Cloud Hands
T'ai Chi Ch'uan and Chi Kung


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

January 2004

Index to the Valley Spirit Taijiquan Journal

Michael P. Garofalo



January 31, 2004,  Saturday

I was struck by how similiar the warmup give in "The American Yoga Association
Beginner's Manual" is so very much like the Eight Section Brocade.  

How much of the Yin-Yang symbolism, the interplay of opposites, or the eternal
dualities is grounded in our experience of coming to understand and coordinate
the two sides of our human bodies?  We must learn to coordinate two hands, two legs, 
two eyes, two ears, two arms.  Some dual bodily functions work with no effort or
learning on our part: two lungs, two kidneys, two nostrils, two ovaries/testicles, or two
sides of the brain - but even some of these can be played with using specific kinds
of exercises or drills.  Our sense of space comes first from those thousands of hours in 
infancy and childhood when we played with our two arms, and two eyes, and two legs, 
front side and back side, and learned about how things worked and how we could
make them work in space.   

"The key to all life experience is movement."
-  Ida Rolf



January 30, 2004,  Friday

I so look forward to my Friday thru Monday workouts.  1.5 hour walk, 1 to 2 hours of
Taijiquan, weightlifting, yoga.  So energizing.  So fun. 

I'm working on the Yang long form lately.  Signed up for the 3/13 and 3/14 Spring
Workshop offered in Chico by the North Valley Tai Chi Chuan School.  These are
usually good workshops.   

Kevin Weaver told us tonight that the Tehama Family Fitness Center managment
had decided to cancel the 4:30 to 5:30 Tai Chi class on Monday, Wednesday,
and Friday.  He will only be teaching on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from
8-9 and 9-10 am.  Roberta was very upset about the news - she can only come 
in the evening.  I will attend the Monday and Friday class at 9 am.  It was sad.  

They still have hired no yoga teacher on Satuday.   


January 29, 2004,  Thursday

Began to update my 13 Postures of Taijiquan webpage.  
Doing some reading and research on the topic.  


January 28, 2004,  Wednesday

Gary A. Brewer send me some interesting comments on the T'ai Chi Tun.
He asked if my T'ai Chi Tun on the Eight Section Brocade webpage was



Mr. Brewer favored the interpretation given by Mark Shackelford:

Which Way Up Should the T'ai Chi Go?  By Mark Shackelford.   
The black is on the bottom with the tail running up the right side 
(NW, W, and ending at SW).  The yin (colder days) slowly grows
from South (Summer) through West (Autumn) and into North

I need to reflect on this a bit.  I am tending towards Mr. Brewer and 
Mr. Shackelford's interpretation.  



January 27, 2004,  Tuesday

"We should conduct ourselves not as if we ought to live for the body, 
but as if we could not live without it."
-  Seneca the Younger

"A sound mind in a sound body."
-   Juvenal

"There is but one temple in the universe and that is the body of man."
-  Novalis

"If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred."
-  Walt Whitman

January 26, 2004,  Monday

Reread Robert Cuckrow's book on Tai Chi Walking.  

Added new items to bibliography and links section in Walking and Taijiquan.
Added quotes to Walking Quotations collection.  



January 25, 2004,  Sunday

Comparing two comments about the best time to practice Yoga meditation and Qigong 
breathing exercises: 


"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  

"Chee-gung should be practiced between midnight and noon, when positive Yang energy
prevails in the atmosphere.  Ko Hung's (250 AD) observation accords precisely with the 
findings of Western science, which has determined that the concentration of negative ions
(i.e., chee) in the air peaks between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m.  Disciplined adepts of breathing
rise around 4:00 a.m. to take advantage of this airborne power."
-   The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity, Daniel P. Reid, p. 190. 



January 24, 2004,  Saturday

Added a few links and quotes to the webpage on Breathing Techniques used in 
Taijiquan, Qigong and Yoga.  Breathing practices are such an essential part of
these three movement arts one cannot help but finding ideas, information, exercises,
and resources in nearly every book or magazine I read on these subjects.  The
variety of specific exercises recommended are quite amazing.  

When I fee blue I breathe.  



January 23, 2004,  Friday

"A successful life plan for diabetes is dependent on several factors.  The two most
essential are developing a lifetime eating plan and engaging in some form of physical
activity.  Exercise should be a way of life, a habit that will fill you with pride and
self-esteem.  Raising your heart rate assists the cells in taking in the glucose from
the blood.  It helps work against insulin resistance." p. 90.
"T'ai Chi is becoming a more and more popular form of gentle physical and mental
exercise her in the West.  Certainly one of the most intriguing aspects of this exercise
is that it can be practiced well into old age and keeps your golden years as active
and supple as possible.  It improves respiration for the heart and lungs, and calms
the mind." p. 183.  
-   Carol' Guber's Type 2 Diabetes Life Plan, 2002, p. 90, 183.  .  


Carol' Guber's Type 2 Diabetes Life Plan: Take Charge, Take Care and Feel Better
than Ever.   New York, Broadway Books, 2002.  Index, 234 pages.  Carol Guber with
Betsy Thorpe.  ISBN: 0767905253.   

Updated by Tai Chi for Diabetes webpage.



January 22, 2004,  Thursday


"When we get caught up in the outer appearance of things, our prana (vitality) flows out of us
as we scan the stimulating sights.  Allowing the eyes to wander creates distractions that lead us
further away from yoga.  To counteract these habits, control and focus of the attention 
are fundamental principles in yoga practice.  When we control and direct the focus, first of
the eyes and then of the attention, we are using the yoga technique called drishti."
"The Eye of the Beholder."  By David Life.   "The practice of Drishti is a gazing technique that
develops concentration- and teaches you to see the world as it really is."  Yoga Journal,
February 2002, pp. 73- 76. 



January 21, 2004,  Wednesday

"Yoga is not about learning to stand on your head; it is about learning to stand
on your own two feet.
-  Swami Satchidananda

Added a few links to the Eight Section Brocade Qigong webpage.  I need to 
post instructions for another section of this brocade.  Slowly finish it!  


January 20, 2004,  Tuesday

"The fire of yoga must remain burning without smoke in the spiritual heart throughout the
practice, the sadhana.  The interest of the practitioner, sadhaka, needs to be affirmative
and dynamic.  However, this interest should not be a wildfire burning down the forest;
the interest in yoga should not be disorientated and disarrayed.  Often the seeker goes
to different teachers, and different schools of yoga without having the proper aim or
background.  Instead of getting a solid footing on the path and its subject matter, he
acquires knowledge in bits and pieces.  The body, mind and intelligence remain
muddled.  Going to a new teacher before allowing oneself to practice and digest the
methods learned from another teacher leads one toward more confusion than clarity.
Learning first with one teacher and getting well established in practice makes one able to
discriminate with maturity.  Often pains, problems, discomforts, doubts, misunderstandings,
and misconceptions arise because of lack of understanding.  This further leads toward
lack of inner penetration into oneself.  Learning yoga cannot be like eating junk food.  One
has to stick to the method in order to absorb and assimilate the sadhana precisely and
properly.  Remember the adage, "The rolling stone gathers no moss."  It is the same with 
the roving yogic sadhaka."
-  Geeta Iyengar, daugher of B.K.S. Iyengar and noted Yoga teacher and author.  
    "In Her Father's Light: Interview with Geeta Iyengar."  Yoga Journal, October 2001, p. 65+.



January 19, 2004,  Monday

I celebrated my 58 birthday this month.  How fortunate am I to have had such good health,
such ample and nutritious food to eat, good medical attention when I needed it, clean water 
to drink, and a clean house to live within.  How fortunate am I to have had such supportive 
and nuturing parents, family, friends, relatives coworkers and children.  How fortunate am
I to have had such a wonderful wife as friend, fellow traveler, coworker and lover.   How fortunate to
have lived in such a prosperous and peaceful homeland.  How fortunate to be able to have been 
productively employed for 43 years.   How fortunate to have had books, libraries, teachers, 
and so many wise people to learn from.  All of these factors, and many more, have enabled
me to live a long, healthy. and prosperous life.  I am blessed, lucky, and fortunate beyond 
measure!   Thanks to everyone. 

In these birthday candles, I see the entire universe supporting my existence.  



January 18, 2004,  Sunday

"If you work just the pancreas and not the other organs, then you do not create a balance...
Diabetes has to do with carbohydrate metabolism, so I also advise rhythmic movements,
like charnjap, a yogic form of walking that involves breath and mantra and can improve
-  Shanti Kaur Khalasa, Ph.D., Kundalinin Yoga teacher.  "Dealing with Diabetes,"
by Stacie Stukin: Yoga Journal, October 2001, p. 36.  


A Zen blessing at mealtime:  "In this plate of food, I see the entire universe supporting
my existence."  

A mealtime blessing from the Taittiriya Upanishad: "From food all creatures are produced,
and all creatures that dwell on the earth, by food they live and into food they finally pass.
Food is the chief among beings.  Verily he obtains all good who worships the Divine
as food."



January 17, 2004,  Saturday

Tai Chi Myth #1:  The Miracle Cure

Many Taijiquan books include anecdotes about persons with serious diseases who were completely
cured after a year's worth of Taiji practice.  Cheng Man-ch'ing, T. T. Liang, and Jou Tsung Hwa told
us about overcoming serious and life threatening illnesses after the regular practice of Taiji.  Anyone
who practices and studies Taiji long enough will hear many of these stories.

"I was diagnosed with cancer three years ago.  I started practicing Qigong for two hours every day. 
I have been cancer free since then."

"I was badly overweight, completely out of shape, and my blood pressure was very high.  Basically,
I was a couch potato drifting towards a stroke.  Then I took up the daily practice of Chen Taijiquan.
Now, after 10 years of Taiji practice, I am in excellent condition, active, strong, and have normal blood

"I smoked a pack of cigarettes and two joints of pot every day.  My health was very poor, and 
I was a drug addict.  Life held little meaning for me in my depressed condition.  Then, I began the
daily practice of Yang Taijiquan.  It totally changed my life.  I feel great, no longer use drugs, and
my doctor says I have the body of a person 10 years younger than I am."

 "I was a mean bad ass, in trouble all the time, of low moral character, and a disappointment to my
family and friends.  Then after starting the practice of Wu Taijiquan (or going to a revival and 
accepting Jesus Christ as my personal savior, or taking up Ananda Yoga, or starting my quest with
my Great Guru. or practicing TM or Dianetics, etc.),  I have completely turned my life around.  Now 
I am kind, gentle, hardworking, trustworthy - a good person.  It's a miracle!"

"I cured myself of X by practicing tai chi or qigong."  
Where X = irritable bowel syndrome, tuberculosis, a bad back, weak knees, drug addiction,
high blood pressure, headaches, depression, constipation, dizziness, bad breath, obesity,
anxiety, weakness, fatigue, cancer ....   

"I made a remarkable recovery from:  Example 1.

We all like to pretend to believe in miracles and magic that help people.  It is natural to wish 
people well and cheer for those who overcome illness or disease.  A positive attitude,
high hopes, and cheery beliefs are needed by most for comfortable mental health.  Nevertheless,
a realist keeps these aspects of life in a larger perspective and balances them against more
obvious facts, averages, norms, and verifiable scientific evidence.  

Most people who take up the daily practice of Taijiquan are in reasonably good health,
positive, decent, hardworking, ordinary folks.  They have no serious diseases to overcome.
They have no serous bad habits to break.  They have no great moral issues to resolve.
They have no need for enlightenment.  They don't expect miracles to happen to them.
They are probably already active in other sports or physical activities, are trying to 
educate themselves, and live active work and family lives.  Those who continue in their 
Taijiquan practice usually do so because Taiji is fun, interesting, unique, challenging, 
relaxing, and a pleasant social experience with like minded people.  Most continue to 
practice even though they have various physical and mental ailments or diseases that 
they will never overcome.  They have no personal miracle tales to tell, but they show
up to train every day - we need to hear more about them.    

Practicing Taijiquan has not cured my diabetes, eliminated my need for new glasses,
reduced my bodyweight, prevented common colds, or helped me become enlightened.  
No miracles for me.  But this is OK.  I don't really need to magically make people fly across 
the room using my "chi" power, just a good laugh while doing push hands is good enough 
for me.  I still have not overcome one bad habit, but just establishing the habit of a regular
Taiji practice routine is good enough for me.  I don't really need to walk on water, just 
swimming on a summer's day is good enough for me.  The real miracles in life are
not very special, just very ordinary.    



January 16, 2004,  Friday

I believe in the benefits of a physical conditioning program that makes use of cross training principles.
Read Cross-Training for Dummies, by Tony Ryan and Martica K. Heaner, to get some basic ideas
about these principles.   

I enjoy a variety of physical conditioning activities: strength training, aerobics, Taijiquan, heavy bag work,
qigongyoga, relaxation techniques, weapons practice, hiking, walking, team sports, massage, dance
meditation, push hands, etc.  These activities provide as solid foundation for strength, endurance,
flexibility, balance, and toughness that are valuable in the practice of Taijiquan.  

Most Taijiquan masters of old were in very good condition because of long walks and agricultural labor.
Some of these masters had real military (Chen Wang Ting) and/or fighting experience (Sun Lu Tang  
Yang Lu Chan).  Many modern Taijiquan masters have done years of advanced Shaolin Kung Fu or 
other hard style martial arts training and competition: B.K. Frantzis, Herman Kauz,
Wong Kiew Kit., 
Bob Klein, Peter Ralston, Robert W. Smith, Yang Jwing-Ming, Wong Doc-Fai, and many others.   

Professor Cheng was unique in advising us to sit down if we broke a sweat while doing Taijiquan; 
the rest of us ordinary blokes like a blend of both soft and hard action, gentle movements and 
vigorous movements, staying cool and sweating.  




January 15, 2004,  Thursday

Updated my webpage on My Personal Practice.  


January 14, 2004,  Wednesday

Grow Younger, Live Longer: Ten Steps to Reverse Aging
.  By Deepak Chopra, M.D., 
and David Simon, M.D.   New York, Harmony Books, 2001.  References, index,
289 pages.  ISBN:  0609600796.   Practical suggestions for improving your health and
enhancing chances for longevity by changing your perceptions and beliefs, getting deep 
rest, nurturing your body with healthy food, using nutritional supplements wisely,
using mind/body integration techniques, exercising, eliminating toxins, becoming more
creative, living with loving-kindness, and maintaining a youthful mind.   "The mind/body
techniques of tai chi and qigong are centuries old.  Their graceful slow movements
improve balance, flexibility and strength, enhancing both physical and mental well-being.
We encourage you to find a local tai chi or qigong class and use these beautiful movements
to awaken mind/body integration." p. 123.  

Updated webpage on Aging.



January 13, 2004,  Tuesday

Power Yoga:  The Total Strength and Flexibility Workout
.  By Beryl Bender Birch.  Photographs
by Nicholas DeSciose.  New York, Fireside Book, Simon and Schuster, 1995.  Index,
286 pages.  ISBN:  0020583516.  MGC.   Her Axioms of Power Yoga are:  "1. You have to be
hot to stretch.  2.  Strength, not gravity, develops flexibility.  3.  Sports do not get us in shape.
In fact, sports get us out of shape.  4.  All injury in sports is caused by structural and muscular
imbalance.  5.  Muscular imbalance and structural irregularities don't fix themselves.  6.  Even
iron will bend if your heat it up.   7.  Stopping training doesn't correct an imbalance.  8.  No matter
how you fit you are at what you do, when you start something new you have to ease into it.  
9.  Stretching doesn't equal warm-up."  p. 274.



January 12, 2004,  Monday

Reading numerous Yoga books.  Updated Tai Chi and Health webpage.



January 11, 2004,  Sunday


Anatomy of Hatha Yoga: A Manual for Students, Teachers and Practitioners.  
By H. David Coulter.  Foreword by Timothy McCall.  Honesdale, Pennsylvania, 
Body and Breath, 2001.  Index, bibliography, appendices, 623 pages.  
ISBN: 0970700601.  2002 winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award for
Health, Wellness and Nutrition.  Outstanding textbook on the anatomy and 
physiology of yoga postures, breathing techniques, and relaxation methods
used in Yoga and often found in Qigong.  



January 10, 2004,  Saturday

A Source Book in Indian Philosophy.  Edited by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles
A. Moore.  Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1957. Index, bibliography,
appendices, 684 pages.   ISBN:0691019584.  MGC.  

The word "Upanisad" means "to come and sit down near the sage for a lesson."  Some
estimate that the Upanisads were composed from 800-700 B.C.  There are over 200
Upanisads, although the traditional number is 108. 

To see the Self (Atman) one must become "calm, controlled, quiet, patiently enduring,
and contented." (Brhadaranyaka Upanisads).   


January 9, 2004,  Friday


"To judge from the records, a kind of “dark learning” is to be obtained by those who 
scale mountains. For reasons never to be fathomed, lofty summits serve as portals, if 
not to the “other world” then perchance to another style of awareness. Maybe it’s the 
thin air, or the proximity to sky, or the mere physical exertion that relaxes the tension 
of consciousness—it’s difficult to say with any certainty. “You have but a short time 
left to live,” says Aurelius, “so live as on a mountain.” Whatever the case, the 
religious landscapes of the world appear serrated into wondrous heights. Mount 
Olympus, according to Homer, is “neither shaken by winds, nor ever wet with rain, 
nor does snow fall upon it, but the air is outspread clear and cloudless.” The Bible 
has its share of “power peaks,” including Ararat, Horeb, and Tabor, while in China 
Taoism claims its Five Sacred Mountains, and Vulture Peak in India is revered 
as one of the Buddha’s favorite resorts, where he delivered some of his most 
rarefied teachings."
-   John P. O'Grady, Flowers in the Sky



January 8, 2004,  Thursday


"The work of art is born of the intelligence's refusal to reason the concrete.
It marks the triumph of the carnal."
-   Albert Camus

"We have art in order not to perish of truth."
-  Friedrich Nietzsche


I often consider Taijiquan to be a physical expression of a bit of "Crazy Wisdom":

Crazy Wisdom.  By Wes "Scoop Nisker."   Berkeley, California, Ten Speed Press,
1990.  226 pages.  ISBN: 0898153506.  



January 7, 2004,  Wednesday

"It is encouraging to see so many Westerners turning to Yoga and experiencing its 
benefits. Current estimates suggest there are up to 20 million Yoga practitioners 
in the United States alone. In at least ninety-nine percent of cases, their Yoga 
practice consists of doing Hatha-Yoga postures one or more times per week. 
Clearly, even this limited approach is producing some good results. According 
to a report by Intersurvey Inc. ( dated May 12, 2000, 9 
percent of Americans have tried “Yoga” (as opposed to 14 percent who have 
experimented with meditation of an unspecified nature and 3 percent who 
have tried Tai Chi). Yoga’s effectiveness has been rated 87 percent (as 
opposed to meditation, which came in at 85 percent, and Tai Chi at 73 
-   Georg Feuerstein, Comments on Contempoary Yoga, 2000

"Effectivness" in terms of what?  I wonder.  Satisfaction in terms of being
an exercise system?  Effectiveness as a spiritual path?  Usefulness as a meditation
technique?   Hip thing to do?   Ability to keep one's interest for a longer period
of time?  Availability of qualified teachers?   

I practice both Taijiquan and Yoga and enjoy and benefit from both.    


January 6, 2004,  Tuesday

"When you realize that you don't have to separate mind and body, then you can
eat properly, sleep properly, get your hair cut properly - do anything properly.  You
can experience tremendous sacredness in ordinary activities.  What is ordinarly
regarded as casual activity, we regard as the sacredness of Shambhala."
-  Chogyam Trungpa, Great Eastern Sun, 2001, p. 196.  

Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala.  By Chogyam Trungpa, Dorje Dradul
of Mukpo.  Edited by Carolyn Rose Gimian.  foreward by Diana Judith Mukpo.  
Boston, MA, Shambhala, 2001.  Index, 267 pages.  365 pages.  ASIN:

Just the ordinary is often quite extraordinary.  Pulling Onions


January 5, 2004,  Monday

"Whole Body Relaxed: Quan Shen Fang Song.  The word fang means "to release," and it
implies that relaxation is not merely the lack of tension.  It is an activity.  Quan shen fang
is alive, alert relaxation.  It means eliminating unnecessary tension, being supple
and alert to the environment.  Relaxation is the first and most important principle of 
qigong.  It is often considered a system of qigong in itself."
-  Kenneth Cohen, The Way of Qigong, 1997, p 88.

The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing.  By Kenneth S. Cohen.
Foreword by Larry Dossey.  New York Ballantine Books, 1997.  Index, notes, appendices, 
427 pages.  ISBN: 0345421094.  Chapter 8, pp. 97-110: Mr. Cohen describes the 
attributes of active relaxation: awareness and tranquillity, effortlessness, sensivity, 
warmth and rootedness.



January 4, 2004,  Sunday


Dr. Angelee Deodhar from Chandigarh, India, was kind enough to select one of my haiku poems 
to combine with her excellent photographs.  A wonderful new year's present.  







January 3, 2004,  Saturday

The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity: A Modern Practical Guide to the Ancient
Way.  By Daniel P. Reid.   New York, a Fireside Book, Simon and Schuster, 1989.
Index, 405 pages.  ISBN: 067164811X.   MPG. 





January 2, 2004,  Friday


Yoga: The Ultimate Spiritual Path.   By Swami Rajarshi Muni.  Saint Paul, Minnesota,
Llewellyn Publications, 2nd Edition, 2001.  Index, 184 pages.  ISBN: 1567184413. 



"Kundalini/pranic awakening and its cross-tradition similars—the spontaneous spinal rockings 
known in Judaism as davvening and in Sufisim as zikr; the “taken-over” gyrations of gospel 
"holy ghost" shaking and dancing and charismatic/pentacostal “mani-festations”; the 
Dionysian “revel”; Quakerism’s and Shakerism's autonomic quaking and shaking; Tai Chi 
guided by chi itself; the shamanic trance-dance; Buddhism’s and Raja-Yoga’s effortless
“straight back” (uju-kaya) meditation; the yogically derived ecstatic belly-dance and 
Flamenco; and even the full-bodied, spontaneous Reichian “reflex”—literally embody the 
spiritual path.

The “path” is the cerebrospinal tract (and its neuro-endocrinal radiance outward to every 
cell of the body). To “move” forward on this path in the most maturing way, the most 
“dharmic” way, is to move the body from the energetic dimension that I hope is conveyed 
by the above-listed spiritual phenomena. In such moving, the volitional will and the mind 
remain meditatively spellbound. The intelligence of kundalini/prana—or could we say—DNA, 
moves the body, or something even more subtle within DNA: the Mother Herself."
Stuart Sovatsky,   Kundalini and Sahaja (Spontaneous )Yoga





January 1, 2004,  Thursday


Reading the book:

Vitality and Wellness.   By Stephan Rechtschaffen and Marc Cohen.  An Omega Institute
Mind, Body, Spirit Book.  New York, Dell Publishing, 1999.  Index, resources lists, 262
pages.  ISBN:  0440508681.   MGC.  Includes chapters dealing with techniques for 
becoming aware of stress, how to meditate, ideas for changing one's perspectives
about the passage of time, a discussion of retreats and quests, how play and laughter 
are critical to health and well being, and a presentation on developing a sound fitness
and nutrition program.  


No pain no gain.
Gain, don't strain.
No pain ... good.    








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