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.