I am delving deeply into my Chi Gung practice with renewed vigor these days, studying with the legendary Tai Chi and Chi Gung master Robert Chuckrow, who happens to be a member of Cate’s extended family. Cate called me one fine day, “You have to meet Robert!”. And it has been a cascade of blessings ever since.
I actually met Robert at the Tai Chi Farm festival in upstate New York many years ago, where he autographed one of his earlier books for me. Robert is the author of ‘Tai Chi Walking: A Low-Impact Path to Better Health, The Tai Chi Book, Tai Chi Dynamics and his latest masterpiece, which he finished in March, ‘Tai Chi Concepts: Hidden Strength, Natural Movement, and Timing.’ His website https://chuckrowtaichi.com has a wealth of excellently written articles and intriguing videos on a variety of topics that we have been exploring with great interest. His recent talk on nutrition, as also detailed in his articles, was especially fascinating to me.
Along with offering valuable input and instruction whenever he can make it to our Friday MKY Chi Gung practice sessions, Robert has generously invited our members to his own classes, so please let us know if you are interested; we are all learning so much! Robert is a treasure trove of knowledge, skill and refined wisdom, having studied with the most accomplished Chi Gung and Tai Chi masters in the world, including those credited with first introducing and perpetuating the Asian martial arts for chi cultivation in the West.
As a long-time physics professor and writer, Robert succinctly explains and demonstrates the subtle nuances of these techniques and reveals important insights, some of which have never before been elucidated in English. Robert teaches with grounded commonsense, delightful humor and an intriguing touch of mysticism. He emblazons his own bold signature on the ancient Taoist arts, as many of the great masters have done, and this has served to take my own practice and understanding to a whole new level. He continues to develop and progress these arts by combining concepts from physics, body work and movement traditions, synthesized with his unique, highly tuned process of inquiry.
Robert brings the Taoist arts vividly alive for us by constantly emphasizing discovery and experimentation. His own tireless sense of wonder encourages us to explore new vistas of consciousness in every session. With characteristic enthusiasm, he models how to make the practice ever fresh, ever new, as we unlock the powerful flow of healing Chi in countless ways. Even if I live 300 years or more, I could never run out of new things to explore: That’s the secret Robert manages to impart. Each insight he shares goes far beyond the practice floor, and when applied comprehensively, leads to a strong life, well lived. As we endlessly explore and polish our practice, we polish our lives.
Please join us in this fascinating process of self-discovery. ----- Savitri
The Eight Brocades is a real blessing for millions of people all over the world. The movements are beautifully silken, like intricate brocade. After practicing, it feels as if you are wearing a robe of rich, soft, silk fabric: This is the Qi(Chi) or Prana that flows through the subtle channels in and around the body, brightening and strengthening the radiant body, which in turn strengthens, protects, heals and sustains the physical body.
Eight Brocade Qigong is one of the most common forms of Qigong in the world and is probably the simplest Qigong one can learn. It is focused on opening the muscles and tendons and healing and awakening the internal organ systems of the physical body.
A simple search online describes people with physical problems, especially related to the lower body, who have had amazing benefits within 6-8 months of practicing this form. People who had difficulty with instability, who were prone to falling or unable to climb stairs or even walk a few steps were able to build up their energy body and physical body with the Eight Brocades to the point where they could walk several flights of stairs with relative ease. Even people with Parkinson’s disease have reported increased stability in the body, with pain and rigidity eased up by 50% or more.
The Eight Brocades follow the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine and are one of the most gentle and effective ways of working with the body. They calm the nervous system, improve circulation, build great strength and heal body, mind, and spirit. They correct physical and energetic imbalances of all kinds and optimally direct Qi throughout the body, removing blockages without the use of needles, herbs or massage. In fact, it is one of the best ways to strengthen the body and improve circulation. It also helps in balancing the vital functions and drives stagnant energy and toxins out of the system.
The Eight Brocades also happens to be one of the oldest Qigong systems in Chinese history. It is first mentioned by name in the 12th century Stories Heard by Yijian, a collection of supernatural tales from the Song dynasty. Descriptions of the physical movements of the Eight Brocades, as well as their related medical applications, also show up in the Daoist encyclopedia, Pivot of the Way, also from the 12th century.
But even earlier, these precise movements were described in the sixth century, in Cultivating Spirit and Extending Vitality Record, written by one of the great grandfathers of Daoism, Tao Hongjing, who lived between 456–536 BCE. Going back even further, thanks to recent archeological discoveries in China, we can see that the Eight Brocade exercises, though probably called by a different name, were being practiced as far back as the second century BCE as shown by some of the characters from the Diagram of Leading and Pulling, from 168 BCE.
The Eight Brocades seem to have grown in popularity during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), appearing in a fairly standardized way in numerous books, such as the 14th century Essentials of Attaining Longevity, written by the painter, musician, and Daoist hermit Leng Qian in the 12th century, as well as in the 16th century Eight Treasuries on Nurturing Life, written by the Daoist playwright Gao Lian. In both contexts it is praised as an essential practice for balancing the energies of the body.
The famous, undefeated martial artist and general Yue Fei, who was also a calligrapher and poet, held off China’s enemies single-handedly in the 10th century, for an entire generation. The Eight Brocades was said to be the secret of his incredible strength.
In one of the narratives about the Eight Brocades, Zhong Li Quan, one of the famous Eight Daoist Immortals, formalized the Eight Brocades in the 14th century. Then it further caught on in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).
The French Jesuit missionary Pierre-Martial Cibot came to the court of the Qing Emperor in the 1700s and published an essay in 1779, Instructions on the Kung Fu of Daoist Monks, which includes a number of drawings of Daoist monks performing what are clearly exercises from the Eight Brocades. Cibot’s article included a rundown of Daoist anatomy and the function of these movements, i.e. the restoration of proper circulation of energy. He even mentions that these exercises are performed to prepare the body for the alchemical process. The paper was widely circulated in Europe, and has come to be regarded as a source document on the Eight Brocades in the history of physiotherapy for the West, due to its influence on Pehr Henrik Ling (1766-1839), the father of Swedish Gymnastics.
From there, the Eight Brocades seeped into Modern European physical culture and was practiced by the military of many different countries, including the British army stationed in India, who practiced it alongside yoga.
Today it is practiced as a modern, transnational, therapeutic form of moving meditation for health, healing, strength and well-being. The Chinese Communist Party tried to curb the global explosion of QiGong toward the end of the 1990s, delegitimizing many forms of Qigong, famously imprisoning and even executing practitioners of Falon Gong and other forms QiGong. I have seen many human rights protests in Times Square led by Falon Gong and Falon Dafa practitioners within the last few years while working in New York.
The Eight Brocades, luckily, were approved by the Chinese Communist Party and is often a first resort for healing the body, prescribed before sending a patient to a doctor or hospital in China. It is perhaps the most common form of Qigong practiced all around the world.
The Eight Brocades, when practiced regularly, improve wellness, fitness, vitality, healing, and longevity. It can be practiced by everyone; young and elderly, people who are fit and also those looking to get fit. The standing sets of the Eight Brocades can be learned by anyone who can stand, and can establish health in as little as 15 minutes a day.
I have been practicing the Eight Brocades daily for many years now and can attest to their efficacy. I very much look forward to sharing them with you.
Join Savitri online on Fridays at 1pm for Chi-Gung & the Eight Brocades.
Geoffrey Orozco (Geo), or Neo, as he came to be known, came to Montclair Kundalini Yoga when we first began our business. My connection with him went deep from that first moment when I knew I wanted to support his personal and spiritual development in any way that I could. Geo and I shared many passions. We both loved to dance, to heal, to teach.
Saturdays were my time with Geo, when he would come to my yoga class, and afterwards, we would talk, sometimes for hours, often going to the park. Sometimes he would come with his Mother or his sister and her children or dear friends. We would talk about spirituality and our plans to spread the light through our teaching, or we would practice Tai Chi and Chi Gung, or just walk. He taught me how to dance with his thunderbolt rods, as I liked to called them, slowly twirling two long rods in a graceful, synchronous, spiral motion. Geo believed in me. He believed in both Cate and myself as his spiritual mentors, and the funny thing is, we realize now that he was actually our teacher.
When I began to teach Chi Gung in the park, Geo was sometimes the only person who would come, but he would bring many friends and eventually brought his boom box so we could move gracefully to music, which became a staple element in our practice. More than two years passed and Geo was consistent in every way with his participation and support in whatever MKY offered and our friendship deepened.
Cate and I went to Geo’s “office”, which is what he called the Paterson Falls. The sound of the waterfall served as a musical backdrop to our meetings. Geoffrey talked to us about life, about spirituality and about our yoga business, with many good ideas for expansion which we utilized with success.
I’d once arrived at The Falls distracted and tense, neglecting to give Geo my customary hug. “Where’s the personal touch?” he admonished me, and I smiled and gave him my big warm hug. Hugs were just about the most important thing to Geo, something I will always remember and practice throughout my life. He lived his life for love, love for absolutely everyone. No one was beneath his love and support. Love was what was most important to Geo.
Geo had many, many friends that he brought to our yoga studio, which was such a joy. But no matter how many other friends he had, or I had, we knew our friendship was special. When we were together talking about spiritual matters, no distractions ever intruded into that vast space of awareness and we would both always feel renewed and reborn from this deep discourse.
On Labor Day, Geo left this world, so young, at his beloved Falls. Apparently, he left this world trying to help a woman in great need, both mentally and psychologically. But exactly how he slipped and how it happened, no one quite knows. We do know that he left this world at his favorite place doing what he most loved, helping a soul in need.
After that momentous night, amazing gatherings took place to honor Geoffrey in pure love and tribute; a memorial service that had dozens and dozens of people telling beautiful stories of their relationship with Geo. His Buddhist group chanted, Native American's danced and sang their sacred songs and burned sage. Shamans and yoga groups, performers and performance groups, Christian and Islamic groups, tee shirts printed with Geo's inspirational sayings were worn by many.... And tears... an ocean of tears! So many, many lives he changed for the better! Cate and I were so honored to be there and honored to share stories of our own about the love, appreciation and gratitude that Geo lived his life by as we listened to all the stories of what a rare soul of pure love Geoffrey was.
The next morning after his memorial service, I went up to the Kripalu Center in Massachusetts and spoke to Sri Mooji Baba, a spiritual teacher whom Geo was very devoted to. Mooji showered Geo with blessings and prayers, saying resolutely, “Geo’s beautiful spiritual progression continues uninterrupted!”
Later a beautiful, candlelight ceremony was held at his beloved Falls. At our yoga studio, many candles and chants are still being offered for his soul. We chant Akal, again and again, which means undying. We know he will be with us as we move forward – he is always one with us.
There was also a beautiful, well-attended Zen service for Geo at the Heart Circle Sangha in Ridgewood, NJ, presided over by Roshi Joan Hogetsu Hoeberichts. Geoffrey told me he had visited the Heart Circle Sangha at one point, and I am a long time member. So we were able to hold a wonderful ceremony there, thanks to Joan.
On the Saturday before Geo had to leave us, he came to my yoga class at the very top of his potential, just blossoming with excitement about his spiritual mission. Cate and I were delighted to hear that he had just led a workshop for thirty people. Geo talked that last day about the many people who had benefited from his workshops and private teachings. We poured in our love and support and again suggested that he give workshops for our yoga community. We laughed so joyfully as we made plans to meet in Geoffrey’s “office”, which is how he referred to his beloved Paterson Falls. He walked out of the studio on cloud nine as I followed him into the parking lot, asking what I could do to support his mission. I go over and over those last moments in my mind. Each time I teach, I still look for him to walk through the door. He is with us and will always be with us as we move forward into the future.
Geoffrey arrived fully to his purpose and mission and was devoted to both his own spiritual growth and the growth of others. The full extent of his reach and the many, many lives he touched and transformed for the better, become more and more abundantly clear as we continue to listen to his many friends and read testimonies from many more online from far and wide. What a beautiful, beautiful soul of pure love whose influence and many blessings to our world live on and on.
This poem is for Geoffrey...
Dances with Thunderbolts
Geoffrey, we are with you
Through and through the Silence
We are with you
As Freedom rides
The Eternal Winds
On Wings, we are with you dear friend
As kaleidoscopic colors
We are with you dear teacher
As with Infinite care
From swimming cobalt
You emerge to dance with thunderbolts
We are with you dearest son
As you spin and twirl, we watch in awe
Pure love soul from God
Unprotected beacon, lighthouse to all
No one beneath your compassion
All encompassed by your love
Gratitude, Appreciation, deep spiritual insight
Precious treasure lamp
Heart of God
We are with you
To protect and care
To love beyond all words
We go with you
Into the new-green light
We go with you
To consecrate an altar
Deep in the virile
Wilderness of the Soul
Savitri's path of right living centers around the spiritual upliftment of each person she encounters. As a Yoga teacher, Savitri brings the potency of over thirty years of spiritual study and practice, including meditation, in-depth study of Tai Chi, Chi Gung and other martial arts, as well as her certified expertise in Kundalini Yoga & Shakti Dance™. She transmits her passion, joy and commitment to truth through these Raj (royal) yogas, which enliven and empower all who attend her classes, workshops and retreats. Join Savitri on Wednesday and Friday nights for Kundalini Yoga with Sound Healing and on Saturday mornings for Kundalini Yoga & Meditation.