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Book Review: Drawing Silk by Paul Gallagher
Review by Don Franklin
Drawing Silk is a good book to go to periodically to either reread
in its entirety or focus on one or several of the chapters.
Though this is not a 'Training Manual' that teaches the T'ai Chi
forms (it seems you really need a good teacher for that), it does
say a lot about T'ai Chi.
Paul talks about Five Animal frolics, which are movements that
incorporate many of the principles of T'ai Chi Ch'uan, but in a
more simplistic form, and can be practiced individually or sequentially
as a system in and of itself.
Like T'ai Chi, the frolics can be used to cultivate inner chi.
Some can use them more for meditation, some for combative techniques.
In the system Paul Gallagher teaches, the Five Animal Frolics (tiger,
deer, bear, monkey and crane) are mostly internal, emphasizing
relaxation and union of intent, breath and movement.
There is a chapter about the benefits of T'ai Chi, such as increased
good health, increasing physical potential, slowing down the aging
process, self defense, all good things to know if you are beginning
and what you begin to experience the more you practice T'ai Chi.
With this reading of Drawing Silk, I seem to relate to the sections
that lean more toward the mystical aspects of T'ai Chi. Chapter
Nine, "Facing North and The True Meaning" and the chapter, "Musings
on a Golden Day", brought back into focus some concepts that I
had either forgotten or had let slide. In Facing North, we're reminded
why; when we begin the solo form we face north to open ourselves
to the "violet hued chi emanating from the North Star".
If it's true that the Big Dipper acts as a pivotal point in the
Universe, harmonizes with the North Star, and benefits our experience,
then it inspires me to think that there is much more going on than
just the slow execution of a learned set of movements.
Finally, in the chapter, "Musings on a Golden Day", there's the
telling of the life of a Master who sought for many years techniques
for the cultivation of immortality. Toward the end of his life
he comes to the realization that we all seek, that you can't cultivate
it, because we've always been immortal.