The real thing is always an imitation
Consider new plum blossoms behind the zendō

Philip Whalen


To teach – to transcend possibility with branching inward present. As it spreads the essential knowing a natural code of relationship deeply grounded in an enfolding pale deference. The radical theorem – an imperfect marvel ends in poetry.
and out spring some sparkling thoughts

Taught in London today

Thanks for coming if you were there

See you next time if not


Most knowledge is hindsight – making sense of the past – organising memory – and as such is trivial. Real knowledge is foresight – seeing or sensing the future – for which I require depth, probity, discipline and above all grace.
Stress is a sign of resistance. The easiest way to resist is to ignore. Ignorance is a sure path to suffering.
Finding center is about realising that I don't need to apologise for being here : I have an absolute right to the space I inhabit and therefore since I am alive that is vibrating I have not only the right but the responsibility to affect my environment and everything in it with the fact of my presence that is my energy : things around me should sing my tune as I theirs.
lift one foot the earth turns

Philip Whalen


Up front (down back)

So does Mara
I inhabit a world where flamboyant codices dissociate my mind as if it were made from deerskin.

Jackson says Merry Christmas


A pelting deluge drenching my mind. Creation, not separation.
God is the deep intelligence – the depth – pervading the vast web of connexion that is existence / universe / cosmos. When a system of connected entities reaches a certain size then the energetic resonance of the multitudinous connexions naturally harmonizes and coheres into what we could call intelligence. An intelligent system (being) possesses strategies for self-preservation and self-renewal, and these involve remaining whole – holding onto the component parts. The problem here is that the intelligent systems we are members of – families and societies – will naturally hold us back from breaking free. Hence the Tibetan adage that our greatest enemies are our nearest and dearest. What we often fail to realise is that ego is also an intelligent system that contains – possesses – us. As, of course, is spirit, but in a very different way.


It is not nature
that needs guarding
it is us.

Peter Riley
A cool, crisp edge and a warm heart.
The journey continues with an unusual spiciness in the heart.
Inspired by John Cage's experience, I sat in an anechoic chamber for five hundred hours over a period of two years and listened to the sounds of my own body. I began to correlate different states of consciousness with the different sounds of my nervous system. Being a trained musician, I noticed that the high-pitched sounds of my nervous system consisted of several sounds in different intervals. Then one day I brought two tuning forks and tapped them. Immediately I observed that the sound of my nervous system came into resonance with the sound of the tuning forks. It was then I realized that people can be tuned like musical instruments.

John Beaulieu


this is far into the woods where the deer hide from the hunters

John Taggart
Just how strong do these legs need to be?
If spirit is an aromatic invitation then essence is the warm glow of health from the hearth.




Let the attention settle in the marrow of the bone.
Refuse to lose heart : the choice is always yours.
Relish work.
Nothing out of place.


All that needs to change is how I relate.
Peace is when the nagging stops.
Everything falls into place.


The sea is like God’s big eye, where the edges of our own eyes bleed into the ocean, in saline ratio and roundness.

Eleni Sikelianos: For a Panel on Poetry & the Environment
The ravages of time destroyed by hermetic effort and perseverance in the field.


Tension is often just blocked energy that needs creative release. In fact all release should be creative – should offer something positive to the world : joyfully. Joy is the feeling of creation.


It is wrong to see softness as an accommodation of the other through judicious adjustment. The first stage of Tai Chi training is not softening to yield but softening to present – softening to find centre. Without an unambiguous centre – a precise location of where and who I am – there is no clear sense of what needs to yield. The centre is that core about which everything can soften but without which nothing has meaning or consequence.


Energy is freedom.


Pushing Hands

Truth stands radiant – the erotic dimension where nothing happens. Let all this madness play an important social role. There is nothing at the end, yet what is born is part of the renewal, torn between. Still shining in your quiet mind, I was so moved I began blurting, you are not a stranger. What inner urges prompted the belief that keeps me homeless? Your failing ego brimming over with provocative humour.
Open enough not only to admit the unexpected but to actively encourage it.



The elevated heights my destiny draws me towards can only be achieved by plumbing ever greater depths : central equilibrium.
The secrets are inside my body.



There is no substitute for standing. A stance should be comfortable – not too deep – otherwise pain in the legs will kick in before the body is energized causing tension : grimacing. The energy that slowly manifests in the body should help me through pain barriers into ever greater intensity and relaxation : depth. The freedom I am after is deep deep down. Freedom for the average person is the ability to wander at will from one pleasurable sensation to the next on the shallow plane of mundane arbitrariness; they have no sense of using strict discipline and hard work to break through to deeper more fulfilling planes where the abiding energy is intensity of spirit. The discipline and work condition my character and strengthen my soul – make me a worthy vessel.


. . . missives to a vacancy inherent in the effort to say anything at all.

Joseph Massey


When the Earth is encouraged into the bones, especially those of legs / pelvis / sacrum, and the chi settles in the belly, then the body fills with spirit : an aliveness so much faster than mind that the only word to describe it is Before.


Between true body and true mind there is nothing. They are two faces of the one reality. When body and mind separate both cease to be true : can only get it wrong. The wedge betwixt body and mind is thinking.


I want to reach into it for understanding and a hug.

Mairead Byrne


If the legs are too straight then our base is unstable : we don't have the ground. If the legs are too bent then we cannot issue energy. There is always a trade-off between strength & power.

Photo: Yoel Dvoriansky

Beginners' class starting tonight in Poleg.


The world is round.

We claim to know this fact, but do we know it as principle? Do we let it permeate everything & everywhere?

If the world is round then everything in it is also round. This is how energy works.


All we have to learn is to be silent. To put our desires aside. To put the impulse to possess aside. And to learn the faithfulness of the daily practice.

John Main
Strong enough to support yet soft enough to receive.


Tai Chi is a martial art incorporating & teaching the Taoist principle of Yin/Yang.

It assumes that only tension in body & mind prevents us from fulfilling ourselves.

Fulfilment begins when we stop being forceful and become energetic.

It starts with relaxation – opening to gravity – & simple movement to build an energetic connexion with the Earth.

From this connexion we build other connexions and thereby do things.

We are always just the middle-man : a channel for energy.

Always just.


Mind robs the heart : discourages.


We want to be special and we want to belong : to possess and to be possessed. These are the two desires – attachments – that make us fuck it all up.


Sacrum springs open and the lower back extends – arches.


Mindfulness in taichi is constant attention to central equilibrium : where in my body is the equal and opposite reaction, and can I reverse action / reaction.


Central equilibrium is the stillness within the movement.


And everything needs to change.


It's me that needs to change.


The mind is the source of all confusion, and the body is a forest of impure action.

Sutra on the Eight Realizations


Tense hips indicate a reluctance to connect the belly to the Earth, and tense shoulders show a refusal to proffer the heart to the World – others and the situations that contain them. When the shoulders are relaxed then the heart is always spilling into the hands – ready to be shared.


If we use the word true to mean free of tension then true mind is simply an awareness of connexion, so soft and subtle that there is barely a distinction between awareness and energy. Mind becomes untrue when, out of fear, it tightens and disconnects. Such a mind then has a choice: to conquer fear, relax and reconnect, or to indulge the fear and remain tense and disconnected. This latter course, once established as a habit, leads to the creation of self or ego, which, simply put, is the consolidation of fear and tension. Thinking is the minds attempt to make something meaningful of disconnexion.


A moment is a span of time – to be precise the time it takes to move my weight from one foot to the other. If my attentions remain clear – unhindered by thought – at least for the duration of a moment then the heart will direct the energy in my body. The mind calculates and gauges and in doing so destroys creative impulse – energy – or weakens it to such a degree that it lacks the power to do anything of its own. The heart then remains locked up in the cage of the chest – safe but sad – unmoved.


Human beings . . . are without a separate self.

Sutra on the Eight Realizations


Photo: Yoel Dvoriansky
A haptic existence – not just touching but held fast.


Hide nothing from yourself.

Mae Chee Kaew
This hardness – awareness and attendance to such – is necessary for life to start to have meaning and significance beyond its simple living. Living life is one thing, but to live in such a way that each moment accrues not only experience and wisdom but spirit, requires me to be intimately ruthless with myself. Indulging ego is how we fritter away our vitality. Cutting through ego by honing essence is how we acquire enough fire to burn through the bounds of our own humanity and into freedom. No special practice is required – just a piercing and total honesty. Tai Chi simply offers a clear arena in which we can readily exercise such honesty.


We must perceive in order to move, but we must also move in order to perceive.

James J Gibson


Photo: Pat Francis


When I meet my essence I realise that ego is just a litany of complaint: excuses I give myself for not being ever present: a constant diversion that carries me away.


the labyrinth is its own clue. Our lot is puzzlement

Ronald Johnson


Photo: Richard Dockery


Sensitivity has two stages – feeling and response. Ego can interpose at either stage. Firstly, it can block or bias feeling by taking my attention away from the real and into itself: we call this ignorance. And secondly, it can bring itself into the processing of the feelings so that my response becomes habitual – based on taste and personal preference – rather than true: we call this selfishness.


Experience through freedom is the only means to arrive at the truth . . . and there is no freedom if there is not the freedom to be wrong.

Errico Malatesta


Everything without echoes within, and vice versa : central equilibrium.


Photo: Richard Dockery


Armaments, universal debt, and planned obsolescence – those are the three pillars of Western prosperity. If war, waste, and moneylenders were abolished, you'd collapse. And while you people are overconsuming the rest of the world sinks more and more deeply into chronic disaster.

Aldous Huxley, 1962


True softness and true hardness are not only complimentary, one is actually a function of the other. The (untrue) hardness we rail against in Tai Chi is really just tension and ignorance, or to be more precise: fear. Such hardness is our natural enemy because it prevents anything useful from developing. True hardness on the other hand is the steel at my core – my essence – and it gets harder – anneals – the more I keep it in my sights – the more I focus in on it. The work at hand is to shake my essence free of tension (ego) so that it can really gleam. True softness is then the field of pure energy that naturally manifests around this true hardness. The purer the hardness the purer the softness. I touch things with this softness. I am my hardness yet I manifest as softness. My hardness is my significance – it is what makes me a force to reckon with. My softness is my beauty – it is what draws the world of energy in – it makes connexion.


Insight comes at times of stress.
To live from the heart, by the heart and through the heart. This is the full meaning of Now.
Toughen the belly
Soften the heart.


Break the box.


If connexion's the be all and end all then I need to be constantly aroused: ready to fuck. Or, to put it less crudely, so ready to give and receive that my arousal wills exchange.


Put your back into it.


If there are to be laws, we need ones that
Begin with the acceptance of poverty as a way of life.

John Cage


The desire for identity (all desire can be reduced to this) is the disconnecting – anti-natural – force in our lives.


Everything is a trap.
A useful sensitivity isn't so much feeling myself as the world bears in on me, but feeling the world as I bear into it. The former personifies the world – forces what I feel to my own image – I feel myself in everything. The latter and I join what's there on its own terms – I abandon falsehood in search of the truth.


bark's cleft

a lichen

John Martone

Photo: Chris Laver
The self-immolating buddhist peacefully returning to the elements because he is no longer bound to the false notion that he could possibly be more than the sum of his parts.


The ego's prime weapon is rejection.
The real world is the one of connexion – the one we enter into when our energy extends beyond our physical and mental boundaries and we begin to prowl. Connectedness is a natural state but one we inhibit and repress with our fear-based tensions and anxieties: our insistence that we are something special. This repression becomes depression and we have the malaise of the average person: ostensibly content, reasonably happy, but beneath the well-behaved veneer, seething with frustration. This is the frustration of denial: wanting – needing – connexion at every level, and not getting it.


The sun's in my heart
And I'm ready for love


Every action is the result of interaction : the spur of the moment is always connexion.


Truth is revolutionary.

Antonio Gramsci


Ordinary waking – a time of insight – becomes capable between the contemplated, and it would once the waking.



If the mind is only the body's invisibility then the poem is merely the unreadability, the non-transparency, the opaqueness of that mind.

Pierre Joris


I hear the language of "not knowing."

Psalm 81:6


A threatened ego kicks up a storm.


Don't be limited by an inability or refusal to reach beyond your vocabulary : don't let your vocabulary define you.




Connexion is everything, and the more I practice the more this fact is at the forefront of my awareness. The connexion – its establishment and nurturing – motivates and governs every action I make and every emotion I feel. At this level it is not the waist nor any other part of me that moves the body, it is the connexion itself – the energy of and in the connexion. I simply serve and support the connexion; and the ensuing communication.


Between this moment and the next there is a gulf across which only spirit can leap. Without spirit I miss the moment the way a sloppy marksman misses the target. Without spirit life eludes me.


The impetus for turning is single-weightedness. Not just turning, twisting too.
The impetus for extending is turning—spiraling.


Double-weightedness is deathly.


Most of our vital energy is wasted maintaining, indulging and preening the ego.


Tense shoulders indicate lack of belief – a heart unable to open and relax into the support of god/nature/spirit/energy.


Eschew knowledge and understanding. Try instead trusting and believing.


Your fear is an old snare

Pam Rehm


Sinking II

Sinking is really just softening to gravity – letting gravity into the cavity of my body where it becomes energy flowing from crown to sole. The work opens and clears the passage ways. This is the beginning. We know from the Law of Central Equilibrium that physical stability (the ability to support) requires energy to be balanced: opposite and equal. So, assuming sinking is not collapsing, there will be a rising energy from sole to crown and beyond maintaining structural and spiritual integrity. This is also gravity and also sinking.



Sinking in Tai Chi is the mind dropping into the lower dantien – the belly. This happens when tensions – anxieties – are relaxed, and when the three dantiens – belly heart head – are vertically aligned. It is accompanied by a feeling of homecoming relief. Back to where I belong. The mind is always springing up and out from the dantien so sinking needs to be a continuously refreshing process: a balance of energies: central equilibrium.


There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing.

John Cage


When trying to change, assume you have everything to change.


According to the Buddha’s teachings, the most basic condition for happiness is freedom. Here we do not mean political freedom, but freedom from the mental formations of anger, despair, jealousy, and delusion.

Thich Nhat Hanh


The six kancukas, husks or coverings of existence in Kashmir Saivism: appearance, form, time, knowledge, passion, fate.


Softening is the mechanism by which I transform a forceful situation into an energetic one. It is an opening of my heart to welcome whatever's before me into my body. Any problem I may be having can always be reduced to one of resisting (keeping something out) instead of softening (letting something in). Yielding – letting energy in and through to the root – tempers and cleanses character and spirit and presents my centre – my sense of who what where I am – to the world.
The principle strategy of the head is discrimination – disconnexion. The only strategy of the heart is connexion.


Nature conspires

Ralph Waldo Emerson
The ethos of Western civilization for the last 2500 years can be summed up in one phrase: divide and rule. This is how we control everything from people (class system) to knowledge (Logos, discourse, thinking) to our own compartmentalized minds and lives. In Tai Chi we instead opt for the opposite: connect and serve – we serve (support) by connecting.


Once there was a child who was born with stubby wings at the shoulder blades. One said, "Someday these will be great pinions and you will fly." Another said, "Stand up straight or people will think you have a hump." All great things are done by the force of opposites. Preparing his argument with Milton, Blake sat with his wife Kate, both nude in the back garden, reading Paradise Lost aloud. Each poet should become Adam, naming everything new. We tell the archetypal. Face the sun, your shadow will be sharper. Condense everything into a ball, and throw it.

Ronald Johnson
Connexion : be my guest.


The Earth supports and nurtures the belly, the belly supports and nurtures the heart, the heart supports and nurtures the head. What makes the head run away with itself – into its own imaginings – is lack of energetic support from below. The same way that a child will retreat/escape into the imagination if not given loving support. Support is our means of interfacing reality.


Relax into the connexion.


time makes things a tree

Ronald Johnson
Equalize hands & feet, arms & legs, shoulders & hips.


Nature without check with original energy.

Walt Whitman


Energy is a consequence of connexion.
Yielding is the stimulus – trigger – that changes a forceful (inertial) situation into an energetic one.
Everything (in Tai Chi) is physically real. No room for the imagination.


My senses – eyes, ears, nose, skin – locate experience so that my heart can consume it: it is not enough to see or hear or smell or touch – I must love too.
Then again it does sometimes seem that the incursion of the Logos into primate evolution, enabling such things as irony (and for that matter science) may in the end turn out to have been about as beneficial as the award of a loaded shotgun to a loaded teenager on a Saturday night in prehistory.

Tom Clark

Photo: Haim Ostro


Tension in neck, jaw, shoulders represents separation of head and heart.


Correct posture requires the heart to leap joyfully and fearlessly into life.


Dan tien III

For Stefan

I'm not sure it is important to feel or cultivate chi. But I do feel it important to develop the lower dantien as the centre of being. The breathing exercise below is great for this – making the dantien a physical reality. For more intensity just reverse the breathing.

The other necessity for gaining centre is attitude to the pressure of the other: to absorb and support this pressure with my own relaxing presence – no tendency to shrink or recoil – flinch. The other's energy is not something to retreat from, but something to receive and pour into. This attitude, which is a courageous one, is the beginning of the heart opening up into the world: the reflection of the rooted sacrum into the blossoming sternum. Back and forth like the two mirrors of a periscope.


What prevents energy from flowing – from passing through – is attachment: my emotional response to what I feel: my imagination. If I can find the courage – inspiration – to let go then the energy flowing – the passing through – will wash away the emotion. What is left is real.


genuine openness . . . is felt as a deep warmth in the center of the heart

Tarthang Tulku
Every movement breathes: has its own return implied and included.


To escape the trap of meaning . . . a poem must do something more than "be." It must also act. And a poem that moves, that allows itself to be a kinetic force traveling through space-time, truly does escape the trap of meaning.

Burton Hatlen


Spirit is in the torque – a twist of attitude.



Breathe into the belly, letting it expand fully. Then breathe out and let the belly deflate. At the end of the out-breath continue breathing out by contracting the belly as much as you can. Now feel the centre of contraction in the belly – the place where all the muscles seem to be pulling into. This is the dan tien.

Dan tien II

The (lower) dan tien is associated with chi and the development of chi. Chi is breath, or the energy of breath and breathing. To develop the dan tien breathe into and from the belly. Then the abdomen behaves like a bladder or balloon that expands and contracts in time with the breathing. This bladder has an elastic quality: when it expands beyond a certain point then contracting tension starts to build up, and when it contracts beyond a certain point expanding tension builds up. The natural interplay of yin and yang: elasticity.


Dan tien I

Internal means inside: to/from the inside. Home, back to the womb, my own womb, my own centre. From this place – my place – there can be no commentary – no holding back, only being and what being gives me: experience – being being. Here every moment is full to the brim so there is no time, certainly no time for time or words. When I am inside – internal – then my awareness extends outward from a centre of stability and knowing, touching and affecting everything I experience. Such awareness is goodwill. When I am not internal I must rely on my senses because I am not centred so not aware. By sensing but not touching I take without giving – I wound with the same fear that keeps me external.


Spring to life


mirror facing mirror
nowhere else




In a sense strength is the one thing we shirk because we know that when we are strong – when we feel strong – then we are operating very much within our limits rather than pushing through and beyond those limits. It can easily be shown that the body, and therefore all our aspects, works best when it has to work very hard – at what we call “the point of failure.” At this point the situation/moment becomes energetic in a way it rarely does when comfortable because such situations demand all our resources, even those we didn't know that we had. This mustering of resource is achieved with spirit which takes over from mind and body in commanding the situation, and transforms everything in that situation in the process. Spirit is the energy of transformation and as such it cuts through all physical and mental (moral) laws and conventions – laws that only operate under stable external conditions. Spirit brings a different stability – the stability of charge and change rather than the stability of time and again.


You don't have to die to go into the Kingdom of God; in fact you have to be alive to do so.

Thich Nhat Hanh


Listen to your heart—literally, listen to the beating of your heart.

Tarthang Tulku
Courage transforms fear into interest.


Defeat means to defeat the mind of contention that we harbor within.

Morihei Ueshiba


Poets invest the language with the Internal.


My true love hath my heart, and I have his,
By just exchange one for the other given.

Sir Philip Sidney
Joy springs open the joints.


The way of moving in Tai Chi, I was told, should be like the action of drawing silk out of the cocoon: slow, smooth, steady. If you do not pull firmly enough, nothing will happen; if you pull too sharply the thread will break. Cool, gentle and firm was the way to wind the fine thread onto a reel: this was for many years the image which I understood. So when I heard Chen Xiao Wang’s explanation of the name, I was startled. He likened the internal movements of chansijin to the writhings of the silkworm as it creates silk from within itself. The taiji body wreathes and writhes in an ever changing pattern of connected turnings. It was not the silk, it was the worm.

Kinthissa, Turning Silk: A Diary of Chen Taiji Practice, the Quan of Change
Freedom is the most terrifying prospect on Earth.


Happiness, and its corollary suffering, are largely childish concepts that most maturing adults at some point in their life understand to be unimportant. There is only life and my engagement with it. If I engage passively – if I let life live me – then I basically live in the past, even if that past is only microseconds past: I just don't have the active intensity to engage life as it happens. If I dwell in/on the past then I live life through the mind, and that mind can then label and categorize as much as it likes because it has the luxury of time to do so. But if I actively engage life as it happens – if I live on the white hot edge of life's keen blade, then there is literally no time and so no mind and no language and no labels. To live this intensely requires a spirit that literally burns all duality to a crisp – a fighting spirit that battles any attempt to get it down, either from within (me) or from without. To master such spirit takes a lifetime. And once it is mastered there is little point, other than to teach, in living within the body – it holds you back with its heavy and probably failing functionality, and the master will often chose to pass on to a form of existence free of corporeal trappings. This is martial spirit taken to its highest level.
Of course we want people to be happy. It isn’t a sin or anything. But I wouldn’t
wish continuous happiness on anything. Why not? It would deprive them of
presence. They wouldn’t be able to act. We have to be contrary (but not contrary
to anything) in order to live. In order to feel life. This seems embarrassingly trite.
And perhaps that is closer (than happiness) to the fact. When the fact is what

Alan Davies



Softness is a quality that develops as we listen to the Internal with the Internal. Softness indicates Internal awareness. The Internal cannot be verbalized, can barely be felt, yet it is most of reality. The rest – in which we find no rest – is the External: a small and trivial subset of reality: the only part our minds can wrest, and so that's what our minds do – for dear life. As human beings – creatures of God – we are perfectly suited to dwell in the Internal with full awareness. In fact this is what every cell in our bodies yearns for. So we have to train very hard from an early age to deny ourselves this reality and instead opt for the boring flat and shallow unreality of the External. The thinking mind is the bastion of the External. We think to give ourselves the seeming security of an external reality, but at the cost of losing almost everything.


Candor: to reveal ourselves to ourselves...

Allen Ginsberg
Action is only meaningful if connected. A connexion is an interface across which energy flows equally in both directions: influence and exfluence.


Nothing is more abstract than reality.

Giorgio Morandi

Jolly balance
Happiness and work are interdependent: we are happy when working well, and we work well when happy. Work is the result of exchanging energy with my environment.
Every wonderful quality – honesty, trust, generosity, courage, etc – will work against you if you let it restrict your behaviour rather than open up the world. And it opens in its giving. This is the spirited equilibrium central to every act, and in this sense equilibrium is spirit – the energy of balance – staying centred by engulfing everything equally.


Photo: James Clancy
Dance your heart out.
And our attachments to language are among our most perennial and unassuageable. It is through languages that we attach to what we think. And we do think that we think what we think. And so we’re pretty much most of the time attached to it. Zen is all about letting go.

Alan Davies
Happiness comes when we finally realise that (our) external mirrors (our) internal: that what happens (to us) – what by chance befalls – is the world responding (to us). Happiness is love reciprocated – the eternal reciprocity. Central Equilibrium.
From Greek to Irish, a great majority of the European words for "happy" at first meant "lucky." An exception is Welsh, where the word used first meant "wise."

Online Etymology Dictionary


Tension is the grip of the mind on the body.
Only emotion endures.

Ezra Pound


Quietening the mind isn't creating silence, it is breaking the habit of language.


I live my own reflection: no matter what I do or where I am, I gaze into a mirror.
I create the external with my mind and I create the internal with my spirit.

Photo: Rita Harris


My guru gave a single precept:
draw your gaze from outside to inside
and fix on the inner self.
I, Lalla, took this to heart,
and naked set forth to dance—

Lal Ded
Yielding means not resisting, neither the pressure of the external nor the draw of the internal.