A Thousand Kinds of (Spiritual) Joy

Anecdotes from T'ai Chi Chih founder Justin Stone from the August 2014 issue of The Vital Force journal:

More 20th Century Psalms

By Justin Stone

I only once met Roshi Suzuki, the Zen Master who helped found Tassajara, but was deeply impressed. It is a difficult drive up to Tassajara in the winter and I had an old car. After speaking with me for a while in Japanese, in the mistaken impression I was a well-known scholar he was expecting from Kyoto, Roshi invited me to share a Japanese ofuro (hot bath in a wooden tub) with him. Looking hesitantly at the fading sun as the day drew to a close, I replied that I had better start back while there was still some sunlight to see by. "The moon gives light, too," was his soft answer.


 One of my T'ai Chi Chih teachers brought some students to see me on the Monterey Peninsula. We talked of this and that, and then one of the students asked me about reincarnation (a misleading word).

"What do you mean by reincarnation?" I asked. "What is it that reincarnates? That tree in the garden is shedding leaves, which is natural in autumn. But those leaves will return next spring. Is that what you mean?"

"The leaves that come in the springtime will not be the same leaves," the student protested.

"Why identify with the leaves?" I asked. "Why not identify with the tree?"


Lynette Wooliver, a profound Christian Scientist, is one of the most spiritually advanced people I have known. She once remarked to me that she saw her daughters as two nice girls who occasionally visited the house. When the home she and her husband were building in Santa Fe tragically burned to the ground just before completion, she told me that they had watched the fire with interest for a while, then went home to enjoy a night's sleep. As her mother was dying, she remarked to Lynette on the beauty of the flowers in a vase by her bedside, and Lynette answered: "I picked them myself in the garden."

One time, in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, Lynette and some friends were eating lunch with me at a sidewalk cafe owned by an Austrian man. For dessert he brought us each a rich Sachertorte from Vienna, so good one always wants a second. As I was bringing my fork to my mouth with the first succulent piece, salivating in anticipation of this tasty morsel, Lynette suddenly asked: "Can we do without this?"

I immediately put my fork down and pushed the plate away, and she did the same. Seeing this, she remarked: "Then we might as well eat it" – which we proceeded to do with gusto. I believe the lesson was completely lost on her friends, but it is true that we can only enjoy that which we can do without.


Swami Ramdas, who died in the middle of the twentieth century, was like a joyous child who saw God in everything and everybody. One day a man robbed a bank in an Indian town and, when he was apprehended, there was Swami Ramdas carrying some of the bags of loot for him.

In court the Judge asked Swamiji, "What is a Holy Man like you doing mixed up with this thief?"

Swami Ramdas replied: "By the Grace of God I was standing on the corner when, by the Grace of God, a man ran by, carrying some bags. ‘Here, carry this,’ he yelled at me, and, by the Grace of God, he threw two bags for me to carry. So, by the Grace of God, I was running alongside him when, by the Grace of God, two policemen …"

"Get out of here," interrupted the magistrate, laughing, and Swamiji was set free – by the Grace of God. The Sanskrit scholar, Judith Tyberg, told me this story of the great Saint who had become like a simple child, dancing for Joy.

[Reprinted with permission from Good Karma Publishing. This title is out-of-print.]


Marionette: The wonderful feeling of TCC doing TCC


A TCC student describes how gradually this moving meditation practice became easier, softer, more grounded, and eventually effortless at times. As TCC originator Justin Stone recommended, "the effort of no effort."

By DD, Arizona

“A marionette is a puppet controlled from above using wires or strings … a marionette’s puppeteer is called a marionettist.” (In our culture, we often refer to someone who does not think or act for him or herself as a “puppet,” and that word creates quite a doubtful impression. For purposes of this metaphor, we’ll put down that negative connotation.)

T’ai Chi Chih is my marionettist. When I first came to TCC, I watched as my teacher slowly, gracefully and with intent, positioned her hands, arms, waist and feet. I marveled at the ease with which she moved. How could one as tense as I come close to proper practice? How could one as stiff as I create a path for vital energy to renew my body and my spirit? How could I?

I watched. I waited. My feet stumbled and my muscles ached. I put my left foot forward and pushed my hands as best I could, teetering as my body rocked front to back, side-to-side.

I studied. I practiced. My neck and shoulders refused to yield. I held fast to the lifelong rigidity that kept me upright – that kept me out of balance.

I began to heed my teacher’s counsel to pay attention to the soles of my feet. I felt the earth under me, keeping me stable, focused, stronger than before. Then it came to me: “I will let you be my marionettist; I will be the puppet.”

The very next practice I set my feet firmly on the earth, and set my eyes completely on my teacher’s hands and feet. I imagined a string or wire reaching from her hands and feet all the way to mine. When my marionettist softened her hand or angled her foot or bent her knee, mine had no option but to follow. (The strings, you see.) When my marionettist pushed the air or pulled the energy, I kept in constant rhythm. (I had no choice because of the wires, of course.)

Time passed. Classes came and went. One day in practice, as taffy stretched, clouds passed, and joyous breath inspired – it happened. There was a shift … a passing of the torch … a subtle change … a sudden awareness.

Someone else, something else, controlled the strings. My eyes, my hands, my senses no longer fixed on my own thoughts or connected to my teacher, TCC was now my marionettist.

“One day … suddenly I realized nobody is doing anything. I had myself out of the way. T’ai Chi Chih is doing T’ai Chi Chih and it’s a very, very ecstatic feeling.” – Justin F. Stone

Reprinted with permission from the May 2015 issue of The Vital Force, the TCC journal.