IMG_0662There is a famous passage from Laozi that says:

A journey of a thousand miles
begins with the first step.

That first step is a big one however!

He also says:

Those who stand on tiptoes
cannot balance themselves.
Those who take too long a stride
cannot walk far.
Those who show off
are not enlightened.
Those who are too aggressive
will not accomplish anything great.
Those who boast too much
will not endure.
Those who follow Dao call these things
over-consumption and useless activity.

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Opening Like a Flower


Solala’s Blog for week of 3/11/13

The Daphne is blooming, sending its magical fragrance into the air, flowers are popping up in the middle of the lawn and our beloved grandmother willow tree is greening more each day. It seems that winter is transforming into spring, always miraculous, tho I have seen it happen countless times (well, 62 anyway)! I love the changing the seasons, as many of us do. What is it that makes us so happy and excited about each round of the year? Winter in the Pacific Northwest is pretty cloudy and rainy, even dark. Many people around here go into a deep funk when the sun goes away but I guess I am just used to it and it doesn’t really bother me. Yet I am always overjoyed when spring comes round again and things begin budding and blooming.

The path of Dao is at once the universal pageant of the constellations and the budding of each new leaf in the spring. It is the constant round of life and death all that falls in between. It resides in us and we reside in it. It is the source as well as the end of our being. It neither judges nor condemns but continually blesses, in all moments – an unending cycle of change and renewal.

I just found out yesterday that my book on spiritual relationship, Sacred Union, will be published by Sounds True, the home of many fine authors, teachers and musicians! I feel my own inner spring buds beginning to unfurl and push their way up to the sun!

It will soon be time to begin getting the garden ready for planting. Of course, as Daoists, our own internal cultivation is a steady and ongoing project. Our spiritual seedlings need to be take care of carefully so that they may grow to become great and beautiful flowers. Yet too much interfering and things may not grow well at all.

Laozi says,

Those who desire to control heaven and earth

will not succeed.

The universe is sacred.

One cannot grasp it or control it.

Those who attempt to control it

Would ruin it.


Speaking without Speaking

one leaf

Solala’s Blog for the week of 2/25

My computer died a week and a half ago and I have been mourning it ever since. I have been without a computer and have had to borrow my girlfriend’s as a back up. Unfortunately, none of my programs are on it and I cannot do the usual projects. It is amazing how much I depend on it!

Of course I don’t need a computer do practice qigong or meditation. These things are very old-age and don’t required any special equipment or clothing. Just go within, plug into the great unending, ever unfolding Dao and there you are! Laozi says:

Can you hold the body and spirit as one?
Can you avoid their separation?
Concentrating your qi
And becoming pliant,
can you become like a newborn baby?
Clearing your mind and
contemplating the profound
can you remain unflawed?
In understanding all things
can you remain apart from them?
Can you bear the fruit without taking possession of it?
Can you do the work without taking credit?
Can you act without taking control?
Can you lead without dominating?
Can you speak without speaking?
Can you sit without moving?

One of the things that drew me to Daoism is the emphasis on using the energetics of the body to go beyond the body. Daoists fully inhabit their body yet also explore what lies beyond our mortal shell. But it does take a willingness to “sit without moving” and to learn to “speak without speaking.”

It can take a long time, as it has with me, to really understand these kinds of principles and then put them into practice. It can take a lot of effort to reach the state of wu wei or effortlessness. It seems so very simple to follow the we wei way but in the beginning as least, it takes a tremendous act of will to open ourselves up to the state of being able to “hold our body and spirit as one.” But the rewards are huge and the journey is as exciting as the goal.

My girlfriend Shanti and I had breakfast this sunday with our lovely friend Tegra. She shared with us her “not to do” list she does almost every day. Such as “Don’t get uptight about not getting too much done today.” If that isn’t the wu wei way I don’t know what is!

So I am working on my “not to do”  list this week as well. Tomorrow the new computer arrives and I get to immerse myself in getting caught up on projects. But I will take my time, linger awhile on things and feelings “in between” and hopefully, experience some of that advice of the old master on “doing without taking control” and, every once in awhile, practice “speaking without speaking” and “sitting without moving.”


What is Qigong?

What Is Qigong?

by Solala Towler





“What is this thing you do?”

he asked, hesitantly,

over the phone,

“this quee gong?”

(The transliteration of Chinese

being so ridiculous

that no one knows how to pronounce

anything they read.

Taiji teachers all over the country

still call it tai chee,

people do divination using the

eye ching,

meaning romantic love in Chinese.)

“Is it a martial art?”

he asks,

“or is it some kind of health practice?”

“well,” I answer,

it is a health practice,

it’s also a meditation practice,

as well as a spiritual practice.”

“Wow,” he says,

“all in one package huh?

What a deal!”


I suppose qigong

could be called

a sort of




Then again,

there’s no need

to get so technical.

Qigong is really

just something that I do,

like breathing,

like eating,

like dancing,

like making love.

Making love

with the universe,

you might call it.

An amorous, attentive,

articulated, attitude

of openness and grace,

an exchange

on a deep and basic level

on my inner being

with that of the great

undivided, unending,

undissolved Dao.

And with that exchange

comes balance, harmony,

a composure of spirit,

a deepening of character,

a relaxing of mind muscles,

a feel of safety,

of being at home,

of being empty

and full at the same time,

of being attentive to detail,

clear of vision,

open of heart,

soft yet strong

like water, like wind,

sensitive to changes

in the energetic atmosphere,

simply joy in beingness,

compassion for the sufferings

of those around me

as well as myself,

a sense of proportion,

of objectivity,

of opening to change,

transformation and miracles,

a greater sense of

who I am myself

and how I fit into

the grand scheme of things,

a deeper understanding

of how I fit into nature

and how nature fits

in to me.


Of course sometimes,

it’s just too hard,

too tedious, too boring,

too hot, too little sleep,

not in the mood,

no time, no quiet,

too much to do,

too much to understand,

too much to remember,

too hard to stretch,

to breathe,

to stop my madly

running mind,

I’m too off center,

too sad,

too anxious,

too impatient.

too spaced out,

too distracted,

too distraught,

too confused,

feeling hopeless,

out of whack,

deflated, defeated,

dissolved in my own

sense of importance

or no-importance.


But still, the practice,

the form,

the breathing,

the focusing,

the exchange

of light and darkness,

of form and of formlessness,

or yin and yang,

in out and out,

all sustains me,

uplifts me

out of my limited

sense of being,

my old tired patterns,

my old empty

emotional, mental,

physical and spiritual states,

those oh so familiar faces

of doubt, worry, fear

that we all carry

from childhood,

those past life

karmic hauntings

that hold so much power

over us

until we learn

to let them go,

release them

gently but firmly

into the great healing

eternal Dao.


As the ancient Daoists said:

We humans,

are stardust,

we are golden,

and we’ve go to get ourselves

back to the garden,

the garden of Dao,

the garden of heath,

vitality and spirit,

using and uniting with

the three treasures,

of jing, qi and shen,

those three shining jewels

of simplicity, patience

and compassion,

those three celestial guides

leading us back

to before the beginning

when Dao gave birth

to the oneness,

the oneness gave birth

to the two,

the endless spinning,

dancing polarity

of yin and yang,

and the two gave birth

to the three, those shining jewels,

those celestial guides,

which, in turn,

give birth continuously

to the ten thousand beings;

all that we see

and know and touch

and feel and experience.


Yes, I say,

this mysterious qigong practice

that practices me,

sometimes a struggle,

sometimes a dance,

but always a wise

and nurturing teacher.

Yes, it is something

that I hold dear and precious

like a light in my life,

like a treasure in my heart,

like a gift of the universe

which humbles me

and feeds me

with the sense of awe

that Laozi speaks about,

the sense of magic

and wonder

that Zuangzi jokes about,

the sense of honor

and propriety

that Kong Fu Zi teaches about,

that full feeling

of hope, serenity,

humbleness, thankfulness

vitality, gentleness,

and enlargement of the spirit

that all the great sages

speak about.

This qigong,

as dear to me

as the smile

on the face

of my beloved,

the firm yet loving

words of my teachers,

The clear-eyed vision

of my children,

the very centermost

core of my being,

eternal, vast

formless yet solid,

eternally present

while drifting aimlessly

thru the wu wei

of my spiritual

exultant, hopeful,

endlessly unfolding life.




The Watercourse Way

teaser_03Solala’s Blog for the week of 2/11/13

One of the things that drew me to Daoism is its deep connection to the earth. It prizes the yin over the yang. For without the earthy yin to act as a stabilizing force, the yang would have nothing to launch up from and would just dissipate. Laozi says, “Know the yang but hold fast to the yin.”

The other great image from Laozi is that of water.

Water benefits the ten thousand beings
yet contends with no one.
It flows in places that people reject.
In this way it is close to the Dao.
Chapter 8

Later on he talks about how water takes whatever shape of the vessel you put it in. If you put it in a round vessel it becomes round, if you put it in a square vessel it becomes square.

So to do we, as students of the Way, strive to become like water – flowing, humble, persistent, flexible and able to take on whatever shape of whatever situation we find ourselves in. (Especially helpful when traveling.)

Later on he says:

Great rivers and seas can act as
lord of a hundred river valleys.
This is because they flow downstream.
Therefore they can act as
the lord of a hundred valleys.
In this way, the sage who wants to be a guide to others
must place himself lower than them.
If he wants to lead the people
he must follow from behind.
Chapter 66

By holding this image of water and all its attributes as the goal of the sage or the self-realized person, we can find much guidance on how to live our lives in communion with the great and ever present Dao.


I would like to send a special invitation to my readers to join us on our pilgrimage to the sacred Daoist mountains of Maoshan and Wudangshan this spring. See the China Tour section of the site for more details. We will hike the trails to the holy temples, practice qigong in the sacred mountains of Daoism and eat amazing food!