30.10.14

"…the ego ridicules the spirit and it should be the other way around…"
To fail in everything, and still creep forward.
One cannot think and be present at the same time. And it is our duty, as spirited martial artists, to live a life where every situation demands presence.
We no longer have any excuse, only alibis, for turning away from this responsibility.
Just imagine how much strength you'd need to wield and crack a giant whip of around 60kg. This is the strength needed to put the body to energetic use.

When the heart begins to open, and operate as it should, we realize that it is the seat not only of feeling but also of memory.
We don't realize this because we no longer remember a condition prior to it, but when the mind thinks or calculates it doubts the heart. This doubt casts a pall – a heaviness – over the heart, effectively ruling it out as a usefully functioning leader of action, requiring the mind to make decisions instead. This is disastrous because the mind, eminently capable of working things out in its own time – on its own – is hopeless at working in real time – its timing is always off because it neither listens like the heart nor transforms like the heart. The head uses time whereas the heart makes time.
Art is all about feeling rather than knowledge. In particular it is about new feelings, feelings that have never been felt before. So, what makes us martial artists is that we work with feelings rather than techniques as such.

29.10.14

"A man's true secrets are more secret to himself than they are to others."  And hence partner work.
The first time I experienced good posture – one capable of not only enduring spirit but also of generating spirit – was during, and after, heavy squats. The spine has to be strong and even otherwise it would fail.

Correct posture is a function of right attitude to what's outside yourself more than it is a matter of alignment. A function of your ability to simply be joyfully present for the Other. Correct posture is an ethical statement.
The mind is naturally lazy and resents both the body and physical work. So, the first stage of taiji: relaxation, pacification, passivization, should be appreciated for what it is: only the first stage. The second stage is very much the opposite: getting into movement and intensity – tension, but a passing tension: energy. For this the work rate needs to be upped, not necessarily the hours but certainly the intensity, the passion, the speed. The Form is no longer a slow, flat, drift through space and time, but a breathing, heaving body, working faster (or slower) than the mind can manage (control). Movement for its own sake – energetic and energized. This is the martial aspect of taiji – fighting the enemy – your own mind; a fight from which spirit naturally rises. The sheer joy of physical work.
To live otherwise, and better. No, not better, but more justly…
Good teaching brings about transformation, in both the student and the teacher. Such is only possible by example; words will not suffice.
I have my work cut out…
"All I know is that my best work has come out of being committed and happy."

28.10.14

…the organism's attention to self-maintenance ultimately leads to a form of rigid and life-denying self-enclosure…

"By Spirit I mean a certain power of transformation…"

27.10.14

The natural condition of the heart is light, open and joyful, with a generous receptivity (a natural and effortless yielding). The Other – otherness – is natural (and necessary) stimulation to a healthy heart. The head, on the other hand, is always perplexed by otherness because, by definition, it cannot know it. Approaching otherness (anything real) with the head (mind) will inevitably crush the heart and rob it of its natural condition. This is the fundamental problem for all of us, the solution of which can only ever be the command decision to switch from head to heart.
Let the feet take over from the eyes as your major source of security.
When a root has been established the Earth becomes a source of energy that thrusts up through the body, battling the thinking mind's attempts to control from on high by depressing both the posture and the heart. In time, this fountain of energy from the root washes the spine, eradicating the ego-mind's physical foundation – a point on the spine opposite the solar plexus – and forcing the spine to effectively lengthen to include the lumbar region – a source of deep silent confidence. So, the individual has a choice: either worry from the solar plexus and develop a blocked hardened (and therefore safe) heart, or relax from the sacrum with an open (and therefore often unbearably vulnerable) heart.

25.10.14

irreversible & asymmetrical
Vitality resists the fall into inertia; and taiji endeavors, by eradicating agitation and anxiety, to find and honor the source of vitality.
impossible & necessary
…a context, always, remains open, thus fallible and insufficient…

24.10.14

The formulaic is the fall of spirit.
Pathways, especially those of indefinite reach, draw the heart, if you let them; a sense of heart leading, even prior to embarkation.
Exceed expectations

23.10.14

The first stage of taiji is the fall of tension – sink and relax. The second is the instigation of turning and the separation of full and empty. The third stage is the rise of spirit.
the assertion of the dynamism of spirit over the seductive inertia of matter
the duty to believe
The point is never a catch phrase or punch line, not a thought held onto or followed, but simply the projection onto the ground of the axis of revolution. Like a spinning top or gyroscope that appears to be still or traces a seemingly random, though very rich, line: the intensity of its rotation focuses, funnels, the mind to its point of contact, as mass is flung outwards.
Whatever is strong and/or established must be deconstructed. Whatever is weak must be brought up to strength, and deconstructed. Then all form is transitory – a passing through – appearing then disappearing.

21.10.14

"The center is void; all the action is on the margins."
A constant zigzagging between vulnerability and affirmation.
A productive asymmetry that functions as a permanent fissure – the possibility of expression.

20.10.14


The majority oppresses with force (force is oppression), with mass, advantage in numbers. The minority then has no recourse other than to yield – to slip between the planes of oppression and somehow turn the weight of the majority against itself. This is a natural state of affairs, and is why force favors the strong and spirit favors the weak. So, if you are interested in spirit better become weak, not in your self, but comparatively.
The Other is vital not as something to empathize with or show compassion towards – nothing so sentimental and weak. The Other, if I let it, always brings me to my own nakedness, my own weakness, and therefore to a source of pure unadulterated strength, the source of spirit.
Eradicate the dead heart of the system.
Nothing empowers like a worthy opponent. I learnt this from my teacher. Although it's only possible to learn something you already know.
A great artist doesn't create beautiful surfaces, she creates weapons that can be used to rupture surfaces and dive to unfathomed depths. She does this by living an impeccable life devoted to expression.
If a music/poetry/philosophy doesn't demand that I live a life other than the one on offer, then why bother with it?

It is not, and has never been, a matter of knowing, or of awareness, or even of consciousness. The internal things we work with cannot be known, and the more we try to know them, which means set them within external frameworks of reference and representation, the more we ruin them. This is why, it is, and has always been, a matter of faith.
The student of the Internal must learn to live and love a life that welcomes any threat to its being.
Only through an encounter with the Other, with otherness, with pure externality, can the Internal open up and be perceived. This is because my being is necessarily external – hard, enduring, structured – and, for the internal element it contains, and which contains it, to be released, this being, and the structures it is composed of, compose it, must be disturbed if not ruptured, temporarily, or not.
A master, through acquired knowledge/experience and a revealed/revealing humility, is someone capable of self-correction.
...vague impressions of brevity between the two and hence no more reckoning save possibly algebraical...

19.10.14

Like a ball bouncing from foot to foot.
When still always be primed to leap into action, and when moving always be ready to perch – poised and balanced – on one leg.

18.10.14

"For me, it's not about relaxing. It can get music flowing in a way that's really uninhibited, and I want to spend as much time in that place as possible."
Trouble with words: they're so damn lazy.

Burning desire requires work movement.

17.10.14

"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."
A single-weighted stance is clean, quick and marginal, whereas a double-weighted one, by clinging to a centre of stability, is corrupt and constipated.
Process privileges change and motion over stability.
Learning something new, especially something as strange as taijiquan, obviously requires an external reference or standard: the teacher's taiji and the teacher's spirit. Once the learning is complete though, the real work, that of erasing external referents, internalizing the taiji, and coming to your own energy and power – spirit – becomes imperative.
…the ethical imperative to engage with the present and be worthy of it…
Rational thought, being necessarily linear and objective, cannot come to grips with process, with the in-between of things, because process is wonderfully ungraspable. Try and you'll ruin it. Process can either be stood separate from and observed, in which case I'll be left behind pretty quickly, or joined and enjoyed, in which case all objectivity and linearity need to be abandoned. What takes their place though, viz spirit, is well worth it.
The future unfolds, not through the choices I make, but because of my listening and my yielding.
The reason we fill our minds with ceaseless chatter and our lives with endless activity is because the void is terrifying and must, we believe, be filled at all costs. Taiji, being a moving meditation, suggests that instead we move mindfully from one leg to the other, from one single-weighted stance to another, always passing through double-weightedness, never settling into it, and simply be comforted and quietened by the movement, like a baby being rocked to sleep. When the body moves correctly – single-weightedly, that is: energetically – the mind cannot think about other things because it is fully involved and committed to the movement. Then the energy cleans and conditions my being, preparing it for the beckoning unknown – the days' encounters.
Grasp the concept spirit yet.
embodied & embedded

16.10.14

Salvation, ultimately, lies neither in knowledge nor understanding, but in abandoning these and the security they offer. Salvation lies in the Other: in taking a risk and leaping into the unknown that they present.

15.10.14

"I am rooted, but I flow."

Tension in the hips, shoulders and jaw blocks internal movement, allowing us to privilege the external. This is effectively enslaving ourselves to a world we can only realise through the senses - the world science concerns itself with. The world of feeling, on the other hand, the world of the artist, requires the internal to be mobile and motile, always ready to move and be moved, not so that I can wallow in sentiment, but so that I am motivated to act prior to thought without being careless. This is heart.
…emphasise the machinic yet vibrant quality of the lived body…

14.10.14

It is not possible to think anything real. Thinking necessarily deals with images – representations – and in order to function at all it assumes a whole system of axioms and values, so much so that thought generally says far more about that system than it does the object of thought.
Sink and relax is a simple admonition to let gravity in, to feel its constant infolding, its endless operation, its process. The effect of this, as well as a deep strength that builds from the ground up, is a complete disaffection with fantasy. Fantasy is an indulgence that creates reality without the need for connexion, without the need for heart, and the major breakthrough for the student of spirit is the understanding, which must come from their own work, that everything perceived or thought is fantasy, and that the real resides in the heart. This breakthrough marks the opening of the heart, an initiation into a world of feeling, which requires years of preparation, detaching from the illusion of sensation and the selfishness of sensitivity, which most of us take for feeling. It is a breakthrough that many spiritual seekers neglect and miss in their greedy search for full consciousness. The upper dantien, the one in the head, cannot open without the heart. It's higher light is meaningless without the deep dark stirrings of heart and the rooted practicality of belly.
Where in life we do everything we can to avoid anxiety, in art we must pursue it. This is difficult.

13.10.14

المثل وشظايا الزجاج هش
for a work of art to succeed its creator must fail

…dedicated to the surprise of the event…
And why do we work with containers and containment? To acquire the discipline and power to confront the uncontainable.
The question to ask ourselves is this: If there was absolutely nothing to worry about, would I still worry? Then where does that worry come from? After much soul-searching it will become clear that it comes from being conflicted by choice.
Practice is time well spent.
Roundness is containment, and in taiji everything is contained and everything is container: body, mind, form, practice (time). Containment is neutralization, and hence yielding. So, practice contains and neutralizes laziness in a way that laziness cannot contain practice. By containing activity, spirit is reabsorbed into the core. This is discipline, which becomes power, without which there is no progress.

11.10.14

In spiritual training breakthrough is often marked by illness (injury) - a washout of strength, making it impossible for you to resist the impending changes.
The freedom we desire, more than anything, is freedom from anxiety. This is true for every human being. Most of us go about achieving such freedom by designing a life for ourselves that is relatively stress free, that is, we endeavor to avoid anxiety and it's occasion. This could be called the material approach to the problem of suffering. The spiritual approach, on the other hand, realizes that avoidance is inherently wrong: anything avoided now will catch up with me later, at a time when my mind and energy are less able to cope with it. But equally wrong is a passive attitude to anxiety: dealing with anxiety by not caring less, by detaching from occasion. Instead we need a transformative attitude: one which engages heartfully with the occasion, and believes, wholeheartedly, in the power of heart to melt through constrictions and disconnexions. This is supremely active – always forwards – and also extremely difficult to sustain. But, alas, this is the work, ever and forever at hand.

10.10.14

faith is a proclamation that enacts life

…scraps of an ancient voice in me not mine…
To repeat is to repeat not what you did, but what you failed to do – the missed opportunities.
Don't affect lightness by withholding the body, and don't feign heaviness by deadening the mind.
The arms are loose ropes, hanging from sunk shoulders, thrown up and out by vigorous turning, a turning that gathers power into the root so that the empty leg can extend, reaching out for new territory, which is immediately and voraciously claimed. This is how we move through life: borrowing footholds and gathering power.

9.10.14

a freedom that does not evade responsibility but which constitutes it

"The possible pales to lucidity next to the felt turbulence of the critical."
Learning taiji is like building a house: painstaking and laborious. There comes a point though when that house is ready to be lived in, an activity completely different from the building.
"We are a we. But not because we keep company. But because our boundaries flow in and through one another."
If I'm not prepared to learn, particularly from my own mistakes, then there is no hope.
Stop worrying and start to live.

…love is understood as that act of spiritual daring that attempts to eviscerate the old self in order that something new might come into being…
We are two abysses – a well staring at the sky.
An infolding of gravity.
We don't realize it but most of our energy is spent preventing the future from unfolding the way it should – resisting our destiny – hiding from what we are.

8.10.14

Let taiji do the breathing for you.
…faith…is an openness to love, love as giving what one does not have and receiving that over which one has no power…
"He is just like a work of art. He does not really teach one anything, but by being brought into his presence one becomes something."
Neither resist (go against) nor assist (go for), but turn. This is yielding. The turning creates a vortex which draws the world's energy in (centripetal) as it throws my energy out (centrifugal). This exchange – this turn – means that both parties are transformed, and that a relationship has been created, established, deepened, without which it cannot be called yielding.

6.10.14

The most important concept in taiji, the one without which it cannot possibly be called taiji, is yielding: turning the world to one's advantage without in any way resisting or going against it.

5.10.14

The Internal is that which cannot be externalized, explicated, explained, isolated, represented... It accompanies everything: a whisper, a trace, a touch (of humour), and is intensely alive, quickly retreating into the shadows when approached coarsely, yet venturing out with a delightful grace when it has the space and inclination. We value softness and lightness, and do all in our power to develop them, because they encourage the Internal. It doesn't matter what you practise: taiji, yoga, meditation, painting, healing, unless the practice is inspired and enlivened by the Internal it doesn't amount to much.

4.10.14

The more still and disciplined my dantien, the more my heart is free to move.
…we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates…
A made up mind cannot listen, so the first stage to listening is unmaking the mind.
Meditation is a natural process of sitting and waiting, patiently, for the knot to unravel.
Ideally, Platonically, perfectly, I am all heart, a fount of loving energy, endlessly transforming the world around me. A sacred heart. Sin is any act that takes me away from this, any thought even. In fact thinking, especially reflective thought, is itself a sin because it diverts and contorts heart energy for its own selfish ends, it cannot help but, that's what thinking is – self-serving, a survival mechanism. So when I think, when I shift from heart to head, that beautiful heart energy that should be radiating out, instead twists and wraps around myself, drawing in to the head where it feeds the mind. We all break out of this pathological loop regularly, daily, whenever experience forces us to forget our own self-interest for a moment. But we then slip back into the mind, forget our heart's involvement, and mentally process the experience: organize it into a form that can be stored and profited from. We do this – compound our sin, make it respectable, admirable even – largely because we believe there is no choice, or because the alternative – remaining in and with the heart – is deemed impossible. Spiritual work is any practice that endeavors to get back to heart where we belong – a journey home for the proverbial prodigal son.
Is all the teacher asks is that each day you spend a little time alone, put aside your fears and problems, and remember your true loving nature. Is this too much to ask?
Yielding enables me to survive the onslaught that unjudgemental listening opens up. It enables me to face reality and be truly myself – all heart.

3.10.14

"There's still a sense that you need to keep some of the unknown because that's where the soul resides, or something."
an affirmation that interrupts time
breach the horizon of expectation
…not knowing is the ultimate resistance the event can put up against the economic accounting of time…
My teacher was always adamant that practice is not primarily the place for working out technical problems, but simply an arena of and for work – the passing of time doing taiji. So my struggle is always to not evaluate in the process of working, otherwise I am never in the process but outside it, judging. The practice of taiji is an exercise in justice without judgment – in doing what needs to be done without having decided or known what needs to be done. Again, this paradox arises from judgment requiring the imperiousness of stillness and justice being a refusal to refuse flux and change.
When I stand still, the most stable stance – the one that best supports and maintains that stillness – is a double-weighted one. But when I move: walk, run, dance, etc. it is those instants of single-weightedness that generate and renew the movement. Always in motion, search out tension – the need to freeze in order to observe, use and profit by the world. The clash between you and world, between inside and outside, is not primarily perceptive or sensory but motile: the world moves you, and you move the world.


Interesting that, according to my dictionary, which admittedly isn't the best, the first recorded use of the word relax to mean "become less tense" dates from 1935 – nervous tension must be a modern phenomenon. And also interesting that implicit in the word relax is the belief that the relaxed state has been experienced before – it is a state the word requests you return to.
Habit repeats the past, spirit reveals the future.
To be light I must yield to gravity.

2.10.14

The unity … of a life is the immanent unsituation of its matter, its body. In situation, by contrast, a life is incrementally pulled out of itself, into habit. It is put to work: death by attrition.
Generally we seek stability in order to push certain forces – especially gravity – into the background, so that we can indulge in excess – live a life that exceeds subsistence – the absolutely necessary – and starts to contribute to culture, if only minimally. In taji, on the other hand, we seek a special kind of stability – central equilibrium – which foregrounds gravity as cleanser and creator – an in-system event-trigger – of all we are and all we can, could and should be.
felt long before being thought out
...when our intentions are reduced to zero then, all of a sudden, we realize that the world is magical...
Sinking should undermine the self – eradicate it – and buoy the spirit.

…the artist who stakes his being is from nowhere, hath no kith…
The warrior's verity or certitude, the only thing he knows for sure, is that by embracing death, by entering the fray convinced that he is already dead, he increases his chances of both success and survival. The spirit is only truly free when it faces and embraces death. A final irony that works its way into every encounter.
As I practice taiji I endeavor to become so embroiled in its twists and turns that the Form is pushed into the background where it belongs, and spirit comes to the fore – into the fire. The temptation, of course, is to concentrate on formal and technical trivialities – the disease of the inveterately intermediate student. The function of practice is to go beyond technical problems, not to indulge them.
"…to be a well-rounded person, you have to experience good and bad, wonderful moments and pain… You need to meet people who have no exposure to kindness, who lack any opportunity and have no way out, like the homeless, the mentally ill, and you've got to learn empathy for them…"
Things have value only if they take me out of myself. This value is, of course, invested by me in my impeccable engagement with reality. An engagement that insists upon reaching beyond the mind and into heart, beyond language and into true feeling, beyond ideas and ideals and into things in and for themselves.
…the chance of an encounter with the other, the unfamiliar, the alien, the strange, that, exceeding the past and the present, comes from the future, and is not convertible into an object of value…
The secret, if there is one, is simply confidence, the confidence to act. Without this I do not live in real time – I'm always too late – and there is no feedback, neither positive nor negative, and so no guidance to my progress, no wisdom in my life. As teachers we must be so careful not to say No to our students all the time. Not to batter them with our knowledge and expertise – our ego. Instead we must be constantly (re)inventing ways to stimulate and encourage their talent and spirit so that they develop the confidence to find out for themselves, the confidence to embark upon the proverbial voyage of discovery. This is the greatest gift to bestow.

1.10.14

True events always resist evaluation.