Does not lucidity, the mind's openness upon the true, consist in catching sight of the permanent possibility of war?
The practice of peace.
Though peace, true peace as opposed to the fantasy of peace, is never easy, is always precarious, precipitous, liable to break into conflict or slide into laziness at any moment. In a sense peace is always approximate – a net result – hanging in the balance. It's practice requires resilience and intensity: tough enough to take knocks yet sensitive and skillful enough to maintain balance – to yield.

complexities & singularities

Stay in the fray, in the revel of ideas and risk; learning, failing, wooing, grieving, trusting, working, reposing – in this sin of language and lips.

As long as we haven't reached illumination we are all students. Meanwhile, what we know we teach, and what we don't know we learn.
uncluttered by humanly made notions of aesthetics and value


A selfish impulse is one that refuses to listen. One that puts the self first. It amounts to riding roughshod over all and sundry: imposing one's own rhythm – one's own monotony – over the exceeding richness that always envelops and confronts.
Real significant change will always cause problems of some sort. This is because change comes from the spirit, and the body and mind are, to some degree, either reluctant or unready. The classic in our game is the keen student who ups their practice only to injure themselves or come down with a flu. If you understand this process then you can see it as a sign of progress rather than an indication that your efforts to change are unwise.
playing with perplexity


Taiji Intensive in London

Sunday 29 December

12 noon till 5pm

Email me for details
Every generation of young people has to fight fascism. For mine, it was the overt fascism of the Nazis and their allies. For theirs, in relative peace time, it is the covert fascism of the square world. Usually this fight is lost, because young people fail to root out the seeds of fascism within themselves.

Subtle! Subtle!
To the point of formlessness.
Spirit like! Spirit like!
To the point of soundlessness.


Keep your spirit light and go with the flow.

Feed on tubers – secrets from the Earth.
this body's aptness both for suffering and acting


the difference between typological and topological thinking can be roughly summarized as the difference of thinking in terms of entities (typology) and thinking in terms of relations that define a space of possible entities (topology)


The humbling and humiliating experiences are the ones to be really thankful for. When you learn this, nothing can take your energy.


Thou still unravished bride of quietness,
Thou foster child of silence and slow time.

No longer bound by the warp and woof of the weave.
an awakeness to the precariousness of the Other
One does not represent, one engenders and traverses.
To break free – to truly live – as spirit and energy – I must first, paradoxically, confine myself inside a disciplinary structure that enables me to acquire skill and energy. The idea is that I obey orders from outside – not those of the ego – I enslave myself – my rampant self – to subdue it – humble it. This is the only way. If anyone says otherwise then they're trying to sell you something.


It's always the punch you don't see coming that puts you down.

Creation and creativity are all about the Other – a response to the Other – an expression of my willingness to love.
to pursue my ontological vocation – to become more fully human

let the spiritual haunt, drive, and nourish your practice


between two extremes: the path and the expanse
the art of losing oneself without getting lost

step out of the bureaucracy of ego
A good teacher always wrenches you out of your expertise – your closedness – and takes you to a place where you know nothing yet can remain open to what he reveals. It is then up to you to make something of this revelation – to work with it and let it grow.
openness and surrendering are the necessary preparation for working with a spiritual friend
warmth & strangeness
Nothing exists all by itself, and so nothing is fully itself.

What happens when nothing happens?
You have the right to work, but for the work's sake only.
You have no right to the fruits of work.
Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working.
Never give way to laziness, either.
In taiji we build a structure (the Form) which we then use to destroy other structures: tensions, misunderstandings, hopes and fears – the ego. This is the intention at any rate. The problem is that the ego will always outfox such a ploy – will always turn and adapt whatever we use against it to its own advantage. What swings the fight the other way – the way of spirit – is our interactions with the Other – the obstreperous, intractable, unfathomable Other – whom we can always guarantee to be far more interested in themselves than in me.

open & penetrable


Seeing yourself from another point of view is the beginning of ethics and politics.

Passion with grafted endurance.


Existence is always coexistence.

shadows from the future
I was born to wander, unarmed, through passageways.


We are constantly in touch with the work, as salt is in touch with the sand, as air with water, secretly in touch as scales are with the echo, as silence is with signs.

learning to gain from imperfection
Sacrifice becomes inevitable once you understand that love is stronger than fear.
The mediocre student wants the best of all worlds. He wants to retain all the comfort and security of his egocentric existence, yet also experience the glamour and freedom of spiritual or energetic reality. What I call the New Age Fallacy. Unfortunately such a conflict of interests leaves him torn, and forever stuck in the mire of cowardly mediocrity. The answer to this dilemma? Sacrifice and discipline. Or get off the pot and stop wasting your teacher's time.
anxiety comes from not facing the current situation you are in


Rest assured that if you practice what your teacher tells you then you will improve. If, however, you practice your version of what your teacher told you then the chances are you will not. Also, if you have a constant need to be reassured as to that progress then you are probably neither improving nor practising correctly. Look at yourself. Search for that minuscule vestige of honesty, and develop it. In this there is no help – no one else can do the work for you. Meditation is taking responsibility for who you are.



a human designer should not impose a form but tease it out of a morphogenetically pregnant material: humans and materials form a partnership in the production of form

develop transcendental common sense: seeing things as they are
The test for us all is to become a good student. A warrior. A servant to spirit rather than a slave to ego. A warrior is someone who has broken the chains of victimhood. She never complains, never blames, never doubts and never regrets. She does exactly what needs to be done, with a ruthless efficiency. Her timing is impeccable, so much so she appears to know the future. She doesn't – she simply creates the future. Paradoxically, these qualities, rather than making a heartless, unfeeling monster, actually allow the heart to burst open, revealing a humble, compassionate person – full of feeling yet free of emotion – acutely aware that they are connected to everything, and therefore responsible for everything.


Discipline is the process of simplifying one's general life and eliminating unnecessary complications.

Where there are people
there are flies, and
there are Buddhas
A warrior is literally someone who wages war – a fighter. In the context of spiritual work a warrior is someone who struggles to face things as they really are, whereas a coward is someone all too willing to retreat into their own (or other peoples') thoughts, feelings and opinions about things. The warrior strives to always engage with spirit whereas the coward with ego. Spirit and ego are not complimentary opposites, they are mutually exclusive, they destroy each other. So a warrior is a gleaming spirit, and a coward a selfish ego.
Many are called but few are chosen. This potent aphorism certainly applies to taijiquan. Of the thousands that start, how many continue with it through their life? A tiny percentage for sure. And what is it that compels those that continue to do so? What, deep down, motivates them? I suspect that the feeling of taiji – that beautiful, soft, relaxing flow – that yielding to pretty much everything – reminds the student of something they had once but have long since lost: the warmth of the womb, a mother's protective love, the excitement at being around a long departed father, a time of peace and contentment lodged vaguely somewhere in the distant past. So taiji is a search for lost time, a time that our subsequent experiences and our present misery won't let us access. This isn't dwelling in the past, but coming to terms with it and putting it to rest so that we can stand before the Other, complete and open.
Through the practice of meditation, we begin to find that within ourselves there is no fundamental complaint about anything or anyone at all.


gentle & genuine

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
The present is the connexion – the juncture – between future and past. By dwelling in the present we shore up time and enable life to flow. This is our duty as meditators. In no way do we ignore past or future, we just begin to be aware of them differently. The future is no longer an abstract plane where we dump our fears and expectations, but a vast sea of energy, and the past is no longer an inventory of memories and experiences but an outlet for the future as it passes through us. In this sense time does not exist, or only as misconception. When we live truly in the present then our actions have an ineradicable finality – a power unavailable to those who don't. We effectively heal the wound of time.
The process which is ego actually consists of a flicker of confusion, a flicker of aggression, a flicker of grasping.
True relaxation is always a relaxation into community, never into self. A release of bad tension into good tension – into connexion. In this sense none of us are individual, we are all eminently dividual – not only am I member of community but I am also community myself. The only thing that cannot be divided is nothing.
Follow your inner moonlight; don't hide the madness.

Consider the Form a vessel that your work – your taiji – fills with energy. To start with the Form must be created – learnt – and then repaired and corrected when it starts to leak. The Form will begin to fill with energy when the mind can keep a thread going, when the mind has learnt to be continuous through time.
The only reason to go backwards is to gather the energy – impetus – to thrust forward.
In taiji – indeed in life – we distinguish between two types of tension. One – the good type – is the tension between opposing tendencies, a tension responsible for energy, for movement, for change, and indeed for life. It is the tension, or rather the interaction – the play – between yin and yang that the taiji symbol so elegantly depicts. The other tension – the bad one – is a chronic locking up, a withdrawal from community and from life – a disconnexion – that blocks the flow of energy. Once you start working with the good tension, the bad one becomes revealed and can be tackled. The roots of bad tension are always psychological, and always painful to confront, but, unfortunately, there is no other way.


Every thought, every feeling, amounts to avoidance.
We express our willingness to be realistic through the practice of meditation.

Meditation is the excruciatingly slow process of eroding the ground beneath your feet.
With this work comes the deepest of obligations.

For actions to have power, timing must be impeccable. This is not possible when thought is involved because, contrary to what the philosophers tell us, thinking is naturally ponderous. This is why taiji is a martial art and not an intellectual pursuit.
Progress occurs when you manage to eradicate all notions of progress, when you finally learn to work simply for the love of it.

When you get stuck, lower your standards.


a concept is the product of insecurity

Meaning is heavy. Nothing has meaning of itself. Everything is intrinsically meaningless. We give things meaning to facilitate our connexion with them – to establish a relationship. So we end up not relating to things directly but to the meaning we have invested those things with, which, in a sense, is a relationship with ourselves. This masturbatory process is not the path to understanding, which has nothing to do with meaning and everything to do with emptying of self in order to connect directly – a creative connexion, essentially light and lively, which in no way weighs on the thing connected to, which, if anything sets that thing free of its own meaningful structures.

Each truth works for its truth.
Modest contribution to universal Truth.
Our belief sustains it.


True work is acting practically, relating to the earth directly.

The difference between the poor student and the good student is largely a matter of maturity. The poor student studies for the sake of approbation – they need compliments or "experiences" to maintain their interest. They put great strain upon the teacher, whose sole duty they feel is to keep them amused – motivated. The good student, on the other hand, has no interest in experiences, in how they feel, in what they think, or in what anyone else thinks. Is all they desire is to work because they understand that it is only through work that they have the slimmest of chances to cut through the superficial ego and achieve some sort of depth, some sort of reality, of freedom.


The desert reaches down even into the soul.

Meditation is all about honesty – facing up to what you feel, what you think, and ultimately what you are.

The body is fortified by intermittent stress but worn out by chronic stress.


Next to nothing.


The teacher helps you push beyond your self.



as vulnerable and tender as an open wound


In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.

before we relate with heaven we must relate to earth and work on our basic neuroses
The compassion of the teacher is expressed in the hope he holds for each student. Hope is the uncovering of the possibility of success. So, for the master, hope is not an idle sentiment, but a real creative vision: he sees the student's path, feels the work they need to do, sympathises whole-heartedly, and thereby brings a significant probability to the faintest of possibilities. It is now just a matter of time – let's see how many lifetimes it takes. This is why every student needs a master – someone qualified to see their spiritual future. It is impossible to see it oneself – it would be like trying to hoist oneself up by one's own bootstraps. The student will undoubtedly have a feeling for a spiritual destiny otherwise they wouldn't be a student, but this is so tainted by ego-driven imagery that it is best forgotten.


Meditation is giving a huge, luscious meadow to a restless cow.

Internalization is the process of bringing the structures of the work – the techniques, principles and concepts – alive. Such liveliness is characterized by a resilient elasticity and an independence from my mind – I no longer have to keep the structures intact with my will or concentration – a stressful condition always characterized by anxiety and brittleness. Internalization comes when I practice softly and a lot under the condition of love. What this means is that the twin curses of the mediocre student – resentment and scepticism – must have been largely eradicated so that one's relationship with the work and the teaching is unequivocally one of respect and reverence.


the light that shines brightest also creates the deepest shade

Learning and mastering the taiji Form takes many years (some would say decades), a process of disciplined work, of using the mind and will to train and refine the body. Yet this is still only the beginning. Once the Form is mastered a new work must be undertaken – the work of freeing the spirit and energy. This is achieved by cutting through the mind and will, which are still aspects of ego. In the same way that an experienced fighter will defeat his opponent by breaking their rhythm, so the master of taiji defeats his own ego by upsetting its rhythm. This requires great maturity, and probably significant age, because upsetting the ego is always painful – always involves suffering. If there is no pain then the ego has not been breached. And by pain I don't mean pain in the legs, I mean the insecurity that comes from feeling deeply one's absolute insignificance. Contrite – ground to pieces.


Do not obstruct the course of the river.
Let dreams of water determine it.
We all know that it is those experiences we didn't plan or want – the challenging ones – the ones that took us completely by surprise – the ones we would have avoided at all costs if only only we could – that make us grow.


It has become something of a platitude to suggest that the real enemy is one's own ego. That, however, doesn't stop it being true. The ego presents a stubborn barrier to attaining any spiritual depth.

truth comes through the lived moment as the one moment to be lived


Reality is never what I think it is. (Here thought and feeling are the same.) So develop a weather eye – suspicious and vigilant.
When you relax the root softly but firmly into the Earth from a good posture, and the joints of the body remain free and open, then the energy of the Earth will gently spout up the leg and gush into the opposite side of the body. This is cross energy. It generalises into a principle that states that soft structures born of the rigours of discipline and correct practice become vessels for energy of a completely different quality and order to the energy that created the structures. The key word is softly. Softness means that my labour never resists the energies ready to manifest in the structures created by that labour, no matter how strange or difficult or unexpected those energies may be. In this sense, ignorance – lack of mindfulness – is a form of resistance.
Getting something wrong stimulates the desire to get it right, a desire that as students we cherish and hone because we know our life depends upon it. And given that we get everything wrong to a degree, the path of endless correction is assured, as long as we stay true to grace. In other words, just practice.


The most valuable thing for the serious student is negative feedback – to be told when they're getting it wrong. And in any open system above a certain size negative feedback abounds – it is the fundamental law of the universe – karma. Things and situations tend to regulate themselves if allowed to. The problem is when the system closes, either in on itself because it is too small or insignificant, or because there is a positive force overwhelming natural response – where the negative is effectively banished because it is deemed to be bad. This happens often in taiji schools, where unquestioned principles tends to reign, and where the students, instead of being encouraged to test the prevailing dogma, are expected to take it all on faith, and any doubt or any unorthodox input is interpreted as the evil ego rearing its ugly head. Such a school, in my opinion, is already corrupt.


The poor teacher tells you what he knows, as though true knowledge can be expressed in words, which it can't, whereas the superior teacher gives you the tools to find out for yourself.

It's not what you know that counts but what you are and what you do.

Discipline plugs the cracks long enough to learn something.


Is all we can do is tell our story whilst listening to that of the other. Give energy and receive energy.

Discipline is a means of controlling – holding in check – the ego long enough to build a structure – a technique – that can handle energies and intensities unavailable to the undisciplined.


In the face of death the warrior laughs.

I'm boiling my moods into a tallow of forgiveness.

God is an unobtrusive wick, which will be light through you. It waits under glass for the gesture of fire which makes it your lamp.
To learn and appreciate the value of laws you must at some point, though not immediately, break them.


Opinion is our means of self-promotion.

Faith – connexion to a reality always beyond experience and understanding – gives you access to knowledge – energies – not available to those without. Hence faith itself is a matter of energy. This is plain to see when you live in a country where a fifth of the population is orthodox.


illegible with erasures


Your share of luck is in yourself.

to deprive him of the opportunity to suffer was to deprive him of the chance to purify himself before death


God gave us each the ground beneath our feet, our two hands, and our sanity. Anything else, whether wealth or reputation, is superfluous and ultimately distracting.

The ground beneath my feet is my oneness, a single share in this marvellous planet and existence.
My hands are my twoness, my dexterity, the possibility of making something by managing relationship.
Sanity is sound mind, but also the possibility of peace through wholeness (shalom–shalem) and completion. The notion that without the Other I will always be anxious.


The deepest relaxation is only possible when I love God.
But rub my body, in love or in battle, and it sparks fire.


ignoring the ominous silence of our coal mine canaries in favor of the unending robotic tweets of our new digital imaginarium


3 a : to reverse the sides or surfaces of : invert <turn pancakes> <turn the shirt inside out>: as (1) : to dig or plow so as to bring the lower soil to the surface <turn the compost weekly> (2) : to make (as a garment) over by reversing the material and resewing <turn a collar> (3) : to invert feet up and face down (as a character, rule, or slug) in setting type
b : to reverse or upset the order or disposition of <everything was turned topsy-turvy>
c : to disturb or upset the mental balance of : derange, unsettle <a mind turned by grief>
d : to set in another especially contrary direction


The courage to live a choiceless life. To the one living it is not a matter of courage because they have no choice. It is only a matter of courage to the one who allows himself choice, who is the one not living the choiceless life.


Sonorities of silence. Echoes of the first time.

No hollows, no projections : roundness. An admonishment to neglect nothing.


Discipline : the necessary confinement. Ask any musician. Decades of honing a technique so that on the night you can fly.
Freedom is like the stem of a rose. Thorns announce the petals.


Of all the many things I learnt from my teacher, I think I most value spirit and the deep appreciation of softness. They compliment each other beautifully.

follow the rill back up the channel
find the place where paths become streams
where air and bracken are thin

An active support is one that attempts to move whatever is being supported in the opposite direction to the one it is tending to move in. Hence the root chakra – the perineum – which directs energy upwards, needs to be strong if I want to sink my energy downwards in taiji.
to embrace or at least accept decay from the start
The street is hard and burnished with the churning of innumerable wheels.


charged with an immense and imponderable mystery

If you take an unenlightened master as guru then you deserve all you get.

It is fashionable nowadays to see spiritual work as a means of uncovering your perfect self, your inner child, the unblemished soul just aching to be recognised and revealed. There is an element of truth in this of course, but at most it represents just one side of the story. As well as being perfect souls we are also wretched sinners – we contain a dark side, a very dark side – and it is this side that really needs to be revealed and attended to, not the other. This is why so much of what passes for positivity – positive thought and action – is just a way of avoiding what we don't have the courage to face about ourselves, as though ignoring it and pretending it doesn't exist will make it go away. It wont. It will bide its time and then, when I least expect it, bite into me with a ferocity impossible to imagine.


The lessons we refuse are the ones that eventually catch us out.

A belief in the interconnectedness of all people, things and events big and small; the accommodation of paradox; privileging the comic over the tragic; valuing immediate experience in the present; a unidirectional view of time moving toward an enlightened future; and the importance of rituals.

Hardness is such a sin, such a missed opportunity.

To survive as a soft person you need to belong to a culture that values and respects softness. As a teacher you should endeavour to cultivate such within your school. It's the least you can do.
We cling to life as though that is all there is, which only goes to show just how fearful and shortsighted we really are.


If you believe in softness and energy then you precipitate events, however inconspicuous, that elude control, you engender new space-times, however small their surface or volume.
The importance of relaxation in taiji cannot be overemphasised. Having said that, it is imperative that one relax into correct form otherwise the energy will leak – dribble away – and it will all be for nought.

We define softness as lack of resistance, which makes it sound like a negative, but it isn't. Force (which resistance always amounts to) is the negative because it banishes energy and softness to the margins. It's like cutting down a beautiful forest in order to build a theme park. That park may give thousands of children lots of pleasure every day, but it still amounts to destroying something that is alive in order to build something that is dead.

In taiji: life, energy, movement, amount to the same thing.

The teacher can never be your friend or your therapist or your guru. In many ways they are your enemy – certainly the enemy of your complacent, comfort-craving ego.
The student, outwardly respectful, obedient and hard working, yet inside critical and full of resentment, despising the rigours of the work and the knowing gaze of the teacher. The teacher, outside wise, unattached, strong and bountiful, yet inside a pathetic two year old, craving love and intimacy, and above all recognition. Nothing is ever what it seems, and neither should it be, because each appearance always conceals its opposite. This is the pathology of the student teacher relationship, a relationship that should be pushed to its limit – its point of failure – the point where its interior becomes exposed – the point where it readily flips into some sort of perverse role reversal – the slave becomes the master, etc. The success of the relationship lies in each understanding its dynamics and then letting it run its course.
We need both creativity and a people.


to go back into the event, to take one's place in it as in a becoming, to grow both young and old in it at once

Thought is the experience of life rather than reason.

Forgive your neighbour the wrong he has done, and you will be forgiven when you pray.
The task at hand is not to make something of myself but to make nothing of myself, or rather, to make myself nothing. Humility. This is achieved one way only – repentance. Forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those, etc. Before the Infinite my finitude, no matter how mundanely magnificent, always reduces to nothing. This is the wonderful lesson that aging teaches us: fear of God.
man's only hope lies in a revolutionary becoming


A thing has interest only in relation to something else.

Taoism proposes that every thing is held by at least two balanced tendencies or proclivities. Energy and movement come about by adjusting the balance.

What takes time in taiji is not the learning, or the strength, but the purification of motive.

Heuristic learning – to learn from mistakes. This is the natural way of learning. But first it requires the humility to recognise that a mistake has been made in the first place. This, in a sense, is the acceptance of that strange and somewhat repulsive concept of Original Sin. The unfashionable notion that at heart I am far from perfect, if not decidedly wayward.

The difference between force and energy is the difference between tension and relaxation.


a mind constrained by its own special proficiencies and formation

1 : recollection, memory (keep that in mind) (time out of mind)
2 a : the element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons
b : the conscious mental events and capabilities in an organism
c : the organized conscious and unconscious adaptive mental activity of an organism
3 : intention, desire (I changed my mind)
4 : the normal or healthy condition of the mental faculties
5 : opinion, view
6 : disposition, mood


For me the solution has to be primarily spiritual and secondarily political . . . By spiritual I mean the acknowledgement that our connection to one another and the planet must be prioritised.

A stubborn student is one who works but who insists on doing it their way. Ultimately they have no one to blame but themselves for their lack of real (energetic / spiritual) progress. And ultimately, we are all stubborn, and our vigilance should be directed at that – the struggle for endless correction.


Moods are best washed away with water.


Nothing within the cosmos contains the ground of its own being.

today all the tints
of grey are nourished
by a gentle rain
each thing is extended
in tenderness beyond
its own outline
hill moistened into sky
birch into larch wood

What is moral is what you feel good after, and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.


Connecting means to let go of yourself and not separate from the opponent.
seek the source of movement

The five elements are: advance (fire), retreat (water), step to the left (wood), step to the right (metal), and stay in the center (earth).

Once you have achieved moving with awareness, then you will be able to identify energies.
I want them to plant their feet, feel their weight, and forget that they’re posing.
a moment of unsettling delight

trustingly open to the sheer inexplicable givenness of the world

the charming mythopoeia of materialism

To live a life that pleases God. This is the raison d'ĂȘtre for the religious. But what sort of life – of living – pleases God? Is he pleased when I am good, when I am passionate, when I am creating, when I am helpful, when I am free and full of joy, or when I am purely mindful of my deep yearning for him? I guess a balance of these.

I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.


The depth and intensity of relaxation of a great master, especially a great meditation master, would be unfathomable to the average person – they would literally fall apart if they were to experience it because they do not have the strength of mind to carry it off. A strong mind is not a clever one, but one at peace, with itself and with the world.


innocent & luminous

My teacher was always adamant that the only real problem facing each and every one of us is how to yield – how to open up to life and let its energy flood your being. If you can do this then letting your energy out is a cinch – a natural return. If you can't yield then whatever gets out will be forced and disconnected.
time is an emergent phenomenon based on entanglement
The lower legs, particularly the shins and feet, tend to be chronically tense with an anxiety borne of a largely unnecessary struggle to stabilise our connexion with the ground. The same with the forearms and hands – forever trying to excessively control the quality of our connexion with what we touch. The same with our minds – always searching for the advantage. All these tensions mean that our energy never really gets out – it's strangled by our fearful need to control.


alert & humble

The more the rain falls on the earth, the softer it makes it.

To study deeply with a master we must render ourselves tractable and free from self-will. Those not prepared for this never really become students.
Spiritual discipline dissociates spirit from ego. Or at least works in than direction. Without it your energy work will turn you into a monster.


prejudices masquerading as principles


Wisdom is the recovery of innocence at the far end of experience.


Relaxed arms and shoulders in taiji rely on a strong waist – one able to turn with power sufficient to direct them. The energy comes from the root through bent legs, but the power always comes from the waist. Imagine you are standing well planted and someone is hugging you from behind and trying to keep you still. You should be able to turn strongly and deliver enough centrifugal force to whip them off the ground.

When we were children, I forget how old, maybe 7 or 8, we went through a phase of using the words “actually” and “really” all the time to stress concrete existence. 
“That actually happened?!” 
“It actually did!” 
“Yeah, really!” 
Looking back on it I realise that we were simply trying to get a handle on the external world, and that, in a sense, the external is as elusive as the internal. 

What we experience of the actual world are only images, and pale ones at that. An image may be actual as an image, but it is always going to be an approximation as a representation of something else's actuality. And, in a sense, it is the frustration that comes from realising that representation is ultimately illusory and unsatisfying – that the external ever eludes us – that leads us to postulate – to feel the absolute necessity for – the internal. 

So, if the external is as elusive as the internal, then what sort of lives are we living? We find ourselves living representational lives – lives based on images, and lives that create images. Even our children are images – images of ourselves or images of the system – inauthentic. Even my taiji is an image – a copy of something I've done before or of my teacher or of my own designs. We end up living lives obsessed with images in a vain attempt to somehow grasp or become closer to something real, something actual, something truly external and authentic. What ends up happening, of course, is that we develop anxious minds choked with the processing and interpretation of these endless images. 

Spiritual work offers a way out of this morass. It suggests that instead of obsessing over the external and the barrage of images it throws at each and every one of us, we step back, quieten down, close our eyes, and feel – connect to – the natural process that generates the external. This is the internal. Spiritual masters say that the only way to become real, or actual or authentically external, is to join with the process of actualisation as it operates in the world and especially in you. This joining first requires us to enter a process of deactualisation – really a process of dismantling the intricate system of images that constitutes “my world.” This is the deconstruction of the ego. Once that ego (the bank of images I have stored in my mind, body and energy) is sufficiently destabilised, the adept, with the assistance of his teacher, will plug into the internal – the natural process – and hey presto – suddenly he is real – everything about him and everything he does is actual – is truly external. This is enlightenment. So, a person who is enlightened doesn't necessarily appear any different from someone who is not. The only difference is that an ordinary unenlightened person acts ignorantly – from their ego – the images they hold dear – whereas the enlightened individual acts from and with the internal – from the natural process itself as it operates in, through and around them. The external is by the by – the ultimate red herring. The external is simply what issues from the process – something we dare not get caught by lest we lose the process that created it.
We live lives that try to please. Please those we want something from – approbation, wealth, grace – or worse still, please ourselves. The Other, including the Otherness in ourselves, should not be viewed as something we receive from but as something we give to. Then we are received into a connexion, and what we receive in return is that wonderful sense of belonging to something with a reality in excess of our own – something worth living and dying for.


There's always another side to the story.


You just have to get crazier.

repetition for itself and difference in itself

provocative & investigative
It is well known that the hands correspond with the body and with parts of the body. In particular, for our purposes, with the spine: thumb to head, little finger to sacrum and coccyx. So, to strengthen awareness of the lower spine, work on the ring and little fingers.


to conceive the infinite variety of specific instances which rest unrealised in the womb of nature

On the way to the kindergarten this morning we passed a friend's small dog (called Toot – strawberry in Hebrew) tied up on the corner. My daughter bounded up to the dog, whooping for joy, and the dog, not surprisingly, whelped in panic and cowered as far away from her as possible. As we continued our short walk, I explained to her that animals are easily frightened, and that she should approach them slowly, quietly and attentively in future. When we returned from the kindergarten at 2pm we passed the dog again. This time, to my surprise, my daughter did as I had suggested, and the dog came up to her, tail wagging in anticipation, and they spent a lovely and affectionate couple of minutes together. Lesson: put the Other first for the sake of the connexion.

Man is a slow being, who is only made possible thanks to fantastic speeds.


Central equilibrium is not just the state of my taiji body, it is the means by which I maintain and navigate a spirited event.


When you tire of sinking, feel, or imagine, the Earth reaching up through you and pulling you down. In a way it's more real – more personal.

insights & oversights


Worry the principles, destabilize them with your attention. Force them to break open and yield their secrets.

God is not an object that can be seen. God is the subject. He is the seer. Don’t concern your­self with objects that can be seen. Find out who the seer is.


We deserve to be tripped by molehills.
In taiji we struggle with one problem: how do I achieve a more direct – a truer – connexion with reality. It is the same problem all spiritual practitioners face, or other martial artists, or artists, and it is the opposite of the problem facing the average middle-class, well-to-do person, whose main concerns are comfort, health, safety, and acquiring series of comfortably spaced, well controlled, sanitized experiences – happiness. Spiritual work is negative – it is all about stripping away the layers of wadding protecting me from a confrontation with reality – always difficult, wadding that has developed because I am cowardly and weak, a barricade of images and opinions – memories. This is how, try as I might to be fully present, the act of consciously experiencing necessarily brings up the past – structures I have previously built to deal with such experiences. So how do I proceed, given that my consciousness is me, and my conscious experience says more about me than what I am experiencing? We proceed with and into dark energy – a deep awareness of darkness – of what cannot be experienced but can be confronted and engaged. This is what we mean by faith, not believing blindly, but rather being able to proceed openly and whole-heartedly without belief, and this is the level at which a great master such as John Kells has always worked – what you see is not what you get, in fact what you see, what you experience of him, has absolutely nothing to do with the real level at which he is working with your energy and destiny.
I am upheld by pillars, shored up on either side by stark emotions; but which is sorrow, which is joy?
Two people, the two of us for example, cannot inhabit the same space. Not the same physical space, mental space, experiential space, or space of expectation – we necessarily have different points of view, different opinions. Hence the impossibility of communication, brought home to me whenever someone emails me their response to one of these posts. Did I really say that? I look back on what I wrote and of course I didn't say that at all, but then neither did I say what I meant to say. Is all we can ever be is gatherers of images, images which as soon as they form inside me become memories and opinions. So when I experience reality, or thinking, or truth or relaxation or taiji, those experiences depend largely upon the images of those concepts that I have formed inside my head, my body and my energy. My experience of relaxation depends upon the image of relaxation I have inside me – the opinion I have regarding what constitutes relaxation. This is how our experiences and our opinions – our imagery and our imagining – limit our progress. Spiritual practitioners spend a large part of their time praying and hoping for grace – the possibility of a gift that will break open this closed system. Without such grace – a destructive grace – we endlessly go round in circles, making the same mistakes over and over. The process of breaking apart one's imagery – one's mental structures – we call forgiveness. Forgive and forget. But before I can forget I must first fully remember the details of the occasions that caused such images to form in the first place – I must remember my mistakes with a heart of compassion and make them right.
yield like veils and close behind them, and one thing melts into another


Submit to receptivity.
Becoming one with the work is everything.
Everything is becoming one with the work.
Thich Nhat Hanh, God bless him (the greatest man alive, in my humble opinion) suggests in one of his lovely little books, that at least once a month each of us take a day of enforced solitude – stay inside, no visitors, no telephone, no TV or radio, no computer, no books, no music, just thee and thy navel, relaxing into the passage of time, as always marked by the breath. I would also add no food – why not? I have only tried it a few times, but each time, by the end of the day (punctuated with leisurely bouts of taiji) I am so calm yet awake, and the living space is fizzing with a gentle spirit.
Relaxation in taiji is simply a wiping clean of the slate that is me. Once I am clear, all sorts of patterns emerge – the writings of the Dao – my destiny finally unfolding.
Come, pain, feed on me. Bury your fangs in my flesh. Tear me asunder.

Their eyes are like moths’ wings moving so quickly that they do not seem to move at all.
The first regular taiji class I ever taught was a beginners' class in Fulham, back in 1987. One of the students was a lovely old lady who had already learnt traditional Yeung style taiji. So whilst me and the other students struggled to achieve some sort of vertical respectability, she had absolutely no qualms about leaning forwards, and, I had to admit, it looked beautiful and far more spirited and vital than the rest of us. I told my teacher so, and surprisingly (I didn't know at the time that he had studied with Yeung Sau-chung) he admitted that the leaning forward posture may indeed be correct. And, if you watch the man himself, the great Cheng Man-ching, it is clear that he only ever approximates vertical – sometimes leaning forward, sometimes back, and sometimes to the side. So, our vertical posture shouldn't be a rigid verticality, but one that contains all angles. We want the vertical not to reject the plane it rises up from, but to contain, or rather be contained by, that plane. The image I have in my mind (body) is Chang San-feng's snake, rearing up from its coils. Whilst the active part of the snake is vertical, most of it remains flat on the ground, hugging the Earth.
Their eyes burn like the eyes of animals brushing through leaves on the scent of the prey.
In the same way that one will walk around a sculpture in the gallery to catch multiple points of view, so the images (opinions) we hold of taiji and its various concepts and principles need to change by approaching the work differently. In fact this is one of the functions of practice – to change one's position in relation to the work and thereby refresh and reimagine its constituents. Such repositioning is more to do with changes in my internal space brought about by life in general – for example, practising whilst sick, fatigued, upset, irritated, high, will always yield fresh insights.
How bridge the distance between us? How fan the fire so that it blazes for ever?

a memory of perfection

Taiji is a method for investigating the consequences of standing up straight. That is, the profound and difficult consequences of switching one's heart allegiance from the Earth to the Other.

if only I could laugh, all would vanish


In olden times, when you moved house, two ceremonies would be undergone. The first would take place in the house you were leaving, thanking the place for sustaining and sheltering you, and asking it to release you from its clutches. The second would be in the new house, a blessing to change its and your energy sufficient for an initial connexion to be made which can then deepen with time. Taiji can be used in such a ritual capacity. Gather with a few taiji friends and do a few hours together, relaxing, releasing and opening to the beckoning changes.

The spirit that comes from discipline. The discipline to single-mindedly live a life devoted to a single vision. Any digression is purely for the sake of acquiring a deeper, clearer connexion to that vision. This is destiny.

Had I been born not knowing that one word follows another I might have been, who knows, perhaps anything. As it is, finding sequences everywhere, I cannot bear the pressure of solitude. When I cannot see words curling like rings of smoke round me I am in darkness – I am nothing.

The psychotherapist and the taiji master are both concerned with your destiny; they both struggle to help you abandon aspects of your past in order to embrace a better future. But whereas the therapist attempts this by chatting, helping you remember the past, face up to it honestly, understand it, the taiji master asks you to perform regularly a sequence of movements that will not only help you relax (forget) but will also help you acquire the energy and power necessary to welcome that destiny.

Let the sky – the firmament – bear down on you and press you into the Earth. Then, like a balloon pressed between two surfaces, you will expand around the waist and sacrum, and that area will be able to relax in a way only possible when supported from above as well as from below.

Meditation is a time you sit all alone with not even your thoughts to keep you company.

Practising taiji in the Carmel mountains (hills really) near Haifa yesterday. Just me, the stone beneath my feet and the sun over my head. A farmer passed by in a jeep and called across:
"Taiji?" (I was still warming up so it wasn't obvious)
"What style?"
"Yeung style"
How times have changed.


I can imagine nothing beyond the circle cast by my body.

Words are grasped and spun together to make a skein of meaning and understanding. This is fine as long as we realise that such images of reality offer only temporary shelter, and will hold us back unless jettisoned sooner rather than later.
This morning, taking my daughter to the kindergarten, it was a struggle extricating her from the warmth of her mother's bosom. It is always difficult to be willing in the face of the unknown. This is the function of the father – the teacher – the master – to wrest the student from the clutches of familiarity, and lead them into the darkness.
One moment does not lead to another. The door opens and the tiger leaps.
I worked with a student earlier this week. He looked amazing and his energy was intensely alive – trembling and communicating. "You've made a breakthrough,"  I commented. "But I feel wretched," he answered. "Yes, you've definitely made a breakthrough," I replied.


Pushing back the barriers of pain with correct method.


Sinking – the need to sink – implies that I am not sunk, that I am above the ground, and that I need to get my root into the Earth. If, however, I am already well sunk, my root is firmly embedded, and my energy is down, then the only movement is upwards.


the person is always changing, though not the desire


In a sense, both real and imaginary, but above all usefully, we, perceiving creatures that we are, function as the sensory apparatus of the Earth. Feel your perceptions, coloured by your mood, passing down through your body and into the Earth, feeding her; a well-deserved return for your continuing sustenance.
There is a system of images which I term my perception of the universe, and which may be entirely altered by a very slight change in a certain privileged image – my body. This image occupies the centre: by it all the others are conditioned; at each of its movements everything changes, as though by a turn of a kaleidoscope.

as steady as a great tree
branching into delicate life

We've all got holes to fill
And those holes are all that's real


With the work, we feel ourselves live in things even as things come to live in us according to a radical immanence.

An indefatigable spirit.

shining points around which the others form a vague nebulosity

An aspect of rooting we call localisation – a pinning of my being to this exact spot. In this sense, rooting shrinks my space into an intense point from which my spirit – my gaze – can only expand forth. Hence, the focus of root turns to an expansivity of spirit. The Internal can only exteriorize – it is already in so can only come out. This is the constant folding of reality upon itself, or rather the ever turning inside out. Invagination.
To find, or establish, the trigger that both rouses the spirit to a state of intense excitement, and drives the root deep down into the Earth. This, in a nutshell, is the problem of all spiritual and martial work: how to unify into a complementary pair, the two primary drives of Root and Spirit.
To begin with in taiji we sink and relax in order to establish gravity as the dominant force in our life. We endeavour to relax so much that gravity is perceived as a constantly flowing energy streaming down through the body, from the headtop to the soles of the feet, and into the Earth. This streaming energy gradually realigns the skeleton and cleanses the flesh and organs. Once the path through the body is clear, and the root is well established, a rising energy will also be perceived which we call spirit. Now, as my teacher would delight in saying, we are ready to really begin.
In a world dominated by spirit, that is, in a real world, then ch'i is mere window dressing.
If there is anything abject or ingratiating about my supplicancy then the root will rise and the spirit will sink. I must implore with power.