sunlight after sex
first frost on the fells

a crystal apron dissolves
in a lap of certain light

water in a bedroom cup
cold clear

and the air sure

Tom Pickard


Avoidance is the enemy in life and the task at hand is to develop the honesty to search it out wherever it may be. It can take many forms, the most obvious being turning aside from problems that need facing, but really any self-projection is a form of avoidance – it avoids what's there by changing it into something more familiar and palatable – an extension of some aspect of self. It is a difficult problem because simply by being alive you are creating your own reality, or rather the reality that unfolds before you is as much due to you as it is anything else. Avoidance arises if you close off – if you block out what's trying to come in. Avoidance is generally a means to maintaining a status quo (balance) – a comfort zone – a cozy, well-known state. Not avoiding is all about allowing yourself to be taken away from the known and into the unknown. This requires you to have the training or wisdom, inside or at hand, to recognize and instantly go with selective forces of change – the ones that will lead you into what has been called a path with heart. This is always a matter for your energy rather than your thinking mind (always a long time after the event), which is why the first stage in Tai Chi and especially Heartwork is to develop a feeling for and a belief in energy as the prime positive ingredient in life, especially a life that is going somewhere. If we decide to try to live a life with less avoidance then we will be spending significant periods in states of not-knowing, not rationally anyway. The only way to adequately prepare for such times is to make sure your energy is up to the task, not just the energy that will enable you to get the task done but the more subtle energies that suss out the terrain before you physically or mentally venture into it – the energies of connexion. The best way to develop these energies is to practice connexion and practice responding to connexion, hence Heartwork.


Blake's Great Red Dragon

A fact of energy

As you become more open not only do you feel and connect better to what's there, but you also begin to become aware of potential, of possibilities before they manifest, and your energy, free of the calculating mind, reaches into time and picks a path through. Part of you has already entered and even completed before you've started.


Photo: Chris Laver


The serious student is someone who is prepared to work hard and who is willing to receive correction. To do one without the other is avoidance. Working hard is your own business. It takes years to develop the inner sobriety and ruthlessness to put yourself through the rigours and solitude of the work. If the work was well-defined then it wouldn't be so bad, but this is the last thing it is mainly because of its transformative power: it changes itself and it changes us in its doing so our relationship with it and with everything else through it are constantly changing. Here we are trying to get to grips with the earth beneath our feet and yet the ground is always shifting, so much so that the last thing we possess is balance. And what about the person before you – aren't they more awesome, more alive and more difficult to yield to each time confronted? All signs of progress. We are working on and with energy, especially the vital lively energy that gushes into spaces as they open up. Openness is our prime requisite and it's what makes things – especially life – difficult. But it also makes life more interesting, more alive. Openness has a lot to do with removing constraints, especially those that enable us to settle into categorization – into the known. Openness, or opening, is an ongoing process – we can always be more open – it never ends – so how fortunate we are to have found something we can uncomfortably devote the rest of our lives to without fear of boredom or security ever setting in.


The Round Chapel, Hackney

Another well attended Tai Chi class.

Turning towards

Bending back to oneself represents a pragmatic orientation that objectifies the other and lends itself to the creation of a self contained individual.
Turning towards the other constitutes an ensembled individual in continuous relationship with others with boundaries between self and other not tightly drawn.

Martin Buber

I posted this last November but in the light of recent teaching thought I'd bring it here.

More Buber quotes:
taking care of the world by sustaining the web of connexion

I have given up the “religious” which is nothing but the exception, extraction, exaltation, ecstasy; or it has given me up. I possess nothing but the everyday out of which I am never taken

in order to be able to go out to the other you must have the starting place, you must have been, you must be, with yourself

meaning is to be found neither in one . . . nor in both together, but only in the dialogue itself, this “between” which they live together

the genuinely thinking man must live through the feminine, the genuinely thinking woman the masculine; each must find the counterpole to his/her own order to allow the unity of spiritual life to develop from both



The Round Chapel on the Lower Clapton Road, Hackney, London, E5: the most beautiful space I've ever taught in.

Photo: Chris Laver


It doesn't matter how much someone loves you, if they live the wrong sort of life then their company is ultimately burdensome. John Kells


Tai Chi & Heartwork

Gravity clasps us firmly to the mundane. Tai Chi is a method for cementing, investigating, developing and deepening our relationship with gravity and with the source of gravity – the Earth – through coordinated movement. The most important part of the body in Tai Chi is what we call the waist – a band of energy that passes around the hips and waist rather like a wide belt. This has been likened to the rim of a wheel, the axle being the spine, which we endeavour to keep erect so that the waist can turn freely on a horizontal plane. It is by turning the waist that all movements in Tai Chi come into being. When we sink in Tai Chi this band of energy extends downwards to the ground and upwards to the crown of our head, and the waist becomes a cylinder which completely encloses us – we become all waist. Sinking, especially when combined with relaxation, is joining with gravity – it is our way of yielding to gravity – allowing it to take us and make of us what it will. Turning the waist is how we move through and with this field. There are two aspects to this turning – centripetal and centrifugal – drawing energy in and throwing energy out – working with energy rather than against it. A consequence of sinking and turning is what we call body as one unit. When we yield completely to gravity and allow it to possess the whole of us, but still insist on moving through that by turning, then we naturally bind into one coherent mass which pulses with energy – constantly giving and receiving. We then have the possibility of communication. This, simply put, is the way of Tai Chi. It is not, however, the way of the heart. For the heart there is only heart. When the heart properly functions – when it opens and casts aside the clinging mind and its attendant fears – then a reality is revealed in which gravity does not exist because matter does not exist. Neither does time and neither does space. There is only heart. How well one functions in this world depends purely upon ones quality as a human being, or maybe we should reverse that and say that ones quality as a human being depends solely on how well one functions in the realm of the heart. For many years my teacher was puzzled by a great inconsistency he had found in the Tai Chi. When teaching Pushing Hands to a class of complete beginners he found that there were many people in such a class to whom he simply could not yield. When they placed their hand on his, in complete innocence and with complete openness (as only beginners can do), then he was lost – lost in admiration as much as anything. He found that the only way he could properly meet such a situation was not by becoming yin to their yang (the classic Tai Chi way) but by emulating their quality – by becoming like them or by becoming them. He then began to realise that this was not an inconsistency – a paradox – after all, it was in fact the way, and from that realisation we have what we now call Heartwork. The skill in Heartwork is to have the confidence, willing and grace to create an environment into which all the hearts present can enter to create a situation in which all are equal (though not the same) and all are nourished and brought forward by the experience. You don't need to be in company for heartwork. There are always other hearts present – the heart of the earth beneath you, the heart of the heavens above you, and the hearts of your loved ones hovering all around you, including those that have died, ancestors you have never met, and future acquaintances you have not yet met. The heart world is a real maelstrom that the mind can never hope to fathom, so best to occupy the mind with things it likes most – technical trivialities – does the waist turn this way or does it that – and leave the heart to sort things out.



for Peter Gizzi

Inside us an ocean
a blue unlike any other

Words are my headache

My own nameless identity
touches everything
keeps me awake

Say it again

I don't see any sin in grief

The ink reveals you

The scale upholds you

Blue crimes in your eye

Jess Mynes


Photo: Charissa Borroff

The Work

Real love is in the giving now - when you forget to grasp the future benefit.

Real life happens when you forget to grasp.

The real beauty in you is without beginning, and so without end.

Your only work is to lay this alongside the same beauty in your spiritual companions.

Surround yourself with this faith and truth will move forwards.

The time for talk and small deeds has run out.

John Kells

This is something JK wrote for a student dying of cancer about 7 years ago. In her case the cancer was so obviously a physical manifestation of her intense anger which affected every part of her life, including her health. Needless to say she only gave John's note a cursory glance. Some people do all they can to block grace from their lives - anger and pride being the two classic conditions to achieve such negativity. Humbleness is the opposite and accepts everything as grace.


Low expectations, high self-worth. John Kells

This was a saying JK came up with about 1994 - during the Highgate sojourn - when he began to realise that expectations stem from a lack of confidence in one's basic energy and connectedness.

Another saying from the same time:

No blame, no regret.

Partly from the I Ching.


Giving softly

The difficulty with giving is that what's given must be given softly – appropriate not just to the energy of the circumstance but to the energy of us bound up in the circumstance. Effective giving requires you not just to be generous but to have the confidence and ease to feel and know (your place in) the world your giving creates before it is created, and to have the sensitivity to allow your giving to bring that world into a more natural state – one of less torture and greater connectedness. This is where yielding comes in – tuning (turning) into the situation to such a degree that a subtle mutual transformation takes place – our listening changes us but similarly our opening and entering and joining changes the situation.

The weekend passed was a remarkable experience. There was such a mist of connectedness in the room that techniques of yielding were not required to interact successfully – it all seemed to happen naturally. The togetherness combined with the willingness and good nature of the participants and the energy and experience of the Master were sufficient to create an environment that drew people out of themselves and into that mist – a natural place of power and rejuvenation that all beings yearn for on some level. This is precisely the mist the Master dips into to uncover the secrets of energy he shared with us at the weekend – the Guardian, the Tree, the Dragon, etc. In a way that mist is softness which I think is why it is so rare. Softness requires you to give but not from your self-confidence – your feeling of self – but from your tender and open vulnerability. The giving of softness is almost like a leakage – a fluid seepage from raw grazed skin, but all over and on an expansive scale. Perhaps the abiding memory of the weekend for me was seeing and feeling Jane Colling descending the stairs as she arrived on the Sunday, energy and spirit first, softly seeping into the space to its furthest corners, feeling everything and affecting everything. Truly soft people don't know how to keep their energy in. They may be (and often are) shy and sensitive so thankfully aren't into spreading their coarseness over everything they encounter, instead they bestow a fineness which helps bring others out of themselves and into the mist their presence evokes. People are naturally drawn to softness because it is so attractive and nourishing, but unless they are soft themselves, or deeply respectful, they will generally take advantage of it – they know no better – for the average person the world exists for them. So soft people need to find strategies for living different from the usual, strategies that will not only help them survive but will help them fulfill their destiny which is always a matter of energy rather than fate or design. The biggest foolishness is for soft people to think that they can afford to live the average dissipative life. They can't, not without really hurting themselves and reducing their power. For them a completely different set of rules – moral, ethical and spiritual – apply. The work is to find them and then to live them.
                   we can say that
borne on
instinctual stimuli
conjures up
something more
Fellow man, arise!
a change of air
distracts you
to look forever forward

to new holidays
Let yourself be
this life-giving ocean
sufficient grounds
and whether
I should be thinking too

much of myself
and forgetting
that most of you
are much
at home
between laymen and artists

and who
like you
as best he can
by his own specific means and methods
will surely grant
you are the trunk of the tree



Mastery of Tai Chi requires you, first and foremost, to become a great giver rather than a great yielder. John Kells

Quite a revolutionary statement this, especially since Dr Chi said 9 years to learn to yield then 1 year to learn to attack. If you can't give - muster, mobilize and let your energy out - then as a human being you are next to useless. Giving is a matter of heart. Yielding should also be a matter of heart - opening the heart and accepting with the heart whilst moving forwards - but so often it is instead just a sneaky technique to get an advantage over someone who is letting their energy out. If, when pushing-hands, neither you nor your partner can effectively give then neither of you are going to get any yielding practice anyway. Giving has to come first.


Walking through life is a bit like walking through a mine-field - if it's not the ego that gets you it's the debris from the ego. John Kells

Caroline on the weekend.



Dr Ram Ben-Shalom, pictured below, a student of Assi Ben-Porat in Tel Aviv, brought me a beautiful little picture from Assi – an ink drawing of a character in Lifting Hands with the sacred mist rising visibly within. Thinking where I should get it framed I remembered this event from six years ago:
On John's 60th birthday in 2000 I was due to visit him for Pushing Hands at 6pm and on the way from my flat on the Lower Clapton Road (Murder Mile as it was affectionately known) I stopped off at various shops to buy him a little present. Buying things for John is always difficult, especially since he hates celebrating birthdays, but I felt the 60th deserved something. Unfortunately I could find nothing suitable so I resigned myself to not getting him anything.

The last interesting shop on the Holloway Rd one passed before turning off to get to John's flat, which was then on Liverpool Road, was a picture framing shop I really liked visiting because the lady who owned the shop was very friendly as well as being very beautiful, so I decided to go in and buy a classy birthday card for him. Unfortunately on this occasion the lady was not there, instead there was a gay guy called David who always wore extremely tight turned-up jeans high off his ankles and high into his groin, and spoke with one of those lacquered gay voices – almost a lisp. As I was buying the card I noticed a series of smallish framed photographic portraits of famous movie stars on the far wall - Brando, Gregory Peck, Cary Grant, etc. One of them was Grace Kelly - John's favourite - a beautiful photograph. I said to David, "Is that Grace Kelly?" He replied that it was and he then told me a wonderful story of how in the 1970's he had worked as an electrician in the palace in Monaco and had met Grace Kelly and had become friends with her (she really missed speaking English apparently). When he finished working in the palace she gave him a large signed and framed photograph of herself and her children which he said he will treasure for the rest of his life. I was so charmed by his story that I bought the small portrait for John (even though it was, for me, a lot of money) and got David to wrap it up nicely. When John opened it I have never seen such surprise and delight in a persons face. He hung the picture on the wall by his bed.



where does
it enter?


The Grand Opening


The Heartwork weekend was a great success with 60 attending the Saturday and 50 the Sunday. People flew in from Israel (Rami (seen here working with David Knight) & Nitsan), Denmark (Corinna), Cork (Ann & students), Sligo (Kath & Dick), Dublin (John & Fionnan) and Aberdeen (Caroline & students), and of course many others from all corners of London and England including some students of the late Michael Spink. Tim and Kevin, both regular commenters on this blog, were there. There were students with over 30 years Tai Chi under their belt and people who were completely new to Tai Chi.

The work we all did together was technically simple and energetically rich. Mainly partner work. The figure of eight, our basic building block, was introduced into single and two hand pushing - the practice of entering the other person's energy by opening the heart and embracing rather than invading their space - creating an environment within that they cannot resist falling into. As we all discovered, when one connects heart to heart one absolutely does not need physical force to affect. Leaning back into the Guardian - an aspect of our energy that resides behind and which is naturally connected to seemingly more remote and less obvious levels of our reality including our destiny. Rearing forwards into our natural ferocity - a realm JK calls the Dragon. Connecting to (opening and embracing) the Heavens and the Earth - what JK calls the Sacred Tree - becoming the tree.

What delighted me was seeing just how quickly people twigged that interaction requires not just good willing energy from both parties, but a willingness to register and respond to the tiniest spark of magic in that space between, not just to encourage the efforts of the other but because it makes the most of the occassion and takes us both beyond ourselves - it takes us into the Third Heart. This is what John calls positivity. It's not the reality you feel that is important, it is the reality you create, and together we all created a totally amazing and unique experience for all: a weekend we'll be talking about for years to come and which will reverberate deeply into all our lives. Like it or lump it we are now all energetically connected through the living teaching which emantes from John Kells. I think this is what most of us will remember - just how immense - strong, soft, open, trembly, pervasive, encouraging, enheartening, compassionate, generous, and dangerous is the Masters energy and presence. He embodies, he is the teaching.
Softness is when your physicality no longer resists your energy. John Kells
sunday food
What we're practising is humanity.

John Kells to Debbie Cook on Saturday

Intuition dwarfs intelligence time and again. The things we can't speak of here at our fingertips.

Jess Mynes

Thanks to a (wonderful) poet for lending me the words to sum up yesterday.

As Mark pointed out, it was a very moving - emotional - day for many of us, being able to physically - face to face - heart to heart - reconnect with friends and colleagues - comrades in arms - from years ago, and establish new connexions - so many new faces - so many open hearts.

Tony Hurley (Bucks), Roberto Fraquelli (Exeter), Martin Greig (Metropolitan line), Rod Philp (Iowa), Ross Cuneo (Brisbane), Richard Druitt (Puerto Rico), Assi Ben-Porat (Tel Aviv), Simon O'Connor (Mallow), Tony Visconti (New York), Dario Ciriello (Santa Cruz?), Penny Woolf (Oxford), Osman Phillips (Vancouver Island), Richard Dockray (ill in bed) and Verne Crawford (broken femur) sent me apologies for not being able to physically attend and send their love to all.


British Tai Chi Chuan Association

groupgroup before workgroup smilesalcove

The first and of course the best Tai Chi school in Britain, if not Europe, is reopening in July in London after a public absence of 15 years (we've been working like Trojans in private). We are having a Grand Opening weekend of Tai Chi and Heartwork, open to all levels, on 15-16 July. If you're interested email me for details, stating your interests and your teacher if you study Tai Chi.


"We had a willow tree in the back garden and I used to look at the willow tree and the grass and think, well we could be like this – we could be very close to nature if we learned how to just purely interact..." John Stevens


As a preparation/temptation for tomorrow I'll post a complete dictation from JK. Whenever he throws pen & paper at me my heart drops, or rather fear rises, because I know it means I'm going to be in the grip of his best energy for the next hour or so, something that has driven the faint-hearted to tears or even to flee for the hills, never to be seen again. I like this one (he doesn't - does any creative person have any time for what they did yesterday?). It reads as a series of aphorisms straight from the teaching.
Language is probably the most popular tool for communication.
Man has been using it for a long time.
Why then are there so many misunderstandings, breakdowns and disasters in our relationships with others?
We have developed the kind of knowledge that can put men on the moon, so why do we not feed the starving and heal the sick when we so clearly have the means to do so?
What is written large in society is only a reflection of the small in the ordinary relationships we experience.
The answer is, of course, that communication is man's most difficult problem, and the basic principles are not generally known.

Communication took place before words were invented.
Confusion arises when it is assumed that communication begins with words.
The foundation for any episode or cycle of communication takes place out of time, before words can possibly interfere.
Then we come up against the problem of definition, since each word means something slightly different to each person according to character, talent, conditioning and mood.
To be open to all this - the huge far-searching humanity of the other person - requires humility which itself requires the laying aside of self-indulgence.
This means basically that you have to lay aside fear in order to listen.
To at least know this is a start.
But without this we are bound to repeat our own history endlessly which is no way forwards in the process of deepening our understanding by learning life's lessons.
The chief quality of listening to the energy behind words or other modes of expression, is softness.
Hardness implies barriers of self-satisfaction, often at our success at bearing off fear in some situation or other.
This kind of pride often encourages abuse.
The activity of our thinking mind as it comes to our consciousness often works against listening.
Softness implies lack of motives, lack of meanness.
The meaning of what is being communicated must attract and stick, and also be allowed to stick.
The understanding comes from the seeping of each into the other.
Good intentions and good nature are no substitute for correct method.
Filling the other person and being allowed one's own filling, is what is required.
Without this nothing is ever perfectly communicated.
It is as if a thirsty person is never given enough to drink, so that he always remains thirsty - pretty soon thirst dominates his existence.
So it is with lack of softness, lack of appropriate or sufficient giving.
Needs become paramount, and dominate the dialogue between the various aspects of our own energy and other energies, so that our general awareness is lessened with a parallel lessening of our capacity to communicate.

The word most appropriate, in this context, is love.
The umbilical to our mother is our first channel of communication.
The exchanges after birth may be less palpable, but are they less important?
If they go totally wrong could we not die?
What could be more important than that?
But when communication is blocked, when love is blocked or reduced, then a small death - a lessening of life - occurs.
In the large, life is communication.
It is said "God is Love" meaning the creator is love, so how can the created be less than love, indeed how can the created be less than the creator.
When it is said that all is communication, it is another way of saying that all is love.
Listening is the gift you give, is the gift you take.
To embrace listening completely requires a process that is neither give nor take but steady with the energy of the natural process.
It is when the self invades that we have motive, we have gain and loss.
Consequently, it is the ridding of self that is the process of love.
It is significant that a man and woman together can create new life.
But so can any two people, or two entities.
This new life may not necessarily take a perfect shape, but it is just as tender and full of potential as a new-born baby.
The reverence we can feel at such a birth is a special commitment to the natural process we call life.

Where the heart moves, we should follow, and not the other way round.
This way the world of success and failure may be left behind.
This does not mean immediate or huge success will follow our efforts.
Each thing that seems to go wrong is an inspiration to renew our faith in the natural process.
These little failures can then feed the work of reducing rather than increasing, until the self is removed more and more so we can listen more and more, be more and more at one with our partner in communication, one with the natural process itself.
The word love says it all to those who can hear - that all is love.

John Kells London 13v01


to vanish is to release
the world

Frank Samperi
The natural flow of the natural process is the gift of grace that is open to all who are devoted to essence. John Kells


for clematis
and vine

green twist
two ply
garden twine

Thomas A Clark
           means should
more than
profusion of
impossible to write
the ink does not play
the primary
but makes possible


Putting the work first

You must find it in you to bring the work alive – beyond where the teacher left it – even if this means heresy. To bring the work alive you must be able to make the distinction (feel the difference) between the life in the work, and the life in yourself doing the work. They are not the same. If they coincide it is only externally. When the work comes alive one feels reverential and humble, raw and vulnerable almost to the point of tears, only too pleased to be present and of service, or one is simply too engrossed and busy to register any feelings at all. When you come alive doing the work then your energy manifests, the spirit rises, you feel great, you're in control, you've never been better, you've never been quite so full of self. It all boils down to what precisely you put first in your life. If it is you then you live a life ruled by gravity – desire – the forces of acquisition – egocentric. If you put the other first, whatever that other may be – the person in front of you, the work, the teaching, the teacher, anything but the self – then suddenly you are free of the gross forces of selfishness, and instead you float and dance in a space governed by connectedness and the energy between – the third heart. Your dance – your internal life – takes you always outside the gravitational sphere of influence of other peoples selfishness, not by avoiding but by existing in a more active and refined reality – a more inclusive reality that sees selfish blobs for what they are – lumbering, sluggish, of no consequence – absolutely unable to enter the reality you exist within.

The work we do – the Heartwork – is so simple it borders on the trivial. Can you stand in front of another person and be open and honest and just connect? The answer is always yes, everyone and anyone can do it – everyone has it in them to be a human being, if only for an instant. The struggle for all of us is to extend that instant – let it reverberate into all aspects of our life and our reality. To do this we must put the work first – we must have had the blinding and earth shattering insight that everything, including our humanity and humanity at large, hinges on this work. Then, as my teacher would say, we are ready to begin.


Biography of T.T. Liang - JK's first Chinese teacher.
What is the use of talking, and there is no end of talking.
There is no end of things in the heart.

Ezra Pound

Connectedness & time

The average approach in Tai Chi is to develop energy and power through diligent practice and then put that energy and power to use, generally in the service of the person who wields it. In Heartwork we aim for a different approach. Through our work we empty of self to become better connected so that higher aspects of the teaching and the Natural Process can wield us and our connectedness in their service. The nature of this service is not our business. Our only concern is to develop clarity and purity so that we can be better instruments for use. Such qualities result from not resisting – from yielding. When you really enter yielding – as a way of life – a rule by which to live every moment – then so much passes through you that self cannot help but be washed away. Then every moment trembles and because you are in no way disconnected you tremble with it. Those congested and clotted with self you don't see – they pass you by – they are of a different reality – impinging only momentarily, whereas the selfless ones touch you lightly but deeply and this touch is forever – it is out of time. My teacher has always said that immortality is not living forever but managing to touch and live through those dimensions of reality for which time does not exist. One of these dimensions is that of connectedness. If you work on and with connectedness then the special connexions in your life don't wane with time or absence, they actually get stronger, so much so that eventually you are able to conjure and become the energy of that connexion. Those you have special connexions with are all your teachers – necessarily so because a special connexion generally means that you have something important to learn – some transmission that will allow you to travel further on your path of service.
    assuredly white
and the whole
or life
we must bring
we use
offensive and defensive
the task we cannot avoid


Only by working with the Internal will your humanity – your touch – improve. John Kells



It occurred to me last night, whilst meditating through insomnia, that becoming – our most active and vital of words – is the same as entering. When the teacher says something like, “Put your mind in the dan-tien,” what does it actually mean? It means that you make the dan-tien the centre of your reality and you allow yourself to become imbued with the mood of the dan-tien: you become the dan-tien. To become the dan-tien you must enter it, which means leaving the space you usually inhabit. Students always fail to appreciate just how total this leaving must be so we have a special word for it – abandonment. In a way it is the same as knowing you have no choice, or single-weightedness – knowing that you cannot effectively be in two places at once and that to do anything justice requires total commitment. Abandonment is an act of spirit – it comes from spirit and it thoroughly nourishes the spirit. To become you must first abandon and then enter. Becoming involves not just changing places but changing everything – shape, the way you behave, the way you think, the way you are. It is the act that conjures the between-energy – the spirit or life between. The most powerful becoming experience I have ever had was when my son (now 13) was born. In that moment I became a different person and I could clearly feel it happen. Suddenly the world was different. I was no longer the most important person in it. There was now a creature for whom I would, without a second thought, lay down my life. This wasn't nobility from me, it was natural, and it is a wonderful and probably the only measure of true commitment – are you prepared to die for it. In fact, are you dying for it every day. Death requires the ultimate act of abandon – a great leap with faculties gleaming but with nothing clinging to hold you back. Like my teacher's father said to me before he died a few days ago: “Steven, I'm really looking forward to it! I know it's going to be a peak experience!” He'll always be my measure of selflessness.
    it is only natural that
we should
give priority to matters
formal beginning
which drives him
from inside to
manifest his spirit
knowledge of nature



The teacher can only ever really give you a skeleton which you then need to flesh out and enspirit. The flesh comes from the practice – the work – but the spirit comes from the inspiration, enthusiasm and life you bring to that work. It is quite a skill, acquired over time, to be able to bring just enough of your own spirit to the work to make it sing its own song rather than your song. It is all part of the process of refinement making your energy subtle, attractive and interesting – communicative and communicable – listening to what is there and encouraging what is there. The inspiration for us men is always the female. As I write this at quarter to eight in the morning I have two 16 year olds hovering around – a male who lives here and his guest – a (stunning) female friend. The difference between their energies is striking. Even though she has only just woken up she is far more awake and aware than he will probably ever be. And it is so clear to see that his only hope of ever reaching her heights (of salvation) is through intense and immense discipline – day by day chipping away at the uncarved block – refining and annealing. This is the real creative process – gradually turning yourself into what you can be. A teacher is vital because he/she is the person in your life who can see your potential, and then give you the means and encouragement to meet it. Is all you have to do is work hard and apply your intelligence and sensitivity to the riddles thrown up by the teaching – somehow get yourself on the right wavelength to able to hear what the teacher is saying. This means that for moments you need to have the spirit to become either the teacher or the teaching. Such spirit is grace – it comes from above. To receive grace you must be soft. In a sense this is what softness is – the quality that enables you to receive (grace) and thereby puts you in a state of grace – constantly communing with, and thereby becoming, what we call the divine. You then become far more than just you. You become a trembling confluence of many energies from many sources. You become immense, and intensely light. You touch everything.



your swift touch to
my left
elicited quicksilver
shiver because you
were working to
my right

Mairéad Byrne reads in Cork tomorrow.

(Dervilla emailed me to say Mairéad read for a short 20 minutes - every word wonderful.)
    it is a mythical
a natural
If we still possessed the word 'is', there would be no need to write poems. George Oppen
lyndy's garden
Wot a fucking football match! I love the Italians. Spent the last 2 days heartworking with Roberto Fraquelli - an experience to be revered and savoured.

By the way, the promised 5 day retreat in County Kerry is not going to happen this year. I couldn't quite get my mind around it, what with moving back to London & not knowing what my weekly teaching duties here are going to be. Also I wasn't comfortable with the idea of retreating anywhere, especially to one of the most beautiful places on Earth, to do this stuff. I've always admired and had a fellow-feeling for the Celtic saints who would search out the most God-forsaken, malarial shit-hole they could find, and then live there meditating and praying and dying. Maybe Hackney next year?

Carlo has just been given a Jag. The beautiful get all the luck.

The picture is the view from my bed.

Garden by David Dixon.
I believe in technique as the test of a man's sincerity. Ezra Pound


Faith comes to one noiseless
and yet, keeps one exasperated

Eager to touch touch

A bird’s nest

Pam Rehm

Tai Chi

The graduated path of Tai Chi, as taught by my teacher during the Wimpole Street days (1970-1992):
1. 3 years learning to sink and relax (the various solo Forms plus oodles of Partner Work)
2. 3 years learning to become strong and let your energy out (Power Class)
3. 3 years learning lightness of spirit through the Dance of Vitality.
After that one was ready to begin.


I adhere to form as the bee obeys the geometry of the hive. Robert Duncan

Falling in love

Went with JK to the Gerda Geddes Memorial at The Place in Euston on Saturday. The three things I came away with that made the event worthwhile for me were, firstly, hearing and meeting Frank Woods who is writing a biography of GG – a softer man with a bigger heart you're unlikely to meet – he was the only speaker who held my attention (a gorgeous Scottish accent) and the only person in evidence who felt like a Tai Chi practitioner (that is, relaxed, sunk and open). Secondly, hearing in the film on GG, made by Norwegian TV, that GG's teacher in Hong Kong had told her to step gently (or was it tenderly?) so as not to hurt the ground (something all of us should envision – touch gently so as not to hurt the other), and thirdly hearing JK speaking to Harriett Devlin – GG's youngest daughter – and telling her that because he fell in love with Tai Chi he had no choice but to completely abandon himself to it. It's always interesting being out & about with JK and experiencing his exchanges with non-students (although Harriett was his student for a while back in the 1970's). He always manages to give them the essence of his whole teaching in a short sentence like this. Falling in love is a feeling of falling, or floating – the ground disappears – or rather all one's relationships (the one with the ground being the most obvious) are thrown into new focus by the intensity of the openness and connexion one feels with the beloved. I remember once walking back to Clapton from the Angel having seen a girl home, and I could swear that I did the whole walk without touching the ground. When in love one's actions and decisions tend not to result from thinking or consideration but are impelled by primal forces, foolish or otherwise – it doesn't matter. It is a world where there is no alternative to abandonment, or rather non-abandonment would mean a retreat out of the world of love and back into the grim flat reality of normal self-centred affairs. Hearing John talking to Harriett I realised that he left that meagre world for good when he started Tai Chi. He's been falling in love ever since.


Pushing Hands

Tai Chi is Pushing Hands, not the Form. Without Pushing Hands you get no real feedback, without feedback you have no progress, without progress you get a wallowing in self-satisfaction.



Ron Silliman, on his blog today, deplores ignorance in his students. Ignorance is never an excuse. It can just mean naivety or innocence but often it implies a lack of interest in much beyond oneself. The trouble with the Tai Chi world is that the teachers are generally as ignorant as the students – there is a culture of ignorance. By ignorance I don't really mean a lack of knowledge as such but the lack of valid and living energetic transmissions. If a student has received an energy transmission from a qualified master then to realise that transmission and be in some sort of fit state to pass it on would require that person to get really serious about their art – to the extent that they pretty much give up everything else to devote the rest of their life to it. Only by doing so will they develop it into more than what it is – it is the only way to truly contribute to the art and the living teaching. To tell the truth though, the only way a student would be in a fit state to receive such transmissions is if they have already plunged full time into the art. Thinking of myself (does one ever do anything else) it is really only since last September that I have received something really alive and essential from my teacher – the previous 21 years of Tai Chi and 46 years in total were what was required to gradually get myself into a fertile and stable state whereby my life is no longer really my own – it belongs to the teaching and the teacher. Not very fashionable I know but it is interesting.
    weak from too much
or too little
twilight shades
the middle
and what
making use
The closer the gaze gets to the ceiling
the more it entangles itself
in webs.

Vera Anserova (tr. Daniel Weissbort)