One of the problems of Taiji, especially Yang style Taiji, is collapse in the upper spine. This will tend to happen when the practitioner forgets that spirit should be the driving force for practice, and not habit or duty. Spirit – life force – is the energy that prevents Yin and Yang fusing into a grey and bland monoculture. Without spirit Internal and External will become mere reflections of each other instead of the complimentary opposites they are meant to be. The Taiji Classics are adamant on this: Outside soft like a beautiful woman, inside like a tiger ready to pounce. The outside always disguises the inside. So the form of Taiji is slow and soft and relaxed and sunk but the inside is quick and hard and tense and rising. What you see is not what you get. Nature loves to hide. Trickery and subtlety are built in to the natural process.


Develop the breathing not simply as oxygenator but as energetic pump.
Keep the gates closed and the heart open, otherwise life is liable to dribble away on trivial pursuits, of which Taiji could very well be the chief offender.
Beware of teachers who purposefully withhold fundamental aspects of the teaching in order to keep you hanging on. Such behaviour borders on the evil.


"The interpreter deploys his mastery of the instrument to achieve a virtuosity consisting in producing sounds in such a way that he himself disappears and all that remains is sound in space."


In our struggle to maintain a mental grip on the world we try our utmost to keep the head still. Then the world is simply what we sense rather than what we are a part of. Hardly surprising then that the ego – the capitalist inside us – sees the world as a source of profit rather than as something to belong to. One way out of this is to relax the neck and let the head and the senses swim, as though ever adrift.
Most of us become so resentful we end up resenting life itself. Why else do we choose to be unhappy when, with a subtle change of heart, we could be brimming with joy?


Taijiquan was developed as a martial art many centuries ago. In all likelihood it was practised by vigorous young men who worked as farmers, that is, by men already physically strong with good fiery spirits. These men would have been taught relaxation and turning so that their strong bodies could borrow and return energy. Hours and hours of pushing hands would have taught them to listen and stick to their opponent, and hence yield/attack was born (can't have one without the other). Nowadays, Taiji is practised by middle class office workers: well educated, well meaning folk with weak slack bodies and slumbering spirits, full of neurotic tension and overactive minds. Such students require a different approach to those of old: focused meditation to quieten the mind, vigorous labor to strengthen the body, and some form of fighting to tone and hone the spirit. Otherwise Taiji has no authenticity, no heart, and the wrong sort of mind.
Settle in for the long haul.
An ascetic life is one devoted to under rather than over consumption.
Dantien is a position of strength.

Weakness is loss of centre.

True feelings are those felt whilst centred, whilst strong.

False (self-generated) feelings are those felt because you've drifted off centre, off course.

False feelings, never to be indulged, are useful only if taken as cue to recentre.
Only by reducing the self will the world – whatever the ego chooses to see – similarly shrink, and reality become apparent.


The trouble with all spiritual work is that it is far easier to get it wrong than it is to get it right. And, in a sense, it could always be better. But, c'est la vie, it is what it is, and part of the work is accepting that and just learning to plod on, for the hell of it if not for the joy of it.
The reason we get it wrong is ignorance: choosing to live in darkness. And it is a choice, a cowardly one, one that chooses comfort over pain, habit over change, the known over the unknown, suffering over joy.
Despite the barrage of messages we receive daily from the Dao – admonitions to wake up – calls to arms – we still prefer to hide behind an ego (our personal affront to Nature) in the astonishingly stupid belief that ignorance is bliss.
The only way out of ignorance is to receive the light of holiness. Such light first intoxicates and then terrifies because it illuminates those parts of myself that I choose to keep in darkness: it clearly shows the immensity of the task ahead.
The light of holiness shines from those rare and rarified individuals whose minds are totally focused on their path to God. This is the most precious form of grace, capable of redirecting and inspiring a whole life.
Life is invested with meaning by acquiring a toolbox of principles and concepts for living. And be aware that all tools that are used regularly eventually wear out and will need to be replaced.
We already know all there is to know. We just choose to pile a heap of shit on it. Spiritual work is always negative – subtractive.