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.