepts and mystics, I am still
unconvinced by the worth of arguments for the spiritual bliss of the True Self merged with 
the Divine in a state that transcends the merely earthly realm.  First, very few attain to this
state of Being-Consciousness-Bliss; the few that do mostly live on the charity of their ardent
disciples.  Why would someone choose a spiritual path that grants success to a mere few?
Second, the paranormal and extraordinary powers to these realized adepts seem 
less impressive to me than the accomplishments of a simple family making a living.  The insistence 
on aceticism and celibacy as a path to unique and possibly unattainable states of consciousness 
seems a poor trade off.  I'd rather experience the simple joys of fatherhood in seeing my son 
or daughter become decent and productive adults than transcend the earthly sheaths, arouse
the Kundalini, and enter a sexless samadhi.  The emphasis upon sense withdrawal (pratyahara)
seems to go beyond the simplification of living and appreciation of simple sensual awareness
to a radical withdrawal from all sensations into a inner state of consciousness cut off from
the ordinary world.   

I have never met a Tai Chi master with extraordinary skills: the ability to defeat opponents of
superior strength, size, fighting technique, and courage; the ability to move effortlessly and 
quickly around opponents; the ability to display chi discharge or chi expression of a 
marvelous type; possessing profound or enlightened wisdom; possessing unusual 
powers beyond rational explanation.  This is not to say great Tai Chi teachers do not
exist; but merely that  Tai Chi gurus have not crossed my path, and probably never will.

Many people say that the guru-master-roshi discipleship is essential for true progress
into higher levels of attainment.  They frequently argue that you must "believe" or "have
faith" in these teachers, before they can bestow upon you the grace of initiation into
their spiritual lineage.   Believe and it shall be revealed, believe and you shall be saved,
believe in me oh you of little faith - then you shall be graced with understanding, 
and special powers may be granted unto you, and you shall be spared the finality of
death and become an Immortal.   Pay up front, in good faith, before these gifts are
granted.  Respect, cooperation, and openness to one's teachers is essential to one's
progress; but a teacher is not a guru.     


My own views are closer to those articulated by Gary Thorp.  Ordinary tasks done
with graciousness, attention, kindness, and simplicity are a surer path to contentment
and peace.  Just doing T'ai Chi or Yoga, nothing special, without magic, is sufficient to
us ordinary practitioners.      

Sweeping Changes: Discovering the Joy of Zen in Everyday Tasks.   By Gary Thorp.
New York, Walker and Company, 2000.  Index, bibliography, 159 pages.  
ISBN: 0802713602.  



December 23, 2003, Tuesday

"The first task of breath control is to regulate, or harmonize, the various life currents
in the body.  The second task is to guide the life force (prana) along the central axis,
the sushumna-nadi ("most gracious conduit"), which extends from the lowest energy 
center or cakra at the base of the spine to the energy center at the crown of the head.
This is the acknowledged method for achieving both health and ecstasy (samadhi
through the awakening the serpent power, the "support of all Yoga practice,"
as the Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika (III.1) puts it.  Through breath control the yogin energizes
and harmonizes the body and thus creates a solid foundation for mental concentration
and the induction of higher states of consciousness, as well as the complete transcendence
of the body-mind in the moment of enlightenment."
-   The Shambhala Guide to Yoga, Georg Feuerstein, p. 77  



December 22, 2003, Monday

"Most traditional authorities agree that the early morning is the best time for meditation.
In India, the yogins typically meditate at sunrise, known as the "Hour of Brahma" (brahma-
muhurta).  It is thought that the quality of the life force (prana) is then particularly pure and
strong and more easily assimilated."
-   The Shambhala Guide to Yoga, Georg Feuerstein, p. 93  


December 21, 2003, Sunday

Reading many Yoga books:

The Shambhala Guide to Yoga.  By Georg Feuerstein.  Boston, Shambhala, 1996.  
Index, bibliography, notes, 180 pages.  ISBN: 157062142X.  An excellent brief introduction
to all aspects of Yoga: action, love, meditation, mantras, postures, wisdom, and the
spirtual aims of Yoga.   A readable introduction based on a deep scholarly and personal
understanding of Yoga.   

Udated my webpage on Yoga and Taijiquan.



December 20, 2003, Saturday

Added a number of links to the Northern California and Oregon Tai Chi Chuan Directory.
Quite a few people send me e-mail with information about their studios, dojos, classes,
workshops, and training programs.  A free service to the Tajiquan community.  

We all went through a very challenging Yoga workout with Gundrun Volpar today.
I really worked up a sweat for 90 minutes.  The numerous standing poses were very
challening to me.  I also walk and do Taijiquan for 90 to 120 minutes each morning when
I am not working.  I am very fortunate in having a .3 mile asphalt cul de sac in front of my
home with little traffic and terriffic views to snowcapped mountains.   




December 19, 2003, Friday

Continuing my reading of many books on aging:  

How to Feel Good As You Age: A Voice of Experience.   By John Barnett.  Acton,
Massachusetts, Vander Wyk and Burnham, 2000.  Index, bibliography, 346 pages.
ISBN: 1889242071.  Practical advice by a very active senior citizen from Seattle.
Good tips on planning (physical health goals, mental and emotional health goals,
and spiritual health goals), positive attitude, assertiveness, lifestyle changes, communicating
your needs, direct action to improve you life, social relations, spirituality, and managing
the details or life.  

Life insurance companies have studied statistics on millions of people and have concluded
that a man of 57 years of age (me) has a life expectancy of 26.37 years (83 years old), and 
a woman of 55 years of age (Karen) has a life expectancy 31.31 years (86 years old).  One
can die today, so focus on living now.  Nevertheless, things done today, may build up
consequences for the experience in the years ahead - if they are granted by Fate,
The Goddess, God,  the Unknown.  



December 16, 2003, Tuesday

"But who you are is not a concept in the sky, and it's not a record of you accomplishments
either.  The most original and creative side of you can re-emerge only when you get time
of your own, free time, wide-open time, uncommitted time, time in which to go after dreams
or do absolutely nothing if you choose.  Without it you can't have a self."
-  Barbara Sher, It's Only Too Late If You Don't Start Now, 1998, p 228

A severe sore throat, bodily aches, and fatigue have kept me from work or exercise since late
Saturday night.  A realist knows that rest, more sleep, lots of warm fluids, keeping warm, aspirin,
and doing little offers the best chance of speedy recovery from these viral attacks.  I hope to 
return to work, exercise and normalcy on Wednesday.   



December 13, 2003, Saturday

Worked with a new Yoga teacher today - Sam.  She had us hold postures for much longer
periods that I had before, and allowed much longer rest periods between postures.  I also
walked for 90 minutes, did Taijiquan sequences, and lifted weights.  I'm feeling very energetic




December 12, 2003, Friday

Gabriela wrote and asked me the question, "Please, could you give me some information about
where to find Qigong videocassettes in Spanish?"

I do wish to include bibliographic information about Taijiquan or Qigong videotapes, CDs, or 
DVDs that are available in languages other than English.  I welcome suggestions, tips, 
references, and links from readers about such resources.  Any ommissions are due to my 
inability to efficiently search and read in many of these languages.  Readers are welcome 
to send suggestions to me.

I have noticed that many DVDs and CDs now include versions of the instructions in 
multiple languages, frequently including Spanish, French, Chinese, German, etc..  The
capacity of these discs for holding larger quantities of information makes this possible,
assuming the producer can afford to have a narrator translate and record the instructions.



December 11, 2003, Thursday

Finished reading the book:

Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard
Study of Adult Development.   By George E. Vaillant, M.D..  Boston, MA, Little,
Brown and Company, 2002.  Index, 373 pages.  ISBN: 0316989363.  Three separate
groups of 824 persons were studied during their entire lives.  Dr. Vaillant provides
some summary analysis, and provides dozens of detailed case studies to illustrate
these summary observations.  Expanding upon Erick Erikson's Childhood and Society
(1950) model for the development of individuals, Dr. Valliant proposes that the six 
adult life tasks are: identity, intimacy, career consolidation, generatively, keeper of the
meaning, and integrity.   

I've been reading many books and articles on the process of aging, exercise for 
older people, and how to "age well."

A very busy five day workweek, not normal for me, had taken a lot of my energy.  



December 10, 2003, Wednesday


"It is important to spend time with a living teacher, one who can correct mistakes and discipline 
you.  But the object of such study should not be the creation of a new orthodoxy.  Rather, your 
goal should be to bring yourself to a state of independence.  All teachings are mere references.  
The true experience is living your own life."                                  
-   Deng Ming-Dao



December 9, 2003, Tuesday


Your Feedback Requested:

I welcome your comments, input, suggestions, ideas, and corrections about
the information in the webpages published at the Cloud Hands website. 

I always appreciate postive feedback and kudos.  They help keep a webmaster motivated.  

I have responded to everyone who has written to me and in most cases
have promptly made changes to these webpages based on their input.  

Send your comments to me by e-mail.


On the topic of occasional criticism or complaints about this webpage:

First, my webpages are evolving publications, works in progress, or a record of
ongoing research.  I work to revise and improve my webpages.  I add new print, 
video and on-line resources on a regular basis.  I rethink and revise my journal  
entries and comments.  Writing to me about an old saved version of a webpage
of mine or about an old webpage version from a search engine cache might not
be a good idea.  Be sure to be reading the latest version from the website

Second, I do get facts or information wrong at times.  I do post some inaccurate 
information because of improper notetaking or ignorance.  Hopefully, my readers 
will help me get the facts straight, in addition to my own efforts to revise.  I try
to be accurate and current.  

Third, I mean to be inclusive, open minded, and a listener.   Most teachers and authors want to 
be included.  They want to promote their products or services.  I seldom ask permission
before adding a listing, because 99.9% want to be listed.  I will be pleased to add or revise your 
listing of a website, print publication, videotape, DVD, magazine, zine, or electronic publication.
If, however, you want your listing or reference or website removed, I will do so promptly.  

Fourth, I try my best to keep my Tai Chi Journal constructive, positive and informative.  It reflects
my interests, ideas, practice, current reading, and current web browsing.  It is a notepad for my daily 
reflections.  I realize that my Taijiquan Blog is sometimes ho hum and lackluster, sometimes 
off-topic, and frequently brief.  Keep in mind, however, that the blog you get is what you don't pay for.   

Fifth,  please give me information about what webpage of mine your are quoting from in your
cirticism.  What is the URL of the webpage?  Just cut and paste the URL into your
e-mail to me.  With hundreds of popular webpages to my credit, I need help from
you about the specific webpage you are quoting or want revised.   

Sixth, I am not sympathetic to Taijiquan teachers or business persons who think their style, 
their method, their product, their master, their senior students, or their school provides the 
inside track to excellence, truth, authenticity, authority, enlightenment, or martial arts prowess.  
I think that their strong criticisms of others are often grounded in the financial worries of business 
competition, outmoded purity tests, or unwholesome guru-master-teacher worship.  People
outside of their box are not bound by the limits of their little box.   


Feedback or complaints about this webpage?



December 8, 2003, Monday

    "Yoga is the focusing of attention to whatever object is being contemplated to the exclusion
of all others.  This is not merely a matter or preventing thoughts from arising.  It is a whole-
bodily focusing in which one's entire being is quieted. ...
    Patanjali explains that when this psychomental stoppage has been successful accomplished,
the transcendental Witness-Consciousness shines forth.  This Witness-Consciousness, or
"Seer" (drashtri), is the pure Awareness (cit) that abides eternally beyond the senses and the
mind, uninterruptedly apperceiving all the numberous and changeable contents of consciousness.
All schools of Hinduism agree that the ultimate Realith is not a condition of stonelike stupor
by superconsciousness."   

-    Georg Feuerstein, Yoga: The Technology of Ecstasy, 1989, p. 13.



December 7, 2003, Sunday

Finished reading the book:

Growing Old: The Ultimate Freedom.  By Maxwell Jones, M.D..  New York, Insight Books,
Human Sciences Press, 1988.  Index, references, 116 pages.  ISBN: 0898854059.  
Dr. Jones, a British psychiatrist, and a leader in developing open-ended, democratic,
and progressive therapeutic and working groups, wrote this book in his early 80's.  In his
later years, he admits to being increasingly influenced by holistic, synergistic, Eastern,
mystical, intuitive, and open models of life and social relations.  He stresses the need for
older persons to be engaged with others in groups, discussion circles, therapeutic 
communities, continuing education, ashram types of residental retreats, and spiritual quests.  


December 6, 2003, Saturday

Opening Hands and Closing Hands in Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan


Kai Shou, He Shou
Opening Hands, Closing Hands 


"Qi spreads without breathing as a result of the open and closing, movement and
stillness, in this martial art.  This is the root of this Qi and how it is created.  The 
subtleties of letting go and expanding, receiving and contracting, are from this Qi
going out.  Opening makes expanding and moving.  Closing makes receiving,
contracting, and stillness.  Opening makes yang.  Closing makes yin.  Letting go,
expanding, and movement makes yang.  Receiving, contracting and stillness makes
yin.  Opening and closing are the shapes of the one Qi cycling through yin and yang.
That is Taiji - the one Qi."
-  Sun Lu Tang, 1921, Study of Taiji Boxing
Translated by Joseph Crandall, Taijiquan Xue, 2000, p. 8



"Deepening our tai chi would not be complete without increasing our awareness of breathing 
during our tai chi movements and practicing abdominal and reverse abdominal breathing. 
The movement of "open and close" in Sun style is deepened by allowing the breath, with 
intention, to initiate movement.  Open and close follows the breath and follows intention."
-   Caroline Demoise, What Makes Tai Chi Good




Opening at the Mysterious Pass
By Michael P. Garofalo

Standing at the Mysterious Pass
Centered in the Eternal Now,
Balanced in Body and Open in Mind,
Rooted into the Sacred Space,
Motionless as the Golden Mountain,
Fingers around the Primeval Sphere.

Dragons and Tigers are still dreaming -
Ready for Rebirth. 

I breathe in, the World Breathes Out.
The Gate of Space opens;
Heaven moves and Yang is born.
The hands move out, embracing the One.
The mind settles and is clear.
The Dragon Howls,
Ravens fill the Vast Cauldron,
Mind forms melt like mercury,
Spirit rises in the Clouds of Eternity.
Yin appears like the moon at dusk.

I breathe out, the World Breathes In.
The Doors of Emptiness close;
Earth quiets and Yin is born.
The hands move in, entering the One.
The body settles and becomes whole.
The Tiger Roars,
The Great Ox is nourished by the Valley Spirit, 
Substances spark from flaming furnaces,
Essence roots in the Watery Flesh.
Yang appears like the sun at dawn.

Dragons and Tigers
Transformed within the Mysterious Pass -
Chanting and Purring.


The allusions and imagery used in the above poem, as related to the opening
hands and closing hands move in the Sun style of Taijiquan, are drawn from a 
13th century anthology from the Taoist School of Complete Reality.  

Sun Lu Tang spent a number of months with Taoists in the Wu Tang Mountains.
We have no written notes from him about what he learned during this period of study.
Statements in the Taijiquan Xue and other works by Sun Lun Tang, however, would 
lead one to think that the Taoist roots of his internal martial arts styles were very deep


"Use action and stillness for the cauldron and furnace, vitality and energy for water
and fire, body and mind for the evolutionary mechanism, essence and sense for the
medicinal ingredients.  Keep centered on mindfulness of the celestial, find the 
mysterious pass, gather the vital energy of the sense of essence at the appropriate
time, then withdraw into watchful passivity in the proper manner.   ...
Just apply your attention to the point where you rouse the mind and activate thought,
concentrating on this constantly - then the mysterious pass will spontaneously 
appear.  When you see the mysterious pass, then the medicinal ingredients, the 
firing process, the operations, extracting and adding, all the way to release from
the matrix and spiritual transformation, are all in this one opening."
The Book of Balance and Harmony, pp. 56-57.  



The Book of Balance and Harmony.  Translated with an Introduction by Thomas Cleary.
New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, North Point Press, 1989.  153 pages.
ISBN: 0865473633.   A fine translation of a classic 13th century anthology of 
Taoist writings, including essays, conversations, poetry, and songs from the 
School of Complete Reality.  






December 5, 2003, Friday

Added some new links to the Northern California/Oregon Taijiquan Directory.

I found the Yang Family Tai Chi website to be quite interesting.

Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan International Organization  Headquaters in Seattle, WA.
Led by Masters Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun.  YangChen Fu Tai Chi style.  Association,
ranking system, schools, seminars, information.  



December 4, 2003, Thursday

Updated the Sun style Taijiquan webpage. 


"The essence of collecting body and mind is in openness and calm.  Empty and open
the mind, and spirit and essence join.  Calm the body, and vitality and sense are still.
Whe the will is greatly stabalized, the three bases - vitality, energy, and spirit - merge
into one.  This is called "the three flowers gathering on the peak," "the five energies
returning to the source," and "the spiritual embryo congealing."  Refining vitality into
energy is the first pass - the body is not agitated.  Refining energy into spirit is the 
middle pass - the mind is not agitated.  Refining spirit back into openness is the
upper pass - the will is not agitated."
The Book of Balance and Harmony:  A Taoist Anthology of the 13th Century
Translated with an Introduction by Thomas Cleary, 1989, p. 27 



December 3, 2003, Wednesday

"Exercise burns calories, which will help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.  
Regular exercise can help your body respond to insulin and is known to be effective in 
managing blood glucose. Exercise can lower blood glucose and possibly reduce the 
amount of medication you need to treat diabetes, or even eliminate the need for 
medication.  Exercise can improve your circulation, especially in your arms and legs, 
where people with diabetes can have problems.  Exercise can help reduce your 
cholesterol and high blood pressure. High cholesterol and high blood pressure 
can lead to a heart attack or stroke.  Exercise helps reduce stress, which can 
raise your glucose level."
Life Clinic: Exercise Tips for Diabetics

Updated my Tai Chi for Diabetes section of the larger webpage called
Diabetes - Exercise Therapy: Taijiquan and Qigong.  



December 2, 2003, Tuesday

Updated my qualifications as a certified Tai Chi for Diabetes instructor.

Updated a page with general information about the Tai Chi for Diabetes class.

Added links to the Taijiquan Links webpage.



December 1, 2003, Monday

Updated a general statement about my qualifications as a Yang Style Taijiquan Instructor.

"Professor Cheng said that the Tai Chi Chuan he practiced was like a tripod: the
form, push hands, and the sword.  The goal of swordplay is to combine our Tai Chi 
quality of stable, heavy rootedness with rapid movement.  Be as solid as a tree but 
quick as a cat.  Work to develop a sense of root even when the form has you 
leaping off the ground.  The ch'i sets the sword in motion.  After that, like a hawk 
sailing on wind currents, let the sword ride the currents of gravity and centrifugal force."
-  Wolfe Lowenthal, Gateway to the Miraculous, 1994, p. 26.  

Swordplay and Taijiquan













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Red Bluff, Tehama County, North Sacramento Valley, Northern California, U.S.A.
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