道场 Dào·Chǎng

Notes of a lifelong learner and perpetual beginner on martial arts, mindfulness, Chinese calligraphy…and many, many cups of tea.


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Green Tea Leadership

I have been studying and thinking about leadership styles recently. Driving home from work, I came up with the idea of “green tea leadership.” It goes something like this…

Green tea leadership style:
Too strong, it is bitter to the taste.
Too weak, it will not invigorate the senses and spirit.
In between, the work is accomplished, and there is no resting in it.

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Small Vessel

This past Saturday my kung fu teacher David Wong taught his first class since returning from his visit to Hong Kong and China. I was conscious of how much I had missed his personal flair, humor and guidance in my life. My morning thoughts on the way home were about my estimation that I could never learn and be as skilled at kung fu as much as my teacher. I fear that I could ever learn only a fraction of what he has learned in  his lifetime. If I ever became a kung fu teacher, everything I know would only be a snapshot, a sample of what my teacher knows. Thinking about it as I drove, these thoughts came to my mind: You might think to yourself, “I will never be great. At best I can only hope to be a small vessel.” But it is important to remember that even a single drop of water contains the essence of all water. Small things contain the essence of great things. Conduct yourself accordingly.

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Bad Luck, Good Luck

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There was a man who lived near the frontier who was well versed in the workings of fate. For no reason his horse ran away into the land of the nomads. Everyone else commiserated with him, but his father said, “How do you know this won’t unexpectedly turn out to be good luck?”

After several months his horse returned with fine nomad horses. Everyone else congratulated him, but his father said, “How do you know this won’t unexpectedly turn out to be bad luck?” The family was rich in fine horses, and the man’s son liked to ride. He fell and broke his hipbone; and everyone commiserated with him; but his  father said, “How do you know this won’t unexpectedly turn out to be good luck?”

After a year, the nomads made a great raid into the border. The young men in their prime  took their bows and went to do battle. Of those who lived near the frontier, nine out of ten died. But this father kept his only son because he was lame.

Thus good fortune turning into misfortune and misfortune turning into good fortune is a transformation without end, and the depths of it cannot be penetrated.

~ from the Huai Nan Zi (2nd century B.C.E.)


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“…enter naturally into the Way.”

“The first requirement for learning the Way is hard work; then you need to learn to be a member of society, which means doing good and refraining from evil, building up character. When you have developed virtue and built up character, eventually you enter naturally into the Way.”

~ Zhang Hodao in Opening the Dragon Gate by Chen Kaiguo and Zheng Shunchao (translated by Thomas Cleary, p.6)

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“Food repairs the essence. Rest restores the spirit.”

I am taking a day off from work to take care of my mother today, and took the opportunity to turn off the alarm clock. Yes, of course the disciplinarian in me was not approving, but sometimes I like to see just exactly how much I would sleep if I let my body just take what it wants. In my case, it was about 10 hours of sleep!

I also recall reading the story of an American who went to China to study with a Taoist priest, and who became frustrated with himself because he spent many of the first weeks of his retreat napping and sleeping. When he brought it up with the priest, the priest responded that all of his western students went through the same thing, and that it was typical for all of them to need time to catch up on sleep and rest before they could begin establishing a daily practice requiring less sleep. The priest described that westerners are more fatigued, sleep-deprived and burnt out by their daily living schedules and environmental pollutants than they realize, and that a dedicated period of rest and detoxification is absolutely necessary and nothing to be disappointed with or ashamed of. I have always appreciated that story……just wish I could remember where I read it!

Recently Scott M. Rodell, a very respectable master of the Chinese jian (sword) also made an informative post on Facebook for his Great River Taoist Center that also highlights the importance of rest, as well as the importance of a healthy diet. Although written specifically in refernce to jian training, I believe it is relevant for all martial arts training, and for life in general. Scott M. Rodell shared this excerpt from the Essentials of the Wudang Sword Art by Huang Yuanxiu (translated by Paul Brennan):

FIVE THINGS TO AVOID WHEN TRAINING IN THE SWORD ART
from 武當劍法大要
ESSENTIALS OF THE WUDANG SWORD ART

第四戒過分
Fourth Prohibition – EXCESSIVENESS

劍術之妙用無窮。而一身之精力有限。故一日之練習。以一日之飲食休養為衡。飲食以補其精。休養以復其神。精神飽滿。則功夫亦隨而長進。故大飢大飽之時。不宜練習。練習疲勞之時。則宜散步換氣。靜座調息。如是調節。庶不致進鋭退速也。
The wonders of the sword art are limitless, but the body’s vitality is limited. This is because one day’s practice is based on one day’s sustenance and rest. Food repairs the essence. Rest restores the spirit. When your essence and spirit are abundant, then your skill will naturally develop. But when you are either overly hungry or overly full, you should not practice, or when you become fatigued in your practice, then you should go for a walk to get some fresh air, or quietly sit to regulate your breath. Moderating in this way, all of your practice will not end up a situation of rapid progress leading to rapid regress.

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Daoist Immortal Lü Dongbin
Artist Unknown
16th cent. Ming Dynasty, China


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第997字 | Character #997: 堅

Today’s traditional Chinese character is “solid” or “unwavering”. In the Tao Te Ching, there is the text:

Know the active,
But keep the passive!
Be an example to the world!
Being an example to the world,
Always true and unwavering,
Return to the infinite.

Have a good day!
~ Tom Delaney, dao-chang.com

來學正體字 | Learn Traditional Chinese Characters

The character 堅(ㄐㄧㄢ) means solid, or unwavering.
堅 at moedict.
Evolution of 堅.

堅(ㄐㄧㄢ)強(ㄑㄧㄤˊ) – resolute, sturdy
堅(ㄐㄧㄢ)固(ㄍㄨˋ) – firm and solid
堅(ㄐㄧㄢ)決(ㄐㄩㄝˊ) – determined

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第977字 | Character #977: 懂

Here is today’s traditional Chinese character — “to understand.” I found this quote from the Tao Te Ching (tr. Stephen Mitchel) to think about with this character today:

The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.

Have a good day!
– Tom Delaney

來學正體字 | Learn Traditional Chinese Characters

The character 懂(ㄉㄨㄥˇ) means to understand.
懂 at moedict.

懂(ㄉㄨㄥˇ)事(ㄕˋ) – sensible

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