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Shaolin form of Qigong

Shaolin .  It's very graceful, yet from the second you start watching, you'll see it also demands quite a bit of strength,  both inner and outer.  Yin and Yang are perfectly blended.  And having that calibrated just right,  it's beautiful to watch.   I've advised my students,  if you don't want to necessarily learn these moves,   just sit back and enjoy this charming monk's performance. The practitioner, in the video is Thich Man Tue, who is affiliated with Thich Nath Hanh's Tibetan Buddhist tradition, in particular with their Deer Park Monastery in California. About half way through, you'll come across their version of Eight Pieces of Brocade -- maybe the most practiced qigong sequence there is. (There's another version of it shown in its entirety on this blog, as demonstrated by Laoshi Faye Yip.  And I've learned a third way, courtesy of my former teacher, Master Hawkes.)   So if you come to my qigong class (Tuesday mornings) you'll
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An ancient Taoist

 Just came across a 4th C BCE Taoist scholar, Zhuangzi through the writer, Karen Armstrong In an interview in a recent article in the NYTimes she writes:   Everybody has heard of the Tao Te Ching, the Taoist classic. Less well known, but equally important and far more accessible, is “The Book of Zhuangzi,” written in the fourth century B.C., which also enables the reader to become aware of the Tao ,   the sacred reality that permeates every aspect of life. Zhuangzi’s style is energetic, ebullient, bracing, humorous and accessible. The secret, he explains, is to let ourselves go, laying aside the ego that we cherish so diligently. We do this not by abstruse meditation; instead, we must focus on simple tasks so thoroughly and wholeheartedly that we forget ourselves and allow the  qi , the sacred force that permeates the whole of reality, to take over. His heroes are not daunting, solitary mystics. Instead, Zhuangzi introduces us to ordinary people engaged in humdrum tasks who lose themse
 In my classes I like to introduce the many Qigong sequences I've learned,  mostly from a fascinating teacher I studied with for a few years,  up in Stone Ridge,  NY -- Hawkes, he calls himself.   A powerful student of the internal arts,  Qigong,  t'aiji as well as Shamanism.  Over the years I learned one after the other,  and we would then alternate,  a few months with one,  then on to the next,  in cycles -- the  Eight Taoist Moves,  the Ten Daoists,  and to one of the most beautiful, and most well known  of these,  Eight Pieces of Brocade I've since found a version that was very moving, demonstrated by Laoshi Faye Yip, now teaching in London I believe.  While I haven't incorporated all of her style and form,  I've adopted, and now teach Laoshi Fay'sopening,  the last move,  as well as a flower-like 6th move, a punch with amazing spiraling of the wrist at the end.   This is a video of Laoshi Faye showing us her beautiful, centered rendition of Eight Pieces...

By not doing nothing is left undone

Taoism, a philosophy as well as a religion Came across an interesting article in the NYT recently about Taoism’s perspective on what it means to be human and what it means to die.   Tai chi as you may know is the movement embodiment of Taoism, and I’ve been curious for most of my time studying this Eastern art to understand what Taoism is all about.  But aside from the amazing writings of LaoTze -- a must! -- I've been somewhat disappointed.  there's precious little on the books.   (Though ask me about the few t'ai chi stories that you come across now and then, including the one about the man at the drive-through Starbucks!)   ALL JOKING ASIDE,    I’ve found only simple one sentence references to what Taoism is — like being in sync with nature, or yin-yang.  ho hum.   Glibly said,  easily forgotten.    So when I came  across this  article the other day, titled  A conversation with the religious scholar Brook Ziporyn on Taoism, life and what might come after.  I was delig
I just discovered an extraordinary t'ai chi artist or warrior  or dancer (or all three),  Sifu (or master) Cheung Kwok Wha.   He's doing a form I haven't seen,   Needles in Cotton,  or  Pak Hok Pai. I believe its roots are in ancient Tibet.  Anyways, Sifu Cheung's  movements are so precise,  so centered,  so ... exquisite. I watched him performing the form  straight through barely breathing.   Click on the highlighted part, and enjoy!

Needles in Cotton

 This morning,  in my qigong class,  I introduced the classic t'aiji image  -- a needle in cotton -- that like so much of t'aiji and qigong, is delightful and mysterious.  What it signifies to me is  -- is nothing less than becoming t'ai chi.   what I mean by that is that you will change and in a magnificent direction.   One day -- after years of  waving your arms around gently and stepping firmly and turning your waist  as instructed,   one day,  you will feel this odd new ... connection.   Your breath enters and leaves, you might feel a tingling in your wrists and suddenly your limbs are weightless.   It's so hard to convey.  I feel I"m not succeeding and I'm not sure that this writer,  Danny Dreyer,   does the job much better but I"m going to let him try.      I'm excerpting from his book,  T'ai Chi Walking,  to better explain it “NEEDLE IN COTTON: GATHER TO YOUR CENTER AND LET GO OF ALL ELSE A fundamental principle in ChiWalking that has be

The American College of Physicians recognizes the benefits of t'aiji for back pain

"in class, we move hands like clouds and when we leave class, we walk on clouds"  In a nutshell, the piece summarizes a recent study reported on this past April, about the benefits of t'ai chi in improving balance and alleviating arthritic pain.  This is a finding that has been reported on repeatedly, but it never hurts to remind ourselves.  I believe that improved balance is perhaps the most striking and confirmable benefit of regular t'ai chi practice.   Re back pain:   A report that came out earlier in the year --  The scientific community seldom recognizes t'ai chi among the mindfulness techniques. Anyway,  there was an exception recently.   The American College of Physicians published last spring a new study re back pain.   Basically, it states  that someone suffering pain should not "medicalize" the problem -- in other words, don't go the route of X-rays, MRIs and def not opioids.  But DO go the non-medical route. to quote:  For patients