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.

We must place ourselves as if before the dawn of the world, at the moment when still anonymous perception awakens itself from its own stupor, from its own birth.
If you were to ask the average middle-class person what they most value in their life they would generally answer: Freedom of choice. If you ask a spiritual master the same question they would probably reply with Freedom from choice.

In taiji we conquer fear by reversing a movement, a flow, a circuit.

Selfishness – self-centredness – is infantile behaviour. Thence the world full of spoilt brats. It takes more than time to grow up.


to harmonize oneself with the central incomprehension that carries the work to the heart of the darkness that it confronts