Smile into the sacrum. If the work doesn't improve your humour then you're doing it wrong. Key here are the knees. When the hips and sacroiliacs release and allow the pelvis to float then the knees take on a life of their own. This is why, in seated meditation, the knees are so prominent, and why, in Taiji, we lead with the knees. The knees of the heart. It all hinges on how I use the ground: is it merely a solid base from which to project myself up and out, or is it something I have a developing, sensitive, delicate, and above all loving, relationship with?


If you have stomach and heart for the work – if you have it in you to be a good student – then, for me, the greatest tragedy is to succumb instead to being a good citizen or good parent or good teacher, because whatever you do you're going to do well. Why not be all? I hear you ask. Because, believe me, a single life contains neither the time nor the energy.
Don't you find the whole notion of enlightenment terribly masculine? In fact, are not all ideas, concepts, notions terribly masculine?

“Stand on the edge of the abyss of despair and when you feel that it is beyond your strength, break off and have a cup of tea.”

Father Sophrony of Essex
The only mistake in Taiji is to use force, either to make something happen or, more usually, to prevent something happening.
The mediocre student is plagued by forgetfulness: they need constant reminding. The good student is simply a mediocre student who has learnt to heed the light of grace, who has learnt the value and power of respect. In this sense goodness stems from heartfelt gratitude.


"Content and expression are woven together, mutually implicated in one another."
If I told you a tragic story of how gullible innocence was ruthlessly robbed of its most precious resource and given worthless trinkets and baubles in return then you would think I was talking about primitive natives encountering the white man in the nineteenth century. But, in actual fact, I'm talking about my students who are consistently conned into giving up their time and vitality for the sake of gadgets, comforts and a pathetic feeling of self-worth based on nothing deeper than spending-power.


"a world that has lost the conventions of its Euclidean skin"


Discipline & Sacrifice: the cornerstones of the work, without which nothing of lasting value is achieved.
In time, with meditation, heart swallows head, relaxation neutralizes anxiety, compassion eradicates suffering.


"as imperious as the need to wake up, to touch, to eat, to kiss, to progress"


Univocity: listen for the voice behind all others. Vocem unam ex uno corde. The omnipotence (imperceptibility) of God.


Reality is not independent of me but is rather that intense interface between me and the other. And here intensity has nothing to do with energy or even spirit, but proximity: just how close can I let the world get, how raw dare I become?
Meditation is a time for turning aside from worries, and practising a happy heart. A Stoic practice: it operates from the basic assumption that the world, as it appears to me, is largely a reflection of my own heart and mind. It is my making and my responsibility.
Everything has a heart: a desire for connexion, a capacity for compassion.
Peace of mind is natural when the heart is happy.


Go with the gut. Head and heart are unreliable if they exceed their authority. Head should simply receive information, and the heart embraces the work space, blesses the workplace. The gut digests, processes and acts.
not either, but both
jeopardy and curiosity
into pitfall, out of playground
Allow time to express itself through you. This is what we mean by expression. It has little to do with letting out your energy: with telling the world who you are or what you think; nothing to do with you, as such. Instead become a channeller and purveyor of secrets. A purely creative, and therefore natural, process.


"Not knowing is the most intimate thing."


Get your shit sorted.
The big breakthrough for the Taiji student is learning how to connect to, or turn on, energy. Most of us experience energy occasionally: when elated, grief-stricken, exhausted or terrified, but those experiences are usually so intense with emotion that the energy is overshadowed or disregarded. Energy, in this context, is not the stuff of work or movement or power, it is a quite separate though adjacent world of pure filigree refinement and delight, a world that, for me, is best described by the famous phrase: The Unbearable Lightness of Being. And it is unbearable – too intense, too alive – yet it must be borne, or entered into, regularly, though sparingly, and then, in time, the student gradually becomes bored with the mundane, becomes more and more reclusive, more self-sufficient, more enamored of solitude, as they slowly fall into that beloved lake, to eventually become immersed, then submerged, then drowned in energy. And it will be the death of you, if you are destined to be chosen by energy. But a sweet death. A homecoming.


The idea of a Taiji class (a group of people gathered together to learn the same thing) is that each student is present not only for himself, but for all his classmates too. Then the class develops an energy of its own, and takes each participant beyond their wildest dreams.

Free to lend a hand.


Spiritual work starts when the mind stops. The mind will only stop of its own when it has found its true centre. What keeps it from the centre are bad habits, lack of energy and lack of imagination. These limitations are therefore our prime concern. So we need a practice that breaks habits, increases energy (not so much in quantity as quality) and frees the spirit to search out possibilities beyond present circumstances.


The lower body relaxes down by releasing the hips, an action that also releases the heart out into the space before it. In that moment it becomes clear that the function of the body is to carry around an open heart.


When I relax, during Taiji or meditation, the body returns to Earth and the spirit returns to God. The heart-mind simply hovers at the centre of equilibrium.
The true man of God doesn't pray to have his suffering alleviated – that would be weak and selfish. He prays for the strength to bear his suffering. And the strength comes because the act of prayer has changed the nature of his relationship with the world.


The work – the task at hand – is akin to building the pyramids: monumentally huge, and so excruciatingly slow that, on the day to day, there is no progress. Or maybe it's more like dismantling the pyramids, block by block? What sustains the work – keeps it going in the face of the enormous odds stacked against it ever being completed with any degree of success – is the nagging suspicion that I don't really have a choice. And it does get easier as you get older: as your energy naturally quietens, mellows, wanes: as the devil inside – the resistance – stops being taken seriously.
Taji hinges, literally, on the hips. Without relaxed and open hips the legs will tend to push the sacrum out of alignment, and energy will not rise up the spine. Releasing the hips has a lot to do with desensitizing and desexualizing the groin.


Devote time to the base of the iceberg.

"I am a representational painter, but not a painter of appearances. I paint representational pictures of emotional situations."
Taiji is the art of marking time. Marking as opposed to making. At our worst we invariably hover outside the flow of time by indulging thoughts and feelings: circulating within heart and head. In Taiji we endeavor to create an unbroken flow or surge of energy from the ground, up the body and out of the heart. We become an expressive machine, expressing and reveling in the pure flow of energy, the pure passage of time. As soon as we attempt to lay claim to what passes through us we break that vital connexion to life, and spirit dribbles away.


Mellow out. Learn to be soft with yourself.
"All things counter, original, spare, strange."


Taijiquan, we propose, is not just a martial art or a moving meditation or a callisthenics, it is a way of life. It offers a simple principle that always works, both as a means of solving problems, and as a way of forging forward. That principle, simply stated, is: Always put spirit first.
I've always had this forward thing…
I find it hard to give up…
The sacrum is a hard nut which we endeavour to crack open with the work, if only to discover why on earth it's called the sacred bone. The weight of the upper body (gravity) drives the sacrum down into the jaws of the pelvis so that the legs – the handles of our nut-cracker – can apply a pumping pressure. The function of the mind is to remain still and open so that this precarious structure maintains its alignment, and to focus in on the job at hand – to remain mindful of what it is trying to achieve. The mind needs an image, a concept, an idea of what's happening, otherwise it becomes anxious or bored. But such images are only ever pacifiers, and we must always be ready to drop them and find new ones when they stop working.


"God is dead." If this statement has any value it is in debunking the notion of external authority. But only so that internal authority, the voice of our internal gods, our unconscious, our passion, our deep wild self, can surface, lead life, and fulfil destiny.
Ultimately all that matters is the quality of your soul.
Depression results from living a lie.


The whole idea is that something other than self dominates my being.
Tension stops things happening. Tension makes things happen. Relaxation allows happening: allows fortune to unfold.
"If I knew where I was going I wouldn't go there."
Fight fascism. Inside and out.