05/31/2021

“He who knows does not speak,
He who speaks does not know.” Laozi

Have you spoken to your mind recently? All day long our minds chatter away, speaking to us whether we care to listen or not. The fact that we are usually listening is the problem Rather than trying to quiet the mind or worse yet, trying to silence it completely, why not butt in and tell your mind what you want it to do. No, I don’t mean telling it to shut up or be quiet. Look, various parts of the mind via the nervous system control 99 percent of the body if not more. The mind controls our breathing, our blood flow, our hormones, digestion, elimination, lymph fluids and much more. The mind regulates all of these. It even tells the limbs how much strength and pressure to use when walking or jogging and lifting or pulling objects. Why not talk to your mind and tell it what you would like it to do with regard to whatever physical needs you might have? Have trouble falling asleep? Talk to your mind about it. What about that high blood pressure? Talk to your mind about improving blood circulation. Every morning when you first wake up, you need to talk to your mind and tell it what physical adjustments need to be made. At night before going to be, go over the things your mind did that were conducive and those that were not.

But here is the most important aspect of talking to your mind and working with it – your personality and overall mental wellbeing. It is the heart mind (in Chinese, the Xin) and its subconscious nature that rules over the mental state of your being. When you pop off in anger at someone or at something unexpected that happened, when you criticize or try to control a situation, ask yourself if you really wanted to do that. When you use abusive language, ask yourself why? Are you trying to hurt someone? If so, why? Because they hurt you or were mean to you? So? Is it really necessary to pay them back that way? You need to have a long talk with your mind about correcting your speech. Thoughts are words. Change your words, the way you speak about yourself and others, and you will change your thoughts, and thoughts will change your mind and your whole personality. Talk to your mind about choosing a kinder, more intelligent vocabulary. Before you pop off the next time, instruct your mind to step in, hit the pause button, and ask you if this is beneficial to the other person. Will my popping off really change things? Will it make a difference? What satisfaction will I get from being abrupt and abusive?

Change your language and the way you speak, and you will change your entire personality as well as your outlook on life, itself.

05/30/2021

“Human life is limited, but knowledge is limitless. To drive the limited in pursuit of the limitless is fatal; and to presume that one really knows is fatal indeed!” Zhuangzi

Today I worked with my training partner and again came to realize the importance of having not an opponent but a cooperative partner to develop tui shou (push hands). It is vital to work with someone with whom you can share feedback. Without that, your efforts may indeed lead you away from tai chi principles and into an external style of martial arts. I have seen it many times. In fact, I recently left a group of tai chi friends that I have known for several years. But they were working with a teacher who is very technique oriented. As a result, his students are always working on techniques, one right after the other. The same with forms. As soon as they learn one form, they try to perfect it externally but not internally. And once they have the externals, they are onto the next form. It doesn’t seem like they are interested at all in tai chi principles. I guess they enjoy their practice the way it is. But if you are going to become an external martial artist, why bother with tai chi at all? The external arts have far better techniques for fighting and self-defense than tai chi will ever have. But what tai chi does have is the sheer internal power of jin and the ability to develop the internal protection of peng. But this can only happen if you adhere to the tai chi principles and work closely with partners who understand those principles and can exchange vital feedback.

Here’s a look at tai chi principles at work in both the form and push hands.

05/29/2021

“The superior man pardons mistakes and forgives misdeeds.” I Ching, #50, Deliverance

One of the things I have come to realize now that I’m getting up there in years is something the Buddha realized millennia ago and Laozi as well. One does not need to go into a monastery or visit temples to gain enlightenment. The ancient mystics came to discover that the body is our temple. It is a self-contained vehicle that can take us to our ultimate goal. It is the very path that it walks.

But before we can get very far along that journey – the path to clearing and stilling the mind – we must first do the body work that enables us to sit up straight and still and gives us the strength to hold that posture possibly for hours. That is why all the Eastern traditions have physical systems like yoga, qigong and tai chi to stretch and strengthen our connective tissues so the body can maintain the correct posture.

In qigong and tai chi, we must set up the path that the Qi must follow in order to strengthen the connective tissues as we relax the muscles. The importance, therefore, of our center of gravity must not be ignored or taken for granite. Before the dantian can be consolidated and shaped, before we can sink the mind or the breath or most importantly the Qi, we must be certain that we can properly position the center of gravity in the lower abdomen to coincide with the area where we will build the dantian or the Yin Qi will never consolidate and the Yang Qi will remain scattered. It requires keeping our attention on the center and allowing it to adjust and move down into the correct area as we release it usually from a spot above the diaphragm. This may take a little time, but it is a necessary first step.

05/28/2021

“Who is firmly established is not easily shaken.
Who has a firm grasp does not easily let go.” Laozi, Ch. 54

Today, I worked on Dao Yin stretches that emphasized the stretching of the connective tissue rather than the muscles as I had learned yesterday. Why is it so important to stretch the connective tissue and not the muscles? It’s very simple. Qi is an extension of our consciousness, our Mind. Qi is a bridge between the Mind and the body. However, Qi cannot be conducted through muscles. It can only be conducted through the connective tissue. While we can easily feel our muscles, it is way more difficult to feel our connective tissue – the sinews and fascia – because muscle contraction keeps the tissues compacted and tight and also holds up our mass, preventing it from sinking to the floor That’s the reason we are told to “hang the muscles from the bones.” Thus, by hanging the muscles, we release that contraction and our mass is able to sink to the floor, stretching the tissues. Once the tissues are stretched, they are able to conduct the Qi to all parts of the body, thus nourishing our organs. Stretching the tissues, when combined with stressing them as in Dao Yin exercises, the tissues actually strengthen and over time we will have very little need of muscles as the tissues become the main source of strength for the body.

Here’s an example of Dao Yin stretches, a brief series of four stretches for the spine.

05/27/2021

“Content with the coming of things in their time and living in accord with Tao, joy and sorrow touch me not. This is, according to the ancients, to be freed from bondage.” Zhuangzi

It has been a couple months now that I have been wondering what to do with this website as the Daoist Daily Notes no longer seemed appealing. At the same time my Internal Arts teacher in one of his online videos suggested keeping a daily journal of our practices. So, I took out my journal and saw that it had been over a year since my last entry. Suddenly, the light bulb flashed, and the Daoist Daily Diary was born: a journal of my thoughts as I negotiate the readings, teachings, practices, and general thoughts on Daoism as well as everyday life. And, so, here is my first entry.

The fact that I’m writing anything at all makes this a most beneficial day. In addition, my internal arts practices – Taijiquan, Nei Gong and Bauguazhang – have been engaging. Mistakes and inconsistencies not withstanding, I am able to keep my mind engaged in all of our standing exercises, but not so much with the seated ones. The Mind either jumps around or dozes off. However, in the past two days, I have been able to recover and get back into focus for a bit and finish strong.

Speaking of strong, today I realized that, like many of us, I overuse power or strength in my daily life: mixing a salad, pouring a cup of coffee or hot water for tea, opening a can of beans. I need to learn to “hang my muscles from my bones,” a phrase often used in tai chi, to get the contracted muscles out of the way, so my mass can separate from the bones and actively sink to the floor, stretching my connective tissues as it passes, so the tissues can conduct the Qi into the various channels.

Here are the videos of the two seated exercises where I found myself dozing. You can skip the opening interview if you like and click on the 22-minute mark where the actual exercise begins.

This second one is a Qigong to Nourish the Kidneys while it also builds and strengthens the dantian.

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