Daniel Hilton Chalfen, Ph.D. (1957-2020)
Shortly after the Gu Feng Tai Chi Club incorporated in 2001, Danny attended an introductory class offered by the Club. He continued practicing Tai Chi with the Club for the next twenty years. He found the practice to benefit both his body and his soul.
“Tai Chi is one of the best resources I have in my life for learning to quiet my ego. If my ego is still, my mind and body can work together without interference from ego’s constant chatter; I can experience a feeling of oneness through the movements. In this sense, Tai Chi is an important part of my path toward self-realization. For example, when I practice Tai Chi, I may be thinking about what my instructors at Gu Feng might think about how great, or how lousy, that last movement was, and — boom! — suddenly I’m just moving body parts around. Any sense of unity evaporates. So, I return to my center. The smooth flow and calmness of Tai Chi resumes. In this way, Tai Chi has been a wonderful life teacher to me. Having a physical disability (very low lung function), Tai Chi is the primary way I stay fit, while gaining life lessons. If I think too much about how I’m doing while practicing Tai Chi, I get out of breath. If I’m centered, my breath is natural and I can practice for a long time. Through the regular practice of what I have learned at Gu Feng (stretching, Chi Gong, standing meditation, Silk Reeling, Tai Chi) I can keep in shape while becoming more centered in my daily life. I am grateful for the opportunity over the last four years to be learning Tai Chi with Laura and all the great instructors at Gu Feng.”
—Danny Chalfen (2005)
Even though his physical ability to practice was limited, Danny’s curiosity about Tai Chi was unbounded. He researched how Tai Chi could improve his health. Both in and out of class, Danny would ask Laura questions about the fundamental principles of Tai Chi and of the Daoist philosophy underlying Tai Chi. Although unable to participate in the teaching sessions conducted by visiting Chinese masters, Danny would observe and analyze their movements, applying what he learned to his own practice.
Danny was always happy to lend a helping hand. One longtime member recalls struggling when he began practicing Tai Chi; talking with Danny gave him encouragement to continue. When Master Chen Xiaowang experienced altitude sickness on one of his teaching visits, Danny brought some of his own oxygen equipment to ease Master Chen’s discomfort.
Before retiring and moving to Boulder, Danny was a trailblazer in assistive technology. He developed and coordinated the Disabilities and Computing Program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) from 1984 to 1997, enabling university members with disabilities to access online and e-text information. He also consulted for assistive technology programs at other American and international universities and colleges.
GFTCC members describe Danny as being a gentle soul—calm, peaceful, inquisitive, helpful, friendly, and a joy to be around.