31.12.06

Our sea, to rough trade cautiously approached. Pea green
and troughing, sounds like poetry. There's a license finds me

at wild anise, out this window facing one of all the hills to the
sea run. Prominent stalk to yellow promise, ordered and notified.
Able solitary laws to grow in me

excrescent, damned, never enough. Exterior to year's own
narrative, one's evolving mis-calculated hunger, or hunger's
tumor. Weed be beautiful, be beauty, dependent

simply in anticipation of youth drummed everywhere but home.
Take and use. Discriminate. As in laying.

scrape up art from surfaces unbidden. My body standing next,
compared to what a wild seed produced. I walk away


Gil Ott

30.12.06

Forward

Sticking is just listening: when you put your hands, heart, energy on someone and feel where they're coming from and where they're going. When your touch cuts through their ego – confidence – and feels their truth: fragile, tortured and pathetic though it be. What turns sticking into yielding is compassion: feeling how your involvement – intercession – in that life can help heal it. What makes sticking and yielding, for us, natural processes is our insistence on forwards as the principle that underpins all. To understand forwards: what is it that goes forward, how does it go forward without clashing, how can we earn the assistance of up, down and behind in our devotion to forward, takes tens of thousands of hours of meditation, form and pushing hands.

28.12.06

Off to Israel today for 2 weeks so this blog may be quieter than usual. I'm not promising though.

Fear

There are two ways of tackling – fighting – fear. With relaxation and with spirit. Fear tightens and pulls your energy into yourself, knotting it up. Relaxation does the opposite, whereas spirit marshals your energy for a concerted attack on the enemy. It is important to coordinate these two approaches – relaxation and spirit, so that for you they always go together. Then each time you rouse your spirit you'll automatically relax a little, and each time you relax your spirit will kick in. You'll then have a tool sufficient to the task at hand, which whatever it is will always be fighting fear on some level at least.

26.12.06

May Intensive 1993

Leaving Wimpole St for the last time - 1 May 1993

Speed

Students often ask me to elaborate the concept/principle of single-weightedness, and the more I talk about it, think about it, and more importantly practice it, the more I am inclined to feel that it is a lot more complex than simply having the weight solely or dominantly in only one foot at a time, although it all comes from that starting point. The single-weightedness we are after is the single-weightedness of the pianist. When a person starts to play the piano they practice one hand at a time. Once they achieve some technique – fluency and facility – they start to use both hands at the same time, in unison to start with and then in concert. With practice there comes a point, apparently, when the hands become independent of each other and are able to behave like two separate entities on the keyboard – each doing their own thing. There also comes a point when the fingers become independent of each other, and the good piano player effectively has ten different performers and personalities at his disposal, each physically tied to its neighbours but well able to sing its own tune. Counterpoint. By cultivating such independence Glen Gould revolutionised the playing of Bach with his spikey clarity and dexterity. Chopin composed differently for each finger. David Tudor, stimulated by the technical demands of contemporary composers, taught himself to play block chords with a different loudness in each finger, and Cecil Taylor did the same in his high intensity and richly textured improvisations. The ability of a performer to transport the audience lies not in the interpretive will, but in the ability to become free of technical and interpretive constraints and let body, energy and spirit fly. For this to happen an edge – a tension – has to be created, and this edge is the one between constraint and freedom, control and abandon. This is what single- weightedness is all about – creating this edge and riding it. The only way to really start dipping into it is to work with speed. To start with when you do the Form quickly it will appear to glide and details will become glossed over – it loses texture. But with practice, and in particular as the body and root strengthen, the opposite will happen – the speed will develop a more dynamic engagement with both the ground and the heavens, and with your own body and energy, and detail that you never realised was there will begin to shake loose and scatter into your Form. You can then bring that detail into your slow Form in order to gain real familiarity with it. Spirit keeps it all together – stops it falling apart – and since the practice of spirit is probably the most important function of the solo Form, working with speed is vitally important.

24.12.06

The natural power in the connexion is far more powerful than anything you can possess.

The change that needs to take place in your energy is not a change of capacity but a change of meaning.

The weak & foolish attempt to delineate the mist and turn it to their will.


John Kells

23.12.06

The Guardian runs an article today on Tai Chi by Joanna Hall.

Heart

True communication is a matter of heart. It transforms; and it requires connexion. The heart is in the connexion – in the ability to connect, which enables the communication. Practising heart is a matter of making connexions and nurturing them. In Tai Chi we call this yielding. Buddhists call it compassion. It is a matter of drawing an aspect of essential nature into the heart, healing it (making it clear and whole) through an action of the heart, and then returning it. This is a process that happens continuously and constantly with those you love. The aim of the work is to make this process enter everything I do. For this to happen I must internalize basic principles, which involves working with them and developing them (letting them breathe and live) under pure and controlled conditions for extended periods each day. The most important function of this work is not that it makes me strong or balanced but the opposite – it rips me open revealing a world more alive, more intense and more raw (more immediate) than the one I know. To feel this bleeding edge, and to live on it and by it, is the meaning of the work. It is a painful edge but supremely nourishing, and once you reach a certain level in Tai Chi it is the only place where you are not bored rigid. It is not a place you need to travel to. It is always there waiting for whoever is ready.
Jane Colling Xmas card

22.12.06

The work is so dedicated it's nothing else.

Let others taste your life.

Your humanity comes from your inhumanity.

The ultimate responsibility is here now.

If abandonment comes natural to you then you have a far better chance of hitting the right thing.

You have to be able to spill into the sun and get your energy from the stars otherwise the earth will weigh you down.

Abandonment = Forgiveness


John Kells on the telephone 15 minutes ago.

Abandonment

Energy hates to be confined and if it is it is being misused. Energy should shudder through you like a vast consuming wave, take your breath away, sweep you off your feet (literally). The only way to survive it and be strengthened by it is to become its constant companion: open to it, enter it and allow it to pass through every pore, lodge in every cell of the body, and vibrate every nuance of your character. This is the heart we talk about. It is not the heart that does good, necessarily, it is the heart to enter and become alive – energetic – and leave all concepts, plans, desires and expectations – all thoughts – far behind. Energy has its own wisdom and intelligence. It is the stuff of connexion so it must have, and it must be superior to your own, on some level at least, and that level is always attainable – in fact beckoning – but only if your engagement with it is total: all or nothing. It always takes all you have. How else can you be empty enough to receive it?

21.12.06

Love heels.

20.12.06

Letter from Big Dave

Dear Steven

I am in Prague working with a Czech theatre group and am struck by the parallels in working principles between this and the Tai Chi / Heartwork.

We do improvisations using so many layers that the thinking mind simply can't remember them all and dominate the action anymore and all that's left is your partner, the floor and a submission to the work you've been building layer by layer under the keen eye of an exceptional director.

All the exercises are focused on something outside your body/self, even simple warm up stretches are encouraged to have imaginative or emotional associations within them.

What's exciting and alive about the work is that you simply couldn't sit at home and conceive such stuff by yourself, because its bricks and mortar, its very essence is about the quality of meeting.

Anyway, I miss the push hands, green tea and blah blah.

Love to all,

D

Heartwork

The job for all of us is to undo the blockages that prevent our true quality – our essential nature – expressing itself in all we do. That essential nature resides in the heart, hence Heartwork.

19.12.06

Love

The heart's burden is the thinking mind. Sitting atop, it weighs down with its machinations – constantly churning and twisting in on itself – depressing and stunting the heart. During moments of respite and quietude the heart lifts, opens and expands, filling both the chest and the head, revealing a different world both inside and out. The magical substance of the heart is love which lights, alights and delights – a natural animation that binds and connects, each object throbbing with life and significance, each object equally part of the dance. The activity of the heart doesn't just reveal, it creates – it gives for good, and everything it touches is charged and changed forever despite the mind's destructive efforts to retrieve control and maintain a managable status quo.

17.12.06

Veracity

Just had my teacher on the phone. Here's some things I jotted down with my pencil-wielding hand – mostly his words.
The purity of the connexion belongs to neither of you.

You must stand away from the weight of your conditioning.

Something is in control other than your desires.

A panoply of sensitivities.

The colour of your character.

A pellucid veracity makes you reliable.

A saint brings blessings without design.

15.12.06

Listen to your heart

"The most important thing in Tai Chi Chuan is correct teaching. The dynamic effort required to learn engages the body, mind and spirit. Perseverance in the face of this required effort over a period of time is necessary for the process to become self-inspirational. This means that your motive for starting has to be as strong as possible. Honestly facing the need for change requires the courage to face the pain of that change. Talent is useful but it is the hard-work that is essential. Finding the right teacher requires you to make a strong effort to open to the candidates you find. Your very first instinct, in their presence especially, or connecting in any way, is your best help. The pressures of ordinary life will try to override this first impression, and the courage to believe in your own instinct here is the start of the required change within. Finding correct teaching should be like coming home. It is always the teaching that takes precedence. The teacher may have human weaknesses but if a chord of recognition is struck within then that is your starting point. If you don't find that feeling of recognition then don't waste your time attempting to learn without it. The famous phrase “Tai Chi Chuan is easy to learn but difficult to correct” means that if you are out by a hair's breadth you are as far apart as heaven from earth. Tai Chi Chuan is a series of moving-meditation / self-defence postures derived from the ancient Chinese understanding of the laws of nature. Correct posture is the key, and the door to be unlocked resides in the heart. Make all the effort you can to find your teacher, but when you stand in front of him or her for the first time, listen to your heart."

John Kells 11 Oct 2006

14.12.06

The Hard Heart

I worked it out the other day that during my Tai Chi life I have done in excess of 20,000 hours of Pushing Hands. What all this experience has given me, amongst other things, is the absolute conviction that heart is everything. It is all a matter of heart. All the important things in life happen or don't happen because of heart. When you stand in front of another person and the hearts are not being exercised then you're wasting, as Dr Chi would say, golden time. In fact everything can be done with heart, and if not then you're not really alive.

But heart can harden as well as soften, and it is important to have both – the ruthless and the sweet. A hard heart is not a withdrawn one, it is one that cuts through any flabbiness, stops you being smothered by feeling and indulgence, and drives to the point – cruel to be kind. It is the hard heart that should drive you through the pain of physical practice – in fact drive you through anything difficult. Pleasure is as irrelevant to it as pain – it is a moral sense – a higher nature calling to and being called by the truth. Without it you will simply be a leaf in the wind – blown every which way – and paradoxically you will never properly be able to relax because there will be no fundamental stability – no peace of mind – to your being. The best arena to practice and develop the hard heart is on your own – during your personal and private practice. Discipline. Very simple. Just set yourself tasks and do them. Or better still, have your teacher set them. I'll do it if you like: 3 Short Forms each day before breakfast, the first one to warm-up, the second slow, sunk and painful, and the third fast and delightful. Everyday. And if you don't have time then make it. Making time is a magical skill to develop – it is very similar to making energy.

13.12.06

that which is not conceivable by thinking

12.12.06

Dangerous Ground

Everything hinges on understanding and engagement – the yin and the yang. True internal work makes your energy so active that these two meld and become what we call becoming. Understanding has nothing to do with thinking things through. It has a little more to do with talking things through: using your environment to help you channel your energy and some of its energy into the work – into the engagement. It is simply a process of whipping up some enthusiasm and spirit to use your energy more fully and more effectively than ever before: somehow seeing the next incarnation of you as a being that relates not just with others, the world and life, but with that strange pull we call destiny. Understanding provides the courage and impetus to move forwards into the unbearable – unfaceable – but always beckoning unknown. Understanding should thrust you more whole and better able into engagement. It is always self-trickery – controlled folly – an expediency to make perfection – to make the now really work. Yesterday's understanding today appears almost embarrassing simply because it has been successful – it has thrust us beyond it. My teacher's teaching and life's work pivots on one assumption – perfection is now, not tomorrow. What this has led directly to is the Third Heart, which if you like is a manifestation of the perfection of the coming together of the sum total of everything that has ever impinged on either of us – a gathering of times and connexions into something that will always cut through the linearity of time with its ever present and developing wonders. Such intensities can only be engaged if all thoughts, notions and considerations of self are abandoned. That is why I so strongly feel that the very idea of loving oneself before one loves others doesn't just put you on the back foot and disable automatic engagement, it makes you always too late for everything of real importance – especially pain: that raw edge where the intensity of life always bears in. If you are truly forward then this is where you reside – on this edge. It makes you tremble with energy and compassion. “I feel the edge is torn.” It also means you weep, uncontrollably, but that is by the by.

I perfectly understand the argument that to be strong enough to be weak – to reside on that edge – one needs to spend equal periods attending to self-centering, self-loving, and self-strengthening. In a sense this is what your solo practice – your work – is all about: getting you to such a pitch of togetherness that you can abandon everything to the engagement without falling apart. However, this understanding is that of a relative beginner to spiritual work. Mastery comes when you move beyond this understanding – when the safe and partitioned life it supposes and maintains wears so thin, and your connexion with the truth becomes so strong, that you cannot face or stomach time off. Unless everything you do exists on the trembling edge where life really happens then you just get bored.

8.12.06

Truly loving is melting into nothing.

Ronit Adar

Yielding

Mike Shannahan has been eloquently expounding the self-realisation avenue to spiritual endeavour (see the post called Work below – Dec 6th). I'll put my reply here since it is somewhat wordy:


Your approach sounds reasonable and strong but I've never known it enable someone to yield. For that every cell in your body, every fibre in your brain, and every cord in your heart has to put the other first to such a degree that you, as a centred individual, disappear. Being centred in yourself or oneself is admirable but should only be a relatively insignificant by-product of the work you do to put the other first.

It all hinges on motivation. Your motivation now – at this moment – flavours (energizes) the work and the product of the work, which is you tomorrow. Serving the divine within and serving the divine without – do they not amount to the same thing? Certainly not. One produces ultimately an enlightened target and the other produces a shimmering entity, not quite there and not quite not there. What I am insisting is that when it comes to motivation – to honour – you cannot afford to be woolly or slack or hit-and-miss. It has to be as clear as a bell. It also has to motivate every action you make, not just your practice. If each breath you take and each beat of your heart can be motivated by exactly the same thing that motivates you to get off your backside and do some Tai Chi then effectively you are working all the time. This is what my teacher means by "falling in love with Tai Chi".

Spiritual progress amounts to an expanding heart. The heart expands and contains. It contains the world – the world you move in. When you make spiritual progress the heart expands and the world you move in grows – you are now part of a bigger, richer and more inclusive world. How does this progress happen? Firstly, the work you do gathers energy to you. This energy is tinged by the quality (purity) of your motivation. This energy in itself, no matter how strong and intense, cannot break out of your present world and into the bigger purer one beckoning you until your motivation shifts to align itself with that next new world. The inspiration for this realignment always comes from outside – a moment of grace – a powerful teaching you experience somewhere and somehow. The vigilance required to be awake to these subtle moments is the vigilance of a yielder – a non-self-centred person, so accustomed to putting the other first that their energy and awareness are always connecting and never residing within. The inspired shift in motivation amounts to a change of strategy, a change of heart and a change of life. The next change is always more difficult to achieve than the last, otherwise how can it possibly take you outside the realm of your experience? What this difficulty means is that you need to become more and more consumed – more passionate – more emotional – as time goes by. This doesn't need to express itself as raging lunacy, but as a rawness, fragility and openness just this side of bearable. Always on that edge.
No mean feet.

7.12.06

Belief

Don't believe what you read or what you feel.
Just believe.
It is enough.

6.12.06

Work

My daughter, who is 9, recently went to see the latest James Bond movie. When she returned I asked her if she enjoyed it. “Yes I did but I didn't think he was a very good Bond,” she replied. Curious, I asked her if she'd seen any of the other Bond films. “No,” she said, completely oblivious that this innocent admission somehow weakened the power of her previous statement. For her what is important is having an opinion, and I guess she's learned this from adults, either directly or through her friends. The fact that the opinion has absolutely no solid foundation seemed to be immaterial, at least to her. What would have provided a solid foundation? Work. Work to the point of absolute and complete immersion. Such work gives everything a foundation, and what's more removes the anxious need to spout opinions in the first place. If you don't want other's tacky minds or energy sticking to you then the last thing you can afford to have is opinions. You need to exist in a world of energy where there are no discrete objects, just connecting threads along which your beloved dances. There are no shortcuts, and there is no substitute for good old honest work. Like my teacher always used to say “I can't do it for you, and if I could I wouldn't.” What you have, inside, is potential. What work provides is hope – the positive environment for that potential to possibly realise itself. Other things assist the creation of this positive environment – correct teaching, good diet, good company, relaxation on all levels, but without work there is no hope. Work creates and stores energy. Insights and realisations only have foundation if they are the product of such personal energy and personal work. Insights are just starting points on which to do more work – stepping-stones in your progress. Those gleaned from books or from the intelligent application of the thinking mind, or from outside the bounds of the teaching are only useful if energetically you can reach them without falling in the river, and only then if you can bring them into the main flow and thrust of your river. What a great teaching provides is spiritual power – a speed and momentum that leaves things whirling and swirling in its wake. My teacher, and others, liken it to a great dragon, willing to take on board and carry those with the calling and courage to take the pace. It's a very tough and rough ride and the only thing that prepares you is suffering and the moral fibre and discipline acquired from having the honesty and probity to work very hard at precisely the right thing, which is always what your teacher tells you, and never what you like. The direction – the teaching – has to come from outside, otherwise you'll never be taken beyond self – your work will simply be a journey of self-realisation and self-discovery, and whilst that may be very worthy and may produce admirable and upstanding pillars of society (privileged people), it is still damn selfish. Correct motivation becomes more and more important the more work you do. In fact, through work you become your motivation. If you are motivated by greed or ambition then work will simply make you more greedy and more ambitious. If however what motivates you is the inner need to work, and in particular the need to do the correct work, then in time, and with work, you become the work – you embody it. To me this is far more interesting than becoming or realising myself. If I become the work then how many more people can I affect positively, how many more can I take on board and sustain, with my work, for their whole lives, if they have the heart to stay connected.

5.12.06

Weapons

I've had one comment and a few emails from disgruntled sword weilders, taking exception with my flippant comments yesterday regarding weapons forms. I've heard many arguments propounded for weapons, especially swords, the main ones being that their practice develops upper body strength, sensitivity, and the ability to project energy, particularly to the end of the weapon – the part one imagines penetrating a human body. No one has ever mentioned heart though in connection with weapons – will weilding a sword make me a better lover? If not, and I imagine not (and what's more my teacher tells me not), then I'm not sure I have time for such distractions. One thing my studies have convinced me of beyond a shadow of a doubt is that heart – the willingness to create and enter connexion – is the foundation for energy, and is sufficient. Anything else is technical tinkering: worthy and often inspiring, but not taking me in the right direction which is always beneath – under the floss and dross, and into heart.

4.12.06

A winter's day on Nitsan & Prema's ranch

Sword & Tea



I received an email from Leigh Robinson who runs a company in the UK making quality swords and other martial arts weapons. I've never been able to get my tiny mind around prancing with an instrument for killing in my hands so have never learned the weapon forms, but these items – hand-forged – do look stunning. £300 may seem steep, but for something lovingly hand-crafted I think it's a steal.

Another Christmas present idea – somewhat less expensive but no less classy – is fine tea and teaware.

3.12.06

another world of charge and borderline,
an earth-tide in the spine

John Burnside

2.12.06

Rumour

Words speak
among themselves —

when no one's
there to listen

What they say is
what we're after

John Phillips
so that my mind would be one selving or pitch of a great universal mind, working in other minds too besides mine, and even in all other things, according to their natures and power

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Awareness and connexion

Connexion depends largely (very largely) on awareness – just how aware are you of that other entity? Your awareness – which is you putting that entity first – creates an inviting and welcoming space within your energy for that entity to enter and reside, for however long. So awareness must precede connexion, indeed presage connexion. But it must be an awareness that is in the habit of being fulfilled by connexion – connexion should always be realised otherwise that awareness will begin to shrink, and the respectful distance will open up so wide that it'll become ever more difficult to bridge. Your awareness is an active sensitivity that trawls things in. This is what we mean by having your energy out there rather than just residing within. The between energy is really just a very active part of your pooled awareness: energy is awareness, and awareness is energy, but only if it joins hands with connexion. Energy requires work – needs to be used – otherwise it'll begin to work against you. To feel potential – consciously or otherwise – and not realise it – either through ignorance, laziness or fear – is a huge mistake.

1.12.06

Intuition

Intuition means relying on energy and connexion rather than the rational thinking mind. Energy and connexion are present before events actually occur so to rely on them means that you have a quality of being previous – or at least on top of things. Thinking about things is always either late (after the event) or relying on the ability to predict – rational extrapolation; neither are particularly effective for anything other than assuaging the ego and its inevitable fears which are always dancing attendance. Instinctual fear – the hair bristling when danger approaches – is a good thing – it protects, whereas fear generated by the institution of the rational mind – that is, fear designed to protect the ego and thereby keep you disconnected and out of the world of energy and heart – is totally negative and to be countered at every opportunity. But how do we counter this fear? One approach is to catalogue, formally or otherwise, occasions when such fear arises and make a point of changing one's behaviour so that one replaces a fearful response with a courageous one. This approach is a little artificial and belaboured, and it still uses the rational mind – the ally of the ego – to counter the ego – an approach doomed to failure. The approach we recommend is to take up some activity, such as Tai Chi, that will actively improve your energy – strengthen it and open it up – so that you start relying more on intuition and less on the rational mind. Concentrate on increasing and improving the positive – energy and connexion – rather than on removing the negative. This will always create a more agile, lively and active energy – generous and overflowing. Concentrating on removing the negative (which is basically what self-defence is all about) will make you measured, passive, twitchy, and wont develop your ability to let your energy out. The best way to deal with negativity is to flood it with your positivity – obliterate it.
Fight the good fight.

30.11.06

Love

It is well established, at least here, that if we open to gravity and allow it to act upon our relaxed physical structure then it will apply a constant streaming pressure through us to the earth, which, when accompanied by an opening of our heart, stimulates the earth's energy to stream in the opposite direction into us. The opening is essential otherwise there is no room or space – no welcome – for the energy from the earth. That opening streaming pressure we call love, and in fact is a principle, i.e. it works everywhere, not just in regard to gravity and the earth. So, the pressure we apply forwards – our fundamental tenet: the feast is forwards – when accompanied by an opening – embracing – of the heart – brings what we are facing into ourselves. There is then a sort of oneness, and communication can take place. In fact communication may be that oneness; it is certainly erroneous to think that communication is the passage of energy or information from one place to another. Communication is what happens naturally when the separation – the distance – disappears or stops. In matters of the heart there is no distance, there is only opening and embracing.

If we want an energy to enter into us – to empower or enrich or fulfill us – then we simply need to apply a constant streaming and opening pressure to that energy. Without the opening we will drive it away. Without the streaming – the constant giving – there is no possibility of forever, and time – distraction – enters the equation. Love is forever. If you fall out of love it is because you fell in love in the first place. Falling is never a good idea, but giving is. Love has to be supremely active – no let up – which requires the mindset and demeanour of the warrior, or at the very least, the hunter. Heartwork is simply learning how to give and receive simultaneously – how to effectively and affectively become one. Hunting and gathering – the male and the female – in the same action.

Posturally we have the four directions – up down forward and backwards. Each requires a pressure to be applied to it in order for it to reveal both its energy and its secrets. Down and forwards – the earth and the other – we have already dealt with. Backwards – the domain of the guardian – is managed with our leaning back posture – or maybe the word rearing is more accurate than leaning: the upper back, and back of the head, should apply an active (absolutely nothing passive about any of this) pressure backwards – a streaming and opening pressure which brings the guardian into us. To bring the heavens down we must apply an upward pressure from the top of the head and the upper heart. With these four streams issuing from us, and the returning streams entering us, then we are as charged and potent as we can possibly be. The fifth stream is our destiny. The pressure we apply to this is the work we do. Again this work must apply a constant pressure – cannot afford to be intermittent or slack. We have just about enough time in a life to complete the task if we work flat out, undistracted. The good student knows this better than anything and the work she does is charged with urgency.

29.11.06

Recovery

Unfortunately there is always a price to pay – the inevitable come-down. An extraordinary experience can stretch ones energy and resources and leave one frayed and a little wretched once the excitement has dispersed. This is just a type of tiredness and simply needs rest.

When the heart or spirit are opened and involved more than we are used to then our physical structure, emotions, and energy get stressed beyond their usual bounds and there will be an ensuing period of incapacity and recovery some time after the original event. Indeed, sometimes the body can get sick (there were two occasions when my teacher nearly died). On one occasion I spent 5 days in bed with only enough energy to drag my self to a bucket in which to vomit and defecate – I lost 13 kilos in those 5 days.

The unease and disbelief that begins to set in a week or so after a heart-opening or energy-transforming event is partly the body and energy trying to place the experience within the context of our daily life, and partly the ego trying to reassert its dominance by dragging us back into its domain of doubts, anxieties and resentments (disconnections). The best way to deal with the ego is to laugh at it – the one thing it loathes is humour – or at the very least rise above it and not play its paltry games, and the best way to help us come to terms with what happened it to put into practice what was learned and not try to hold onto feelings and sentiments. My teacher's catch phrase is "the feast is forwards" or to probably misquote Walt Whitman "Onward and outward, nothing collapses." This requires us to pass over the experience – use it as a spring-board with which to thrust us more energetically, more aware, and more open into our daily duties and responsibilities, thereby sharing and pooling the good energy we all created together.

Don't hold on. If the experience was real and worthy then it wont let you go even if you try your utmost to shrug it off.

28.11.06

Posture



Click the picture to be directed to the article accompanying it (or click the Comments link below). Thanks to Caroline Ross for sending me the link, and to Heather Atchison for being involved in the research. Notice that the leaning back posture has a perfectly vertical lower spine, a fact that seems to have passed the journalist who wrote the article by.

Emotional Intelligence

I had never come across this term before, until my landlady used it to describe a message I received from one of the Israeli students/masters:
You know, it's very funny. I realize now, that I have never met a person, in such a way that I'm meeting you, from the inside, the essence, to the outside. When I think of it, that's how people should meet, otherwise they might never get to the essence. I understand now that it was the same thing that made the workshop so successful – you worked from the inside out.
A remarkable insight straight from the heart rather than the head – it hasn't come from cogitation, it has come from feeling, and an honesty and sincerity that allows such feeling all the freedom and clarity it needs to find expression in communication. The more I do Tai Chi the more I realise that it is a matter of emotional range, freedom and texture more than it is about anything else. Feeling those eternal stirrings, and joining so that what stirs stirs you. The internal is touched when inside and outside become one.
No one
there. Everyone
here.
Love comes quietly,
finally, drops
about me, on me,
in the old ways.

What did I know
thinking myself
able to go
alone all the way.


Robert Creeley



If any of you want an Xmas present idea for an intelligent and sensitive friend (I've never seen the point in friends that aren't) then you can't go wrong with The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley 1945-1975. Not the best designed book in the world but the poems are sublime.

27.11.06

Someone recently asked me to describe London.
I immediately replied, "God forsaken."

Heart & Mind

The heart can contain anything.

It is the heart that expands to contain and thereby takes us outside and beyond the bounds of self-satisfaction.

The mind is frightened of beyond so sets up border control, checking everything for conformity. Every now and then there is a breach – something gets in or out that shouldn't have done – and all hell breaks loose until the mind, working ten to the dozen, re-establishes the status quo. The past – our memories and experiences – are as much creations or censorings of the mind as they are a catalogue of real events. The heart can breath life into them but only if we are prepared to allow them to change, and so change us in the process. The mind doesn't much like change, especially unpredicted or unpredictable change, whereas the heart thrives on it. If your practice comes from the heart then any interruption will be gratefully swallowed up and put to use, whereas when the mind is in control resentments abound.
              one has 
touched
contains
energies
by consuming time
which despite the fundamental
appear in groups
the linguistic expression
I make friends

26.11.06

A problem is only really interesting if it is going to consume you for the rest of your life.

Tips

I was asked recently by a journalist writing an article on Tai Chi for some "tips" (secrets?).

1. All bodily movements should be initiated by a turn of the waist. This turn is itself initiated by what we call "spirit of vitality," and correct or appropriate (perfect) spirit is the result of our heart expanding to contain the other.

2. The lower vertebrae must be kept plumb erect, which means the upper back appears to lean back slightly.

3. In Tai Chi attend to the energy before you, but be aware of the energy behind.

4. Rooting in Tai Chi (the energetic bonding of you with the earth) is as much a rising up into you of the earth's energy as it is a sinking into the earth of your energy: one should initiate the other, and in action one tends to contain the other.

5. Relaxation in Tai Chi is the removal of tensions and blockages so that the body mind and spirit, and the many parts of each, can firstly shake apart and then coordinate and operate energetically rather than forcefully. Relaxation and energy are the result of understanding. Force results from ignorance.

6. True energy is not something you possess and utilize, it is something you connect to and obey.

7. "Energy is eternal delight" (William Blake). The enemy of energy is self. Self is the product of objectification – the hoarding of energy (the refusal to give as good as you get) to such a degree that it separates and condenses. Self can only operate forcefully. It is heavy, dull and anathema to any natural process. It always puts itself first, hence the Taoist instruction: Forget self and become one with the Tao.

8. The energy that issues from your right hand is generated in the left leg (cross-energy).

9. To transfer the weight from the back foot to the front foot first straighten the back leg (heels push apart) (up to 50/50) then pull with the front leg (heels pull together), staying sunk throughout.

10. In Pushing Hands always enter first. Entering means part of you, whether physical, mental, emotional or energetic (and preferably all four), leaps behind the other so that your heart contains them.

11. Always go forwards. The good student is the one who refuses to settle into contentment, and is constantly endeavouring to shed the soft skins of contentment (oxidation). When the skin is flayed away the flesh beneath drips, seeps and glistens. If you stand still for an instant a scab of self-satisfaction will form. It is the moving forward that abrades the skin and keeps you raw.

25.11.06

Hard Work

The importance of hard work cannot be overemphasised. Without the ability and hunger to work flat out for extended periods (not just when you feel like it) then progress will be at best unsure, and your insights will never become internalised. Hardwork, and the discipline required to work hard – the ability to put aside and ignore the physical, mental and emotional pain – the complaints of your sensitivities and sensibilities – and just get on with it, develop fibre (moral and otherwise) and wisdom, giving you the resilience to take knocks and bounce back. There is no substitute. Given the ability to work, the problem then is what to work on. This is where correct teaching, intelligence and good old karma come in. And experience – the experience, or intuition, that tells you when something is correct – when it is going somewhere useful, interesting and beyond your control.

24.11.06

The more advanced example shows a 
balanced
zigzag
relaxation
an epic tempo
when the
diagonal
is present
further back things lighten progressively

Sticking

Sticking requires, or is, adherence. Adherence can be thought of in two ways: the introduction of a sticky film between the two objects which 'glues' them together (a visualization I have never worked with, though I'm sure it's valid), or one object (or both objects) pulling at the other in order to keep the two in contact. Pulling itself requires purchase otherwise the pulling action will separate – pull apart. So to effectively pull requires two actions: a purchasing or gripping, followed by the pull proper. The gripping – a claw of energy enclosing the point or surface of contact – is really just ward-off: energy travelling out from the rim to enclose as the centre invites, accepts and swallows, and has its own pulling component (the swallowing). The pull proper – the draw (sucking in) – is achieved partly in the legs and waist and partly with the breathing. The sucking at the other object is achieved by adopting an air or mood of sucking – sucking the ground with the active foot by tensing the hamstring (pulling heels towards each other) and breathing in as you tighten and contract the whole body but particularly the belly (reverse breathing). Training the hamstrings is a really good idea otherwise you never really learn to generate energy by bending a leg. Try transferring weight from leg to leg by pulling yourself with the empty leg rather than by thrusting with the loaded leg (requires the waist to turn towards the pulling foot). The energy that travels up the pulling leg from the ground is of a completely different nature and order than that obtained by straightening the leg – more electrical, more sticky (like little velcro hooks), and not locked into your physical structure so with no forceful component.

23.11.06

remains faithful to
discern a timid
glance
hovering
as elastic
blows
Reciprocal
interaction
a kind of liberation

22.11.06

I guess I'm just sick of a measured approach – in fact measurement of any kind. It has nothing to do with anything except self-defence. If only people would realise that their own lack of courage doesn't just hold them back, it also soils and spoils all around them. Let the heart fill and spill – over everything.

Improvement



Oh dear oh dear, I seem to have opened a can of worms with that last post. People seem to think that because I travelled to Israel and had a good time that I'm about to convert to Judaism and become a Zionist. My comments were an attempt to try to understand why the experience was so remarkable – why the people I worked with there operated effortlessly from the heart especially compared to those from these islands. The reason of course is that they have a handle on personal energy and personal power (capability and focus) – their personal energy was fantastic so nothing I asked of them was beyond them. And this is an important point: to go deeper into anything your energy must improve, or rather must be improving. In fact to go forwards your energy must be improving, and mustering the courage to go forwards regardless is one sure way (the only sure way) of entering that process of improvement.

The picture is of the beach near where Nitsan lives, empty despite the hot sun (it was winter after all). Seeing the English inscription on the wall – two beautiful words almost aligned with the two beach shelters – I couldn't resist taking the shot.

21.11.06

Ancestry

Been trying to get my mind around writing something meaningful about the Israel jaunt. It's been well-nigh impossible for me, mainly because the whole experience was so much of the heart and not of the head. Suffice to say that it was without a doubt the time of my life – never have I felt quite so connected or effective as a teacher and as a human being – amongst other human beings of such quality. One thing – principle – that became very obvious whilst I was there, that I hadn't quite appreciated or managed to put so simply before, was that to give from the heart one must take to heart. For some reason those at the workshops did this effortlessly and immediately and I'm not sure how. It may be high intelligence (legendary amongst Jews) which means the head only needs fleeting involvement – doesn't need to belabour things, but it is probably more to do with their remarkable heritage – ancestry – genetic culture – positive conditioning – an unbroken thread going back thousands of years, giving a confidence and a depth and richness to the energy. One can only effectively and powerfully relax if there is something solid and real to relax into – what better than a tribal and religious culture made all the stronger by others attempts to persecute. If you want to connect properly and fundamentally with the deep aspects of your energy then it is so important to be where your ancestors came from, or at least to understand where they came from. I remember a young Swedish student of mine years ago saying to me that one cannot love others until you love yourself. I suspect you cannot love yourself until you know from where you stem: until you properly vibrate and resonate with your ancestral history.



Essence » Spirit » Heart » Connexion » Awareness » Guardian


20.11.06

             more things
into being
and
their
motion
is concerned with the smile
all the seductions
never ceases
thank God


This astonishing photograph, taken by Isak, sums up for me the Israeli experience: two of the softest people I have ever had the pleasure of putting my hands on engaged in an act of total communication.

19.11.06


Photo: Yoav Kaveh

For more pics see Yoav's website.

18.11.06

If anyone would like copies of these or other photos I took during the weekend then email me (see top of this page in blue) and I'll send the full-size JPEGs. (If you click on the group photos you'll be redirected to larger (though smaller than the originals) files which can then be saved.)
Precarious balance is the prayer of the edge.

George Quasha

Orthodox Jewish Martial Art

Nitsan pointed me to this which is well worth a look for entertainment value alone – especially the video clips.

16.11.06

We must
our way back
to unity.
Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture your heart.

Native American saying

15.11.06

Beauty itself is but the sensible image of the Infinite.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Off to Israel in an hour till early Monday morning. Don't expect too much activity here in the meantime.

14.11.06

Angel's Wings

A sensitivity crucial to connexion and connectivity is what JK calls territory and timing: spacial and temporal positioning – where do we put ourselves – where do we fit in? Ward-off posture is Tai Chi's profound solution to this problem. Ward-off, as I've pointed out before, has nothing to do with warding-off, it is all about correct configuration of the heart's energy: the tender front heart with its sensitive high frequency intricacies and intimacies, contained by the furling curling shroud of the back heart which stems out and around, containing not just the front heart but everything else we are as well. In fact it is a moot point whether the back heart belongs to us at all or whether it is an intermediary between us and other aspects and dimensions of energy which we reside within but can't really call our own. If a good open ward-off contains everything then in a sense it must come from elsewhere – from beyond the rim so to speak, or simply from beyond. So a good ward-off is an attempt to find placement not just within the time-space continuum but within the world of energy – the reality that exists outside the time-space continuum and for which time and space are minor outbursts. Ward-off is a configuration of your energy that brings other objects in your environment alive with its sharp and pointed (rather than round and smooth) high intensity awareness of exactly where things are. An enlivening respect.

13.11.06

Connection carves a grammar of their own.

George Quasha

12.11.06

connection's secret pliant drift towards reality

John Kells

11.11.06

Perfect Posture

The action of the heart

The heart gives and receives simultaneously (pretty much) and only works well when both these actions operate. It is obvious that without listening then giving will often be inappropriate and misguided. The converse is also true though: without first giving then listening will be inaccurate – we wont be listening to the right thing. You must give to receive and you must receive to give so both of these actions must be concurrent otherwise there will be lag or delay. Effectively this requires the heart to split in two so that one half gives as the other receives, quickly switching roles once the peak of giving or receiving has been reached. The two halves then interact with each other as much as they do with the energy outside and the heart becomes a heaving, churning, figure of eighting muscle. If we coordinate all this with the waist, arms, legs and head then the whole body becomes an extension and expression of the heart.

10.11.06

9.11.06

The Instigating Heart

Heartwork developed from a growing realisation that most problems in life boil down to a lack of communication. Classical Tai Chi is well aware of this and the ancient writings talk about sinking the body and energy, and quietening the mind so that the adept can better listen to the actions and intentions of the opponent. However, effective communication requires not just sympathetic listening but the readiness, willingness and ability to give energy at any moment; listening on its own is too passive – too back-foot. Our researches gradually led us to realise that the heart – the traditional centre for giving and receiving love – is indeed the true centre for all effective communication, and that if the heart is working well then communication commences sooner, more smoothly and more effectively than it would if only the mind, energy and sense organs are relied upon. What makes the heart so effective is that when it opens it gives and receives at the same time, and a healthy heart is one in the process of opening – flowering – a process that never need stop or end. When the heart opens it moves forwards – towards whatever it is facing – embraces, encloses and draws that into itself. This act of joining is also an act of becoming because the heart, and the entity or environment embraced by the heart, pool their characteristics – each learns from the other and better understands the other. The action of a healthy heart – opening and embracing – should be the motor that takes a person through their life. The thinking mind is useful for analysing and coming to terms with events, but it is only generally necessary if the heart hasn't been properly involved in the inception, reception and digestion of that event. This is key – a heart in prime condition doesn't just deal with reality, it makes it.

8.11.06

Passing through nature to eternity.

Turning

There are two major external forces that operate on us all the time. One that pulls our body and energy down towards the centre of the earth, which we call gravity, and another that pulls us upwards towards the heavens, which we don't really call anything because most of us are unfamiliar with it, though some have called it God, or a divine or spiritual calling. We become aware of gravity as a force that tugs at us when we relax the body sufficiently to feel that tug. We become aware of the divine force – the draw upwards –– when we relax the mind –– release it from selfish or worldly concerns. This divine force can only properly affect when we stop being selfish, which of course is why it is so unfamiliar: most of us don't have bouts of unselfishness extended or complete enough for the senses (always a little slow on the pick up) to register that something unusual is afoot. Cheng Man-ching's unique and incalculably important contribution to the art of Tai Chi Chuan –– I would argue more important than any other individual's I know about –– is his glorious posture. Slightly leaning back, it hooks into both gravity and the divine far better than either a leaning forward (aggressive) or a straight vertical (bright & breezy but basically ignorant) posture. When a student (or a master) slots into that posture both gravity and the divine kick in with such power that something inside is impelled to draw these two forces together in a coiling interplay that becomes the movements of Tai Chi. So turning the waist isn't just the means to transferring the energy stored in the legs into the upper body, it is the action that forces the up and the down forces to communicate –– it is the fact of our being. When we turn we become powerful: we start to draw energy up out of the earth as it draws ours down and we begin to draw energy down from the heavens as the heavens pull at us. This isn't resistance on our behalf, it is simply that all healthy processes are processes of communication –– involve give and take –– are essentially dialectical, and that our own relaxation, coupled with correct posture and the impetus (spirit) to move (turn), means that we become the third heart of heaven and earth.

7.11.06

Pain

On the walk to Old Street tube station yesterday I passed a junkie sitting cross-legged on the pavement, Big Issue in hand, looking like death and sobbing his heart out. One of those images I know will be pretty close to the front of my mind for the rest of my life.

On the same walk I saw a worker from the council erasing my favourite piece of graffiti from a wall in Hoxton Square: I love meeeeee

On the bridge over the railway at Dalston Kingsland there is another graffitied inscription: BLAIR BUSH MURDOCH – THE REAL AXIS

5.11.06

Reality

Language doesn't just name the myriad creatures, it creates them, or rather it lazily creates their appearance of discreteness (discretion?) and separation. I remember at school my physics teacher was always at pains to stress that scientists don't investigate reality, they investigate the models they have made of reality. You can only really investigate reality if you become part of it: if you join it and enter its processes. This requires a relaxed and empty mind: empty of words and thoughts; and a heart full to bursting.

Photo: Siân Llinos Moore

Compassion

The biggest favour you can do anyone is to let them into your heart – let them feel what it is like to be you, and let them be nourished, if only for a moment, by your essence. The struggle for all of us is to become better at this, and if your Tai Chi isn't precisely this then you're probably wasting your time. Just try to get it into your mind that as well as being a valid definition of compassion this is also the only worthwhile definition of yielding.

4.11.06

Intelligence

If there is some aspect of posture that you need to deal with – adjust – bum sticking out, head craning forward, tense shoulders, etc – then the chances are that this tension (always tension) is built into the way you live your life – your life style – and that it is the life that must be adjusted first otherwise simply correcting posture will always feel against the grain. The intelligence required by the good student is really just the ability to feel how a specific postural or energetic correction applied by the teacher imprints on the vaster arena of the life being lived: the ability to see the larger picture and generalize specific instructions into a philosophical and principled space, which includes not just you own heart and soul, but everyone else's as well. We call this space your humanity – your commonality – not just with other humans but with all the myriad creatures, including the plants and the stones. What this intelligence requires is an idealism – a feeling for a deeper and more connected reality. Concepts such as purity, perfection, honour, truth, nobility, should resonate so deeply that the heart expands into their realm to be nourished by their content which is pure between-energy. At least then there is some part of one's life untouched by the grimy claws of the compromises of day-to-day living. This intelligence improves with practice, as does everything, which of course assumes one has firstly the courage to practice, and secondly the integrity and honesty to practice what is required, which is unfortunately very rarely what one wants to practice.

3.11.06

Prayers to the Guardian Angel

O Angel of God
My Guardian dear
To whom God's love
Commits me here
Ever this day
Be at my side
To light and guard
To rule and guide
Amen

Guardian Angel from heaven so bright
Watching beside me to lead me aright
Fold thy wings round me and guard me with love
Softly sing songs to me of heaven above
Amen



These prayers were usually the first learnt by Catholic children.

2.11.06

Honour

Discussing with my landlady this morning what it is makes a product – magazine / Tai Chi class / poem / practice session / life – high quality. Decided on good taste (connectedness – finger on the pulse – appropriateness) and attention to detail (mastery is in the little things – injecting all parts of the creative process with your energy). Put another way: being connected to a source of energy and then having the means, confidence and enthusiasm to bring that energy, uncorrupted, out and into the world. Put like this it is obvious why qualities such as faith sincerity and courage are so totally vital. Without them you wont have it in you to be true to the source. These three qualities can best be summed up in one word: honour. Success depends not just on quality but on communication: is that energy, so elegantly and magnanimously given, actually changing peoples lives? Yours not least. Corruption is any degradation of the process – drifting from the source, the well running dry, weakness, lack of clarity – compromise – double-weightedness – a divided attention.

31.10.06

Our spirituality has a physicality, a viscerality and a personality.

John Kells

Internal

The supreme ultimate sacrifice is simply allowing the world (which includes your energy) to reveal itself: hovering between attention and fixation – before fixation. Always before. John was telling me yesterday that when he writes (he writes pretty much every day) he tries to use language to bring alive the energetic space that exists before that space becomes fixed or fixated by language and by thinking. A fixed space is ideal for transferring clear demarked facts, but useless for real communication which has little to do with information transfer and everything to do with creativity – with creating a common energy between and around the communicating entities. Such communication requires a sense of mystery and wonder – a feeling that understanding as such is neither necessary nor beneficial. Joining, and what happens during joining, is always more interesting and more internally nourishing than coming to terms with and thereby being able to repeat or retreat, albeit without the delight of immediacy, past experiences. We use our rational mind to come to terms with things so that they can be bundled up and pushed into the past – discarded – giving room and appetite for new ones. The internal though has no time so no past – just a continuous seamless present which every now and then we catch a whiff of – just enough to bring us out of our senses and into its labyrinths.
For me, playing is about playing with other people.

Derek Bailey (1930-2005)


Photo: Caroline Ross
From my father to my destiny
Short step

From idea to completion
Has no step

From love to serenity
Has a lifetime

From thought to belief
Has no time

From pain to resolution
Has one touch

From dream to dissolution
Has but touch

While thought has respect
There can be no touch

While respect has but spirit
There is life

Where life has but giving
You have destiny


John Kells

30.10.06


My daughter found this in a shop in Brighton. Not sure if it's the right way up or what the character denotes.

Philip Stanley emailed me that I have indeed got this the wrong way up & that when righted the character is which means trust.
Before the work comes to you, you have to invent work.

Steve Lacy (1934-2004)


Photo: Guy Le Querrec

28.10.06

Shaolin

Took the kids to see the Shaolin Kung Fu Monks at the Peacock Theatre in Kingsway on Thursday. It's always sort of interesting to experience real expertise, especially the best there is, and these guys were good at what they do – incredibly flexible, athletic and strong, but, as far as I could make out, everything done with a closed (or an unopening) heart. The epitome of the external – a testament to testosterone. They performed against a scaffolding with two female percussionists on a level above their heads. At one point one of these percussionists put down her mallets and moved to the front of the suspended platform on which she was standing and started to slowly move her arms around. At that point I felt her energy reach into me and start to move my heart. I suddenly woke up, ready to experience what I expected would be a superior display of heart-centred kung fu, when suddenly she instead broke into song – she was a singer not a martial artist. It summed up the evening really – all male bluster and rather coarse energy, none of it really refined or alive enough to actually communicate, transform or stimulate engagement. What was beautiful was their sincerity. What was alarming was the seeming lack of spiritual or philosophical content. I couldn't honestly see where all that physical work was leading. The Tai Chi they demonstrated was putrid by the way.

27.10.06

26.10.06

Extend to ancestors
And twine the leaves

The mulch of foreplay
Lost beyond the reach

Of what is done
And what is duty
For the day


John Kells

25.10.06

Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

grass plaid

first fall
full moon

in the rain
relents

the wind

in the wind
blown
leaves
birds
hopscotch
figure
eights

we are what
the trees have
made us


Jess Mynes

24.10.06

It's in the dead-space that the self resides, mouldering away and sharpening its desires and anxieties.

John Kells

Ward-Off

Real peace of mind comes from relaxing into energy to such a degree that boundaries dissolve and the universe is felt for what it is: a vast ocean of energy containing the myriad creatures, each a condensed plexus of a huge number of connexions. When the mind is relaxed and the heart opens then it becomes the centre of the universe – reaching out and animating everything there is. A consequence of this is that each and every heart is also receiving energy from all around. When this energy is perceived as something fundamentally inalien (akin) to our own then it can be taken on board. Softness is the quality of having these truths abide in your physicality as well as your mind and energy.

So the universe contains a vast array of hearts, each with a jewel of essence at its core, and the fundamental law of the universe is giving: each heart is a process of opening and unfolding, allowing energy from its jewel to emanate forth and connect with other hearts. Hence the universe is awash with heart energy, nourishing all entities. A third heart comes into existence when two entities focus their hearts on each other in an intense act of joining and sharing we call communication. The energy from each nourishes and stimulates the other to such a degree that a third heart springs into existence.

In the same way that the food you eat must reside within your body long enough to absorb its nutrients, so heart energy entering you from outside or from inside – from your own jewel of essence – must reside within for a time before passing on its way. The receptacle for the energy we call Ward-Off. Like a large bowl, the shoulders falling away from the spine and into the elbows helping the heart to open and give. The curved containment of the arms cradles, protects and gathers the energy, giving it shape and preventing it dissipating aimlessly. Eventually ward-off is simply a feeling of fullness in the heart.

23.10.06

The Third Heart

A truly loyal friend sees nothing in his friend but his heart.

St Aelred of Rievaulx (1109-67)

For Aelred, the perfection of human friendship is an epiphany of the real presence of Christ. Christ, he says, makes the third between us. In this Christian vision, all true friendship will "begin in Christ, continue in Christ and be perfected in Christ." It is a beautiful and profound understanding of the humanity of the risen Jesus.

These quotes, sent me by Dick Fletcher, are from The Good Heart by the Dalai Lama.
There's far more to a human being than a mind clothed in a body.

John Kells

22.10.06

Energy & compassion

The energy we talk about has nothing to do with ch'i or chin. Chin is the Chinese word for a body energy that correct body usage, coupled with a loose but toned relaxation, will whip up from the ground, through the muscles and tendons and into whatever physical task is being attempted, whether it striking or punching another person, or simply shoveling dirt or chopping wood. With chin the ground is being utilized, through gravity, as a firm purchase, from which to apply our own energy. The energy is generated in the legs by straightening or bending them (like pumps), and the waist turns to whip and direct it through the relaxed upper body and out of whichever hand (or, at a higher level, from any point on the body). Chin is energy, as is ch'i, and they are both wonderful, in their way, but they are not internal and they are still forceful. The energy we work with – the energy between – is an energy that pervades the universe. It is everywhere. It's function is to bring things together through bonds of connexion. We feel, connect to, and use this energy through the heart. And this is the most important point I could possibly make to a student, that entering this world of energy to the point where it becomes you (and you become it) is the most compassionate act you could possibly make; all other compassionate acts stem from this, and without this there is no compassion, only kind or good deeds, which may well come from the heart but not from a heart joining and becoming through the energy between, i.e. not from a heart behaving naturally. Another important point is that to choose not to enter the world of energy (and it is a choice – first made long ago in most cases but reinforced every instant) is to constantly retreat: is to apply a negative force to counter the natural and powerful bringing together of energy. This negative force is the thinking mind.

21.10.06

Reply to Tim Walker

It's a matter of energy Tim, not mind or concentration. It's often when your mind wanders that you stop imposing your personality – your self-image – on the situation, and allow your energy to interact as it wants to. Your energy is like a repressed child always being put in its place by an over dominant parent – the thinking mind. Not only does your thinking mind background your own energy, it also does it to other energies. As I've said before, thinking and energy are almost mutually exclusive. There is nothing wrong with discomfort either. It is often just your energy wrestling with something that's not quite right about the situation – trying to find a way to make it right. Your energy, in fact any energy, has a mind and wisdom of its own completely separate from the mind in your head. It has the ability to think and solve energy problems, such as how to connect (the thing it wants to do more than anything else) with a seemingly unconnectable situation, or how to transform an uncomfortable situation/relationship into a more harmonious one. Heartwork is all about letting the energy alone so it can do its thing unimpeded by the coarse horrors of the thinking mind – always self-interested, always hard, and always too late.

20.10.06

Change

Comments below may interest.
perhaps we fall back into our throats, our muscles warm extensions urging the grass to sway

Catherine Meng

Earth energy

I have a theory that Wang Yen-nien's longevity is partly due to his engagement with a nourishing and rejuvenating aspect of the earth's energy that naturally rises when stimulated to do so, infusing the body and energy with a delicate tremble that reverberates not only through one's day but seemingly through time. If you watch the video clips on the internet of him doing his Form you will surely notice that often, as he puts weight onto a foot (sinks his energy down into the earth), he tenses his calf muscles and draws the heel up from the ground. This is the action that stimulates the earth's energy to rise, not just up the leg into the calf and then up into the perineum, sacrum and belly, but all around. The sacred mist. To be successful it requires purity of intention, character and soul (softness and openness) – qualities that beam out of Wang in droves (he is the only Master I can consistently watch without getting bored – I always learn something when in his company). It also requires one to be relaxed and vertical enough to have one's own energy constantly streaming down through the vital centres of the body – catching a little more energy as it passes each one – and into the ground: the earth will only release it's energy to you if you give yours in return. I always get the feeling when watching him that his life has been a steady process of refinement and improvement. Something one cannot say for Cheng Man-ching who is so clearly a man in decline in all footage we have of him.

19.10.06

Mosquitoes —
dusk tugs
from the lawn

— reflect against
the clenched
fuschia buds.

Joseph Massey



Somehow this poem perfectly captures the lively visceral energy work we did at the btcca last night.

Feeling and believing

Far more important than feeling – being able to feel energy – is believing. Believing allows you to be in a process of becoming – to abide within energy – regardless of whether you feel that energy. The problem with energy is that not only do words not suffice to describe or elucidate it, but the act of attempting to describe it pulls you out of the world of energy and into a more mind centred world – the world of language. I would say that much of the disconnectedness we suffer now as human beings began when we started to use and rely on language – when we began to appeal to each others thinking and imagination rather than directly to each others hearts. Communication is heart to heart and not mind to mind or voice to ear or page to eye. It is a matter of energy and definitely not language. Language can carry energy as well as meaning – poets do it all the time – but so often the meaning overrides the energy – especially once the communication is no longer face to face. It's the problem with any man-made system – delightful and fascinating it may be but it is always the refuge of the fearful – those that would far rather not have to face up to the consequences and responsibilities of a life within the bigger world – the world of energy. Such responsibilities have nothing to do with social expectations – having a well paid job, being a good parent, or whatever. They are all to do with unwaveringly travelling the path of becoming a being of, with, and for energy – an energy being.

18.10.06

And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell, and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.

Black Elk

17.10.06

Words of John Kells

Put everything into the initial connexion.

The posture thereafter must spring from that connexion.

The root of vision is the back-brain.

The initial connexion has to be whole-hearted.

What happens thereafter must not be a distraction.

In other words, the heart keeps pumping out that connexion.

The technique is a whisper.

What is completed between you has the feeling of an entirety – of a being.

The responsibility is to be open.

Real masters are open to you before you get out of bed in the morning.

If the other person is at odds with you for a moment then the separation cannot be satisfactorily caught up with.

If there is a way of life or living it has to be joining from the heart.

The eyes are so quick to translate your heart feelings.

The ground is a heart platform.

Do not watch the posture on its way through.

Although important the eyes have to take second place to the heart.

Moving one's own heart energy to move the energy of another person means that you are open to the connecting of your heart with the other person's heart.

To fix your gaze in any way upon the other person is similar to putting your palm upon them: even if you receive information you give too much information away and become a target.

If the other person wants information about you let them open their heart.

Fixing the gaze like a magnet is so influenced by anxiety, whether from fear or desire.

The working of the mind is too slow to deal with real life.

If you have a hint of a motive beyond opening and joining then you make a line of target which the person standing in front of you can utilize, not necessarily for your benefit.

To be sincere in this matter is not a question of thinking about it.

Sufficient practice must be undertaken so that basic body usage is not a grinding problem.

The spirit must be allowed freedom to dart about and tempt the heart at the right moment.

A spirit that can be described, i.e. aggressive, buoyant, depressed, etc. has no use here because it leaves the heart energy to other parts of the body.

Spirit is the effervescence of real interest in something other than yourself.

That other person has to be naturally interesting enough for you to become involved.

But you cannot pick and choose.

What bit of you has the wisdom to know what is unknowable?

That fascination of interest has to be what gets you up from your slumbers and drives you through the labours of the day.

If there isn't a feeling of coming home and finding a lively peace within then you are missing the point.

Correct teaching is a blessing but the grace to find correct teaching is another matter of opening and cannot be forced.

It is impossible to describe how thorough going your dedication needs to be.

Connecting is not a personal matter.

In any real interchange it is the Third Heart that counts.

Fixation on either (or both) of the other two negates potential.

It is the same with belief.

To be a believer is to be a positive being – a believer is someone who is becoming.

Becoming leaves no imprint.

There is no mind to deliberate or be backwards.

Even a concept of forwards, although useful to combat backwards, is forgotten.

Becoming swallows what is commonly known as destiny.

Real connexions you make are on your becoming route, and each Third Heart a cog that impels or pulls you along the spiral natural process.

This kind of connexion requires this kind of believing and this kind of becoming.

Light and embracing, but embracing as a giving from the heart rather than capturing.

No matter what any other person might be doing, your becoming brings the Third Heart to its own life, and your positivity is sufficient for its nutrition.

And the inspiration of the Third Heart is nutrition for your becoming.

The activity is so rich that like or dislike do not come into it, and all one's functions are warmed – irradiated – by its glow.
The heart talked about is not just the beating muscle in your chest, it is what all cultures know to be the residence of your spirit and your ability to apply life rather than just have it done for you.

John Kells

16.10.06


Freedom in continuous change.

Kyuzo Mifune (1883-1965)

Mifune, Ueshiba and Yang Cheng-fu were all born the same year.

Lots of clips of Ueshiba on YouTube.

15.10.06

Heartwork Intensive in Israel 16-18 Nov




I'm teaching a 3 day Heartwork Intensive in Israel from 16-18 November.

For details click the picture or phone Nitsan (00972)(0)49841169

I guess I better get into training.

14.10.06

Axial Stones - George Quasha



A stone in its natural state becomes AXIAL when it mates truly and perilously with another stone by way of unforeseeable precarious balance. When a stone "discovers" its AXIS IN COMMON with another stone, it comes into such radically particular and optimal relation that the actual identity of both stones speaks out as never before. True connection changes both "ends" . . .

Principle: What is at once on center and on edge stands at the threshold of its further life and steps up its living intensity.

Accordingly the state of greatest stepped-up intensity is, somewhat paradoxically,

the still point.

George Quasha

13.10.06

Being interested is the (st)art of becoming interesting.

Figures of eight

The problem with circles is precisely their flatness – no "emotional content" – no real energy. They constantly skirt around – beating about the bush – and generally fail to penetrate to the heart of anything. This is fine for handling long flat energy that is drifting towards you, assuming it hasn't already bitten into your soul, but useless for making meaningful (transforming) connexions. For that you need to activate the heart (the connector) first, and the waist (the encirlcer) second. The shape that best describes and best encourages the heart is the figure of eight. The figure of eight encircles but then draws what it contains into the centre – into the heart – squeezing, mangling and transforming as it does so. Describing a figure of eight with a part of the body is difficult – it requires effort, not just muscular but emotional as well. If the circle has almost zero emotional content then the figure of eight has almost 100% as it passes through extremes of engulfing openness to extremes of compressed closedness, from fore and aft, in just one passage. That emotional content is our humanity – our personal energy imprinting upon and in turn being imprinted upon by the universal image of man – a general, though ready to become specific in the blink of an eye, compassionate feeling for one's fellows. It is an openness, but not the nice, comfortable, contained and containing openness of the circle, but the churning, consuming, empassioned openness of the emotional engine we call the figure of eight – rhythmically taking us beyond ourselves into realms of intensity and involvement that our humanity cries out for but our fear – in fact all our social mores – decries and would far rather avoid, seeing any instability as a threat. But true yielding is not maintaining balance under threat but being so unafraid of imbalance that you willingly and unconditionally draw both your company and yourself into the energetic maelstrom of real life. This wont make you popular – in fact most who come across you will run for the hills a little singed – but it will make you a force to behold – engaged with life, energy and reality to a degree that is unimaginable.

12.10.06

Circles

The basic unit of Tai Chi is the circle. Circle, circles, everywhere. The first stage in Tai Chi is relaxing to the point where the upper body is so floppy that strong turns of the waist from a sunk, rooted, bent-legged stance, will fling the arms into either complete or partial circles. Strong, powerful, loaded legs and a fluid waist directing a loose and relaxed upper body. The difficulty with the postures of Tai Chi, stylized as they are – to the point of being highly compromised in many cases, is to connect our main circle to the incoming energy and to get both arms involved in that circle. The circle can be on the horizontal or vertical plane so can connect with the incoming energy from the left, from the right, from underneath or from above. Returning the energy is simply completing the circle. Relaxation is the key and we initially encourage a flat detachment to cultivate this relaxation. Philosophically this fits with Buddhist/Taoist concepts of non-action and emotional detachment – we may be doing something but it is minimal and devoid of the tensions associated with striving or desire. This is only the first stage, but it is absolutely vital. Without it the student may succeed quite well in the later stages but they wont fully understand or feel or connect to the energy as energy. It should be realised that a student doesn't need to master the first stage before she can proceed onto the next. She just needs to have become so thoroughly infected with interest, and with the need to practice, that success is a foregone conclusion – is just a matter of time.

11.10.06

THE VOICE OF THE EARTH

"Sigh" is a word
For a kind of sobbing;
"Sobbing": that is
A kind of weeping;

A whine, a gasp, a sort of a sigh:
That is "talking"—
Out of the throat,
Cast.

Aaron Kunin

9.10.06

The whole thing: just trying to be at home. That's the plot.

Robin Blazer

8.10.06

Beginning

The posture we know as Beginning – the one just after Preparation – is odd. It is the only posture in which the movements of the arms are not generated by waist turns (it is the only posture in which the waist does not turn at all) and so it generally lacks power – especially the power to reach and affect another person. The martial application is clear enough – someone rushing in with both arms raised to strike or grab your throat and you bring your own arms up between theirs, draw them in and then push, press or strike their chest. It works very well especially if your touch is soft and amenable. But we all know that unless the arms are moved by the waist then an application has the feel and flavour of manipulation rather than proper joining and yielding.

Heartwork is basically the introduction of the heart as prime mover rather than the belly/waist. The heart, and the chest that contains it, can open and close. It can move forwards and back within the chest cavity, and the left and right sides of the heart can move independently of each other giving a large combination of different movements, all independent of the waist. What's more, if the energy coming towards us is directed by heart – is intent upon us – then our heart movements will definitely affect it as soon as our heart moves regardless of whether there is physical (or even visual) contact, whereas waist movements will leave it unmoved until it physically touches part of our turning body.

In Beginning posture it is possible to move the arms by moving the heart – simply heave the chest cavity forwards then upwards then backwards then down. This is effectively a massive opening and then closing of the heart. To start with it feels like a lot of shoulder movement, and also that the ch'i is rising, but with practice it is possible to get the movements primarily in the heart. For the heart to undergo such extreme change requires the use of spirit to corral and intensify your energy. That spirit is expressed in the eyes which flare with excitement and involvement; and when you finish the posture, even though you are pretty much in the same position you started (just a little closer to the ground), you should feel as though you've been on a real emotional journey that has charged you up and made you that much more dangerous and alive. And in the same way that your heartworked postures leave you transformed, so they should your partner. Your heartworked actions impinge on them pretty much identically, and you leave a positive imprint wherever you go.

7.10.06

The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.

Native American saying

6.10.06

Principle, energy & technique

Principle comes before – generates – energy. Technique comes after – is the expression of – energy. The usual approach to most practice is to concentrate on technique in the hope that it will work backwards, develop energy, and guide you to the principles of that energy. In fact for many arts that possess no well defined or thought out principles, this is the only approach open to the sincere student. However, having either discovered or been given principles it is far better to work from them to generate energy from which a large array of techniques and an infinite number of postures can take expression. If there is no clear and elegant path from the principles through the energy to the formal body then the principles are either incorrect, inconsistent, incomplete or – as is often the case – not really principles at all, just half-baked or half-way techniques on the way to the more specific and solid artifacts we know as techniques. The good student is constantly striving for the principles of the principles and beyond them to the fundamental principle – the secret or meaning of life – which underpins everything. It is this delving – this process of internalization – that keeps the practice always alive and exciting, and brings us eventually to essence.