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White clouds online


Going back a couple of years, I posted about trailers I’d seen for a documentary called Amongst White Clouds. It tied up with the books I’d been reading then by Red Pine, about Chinese hermits. Coincidentally, I’ve been re-reading his books recently, just as one of my old MBA fellow-students posted a link on Facebook to this site. Amongst White Clouds has been put online in segments. I haven’t had time to watch it yet, but hopefully I’ll get around to doing so soon. It reminds me of a post on ‘Hollow Men’ that I’ve been meaning to write for at least a year! Anyway, I have no idea what the copyright situation is with these clips, so I’d better hurry to watch them in case they get taken down!

Two types of bagua


It rained while I was cycling to work last Wednesday. I had a rain cape, but my feet got soaked, and were damp for the rest of the day. Ever since, I’ve had a pain in my left instep; S. says that my spleen meridian has been weakened, so I need to take care of that. Apparently ‘fire’ energy works, so I’m being liberal with the red Tiger Balm…

Last night, I attended the lecture on the zhou yi, i.e. Yi Jing divination. It was interesting, but at a fairly basic level. I’m no expert, but on the other hand I have been using the Yi Jing to help me make decisions since around 1991, so I know a bit, and didn’t learn too much. It was interesting, though.

I was meant to be going out of Beijing this weekend, spending a bit of time in Hebei province, but it fell through late last night – I wasn’t too upset, as I’d been feeling pretty sick. The meant that this afternoon, I attended a personal Yi Jing reading with the same teacher. There are two ways in which the Yi Jing is useful for me. The first is when I have a clear choice to make, and am seeking input and guidance towards the decision. The second is when the situation is extremely unclear, and replete with possible options, none of which are obvious choices. In this situation, asking a question can help to collapse the cloud of possibilities into a clear choice. Today was an example of the second, and I’m left with a clear path suggesting itself. What I do about it is, of course, going to need more questions.

Oddly, the same path was described in detail last night. As I mentioned before, S. attended last night’s lecture, and we went for dinner afterwards. It was a strange evening; there were a lot of strange things happening, meaningful decisions suddenly arriving… there must be a word to describe it but it doesn’t come to mind: ‘eldritch’ isn’t quite it… ‘Uncanny’, perhaps… S. went into prophecy mode, foretelling a number of things for my future. All I know is, unless she’s managed to wiretap my Skype account, she knows a lot of things I haven’t told her… Hehehe, another thing she said was that I’m a sabre person, which seems to be true – I love the Chinese jian, because it’s such a delicate, precise weapon, and yet I always seem to end up working on sabres (either the Chinese Dao or the Russian shashka). Not sure what that says about me… Oh, and it seems a number of people who know me believe that I belong naturally to the eighteenth or early nineteenth century. (Actually, that was a pretty interesting time in many ways, when Iolo Morgannwg was writing Barddas and starting the modern Druidry movement; his son was present as a harper and singer of cerdd dant during the Merthyr Rising…. At the same time the Rebecca Rioters were burning tollgates… It was a busy time in the Welsh jianghu…).

The details – both of the zhou yi reading and what S. said – aren’t for this blog yet; I want to digest them a bit, and see what happens with some plans, but they would suggest that I’ve been reading John Michael Greer’s piece on Green Wizards, at the right time, since it fits so well with my own past thoughts both on Druids and on preparing for a post-oil future. Well, we’ll see. As I say so often, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so since there’s not much else I can do, I’ll await events. Either the forecasts will come true, or they won’t.

In other news, I gasped my way through the full 16 minutes of Flowfit Level 2 this morning. It was interesting to note what hurt and what didn’t; which parts of the body took more strain than I might have expected. I’ve come to note that my torso is subtly curved from bottom left to top right, a misalignment no doubt due to sitting at a desk with my left hand up controlling the mouse, year after year…. Need to sort that out…. I noticed it first whilst doing some of the qigong exercises at Small Steps, and I think today’s Flowfit workout confirmed it.

Speaking of Small Steps, I was talking with Liu Lao Shi and Dalida this afternoon, and they want me to change classes; they say it’s time for me to move from the qigong classes to the bagua application classes. Well, I actually blogged here a couple of days ago that I wanted to do that, but I hadn’t discussed it with them yet, so at least I had the right idea!

After leaving them, I came down to Ritan Park to do some practice, but it’s been a really, really hot day and I was baked by the time I arrived. I managed to do some work with the shashkas, but not for long; I overheated, and retreated to the Stone Boat, where I’m typing this….

Pieces of eight

Sorry, couldn’t think of a good title.

Went to another qigong class at Small Steps last night, and enjoyed it. I’m coming to the end of the classes I’ve prepaid, and after that I think I’ll switch to the baguazhang classes to get some work done on the applications side of it.

They also organize Friday-night lectures and events connected with Daoism; this coming Friday, they have a session of individual zhou yi fortune-telling, which will be interesting. Apparently, the teacher coming to do that is a bagua brother of Liu Lao Shi, who gradually became more interested in the philosophical side of things. I was asking Dalida about it; she told me that this teacher was nominated one of the best at a recent convention held in Beijing of zhou yi practitioners from around Asia. She has been given readings by him before, and says she found them extremely accurate, so I await Friday night with anticipation. S. is going as well.

I had planned to go to yiquan class this morning, but was delayed by unexpected visitors, to the point where it wasn’t worth going. Instead, after they’d gone, I had another go with Scott Sonnon’s Flowfit. I’d decided that I was ready to move on to Level 2. I bought a yoga mat yesterday in preparation. I’m already impressed enough that I ordered FlowFit 2 last night from Amazon; that one’s about falling and groundwork….

Wow, though, level 2 is tough! Saying that – given there are four levels of difficulty, it’s really obvious how unfit I am 🙁 Great exercise sequence, though, I really feel thoroughly worked out – even though I only managed half of the time i was supposed to do, being sneakily glad that I had a call come in on Skype….

That also highlights something about neijia styles – from the Flowfit, I can see my lack of fitness, coordination and strength – and yet, in the tui shou sessions, I really don’t have too much difficulty holding my own. Thus: a good insight into how internal styles are great for those who are physically weak, old, etc….

WSJ: Is Daoism Losing Its Way?


The Wall Street Journal has a very interesting article about Daoism – take a look before it vanishes behind the WSJ paywall.

The gist of the article is that Daoism is finding it hard to compete against other religions, and against widespread ignorance amongst Chinese (both mainlanders and the diaspora, including Singapore) about what it actually stands for.

(Via @UCAA on Twitter)