Review of “A Daoist Practice Journal, Book 2: Circle Walking, Qigong, and Daoist Cultivation” by Bryan Sweet

Review by Bryan Sweet of “A Daoist Practice Journal, Book 2: Circle Walking, Qigong, and Daoist Cultivation” (Author: Shifu Michael Rinaldini)

This book, A Daoist Practice Journal, Book 2: Circle Walking, Qigong, and Daoist Cultivation, is the second book written by Michael Rinaldini (Shifu Li Chang Dao). His first book, entitled A Daoist Practice Journal, Come Laugh with Me, was well received by a diverse audience. In this book Shifu Michael weaves together multiple strands of Daoist practices to form a captivating mosaic. The strands include Circle Walking, Qigong, Daoist Scriptures, acupressure, teaching, zouwang meditation, and the importance of cultivating serenity. It is Shifu Michael’s erudition that allows him to integrate, for instance, an ancient scripture with his thoughts which emerged while gazing at the sky on a starry, summer night, or how the seasons of the year can palpably influence the impact of Circle Walking.

Michael Rinaldini’s writing style is disarming; that is, he manages to write in clear, crisp language while simultaneously deconstructing complex concepts. For example, he takes on the task of differentiating between stillness from silence by simply describing his experience of sitting in his yard. He deftly describes the felt experience of becoming aware of one’s breath, allowing the reader to identify with the physical sensation and, in doing so, pulls the reader into the experience of aligning with the Anterior Heaven Three Treasures.

The author is constantly posing himself questions as they arise in his mind, often while engaged in mundane day-to-day activities. To answer the questions, Shifu Rinaldini, is able to pull from current Daoist texts, or scriptures, or Circle Walking protocols, or acupressure books and link them together. For example, he discusses the effect of dental surgery, a common experience, yet in doing so offers an in-depth discussion of how he constructed an answer to dental pain which involve meridians, acupressure points, extraordinary vessels, and Circle Walking. In another section of the book, he cites a recipe for a liver cleanse, discusses different foods, all while explaining the effect of the imbalances in the Wood Element.

The author has a wealth of experience in the practice and teaching of Circle Walking and Qigong. Scattered throughout the text, there are clear descriptions and images of each Circle Walking postures. He provides in-depth explanations of the impact of different postures and the meridians/vessels they impact. This is information that cannot be found elsewhere in the TCM literature in such an easy-to-read format. He provided, for instance, a detailed description of how to prepare for different seasons of the year, by linking a number of Qigong exercises and Circle Walking postures, to their respective meridians/vessels. In one, sense the books can be a “how to” reference for practitioners and students.

Probably the most engaging aspect of the text is Shifu Michael’s thoughtful discussion of the core texts of Quanzhen Daoists and the scriptures. Indeed, his true strength is his mature understanding of concepts or thoughts integral to the Quanzhen tradition, and his ability to access and link them to his ongoing discussion of an idea. For instance, he calls upon a description of Circle Walking in one text, and links it with another text on Daoist meditation, or juxtaposing an idea from one text on meditations with a chapter with a verse of the Daode Jing. These linkages, in turn, result in a plethora of original, creative thoughts about a range of topics. These nuggets of insight are scattered throughout the text.

The parts that I found most personally meaningful were the discussion of Zuowang Meditation. He refers to Zuowang as “mindless” because it does not rely upon concepts, forms, visualizations, or other faculties of the mind, a practice which goes beyond the mind. He speaks of meditation as the “frontier” wherein material existence and the “sacred world” begins. It is within this space that meditation really begins. The author speaks to the importance of phraseology as a means of leading the mind beyond itself to the realm of emptiness, specifically the importance of reciting Not Two. Shifu Michael clearly differentiates Zuowang meditation from other forms of meditation linking it back to the Quanzhen tradition.

If you would like an introduction to Daoism, this book would provide an excellent scaffold for your ongoing learning. For the more experienced reader, this book provides a much nuanced perspective on a diversity of salient topics causing one to rethink any comfortable assumptions – a very enjoyable book, one that can and must be read again and again.

Leave a Reply