"The air thin and pure, danger near at hand, and the spirit full of a joyful wickedness: these things go well together."


I think and I go astray.
The courage to be happy.
The heart blooms like a flower. Or it should. The spine is the stem of the flower, the legs are the roots. The head is the stigma, the neck the style, and the deep heart the ovary. When the head and heart are clear then they are naturally fed by energy from the Earth through the spine. When the head feeds on its own thoughts or the heart on its own feelings then the flower becomes top heavy and begins to droop, putting strain on the spine which in time becomes deformed. Meditation endeavours to lighten head and heart so that the spine can become more upright and thereby do what it is designed to do: channel energy from Earth to Heaven.


Between stability and instability.
Good posture uses gravity and core strength to pump energy up from the Earth and into the heart, head and beyond. Taiji is particularly difficult because it attempts to connect directly forward to the Other with the heart, at the same time that the head connects to the Heavens, up and behind. So our Taiji is a constant process of balancing the desires of Heart and Head, that is, yielding. When achieved the resultant energy is soft, delightful and quite unique.
...the obliteration of the thought of myself – that specious concept of identity...
The internal dialogue, or rather monologue, that interminably maddening stream of garbage (it would be presumptuous to call it consciousness), has been installed to protect us from the onslaught of reality: to protect our tender precious hearts from the gash and dash of sensory experience. It becomes, with age, a tough skin of opinions and habits of mind, through which real life finds it harder and harder to penetrate. Eventually the skin becomes so impermeable that the person enters a sort of limbo: not yet dead but also no longer alive. This is why the main thrust of our work is struggling to achieve some inner peace so that we can start to truly listen to something other (than self).
It takes a certain maturity to experience the texture of life as a series of simultaneous layers: to be aware that no matter the feeling or the intensity, it's just a tiny part of whatever I'm in the midst of. That's why the eyes are filled with a mixture of wonder and terror.


Heartwork. Developing a sense of humour. Making light as the first step to making fire. The heart becomes so light, in fact, that the root is necessary to stop the body lifting off the ground. It is then simply a matter of keeping the mind always with this light(ness).


Our journey, needlessly protracted though it tends to be, is simply from head to heart, from head-mind to heart-mind. The head perceives the world as a collection of objects, and of communication as a calculated exchange, whereas the heart feels the world as flows of energy, the principle flow being from itself. When the head operates at the expense of the heart we have what the Buddhists call suffering and what Nietzsche calls resentment: a state of serious disconnectedness which leaves a tragic void in one's soul that can then only be filled with an idle disconnected rant and complaint at one's overwhelming feeling of dissatisfaction and anger. To try and make sense of this rant – one's internal dialogue – is the wrong way. Instead one must find a practice to wake up the heart so that that terrible feeling of emptiness can slowly change to a burgeoning bubbling of heartfelt energy. This, via the heart, is, I believe, the only way to a healthy soul.
Tense shoulders are the consequence of the head not trusting the heart.


Marx is as relevant today as he was 100 years ago: just replace 'exploited proletariat' with 'stupid consumer.'
"The flood of precise information and brand-new amusements make people smarter and more stupid at once."

Theodore Adorno, 1944
Taiji is a natural way to bring shape and movement – understanding and refinement – to energy by activating the limbs (legs, arms, eyes) whilst meditating.
Without real care and attention the remedy so readily becomes the poison.
Anxiety is a particularly stupid form of narcissism. In a sense it stems from a struggle to define and control our world with the language we have acquired to describe it. Any language immediately privileges human agency over natural order: privileges the signifier over the signified: wallows in its own activity at the expense of the 'passive' world beyond it. This is totally narcissistic and highlights the hidden but not so subtle fact that the real subject of any act of language is not the world but he who speaks. And this is one of the principal insights of Taiji: that communication – the flow and exchange of energy – is stifled by language if only because language is too slow and coarse and clunky to do justice to the real world, which is not that of objects, or even relationships, but that of energy and spirit.


"A market that has become self-regulating but at the same time self-destroying because it transforms its environment into a desert."
The teacher's task is to guide the student to maturity: to a place where they no longer need guidance. The teacher's maturity is an ability to let go of the student in the understanding that all teaching is open to interpretation (and therefore misinterpretation). Each of us sees the work (works the work) differently, and the teacher must admit that even he cannot foresee where it will go, neither the student's and certainly not his own. There is, hopefully, always the possibility, if not the certainty, of additional, possibly superior, input at a future date, which will change everything.


Natural talent, at its deepest and most abiding level, is simply a feeling and love for truth.
we come undone in relation
Fear is a skin that does not fit. Invariably too tight, it constricts not just the breath and the heart but all movement, all energy. Then the mind, the stupidest part of us, takes this skin to be real and resists all attempts to peel it away. This is why spiritual work will often leave you feeling wretched. A mature student is one who takes such wretchedness as a positive sign.
"To learn how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralysed by hesitation."
When you acquire a pet – cat or dog for example – you begin to realise that basic human needs are not human at all, they are fundamental to all creatures. The work is not about revelling in our specialness, our speciality, but developing our commonality: becoming so basic and lowly that we connect with everything, through the Earth, atmosphere and most importantly, the heart.


A learned ignorance, a mindful unknowing... Such unknowing never lessens or reduces knowledge, but makes new knowledge possible.


The one thing that life teaches us, if we truly live, is that everything is mutable, nothing is certain, and change, radical change, is always looming. Living is then navigating our own course through this sea of uncertainty by being supremely decisive, not with an ambitious mind that plans and thinks ahead, but with a heart that can only be true. What stops the heart being true is fear of death. Every moment then presents us with a dilemma: to be true and die or to be false and survive. The human race took the wrong turn when it chose the latter.
Hardness is the grip of a fearful mind. The opposite of fear is trust: a trust from which love can spring. Such love is softness.
The ego is a house built of fear. A fear that compels me to think twice (once is bad enough) before I open up and give.


Trust connexion rather than feeling.


God is love. Not the Word (intellect), nor the Law (justice), but Love. This is, still, for me, the most significant insight ever uttered by a human being. And since the heart is the organ of love, our divine nature resides in our hearts. The body is then not simply a vehicle for carrying around the heart, but a provider of rising energy which maintains an openness and buoyancy in the region of the heart, making it conducive to filling with the energy of Love. Then the heart operates in a special dimension which is not physical or mental, but energetic, not in the sense of qi or spirit, but in the sense of love. Love is its own sense, the best sense, common sense, investing all it touches with meaning.


An overactive mind weighs down upon the heart, depressing and eventually smothering it. This is why, in Taiji, we recommend Mind In Dantien: a quietly mindful and vigilant presence in the deep belly, underpinning and buoying up the heart so that it can bloom as it is meant to. Then the dantien is like a bulb drawing nourishment from the Earth through its roots and supplying the flowering heart above it with a sure stream of support and energy. Thoughts in the head will then tend to be elevated and virtuous because they have really started in the heart and simply bubbled up to find expression.
Paradox reveals reality as, at best, disjunctive, contradictory and illogical, largely because our knowledge and understanding is always incomplete, and liable to be turned upside down by newly discovered truth statements, but also because our means of understanding and our means of expression – thought and language – cannot hope to do justice to either the truth or the world, in all their glory. God is not the Word, and any attempt to see him as such is weak wishful thinking. God is, I suspect, more a subtle connective resonance that runs through reality, that makes things real by rupturing all truth statements, that makes evental magic with its shimmer of freedom, exposing the Word, and all words, all humanism, as a dead duck. And so humility is not timid deference, but a courageous stance that refuses the comfort of a made up mind for the sake of an open heart. This is what the poets beautifully call Negative Capability: the ability to negate the thinking mind and operate instead from the wordless heart.


As my teacher was always at pains to point out, central equilibrium is not a state to be maintained, a status quo, but a process to be entered into. Taiji teaches us to quickly equilibrate so that the forces of disequilibrium can become stronger in our lives, for these are the creative forces: the ones that compel us to change.
Yield to the question, the questioning, of love.
And everybody here is a cloud
And everybody here will evaporate
Cause you came up from the ground
From a million little pieces


Shimmer with life, with difference, with relation.
Come undone.
The spiritual literature is littered with stories of the dying Abbot handing the lineage over to the lowly humble cook or gardener rather than pass it to one of the head students who have been corrupted by pride. And this is the main problem with spiritual work: in a sense it is as easy (if not easier) to use it to avoid facing one's issues than it is to use it to look into them. This is especially true of an art such as Taiji, the practice of which inevitably accrues energy and power: it is tempting to believe that that power indicates spiritual progress whereas it indicates nothing of the sort. Masters who become seduced by their own power usually end up realising their mistake when it is too late: when they have already become too entwined and engrossed in their own ego for there to be a viable way back. Spiritual work is not about acquiring powers but about baring the heart and soul (to God), that is, humbleness: flaying the self raw and naked in order to become pure enough to enter reality.
Invest in loss. This beautiful maxim doesn't mean repeatedly losing in order to eventually gain the expertise to win, as in improving one's game by playing superior opponents, but repeatedly failing to be free of the desire to succeed. Life is, or should be, a joy in itself, without nervous hankering after profit.


The work must elevate and edify the mind otherwise the body cannot sink without collapse.
It's all a simple matter of trust: the mind learning to trust the body to do the work unhindered by fear based thoughts – thoughts that inevitably and unavoidably staunch the flow of energy. When the body is free of such fear it naturally becomes energised and energetic: spirited.
When you hide your delusions come back.


The modern mind, which is basically a mind out of control, untempered by spiritual work, ends up crushing the heart with its mundanity. And then feelings are mere phantasmagoria: trivial and illusory, with no foundation in any reality worth engaging. Our work aims to liberate the heart from this crippling burden so that it can blossom, upward and outward. It requires both mind control and heart healing. Then, and only then, can I become conscious, in the sense of soulful.
The fundamental oscillation or mantra of this work: enfold, unfold. Complicate, explicate.


the sound of the soul is more important than the tongue in which it speaks
Quieten the mind, strip the ego, let unnecessary structures crumble. Originally this was done naturally, simply by breathing and moving. Then the ego – selfishness – got a grip and God was invented to act as antidote: a path to our better selves. So, traditionally, negations were performed by speaking with God, either through prayer or the chanting of mantra and sutra. All spiritual work is essentially negative in that it involves the negation, reduction, of self, in order to improve one's positive relation with God, the unknowable.
Bum In ensures a supply of good strong energy from the ground, through the legs and up the spine, ironing out, in time, kinks and scoliotic deformations, effects of bad habits of mind, lifting the heart out of self and into the world, out of the known and into the unknown.
Perform negations for the sake of positive relations.

1 Tsp chia seeds
1 tsp wheat germ
1 tsp bee pollen
1 tsp desiccated coconut
2 tsp raisins
2 tsp goji berries
2 tsp cranberries
2 tsp pumpkin seeds
1 tsp golden linseed
1 tsp hemp seeds
1 Tsp sprouted buckwheat
Enough rice or nut milk to cover

Stir all ingredients together in a bowl. Put aside whilst you practise Taiji for an hour or so. Then blend with added milk to make thick gooey liquid. Add 1 tsp brown or black tahini plus 2 or 3 strawberries. Blend some more. Pour into bowl and eat slowly. Makes one full cup.

"Do our writings and our utterances reflect or describe our world, or do they intervene in it? Do they, perhaps, help to make it?"
Only when the heart has learnt to bear, forgiven and forgiving, it's past, can it slip, unperturbed, into the true, unknowable future. Otherwise what appears to be a future is only a rehash of an unresolved past: a dog chasing it's tail.


My teacher's great insight and contribution was what he called Bum In: a development of Cheng Man-ching's upright posture, which itself was a radical departure from traditional Yang style Taijiquan. It stems from the realisation that fighting spirit is ultimately a dead-end, and that unless the heart becomes activated as an organ of compassion it's all been a waste of time. Bum In ensures that the root and sacrum are directly beneath the heart so that energy surges up from the Earth and lifts the heart, filling it with what we call Joy: the most active and affirmative of energies. Without Bum In the heart cannot fill naturally, and heartfelt impulses will appear forced and affected. But similarly, without a burgeoning joyful heart the bum will not come in naturally, and posture will seem stiff and unyielding.
The point where heart, mind and spirit coincide: this is our aim.


Posture is about alignment which is about connexion. The dantien connects to Earth and the midbrain connects to Heaven so that the heart can translate vertical to horizontal and vice versa. But also aligning in time: connecting back through tradition and ancestry, and forward, ever forward, into destiny.


The lungs are the parents of the heart. Each lends support: flanking and caressing as well as nourishing and nurturing. The left lung is the mother and the right the father. And this is the way into one's own heart: through the breath and absolutely not through thinking. We breathe long and strong, filling the lungs with a breath firmly anchored on the hard stable stone of the dantien. Exercise the breath. Despite what anyone tells you it won't attend to itself. It is fundamental, and in all spiritual disciplines it is the traditional antidote to the calculating mind.