Once annihilated it is impossible to think.
Don't impose your mind on the taiji, and try not to interpose the mind between the teaching and your taiji. The taiji should be an honest expression of the state of your body and energy rather than a demonstration of how cleverly your mind can create a passable copy. The mind should simply sit back and enjoy the ride.
Free us from grammar and slavery.
We use the eyes, obviously to see, but also, largely, to place ourselves, to construct ourselves, and to press into that self. The ears, on the other hand, when used without the eyes, with eyes closed, draw us out of ourselves, into the world of sound, which is constant and complex, carried by the air, which becomes thick with noise, like a soup of energy, which we bathe in, and wade through, with our movements.
The desire to be prior.

"one of the most important tasks of the artist is to create a world of his own, something which requires an acute reality sense in two ways: first, towards his own inner reality and secondly of the reality of his medium"
Consider two contrasting events.
  • I look in the mirror and think "Wow! Aren't I wonderful!"
  • I see an old lady hobbling down the street and think "Poor soul!"
The first event is obviously a case of selfish narcissism, whereas the second is one of compassion, albeit weak. In taiji terms, however, these two events amount to the same thing – a disturbance in the energy, caused largely by thinking, or, as the Chinese would put it, the qi rising (the exclamation mark). Our struggle is to find a way of registering the world – of being in it and intimate with it – without compromising our balance – without our qi rising. This is our goal – a ruthless engagement; and yielding is our method.
'I am not one of the family' means: do not consider me 'one of you,' 'don’t count me in,' I want to keep my freedom, always: this, for me, is the condition not only for being singular and other, but also for entering into relation with the singularity and alterity of others…


Success simply indicates the triviality of the endeavor.

What I understood of a simple instruction as Sink & Relax thirty years ago is a far cry from what I understand now, which, hopefully, will be very different from what I understand in thirty years time. The principles of taiji are not so much instructions as devices designed to help me become a person better able to understand them.

"Our reasoning is negative as a whole, it cannot and does not know how to say yes except with a double no, conjecture and refutation, hypothesis and critique, it is given over as a whole to the work of the negative, and I understand finally why death, so often, is its result, its outcome or consequence and why hatred is, so frequently, its driving force. And why rationalism comes under the heading of the sacred, why rationalists are priests, busily ruling out, cleaning up the filth, expelling people, purifying bodies or ideas."
in pure

a pattern
My singleness and singularity – this singular city – is my spine, or, more precisely, my sacrum from which the spine rears. Like a sovereign it is flanked by two advisors – a left hand and a right, or, rather, a left leg and a right leg. When I require a stable stillness – an immobility – I encourage the two legs to reach some agreement between themselves. When I require movement I favor one leg over the other and see where it takes me – always into the other, surprisingly. So favor passes from one side to the other, endlessly. The success of my singularity depends upon my ability to maintain poise and composure whilst delegating responsibility for my place and stability to these two sides.

The principle of affirmation.

A student asked me about diet and eating so I jotted down the following principles of diet recommended by my teacher:
  • Vegan and sugar-free
  • As much raw food as possible
  • Eat bland food (not too tasty)
  • Always eat in moderation
  • No stimulants (caffeine) or depressants (alcohol)
  • Drink water, glacial if you can get it
  • Fast one whole day once a week
  • Always prepare and cook your own food
  • Eat in silence
  • Never eat between meals. 
I would add:
  • Take small morsels – never a mouthful
  • Chew the food thoroughly before swallowing
  • Say grace before and after each meal
  • Be mindful – always.

The only choice of any importance is whether to live a choiceless life or not. If you do then your actions and your presence will have the biting immediacy of spirit – a significance and meaning that is nothing if not dignified. If you chose choice then the responses in your life – your own and those of the world to you – will be flabby and arbitrary, and you'll have to resort to force – willfulness and petulant foot-stamping  – when you don't get your own way.
an intimate

through infinite
"the receiver of the flux, the wind, the manifestation, takes refuge and trembles"


Authenticity: acting on feelings rather than thoughts. The first stage is uncovering true feelings, which means yielding to inauthenticity, to impulsiveness, to shallow conditioned responses, and delving inside – into the internal – to find the source of my energy. Then I have to know how to act, incisively and without hesitation. This is attacking. Both phases involve and depend upon spirit, without which it is all just a pretty idea.


a relation of touching and being touched, of responsiveness and responsibility

"To know is not merely to acquire information; primarily it is to acquire through intense emotional experience an understanding of internal and external reality and the ongoing interpenetrations of the two."
In the articulated path from left sole to right palm, the weak link is the leap from hip to sacrum across the pelvis. This is the place we tend to close off, largely because we are conditioned from childhood to have a negative attitude toward both the functions and the organs of procreation and excretion. This area then becomes a secret repository for all our hangups, repressions and insecurities. Relaxing in taiji, once superficial tensions and anxieties have been dealt with, is largely working to open up the pelvic area – allowing it to expand to its full width with the weight of the torso. Once this area is sorted the shoulders and neck will magically release. On an emotional and psychological level it's a matter of learning to love yourself for who you are rather than who you'd rather be.
"to live withdrawn from any interest in self, disinterested, thinned out to a state of utter calmness, expecting nothing"


following the trace of something that solicits us
Some things are going to take lifetimes to sort. That's the level of patience one needs.

Love is the space you leave around the loved one.
I broke from my teacher in 2007 not because I disagreed in any way with him, but because I knew I needed space to better hear the teaching. There were things I needed to learn that he could not teach me, there were parts of myself I needed to face that his presence would always shield me from. To find the earth and the heart one must leave the hearth.


Love thine enemy.

Bad (negative) tension is a tightness inside a thing – a fearful holding on – a fear of letting go – of releasing. Good (positive) tension is always between things – a play between complementary opposites – the bind of relationship that threatens to break or release and thereby transforms. The energy that holds together the relaxing – the creative – machine.
exploring the border region between the contrasting pair

Respect, indeed treasure, differences.
The self begins to crumble when I admit that part of me that is stranger to my self, the stranger we call destiny.
Deep listening is only possible when I embrace the fragility that comes from refusing to belong to anything more specific than creation. No self, no family, no class, no nation, no race, no species; no life even. To simply exist, no better, no worse than any other creature/creation.
"[Destiny] is a feeling you have that you know something about yourself nobody else does – the picture you have in your mind of what you're about will come true. It's a kind of a thing you kinda have to keep to yourself cos it's a fragile feeling and if you put it out there somebody'd kill it, so it's best to keep that all inside…"


In taiji we work hard to develop a root – a strong and stable connexion with the ground – not in order to be formidable or indomitable, but in order to have the simple confidence to admit the destabilizing and eroding presence of the void, the unknowable, the unconscious – of death – into our being. And these are our two concerns in taiji: Earth and Spirit, or Gravity and Grace, the only things we all, unquestionably, have in common. The work is to strip myself bare of anything uncommon so that everything I/we have is shared.

It matters little how intelligent or talented I am, how rich my daddy is, what race or class I was born into. If I consider, even for a moment, that any of these are a substitute for hard grafting work then they amount to a curse, and I would be far better off without them. What matters is how much dignity I command and how deep I am prepared to go.
Unconditionality, in its totality, evokes death, not just as possibility or a preparedness, but as presence. It is a feeling we perhaps only experience with our children – we love them so much that we would, without question or hesitation, die for them. This experience then tempers the spirit, sobers the mind, and enriches the life, simply by preparing us for – forcing us to face, if only obliquely – death. The aim of our work – of yielding – is to bring the touch of unconditionality to everything, especially to listening. Listening from the void, which I am willing to swallow me up, rather than from a particular standpoint that the Other, in all likelihood, does not share. Yielding as total acceptance. Not allowing myself the time to chose.
Central equilibrium is our peculiarly taiji way of working with non-duality.
What is man's greatest enemy? Fear. What is a person most afraid of? Violent death. So one has to admire true warriors who put violent death as their highest aspiration.


Dumping fears and anxieties on others is the worst form of pollution.

"the irreducibility of who to what"
the place where the limit trembles
Apparently when Dr Chi saw Iyengar's Light on Yoga for the first time, and was asked what he thought, his reply was: "Body soft, mind hard." The softness of taiji, which is quite unique, is down to its turning circularity and its insistence on a listening touch.


Deep relaxation can only be approached by accepting responsibility for individual and collective karma.
Thoughts interpose themselves between me and the Other, the outside, the world beyond, that, if I had any respect, I would be engaging. If I were fully present then there would be no space for thinking: reality would have squeezed it out.

To focus in on the dantien at the same time as abandoning that dantien to gravity. This seeming impossibility only becomes natural when the spirit is up, for example when fighting or running or dancing. The skill is in making the dantien the centre of gravity of the body, and then having the strength and togetherness to function as a point.
In inequality with oneself.
In lieu of a rooted body to stabilize and secure one's being so that the energy can be free to do what energy does best, namely work, most of us clamp and anchor the mind in hopes and fears, ideas, locking up the energy in festering neurotic loops that go nowhere.
The important lessons in life are those we are coerced, coaxed, cajoled into learning, either by others or by our own sense of duty, from experiences we would have preferred, at the time, not to have. Reluctance is a good sign.
"It is when we settled that we became strangers in a strange land, and wandering took on the quality of banishment"

Live by example. Don't hide. Only then will the feedback be true.
It may appear that I am proposing anarchy or nihilism. Maybe so. But really I'm trying to point out that you must exist in such a way that the unavoidable structures that support you are always being tested because if they become stiff and rotten then so will you.
Yielding assumes you're already in a fight. In order to yield you need to first be aggressive enough to find yourself in a contest. Otherwise it's not yielding at all but avoidance – the bane of all our lives.
When I meet people who are old in years but essentially young at heart, the quality they seem to have in common is fearlessness, in particular, they are unafraid of confrontation, so much so that they appear to relish a fight. Yielding doesn't come into it.
When I truly listen to the Other I am willing to become them on every level. And this is the good student, not just willing to listen but unable not to listen.

Psychotherapy, as far as I can tell, amounts to an attempt to integrate the subject into a system of bourgeois values. And, for me, this is the problem with democracy now, it has far more to do with inviting the Other into my club than it has with any real, that is deep, listening. Our first responsibility, as intelligent mature adults, is to question the values – the axioms – of our inherited culture: that monster that insists on blotting out precisely what's interesting and dangerous about each and every one of us.


Discontent conceals contentment. This is the fact at the root of our work: that beneath the anxiety – the suffering – everything is OK.

There was a time when the rigours of rational argument were championed not because they enabled a scientific reduction of the world, but because they best modelled the rigours of heart and spirit that God demands of his subjects. A time when the rational was primarily ethical.
Any theory of spirit must contain a complete understanding of death.
Mind in dantien. Despite everything, mind in dantien. This is our contraction, our withdrawal into object, entity, that allows our spirit to be free to touch everything else.


"Freedom is not the property of a subject but rather belongs to existence at the level of its singularity, irreducibility, and irrepressibility."
events & movements rather than structures & meanings

The time of my life.

Every experienced teacher knows that the best way to fob off a poor student is to tell them how well they're doing, and the best way to galvanize a good student is to tell them how poorly they're doing – to give them the proverbial pep talk.

Spirit and matter (property, wealth) move in opposite directions.

"The self is not something I possess; it is a regulatory concept that keeps the "I" in line like a number in a sequence or a slot in a hierarchy."
Is Otherness ever really Other? Is it not ourselves reflected back with an authenticity that startles?
We spoil our children by leading them to believe that they are entitled to whatever they want. Such people never learn to appreciate or value otherness, either for itself or as a means to travelling deeper – beyond the superficialities of desire.

Settle down.

Mind dissociated from the interests of ego is a fluid vaporous mind, no longer linear, no longer laminar, but neither turbulent nor fractal. It moves with both sweeps and eddies, with a centre – an eye – that is so still – so involuted – it seems frozen.

One manifestation of the bourgeois fallacy is that deep down we are all the same – all with the same weak bourgeois aspirations.
When, with scientific pride, we ditched God, and installed ourselves – our egos – as lords of life, we also threw away the promise of anything else, anything other. This is why we live so much longer nowadays: not because we are better than our forebears, but because we have forgotten how to die.
The egocentric mind understands once it has a name for everything – when it feels sovereign in a well-defined world. The energetic mind understands once it has forgotten the name of everything, including, especially, itself – when all boundaries finally disappear.
Time to myself – to look at myself – to quieten my self. The tools for this task much be put in place as early as possible otherwise it will all be tragically – poignantly – too late.



Central equilibrium is a balance of two tendencies: a becoming negligible, if not nothing, and a becoming useful, if not something. The first is the relaxation phase – the out breath – and the second is the tension phase – the in breath. To start with we work with alternating series of these – we breathe with them – but eventually they are both there all the time.
Central equilibrium is simply the balance between tension and relaxation.


Thinking is only wrong when it inhibits or disrupts action, which, if you think about it, is all the time.
"As an ethical subject I am no longer at one with myself but have from the start been overtaken by the claims the other has on me — substituted, one for the other, so that the other is closer to me than I am to myself."

Thinking is designed to keep the self supreme.


"The third person is myself become no one."
The realization that everything is more interesting than me.

Empty the heart so it can start to listen to the Other.

a mistake
is certain

but beyond
my reach


Relax the belly so it can start to talk to the Earth.

"the organism is not life, it is what imprisons life"
things occur
over me

a slight turn
makes me


"to yield to the non-conscious that you believe far away while it is precisely what is burning you"
The pursuit of profit devours them.
"What variety and at the same time what monotony, how varied it is and at the same time how, what's the word, how monotonous. What agitation and at the same time what calm, what vicissitudes within what changelessness."



5 hour workshop

London 12 July


The essence of taiji, of yielding, of central equilibrium, is balance, though not the scalar balance of one weight against another – that is only ever a simplistic beginning – but the balance that results from being willing and able to hear and contain both sides of an argument, even when those sides contradict each other.


Every occurrence, every action, every thought, every event, has intention behind it, has been intended, if only through force of habit. This is why there are no accidents.


A priority of principle.

On one level, the only thing that matters is the quality of my word: my ability to make, and to keep, promises.
Only when I have completely released my self to gravity – promised my body to the Earth – will my head become soft enough, and my heart be empty enough, to free my spirit. This is humbleness. Such freedom is a minor afterthought. What really matters is integrity – the total commitment to a life of service – to becoming process – to being no thing. Nothing.
The first step on the road to warriorship is taking responsibility for my victimhood. The realization that the only difference between the two is in how I chose to engage and respond to the world. Do I use suffering and misfortune to make me stronger or do I let them lock me in the prison of self?

The difference between a victim and a warrior is one of suffering. The victim suffers because his crippling fear renders him inherently passive, whereas the warrior uses his impeccable spirit to blast suffering and passivity out of his life. This doesn't mean that the warrior is free from pain or fear, far from it, these are always welcomed, in fact, actively sought out, as temperers of spirit, without which he would become an obnoxiously selfish monster.

"Unless there's magic the end will be tragic"


What is it that makes this work so impossibly difficult? I suspect it's the fact that our very humanity is invested in our break from the Earth and our aspirations to Heaven – to immortality – to getting somewhere forever stable and peaceful. What taiji reveals to us is that as soon as we break from the Earth we break from everything real and are thereby forced to retreat into self – into fantasy and ego – into ideas and ideals. Our idea of Heaven is then as a place where this self can comfortably endure, rather than a place where there is no room for self.
Everything in and from the mind is secondhand – unoriginal. The only part of me that is truly unique is my body and a stamp of spirit that my work should endeavor to print upon everything I touch.
Every now and then one encounters someone to whom one takes an instant dislike. This should intrigue, because, it'll become clear, if pursued, that that person threatens, at a deep level, one's sense of self. It is those parts of ourselves we despise that need to be developed. Despising disguises a repressed admiration – an attempt to avoid what needs to be done, what needs to be faced, and what needs to be developed.



Suffering is the result of being coerced into passivity, either by external forces of oppression or by my own lack of spirit – courage.

Pull yourself together.

We value spirit so highly because it enables life to endure beyond the point of the ego being demolished. It is the only viable substitute for meaning – for reason – for illusion. Spirit is the only thing that needs no reason – it is itself a miracle – beyond reason. It stops the life of the enlightened – the disillusioned – falling into terrible depression.
Spirit is the sharpest of tools. But a tool just the same.

We relax in taiji so that natural tensions can take over from our own selfish ones. When I relax the first thing I feel is a sinking – the Earth pulling me down, then an expansion – the world drawing me out. If I want to sustain this relaxation then I must learn a natural internal tension – a draw into my core/belly – a ruthless vigilance of sorts, without which my moments of relaxation will inevitably alternate with reversions to old habits – the experience of most of us.


scratched in

low tide

to bear without discomposure or flinching


To love is to support, regardless, no questions asked: unconditionally. And we know from taiji that I can only be an effective support if I am supported in turn: the weight of the Other can only be borne if I first trust the Earth to bear me. Everything always comes back to the Earth. And so, it becomes clear: Destiny and Earth are the same – my destiny is to come down to Earth, to leave my fantasies and return to Earth, in death and in life.

Happiness has little to do with feeling good or getting my own way. If it were then I'd always be at the mercy of my moods and my manipulative abilities. Happiness is rather the outcome of having travelled deep enough inside to know that life is unfolding exactly as it should, or, as Christians would put it: of knowing that God loves me, or, as we say in taiji: deep happiness is a destiny being lived, because destiny is, ultimately, the only thing strong enough to offer absolute support.


"I try to factor solitude into my life, because more and more that's becoming a very precious and rare commodity."
To breach the skin of knowledge that surrounds the Internal – the Unknowable – I need Spirit to make a rupture and I need Trust to venture through that rupture. The more I trust, the deeper I go. Once I settle a new skin forms and my newly acquired experience and knowledge become barriers to what lies beneath. Again I need Spirit and Trust to break through. All this presumes a desire to enter the Internal. Those of us with the desire are fed by Grace – whispers from the depths that forever beckon – and Truth – a spark of spirit that leaps into me each time I manage to enter the Internal, and which always contradicts what I think I know. Faith is simply fidelity to my (always fleeting) experience of Truth.


on the edge,


Breathe in, breathe out. Full, empty. Become hard, become soft. Appearing, disappearing. Can't have one without the other.

The difference between force and energy is often a matter of timing. A force applied at just the right moment will melt with the spirit of the event and become energy.


Summer has commenced, and with it that delicious feeling of melting – of becoming liquid – so conducive to taiji. Liquid is always giving itself to movement and flow, whereas solids resist.

A passenger plane travels close to 500mph, yet when I am on board I experience relative stillness because I relate to the capsule of the plane's interior rather than to the earth. This stillness is comforting – it allows my mind to forget the dangers of flying and worry about something else instead. 

We find that the mind is always encapsulating itself – locking itself in a room to avoid the distractions of the real world. Inside this room I can create a whole well-behaved world built on childish concepts such as eternity and God and logic, and then convince myself that this world is, in fact, more real than the world external to my mind – the world of which I am a part.

I forget the plane's motion when that motion is uniform – constant. As soon as the plane changes course I experience a pull and my mind is brought back to the fact that I am moving. If the changes in course start to follow a pattern then I will learn the pattern and reject it from my mind so that I can get on with my thinking. This is the way we use intelligence – to see and recognize patterns so that we can, we convince ourselves, understand, whereas really there is little understanding – little humility – involved, just a voracious desire to consume – to ingest and shit – at the expense of all the small but beautiful differences – details – that get washed away in the neurotic process of searching for meaning.

Spiritual understanding, on the other hand, is all about allowing an appreciation of reality's vastness belittle the self. I reduce myself by glorying in reality rather than increasing myself by "understanding" reality.
The Form is an evocation and celebration of energy – movement, flux. It requires my own personal energy to be settled and rooted so that what I experience is flow and not my own stirrings. Emotions and feelings are abandoned, though the body is full of sensation, because they make no sense – they are not real – they ultimately cut me off from my own becoming – they hold me back. Spirit, on the other hand, always thrusts me forward – into the fray.


Fascism is any force that attempts to bundle me with the rest. It's attraction lies in no longer having to either think for myself or listen to the Other – I simply obey whoever ties the bundle. The image of the body as a bundle of sticks is useful though, with the waist as ligature: the band that ties them all together.