30.11.14

Watching movies, for me, is a sign that I'm getting unbearably lonely.
The subtlety of spirit.
We practise not simply to become better at what we do, but to encourage the Other to reveal itself. The other side of the story. And there is always another side. The story is never complete.

28.11.14

Spiritual work is all about breaking the spell of ego, of selfishness, of the cozy world. This always requires the falling under a different spell – that of a teacher and a teaching – for however long it takes. Eventually however that spell must also be broken so that you can enter the world as it is: a ground – a battle ground – of spirit.
The past decade, for me, has been informed, if not governed, by three quotes:

1. Every entity has feelings, including electrons (AN Whitehead)
2. In my past life I was a cloud, and I was very happy being a cloud (Thich Nhat Hanh)
3. I fell in love with Taiji (John Kells).

The first two stress my continuity with the rest of creation, in particular with a non-organic life independent of awareness and consciousness, and the third expresses just how all-consuming my passion and devotion to Taiji must become.
A root isn't simply a connexion to the Earth, it is a becoming Earth: a becoming silent mind, a becoming physical body, and, eventually, a becoming free spirit. We also call this becoming natural.
The first stage of Taiji is the development of a root. This is a protracted process of switching allegiance from unreliable modes of support such as family, State, culture, identity, ego, to the eminently reliable physical support of the Earth – the ground beneath one's feet and the all-embracing field of gravity. This work (and it is work – hard work) must become central to one's life otherwise it just won't happen. Without a daily practice regime that steadily becomes the focus and core of not only the day but a life, there may still be hope (attending weekly classes) but no progress beyond the superficial adoption of a Taiji veneer.

27.11.14

The true artist doesn't make things, he makes life, a life.

25.11.14

The external is known – captured – by naming. Giving and calling a name doesn't simply attach a label, though, it bestows an essence and permanence that then resists the energy from which the named emerge and immerge. Reality, or at least the world, the mind, is then a space littered with names, and, it would seem, by its very nature, language provides such spaces and little else. Our struggle is to clear the space of names and naming so that it can fill with flux and becoming. Poetry has always been a means of using language differently, stretching and twisting it, to transform the mind and evoke energy and spirit. When the poem is over the world is momentarily freed of my hardness, my discourse, and starts to hum. Taiji, of course, is also poetry, created from a language of movement and posture.
The heart contains and the mind flows.

20.11.14

Ward-off is not a barrier to hide behind but a container to burst out from.
Reality is modelled on the heart, rather than vice versa.
Sink & relax to rise & shine.

18.11.14

Beware the Taiji slump. It is only the lower dantien that connects and roots into the Earth so that the upper dantien can reach for the Heavens, leaving the middle dantien (heart) free to interact with whomever I'm facing. This means that I need to get used to splitting my mind three-ways so that I can work all three connexions at the same time all the time.

17.11.14


My engagement with Taiji should be such that the principles reach out, migrate and colonize every aspect of life and being. Not so much tools to tinker with but viruses that infect and transform.

16.11.14

Unlike mind based spiritual work such as meditation, Taiji has no deep interest or attachment to the concepts of awareness or consciousness. We work for softness – nonresistance – because then the body, or rather the energy, listens and becomes what it hears through a subtle tuning/turning.
Try to remember the feeling of a heart rent by grief or rejection – lost love. The unbearable openness, the known world crumbling. The good student feels this as truth, and that gives her the courage to not only bear it but, through decades of practice, to eventually transform it to bliss. The poor student feels simply pain which they endeavor to avoid at all costs. The mediocre student also feels it as pain, a pain they pull away from only to realise that it was simply the pain of being intensely alive. They must then not only live with regret but also with the knowledge that, in all likelihood, they will always lack the courage.
The biggest mistake of the mediocre student is to convince themselves that they are more advanced than they really are.

15.11.14


...one of the constant features of all petit-bourgeois mythology is this impotence to imagine the Other. Otherness is the concept most antipathetic to "common sense"...

14.11.14

Taiji is a conveyer belt from which drops Form after Form, each one complete, unique and perfect in its own way. My only concern is to keep the belt rolling – sustain production. Everything else – quality, expression, meaning, progress – will work itself out.
If therapy aims to heal the wounds, or at least plaster them over, then spiritual work opens them up and encourages them to bleed. Wounds, traumas, are not negatives to be vanquished for the sake of an integrated ego – conformity, but gateways to the soul of creativity. Ask any artist worth their salt.
For God's sake hold your tongue and let me love. This line of John Donne's, still breathtakingly radical in its anti-Platonic implications (God is not the law, but passion), should be our mantra. For God's sake leave the head and get back to the body.
"dissent is what makes society liveable"

13.11.14

Artists take risks to discover new feelings; feelings that may or may not develop into emotions or coalesce into thoughts.
Do not become enamoured of power.

When the heart drops the belly rises, and when the belly sinks the heart lifts. This is the nature of relationship in Taiji – never locked, always equilibrating – elastic. A locked relationship is one ruled by anxiety. Equilibrium, founded on trust and relaxation, is always breathing, expanding and contracting, letting go only to return, differently.
Yielding is a technique for transforming the trivial into the significant and vice versa.
The first stage of yielding is a willingness to engage amicably and equally with all and sundry.
Spirit: always ready for a fight, especially one you may lose.
Yielding works by injecting a little lightness (light) into an otherwise heavy (dark) system.
Let it roll.
Yielding is a joyful (affirmative) technique for transforming force into energy. It does this by playing with the equilibrium between active and reactive forces such that turning moments are introduced into the system. The play is creative – spontaneous and unconsidered – and is an attempt to restore equilibrium by creating new configurations. Ask any master of yielding what they do in the heat of the moment and the reply will always be: I have no idea.

12.11.14

Practice through repetition can take two forms: the repetitions generate gradual improvement – the case of learning a skill, or the repetitions create a series of events – this would be more like repeating a performance (or repeating a well-known Form) where success is measured not by accuracy but by the life and spirit invested in or generated by the performance. For example Miles Davis performed If I Were A Bell thousands of times in the 50's and 60's, yet each recorded instance, of which there are numerous, is a singularly beautiful event: each comes alive on its own terms.
Personal talent should not be used as protection or legitimation, but rather as a means of leaping, raw and naked, more thoroughly, wholeheartedly, into the void. This is difficult, and requires a willingness to live a life accompanied by a special form of intensity we call pain.
We tackle the ego by concerning ourselves with what we are rather than what we have.
intensive relations of resonance
Whenever a significant spiritual breakthrough is made, something in life will always test it. The severity of the test – the drama – is, as much as anything, a measure of that significance. And it is precisely the breakthrough that enables not only survival but progress.

10.11.14

Dedicated longtime students must, at some point (hopefully before it's too late), ask themselves if their devotion and loyalty is serving them or is it just a sign of dependence and fear of breaking a long corrupted relationship. It is really the teacher's responsibility to attend to such situations but they generally don't: a case of mistaking weakness for hope.
Taiji is for those who, through a quirk of fate, suspect that there is far more to reality than the ego (and all its social and cultural extensions) lets on.

9.11.14

I suspect the reason children generally possess such a light carefree physicality is that their heads haven't yet learnt to lock onto their environment in order to force it to conform to their expectations of it. They are largely free of ideas and ideals, but with wonderful imaginations. They live in a world of make-believe, which, in a sense, is the best form of faith.
It is the bass frequencies of diaphragm and fascia that need to be filled out – relaxed into – to give my music depth and substance. And when they are relaxed there is always that feeling that they are tuning to a pulse outside of self. The erect supple spine gently swaying in a cosmic breeze.
The problem with the creative mind is that it is eminently capable of thinking planes of existence that the body and spirit would need decades of dedicated thankless work to even contemplate navigating. This is what in Taiji we call the curse of talent.
In order to house the crazy multiplicity of becomings and contradictions that is reality in all its glory, without losing one's mind (without actually becoming schizophrenic), requires a life devoted not to thought or creativity or expression, but to the opposite of these: no-mind. Only once one has achieved a level of control over the ego can the heart-mind, empty then of self, fill with the cosmos.

"Cease activity and return to stillness
And that stillness will be ever more active."

8.11.14


A good teacher is someone who shows you where you are failing. They are, and will always be, the least popular people on the planet. There is a Taiji adage: the best teachers have the fewest students. If a good teacher wants to earn a respectable living by teaching then he has to learn to constantly bite his tongue.
...the Subject never occupies a central position; it is merely a form in which many events converge...

7.11.14

When walking allow the movements to help clear the mind, and enjoy the time rather than hurrying to get where you're going. Walking the neighbour's dog taught me this. Nothing, for me, is quite so pleasurable as accompanying the unbridled joy of a dog doing what dogs are meant to do.
The mind is under alien (ego) occupation, and our task is, through disciplined guerilla (energetic) activity (Taiji), to eventually liberate and win it back. Only then can life return to its source.
The combination of relaxed movement and a quiet mind allows active affects to emerge from the energy, the unconscious, the depths. These feelings become pointers, embryo thoughts, inklings, that affect, correct, my life. It then truly becomes my life. And this is the responsibility, the destiny, of all of us – to use life to investigate life so that life can draw us to live a better life – one less conditioned and less conditional – one that realises a humanity and then rejects it as yet another snare, another distraction.
...repetition that disappears in appearing...

6.11.14


…over time, the exercise of will tends to negate or contradict itself…
The Other is the moment that brings about a rupture in time.
Meditation teachers are very fond of imagery. One popular image used to promote the notion of stillness is that of cloudy water being allowed to settle so that it becomes clear and transparent – see-through (like most images, it privileges the sense of seeing over the other senses). If we take the image further we can see that the settled sediment becomes a thick sticky mud and there is always the possibility that our refined stillness will cause us to become entrapped in that sludge – stuck in the mud. Taiji turning stirs up the sediment, causing it to rise and swirl around us. As the turning becomes more vigorous turbulence sets in and the swirling (energy) takes on a life of its own. Now the image illustrates that creativity requires a shift from the passive extensive realm with its neurotic concern with what's out there, to an active intensive realm where visibility is reduced to zero but life springs spontaneously and unpredictably forth from our own power.
Turning, perhaps the most important principle in Taiji, is not just a technique but a philosophy and a way of life. Greeting the becoming present, fresh and open, without the advantage of an extrapolated past. Turning my back on the past, the has been, which doesn't mean ignoring it but storing that energy in the back and developing hindsight. Returning with the light expectation, the hope, of change.

5.11.14

A crystalline quiet; or at least an inorganic one.
"A path is formed through constant treading; a thing exists through constant naming."
a mind untrammeled by convention

4.11.14

Taiji is a Taoist art and as such its fundamental principle is that of balance. In particular the balance or equilibrium of yin and yang. Neither choosing one over the other nor allowing them to fuse into a deathly stillness but keeping them always distinct (clearly distinguish full and empty) and always moving (suddenly appear, suddenly disappear). The mind eventually becomes mature and understanding enough to hold both together, and then one's whole being resonates with the hum of their oscillation.
a time without tutelary present
The sinking associated with relaxation isn't just a release to gravity, it is also a sinking into time – back into time. A revitalisation of one's energetic past – a pure past that was never quite present – aswim with all that was and all that could have been – a tense language fails. Such a time is total – nonlinear, non-sequential – containing future(s) as well as past(s); an energetic continuum where life and death have neither relevance nor dominion.

3.11.14

Building a new discipline is the problem of our times.
Whenever the teacher says something that the student finds threatening, either to their ego or their world order, the first response is always fear, we can't help it. This fear expresses itself in incredulity and protest – this is natural. It's what happens next that is all important. The good student will go home, clear their mind, relax and dwell on what has been said until they at least feel, if not totally understand, the truth behind it. They then act upon it. The mediocre student will almost immediately appeal to rational argument in their defence – they will build a case for their own position and create all sorts of rational but incorrect reasons for the teacher having uttered what they did. They resist. The poor student resorts to ridicule, mockery and laughter – they are so terrified that they cannot countenance any part of what was said – they basically have no idea.
It is spirit that keeps our equilibrium dynamic, and prevents it from doing what it always threatens to do: congeal or set. This is the teacher's job: to periodically inject you with spirit, shake up your being and allow a new becoming.  Progress.
…awakening does not initiate the awakened into 'reality' as we live it, but into the Tao, which is hidden from us by our 'reality'…

2.11.14

The thing that no philosopher has fully appreciated, not since the Greeks, is that to think the unthinkable – namely difference – requires an athlete's body and a warrior's spirit. Something has to hold you together and stop you from being destroyed by the tornado unleashed by true freedom. So, instead of the physical world offering a multitude of possibilities and the calculating mind anxiously making choices, the quiet mind creates a virtual ground which the body navigates, without thinking, with the aid of spirit.
The mistake made by philosophers is that they endeavour to think difference rather than live it. If you live difference, which paradoxically requires a very tight, restricted, impeccable, disciplined life, then you won't be able to keep spirit out.
Existing not as a subject but as a work of art...
A good person listens and gives accordingly. A not so good person sees and takes advantage. Spiritual work hinges on the conviction that beneath all the accumulated shit we are fundamentally good people, and that life takes on more meaning when we have the means to become better.
It doesn't matter how advanced I think I am, how much work I think I've done, if I can't listen and take correction whenever it's offered (which is all the time — every second) then I'm useless. Remember, the work reduces us to the obedience of God, or Spirit, or Whatever; it doesn't, or shouldn't, puff us up.

1.11.14

"Meditation is not a withdrawal from 'reality' but a confrontation with the latter as it is incarnated in our selves and as it forms the background to our selves."
Meditation and fighting represent two temporal extremes. Meditation slow and passive, the gap between stimulus and response so stretched that effectively there is no response – only quiet acceptance or disinterest. Fighting struggles for a sensitivity that is so quick and immediate that effectively there is no gap between stimulus and response. Two extreme solutions to the problem of clearing the mind sufficient for spirit to manifest.
"Art has this strange prophetic function: it is made in the present, from the materials at hand, but calls out to something else. This is its future orientation."   And this is the nature of progress: never a linear trudge from past to future through a passing present, but a call from/to a possible future (the lyrical dream), which, when heeded, vitalizes the present and brings new meaning to the past.
Welcome change.
The work must be light – full of joy. This is most important. Playful.
I cannot fight ego because 'I' is ego. The only things I can usefully fight are those parts of me that the ego has installed as impediments to spirit, namely fear and laziness. When spirit is strong and pure (detached from subjectivity) it will eventually subdue the ego until it is little more than an embarrassment. Fighting fear and laziness is a lifelong campaign. And remember: the worst form of laziness is working hard at the wrong thing: working in the service of ego.
There is always something rather pathetic and inconsequential about domesticated animals. We naturally sense that by robbing them of their wildness and spirit, and making them dependent upon us, they have been reduced to mere shadows of what they would be in the wild – in their natural state and habitat. This must be how the powers that be, all the more insidious and dangerous for being largely invisible, feel when they look at us.
When spirit is up, roused, when danger is in the air, everything changes, or, rather, everything becomes different, different from what it was, different from itself. Spirit changes the very nature and structure of consciousness.