Hope – this desire for a better future – can only transpire through sacrifice. This, if there is one, is the secret. And this is practice – the sacrifice of time and energy for the sake of realisation. The logic of sacrifice stems from the understanding that anything held onto holds me back, including understanding.


"…practice being blind all the better to greet the clarity that only obscurity possesses, which is out of sight and envelops the secret – a secret not concealed but evident, the manifest secret of being, of life/death…"
Consistency & Commitment
Big kiss on the far side of suffering.


"…not to interpret the world, but to transform it by outlining some revolutionary strategies that might unleash something else…"


The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
We use tension, primarily, to keep ourselves in the world yet separate from reality. And this is our all important distinction: the world as the set of all objects and their interactions, and reality as the energetic continuum that contains all worlds. (Reality always trivializes the worlds it contains.) Spiritual endeavor aims to experience reality, to relax into the continuum, to eventually leave the world and melt into the real. Our principles are just devices to help us achieve this.
pass from sight to tact
"Imagination becomes reality." This phrase of Liang's, which my teacher objected to so strongly, perfectly sums up the rĂ´le of thought in most of our lives – it strives to find a way of making fantasy real. Meditation, on the other hand, aims to relax the mind of thought so that energy rather than fantasy (imagination) can become the dominant medium for our mind and body.
A willingness to entertain and the maturity to contain whatever may transpire.

the evanescence and swoon of the tender
Lightness, our most valued virtue, comes when I decide to shed the burden of anxiety that weighs me down. So, in this sense at least, lightness comes from hope.
Hope is an attitude – an openness – to that aspect of reality we call the future. It comes from a realisation that God's will, especially on the short term, is so easily obscured by my own coarse cupidity and anxiety. Hope is no hankering after reassurance, quite the opposite: hope simply offers the best environment for a destiny to unfold.


The benefit of the doubt. The benefit of doubt. This is softness: to admit the presence of the Other, of otherness – to give space.
Sensitivity knows there's more to reality and life than meets the eye.

shades of green
lead farther in
to a green that glows
then paths of green
close up again
behind one who passes
The hip relaxes and opens as the weight moves into it or, rather, the weight moves across because the hip relaxes. If that hip truly relaxes then the corresponding shoulder and jaw will also open and relax, enabling the back heart and occiput to tie into the sacrum. Then all three dantiens are worked simply by doing taiji.


slowly getting close
Tiredness, fatigue, exhaustion are opportunities to practice without the hindrance of a calculating mind preceding the body. Opportunities to become energy.
"The universe is a mix of hard nuclei and high clouds, archipelagos and seas, flashes and occultations, messages and noise."

If I have a root it means that, from any point on my body, there is always a passage through my body into the ground, for bearing force and expressing energy.
A knight of faith.


I must realise that when I am tense it is not only I who suffer as a consequence but all around me, including the inanimate.
"Is progress possible without practice?" To me, this question, which I hear often nowadays, from students and prospective students, is very strange. When I discovered taiji I was so excited and so happy to have finally found something not only worth practising but worth at least a lifetime of dedicated study.


A taiji life is one devoted to relaxation rather than tension, energy rather than force. It operates from the fundamental belief that everything possible and imaginable can be achieved by going with things rather than against them, by releasing and allowing one's deepest energies out rather than tightening into a ball and battering the world with it. Our specific struggle in taiji, given that most of us aren't that concerned with becoming great martial artists, is to move energetically, so that each action, each movement, is the result of a release of tension rather than a tightening into tension. Very soon, given good teaching, we realise that the main problem area is the hips, and that once these begin to relax (which can take many years) the shoulders and chest (heart), and jaw and eyes, will also begin to release. The key to relaxing is to find an alternative support to replace that tension. In taiji this is the ground or Earth to begin with, but then also the Other, otherwise we wouldn't move and would starve for lack of nourishment. The heart reaches out, ultimately, because I know on the deepest level that without the Other I am nothing, without God I am lost. This is the sense in which, once relaxation has saturated my being, everything becomes an act of prayer.


The Internal, in taiji, only opens up, usefully, when my circles – my circularity – contain it, like a precious orb, swathed by the infinite caresses of my turning, my returning.
Love begets love.
Love is a bridge, then passage, that makes connexion, between at least two erstwhile separate entities. This is where the true Internal lies, not in things or between things but in the love that connects things. This is why, in spiritually developed cultures, compassion is valued so highly.
The true Internal only opens up – only offers itself to me – when my heart is full of love. Otherwise it is just a semblance – just a selfish retreat.
We all need help, all the time.

Energy isn't something I feel, necessarily; energy is rather something I become when I withdraw from feeling – from the sensory world – and sink and relax into the Internal. This is meditation.
Peace, as Norman O Brown beautifully put it, lies in finding and fighting the true war, which means confronting those aspects of myself that my mediocrity compels me to turn away from. Peace is always with oneself.
The avoided – all we opt to sweep under the carpet – encapsulated out of sight, eventually becomes tumorous.


We are our greatest enemy.


The mediocre student is one who blows hot then cold. One with a taste for the Internal but still largely in the grip of fear and illusion. One who shows real progress and then falters through fear of what needs to be done and what needs to be abandoned. Basically a coward. And on some level we are all mediocre students. The secret is to search out and confront that level rather than living a life devoted to avoiding it.

"two movements are contained in the term ‘universal’, the centripetal convergence of systems that tend towards unity, and the centrifugal dissipation of systems that move away from integration"
There is a enormous amount of modern commentary on taiji, either by, or demanded by, Westerners. From what I have read it attempts to demystify taiji and explain every aspect of it in reasonable terms – it turns this beautiful internal art into another external system of exercise. The basic difference between a person devoted to the Internal and one driven by the External is that the first impulse of the former is to give, unconditionally, whereas the first impulse of the latter is to take, or at least worry about what they will be receiving. The student of the internal gets out of bed in the morning because taiji (or whatever it is that they love) calls to their heart and draws them into another day of devotion. Ultimately I suspect that we are all devotees of the Internal, it's just that many of us forget that first impulse and get distracted or caught up by externals.
A call to prayer.


When confronted by novelty – by the new – which, let's face it, is all the time, whether it be new situations, new people, new ideas, concepts, thoughts, then we have a choice: we can either adapt to that novelty – listen and allow it to change us – wrench us out of habit, if only for a moment, or we can appropriate it – twist it to suit ourselves – turn it with our habits into a version of something we already know. Adapting is the course taken by those who have no choice, no place, no wealth, which is why, for me, the most interesting people in a society – the ones with the tremble of vulnerability which we call energy – are the immigrants, especially the illegal ones, those at once in and outside that society. Those who appropriate are, in effect, constantly adding to a store house of force, which, for them, replaces energy and spirit – a silo of ordure.
The first stage of each practice session – the Standing to Attention posture at the beginning of the Form – is simply being quiet and still enough to feel yourself being drawn into taiji. Without this your practice will defeat its purpose of reducing self. The beautifully endless flow of taiji is here/there all the time, just waiting for me/you to step on board. This is why, for me, surfing is such an apt image.


Strange, don't you think, that the more choices society offers us the more conservative we become?
Whatever can be comprehended is not true. Truth is the patina of mystery that opens up an endless array of possibility. The brink of actualization. The magic in the air as the baby arrives or the dying departs. It explodes into spirit at the same time as it condenses into soul.
"there is nowhere else for us henceforth to go, except simultaneously in the two contrary directions indicated in the lovely, stirring, compound preposition: out into"
For me, for as long as I can remember, it's been all about truth. Discovering, uncovering, recovering truth on the one hand, but also being true to that truth, becoming true, living the truth on the other. This quest has, all along, been driven by an overwhelming desire, compulsion, obsession even, to be true to the mere handful of extraordinary experiences in my life, not in order to repeat them or retrieve them or relive them, but solely to honour them, to keep them company, to let them be the sole teachers and guides of this life, this span, this passion.


It's the moments of lightness that last forever – that illumine a life.


Far better to be drawn into things than pushed into them. The same goes for practice. If you want to work but your body or spirit are reluctant then instead of forcing yourself seduce yourself with softness and gentleness.

"Just as all living creatures are made up of aggregations of cells, so each creature functions as a kind of hyper-cell, a machinery for disposing internal and external."
to feel the tug of time in things


In the same way that with a root your legs are always searching for and working with the Earth, so, with a free open heart, your arms are always reaching out for some Other to connect to and love – to wrestle in a transforming energetic embrace, which may be the best sex of your life or may be a fight to the death; for our purposes there is little difference.
"a passion for the exceptional, the withdrawn, the subtle, the fragile, the detached"

A root is a natural connexion with the Earth. When you have one it's as though your legs assist (or at least support) gravity rather than resist it – they reach out to pull the Earth up into the belly. For this the hips need to be incredibly open and the legs need to be especially strong – a special strength very different from that acquired from running or cycling or weight-training. And a root is the first requirement for heartwork, because by achieving the Earth your belly frees your heart.
Truth is a state free of contradiction. For our purposes it is where the body and mind coincide and harmonize to such a degree that they amount to the same thing. And this is our work: to achieve truth – to expand our consciousness and awareness to such a degree that there are no contradictions – there is no falsity, either as entity or concept.
The two qualities to be nurtured in a child: inquisitiveness and listening. Respecting (one's elders) is a version of listening.


Growing up tends to be a process of losing the imaginative mind and gaining the rational one, losing the world of energy and winning a world of force. Taiji attempts to reverse this: we grow down.


Just relax and let life take a turn.

Putting the Other first doesn't mean letting them have the upper hand, it simply means letting them be the first to say something – inviting them to attack so that you have something to yield to. What makes your invitation effective is it's sincerity – your willingness to really listen to what's said. And, as we've said before, true listening is always ready to be transformed by what it hears.


Lightness is one of the prized virtues of taiji. It doesn't mean lack of weight, rather it is quickness and its associations of sensitivity and joyful (rather than neurotic) nervousness. If softness is the ability to melt, then lightness is the ability to vaporize, to both disappear and be everywhere at the same time. Pure spirit. It develops when you get serious with single-weightedness, and relax sufficient to allow yourself to be happy.
Spiritual work relieves the stress of being (something) with the delight of becoming (nothing).


Any peace, brokered or otherwise, will always be fraught with compromise – will always require the promise of something that is painfully difficult to give – an immediate future of relative hardship for the sake of a dream of a better world. Tragically in this time of instant gratification and no honour, such dreams seem no longer to be dreamt let alone nurtured.
Avoidance puts off the fateful day. I cannot avoid fate whilst embracing destiny because fate and destiny are one and the same, the only difference being me: do I turn away in fear or do I face with spirit.

Energy is what you feel when you maintain equilibrium. Emotion is what you feel when you lose equilibrium. Our attitude to emotions is ambivalent at best. In one sense they are the enemy because they threaten our peace of mind, yet without them our heart capacity – our ability to feel and embrace those feelings – will never expand. To avoid or suppress emotions would be like calling yourself a martial artist yet never having tested your prowess in a real fight. If you get into a fight you'll get hurt but it'll also have the bite of real life – of reality – that no practice can replicate. Practice is not real – can never generate the spirit of reality. It is only ever a preparation for reality.


Take a chance and say you tried.


The only person who can never experience me in all my twisted glory is me. My own idea, image, opinion of myself is very different from another's impression of me, of that I can be sure. So, one vital aspect of my otherness that I should try to familiarize myself with is the Other's feeling of me. The Other as mirror. And the Other doesn't need to be another person. It could also be a group, an animal, a situation, an event.
If yield isn't immediately followed by attack then the energy will be all wrong. This is the thing with living structures – they cannot be dissected without killing them.


My ability to tolerate, privilege, listen to and act upon the suggestion of the Other, is considered a real virtue in taiji, this miraculous method for eventually (during the event) forgetting self and becoming one, or at least familiar, with what is outside my experience, beyond my ken. This goes as well for my own being. If I am myself: my physicality, my sensuality, my imaging and imagining, then that self must become one with the Other in my being: my energy and spirit, my intuition, my wisdom, my madness and perversions, otherwise I will always feel uneasy and incomplete. Such work will, to begin with at least, stir up an unholy (or holy) war, but such is far preferable to the tense shallow peace offered by repression and avoidance.

Whenever I turn I either turn towards or away. Turning towards brings me to presence, to acknowledge and confront, and in taiji it is generally the attacking phase, the extension of my spirit into, or at least towards, the Other. When I turn away I shield my presence, my identity, my vulnerability, either out respect, bashfulness or disinterest. But by withdrawing my self as presence I privilege and involve that other aspect of my being besides presence – my energy. This, if I have the wherewithal, will extend and envelop the Other, swirling around them like a playful caress. It is my little finger and little toe awakening into the space peripheral to my vision but always fully audible, hence our preoccupation with listening. If presence is hard in its insistence then this withdrawal of presence is eminently soft, unformed, yielding, neither present nor absent, beckoning, promising, provoking, seducing, transforming. A veritable magic spell.
"Play and pure difference, those are the secret of an imperceptible all-burning, the torrent of fire that sets itself ablaze. Letting itself get carried away, pure difference is different from itself, therefore indifferent. The pure play of difference is nothing, does not even relate to its own conflagration."

without consolidation through the self


Central Equilibrium is the law of karma localised in space and time.
When a great meditator sits, he doesn't just contemplate his navel, he supports the heavens. He does this by knowing his place: firmly wedged between Gaia and Ouranos, in Atlantean fashion. Atlantis was simply the island of Atlas – the home or origin of those with the strength to support the heavens – from a time before man became diverted and weakened by selfish trivial pursuits such as technological mastery.

Understanding is not a matter of knowing the world, as though from on high or from a remote vantage, but of knowing my place in the world – knowing my responsibilities.


A yielding mind is one always willing to find a way to say Yes.
The eyes set the scene, literally.
A natural mind is one with no thought of No.

"without losing equilibrium between the eye and the ear"


…a time organized around the promise not the present…event and advent…emerging from the abyss that lurks beneath convention…a place not of seeing but of faith…a horizon of waiting…a destiny…

A fresh start.

Traditionally in taiji we practise rooting by doing the Form slowly and sunk, and practise spirit by doing the Form quickly and sunk.

We sink and relax in taji primarily to establish and develop a root – a connexion with the Earth. It involves opening up to gravity – allowing gravity into the body – not resisting: yielding. Allowing gravity to wash the mind of its fears as it flows down. Once we have that connexion – once the dominant flow in the body is downward (replacing the previously dominant upward of ego), our tactics need to change: we need to strike a balance by working on the upward spirit. This is not achieved by straightening the legs violently and adopting a crazed demeanor as many seem to think. Technically there is no difference between sinking the energy and raising the spirit: they are both consequences of the same action. The difference is in the mind's ability to contain – hold – both yield and attack at the same time. In the same way that the parent's gentle quiet presence lends support and confidence to a timid child, enabling it to be more itself (free of fear), so the relaxed sinking of taiji creates the perfect medium for spirit to rise through. What ruins it all is end-gaining – wanting to win or succeed. Instead see it all as a slightly crazy game. The rising spirit should make you laugh as it tickles its way out.


Strange how most yoga practitioners never get beyond the body beautiful. Almost as though they're afraid to go too deep.


Start from scratch.

A good action is one that pays a karmic debt. A bad action is one that creates a karmic debt. And, in the eye of this law at least, ignorance is no excuse. We always know the difference.

hanging on by a prayer


a completely open-ended, negative, undetermined structure — the heart…
Spiritual work without spirit is a bit of a contradiction, don't you think?


Poetry is an attempt to erode the fundamental masculinity of language – its assurance and confidence in meaning and sense. Poetry is an absurd attempt to express, rather than state, truth, with, of all things, the written word. Poetry succeeds when that string of words called the poem has sufficient ambiguity to offer me the opportunity to create an event in their declamation. The event – the magical coming together of me, the poem and the moment – makes the meaning, not the words.


There is no solution; only a lull in hostilities.
"Faith is faith when it is impossible to believe."

with an open heart turned toward the event

My six year old daughter has got into the bad habit of promising "Later" whenever I ask her to do something she doesn't feel like doing. It's a procrastination that, of course, never ends because that "Later" never arrives. It's a habit we all get into, and we all indulge, often without realising: every time we turn aside from something difficult or painful or distasteful, every time we opt for the easy way out, we are effectively saying "Later" because at some point that something will have to be dealt with – it's the simple law of karma. Spiritual work, in a sense, is all about getting to Heaven – a future free of karmic debt. In other words, it's all about dealing with things now, as they crop up, and if nothing crops up then dig around until something does. Hell is simply the mire of unresolved issues we find ourselves in, a mire that will only thicken with avoidance.

How can we do anything other than pray?

Tense shoulders hide and protect a frightened heart, a heart with little faith or courage, a heart with no heart.
Yielding is a technique for softening a situation, a relationship, an object, so that it becomes susceptible to energy. This again is all heart.
The teacher wants two things: your undivided attention whilst you're with her, and a significant portion of your time spent practising when you are not with her. Without these progress will be excruciatingly slow.
Each time I practice I remember two promises that were made thirty years ago. The promise taiji made to me, through my teacher, and the promise I made to taiji. Both promises are pure heart – not of the mind at all. Taiji said: "Devote yourself to me and I'll give you something you'll get no other way." My promise was simply one word: "Yes." Hence, the practice I do, this renewal of faith, is my humble version of the Eternal Return: a return to the innocence and purity of that sacramental event – my first meeting with taiji – my first lesson.
"In solitude you felt a quiet sense of well-being without knowing why: some far-away person thought well of you, spoke well of you."