06/30/2021

Summer Reading from the Zhuangzi, Chapter 18

“Zhuangzi’s wife died. When Huizu went to convey his condolences, he found Zhuangzi sitting with his legs sprawled out, pounding on a tub and singing. “You lived with her, she brought up your children and grew old,” said Huizu. “It should be enough simply not to weep at her death. But pounding on a tub and singing – this is going too far, isn’t it?”

Zhuangzi said, “You’re wrong. When she first died, do you think I didn’t grieve like anyone else? But I looked back to her beginning and the time before she was born. Not only the time before she was born, but the time before she had a body. Not only the time before she had a body, but the time before she had a spirit. In the midst of the jumble of wonder and mystery a change took place and she had a spirit. Another change and she had a body. Another change and she was born. Now there’s been another change and she’s dead. It’s just like the progression of the four seasons, spring, summer, fall, winter.

“Now she’s going to lie down peacefully in a vast room. If I were to follow after her bawling and sobbing, it would show that I don’t understand anything about fate. So I stopped.”

To honor the progression of the four seasons, on this last day of June here is the Daoism view of Summer…

06/29/2021

“The student of knowledge acquires day by day.
The student of Tao loses day by day.
Less and less, until nothing is done.
Do nothing, and everything is done.
The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering.”
– Translated by Ned Ludd, Chapter 48, Tao Te Ching

I think I have actually lost much more knowledge with my current teacher than I have gained. But that’s not a bad thing. In fact it is very Taoist. As Laozi reminds us in Chapter 48: “The student of knowledge gains day by day, but the student of Tao loses day by day” until one reaches wu wei, the action of no action. In other words, no premeditated action based on acquired knowledge which is hampered by emotional tinting that renders it confusing or ineffective. Yet, there is nothing left undone. This is due to the spontaneous action of one who is aligned with the Dao and the discernment and clarity it brings to one’s awareness.

What my teacher has been able to do is strip away so much of my biased acquired knowledge that has filled my head over the years especially in regards to the internal arts as well as to life in general. No easy task to say the least. Where has all faulty acquired knowledge come from? It is everywhere – on your smart phone, your laptop or tablet, your TV, the various social media outlets. It’s in lecture halls, online lectures, seminars and workshops, and in books. It exists wherever egoic minds are. Usually it is nothing more than biased opinion labelled as fact. Remember, in ancient times, it was preached that the sun and stars rotated around the stationary Earth and that very same Earth was considered flat not round. It would be quite difficult to land a man on the moon or send a spacecraft to Mars if that same ancient knowledge had not bee debunked.

Even worse today, educators in all fields are being coerced to publish and give that priority over educating their students. The world is becoming cluttered with one tome after another filled with unproven opinions. It is no different in the Internal Arts. With discernment comes clarity. This means keeping an open mind if not a dissatisfied one that refuses to accept someone’s biased opinion as fact. If you are trying to search for Truth, you won’t find it. It isn’t about acquiring the Truth; it’s about eliminating the incorrect and the false. This will lead you to the Truth. This then is the discernment that brings about clarity.

Here’s an error you can eliminate right now. It’s one that many internal artists and meditators often make…

06/28/2021

“Life is the companion of death, death is the beginning of life. Who understands their workings?”
– The Zhuangzi, Ch 22, “Knowledge Wandered North” – Translated by Burton Watson

Zhuangzi continues the conversation between Knowledge, who has wandered north, and Huang-Ti, the Yellow Emperor, who continues his answer to Knowledge’s questions00 about the Way (Tao)…

“Man’s life is a coming-together of breath. If it comes together, there is life; if it scatters, there is death. And if life and death are companions to each other, then what is there for us to be anxious about?

“The ten thousand things are really one. We look on some as beautiful because they are rare or unearthly; we look on others as ugly because they are foul and rotten. But the foul and rotten may turn into the rare and unearthly, and the rare and unearthly may turn into the foul and rotten. So it is said, You have only to comprehend the one breath that is the world. The sage never ceases to value oneness.”

Knowledge said to the Yellow Emperor (Huang Ti), “I asked Do-Nothing-Say-Nothing and he didn’t reply to me. It wasn’t that he merely didn’t reply to me – he didn’t know how to reply to me. I asked Wild-and-Witless and he was about to explain to me, though he didn’t explain anything. It wasn’t that he wouldn’t explain to me – but when he was about to explain, he forgot what it was. Now I have asked you and you know the answer. Why then do you say that you are nowhere near being right?”

The Yellow Emperor said, “Do-Nothing-Say-Nothing is the one who is truly right – because he doesn’t know. Wild-and-Witless appears to be so – because he forgets. But you and I in the end are nowhere near it – because we know.”

Wild-and-Witless heard of the incident and concluded that the Yellow Emperor knew what he was talking about.

06/27/2021

“The marks of great Character (Te or Virtue)
Follow alone from the Tao.”
– Laozi, Tao Te Ching, Ch 21, Lin Yutang translation

Why is that? Why can someone achieve great Character only by following the Tao and its manifestation as Te. Read the rest of Chapter 21 and see if you can discover why that is.

“The thing that is called Tao
Is elusive, evasive.
Evasive, elusive,
Yet latent in it are forms.
Elusive, evasive,
Yet latent in it are objects.
Dark and dim,
Yet latent in it is the life-force.
The life-force being very true,
Latent in it are evidences.

“From the days of old till now
Its Named (manifested forms) have never ceased,
By which we may view the Father of All Things.
How do I know the shape of the Father of All Things?
Through these (manifested forms)!”

Laozi is making several vastly important points about the Tao but, more importantly, about ourselves. First, great Character can only be achieved by following the Tao because the Tao is all there is. But if it is evasive and elusive as well as intangible, invisible, and inaudible, how can we follow it? Because latent in it is the life-force, and the life-force being very true or real, latent in it are the evidences we need to follow.

Now, here are the vital points about ourselves. We are the forms that are latent in it. We and all the objects around us (the 10,000 things) are latent in it. Thus, we are not who and what we think we are. We are not people, humans, walking around on the Earth as we know it or driving around in cars or watching birds fly through the air or cattle grazing on hillsides. We are appearances – the animate forms and inanimate objects that are latent in the Tao. The Tao and, more specifically, its Te, the life-force, is that invisible source in which we and all the myriad things, including Nature and all the realms of Heaven and Earth, have arisen and in which we appear to dwell. As Laozi is reminding us in the last paragraph, we are the Tao’s manifested forms. Not really flesh and blood, but, through the Tao’s manifestation as Te, the life-force, we are instead appearances (spiritual rather than physical in nature) of that same life-force and, by extension, the Tao manifested.

So, the question becomes: if we are truly spiritual and not flesh and blood, should we ignore what appears to be the physical/material side of ourselves? No, not at all. Care for it as best you can like you would a valuable artwork or exquisite antique. Not to do so would be to discredit the Te and thereby the Father of All Things, the Tao.

06/26/2021

“Thunder comes resounding out of the earth:
The image of ENTHUSIASM.”
– I Ching, Hexagram 16, Yu (Enthusiasm) – Commentary by Richard Wilhelm

above CHêN THE AROUSING, THUNDER
below K’UN THE RECEPTIVE, EARTH

The strong line in the fourth place, that of the leading official, meets with response and obedience from all the other lines, which are all weak. The attribute of the upper trigram, Chên, is movement; the attributes of K’un, the lower, are obedience and devotion. This begins a movement that meets with devotion and therefore inspires enthusiasm, carrying all with it. Of great importance, furthermore, is the law of movement along the line of least resistance, which in this hexagram is enunciated as the law for natural events and for human life.

ENTHUSIASM. It furthers one to install helpers
And to set armies marching…

(Have you ever wondered how some people have gotten to become presidents, prime ministers, governors, etc.? It’s their Enthusiasm, which is aligned with the spirit of the people.)

The Wilhelm commentary continues…

The time of ENTHUSIASM derives from the fact that there is at hand an eminent man who is in sympathy with the spirit of the people and acts in accord with it. Hence he finds universal and willing obedience. To arouse enthusiasm it is necessary for a man to adjust himself and his ordinances to the character of those whom he has to lead. The inviolability of natural laws rests on this principle of movement along the line of least resistance. Theses laws are not forces external to things but represent the harmony of movement immanent in them. That is why the celestial bodies do not deviate from their orbits and why all events in nature occur with fixed regularity. It is the same with human society: only such laws are rooted in popular sentiment can be enforced, while laws violating this sentiment merely arouse resentment. Again, it is enthusiasm that enables us to install helpers for the completion of an undertaking without fear of secret opposition. It is enthusiasm too that can unify mass movements, as in war, so that they achieve victory.

(Not only in war but in politics as well. One only has to look at the January 6th assault on the Capitol in Washington to understand how Former President Trump’s “enthusiasm” ignited the fire in his followers. Again, “Thunder comes resounding out of the earth.”)

06/25/2021

“Since (the Sage) doesn’t have the feelings of a man, right and wrong cannot get at him. Puny and small, he sticks with the rest of men. Massive and great, he perfects his Heaven alone.” – Zhuangzi, Ch. 5 THE SIGN OF VIRTUE COMPLETE

The past two days, we looked at Laozi’s personal philosophy, both his likes (Yang) and dislikes (Yin). Today we switch back to Zhuangzi and his concepts regarding feelings in relation to likes and dislikes.

Hui Tzu said to Chuang Tzu, “Can a man really be without feelings?”

Chuang Tzu: “Yes.”

Hui Tzu: “But a man who has no feelings-how can you call him a man?”

Chuang Tzu: “The Way gave him a face; Heaven gave him a form – why can’t you call him a man?”

Hui Tzu: “But if you’ve already called him a man, how can he be without feelings?”

Chuang Tzu: “That’s not what I mean by feelings. When I talk about having no feelings, I mean that a man doesn’t allow likes or dislikes to get in and do him harm. He just lets things be the way they are and doesn’t try to help life along.”

Hui Tzu: “If he doesn’t try to help life along, then how can he keep himself alive?”

Chuang Tzu: “The Way gave him a face; Heaven gave him a form. He doesn’t let likes or dislikes get in and do him harm. You, now – you treat your spirit like an outsider. You wear out your energy, leaning on a tree and moaning or slumping at your desk and dozing – Heaven picked out a body for you and you use it to gibber about `hard’ and `white’!”

Zhuangzi is telling Hui Tzu and us as well that life does not need to be helped along. It is what it is. Just accept what comes. If you have no feelings toward the external world, then likes and dislikes cannot get to you and make you angry, sad, or frustrated by a situation that has come up. Don’t waste the good energy Heaven has given you by ‘gibbering about’ in the external world of the ‘hard’ and ‘white'” Enjoy the world with its vast beauty, abundance and fascinating creatures. But don’t get caught up in it. In other words, be in the world but not of it.

06/24/2021

“He who stands on tiptoe does not stand (firm);
He who strains his strides does not walk (well)”
Ch. 24, Tao Te Ching, Laozi

Yesterday, in Chapter 8, we looked at the Yang (positive) side of Laozi’s personal philosophy, based on the qualities he loved. Today, in the remainder of Chapter 24, we will look at the darker (Yin) side of his personal philosophy – the qualities he greatly dislikes.

“He who reveals himself is not luminous;
He who justifies himself is not far-famed;
He who boasts of himself is not given credit;
He who prides himself is not chief among men.
These in the eyes of Tao
Are called “the dregs and tumors of Virtue,”
Which are things of disgust.
Therefore the man of Tao spurns them.”

For those of us who may be trying to follow the Way or the Path of the Tao, Laozi gives us a clear picture of the qualities we need to develop in Chapter 8 and the ones we need to dispel in Chapter 24 above. Good luck on your cultivation, and keep practicing, keep meditating.

06/23/2021

“The best of men is like water;
Water benefits all things
And does not compete with them.
It dwells in (the lowly) places that all disdain –
Wherein it comes near to the Tao.”
– Ch. 8, Laozi, Tao Te Ching, Translated by Lin Yutang

This is perhaps the easiest chapter in the Tao Te Ching to decipher. There can be no doubt as to Laozi’s comparison of the best of men (the Sage) to water. By so doing, he perfectly describes his own personal philosophy. One side note as to his use of the term “the lowly” is the translator’s (Lin Yutang’s) term, not Laozi’s. Other translators use words like disdain, shun, loathed. It doesn’t mean that the Sage lives in a low river valley. In fact many of the ancient Sages dwelled in the mountains of China. However, the places that they picked for shelter were caves and dugouts that most persons would definitely disdain. The point is they did not select a place based on comfort or exterior style and richness. Their shelters were more or less an extension of their own natures. Being closed to the earth meant they were close to the Tao.

So, let’s go on and look at the rest of Laozi’s personal philosophy as exemplified in Chapter 8.

“In his dwelling, (the Sage) loves the (lowly) earth;
In his heart, he loves what is profound;
In his relations with others, he loves kindness;
In his words, he loves sincerity;
In government, he loves peace;
In business affairs, he loves ability;
In hi actions, he loves choosing the right time.
It is because he does not contend
That he is without reproach.”

From that, it’s easy to see that Laozi believes people should try to emulate the Sage. Not only are these Laozi’s personal beliefs and philosophy, he expressed them in the hopes that all those who follow his teachings would do well to emulate the Sage or Laozi himself.

06/22/2021

“These postures should each be trained one at a time until mastered before moving on to the next posture. Never be impatient for more. It does not matter which of the thirty-seven postures precedes or follows, only that they link together naturally, so that the postures all transform from one into another continuously. That is why it is called “Long Boxing.” – TEACHINGS OF SONG SHUMING – Translated by Paul Brennan

While teaching the Yang 37 short form, my teacher from time to time slips in a posture from the Tang Dynasty 37. The Tang Dynasty preceded the Song Dynasty, when Zhang Sanfeng was said to have developed the art of Tai Chi while watching a fight between a Crane and a Snake. However, the Tang Dynasty 37 already existed at that time. In fact, according to documents in the archives of the Yang and Wu families, it was Xu Xuanping, a Tang Dynasty poet and founder of the “37,” who taught his art to Zhang Sanfeng. Xu Xuanping’s “37” was also known as Chang Quan or Long Boxing as a reference to the flowing power of the Yangtze River (which is also known as the Chang Jiang or Long River). He had a disciple called Song Yuanqiao who passed the Song Family T’ai chi ch’uan system down through the generations to Song Shuming.

So, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at Song Shuming’s Song family version of the history of taijiquan. Here is the link to the Paul Brennan translation. Good Reading. Enjoy.

The Teachings of Song Shuming

06/21/2021

“If virtue is preeminent, the body will be forgotten. But when men do not forget what can be forgotten, but forget what cannot be forgotten – that may be called true forgetting.” – Zhuangzi, Ch. 5, THE SIGN OF VIRTUE COMPLETE

I’m always forgetting things. A sign of Alzheimer’s? Maybe. At least, that’s what doctors and Big Pharma would like us to believe. But it may not be a disease at all. It could just be that I simply forget what can be forgotten. You know, all the mundane things that we think about all day or give a few moments attention to before we move on to thinking about some other mundane thing. For me, it’s usually about food. What should I make for lunch? What about dinner? What do I need to get from the markets? Should I go to Trader Joe’s or Ralph’s? What about Sprouts or Bristol Farms? But maybe instead of the Food of Man, I should be thinking about the Food of Heaven. Then perhaps I won’t forget.

Zhuangzi tells us that the Sage instead sets his spirit free. “For him, knowledge is an offshoot, promises are glue, favors are a patching up, and skill is a peddler. The sage hatches no schemes, so what use has he for knowledge? He does no carving, so what use has he for glue? He suffers no loss, so what use has he for favors? He hawks no goods, so what use has he for peddling? These four are called Heavenly Gruel. Heavenly Gruel is the food of Heaven, and if he’s already gotten food from Heaven, what use does he have for men? He has the form of a man but not the feelings of a man. Since he has the form of a man, he bands together with other men. Since he doesn’t have the feelings of a man, right and wrong cannot get at him. Puny and small, he sticks with the rest of men. Massive and great, he perfects his Heaven alone.”

Zhuangzi is reminding us that, because the Sage doesn’t have human passions, the feelings of man – the questions of right and wrong – do not touch him. Small and puny, in other words infinitesimal are the things that men think about and attach themselves to. On the other hand, infinitely great is that of Heaven.

So, we have a choice. Stick with man, simply because one has a human body, or join with Heaven and the Way of the Tao.

06/20/2021 (FATHER’S DAY)

“Thanks to my parents, I can come to this world, to know myself in this body. My parents went through all the hardships in bringing me up, but they never complained. Now I start to grow old, start to convert back to “nothingness”. I am grateful for this body, this life.” – Grandmaster Wang Liping, 18th Lineage holder, Longmen Pai branch of Quanzhen Northern Daoism

Yes, that’s right, another Longmen Pai (Dragon Gate) lineage holder. No doubt there are more Dragon Gate branches of Quanzhen Daoism than there are official Yi Jin Jing exercise sets. In any case, I thought Grandmaster Wang’s quote would be appropriate on this Father’s Day. It comes from his introduction to a Taoist exercise called “Listen and Memorize Parents.”

Grandmaster Wang continues in his introduction: “When I practice the Taoist exercise ‘Listen and Memorize Parents’, I discovered their miseries and suffering, and also realized just how deep their love is.”

Wang wishes he had supernatural power so he could become a child and live with his parents once more. Then he says, “If I have magical power, I would turn back to pre-birth, and go to my parents’ wedding as wind. How wonderful it would be to see my parents joining hands to start a happy family, and pass life down generation by generation. All I want to say to them is “Thank you, and I love you.”

According to Wang, here is how the “Listen and Memorize Parents” exercise is performed:

“Everyone should use one day a month to do this exercise. Also in the three days before Chinese new year, pick one day to do this exercise. This is the best way to truly benefit our parents. Even if our parents already passed away, this exercise can still benefit them.

“During sitting exercise, when your celestial eyes opened, think about your parents’ images with your eyes closed(Only do one at a time, pick father or mother). Think carefully and in as much detail as possible. Then slowly merge the space where your parents are with the space where you are. Pull this image into your body with the celestial eye, and slowly pass it down to your lower Dantian. Then breath slowly using lower Dantian, and your energy in the lower Dantian will nurture your parents. When you do this right, your parents’ images will become bright and clear in front of you, and you will also truly able to feel how they feel.”

And to all you fathers out there, Have a Happy Father’s Day and keep practicing.

06/19/2021

“Through hardness and selfishness the heart grows rigid, and this rigidity leads to separation from all others. Egotism and cupidity isolate men. Therefore the hearts of men must be seized by a devout emotion. They must be shaken by a religious awe in the face of eternity” – Commentary by Richard Wilhelm on Hexagram 59, Huan, Dispersion/Dissolution

We looked at attachment yesterday. Attachment is the early stage. In the later stages attachment leads to alienation and isolation. Though we may go freely from place to place, internally we cannot get away from ourselves. In this case as Wilhelm points out, it is the result of egotism and cupidity, which is the excessive desire for wealth or power, that deep pocket of greed and avarice that alienates us from others. So, I wholeheartedly agree with the first part of Wilhelm’s statement but not the second. The hearts of men must be seized not by a devout emotion, but by a fervent devotion, and not one shaken by a religious awe in the face of eternity. That trapped individual who cannot let go of his/her greed and avarice is already filled with a sense of religious awe for whatever it is that they crave so deeply.

Letting go of that religious awe for power or wealth will be impossible. If they let go of one form of power, another one will pop up in its place and take hold of their ego. They need instead to turn that religious awe on its head with nothing short of a devotion to and for a cause, one that will benefit humanity in general. They must turn away from always honoring their selfish cravings to generating a deep concern for a selfless cause. The greater their concern for that cause the more their alienation and isolation weakens and eventually falls away. As always, until next time, good luck with your practice.

06/18/2021

“Therefore the Sage:
Manages affairs without action;
Preaches the doctrine without words;
All things take their rise, but he does not turn away from them;
He gives them life, but does not take possession of them;
He acts, but does not appropriate;
Accomplishes, but claims no credit.
It is because he lays claim to no credit
That the credit cannot be taken away from him.” – Laozi, Ch. 2

What Laozi is teaching Chapter 2 is the Daoist concept of Non-Attachment. The Sage gives life to all in the form of his/her teachings or examples, just as Laozi has given us the spirit to live a righteous and purposeful life in accordance with the doctrine of the Tao. Yet he did not take possession of that doctrine or claim it as his own. He simply said, here it is and road off on his ox into the West never to be heard from again. Nevertheless because he did not lay claim to the Tao Te Ching, credit cannot be taken away from him although many scholars have tried. So, it’s not just what they preach, but it is what Sages like Laozi and Zhuangzi do and how they have lived their lives that puts makes their “doctrine without words” come alive for us.

Then in Chapter 9 Laozi looks at this concept from the other side, namely Attachment:
“When gold and jade fill your hall,
You will not be able to keep them safe.
To be proud with wealth and honor
Is to sow seeds of one’s own downfall.
Retire when your work is done,
Such is Heaven’s way.”

Here a person is so attached to gold and jade that they must live nearly every waking hour worrying over how to protect it from would-be thieves. Another person takes so much pride in their wealth and honor that their attachment will lead to their downfall. Others are so attached to their work in a prideful way that they spend every moment they can putting up photos of their latest achievement on Instagram and Facebook.

We, too, in our internal arts training get so attached to our successes that we want everyone to know about it. That motivation becomes a goal in itself, and we lose sight of the simple act of dispassionate, quiet progress, a progress stripped of all the bells ‘n whistles. On the other hand, sometimes we get completely attached to our failures or seeming inability (one of the serious problems that I had) that we come to believe it is permanent and impossible to overcome.

So, what’s the antidote. Simply letting go. Let go of your attachments to the positives as well as the negatives.

06/17/2021

“If there is not inner repose, then the mind will be galloping about though you are sitting still. Let your ears and eyes communicate within but shut out all knowledge from the mind. Then the spirits will come to dwell therein, not to mention man. This is the method for the transformation (influencing) of all Creation.” – Zhuangzi, Ch. 4, This Human World

Another quote from the Zhuangzi, Ch. 4, This Human World, this one is very similar to the quote used yesterday from Laozi, Chapter 52, “Block the passages, shut the doors…” Both of these much respected and often quoted ancient masters are giving us the same advice. Calm yourself and sit quietly in repose. It’s okay to have thoughts in your mind as long as they are focused on what is going on inside, not outside in this present moment, not in the future or the past. And there should be a lot going on within in this present moment.

We should bring our mind to the lower abdomen and focus on our dispersed dantian, trying to consolidate the yin qi of which it was comprised. Once the mind is positioned in the field of the dantian, next we must focus on guiding the breath to where our mind is. Once mind and breath are in position, then the work of consolidating the yin qi can begin. There’s no place for external thoughts or interruptions or worldly interjections in this kind of work. It’s purely internal. So, get to work and Good luck with it.

06/16/2021

“Concentrate your will! Hear not with your ears, but with your mind, not with your mind, but with your spirit. Let your listening stop with the ears, and let your mind stop with its images. Let your spirit, however, be empty- passively responsive to externals. In such open receptivity only can Tao abide. And that open receptivity – that emptiness – is the fasting of the heart.” – The Fasting of the Heart, from Zhuangzi, Ch. 4, This Human World

When you were a child every experience was new. This newness made Life so full, so vibrant and zestful. New pleasures, new food, new tastes, new toys, new games, new places to go and things to do. But as you grew into adulthood and experienced more and more, Life began to lose some of its luster. By the time you are forty, new experiences and pleasures are few and far in between. Our heart-mind – the emotional mind – has learned that pleasure isn’t so easy to come by anymore. It really has to work at it and becomes more willing to make an effort to obtain it. Thus, one becomes addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex or greed. When you finally open up to the fact that your addiction is the only thing that can stimulate your senses, and even that is starting to decline.

Life at this point has not only become dull but quite problematic. Your brain is overwhelmed from all the judging, analyzing, criticizing and fantasizing that it has been forced to do, trying desperately to find new experiences so one can enjoy Life once again. When the body has become overwhelmed from eating too many high-caloric, super-rich foods, there’s only one thing to do. Detox! Detoxifying the body usually entails some form of fasting to bring the body back to ground zero, where it can once again find pleasure in normal everyday foods.

It is no different for the heart-mind. It needs to come back to ground zero as well, which means it needs to reset. And it can only do that by detoxifying. This is where “Fasting of the Heart” comes in. As Laozi advises in Chapter 52 of the Tao Te Ching:
“Block the passages, shut the doors,
And till the end your strength shall not fail.
Open up the passages, increase your doings,
And till your last day no help shall come to you.”

This does not have to be a long-term commitment. Abstaining for even a short period can weaken the grip our addictions have on our emotions, which are the motivations that drive us. Detoxing our mind from these external influences and the whirlwind of pressures we put on ourselves trying to revitalize our lives with TV, movies, video games, sweets, sodas, binge eating, alcohol, drugs, etc., can be mind expanding as well as restorative. Just like our bodies, it is vital to let our minds rest. As Laozi points out, silencing our senses and mental faculties for a period will not only replenishes our energy, but brings us closer to being aligned with the Tao.

06/15/2021

“The Sun rises over the Earth:
The image of PROGRESS.
Thus the superior man himself
Brightens his bright future.”
– I Ching, Image of Hexagram 35, Chin/Progress

Here’s an exercise for cultivators and non-cultivators alike to help you make progress in your mental training and brighten your future as Hexagram 35 suggests. I like the fact that this exercise develops several much-needed mental qualities. First, it develops discernment and clarity. Secondly, it also develops and strengthens your awareness. Thirdly, it helps you make adjustments and add variety to your lifestyle. And finally, it just may strengthen your mind against Alzheimer’s as you age.

This is what you do. Simply recall any 15-minute segment of your day. You can start out with this morning and recall the things you did once you got out of bed. Maybe you stretched a little or a lot. Maybe you went to the bathroom and brushed your teeth and took a shower. Or maybe you skipped the shower and combed your hair or shaved. You may instead want to recall what you made for breakfast over a 15-minute time span. Or maybe you delayed breakfast and exercised instead. Whatever it was, just sit comfortably and recall as much as possible.

That’s it. Easy, no? No! Here’s the catch. You do not simply recall what you did but recollect it in real time along with all the “physical” sensations – temperature, smells, tastes, tightness or openness in the joints or muscles. You are recalling in realtime a somatic experience linked to the physical “body” mind. You are not recalling an intellectual or emotional experience linked to our everyday heart/mind which has the emotional subconscious mind attached. So, you don’t think about or attach emotional feelings – likes and dislikes, satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

So, you do this every day for a week. Pick the same segment every day. You will notice by the end of the week how much more aware you are during that segment because your body knows it will need to recall the total somatic experience. You will not do everything the same exact way each day. Fine, that’s to be expected. Now the following week go back to the previous week and pick out the next to last day. So, let’s say today is Monday. So, the last day of the previous week was yesterday, Sunday. Then Saturday was the next to last day. You are now recalling the segment of a day that was two days ago. Keep doing this, picking the day before yesterday, and try to recall everything in that 15-minute segment. Do this for about a week. Then go out a week. What did you do that first morning a week ago? Recall as much as you can in real time.

Do you see how this challenges your physical awareness as well as your memory and how much better your memory functions with those interfering emotions stripped away. This is a major step in developing the discernment and clarity of an ordered mind. Also, seeing how your body automatically adjustments to what it does on each successive day will help you break routines and maybe even some old habits that you can do without. More about this in another lesson. So, give it a try, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Remember, have fun!

06/14/2021

“Deal with the difficult while yet it is easy;
Deal with the big while yet it is small.” Laozi, Ch. 63

Again I am using a Laozi quote from the Tao Te Ching to conclude my thoughts on stress. Always try to deal with stressful problems before they become stressful. This means you must add discernment and clarity to your awareness so you can recognize that a situation is about to become problematic. Usually, you can tell when someone is about to dump a load on you by the way they carry themselves as they approach you. This is the time to excuse yourself, “I’m sorry, Bob or Susan, but I can’t talk right now. Got to run. I need to…(Fill in the blank). In the case of a spouse, you can usually discern a problem by the look in their eyes as he/she approaches with a… “Honey, I can use your help for a second.”

If you analyze that request, what he/she is really saying is: “Honey, I would like you to deal with this problem I have, so I can relax for a while and then do something easier.” But it’s not only the problems that others put on you; it’s the problems you put on yourself. The solution, however, is the same. Use your discernment and clarity to see that you are about to make a problem for yourself or find an easy solution before this minor problem grows into something larger.

Tomorrow, I will take a look at a method for developing your discernment  and clarity.

06/13/2021

“Life arises from Death and vice versa,
Possibility arises from Impossibility and vice versa.”
– Zhuangzi, Ch. 2, Leveling All Things

Receiving force as we do in the tui shou (push hands) aspect of tai chi has been misinterpreted over the years by both teachers and students alike. In some forms of tai chi, it has been taught that the “receiving” of force is sent down through the body to the feet. Then the pressure on the feet releases and the force that was received now moves upward through the connective tissue and issues back through the contact points into your partner. While this is true for practicing with willing partners or actually pushing with inexperienced beginners and unskillful partners.

But when pushing with an advanced practitioner, “receiving” becomes “spreading.” We need to spread that incoming force in two directions. First, we spread it throughout our body not just down to the feet. Secondly, we spread it through the contact point and into our opponent’s body, locking it in the opponent’s lower abdomen (dan tian area) and into the hips, locking the opponent, who will be unable to move away. As always, keep practicing and above all have fun, enjoy!

06/12/2921

“Stretch a bow to its fullest,
and you will wish you had stopped in time.
Temper a sword to its very sharpest,
and the edge will not last long.”
– Laozi, Ch. 9

One of the worse things we as internal arts practitioners can do is to take on too much stress. Avoiding stress altogether is impossible. There’s plenty of it all around, much more than enough for every man, woman and child. There’s stress from our environment: tornadoes, hurricanes, wild fires, earthquakes, floods and the like. There’s stress from mechanical breakdowns: vehicles, washers and dryers, air conditioners, and a host more. Then there’s stress from the people around us: significant others, bosses, fellow employees, neighbors, relatives, even friends. Like any good tui shou (push hands) proponent knows, these are the ones you need too neutralize. You need to limit how much and how deeply you let them get into you. This is where setting limits comes in, which leads to the most important stressor of all.

That stressor is exactly what Laozi’s quote is referring to. This is the stress we put on ourselves by not setting limits on the people around us, especially the ones we interact with the most, and allowing them to stretch our bow to its fullest. Don’t wait until it reaches that point. Actually, you are not neutralizing them but instead you are neutralizing the pressure or stress they are putting on you. So realize “it’s no big deal.” That’s true, it isn’t. Most people are usually in the fight or flight mode and tend to blow situations up way out of proportions. So, they take the stress they have put on themselves and are trying to force it on you. Don’t fall for it. Use the discernment and clarity that you have gained from mindful awareness and meditation and kindly show them how illogical their reasoning is. But always be cordial and non-combative as you decline to take on their stress. If they are still being unreasonable, then have an escape route planned and use a viable escape line to make your exit.

Most importantly, you can use the above methods on the greatest stressor of them all – yourself – your egoic mind whenever you find it trapped in that same flight or fight mode, demand that you keep going. Take a few deep breaths and relax into the parasympathetic nervous system. Then see the illogic in your need to keep going trying to do too much. Remember, “there’s always tomorrow”…unless you kill yourself today with the stressful demands you are putting on your body. Enjoy life and have fun. What the world most definitely doesn’t need is one more workaholic.

06/11/2021

“Attain the utmost in Passivity,
Hold firm to the basis of Quietude.” – Laozi, Ch. 16

It is extremely hard to attain passivity or hold firm to quietude when workmen are banging away right above your head. But that’s what I was faced with this week, and today I am grateful. I guess you could call me a jumpy person. I am usually startled by loud sounds. All week workman have been putting in a new roof on our building, and my condo unit is on the third floor, the top one, with the roof just overhead. So, all week I have been dealing with this extremely loud and abrupt banging, grinding, chiseling. The suddenness of the noise had me flinching and jumping as I tried to work on Daoist mental training and meditation. Needless to say, I was extremely agitated and angered by the constant disturbances.

However, by today, I was getting used to the noisy interruptions, and at one point my angered subsided and I gave thanks for those interruptions. Without them, I would not have learned to control my nerves and realize the deep meaning of Laozi’s words: “Hold firm to the basis of Quietude.”

Here’s hoping that all of you can go through life holding firm to the basis of Quietude. Have a great weekend, and keep up your practice.

06/10/2021

“Conduct free from the ambition of being distinguished above others is what is called being Generous” – Zhungzi, Chapter 12

Here Zhuangzi is pointing out that the superior person remains free of arrogance and self-pride, no matter how great his/her accomplishments. Instead, the superior person is quite generous in praising others for their roles and support in those accomplishments. Of course, I’m sure many of us know practitioners and even so-called masters steeped in the pride and glory of accumulating honors and trophies, that project just the opposite. But instead of being truly distinguished they have fallen away from the Tao and by doing so have actually dishonored themselves.

So, as we continue our practice in the internal arts, let us recall Zhuangzi’s words and not assume a false sense of pride in our accomplishments or criticize others for theirs.  Remember, there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.

06/09/2021

“Mountains standing close together,
The Image of Keeping Still.
Thus the superior man (the Sage/Master)
Does not permit his thoughts
To go beyond his situation.”
– I Ching, Hexagram 52, Ken, Mountain, Keeping Still

Yesterday, we looked at the first part of the quote from the Image of Hexagram 52, Mountains standing close together, the Image of Keeping Still, which is also the Image of Wuji, standing still like a mountain. I mentioned how important standing in Wuji is for internal arts practitioners. Wuji conditions the body via the Huang or connective tissues. Thus the body becomes dynamic, elongated and uses qi rather than muscle force, so that the qi moves through the stretched connective tissue as jin.

Today, I want to mention the second part of the above quote: “Thus the superior man (the Sage/Master)does not permit his thoughts to go beyond his situation.” The keyword here is ‘situation.’ Richard Wilhelm in his commentary states: “The heart thinks constantly. This cannot be changed, but the movements of the heart-that is, a man’s thoughts-should restrict themselves to the immediate situation. All thinking that goes beyond this only makes the heart sore.”

Wilhelm is referring to the Daoist practice of Mental Training. It is not meditation where a practitioner will try to slow the mind and even eliminate thoughts, but it could lead to deeper meditation and certainly keener awareness. Here’s how it works. Sit straight up on the floor or in a chair but do not use the back rest. Instead, move to the front of the chair and straighten. Close your eyes and listen internally to your body and externally to the world outside for anything that is “immediate.” Now, unlike meditation, you are going to think rather than trying to stop thinking. So, you hear a car passing and think “What direction is it going, to my right or to my left?” “Does it sound large, like a van or SUV?” Then, “I’d like to get a newer car. Mine’s getting old…STOP! Not immediate! Discard and go back to listening. You feel a twitch in your spine and think “My body’s making an adjustment. I need to sit up straighter. There’s a twitch in my shoulder near the collarbone. Relax, let go.” Then another car passes and you think “Car passing…to the left…sounds like it’s moving pretty fast.” Then your stomach gurgles. “Ah, there goes my stomach. I’m getting hungry. Wonder what I should make for lunch. Or maybe I should go out for lunch…STOP! Not Immediate! Discard and go back to listening. “I hear a bird chirping. Do I know what kind of bird makes that sound? It’s not raspy like a crow. Maybe it’s a robin or blue jay. I used to date a girl named Robin, she was…STOP! Not Immediate! Discard and go back to listening.

That’s it, the Daoist Mental Training method to build awareness. It doesn’t have to be very long, ten or fifteen minutes. You can even do it while driving or standing in a checkout line. So, add it to your practice and see if it improves your overall awareness.

06/08/2021

“Mountains standing close together,
The Image of Keeping Still.
Thus the superior man (the Sage/Master)
Does not permit his thoughts
To go beyond his situation.”
– I Ching, Hexagram 52, Ken, Mountain, Keeping Still

Today, I want to touch on the first part of the I Ching quotation – standing and keeping still – as it relates to the Daoist internal arts. We can take a look at that second part which focuses on the superior man and his thoughts tomorrow.

Most tai chi, baguazhang and qigong practitioners have heard of “Zhan Zhuang,” standing like a tree. It’s a form of qigong where one encircles the arms outward as though hugging a tree and remains standing as still as possible. But the practice I want to look at is standing in Wuji, the primal posture. In my particular Nei Gong and internal arts practice, we don’t stand in Zhan Zhuang but rather in Wuji. Why?

Both postures require stillness over a certain period of time, and both condition the body if practiced diligently. However, Zhan Zhuang conditions the body via the muscles. But Wuji conditions the body via the Huang or connective tissues.
So, in turn, we get two different shaped bodies. The Zhan Zhuang body is muscular and able to generate power by contracting the muscles. The Wuji body is dynamic, elongated and uses qi rather than muscle force, so that the qi moves through the stretched connective tissue as jin, is issued outward through various parts of the body.

Standing in Wuji, a practitioner’s body is only still externally. Internally, there is a lot of very subtle movement occurring as the body makes its own internal adjustments to eventually condition itself into the most efficient shape for conducting qi. The practitioner actually releases or separates the large action muscle groups from the bones. We call this “hanging the muscles from the bones.” We do this to get the muscles out of the way. When contracted, as in Zhan Zhuang, the muscles actually compress the Huang, preventing it from opening up and stretching. Ideally, with the large action muscles out of the way, the body’s mass will drop through the connective tissues, stretching and opening them as it descends to the feet. Then a very unique thing happens in the feet.

When the body’s mass drops into the forward section of the feet, the metatarsal bones around the Yong Quan (the Kidney 1 point in acupuncture) spread out from the pressure, opening the whole area around the Yong Quan. This allows the Yin Qi from the Earth’s Qi Field to enter the feet and move up through the Huang in the legs and into the lower Dan Tian area where it joins with the dispersed Yin Qi from childhood and adolescence to rebuild the Dan Tian. Once this happens, a practitioner is in position to begin filling the Dan Tian with Yang Qi, the first step in becoming proficient in Daoist internal arts.

Hopefully, you can now see why it is so important to stand in Wuji often in your weekly practice sessions.  Good luck with your training.

06/07/2021

“Flow with whatever may happen, and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.” – Zhuangzi

Yesterday I met my partner at a park where our former group & master meets. One of the groups most accomplished tai chi exponents came back. Now an out-of-towner, he hadn’t come for over a year due to the pandemic. With no tai chi people around, he spent over a year at his park working with external martial artists (systema, jiujitsu, etc) and got trounced at first. Once he got hit so hard that his childhood and early life flashed before him. Not about to back down, he kept going to the park and continued sparring. Determined to make his tai chi work against his opponents, he contemplated it a lot in his spare time and was finally able to hold his own against these external martial artists.

As we worked together yesterday, he kept “swallowing” me like the last gulp of Key lime pie. During the past year, he realized the problem most tai chi masters have sparring with external fighters is that they are double-weighted and don’t know it. They don’t move their center, their zhong ding. It gets caught, and they get “swallowed.” They’re too used to moving slowly. But the external exponents move quickly, and we need to move our center as quickly as they move or our tai chi skills are useless. And, above all, you can’t tense up or you will be double-weighted. In other words, we must get into the same flow as our opponent, keeping the Zhong Ding flowing with each move he makes. But as he pointed out, before you can flow, you must “Fang Song.” The same with throwing a punch. Your fist can’t be tightly closed or your muscles will tense. Basically, he used the laogong to stretch his palm but left his fingers lose enough to wiggle so he could close his hand into a relaxed fist.

Before leaving, he said the same exact thing that my teacher said in one of his instructional videos. You can’t have any anger or maliciousness toward your opponent even when you are losing. He did have anger, but it was toward himself because he couldn’t figure out how to solve the problem. But when he eventually did, he became calm and “Song,” no matter how intense the sparring, whether he was winning or losing.

Hope this helps with your training and advancement. Good luck with your practice.

06/06/2021

We have fears because we have a self (body and mind).
When we do not regard that self as self, what have we to fear?” – Laozi, Chapter 13

Continuing our thoughts from yesterday, we go deeper into finding those fears and insecurities that have driven us to take up martial arts in the first place, whether internal or external. So, ask yourself: Is your training tackling those fears and insecurities. If the answer is no, then your training is not working. First, you must identify those insecurities. What are they? Like Laozi suggests, the fears center around your body. Feeling that is your real self, you are fearful of injury, pain or even death. Are there insecurities surrounding your abilities to protect your body, to avoid pain or any kind of suffering? Can you find them? No? Then look deeper because everyone has them. There are no exceptions, not for kings, presidents, movie and recording stars, sports heroes, multi-billionaires. They are the root for what you do and especially for those things you have done that make you feel ashamed or guilty.

If your training is improving your confidence at facing these insecurities, then it’s working. If you see these fears disappearing, then it’s working. If, when you face a confrontational or stressful situation, no matter what it is – a lost job, an unfaithful lover or spouse, a failing business, or a heated argument, can you remain calm and settled? Then your training is working. If those kinds of situations are becoming less and less stressful and you feel more and more confident with them, then your training is working.

Do you manage to remain true to yourself when faced with temptation or difficulty? No? Then your training isn’t working and neither is your introspection. You must go deeper in both. Go deeper into your xin (the heart/mind) into your emotions and find what is not letting you remain true to yourself when faced with difficulty. And go deeper into your practice to become as efficient as you possibly can. Then you must realize that all techniques will lose their efficiency when fueled by anger or other emotions. Can you spar with someone and have no maliciousness, spite or anger aimed at that person, especially if your are losing? Then both your training and personal cultivation are going very well. And I wish you continued success

06/05/2021

“What does this mean: What we value and what we fear are within our Self?”
We have fears because we have a self (body and mind).
When we do not regard that self as self, what have we to fear?” – Laozi, Chapter 13

What are you afraid of? You know the answer. It is right there, lurking under layers of suppression. But no matter how hard you have tried, it is still there. It won’t go away – not if you keep letting it dictate your life. In all of your big decisions and even many small ones, it is there. You might not recognize it, but your mind can sense it.

The reason I ask is the fact that many of us, no actually, most of us who have become involved in some form of martial arts have done so out of this fear that is driving us. In my case, I’m an abject coward and came to martial arts hoping to change that. I wasn’t always a coward. When I was young, I got into a few fights basically to prove to myself that I wasn’t a coward and could handle myself. But after a few major defeats and getting hit hard, it was time to own up to the fact that I just couldn’t handle myself or just about anyone else my size or larger. And so I entered into martial arts, thinking I could make myself into something I really wasn’t – a fighter.

So, that’s my greatest fear, and I will ask again: What’s yours? And can martial arts, and especially the internal arts help in any way, shape or form? I will have more on this tomorrow when we will go deeper.

06/04/2021

“If there is still something where one has to go,
Hastening brings good fortune.” from Hexagram 40, I Ching, Hsieh/Deliverance

This quote from the I Ching is about something that we all need to do – tie up the loose ends. When we make a decision to take action, and it turns out to be in harmony with our fate, we should not press on any further. According to Hexagram 40, returning to but our “regular order of life as soon as the task is achieved bring good fortune. However Deliverance also points out that, if there are any residual matter that ought to be attended to, it should be done as quickly as possible. In that way a clean sweep is made and no relapses occur.

So, if there are no loose end, then there is no need to press on. Simply return to your normal order of life, which should be as Daoist sages would recommend, peaceful introspection. But if there are some loose ends, don’t let them dangle; they will only grow larger and more difficult to handle. Take care of them as quickly as possible, so they cannot come back to hurt you. Then return to your “regular order of life.” Good advice from the I Ching.

06/03/2021

“To stop leaving tracks is easy. Not to walk upon the ground is hard.” – Zhuangzi

When I contracted prostate cancer some 26 years ago, I shed about 25 pounds with various diets. Ten years later when I had recovered from the cancer, I was well into my tai chi practice. But I found it was impossible for me to put on the lost weight. Refusing to do anything drastic, I resigned myself to the fact that I would be forever thin and frail. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided it might be best to return to resistance training to build up my strength, which I would definitely need should I become infected with the virus. With my gym closed due to the pandemic, I did the best I could at home with some dumbbells, hand weights, a weight vest, and one-gallon water bottles. While I didn’t put on any weight, I did feel stronger and perhaps a bit more muscular.

Then I decide to return to internal arts training, joining an online academy with an absolutely incredible teacher. Needless to say, I gave up the weight training to focus on tai chi, nei gong, baguazhang and meditation six days a week anywhere from 2 to 4 hours daily. It’s usually not a good idea when you are first building your dantian and working with your qi. My teacher advised against it until the jin was more available and the connective tissues were mostly open. However, a few weeks ago, I was diagnosed with osteoporosis (severe bone loss). My doctor and many experts recommended resistance training to build the bones. So, now I was faced with a decision: qi or bones. But I decided I would do qi and bones.

Here’s what I did. Our teacher is a proponent of classic tai chi and nei gong where one hangs the muscles from the bones and drops the flesh while holding the bones up. If one follows the “bones up and flesh down” method, sinking the weight mass through the connective tissue and down to the floor, it is very much like resistance training. So, I do this with slow moving Ba Men exercises and in the form, pausing at key postures to really sink the flesh, and the resistance becomes intensive.

As for actual resistance training, I keep that separate from my internal arts practice. I takes breaks during the day where I put on my 20-pound weight vest, a pair of hand weights and some fast shuffle music to combine aerobics with resistance. I will do this while cooking in the kitchen or cleaning up, and especially when jumping and shuffling on my mini trampoline.
Either before or after my internal arts practice, I work with dumbbells, hand weights, water bottles and resistance bands keeping tai chi and the yi jing jin principles in mind. How?

First I stand in Wuji opening my kua and my joints, aware of hanging my muscles from the bones like well-cooked meat hanging on a spit and sinking my flesh through the connective tissue. Next I listen to my limbs making sure there is no weight in the joints. I lift my head as though held by a meat hook and alternate raising the head and dragging the kua and pelvis; then lowering the pelvis and dragging the head and shoulder. After a few of these, and my weight mass has sunk through my connective tissue and landed on my feet, I let my mind soak through my body like a sponge. Then I feel the resistance of the weight before slowly lifting or pulling as you move from the kua, keeping my shoulders in line and head straight. Making sure my mind and body are completely connected, I slowly initiate the movement.

06/02/2021

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be” – Laozi

In the above quote, Laozi is talking about “release.” Release or letting go is such an important concept in everyday life as well as our internal arts practice. In taiji, for example, when you work on the form, you send your body mass downward through all the connective tissue stretching them as your mass drops. Then when your mass presses into your foot, you simply release the pressure in the foot and then send the energy of the weight mass upward through the stretched tissue. When working with a partner, you do the same thing. The only difference here is that instead of releasing the weight of your body mass, you are sending your partner’s force downward through the connective tissue, then releasing that force by relaxing your foot, thus effectively sending that force upward, returning it into your partner.

In life, it is much the same. When you feel that pressure, which we often call stress, you need to release it. You don’t need it, and you certainly don’t need to keep it. So, release it. Let it go. Simply tell your Mind that you want to breathe it away. Then relax, take a couple of deep breaths and then sit comfortably, let your breathing return to normal and just observe the breath for a short while. It’s not magic; it’s just body-mind conditioning or what I like to call re-positioning.

Today, I was doing tui shou (push hands) with my training partner and noticed that I could not release his pressure if it was into my heel. So, what did I do? The next time he position, I re-positioned myself to make sure his pressure would fall on either the center or the forward part of my foot, where I could easily manage to release it. This was not only a good lesson for tai chi; it was a great lesson for everyday life.

Remember yesterday, I wrote about limitation. Not only are there the limits that life in general poses for us, but there are limits we unconsciously place on ourselves. Now, just as I would not have noticed the pressure on my heel and being unable to release it in the push hands drill unless I was observant of my whole body and not just the spot where my partner was pushing. So too, with limitations in life. You first need to be observant, aware. Don’t be so anxious to break through those limits or find a way around them. It’s more important to calmly look at what they are and where they come from. The ‘How?’ will arise on its own accord from what you have discovered. Then re-position and make your adjustment.

Here’s wishing you a stress-free, pressure-free day.

06/01/2021

“Limitation. Success.
Galling limitation must not be persevered in” – I Ching #60, Chieh, Limitation

Do you know your limits? Why do the I Ching and Daoist sages and masters consider limitation indispensable? Why does the I Ching seem to imply that it will lead to success. Basically, limits are necessary. I won’t say that they are a necessary evil. Instead, perhaps, I can say they are a necessary benefit. They tell us so much about ourselves and our world. They let us know how much we can spend and help us to live frugally within our budget as most Daoist sages will attest to They let us know when we have gone too far physically through exhaustion or physical pain like that of an overworked muscle. They let us know when we have eaten too much or, for that matter, drank too much. They let us know when we need more sleep. They even help us to learn what we much avoid. Knowing your limits is possibly the first step on the path to success. It is certainly the first step on the Path of the Dao. After all limitation is basically a synonym for the reciprocal action of Yin and Yang, which, when followed, tells us when conditions are about to change, whether in our personal life or in the physical world around us. So, be thankful that you have limitations and accept them rather than trying to avoid or defeat them. Work with them rather than against them. By persevering, the conditions that set those limitations will eventually change. So be patient and let wisdom be your guide.

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.

Commentary for November, 2019

11/28/2019 Thanksgiving Day

My one and only commentary this month comes appropriately on Thanksgiving Day. It is not exactly a commentary but commendation to all those ancient masters whose voices from antiquity speak and touch me deeply. It is their voices, their observances of which I read, absorb and comment on throughout the year. Therefore, I am most thankful to Laozi, Zhuangzi and those very ancient ones that came long before them who looked at the configurations of the Heavens and read their Signs and observed our Earth and uncovered its Patterns. Thus they came to understand the axiom of Life and Death and passed it along to the sages who succeeded them.

And I, too, would like to pass along my heartfelt thoughts to all of you as I wish you and all humanity (yes, including the President) a Happy and Joyous Thanksgiving.

In Stillness

One crow streaking across the overcast sky
in a damp and gloomy rain.
Then stillness
Moments later, two crows come together
and fly off in unison over the valley.

The young trees stand in perfect stillness,
then a sudden wind jolts them back and forth.
Moments later, they return to stillness,
as thought never disturbed.

A perfected heart-mind must be like this.
Resting in stillness and never moving
until inspired by “THE CHANGES”
in the flow of the Tao,
and always returning to stillness.

A perfected heart-mind never waits,
but rests in stillness.
For in waiting there is anticipation.
But in resting, there is a joyous stillness,
undisturbed by the machinations of an egoic will.

In that resting there is an intuitive knowing,
Not of knowledge,
but of a deep inner trust.
Only a restful heart-mind at peace
can sense the subtle fluctuations
in the flow of the Tao
In that inner trust there is virtue and power.

 

See Hexagram #61 Inner Trust and have a Happy and Joyous Thanksgiving

OCTOBER, 2019

10/30//2019

I thought we would end October with a little diversion from Laozi and Zhuangzi and take a brief look at the most ancient Taoist text of all, the “I Ching” (the Book of Changes). Laozi, Confucius and Zhuangzi were all greatly inspired by the Changes. We might say that the Changes was the very root of their works and Chinese philosophy in general.

From Wang Bi’s Commentary on the I Ching (“Changes”) Appended Phrases, Part I, Section 4:

“The ancient sages created the “Changes” (the I Ching) to provide a paradigm of Heaven and Earth, and so it shows how one can fill in and pull together the Dao of Heaven and Earth. Looking up, we use it (the Changes) to observe the configurations of Heaven, and, looking down, we use it to examine the patterns of Earth. Thus, we understand the reasons underlying what is hidden and what is clear. We trace things back to their origins then turn back to their ends. Thus, we understand the axiom of Life and Death.” (The hidden and the clear involves images that have form and do not have form. Life and Death are a matter of fate’s allotment for one’s beginning and end.”

Wang Bi’s Commentary on Chapter 35, Dao De Ching:

The “Great Image” is the mother of the images of Heaven. (The images of Heaven are the sun, moon, planets and constellations. The “great Image” image is another way to refer to the Dao.) It is neither hot or cold, warm or cool. Thus, it can perfectly embrace the myriad things, and none suffers any harm…The great image is formless. As soon as there is a form, distinctions exist, and with distinctions, if something is not warm, it must be cool, if something is not hot, it must be cold. Thus, an image that has a form is not the great image (the Dao)”

Continuing Wang’s Commentary on the I Ching, Part 1, Section 4

“When material force consolidates into essence (jingqi), it meshes together, and with this coalescence, a person comes into being. When such coalescence reaches its end, disintegration occurs, and with the dissipation of one’s spirit (youhun), change occurs. If one thoroughly comprehends the principle underlying coalescence and dissipation, he will be able to understand the Dao of Change and Transformation, and nothing that is hidden will remain outside his grasp.”

In Section 5 of Wang’s Commentary, he analyzes the reciprocal process:

“The reciprocal process of yin and yang is called the Dao. What is this Dao? It is a name for non-being (wu); it is that which pervades everything and from which everything derives. As an equivalent, we dll it Dao. As it operates silently and is without substand, it is not possible to provide images for it. Only when the functioning of being reaches its zenith do the merits of nonbeing become manifest. Therefore, even though it so happens that the numinous is not restricted to place and change and is without substance, yet the Dao itself can be seen: it is by investigating change thoroughly, that one exhausts all the potential of the numinous. and it is through the numinous that one clarifies what the Dao is. Although yin and yang are different entities, we deal with them in terms of the unity of nonbeing. When the Dao is in he Yin state, it does not actually exist as yin, but it is by means of yin, that it comes into existence, and when it is in the yang state, it does not actually exist as yang, but it is by means yang that it comes into being. This is why it is referred to as ‘the reciprocal process of yin and yang.

(It is important for me to point out that the choice of the word “state” is not quite right. The Dao, the infinite, absolute Oneness, doesn’t have any “states,” and for that matter neither does a process. A phase or stage may be a better choice of words. As an analogy, we can liken the reciprocal process of the Dao to our own phases of waking and sleeping. which like yand and yin, are different phases. Thus, when the Dao is in its Yin phase, it is dormant. Unlike our own sleep phase, the Dao’s dormancy can last for eons. Does this mean that the Dao is completely still, empty. No, that is why Wang Bi states “it does not actually exists as yin.” Let’s use the analogy of breathing to explain. When we are in our sleep phase, Yin, usually at night, are we completely empty and still? Do we exhale as we enter our Yin phase then never inhale and fill up? No, not at all. Though we are dormant, we continue our breathing cycle throughout the night despite it being an unconscious process. The same is true for our waking phase, Yang. Our breathing cycle, though usually not a conscious process unless there is a problem, continues from exhale to inhale throughout the day. The same is true for the Dao. At this moment, the Dao is in its Yang phase, having manifested as the living Universe or Nature. Still, the Dao cannot be said to actually exist as yang because its energy cycle of Yin stimulating Yang and vice versa continues through the present eon.)

Continuing Wang’s Commentary on the I Ching, Part 1, Section 5:

That which allows the Dao to continue to operate is human goodness (shan), and that which allows it to bring things to completion is human nature (xing). The benevolent see it and call it benevolence; the wise (zhi) see it and call it wisdom. It function for the common folk on a daily bases, yet they are unaware of it. This is why the Dao of the noble man is a rare thing! {Here, Richard John Lynn, the translator comments: The noble man embodies the Dao and applies it as function, but if it is merely the benevolent and wise, then they are limited to just what they see of it, and if it is the common folk, then it functions for them on a daily basis, but they are unaware of it. Those who truly embody this Dao are they not indeed rare! Thus, as it is said, “always be without desire so as to see its subtlety.” This is how one can begin to talk about its perfection and address its ultimate meaning.}

(Again, I must point out that the last line which Lynn quotes – “always be without desire so as to see its subtlety” – is the exact wording he uses for Wang Bi’s translation of Laozi’s Tao Te Ching, Chapter 1, paragraph 3. Then in the very next paragraph, Lynn’s translation has Laozi stating “And always have desire to see their ends.” Confusing? Wang Bi explains: “Subtlety is the absolute degree of minuteness. As the myriad things reach completion only after originating in minuteness, {Think back to how each of us started as infinitesimal fertilized cells in our mothers’ wombs}, so they are born only after originating in nothingness. Thus always be without desire and remain empty, so that you can see the subtlety with which things originate.” Then after the fourth stanza, he adds, “Ends here means the ends to which things revert. If anything that exists is to be of benefit, it must function out of nothing. Only when desire is rooted in such a way that it is in accord with the Dao will it prove beneficial. Thus always have such desire that you can see those ends to which things finally arrive.”)

Have a Happy and Safe Halloween, and see you in November.

10/13/2019

We start off October with one of Zhuangzi’s famous parables, the story of Cook Ting (Ding)

Cook Ting was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen-hui. At every touch of his hand, every heave of his shoulder, every move of his feet, every thrust of his knee – zip! zoop! He slithered the knife along with a zing, and all was in perfect rhythm, as though he were performing the dance of the Mulberry Grove or keeping time to the Ching-shou music.

“Ah, this is marvelous!” said Lord Wen-hui. “Imagine skill reaching such heights!”

Cook Ting laid down his knife and replied, “What I care about is the Way, which goes beyond skill. When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. And now – now I go at it by spirit and don’t look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and follow things as they are. So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.

“A good cook changes his knife once a year-because he cuts. A mediocre cook changes his knife once a month-because he hacks. I’ve had this knife of mine for nineteen years and I’ve cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the blade is as good as though it had just come from the grindstone. There are spaces between the joints, and the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there’s plenty of room – more than enough for the blade to play about it. That’s why after nineteen years the blade of my knife is still as good as when it first came from the grindstone.

“However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I’m doing, work very slowly, and move the knife with the greatest subtlety, until – flop! the whole thing comes apart like a clod of earth crumbling to the ground. I stand there holding the knife and look all around me, completely satisfied and reluctant to move on, and then I wipe off the knife and put it away.”

“Excellent!” said Lord Wen-hui. “I have heard the words of Cook Ting and learned how to care for life!”

COMMENTARY: This is a follow up to Zhuangzi’s other classic parable in Chapter 1, the Butterfly Dream, in which Zhuangzi co-stars as the lead character in his own parable along with a butterfly. Uncertain as to whether he is really Zhuangzi dreaming that he is a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming that he is Zhuangzi, he doubts his own existence. Instead, this Self that he has always known himself to be, may actually be a completely different Self. Or, perhaps there is no self. It is obvious the parable points out a stage of self-doubt in Zhuangzi’s life. However, some have said the point is that Zhuangzi actually finds himself in a Buddhist-like state of No-Self, the final goal. But is it? Is that what Zhuangzi really intended?

Well, in the very next Chapter, we find the parable of Cook Ting (Ding) above and realize that this No-Self phase is not a final goal, but to Zhuangzi and Cook Ting. it is only a transition toward the final goal?

Cook Ting says: “When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. (This is the state of ordinary mind or Cheng Xin) After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. (This is the Butterfly Dream stage of No-Self) And now – now I go at it by spirit and don’t look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. (This stage is the real final goal of discovering the True Self or Chang Xin.)  I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and follow things as they are. (This is following Nature or following the Tao, which is how we reach the Ultimate Self.) So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.” (Laozi advice of not allowing small problems to turn into huge ones).

The final two paragraphs with Cook Ting explaining how he cares for his knife is, as Lord Wen-hui points out, an analogy of caring for one’s life. In the last paragraph Cook Ting alludes to Laozi’s account of sages in antiquity who were adept at practicing the Tao (Chapter 15, Tao Te Ching) as being cautious and vigilant. Practicing wu-wei and following the flow of the Tao, Cook Ting uses caution and vigilance when he approaches a complicated section of the ox.

This parable then is a transition from the Butterfly Dream to a summary of how to reach the final goal or Chang Xin, the True Self which Zhuangzi unveils in full detail a few chapters later in the discussion between Confucius and his disciple Yan Hui in an exercise called the Fasting of the Mind.

The first part where Kungzi (Confucius) instructs his disciple, Yan Hui and details the “Fasting of the Mind” occurs in Chapter 4. The follow-up, where Yan Hui returns having completed the full practice is written in Chapter 6. Bear in mind that the Cook Ting parable which appears in Chapter 2 is actually a very brief summary of the entire process.

The prelude to the actual detailing of the Fasting of the Mind in Chapter 4 is quite long, so I will summarize. It begins with Yan Hui coming to Kongzi (Confucius) to ask permission to take leave after years of studying with him. Yan Hui explains that he wants to go out into the world and put what he has learned from Kongzi into practice.

Kongzi asks him how he intends to do this. Yan Hui replies that he wants to go to the State of Wei, where the ruler has become an autocratic tyrant and has wrought great devastation upon the people of Wei. Yan Hui wants to see if he can restore Wei and save the people. Kongzi asks him how he plans to do this.

Yan Hui tells him that he wants to take what he has learned from Kongzi and derive some standards and principles from it to apply to the situation in Wei. Kongzi tells him that he is more than likely to get himself killed. If he is following a certain course, it is best not to mix in anything extraneous which will lead to multiple courses because that will cause anxiety and confusion. Kongzi then proceeds to give Yan Hui a lengthy lecture on real Virtuosity and Cleverness. Then he asks Yan Hui how he plans to get around these all of these problems.

With each solution that Yan Hui puts forth, Kongzi has a wise rebuttal, detailing why each one will not work. Finally, in total frustration, Yen Hui said, “I have nothing more to offer. May I ask the proper way?”

“You must fast!” said Confucius. “I will tell you what that means. Do you think it is easy to do anything while you have [a mind]? If you do, Bright Heaven will not sanction you.”

Yen Hui said, “My family is poor. I haven’t drunk wine or eaten any strong foods for several months. So can I be considered as having fasted?”

“That is the fasting one does before a sacrifice, not the fasting of the mind.”

“May- I ask what the fasting of the mind is?”

Confucius said, “If you merge all your intentions into a singularity, you will come to hear with the mind rather than with the ears. Further, you will come to hear with the vital energy rather than with the mind. For the ears are halted at what they hear. The mind is halted at whatever verifies its preconceptions. But the vital energy is an emptiness, a waiting for the presence of beings. The Course alone is what gathers in this emptiness. And it is this emptiness that is the fasting of the mind.”

Yan Hui said, “Before I find what moves me into activity, it is myself that is full and real. But as soon as I find what moves me, it turns out that ‘myself’ has never begun to exist. Is that what you mean by being ‘empty’?”

Confucius said, “Exactly. Let me tell you about it. With this you can play in his cage without impinging on his concern for a good name. When he’s receptive, do your crowing, but when he’s not, let it rest. Do not let him get to you, but do not harm him either. Seeing all possible dwelling places as one, let yourself be lodged in whichever cannot be avoided. This will get you close to success. It is easy to wipe away your footprints, but difficult to walk without touching the ground. It is easy to use deception when you are sent into your activities at the behest of other humans, but difficult to use deception when sent into activity by Heaven. You have learned how to fly with wings, but not yet how to fly without wings. You have learned the wisdom of being wise, but not yet the wisdom of being free of wisdom. Concentrate on the hollows of what is before you, and the empty chamber within you will generate its own brightness.

“Good fortune comes to roost in stillness. To lack this stillness is called scurrying around even when sitting down. Allow your ears and eyes to open inward and thereby place yourself beyond your mind’s understanding consciousness. Even the ghosts and spirits will then seek refuge in you, human beings all the more so! This is the transformation of all things, the hinge on which Shun and Yu moved, the lifelong practice of Fu Xi and Ji Qu. How much more should it be so for others!”

(Fu Xi was one of the early proponents of the I Ching. Ji Qu or sometimes Ji Zi was a semi-legendary Chinese sage who is said to have ruled Gija Joseon in the 11th century BCE.)

So there we have it. Zhuangzi full From Chapter 6, the co

 

Yen Hui said, “I’m improving!”

Confucius said, “What do you mean by that?”

“I’ve forgotten benevolence and righteousness!”

“That’s good. But you still haven’t got it.”

Another day, the two met again and Yen Hui said, “I’m improving!”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I’ve forgotten rites and music!”

“That’s good. But you still haven’t got it.”

Another day, the two met again and Yen Hui said, “I’m improving! ”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I can sit down and forget everything!”

Confucius looked very startled and said, “What do you mean, sit down and forget everything.’-”

Yen Hui said, “I smash up my limbs and body, drive out perception and intellect, cast off form, do away with understanding, and make myself identical with the Great Thoroughfare. This is what I mean by sitting down and forgetting everything.”

Confucius said, “If you’re identical with it, you must have no more likes! If you’ve been transformed, you must have no more constancy! So you really are a worthy man after all! 23 With your permission, I’d like to become your follower

Thus both Cook Ting and Yan Hui realized their True Selves.

Be well. See you next time.

 

SEPTEMBER, 2019

09/08/2019

Chapter 51 Tao Te Ching

As I promised last month, we would start off September with Chapter 51. This is not only one of the most significant chapters in the Tao Te Ching, but in all of spiritual literature, including the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, and the Holy Bible. Below are several translations of Chapter 51 to give you a feel for the different way it has been interpreted.

 

Here you will find commentaries on the meanings of verses and stories from Laozi, Zhuangzi and other early Taoists regarding their philosophies and practices. At the end of each month, all of the commentaries for that month will be posted in our BLOG.

AUGUST, 2019

08/16/2019

Let’s return now to Laozi’s Tao de Ching. Today we shall take a look at Chapter 9, a very important chapter that illustrates one of the main principles of Taoism. Next, to Wu Wei, moderation and knowing when to stop are vital to most sincere Taoists.

“A bow that is stretched to its fullest capacity may certainly snap.
A sword that is tempered to its very sharpest may easily be broken.
A house that is full of jade and gold cannot remain secure for long.
One who proudly displays his wealth invites trouble.
Therefore, resign from a high position when your mission is complete.
This is the Universal Way of a life of deep virtue.”

Translation by Ni Hua-Ching, 1995.

Again Laozi is telling us to use moderation in all things, and, above all, know when to stop. Whether it’s food or drink. Moderation means don’t try to fill yourself to capacity. Stop when you are 70% or 80% full, not 100 or beyond.

Whether it’s jade or gold, jewelry, furniture, paintings,cars don’t go overboard. Whether it’s your body or your home, instead of looking stately and refined, it will look garish, opulent – two words that are synonymous with “ugly.” Did you ever see a person who has a large ring on every finger? If so, then you know what I mean by garish, opulent, ugly. Furthermore, when you go overboard, you take away from items that look truly exquisite when given prominence, but are totally lost in a sea of acuterments and are appear no different from a hoarder’s place littered with junk. Not to mention the fact, that such a display of wealth, like Laozi says, invites trouble.

The same is true of money. People who hoard money and work their butts off to make deals and make more money are truly pathetic. Whether it’s money they constantly seek or praise or fame, the result is the same, a sadly pathetic, self-centered nerd. It isn’t wealth, per se, that is damaging. It is seeking wealth for the sole purpose of self-aggrandizement that destroys love, friendships and other relationships. There are many wealthy financiers that have amassed fortunes and have established foundations to help others share in their wealth. They regularly pay their fair share of taxes and give to charities. So, here it is the intent that makes seeking wealth a detriment or a worthwhile activity. By asking the Universe, the Tao, how may I serve and how can the wealth I earn benefit others, your work and your financial acumen become tools for the Tao and the Te to distribute and spread the wealth to the rest of mankind.

Remember, none of this is truly yours, not your money, your possessions, your businesses.not even your very life. All of this belongs to the Tao. The Tao is responsible for everything in the Universe and beyond.

Next up is Chapter 33 of the Tao Te Ching, a verse of comparisons and contrasts that, like Chapter 9, expound further on the Taoist lifestyle.

08/22/2019

As promised, Chapter 33 of Laozi’s Tao Te Ching: Self-Denial versus Self-Criticism.

He who knows others is knowledgeable.
He who knows himself is wise.
He who conquers others is physically strong.
He who conquers himself is truly mighty.
He who is contented is rich.
He who acts with persistence has a will.
He who does not lose his root will endure.
He who dies but is not forgotten has longevity.


COMMENTARY: Before I begin, I would like to say that some of you are not going to like this. Perhaps, most of you will not like this. So, I must apologize in advance should I offend anyone.

Many study this chapter and concentrate on the last two lines. Here Keping Wang has translated the very last line correctly as it was written in the oldest versions of the text discovered in the MaWangDui Caves just last century. Prior to those versions, some translators assessed the line differently and combined it with the previous line, building a case for immortality. The translations would be something like “He who keeps to his root will endure and will not perish but remain eternally present.” That would certainly make Laozi roll over in his grave, for he had no uncertainty that death would befall each and every one of us no matter how enlightened. The last two lines are about cultivating one’s “heart,” in other words, one’s daily living, not immortality. Thus, living from one’s “root,” the Tao, will leave a lasting impression on others in one’s everyday affairs, one’s writings, one’s art, friendships and relationships, and on nature, itself, which, in a way, is a form of immortality.

The true emphasis in this chapter is not on the ending but on the beginning, the first four lines. Despite many variations, the general semantics of these lines for the most part have been kept intact. However, Laozi’s true intent has been confused. Martial artists, in general, and tai chi and qigong players, more specifically, are partly responsible for this distortion, not to mention meditation gurus. There is a line in the Tai Chi Classics: “I know you, but you don’t know me.” This line generally means that you know where your opponent’s center is at all times, but he/she does not know where yours is because you are able to hide it quite skillfully. Well, this is not the “know” Laozi had in mind. In fact, he would say that you don’t truly know your opponent or yourself.

Laozi here is emphasizing that deep inward knowledge that goes to the very heart of our character. Back in his day, life was complicated enough. People were not so easy to discern. They by no means wore their hearts on their sleeves but kept it hidden deep underneath all the layers with innuendo, deceit, selfishness, not only hidden from the world but hidden from themselves by a facade of benevolence and generosity. In this case, if one were to somehow discern the true character of others, he/she would be considered quite knowledgeable, truly intelligent.

So, by “knowing,” Laozi is referring to discerning one’s true character, ours or others. And, as difficult as that was in his day, imagine the complexity and illusiveness in our modern world. We have so many technical innovations to hide from and hide behind that it is virtually impossible to discern a person’s true character. Add to these, the psychological shadings, the self-denials and the repressions, the Freudian concepts of infantile sexuality, libido, the Oedipal complex, transference or the Jungian archetypes: the shadow, the wise old man, the child, the mother, the maiden, and the anima and the animus. Is it any wonder that you need to be a genius to truly know someone? Laozi says that a person who can do that, such as Freud or Jung, is knowledgeable, which means highly intelligent – but not necessarily wise.

Wisdom, on the other hand as Laozi tells us, arises when we are able to dig deeply inside and cut through all the self-denials and buried feelings that we have repressed over the years and truly come to know ourselves. It is not sitting on a mat and taking deep breaths as some meditation gurus advise or visualizing beautiful, calming scenes or vibrating light rays. It is not following your thoughts until they dissipate, leaving your mind empty. It is not your mind that needs to empty. It is your heart, the very core of your being. That is exactly why Laozi says: He who conquers others is physically strong. But…He who conquers himself is truly mighty. 

Emptying and clearing out our hearts requires an enormous amount of intestinal fortitude, persistence, and spiritual strength to cut through all those self-denials and repressed feelings that we have not only hidden from the world but have hidden from ourselves. It requires a supreme act of self-criticism rather than the self-denial we have become used to.  Reciting affirmations and platitudes are nice. Going around feeling you are pure awareness, consciousness or emptiness is just another form of self-denial, one more case of avoidance. None of these things can take the place of self-criticism and deep introspection.

Refusing to accept responsibility is another form of self-denial. Often, we are aware of things that we have done that we are not so proud of. But we shift the blame to others – parents, siblings, teachers, close friends, lovers – as though they were responsible for our actions. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one can force you to do anything unless they are holding a gun to your head. You chose to follow the crowd and do what they were doing. You chose not to be an outcast. Years later, looking back on those actions, we tell ourselves it was not our fault. So emptying the heart is as much about accepting responsibility as it is about plunging into the depths of one’s heart of hearts.

Once you have toughed it out and emptied your heart, then the final four lines of Chapter 33 will fall into place. You will naturally feel contented with what you have. After persisting to empty the heart, you will feel that your will is strong enough to persist in anything. Finally, you will know yourself and, therefore, know your root, which is the Tao, and that will endure for the rest of your life. Everything you do will be in harmony with the Tao and Nature, thus leaving a legacy that will endure far beyond a long life.

I hope this commentary helps you to better understand Chapter 33 and what needs to be done.

Until next time…Peace.

 

08/28/2019

We end August with a look at Chapter 52 of the Tao Te Ching. Chapter 52 seem like a natural thematic progression from Chapter 33 above. So, we will circle back and cover Chapter 51 in September.

Chapter 52

There was a beginning of the universe
Which may be regarded as the Mother of the Universe.
From the Mother, we may know her sons.
After knowing the sons, keep to the Mother.
Thus, one’s whole life may be preserved from harm.

Stop its apertures,
Close its doors,
And one’s whole life is without toil.

Open its apertures,
Be busy about its affairs,
And one’s whole life is beyond redemption.

He who can see the small is clear-sighted;
He who stays by gentility is strong.
use the light,
And return to clear-sightedness –
Thus cause not yourself later distress.
– This is to rest in the Absolute.
Translation by Lin Yutang

COMMENTARY:

In the Lin Yutang edition, he titles this chapter “Stealing the Absolute,” which refers to the final verse. Discussing the opening verse, he states:”In this chapter, Mother refers to the Tao, source of all things, and her sons refers to the things of the universe, which are Tao in its manifested forms. By recognizing that all things come from the same source and by keeping to the unity, one achieves an emancipation of the spirit which overcomes the individuality of things.”

There are several astounding insights in this opening verse. First of all, Laozi unequivocally asserts that Tao is the source of all life, simply by referring to it as the Mother of the universe. Also, as Lin Yutang contends, the Tao actually manifests itself in all the things within the universe. Laozi then instructs us to keep to the Mother (the Tao, the Unity) rather than the individual appearances.

However, it is by scrutinizing, observing the sons’ appearances that we get to know the Tao as their origin and “Thus, one’s whole life may be preserved from harm.

As in Chapter 33, the second verse advises us to go inward by stopping the openings (the apertures). In other words, our five senses. Then Laozi adds “close its doors”  – to seeking external knowledge “And one’s whole life is without toil.”

In the third verse, Laozi describes what will happen if we do not take his advice and leave the apertures and doors open, busying ourselves with external affairs. “And one’s whole life is beyond redemption.”

In the final verse, Laozi again uses contrasts and comparisons “He who can see the small…” is another reference to turning within and scrutinizing both ourselves and others. “He who stays by gentility”  mean knowing how to yield is strength. Finally, to use your inner light for understanding ourselves and others is actually using the light of the Tao – the Absolute. This is the reason Lin Yutang decided to title the chapter “Stealing the Absolute.”

I hope this commentary has made it easier for you to understand the chapter and to better follow the Tao. As I mentioned in the beginning, we will circle back and cover Chapter 51 in the September edition.

 

Here you will find commentaries on the meanings of verses and stories from Laozi, Zhuangzi and other early Taoists regarding their philosophies and practices. At the end of each month, all of the commentaries for that month will be posted in our BLOG.

JULY, 2019

07/03/2019

We start July off with the first two verses of Chapter 47 from Laozi’s Tao Te Ching. Although most of the accepted translations are consistent, their meaning has certainly been misinterpreted by both Western and Eastern scholars alike. Chapter 47 begins with: Without going out-of-doors, one may know all under Heaven. Without looking out one’s window, one may know the Dao of Heaven. Many Western scholars have called this pure bunk. Taking Laozi quite literally, they wonder how anyone can know everything there is to know. Can a sage tell you who will win the World Series or the Super Bowl? Can he or she know all the answers to the most perplexing questions facing quantum physicists? No, of course not. But Laozi, when he writes all under Heaven, was not referring to mundane, worldly things. To Laozi, all referred to only those things that truly matter. To illustrate the point, there is a quotation from the great martial artist, Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, which is the Japanese equivalent of Tai Chi. Sensei Ueshiba states: Keep to your Path, and nothing else will matter. When you lose your desire for things that do not matter, you will be free. To both Ueshiba and Laozi, those things that we see or study or imagine are eye and mind candy – things that do not matter. They are the externals of this world. What matters to a true sage is Li, the Chinese term for Principle. So, when Laozi uses the term all, he is referring to the principles that have created and set in motion all under Heaven. If you understand the principles underlying matter, you can infer what will happen. That creator and master of the entire cosmos is, of course, the Tao, and one of the Tao’s underlying principles is its constancy. Because the Tao is constant, it is possible for us who live in the present and an ancient sage, who lived 2500 years ago, to know how things were at the beginning to time without stepping out-of-doors. Wang Bi, who commented on both the Tao Te Ching and the I Ching, some 2000 years ago in the 3rd Century wrote: The Tao has its great constancy and Principle has its perfection, so hold on to the Tao of old to preside over what exists now. Although we live in the present, it is possible for one to know how things were at the beginning of time. Another underlying principle is the congruence of all things under Heaven.  No matter how disparate beings are, no matter how varied our paths in life, we all come to the same end. Therefore, commenting on Section 5 in the Commentary on Appended Phrases, Part Two of the I Ching, Wang Bi writes: The Master said: “What does the world have to think and deliberate about? As all in the world ultimately comes to the same end, though the roads to it are different, so there is an ultimate congruence in thought, though there might be hundreds of ways to deliberate about it. So what does the world have to think and deliberate about? (Both Wang Bi quotes were translated by Richard John Lynn.) There is as well a subtle subtext running through the Tao Te Ching, which is somewhat evident in Chapter 47, that of isolation. Whether one runs off to a mountain cave or shuts himself/herself off in their home, the intent is the same – to isolate oneself from the myriad distractions of society and to develop an inner sense of contentment and quietude. Only then can we hope to unite with the Tao. Zhuangzi, on the other hand, has a completely different attitude. His is a sense that “I live in the world but not of it.” There is yet another way of looking at Laozi’s remarks in this chapter. Keping Wang, a present day author and commentator on the Tao had this to say regarding Chapter 47: “With more and more people practicing qigong as a form of traditional Chinese breathing with stylized movements for spiritual meditation and as more of its effects have come to be rediscovered, some scholars have come to realize the implications of what Laozi says here.” Wang goes on to mention Shakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, and how he reached supreme wisdom or enlightenment after sitting under a tree for 49 days. “Since then such notions as ‘inner or heavenly enlightenment for attaining Buddhahood’ have come to be used in Buddhism. Correspondingly, in early Daoism, there are such similar notions as ‘understanding without seeing’ and ‘contemplation in depth’.”  Here are a couple you can try. This first one is  Bone Marrow Cleansing, Xi Sui Jing.

 

This next one is Qi Gong Breathing from Shaolin Temple Europe

 

07/06/2019

The final two verses of Chapter 47 seemed even more preposterous to Western scholars than the first. However, if one understands the concepts behind Laozi’s opening verses, then these final ones naturally follow.

The further one goes out, the less he will know. This simply means that one does not live in the One, trusting it and following the Tao, but instead he follows society and places his trust in the many outside. He can never discover the inner principles working the Universe with all the diversified theories, opinions and beliefs floating around outside his door. They will only bring him confusion, not true knowledge.

Thus the sage knows without moving about (in the external world),
Understands without seeing,
Accomplishes without doing.

Here Laozi is basically stating what I have explained above. The sage doesn’t need to run around out in the world or look about to see what sights he can find. Instead, he focuses within where he finds his true nature and thus understands the nature of things without seeking it externally. This verse also alludes to Taoist meditation, which Keping Wang explained in his commentary on Chapter 47. The early Daoists were quite familiar with meditation and the value of contentment and quietude as were the Rishis of India even before Shakyamuni. The final line, “Accomplishes without doing,” refers to another subtext that runs all through the Tao Te Ching – Wu Wei – often translated as the practice of non-doing.or non-action. What wu wei really means is take no conscious or deliberate action but instead act spontaneously with the flow of life, the flow of the Tao and not with the urges of an egoic mind. Speaking of flow, next time we will stay with the Tao Te Ching and look at Chapter 48, which flows naturally from the concepts explained here in Chapter 47. So, until next time, Be Well and Go with the Flow…

07/11/2019

Like Chapter 47 which proceeds it, Chapter 48 has been misunderstood by some Western scholars. Why would anyone want to pursue the Tao if it makes one lose more and more each day, they ask. So, let’s have a look: The pursuit of learning means having more each day, The pursuit of Tao means having less each day. Having less upon less, one eventually reaches the point where one takes no action, yet nothing remains undone. Again, the is typical Laozi, where the statements at first seem rather contradictory. However, upon closer look, we see what the Master intended. If he were, like many self-help gurus, trying to stoke our ambitions and the pursuit of worldly success in the form of greater wealth, position and esteem, then, by all means, one should pursue worldly knowledge. But Laozi’s focus is on our spiritual well-being and eventual discovery of who and what we truly are. In Chapter 47, Laozi advised that it was not necessary to go out into the world to learn all you needed to know. One could discover the truth about oneself and the principles underlying the world by staying right at home. So too, in Chapter 48, he tells us that it is not necessary to run off to a university to gain more knowledge in order to live the perfect life. In fact, he suggests that we lose what we know – the concepts, beliefs, opinions and preconceived notions – in order to know the Tao. Thus, it is not a matter of gaining more and more each day but losing more and more until we are at the point of wu wei (non-action) or taking no deliberate action. Laozi realizes that conscious, deliberate action, which is often quite rash and always egocentric, can lead to mistakes and sometimes utter failure. However, no conscious action (wu wei) is spontaneous and natural and will result in nothing being undone. Laozi then closes the chapter, this way: One who takes all under Heaven as his charge always tends to matters without deliberate action. But when it comes to one who takes conscious action, Such a one is not worthy to take all Heaven under his charge. Because one tries to implement actions from his own egocentric pursuits, he is not fit to lead, manage or govern. He is trapped by his own ambitious concerns and enslaves his very soul and eventual salvation with the padlocks and chains of insufferable advancement. I remember years ago, it was the standard to have a high school diploma for employment. A few years later, a high school education was of much less value. A college degree became the standard. Then a few years later, it was necessary to have an advanced degree, especially a doctorate. So what if you were up to your neck in student debt? Now it’s not only an advanced degree but a dual major, and student loan debt has gone through the roof. So, it is not only ourselves, but society as a whole that drives us. Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded with advertisements on billboards, on TV, on the internet. All encouraging us to buy more, to acquire more for our own good, it would seem. But what about our spiritual well-being? How can we acquire that? What price salvation? Well, in Chapter 48, Laozi gives us the answer. The price is everything we have acquired – not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well. Give up everything that is not essential and especially all those concepts, beliefs and ambitions that keep us chained to the powertrain of society. Next time we will step away from Laozi and take a look at some of Zhuangzi’s work, particularly a story that follows up Laozi’s admonitions in Chapter 48. Thank you and Be Well.  

 

07/27/2019

From the Zhuangzi, the Book of Zhuangzi Section EIGHTEEN – PERFECT HAPPINESS “IS THERE SUCH A THING as perfect happiness in the world or isn’t there? Is there some way to keep yourself alive or isn’t there? What to do, what to rely on, what to avoid, what to stick by, what to follow, what to leave alone, what to find happiness in, what to hate? This is what the world honors: wealth, eminence, long life, a good name. This is what the world finds happiness in: a life of ease, rich food, fine clothes, beautiful sights, sweet sounds. This is what it looks down on: poverty, meanness, early death, a bad name. This is what it finds bitter: a life that knows no rest, a mouth that gets no rich food, no fine clothes for the body, no beautiful sights for the eye, no sweet sounds for the ear. People who can’t get these things fret a great deal and are afraid – this is a stupid way to treat the body. People who are rich wear themselves out rushing around on business, piling up more wealth than they could ever use – this is a superficial way to treat the body. People who are eminent spend night and day scheming and wondering if they are doing right – this is a shoddy way to treat the body. Man lives his life in company with worry, and if he lives a long while, till he’s dull and doddering, then he has spent that much time worrying instead of dying, a bitter lot indeed! This is a callous way to treat the body.”

COMMENTARY: I think you get the picture without much explanation from me. Zhuangzi’s message is quite clear: the things we chase after that we think will make us happy cause us much more harm than good. Those who live a life of wealth and luxury usually wear themselves, “piling up more wealth than they could ever use. In the end, our health deteriorates from all the stress and pressure and drives us to an early grave. The outcome, though the path is very different, is the same for those who worry and fret because they do not have the so-called finer things in life. As Zhuangzi intimates perhaps an early death would be much better than a lifetime of worrying. So, whether one is rich or poor it does not matter. In the end it is all the same. The poor struggle and die trying to get what they don’t have. The wealthy struggle and die trying to get even more of what they have, searching and striving constantly for more pleasure and more comfort. But what about those people we look up to and consider good human beings? Do they ever find true happiness? Let’s hear what Zhuangzi has to say…

“Men of ardor are regarded by the world as good, but their goodness doesn’t succeed in keeping them alive. So I don’t know whether their goodness is really good or not. Perhaps I think it’s good – but not good enough to save their lives. Perhaps I think it’s no good – but still good enough to save the lives of others. So I say, if your loyal advice isn’t heeded, give way and do not wrangle. Tzu-hsu wrangled and lost his body. But if he hadn’t wrangled, he wouldn’t have made a name. Is there really such a thing as goodness or isn’t there?”

COMMENTARY: Here Zhuangzi is speaking of good officers and ministers of the government, “Men of ardor.” like Tzu-hsu. But we can apply this to the politicians, missionaries, doctors and nurses, soldiers and general volunteers and do-gooders of today. Tzu-hsu spoke out against the unjust policy of his sovereign. When his advice wasn’t heeded, he did not stop there as Zhuangzi suggests. Instead he continued to wrangle with his king and was eventually put to death. In the end, he stood up for what he believed in but lost his life. Was the honor he gained by his actions worth it? Did it bring him happiness? What about Mother Teresa in the modern era? Did her years of charitable work bring her happiness? Yes, she helped many, and maybe even saved a few lives. But her personal writings revealed a crisis of belief, her loneliness, her desolation. How should we think about that? Zhuangzi leaves that decision to us…

“What ordinary people do and what they find happiness in – I don’t know whether such happiness is in the end really happiness or not. I look at what ordinary people find happiness in, what they all make a mad dash for, racing around as though they couldn’t stop – they all say they’re happy with it. I’m not happy with it and I’m not unhappy with it. In the end is there really happiness or isn’t there? I take inaction to be true happiness, but ordinary people think it is a bitter thing. I say: perfect happiness knows no happiness, perfect praise knows no praise. The world can’t decide what is right and what is wrong. And yet inaction can decide this. Perfect happiness, keeping alive – only inaction gets you close to this!”

COMMENTARY: Actually, that is pretty good advice. Now I must remind you, as I mentioned in my earlier comments on Laozi’s Tao Te Ching, by “inaction” Zhuangzi is not speaking about no-action, but rather no deliberate, premeditated action, no scheming day and night and wondering if you are doing the right thing and how it could turn out or what could go wrong. Instead, he means “ziran” natural, spontaneous action, action which is initiated by nature and the natural Way of things. Then Zhuangzi concludes…

“Let me try putting it this way. The inaction of Heaven is its purity, the inaction of earth is its peace. So the two inactions combine and all things are transformed and brought to birth. Wonderfully, mysteriously, there is no place they come out of. Mysteriously, wonderfully, they have no sign. Each thing minds its business and all grow up out of inaction. So I say, Heaven and earth do nothing and there is nothing that is not done. Among men, who can get hold of this inaction?”

COMMENTARY: If this sounds familiar, it should. Zhuangzi is reminding us of Laozi’s advice in chapter 37 of his Tao De Ching: “The Tao invariably takes no action. And yet there is nothing left undone.” And again in chapter 38: “The man of the superior De (Virtue, Character) takes no action. And thus nothing will be left undone.” More from the Zhuangzi next time.  

07/30/2019 The next two stories are from section 18 of the Zhuangzi “Once a sea bird alighted in the suburbs of the Lu capital. The marquis of Lu escorted it to the ancestral temple, where he entertained it, performing the Nine Shao music for it to listen to and presenting it with the meat of the T’ai-lao sacrifice to feast on. But the bird only looked dazed and forlorn, refusing to eat a single slice of meat or drink a cup of wine, and in three days it was dead. This is to try to nourish a bird with what would nourish you instead of what would nourish a bird. If you want to nourish a bird with what nourishes a bird, then you should let it roost in the deep forest, play among the banks and islands, float on the rivers and lakes, eat mudfish and minnows, follow the rest of the flock in flight and rest, and live any way it chooses. A bird hates to hear even the sound of human voices, much less all that hubbub and to-do. Try performing the Hsien-ch’ih and Nine Shao music in the wilds around Lake Tung-t’ing when the birds hear it they will fly off, when the animals hear it they will run away, when the fish hear it they will dive to the bottom. Only the people who hear it will gather around to listen. Fish live in water and thrive, but if men tried to live in water they would die. Creatures differ because they have different likes and dislikes. Therefore the former sages never required the same ability from all creatures or made them all do the same thing. Names should stop when they have expressed reality, concepts of right should be founded on what is suitable. This is what it means to have command of reason, and good fortune to support you.”

COMMENTARY: The moral of this story is fairly easy to see. I could some it up in one brief cliche: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” The point is everything, man, beast, bird or fish, should live according to its nature. Though we are all equal, we are not all the same. In fact, each one of us is different from everyone else. We speak different languages, eat different foods, read different books, enjoy different sports, different music, practice different religions. Realizing this will help each of us accept what others are doing according to their nature, not ours. And acceptance has a tremendous healing effect on us and on those around us. Just remember the title of that popular Ray Stevens’ song: “Everything is Beautiful…in its own way.”  

This next one has a key lesson for all martial artists… Chi Hsing-tzu was training gamecocks for the king. After ten days the king asked if they were ready. “Not yet. They’re too haughty and rely on their nerve.” Another ten days and the king asked again. “Not yet. They still respond to noises and movements.” Another ten days and the king asked again. “Not yet. They still look around fiercely and are full of spirit.” Another ten days and the king asked again. “They’re close enough. Another cock can crow and they show no sign of change. Look at them from a distance and you’d think they were made of wood. Their virtue is complete. Other cocks won’t dare face them, but will turn and run.”

COMMENTARY: The true warrior must drop all emotionality before they get into the ring. They need to let their competitive nature take over and drive them, not their wills or their their desires to win or the fear of losing face. All of these must be dissolved until only their fearless nature is reached. The same is true for sages as well. They must drop all emotionality and all worldly desires. Like a sculptor cutting away at marble, chipping off chunks and pieces here and there until the correct image appears, all must be cut away until one’s De (Virtue or True Character) is reached.  

Rain, swirling sheets 
purging the residue of man from the land
A dark grey curtain
covering the green hills.
The Earth crawls under its cover,
seeking repose from its weary battle.
Listening to the ancient voices,
Echoes, recalling a time long ago
when the Earth basked naked
beneath a native sun,
providing for beast and fowl alike.
Their roars and shrieks called out
from the highest peaks,
across vast deserts,
along fertile plains.


Those calls long since overtaken
by the hum of engines
and the steady drone of machinery,
the clanging of steel upon steel,
and the blasts of explosives.
The new language of man,
And he called it Progress.


Cities went up,
Forests disappeared,
Factories bellowed,
Oil wells gushed,
Mines bore into the hearts of mountains,
ripping out their guts.
All their wastes filled rivers and streams.
Their fumes choked the air.


And the Great Mother cries - and cries.
Full with compassion Heaven replies.

 

Free Verses

I Used to Be

I used to be kind, warm and gracious.
Now I am
indifferent, cold and rapacious.
I used to be engaging,
empathetic and forbearing.
Now I am
aloof, callous and demanding.
I used to be generous,
encouraging and equanimous.
Now I am selfish,
resentful and contemptuous.
I used to be considerate,
forthright and benevolent.
Now I am confrontational,
deceitful and belligerent.
I used to be respected
honored and esteemed.
Now I am disfavored,
disparaged and scorned.
I used to be
the Land of the Free
and the Home of the Brave.
I am AMERICA…

Pray for me.

VISIT US ON FACEBOOK

The Nature of This ‘I’
hide_and_seek
What is the Nature of this ‘I’
That moves this pen
That thinks these words
Written to be read
By other ‘I’s
Who think about these words
And wonder
Is there any meaning
To one’s ‘I’?
But meaning is futile.
One can easily see
Life has no meaning.
One is born,
lives, dies.
And in between
One is educated,
One is worked,
One is used,
Then abused,
and finally excused
from Life.
What meaning is there in that ‘I’?
In Life’s game of Hide ‘n Seek?
Don’t waste precious time
searching for meaning.
Seek instead your Identity.
Who are you?
What are you?
Is that identity true? Is it real?
Find out. The clock is ticking.

VISIT US ON FACEBOOK

 

 

 

 

At the End of the Day

A bright moon climbs through gently layered clouds.
The light enraptures my vision.
Its alabaster sheen,
the whiteness of an infant’s soul.
Calming moments gather as darkness descends.
The day has faded
and with it the frenetic dance called living.
nightfall
Free at last, the heart withdraws,
enjoined with the soul,
in the sanctuary of its cave.
The stillness of the night embracing,
they prepare for that celestial journey
beyond space, beyond time.
O Great Orb!
Thou art surely possessed by a god from Heaven.
Your light infused with His nectar,
spreading across the sleeping Earth.
Renewing the Great Mother’s prana.
His soma blankets all,
In deep death-like sleep.
Even the most virtuous mother
will abandon the newborn at her breast
once that blissful cloud of dreamlessness
befalls her.
For flora and fauna
an invigorating rebirth.
For Man, a calming stillness
to end the succession of births.
This the color of darkness
This the silent night beholds.
This the salient moon foretells.

VISIT US ON FACEBOOK 

 

 

17th-century-shuttle
THE SHUTTLE

Between two bodies, the gross and the subtle,

the I-thought binds with desires from its shuttle.

Break the weave with focused attention,

selfless service and discrimination. 

VISIT US ON FACEBOOK

instagram.com/enlightenyourdays 

 

boatriver

YOUR GIFT

Detachment is accepting what is.

No complaining no venting no disappointment.

What comes let come.

What goes let go.

It’s Prasad, a gift from God.

What you do with it, how you react to it that’s your gift to Him.

SADHANA

A yellow pebble strikes the ground,

Moments later, more tumble down.

then some rocks, sand and dirt. then shrubs and boulders come unearthed.

Then at last a deafening roar!

The mountainside is no more.

Such is the nature of Sadhana

THE THIEF

The Moon Steals its Light from the Sun It has none of it own.

The Mind Steals its Life from the Self, and claims it as its own.

 Like Us On Facebook

 Visit Us On Instagram

 Instagram.com/enlightenyourdays

 

gopi-dance

‘TWEEN TWO THOUGHTS

Merrily, the gopis danced,

a Krishna between each pair,

So, too, between our thoughts,

the Self in Silence lingers there

 Like Us On Facebook

 Visit Us On Instagram

 Instagram.com/enlightenyourdays