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

John Kells


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


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 fĂș which means trust.
Before the work comes to you, you have to invent work.

Steve Lacy (1934-2004)

Photo: Guy Le Querrec



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.



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


Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

grass plaid

first fall
full moon

in the rain

the wind

in the wind

we are what
the trees have
made us

Jess Mynes


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

John Kells


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.


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


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.


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.



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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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


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.



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.



"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,

Aaron Kunin


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

Robin Blazer



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.


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

Native American saying


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.
All the efforts of the human mind cannot exhaust the essence of a single fly.

Thomas Aquinas



In Tai Chi a principle is something that enables us to better engage with reality, energetically or otherwise. In fact a principle is a facet of that engagement. So, principle begins to set us free – it provides a key to the cage of conditioning we all find ourselves confined within, and offers a reasonably secure path out of that cage and into the world at large. Adherence to principle, and the discipline that requires, is a pure approach to change and progress. Rather than focusing on the future fruits of success (ambition) we apply our energy, intelliegence and imagination to investigating the beauty and perfection of the principles, and strive to become more saturated by them so that we have no wasted time – no time when we are not practising. If a principle is correct – is indeed a principle rather than just another technique – then not only is it correct everywhere but your relationship with it will be alive and changing constantly, and that life and change will provide you with the energy and enthusiasm to take the engagement further and deeper. Regular contact with a teacher, who will rip you out of cycles of indulgence or closed loops of blinkered security and throw you into the deep-end where your feet can't touch the bottom, is essential. Life, or life's challenges, will also teach, often painfully so, but so often these can be either overlooked, avoided or misinterpreted. If the teacher is good then he will not allow any of these so your only options are sink or swim assuming you have enough feeling for your own destiny not to allow yourself the option of running away. If you begin to sink then the teacher hasn't quite done his job and will buoy you up long enough for you to get a firm handle on the new principles he has presented you with. Then it's all just a matter of practice.
I'm such a good lover because I practice a lot on my own.

Woody Allen


Photo: Lyndy Stout
When I was very young me & my brother had this theory that if we were really really good then God would change us into girls. Part of me still believes this.
Goodness speaks in a whisper.

Tibetan saying


no shackles on this star
no place that does not see
no life that does not change.

Aaron Tieger

Beginner's class in Hackney

Starting a beginner's Tai Chi class in Hackney, London on Tues 3 October from 7-9pm. Details: www.taichiheartwork.com or www.taichiheartwork.co.uk - they both point at the same site.
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese system of self-defence.

The first stage in self-defence is the cultivation of a healthy body and mind.

The beginner's class is involved with this first stage.

It emphasises relaxation, softness, gentleness, connexion, compassion, balance, coordination, strength, energy & vitality.

Tai Chi is famous for alleviating many chronic conditions resulting from tension.


Voice one
beats all
fire and light
the way for
all to shine

A blessing from a student for tomorrow.

I have three half-hour films (AVI files) about Ueshiba on my hard-drive, including at least an hour of footage of him doing his thing from the 1930's and 60's. If you'd like me to post you a CD-ROM then email your address.
Practice, and skill will come naturally.

Wang Shu-jin


Energy & personality

The problems we have generally stem from having been reared in our early years by people with little understanding of energy and so with little appreciation of our own energy. We therefore find ourselves developing a persona - a mask - to keep those people happy (or off our case) and behind which to protect our energy from their gross insensitivities. The same thing can happen in later life as well. If you find yourself suddenly living with the wrong person then you'll learn all sorts of ways of cutting off and protecting yourself. But there again if you start to live with the right person - someone who appreciates you for who you really are rather than who they would like you to be - then you'll find yourself naturally beginning to drop the habits of self-protection (relax) and start to interact energetically with them. Such an environment - one of understanding and love (one without the other isn't much good) - is probably the most effective healer there is - in fact in many cases it is the only hope. What our energy wants more than anything else in the whole wide world is to come out to play. For that we need good company, or we need to be good yielders - good at transforming mediocre or bad company into good.
The average person finds reality within their needs.

John Kells