Tai Chi

Trying to put it all in a nutshell is proving more and more difficult:
Tai Chi is a system of exercise and a practical philosophy. It has at its foundation two principles: natural and yielding. Natural means relaxing the mind and the body so that we can move and interact effortlessly, spontaneously and joyfully. Yielding means opening up to the world of energy, which happens when the mind and heart come together. It develops sensitivity, softness and tolerance, as well as a bright and lively attentiveness. Eventually the world of energy replaces the thinking mind as our constant companion.


Without a centre honesty is impossible.
Not just vulnerable – precarious too.

From L. precarius "obtained by asking or praying."



The older I get the more convinced I become that the only thing worth teaching and practising is to connect to and unselfishly assist others. This is the message in the work I do now. It means taking one's role as teacher and effective therapist – as someone who gives energy – really seriously, and allowing that sense of responsibility to bring uprightness and dignity to one's life. The work regulates itself in the giving to others, not in the giving to the work. In Israel I have heard many times teachers tell me that they have found that only when they really attend to their students' problems and forget their own do their own start to resolve. This is what we must impress upon our students – that they are teachers as well – that their good energy, when freely and confidently given, helps others in ways they could never imagine, and that help brings meaning and depth to their own lives. The world rests on all our shoulders, individually and collectively.
When we properly connect then essences touch, and when that happens it is forever.


As an extremely rich and complex organism interacting with other extremely rich and complex organisms (which includes the Earth), we have to admit that most of that interacting is happening on unconscious levels. We then have two options, we either limit ourselves to what we feel and think, make decisions based on what we feel and think, live a life around what we feel and think, or we soften.

Seduce with Softness

Not only allowing but encouraging the world to open up and reveal itself in all its glory – as it is, and not how we would like it to be. It has at its core a belief that things are exactly as they should be – a belief in God. Then we have no wish to change things – just to join and become: to learn the lessons life is presenting us with.


What works in me is not mine but
ancient survivals

Robert Duncan


Soul: accumulation of gestures.

Demon: compressed accumulation of suppressed gestures.

Bob Perelman
Do your cockles need warming?
Faith, the hardest resolve. Once you suspend judgment, trust follows. But o to allow that vulnerability over the false notion of control...

Jess Mynes

Tai Chi

For me Tai Chi is about developing depth & breadth of soul by containing & managing conflict. The battleground is always the body – ultimately the only thing we have, and the manager is always the heart – the centre of love & connexion. It isn't about reconciling opposites or complimenting one energy with another; it is about having the heart & sense of humour to allow different worlds and different dimensions inside the same space. Almost an act of tolerance, not for moral reasons, but because it is the only way I have found to get the heart to keep on breaking open and spilling into life & existence.

This is why I choose to live in Israel.

ahhhh mmm

I'm oversensitive today

Robert Grenier


Relaxation means opening up to energy. It happens naturally when we stop constraining ourselves with business, thoughts, concepts, limitations. There exist many different energies, but the fundamental ones – the most prevalent and inescapable – can be categorized as (1) those defining existence, and (2) those defining life, or perhaps more accurately, those defining livingness. Existence is a quality we share with all other entities in the universe, regardless of whether those entities are alive. Life, or livingness, is a quality we share with every other living entity in the universe.

All entities have two things in common. They all attract energy and they all give out energy. By attract I don’t mean gravity, and by give out I don’t mean, for example, the light reflected from the surface of objects that enables us to see them. These are only facts of an object's physical existence, and not its energetic existence. To open up to and become aware of energy (not the energy of the physicist, which is crude) we must admit a magic ingredient into the argument. We call this ingredient heart, love, compassion, etc. Now perhaps the most important question we can pose here, important because it establishes (even proves) whether God exists or not, is: Is love only something man-made which we bring to a situation, or is it something already and always there which we open up to and relax into (stop resisting) in our moments of lovingness? For me, at least, the latter is fundamentally the case (which doesn’t mean the former is not admitted): there exists a subtle substance that is everywhere, which, if we open to it, melts boundaries and allows entities to attract & receive energy, and create & give energy – allows entities to function naturally & energetically. This is what constitutes existence – a deep and subtle communion with God, and communication with each other. It is the goal of most meditation – to reach a place of sufficient inactivity so that real activity – the connectedness of things – becomes revealed and entered into; and many established spiritual practices involve approaching God by withdrawing from life (and all its turmoil) through simplification, and entering instead existence – a fully loving existence.

But Tai Chi is fundamentally different from meditation in that it involves moving, and as soon as we start to move we need to firstly feed the energy for that movement (which requires food, which requires hunting, which requires the taking of life), and secondly we need to start making decisions; i.e. we need to enter the other of God’s two great gifts – life.


The middle where we meet

is not the place to stop.

Martin Carter
Never allow your teacher to overrule your instincts, and be wary of one that attempts to do so. Such acquiescence on your behalf will only result in depression and inner conflict.


Home is where the heart is.

In all innocence

Innocence knows nothing. And because it knows nothing it connects, but it doesn't connect to things, necessarily, it opens possibilities beyond itself. It admits a world far larger and richer than itself, and in that admission it brings the world alive. This is a miraculous achievement. It is, like softness, a very attractive quality – it draws things in, inviting and enticing. It suffers, and not just because it is so easily taken advantage of, but because it proceeds without knowing and without having to know. Innocence is only possible because it connects on levels beyond its comprehension and beyond its consciousness. In a world where strength and wisdom are measured by what we know of ourselves – by the harsh glaring clarity of knowing what we are and what we want, innocence throws us back into the real world – the one of pure unconscious connexion.


When the earth mushrooms up though us, opening the heart, clearing the head, we feel our place, and there is an irrevocable logic to that next breath or next step. It allows us to enter the world as a creative part of it – as a creature of God.



bound by

road signs
and wires.

Low tide:
wide swaths

of mud
rub in.

Words, we
have none.

We're lost
in the tone



with the
wind's pitch.

Joseph Massey

This from Joe's latest little book – Within Hours – from The Fault Line Press, who don't seem to have a website. If you want a copy contact Joe or email me & I'll forward.

Sand mandala by Eitan Kedmy



The foot cannot relax into the Earth until the spine relaxes into the leg. The spine cannot relax into the leg until the Earth comes up and frees the head. The Earth cannot rise until the foot relaxes into it. This is why progress is little by little.



Earth thrusts up through sole and spine, entering the head. There it expands, dissolving anxiety (thought), filling the brain with an open and attractive emptiness – a feeling that it can and does contain everything. The head then becomes as the heart. In fact the whole spine frees up, poised above whichever heel, lengthening down and up. This is just relaxation.



My therapist (one of them – I have many – sound counsel is one thing that is not in short supply here) is constantly telling me that we create our own reality. It is the fundamental truth of existence: we are totally responsible for everything that befalls us. And the only way to cope with this truth is to enter it openly & wholely – without the possibility of blaming any one or any thing for anything, because if we truly enter life then everything is always in its rightful place.

It is the giving – the entering – that heals us.


All the leaves
are down except
the few that aren't.
They shake or
a wind shakes
them but they
won't go oh
no there goes
one now. No.
It's a bird
batting by.

James Schuyler
Writing in earnest requires an engagement that doesn't cease. James Schuyler wrote that poetry requires a certain "force" in order to approach it. I think he meant force in terms of ferocity, passion, and attention. That's true of life too. You know all of this, but poetry keeps you honest to it.

Jess Mynes


Rather than fearing the worst, hope for the best. Or better still, create the best. Or, more accurately, don't let fear prevent your natural good energy bringing the best to you.


Spelling the letters to make words, they really
made knots.
These knots are propelled and snarled
by will itself, and by the cunning
of syntax—
a force that meddles
with the relations of things.

Rachel Blau DuPlessis


I have been given 3 bits of wonderful advice regarding relationships since I have been here in Israel, the first from Nitsan: "Relationships are easy: just stop thinking in terms of me and start thinking in terms of we." The second from Prema, Nitsan's wife: "The only chance a relationship has is if you can both put love of God before love of the other." The third from Miriam, wife of my 91 year old student Yosi, married 60 years: "Enjoy their good points and overlook their bad ones."
I'm beginning to realise that what inhibits my own progress more than anything is taking myself too seriously. It is a condition that stops life being the breathtaking ride it should be. Humour & lightness – basically good energy – offer a buffer that prevents the world from crushing in and flattening us. That humour also softens and transforms whatever it touches, as we all know. It also makes and gives time – a fascinating prospect.

When my children came to visit me in Israel last April my son begged me to let him bring his paint cans so he could tag the wall. The answer was no.


Tense shoulders indicate morbid fantasizing: shrouding the heart with disconnexion.


No technology.


The fundamental quality that develops soul is humility. It is by feeling your own insignificance in the face of, especially, suffering, your own and others', that soul deepens, enrichens and permeates your physical and energetic structure, softening and tenderizing as it goes. Softness without soul is not possible.

Without soul a teacher cannot really teach – there can be no transmission.

Photo: Lyndy Stout
Bet Café, 09:45, Ramat Aviv

for Ofer

Much life in the clouds
Ball of pen rolling on page
A bus empties & floods the sidewalk
I fall in love 3 times
Writing brings the world alive
Caffeine hits
Nostrils cool, skin puckers, edges sharpen
Watching breasts walk by
Coffee in a glass
Beseder gamur
Palms against concrete
This clarity the fruit of my anger
Scooter takes the bend at such an angle
Ella from the right becomes Blossom
Gives the day a lilt
Potted shrubs still bloom mauve & crimson
The fullness of life is the emotional content
A full spectrum


Jacob's ladder – the bridge between Heaven & Earth – is the spine.
A holy man is always accompanied by angels.


Ultimately I suspect the only way to come to fullness or wholeness is to really experience life as a continuing and developing communication – conversation – with God. It is only by consistently reaching beyond ourselves that we allow ourselves to softly fill. Our periphery – the trembling torn edge of life – must in no way be hard, clear or well-defined. It must become as a mist, and there must be fluid exit and entry across that boundary, an activity that is felt as a tender poignancy – almost a tearful sadness. It is only by abiding (suffering) within such a space/reality that we develop soul.


Max is 15 today. Time flies.


The fundamental way we consistently get it wrong is that we tend to draw away from God and into self or the self's projections. By this I mean that we retreat into technique – into what we know, even if that known is a path into the unknown – anything rather than have deep faith in something infinitely larger than ourselves. It is crucial to our development that we always have a feeling for and belief in the much larger picture, of which we are a tiny but significant contributing part. In those moments of working well we become the bigger picture, and the temptation is to manipulate and distort for our own ends. If we can resist this temptation (i.e. if we can truly love God) then we live in a state of constant grace. It is really just a matter of cultivating and getting used to the idea and feeling that the area of reality on which we operate most effectively and efficiently is always the one beyond what we are conscious of. What we know, feel and imagine always gets in the way of real connexion.


Energy of life

The student of energy must understand and become liberated by the fact that energy is hindered by both the mind and the feelings. Directing energy with the mind both slows it down and dulls its impact, and feeling energy, or directing energy with the feelings, is equally limiting – generally descending into histrionics and indulgence. We must instead liberate the energy from mind, body and feeling so that it can become its own entity, connecting, responding and influencing of and by itself, without our conscious, physical or emotional interference. This requires lightness and single-weightedness – a freedom from the dulling and conglomerating effect of gravity and root. Lightness and single-weightedness encourage detail and delight to proliferate – the texture of our humanity if you like. They allow the structure and intelligence of spirit to reveal itself.



Someone (one of the many jewels in my life) pointed out to me yesterday that when repressed emotions release in the body they manifest painfully. It is only the painful ones we repress. Movement, and by that I mean motion within and then out of a place in which we are stuck, which is basically what all movement is if we are as deep as we can be, is always accompanied by emotion. The trick – survival technique – is to feel without becoming in any way disconnected. It is essential to feel otherwise we are repressing again, but it is also essential to hold true and survive. The elasticity is in the play between these two. Without the emotion we become stiff and blocked, without the alignment with God we lack true purpose and basic connexion.
The literal meaning of Israel is "aligned with God."



One of the problems with tensions – blockages – is that because they manifest as knots of immovable energy they are often perceived, by men especially, as strengths – strengths contained; and when they dissolve, if only just for a moment, the predominant feeling can be one of weakness and loss. We must realise that the only really valuable strength and power is that in and of connexion, and not that contained by the body. To be clear and connected, and to have the emotional strength to hold, elastically, to that clarity and connexion despite the inevitable anxieties and fears, is what is required. It is only through such emotional strength – probity if you like – that we deepen into what is essential, rather than build superficial energetic edifices: testaments to both our hard work and our cloistered fears. The problem with hard work is that unless it is tempered and conditioned by a real engagement with life and life's practicalities then it really goes nowhere valuable to either ourselves or to others. It becomes just another ego-trip.


The mind has memories but the body has history.


I wanted a life that was dominated by and permeated by silence. And then, out of that matrix of silence, I hoped that the deeper words would come, the primordial words. But the only words that would be worthwhile would be those which are connected with the original Word, the Word of God, the Word that became flesh.

Father William McNamara


Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order.

Samuel Beckett



The mind keeps the world at bay. When the mind stops, not so much stops thinking but stops pushing away – fantasizing, then reality presses the skin with a firmness that brings us not just into our body and our senses, but also into the natural, into Nature – ruthless, unsentimental, dehumanised and totally invigorating. This reality thrusts up through us from the Earth and down into us from the space above, so that the skin becomes like that of an inflated balloon – receiving energy (pressure) from below which must be equalized from without. The more we can allow the world to press in, the less we reside within our own bubble of self, and our senses can start to experience the real world rather than our selfish projections upon the world. Energy is always equalized – the more that we generate from food, Earth, enthusiasm, the more the world presses on us and the more it reveals itself. This is a natural, self-regulating process, maintained with ceaseless vigilance.
we must find the heart of the fire

Allen Fisher


I am saying that the metempsychoses of the animal (as we are also that, as well as possessed of a "geography" of places in us, things we depend upon, and are called on to pay our respects to, such a mt range as the spine, such an arctic of it as the head, and that tropic, the tail, that antarctic, the feet go cold when the sun of this system, the heart, starts to cool—or that valley of the breath, the lungs, that exit of it the throat, that knot of a membrane which declares the weather blows through that valley, the sea the kidney is (a sea before that cell we are emerged from salt water, long before, long ahead of 300,000,000 years ago), the mounds of the bones of us, the lakes of those lacuna, and the storms, of those newest known things, hormones ...

Charles Olson, The Chiasma, or Lectures in the New Sciences of Man, volume 10 of The Journal of the Charles Olson Archive, 1978.


Cheng Man-ching

There is a blog devoted to Cheng Man-ching. It seems to get one post a month. Nothing of real interest there, except their claim that his birth date was 1902 rather than 1900.



The trouble is
most people spend their lives living it


Lew Welch


If we attend to our inner aspect with the proper attention – a loving one – then our outer aspect will similarly attend to us. When we function well – lovingly, joyfully – then our outer aspect communicates directly with our inner: we are merely dancing channels.

Photo: Oded Arbel


Poetry was all written before time was… whenever we are finely organized we can penetrate into that region where the air is music

Emerson, quoted by Zukofsky


Inner & Outer

Energy is nested: each of us is like a set of Russian dolls. Inside us there is as though another entity – an aspect of our totality – that has been called the Inner Child – waiting to be acknowledged, encouraged and accepted. Similarly, outside us – surrounding us – there is another entity – also an aspect of our totality – that has variously been called our Higher Self, fully realised Self, Guardian (Angel), conscience, etc – waiting to be trusted and surrendered to. In all likelihood these two aspects of us also contain and are contained – it certainly feels that way. Awakening the one inside unlocks our past – takes us to times and events as yet unresolved – freeing valuable energy. Becoming aware of the one containing us unlocks our future – our destiny. Both of these entities have definite structures and the student of Tai Chi should realise that whenever she reaches out to yield or attack, she is stimulating part of that large entity, and whenever she draws energy into the body – up the legs from the Earth, or from the environment and Heavens through the arms and sense organs, she is feeding and stimulating the smaller, contained entity. She should also be aware that the most important action of the body – turning/twisting – is also responsible for taking our awareness (and thereby our energy) into these two entities. The spiral tightens into the smaller one and relaxes into the larger one. Embracing and containing the smaller entity naturally makes us aware of the embrace of the larger one that we are contained within. Imagine cradling a baby and you instantly feel cradled in turn by the energy surrounding you. In a sense this is just Ward-Off energy.


Relaxation loosens the grip our mind and body has on our energy. Then, and only then, can we begin to make energetic connexions. And only then will the intelligence of our energy reveal itself, and begin to take us into a richer reality.




There is an aspect to spirit – almost a contrary bloody-mindedness – a refusal to go with the flow – a suspiciousness – that paradoxically binds and knits to reality with such intensity and fire, that you become a charged and fiery creature of Nature. By cutting through and against the flow you are slicing through your own slack and sleepy drifting, and biting fiercely into the arse of life to make it happen for you rather than comfortably waiting for it to make you happen. You then meet life as an equal and can have proper communication – communion – with it. It's just a matter of feeling the vector of momentum and pulling gently against it. This creates bulges of energy which you can squeeze into whichever parts of your life (body) you wish. The pulling is really just a refusal to be carried – a taking of responsibility. As far as I know it is the only way to cut through the bland and conventional reality we surround ourselves with, and start touching the energetic reality we should all be true participants to.


some nights
all we talk about

living outside the city
in a house
above a stream

Frank Samperi
Spirit borrows from matter the perceptions on which it feeds and restores them to matter in the form of movements which it has stamped with its own freedom.

Henri Bergson


The True Mind

When the thinking mind quietens it becomes clear that the body has a mind of its own. This mind is an aspect of the body's energy, and is literally wracked with trauma, insecurity, anxiety, fear, all because it has been suppressed and repressed by the thinking mind for almost as long as we have been alive. It connects naturally, and above all else it feels, and spontaneously and uncontrollably responds to feeling. This feeling comes from a vast and dark whirlpool – a forment and torment – which, when it flows into and through us, makes us truly aware and alive. When we begin to connect, tap and explore this whirlpool it also becomes clear that the thinking mind is a foreign body, consuming our energy and life for reasons of its own – tricking us into giving it all we have. It is for such a formidable enemy that we learn to yield – softening, deepening and patiently slipping beneath it. The centre of the whirlpool – the centre of the body – is the dan-tien: the navel, or just below. This centre is elastic – threads pull into it. It is a place established and strengthened early on by the baby's gut-wrenching crying – each sob a tightening into the belly – a continuation of the prenatal breathing of the foetus – the belly as centre of power and expression. When you centre yourself there as an adult – have it as centre of awareness – then the thinking mind relaxes its grip and the pool begins to swirl. The thinking mind – when it operates and commands – stops the swirling – rigidly setting and constricting the reality it perceives. That reality is in many ways easier to contend with that the ever-flowing – ever-whirling – one in evidence when the mind stops, so the world we live in when the mind thinks is to most of us preferable – an easier ride. Add to this the fact that for most of us the true mind – the body's mind – is still a baby – locked at that age our thinking mind took over – and you have an indication of just how difficult a task it is to switch our allegiance to the true mind and away from the thinking mind. But this is really the task for all of us, and only when embarked upon and travelled past the point of no return will the true meaning and significance of our lives become clear.


Alive & kicking.



When the mind quietens the body takes on a life of its own, and it is your life – every part of it present and engaging. Each part stems from a specific, usually past, event, and reaches out with an embracing, touching and symbolic sweep. In fact our humanity is the body, and all it houses, when it is alive – trembling with fear and excitement in almost equal measure. Such a body joins with everything – that is its nature, and so that is its happiness.


The end of poetry is not to create a physical condition which shall give pleasure to the mind…. The end of poetry is not an after-effect, not a pleasurable memory of itself, but an immediate, constant and even unpleasant insistence upon itself…. Poetry brings all possible experience to the same degree: a degree in the consciousness beyond which the consciousness itself cannot go.

Laura (Riding) Jackson


It’s not that words just end up there suddenly
with the force and gravity of pure existence,
but against the current, hook still shimmering
in the bloody water because the mind does openly

and so do the bodies inside of me generate
a certain bliss beneath inspection. The cost
of sinking is no larger than being reeled
in by the other. Disengaging never

works. The body still runs into itself,
no matter how you work it. What seems despair
is never coming to terms with river or sadness,
the words themselves avoided and coolly shelved

next to God and light, though personally
I’d do better without shelves or hooks
still wanting to see words unhinged eternally.

Philip Jenks

I want to hold you close like a lute
so we can cry out with loving.

You would rather throw stones at a mirror?
I am you mirror and here are the stones.




We drive our energy through to the Earth's heart, piercing its surface – the ground – on the way. We begin this process by visualizing the sinking energy passing down the leg, through the sole of the foot (the heel in particular), and down to a point under the ground somewhere beneath our base. Somehow practising penetrating the Earth eventually enables us to also penetrate our own resistance (laziness, tiredness, bloody-mindedness, and all our conditioning) and reach the heart and essence of our own motivation: we become skilled at penetrating to the heart of things. Two skills are required, both of which can be developed through practice. The first is the ability to melt and seep through hardness: something in you must melt the hard ground so that your energy can seep into and through it. This is achieved by allowing your own heart to melt and open. It is pretty much the same feeling you have when the heart melts at the sight of your beloved, or at the smile of a child. The second skill runs from this – the ability to extend your energy beyond your physical boundaries. This basically means expanding the heart to contain the point or place to which your energy needs to extend. It is possible to just let the energy go and direct it to its destination with the mind, but this method denies the energy the compassionate accompaniment of your heart.


this stone is full of creatures

John Martone


If you looked at all the past geniuses and heroes who have really contributed to humanity – have brought the human race forwards – then the thing they will all have in common is terrific spirit. Very few of them will have had a root, or softness, or martial prowess. This is why when my teacher asked his teacher what he should practice when he returned to London, Dr Chi's immediate and unequivocal reply was “I suggest you practice spirit.” Spirit makes a difference. Of course if you practice correctly then every minor skill you develop on your journey will contribute to the health and quality of your spirit.



step after step
to attain you

John Martone
Without a second—or first—thought.


Feelings are just traces left by the flow of energy – vapour trails in the sky.



We have to ask ourselves time and time again what it is that makes sharing, and consequently transformation, a natural phenomenon. Ultimately it is a willingness to always put the other person first. This doesn't mean deferring to them or even giving them respect, it means wanting to join with them more than anything else. This desire for union manifests as an attraction, the final result of which is physical oneness – superimposition. When we talk of a spiritual reality we don't mean a symbolic one. We mean one that is real and present on every level, including the physical/mundane. If we deny this realm then we enter a dangerous situation where the reality we experience is being created by our mind as we go along. The unity/oneness we talk about is the one that comes about simply because our physical presence – our body – fills with such an intensity of awareness and feeling that there is no space for anything else, not even the mind. The difficulty is to give such a reality expression without it burning all and sundry, and without it slackening with concern. That expression can only naturally be the desire for oneness.

I spent an hour meditating under this tree, looking out onto the view below.
A humbling experience.

The centre of the body is the belly, and in the belly there is a fire —

ba beten yesh esh.



Progress in Tai Chi does not simply depend upon relaxation – the removal of tension. It depends mainly on the persistent practice of a certain form of concentration that one can only learn from a teacher. Externally this concentration takes the shape of a Form of movements – a sequence designed to touch and work with certain energies that are considered essential to the development and cultivation of spirit. Internally this concentration is a listening of your energy to other energies, a listening that transforms and is transformed in turn by that to which it listens. We call this communication. Real communication is not just the passage of information or energy back and forth, it is transformation – changing the hearts and minds of all involved. Spirit, being the energy of engagement, gives the possibility of a vital grip on reality. It's fingers insinuate, stimulate and awaken. Often this is all that is required for transformation to be kick-started into action. Transformation – change – will only happen if it is ready to happen and if it wants to happen – if it is almost inevitable given the circumstances and the company. In such cases only the lightest of touches is necessary – just enough to start the process.
We regard intelligence as man's main characteristic and we know that there is no superiority which intelligence cannot confer on us, no inferiority for which it cannot compensate.

Henri Bergson


over pale balcony
mint choir side sage
thumb-bruised lavender
strewed vanilla beans
a just peeled orange
toast, fresh coffee
shoulder almost geranium
light reign one jonquil
sweat, with cinnamon

Ronald Johnson


A connexion is a point or channel of joining of two entities.

Communication is the passage of energy across a connexion.

A blocked connexion is one across which energy cannot pass.

An idle connexion is one across which energy can pass but does not.

A working connexion is one accommodating two-way traffic.

A healthy connexion is one where the passage of energy in one direction stimulates the passage of energy in the other direction.

When the energy in a healthy connexion starts to snowball we have the possibility of a third heart – the connexion/relationship/communication taking on a life of its own.

For a healthy relationship to last it must have a heart.

soul in process
meticulous detail

beyond the pale
nine lifetimes

darkness preying
but light to fore

Ronald Johnson


Relaxation is letting go: expansion.
Tension is holding on: contraction.
Work is the interplay/alternation of relaxation and tension.

Matter is tense compared to energy. In fact any structure or form or organising principle is basically a tension: an anti-entropic force. In Tai Chi we try to relax completely, which means to remove the acquired tensions that mask the positive organising tensions of our physical and energetic structures. When we relax completely we fill our forms, and our potential – our ability to work and function correctly – our ability to be natural – becomes available to us. What we feel this form to be is always inaccurate, despite the power of foresight. Feelings and thoughts, unless they are released as soon as they come into being, are acquired tensions and as such they block channels of connexion making us far less than we could be.


Holding feelings in – containing them – is harmful. It is not always possible to give them expression, but they, and their energy, can always be let out, and if they are not then they well up, congest and cut us off from our energetic environment (a wandering mind is just the internal expression of contained feelings). One outlet is through the feet. The two main seats of the feelings – the heart and the sacrum – correspond approximately to the ball of the foot and the heel respectively. Allowing these to relax and spread onto the ground achieves a direct connexion between the Earth and the heart and sacrum. The Earth's sink potential, the Earth's energy and the Earth's compassion can then become intimately bound up with the feelings, receiving and healing in turn. These connexions, and the flow of feeling and energy through these connexions, gradually strip both the heart and the sacrum of their armouring – their scar tissue. Maintaining openness is only possible with support. What better support than the Earth.



The foot corresponds to the hand: the four toes are the four fingers and the heel is the thumb.

When the foot is planted on the Earth the toes extend and spread so that the fleshy ball of the foot can press onto and into the Earth.

The connexion between the Earth and the bubbling-well point (the red spot in the diagram) corresponds to the heart.

The toes and heel open apart and sink, gripping the ground: embracing the connexion the bubbling-well point has with the Earth ��� effectively embracing the heart.

When we relax in Tai Chi, our energy flows down the spine, into the sacrum, and then down the leg and into the Earth through the heel.

A natural energy circuit is then from the crown, down the spine, sacrum, back of the leg, heel, then up through the bubbling-well point, up the front of the leg into the heart, throat, face and crown. This circuit tends to make the posture lean back slightly ��� it is effectively Cheng Man-ching's circuit.

The opposite circuit is also possible. Sinking down into the heel causes energy to kick back up from the heel into the sacrum, up the spine through the back of the heart and to the crown of the head. When the bubbling-well point is pushed into the Earth a connexion is made which feels like a spark of spirit. This spark suddenly opens the heart which achieves a spirited immediacy that wants to leap forwards and fight. The spark also sucks a veil of energy down the front of the body and into the Earth. This circuit tends to make the posture lean forwards aggressively and is more like that of traditional Yang style Tai Chi Chuan.

It is possible to have both circuits flowing without them canceling each other out. Like everything in Tai Chi, power comes from the interplay of seemingly opposing energies.
"From the traditions of Eastern medicine to the new discoveries of science, it is generally acknowledged that energy or 'life force' underlies all forms of life. It is now widely recognised that our energy can get 'stuck' in particular patterns. Every cell that makes up our bodies and minds holds memories of our experiences – not only from our childhood but going right back through our time in the womb to the moment we were conceived. When an experience affects us strongly, the thoughts, emotions and beliefs connected to that memory can set up energy patterns in which we become 'stuck'. In a sense, they keep us stuck in the past. These energy patterns can express themselves in a variety of ways, such as physical or mental illness, emotional problems, limiting attitudes and beliefs or repeating patterns of behaviour."

From a website on Metamorphic Technique



We talk of planting the feet: the feet on the ground feel as though they are in the ground, toes spreading like extending roots, the sole of each foot receiving the Earth. It is an active feeling – almost as though the foot is greedy for the ground. Then the point of contact with the other – usually the hand but not necessarily so – takes on the same quality, and similarly enters and spreads into the other's body and energy. This is sticking: a natural consequence of correct rooting. The activity – that energetic feeling – must be constantly renewing itself otherwise the root withdraws. What this means technically is that the toes extend and curl, extend and curl – breathing. This is where the mind gets in the way: when it thinks, energetic activity effectively stops, we cease to be aware of our breathing and we enter a different reality, one not connected to anything outside or beyond itself. I was informed last night that in Judeaism sin is not just a movement away from God, it is any refusal of the ever-present path towards and into God. Sitting on the fence – the ubiquitous wandering mind – refusing to move forwards – getting stuck – is just as much a sin as misdemeanour. There is nothing passive about goodness or love – in fact they are more active than anything else.


To get in the ground the legs must stop pushing at it and must instead accept it. In fact the legs must accept the ground from below and the upper body from above – they have a lot of work to do, but it is a soft work – a work of acceptance and joining rather than that of pushing things apart. If the legs are tense then the problem is ultimately not with the legs – despite their apparent weakness – it is in the heart and mind – they both struggle with any new reality.

Chi Kung

This Qi Gong course may interest. I have no idea what it would be like so cannot recommend it, but it is interesting that such courses exist.


The truth of what happened is in the spirit of what is happening.
I can re


my steps



between thwarts

Do not come down the ladder

ifor I


it a


Susan Howe
The truth of what happens is in the spirit of what is happening.



A consequence of operating from the heart is that every action you make or take, no matter how trivial, is a movement into deeper, greater and more complete connexion. The first requirement for connexion is openness – something must open before that thread of connexion can reach out or in. The establishment and maintenance of the thread then gives a flavour or feeling of completeness to the openness – a resolution – a maturity – a fulfillment.

Heart and head

Don't you think it strange that some people you can meet only fleetingly and yet you feel so connected to them; and what's more strange, that connexion can deepen and grow without any further contact with that person? It is so important to feel the connexion and acknowledge it and allow it to grow – not resist its growth with ignorance or selfishness. It will probably grow without your being aware of it anyway, but awareness will always assist your movement towards inner peace. Peace comes with knowledge and awareness. Conflict arises from ignorance and the confusion brought about by only partial knowledge. Best to either know everything or know nothing. Partial knowledge means that there is also ignorance, and the problem with partial knowledge is that it offers a security that makes the insecurity of partial ignorance (knowing that you don't know) difficult to chose. We have a natural affinity to security and a natural aversion to insecurity. This situation poses a real and very deep problem to the student of Tai Chi. It is why so many students stop progressing, especially the ones who start teaching, despite the hours of practice they continue to devote to the art. What it boils down to is that the knowledge you house must be in your energy and your connectivity, and the temptation to bring that knowledge into the rational mind and make patterns, techniques and treatises about it, must be resisted. It is when the knowledge comes into your mind and you start to think you know because you can communicate about it, that you stop knowing where it really matters – in the heart. Those of us well-educated are far happier with mindful knowledge than heartful knowledge because it offers a way to outshine those around us. And yet the mind cannot connect, not usefully anyway, it is too slow and too separate – it connects to compete and not to join – it has no spiritual dimension. For all but the extremely advanced the heart and mind are almost mutually exclusive. Bringing them together is, in a sense, the task at hand. This task is only possible if you have the courage to chose the awareness that comes from knowing nothing – if you have the courage to stop knowing with the head and start connecting with the heart. The heart must become dominant – almost a bully – if our Tai Chi is going to be anything more than pat, flat Forms and lip service to connexion (which is what most partner work is).



Broken heart, you
timeless wonder.

What a small
place to be.

True, true
to life, to life.

Robert Creeley


Sensitivity is an admission of defeat.


In the fullness of time.



one wants it all—

Robert Creeley


The main channels of communication from the heart pass through the narrows of the neck and waist to reach the peripheral points of contact with the world. If these channels are open, the person is open, and his heart is open to the world. Our defenses are erected around these straits of passage. They do not completely cut off all communication and contact, for that would be death. They allow a limited correspondence or a limited access. So long as the individual keeps within these limits he remains free from anxiety. But this is a confining and constricting life-style. We all want to be more open to life.

Alexander Lowen, Bioenergetics, 1975


A few days ago a friend asked me to elucidate sinking. Sinking is something that requires constant work, but also something that needs to be constantly replenished with inspiration and enthusiasm otherwise it becomes laborious and disconnected from everything but the ground (sometimes even from that).
We sink to get part of our energy into the Earth where it can interplay with the Earth's energy. What happens in the upper body is then simply a reflexion of what is happening in the Earth. It is as though the surface of the Earth is a mirror. Your energetic activity beneath the Earth's surface is at least as involved and intense as that above. The two images that come to mind are the iceberg (with most of the berg beneath the surface) and the tree with it's root system feeding the crown through the bole: the larger the crown of the tree the larger and stronger the root system otherwise it topples. Your body is the bole and the crown is your expression – your energy entering the world – but in a sense the reality beneath the ground is more real than either. Without a root your expression is weak and aimless, despite its apparent exuberance and sophistication. If your energy is not rooted in the Earth then what you do has an arbitrary feel; and it does not connect, stick or bite into others of itself – naturally. It may lead others – seduce them to follow – but only to lead them astray.

What I mean by "taming your body" is simply developing a root. A root is a connexion with the Earth through which your energy streams down, and through which the Earth's energy streams up. This streaming or flowing of energy, and the relaxation work required to establish this streaming, washes the body clean of tension – clean of ego – clean of you – until eventually there is no resistance to this streaming and hey presto you have a root – with you all the time. In Tai Chi the beginning of developing a root is physically sinking into large (long and spread) postures – strengthening the legs. The pain of such work – in the muscles and in the joints (especially the knees) – is to be expected and to be borne. So is the emotional strain of beginning spiritual work. In a sense the legs must be very strong for a root to develop, but it is not the strength of bearing muscularly against the hard ground (a strength that produces large muscles), but the strength to open up and allow the streaming. To start with the streaming engulfs and terrifies you, but with practice it becomes familiar, bearable and eventually essential to your existence – one of those things you can't imagine being without.

The classical approach to developing a root is through stationary standing postures, especially riding-horse posture and various other single-weighted bow-and-arrow postures. One must stand and relax. The more relaxed you can become within the standing posture the more the energy will stream. Such relaxation requires a developing body awareness – especially an awareness of the tensions within the body – and the ability to relax such tensions. Classically the body is scanned with the mind, usually from the head down, for tension, and then these areas are softened and relaxed by opening up (expanding) the area with your loving heart.

It is possible, of course, to do anything incorrectly. An incorrect approach to standing would be to see it as purely a leg strengthening exercise. It is not. It is an exercise in opening up and allowing gravity and relaxation to draw energy into the Earth. This is a process that is wanting to happen all the time – it is our tensions, especially our over-active or wandering minds, that block it. What I feel I need to stress here is that when you relax properly the heart becomes involved. It is as though the dissolved tension becomes replaced by heart and love. Love is simply the desire to connect – the impulse that innocently makes you reach out into the world. Rooting – relaxing into the Earth – fills your body with love – with the overwhelming desire to reach out and extend your beautiful energy into the world. Courage.



Tai Chi requires us to start developing and using the legs as channels for energy rather than just instruments to either prop us up from the ground or as machines to get us around. So, first and foremost, we must learn to sink our energy down the legs and into the ground. This requires the neck (jaw), shoulders and waist to be relaxed so that the energy in the upper body can drop down into the belly. Then the sacrum & hips must relax so that the energy can flow into the legs. The knees and ankles should then relax on their own, allowing a free flow into the Earth. Now every tension in our body and mind will work against this. Tension pulls energy into the core of the tension – it constricts, narrows and tightens, disconnecting from all around. That core is always fear, and as such is immaterial. The main problem area, in my opinion, is the hips. If the hips are relaxed then the pelvis has a degree of independence from the sacrum and thighs. Using any effort or force to tuck the bum under will bring tension into the hips. The pelvis needs to find its natural alignment through relaxation, and not be jammed into position. A correct posture held with tension is wrong. An incorrect posture held relaxedly is probably more correct. Now correct relaxation involves an expansion of your energy. So relaxing a joint does not simply involve relaxing the muscles, tendons and ligaments around and within the joint, but opening that joint – filling it with energy and good feeling. We call this good feeling heart because when relaxing the whole body the centre from which the wave of expansion emanates is the heart. When relaxing a specific area or place we first feel the core of the tension in that place, then we let that core become the heart of the relaxation we wish to fill the area. We then let our own heart become that heart – superimpose them. Expanding our own heart will then relax the area in question. So, if you put your awareness into the joint and let it fill with love then you are relaxing that joint correctly. Now a joint is just a juncture – a meeting of two bones. Any juncture in your daily life can be relaxed in the same way, including relationships – just put your good intentions and energy into the space between – not into the other – into the Third Heart.


Progress . . . is marked by more feeling, more anxiety and finally more pleasure.

Alexander Lowen



O height dispersed and head
in sometimes joining
these sleeps. O primitive touch
between fingers and dawn
on the back

You are no more
simple than a cedar tree
whose children change
the interesting earth
and promise to shake her
before the wind blows
away from you
in the velocity of rest

Joseph Ceravolo


They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin


small bird with a note
like the creaking of a branch
twice the weight of a leaf
lost in leaf dapple

Thomas A Clark



When you involve the heart as the organ of loving then boundaries disappear – interfaces melt – and you become one with whatever you touch – the Earth, the other, the future, life. Such a state of affairs is extremely demanding and requires certainly the most difficult strength of all to acquire – the strength to be open. In other words, the strength to be totally vulnerable. There is no end to the amount of work that needs to go into this task. It requires almost constant feedback because our conditioned inclination is to pull into ego – close off. The reward we are used to giving ourselves for hard work expended is self-congratulation: a feeling that we have achieved something both worthwhile and tangible – satisfaction. This is precisely the feeling that makes us curl up into ourselves and cut off from (forget) what is beyond ourselves.


It's about hard work, which is about living to the full extent of one's capabilities.

Cecil Taylor


Open Channels

I receive many enquiries from readers wanting to know why I post poems on this blog. It is not just because I like poetry. It is because there is something about the way a poem and a poet gives that, for me, precisely models the way we as students of Tai Chi should give. Energetic connexion requires unconditional giving. No holding back. And it's not just giving the bare minimum, it's giving whole-heartedly with friendly enthusiasm – overflowing with giving – so that the channels of giving never get a chance to close down.

A while back I posted two beautiful photographs by Astrid Korntheuer, nicked from her website that I had chanced upon accidentally. About a month later I received an email from her threatening to sue me if I didn't remove the pictures. In contrast whenever I post a poem from a living poet it usually isn't long before I receive a friendly email from them thanking me for firstly reading their work, and secondly giving it exposure and introducing it to a new audience.

Back about 1987 when I was deep into practising Tai Chi all hours of the day, one of my colleagues asked our teacher why he hadn't asked me to teach for him yet. His reply was, "I am waiting for him to develop sexual charisma." At the time I thought he was being flippant but later I realised that sexual energy is just energy and what he meant by sexual charisma was enough good energy to draw peoples attention in and create a healthy (flowing) connexion.

I'm just trying to say that I feel it wrong if we as teachers mete out our knowledge. The action of giving takes care of what's given. We need to have exactly the same kind of relationship with everything in our lives. The model is the one with the Earth. If it's not relaxing, free-flowing and opening (expanding) then Tai Chi is reduced to body-mechanics and the only energy is kinetic.
Energetic connexion with the Earth is absolutely vital and necessary. It provides an infinite source of good energy but more importantly it tempers the rampant ego.


A life tempered by compromise is deathly.
The only thing that should temper life is love.


you can bring
a meeting place
the body – your only
functioning naturally,
a place
Now let me say it to you—simply as I can: the search for an art . . . . either in the making or the appreciation . . . . is the most terrifying adventure imaginable: it is a search always into unexplored regions; and it threats the soul with terrible death at every turn; and it exhausts the mind utterly; and it leaves the body moving, moving endlessly through increasingly unfamiliar terrain: there is NO hope of return from the territory discovered by this adventuring; and there is NO hope of rescue from the impasse where such a search may leave one stranded.

Stan Brakhage


Energy is like money – one can become interested in acquiring it for less than honourable reasons, and having it doesn't make you a better person.


An all-consuming interest in relaxation starts to possess you when tension, and the feelings associated with tension (a tight and smug egocentric feeling of power – the power to cut off), becomes intolerable. Something inside must mature, and you must realise that any tension is keeping you from the truth – is wasting your time. Releasing tension is a simple matter of letting go, something we can do at any moment if we so wish. What prevents us from doing so is that we prefer to hold onto the tension, for whatever reason. If you are in any way honest, sensitive and compassionate then you will quickly become aware of the damage your tension is doing not only to yourself but to your relationships and to the people you are in those relationships with, especially those you weild power over, such as children and students.
When I give them my works, how pleased
they seem with degrees of failure.
The only applause I could accept
would be the sound of them all
going to work from disgust.

Clark Coolidge



Energetic connexion is just another way of stating the universal law that if you give (in the right way) then you automatically and instantaneously receive (in the right way). If your giving is a relaxed and joyful opening then your energy will naturally extend into whatever you connect with – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You will then also receive from whatever you connect with – immediately. It is a natural law of energy. It cannot happen any other way. If it doesn't happen then your giving is not unconditional – you are still tense – still holding something back for yourself. It has nothing to do with the quality or state of the entities you connect with. In one sense it feels that your opening totally encloses the other, or permeates the entirety of the other, and the boundaries between you melt – you become one, at least energetically. This oneness is clearly palpable and not just theoretical.

In the park recently, during a morning Tai Chi class of Nitsan's, we were practising an exercise with a partner (Nitsan's work is all partner work). The exercise required us to relax into each other. I was having real problems. My legs were in agony and my stability was non-existent. My partner was having a great time. I asked Nitsan what was wrong. He watched thoughtfully for about 30 seconds, and then said "You are giving yourself physically to the other person, but not emotionally." It was one of those rare instructions that changed my life forever.


I never have connected loyalty to anything save love; ideas, never, with them, principles also, I am a renegade, they aren't worth a shit and you know it.

Ed Dorn to LeRoi Jones, 1961


The fundamental assumption in Tai Chi, and probably in all spiritual endeavour, is that there is an all-pervading and omnipresent force of connexion in the universe, and the meaning of life is to open up to this force as best we can. (This force effectively encourages entities and systems to open up, expand, organize and grow.)

In Tai Chi we also assume that it is tension that prevents us from connecting: if all tension were removed from our bodies then we would be totally connected.

Tension is a use of energy that tightens into itself – a disconnexion from all around it – which somehow helps us hold on to what we think we are – self.

Self is the accumulation of all the tension in the body. We identify with it because it covers and besmirches the true self: it feels like it's the only thing we have.

Your true self is really a state – a state of perfect and complete connexion. A free flow of energy.

Tensions are released by relaxing, and in Tai Chi we make a strict distinction between a relaxation that makes you floppy and lifeless (relaxed but still disconnected), and a relaxation that impels you to connect energetically. Tension closes and cuts off (negative, pessimistic); relaxation opens and connects (positive, optimistic).

Connexion just means communication – a two-way flow of energy – and has nothing to do with physical attachment, holding on, or grasping.

By connect energetically we mean that there is a streaming of energy from you into the entity, and from the entity into you. These two streams equal each other in quantity but differ significantly in quality.

If there is a lot of energy then the energetic conduit can feel taut and resilient. This tautness is not tension – we call it tone or tonus.

Natural just implies that we are trying to get back to some perfect state – the true connected self – that awaits us underneath all the tensions we house. Practically it just means according to universal laws of Nature, i.e. if we weren't to get in the way with our tensions, it would all happen by itself.

Unclutterable provenance. Where vacuum of
the notes not hit outline the ones that are.

Clark Coolidge



As teachers we learn pretty quickly that giving a student simple orders: relax, soften, abandon, sink, doesn't really get the job done. Even if the student does as they are told they are still operating within their own closed system of self – they are still relying on what they understand by such terms. What the student needs is to allow their system to open so that all these terms can enter never-ending processes of redefinition. If the student opens then grace enters the equation and things will start happening in their life to clarify, deepen and personalize the instruction they receive in class. As students we all experience this at the beginning – the excitement of a whole new world opening up before us – it makes everything in our life fresh and new and more meaningful. The truly great masters are the ones for whom this excitement never abates, because that world never stops opening. They remain like innocent children always seeing the world for the first time. As a teacher it is your responsibility to show your students such openness and somehow infect them with the bug.
Perfection is the fine line. The delicate balance of opposites.

Touching Perfection

One of those magical moments when a fellow student of Tai Chi hits the perfect posture. I knew it was good not from the way it looked but because of how it felt when I touched it. The energy it contained was relaxed, firm, rooted, sharp, light, but also rich – with body and depth. This richness came from Sandy feeling the truth of what he had touched, and allowing the joy of that truth to fill his body. It is relatively easy to help your partner touch perfection, but unless they recognize it and are totally inspired by it (allow it to change their life forever), I'm not sure how useful it is.


Humility and Teaching

If we are trying to learn something – anything really, but especially something like Tai Chi, which requires us to become more connected, that is, less ego driven – then humility is an essential quality to possess. This requires us to be the one that does not know. The one able to drop all aspects of our character that are trying to get in the way of us receiving not just new information, but new energy and new ways of aligning ourselves with reality, in fact, in some cases, new reality. Once a student reaches relative mastery they are qualified to teach, and they generally do (there's a Tai Chi class on every street corner nowadays). Problems set in if the student/teacher lets the thrill of leading a class go to their head. This happens if the teacher starts teaching too soon, i.e. before their own practice has tempered their ego sufficiently to be open to others in the right way all of the time. My own teacher used to tell the keen students who were interested in teaching that they need to put in, at the very least, two hours of solitary practice every day, and the equivalent in partner work. And by every day he meant every day, i.e. if you miss a day, for whatever reason, then do four hours the next. The student would then be qualified to teach after 5 to 10 years depending upon their talent. This means that a student should have at least 3500 hours of solo practice and 3500 hours of partner work behind (within) them, before they even think about teaching a class. Now thinking about it another way, in our society acquiring a profession generally requires at least three years of university training. My undergraduate training required about 40 hours of study a week for 30 weeks of the year and about 20 hours a week for the remaining 22. This adds up to about 4000 hours in total. Given that the average Tai Chi teacher would claim that their art has more depth than the average university course, it stands to reason that qualifying as a Tai Chi teacher requires more work hours. As usual I'm writing here about an ideal world. But even in this ideal world it is difficult for a teacher to remain truly humble, especially when it becomes clear that their intrinsic energy is far better than those around them.



There is nothing so depressing for a teacher than a student who greets each new instruction with the enthusiastic affirmation, “Oh yes, I know!” If the student had truly known then the instruction would not have been aired. Each new instruction you receive from your teacher is similar to a correction to your posture. Sometimes that correction can be a simple, light but meaningful touch that doesn't move your body at all but gives it energy and support (and knowledge) so that a deeper relaxation can take place. The same with verbal instruction. The teacher can tell you something you feel you know completely, yet that instruction will contain an energetic nuance you are new to and that you must be sensitive and receptive to if you are going to be a good student, that is, if you are going to progress along the path your teacher is laying before you, rather than the path you have constructed for yourself (destiny rather than ambition). When the good student is with their teacher they are in a state of nervous apprehension, the same way they would be in the midst of an enemy. They are listening intently for the next attack which is how a deep and true instruction feels because it really bites into the ego and threatens your sanity. This is why the teacher's company is difficult to take: it places great strain on your mind and energy. And this is why too much contact with your teacher will force you to armour yourself against his reality and at the same time make you dependent upon his energy. If this happens then you effectively start moving backwards, even if energetically you are getting stronger and more refined. What has happened is that you begin to feel that because you spend time in a knowing environment, then you actually know. But in fact you know nothing. You begin to really learn and really know when you take the instruction into your life and apply it intelligently, diligently and patiently. Your life is your business and not your teachers. Your teacher's business is your spiritual progress which may require him to offer advice about life changes it would be prudent for you to make, but ultimately no one can live your life but you. Doing as you're told is not living, it is slavery.



When we properly relax we find ourselves rooting through any point of contact we have with the world: the feet when standing, bum and feet when sitting, and body when lying down. When we touch another, object or creature, we also root into and through that other. What this means is that our energy enters the other and naturally finds the other's place of power – its root or its essential character or nature. The energy and character of the other is then allowed into us and we become infused and suffused with it. It is a beautiful and healthy way of being in the world.

Gravity is the constant force that draws our energy down into the Earth so that rooting happens naturally when we release tensions. There is a similar force drawing us to make contact – physical and emotional – with the things around us. The seat of this attraction is in the heart. When the heart is open the arms and voice naturally reach out to all before. Watch a 7 or 8 month old child. Its hands are on everything impulsively, and it learns to crawl and then walk in order to satisfy this overwhelming desire to touch the world. It starts to vocalize at the same time – letting out energy and attracting attention at the same time. We move because we want the stimulation and reassurance of touch. We stay still because we want to be replenished by the Earth. As the baby gets older it starts to experience negativity. Its positive advances – its natural desire to connect – are sometimes met with rejection and sometimes met with physical pain. These experiences gradually dampen the natural attraction of the open heart. The heart starts to close and the attractive force subsides. The child is now controlled by fear.

Now as good Tai Chi students we work hard to reverse this process – to open the damaged heart. This work starts with relaxing and opening up to gravity and the Earth (rooting). If this work is successful then the heart will naturally heal and open because the energy that the Earth gives us (in exchange for the energy we give her) naturally rises up and fills the heart – fills to overflowing. Past fears are wiped away and we are as though reborn, but now with the wisdom and power of our own root to back up our advances into a world trembling to be touched. If the heart does not fill then the energy of the Earth is not rising which can only mean that your own energy is not getting down into her – there is a block in your body somewhere. We must remember that sinking has little to do with bending the legs. Sinking means sinking the energy relative to the body. If both body and energy sink together then there is no real – useful – sinking. Sinking is allowing the energy to stream down through the body and into the Earth. My advice would be to look for tension in the hips, groin and sacrum.

Peregrines nesting – or at least resting – on the Tate chimney.


Of many questions never
answered I return
to give the questions up and
she may take them
if she will or laugh
that I am bothered
by them. Love if anything
is practical.
Her wildest ecstasy is
common sense.

Theodore Enslin


Hips, sacrum, pelvis, the whole complex, must relax before any real energetic connexion can be made with the Earth. Any attempt to use force (muscle) to tuck the bum in will result in disconnexion. Everything must relax into place. Once the root is established energy is mobilized by sinking the root. The waist then follows this movement by turning. The body follows the energy – feels as though it is playing catch-up. It also feels taut and infused, despite the relaxation.



What we need most, we learn from the menial tasks:
the novice raking sand in Buddhist texts,
or sweeping leaves, his hands chilled to the bone,
while understanding hovers out of reach;
the changeling in a folk tale, chopping logs,
poised at the dizzy edge of transformation;

and everything they do is gravity:
swaying above the darkness of the well
to haul the bucket in; guiding the broom;
finding the body’s kinship with the earth
beneath their feet, the lattice of a world
where nothing turns or stands outside the whole;

and when the insight comes, they carry on
with what’s at hand: the gravel path; the fire;
knowing the soul is no more difficult
than water, or the fig tree by the well
that stood for decades, barren and inert,
till every branch was answered in the stars.

John Burnside



harboring tons with little to say stretched
on wooden models and tapiocas of time
till soon I shut my door and start to grind

Clark Coolidge, from Counting On Planet Zero

Wonderful book this and well worth purchasing. Poetry as rich as Nature intended.


At Tel Aviv airport yesterday afternoon, awaiting my flight to London, I noticed an Israeli gentleman with a large expensive looking video camera, filming various scenes. Roneet and I were ordering ourselves a couple of fruit smoothies when he came over, heard my accent and asked if I was English. I replied that I was, at which he immediately held up his camera, pointed it at me, started rolling and said – Say something about William Blake. Not one to miss the chance of appearing on camera I supressed my initial irritation and warbled on for a few minutes about the great man, ending by saying that what made Blake the first Romantic was that he saw the damage the Industrial Revolution was doing to England and the English (workers), and realized that the grime of industrialization was really just symbolic of the grime of self and conditioning – i.e. his vision & poetry has spiritual depth. The man with the camera thanked me, but then held up the camera again and said – Now say something about the Industrial Revolution. When that was over I was ordered to comment also on the Arts & Crafts movement. When he finally stopped rolling he introduced himself, apologized for his abruptness and told us that he was making a film about the British Mandate in Jerusalem, and asked us if we would like to hear about his own spiritual vision. I said Yes, because I like mad people. He told us that the soul is part of the Earth's energy, which we borrow whilst in corporeal form. It goes back to the Earth when we die (as does the body). Whereas the spirit comes from the stars, and wants desperately to return. The soul feels the spirit's unease (homesickness) and offers it various activities through the life to distract and occupy it. I thought this quite beautiful, even though it may be half-baked Kabbalah, for all I know.

In Tai Chi of course we relax to allow our energy into the Earth. In time this relaxation and bonding with the Earth, if it is done properly (for which one requires correct instruction from a qualified master), releases the spirit and allows it to fly to wherever it wants. We are essentially two creatures: an Earthbound one and a heavenly one. Contentment and happiness are achieved when we learn to release each completely from the other so that they can return home, whilst still residing within us.

This is what we call Freedom.


Visit to UK

I shall be flying to London on 27 July. Back here on 13 August.



Relaxation is the process by which we enter the world. That's how active it must be. It is an energizing process. It must operate from within and from without. We are familiar with the within – with releasing muscle tension to allow the body down and out, and with relaxing the mind so that it settles and finds peace, however transitory. But we must find the without, which requires making connexion – opening up so that the forces and presences around us are allowed to pull our structures: physical, emotional and energetic, whichever way they will. Tension happens when we resist these pulls, either out of ignorance (insensitivity) or because we are conditioned to make life more of a problem than it really is. In reality none of us can be mountains – completely and independently stable – and it is foolish to attempt to be. Rather the image of the sapling, rooted yet bending to even the gentlest breeze. The sapling doesn't pull away from the wind – it's nature means that it springs into the wind with a force equal to the one the wind gives it – the wind energizes it. What we must do is find a natural behaviour – one that doesn't rely on ideas or images – that allows us to be energized by the forces around us. What this requires first and foremost is integrity. Physical integrity: rooted with no breaks – no weaknesses where we might snap. Emotional integrity: an internal clarity and honesty that allows us to freely feel what we feel with no attempts to block or overide these feelings with either the body or the mind. Spiritual integrity: never losing sight of the main force in our life – the one thrusting or pulling us into an energetic and connected future.