29.2.16

God guard me from the thoughts men think
In the mind alone.
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow bone.

28.2.16

As well as the legs extending me up from the ground they should also hug the ground and bring me constantly down to Earth. This is largely what makes Taiji so difficult from the start. I must be tall and short in equal measure.

27.2.16

"a viscous bath of pure, thick energy"

When I consider relaxed hips I always think of Charlie Chaplin.
The hips should be so relaxed that your legs don't feel yours, not in the way you're accustomed to anyway. They should feel as though they have a life of their own.
Granted, the Earth creates my weight, and bears my mass. It feeds me, clothes me, sustains me, makes me, in more ways than I can possibly imagine. The only way I can feasibly repay such debt is to ensure that each breath and every gesture is an expression of heartfelt gratitude. This is mindfulness – the practice of both humility and ecology. It is achieved by always relating and responding, and refusing to collapse into self.
"We either accuse ourselves or excuse ourselves."
Only an insensitive oaf is unable to make good by touch. This is tactility; tact in fact. Try to develop a feeling for this favour you repay each time you touch, especially Earth with foot. For this, of course, you would have to spend a significant time barefoot.
"I would like to choose words that are, to begin with, naked, quite simply, words from the heart."

Meditation offers two doors. One opens to step down into the cramped airless cell of self, and the other opens into a breathtaking expanse of space and time where the self pales into utter insignificance. Religion demands a choice; Taoism strikes a balance.
The self is like a wardrobe full of many outfits, all with the same stench. Most of us spend at least the first half of a life building this wardrobe, collecting apparel, only to realise, when it's probably too late, that what is required is nakedness.
Thank rather than think.
It seems to me that sometime in the development of the mind of man he met with his biggest decision: either to travel upward into ever expanding worlds of which he is of decreasing significance, or spiral downwards into a trivial world of which he is of utmost importance because he is that world.

26.2.16

"All that mattered was without weight or consequence. Nothing
lingered or resonated beyond the instance of its own making.
Everything listened."
that we only are as interconnected

Every teacher wants students who willingly channel their spirit into their studies. In other words, students who fall in love with the teaching to such an extent that they spend as much of their time with it as they possibly can. And, like all true love, it must be passionate, irrational and uncontrollable.
The good student strives to embody the teaching. As my teacher used to say: If I cut you then you should bleed Taiji.
Grapple and come to terms with the very idea of death, the gift of death; then death itself.
Modern day longevity indicates that it's taking people that much longer to grow up.

25.2.16

the revelation of a repressed interdependence

"Response and respect are possible only in those knots between self and other."

This is precisely why partnerwork in Taiji is so important.
When I was a little kid I once slammed a door in the family home. My father called me over and pointed out that my careless action had disturbed his peace and quiet. I made an excuse – blaming a draught – which my father pointed out was not a valid excuse. He then told me to reopen the door and close it again: but quietly this time. I did, and he told me to try again, and this time make it quieter still. I eventually managed the task to his satisfaction, closing the door so quietly that not a sound could be heard. My father then pointed out that closing the door quietly was something I should do not for myself but out of respect for those I live with, and that I have to realise that everything I do affects others, and I have to feel and accept responsibility for that. This was my first, and certainly my most powerful, lesson on mindfulness.

24.2.16

"I love the fact that human genomes can be found in only about 10 percent of all the cells that occupy the mundane space I call my body; the other 90 percent of the cells are filled with genomes of bacteria, fungi, protists, and such, some of which play in a symphony necessary to my being alive at all, and some of which are hitching a ride and doing the rest of me, of us, no harm."
I recently read an article about a German Jewess who survived the Shoah by living hand-to-mouth in Berlin during the war. She effectively disappeared from official view and went underground. She said that she owed her life to the selfless generosity of the German workingclass who sheltered her at great risk to themselves, whilst the bourgeoisie totally failed her in every respect. She retained an element of dignity by waiting until nightfall and then shitting on the doorsteps of middleclass households that had snubbed or endangered her. And this is my point: if you feel oppressed, either as a person or as a people, then you owe it to your spirit to fight back whatever way you can.
"Life doesn’t last; art doesn’t last. It doesn’t matter."

What is the difference between sitting crosslegged on the floor, and lounging quiet and comfortable in an armchair? Both could be called meditation in the sense that the mind is peaceful and relaxed. But we sit crosslegged not just to work on the mind but to encourage the hips to open, the sacroiliacs to soften and the lower back to strengthen. Although sitting crosslegged is double-weighted, it helps single-weighted movement in Taiji enormously.
Meditation takes mindfulness beyond thoughtfulness.
If grace is a shower of lightness, positive in the sense of gratis, then resentment is a private pool of distilled negativity. Which would you rather build a life upon?
"I think art is a total thing. A total person giving a contribution. It is an essence, a soul. In my inner soul art and life are inseparable."

22.2.16

The wonderful thing about the sea is that it always offers the opportunity to turn your back on all the shit in life and take in pure expanse and energy.

The good Taoist serves the flow and passage of energy – the Tao, or what can be sensed of the Tao. Nothing for the self.
For thinking to have meaning in and for itself it needs to be simply the words that adhere to deep feelings dredged from the unconscious as they reluctantly surface. This is poetry. It is always surprising; disturbing. Always untimely – from the deep past and/or deep future; from somewhere else. Tenuous threads of time; of continuity.
Taiji does not possess a concept of depression: we tend to eschew psychological interpretations of the world. The closest we get is the idea of double-weightedness: the notion that if you're stuck in a stable middle then you lack the ability and agility to change — you can't yield. So, for us, someone who is in control and full of themselves is suffering from the same condition as someone who is miserable and down in the dumps or someone who is sulking because life is not giving them what they feel entitled to. All of such people are hard in the sense that they are resisting the natural process which is the process of change. And it's not a matter of changing until you feel happy and then holding onto that, it's more a matter of abandoning the value judgements we attach to feelings and moving on as a matter of course.
At some point you must go your own way, and to do this you should leapfrog over your teacher, if only in your mind, rather than turn your back and walk away.
Grace peaks not when you feel good but when you work, especially for others.
The gentle to-and-fro of a continuous single-weighted gait similarly washes the mind, assuming you don't allow it to wander.

Today opinion masquerades as knowledge, and knowledge as wisdom.
Patience is a virtue.
Buck up! There's not a lot of time. Certainly none to waste.
Remarkable how the sound of the rain washes the mind...
Relax and feel the natural tension we call connexion.

How does Taiji differ from meditation? Firstly it moves. It does this by embracing the natural and irrepressible desire for change: perhaps the most beautiful principle of Taiji – single-weightedness – full becomes empty and empty becomes full. And, if you think about it, when we meditate we tend to watch the part of us that is always moving, always changjng: the breath.
A tiresome Taiji student recently told me that they wanted to 'get into energy.' I replied that they must first learn to quieten their mind. They looked at me in consternation: "How can I do that? Surely mind IS thought?" The following piece was written for them:

"A friend of mine once phoned and asked me to accompany them to view an apartment they were thinking of buying. The apartment was nice: small but, as the estate agent pointed out, good location and full of potential. The friend bought it, with grand plans of carrying out full renovations to modern minimalistic design. The next time I saw the apartment, when the renovations were almost complete, it was beautiful: big open spaces, plain white walls, parquet floor, and, as is my habit, my first thought was how suitable it was for the practice of Taiji. I visited again a few months after the friend had moved in. I was horrified that those big clear spaces were now full of furniture and clutter, the white walls had cabinets, bookshelves and pictures, and the floors, what little I could see, were covered in random rugs and scratches. There literally wasn't space to swing the ginger cat. I'm suggesting the apartment as metaphor for the mind. We tend to think that the mind is the activity that fills it: thoughts, feelings, hopes, desires and fears, where, in actual fact, it is simply the beautifully open and clear space that those vulgar activities call home."
The interesting thing about metaphors, once you're passed the trite moralizing, is where they begin to break down.
Perhaps the most horrible thing they teach us at school is to be chronically double-weighted: always struck in the middle, neither one nor the other, incapable of emptiness and therefore also incapable of fullness. And all for the sake of becoming a rational subject. God help us...

21.2.16

Assuming you are serious about your Taiji (a significant daily practice regime has been established) there are two things you must learn: (1) how to rest; (2) not to push, not to rush (give it time).

"Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others."
Each posture, each exercise, when done correctly (concentration, intensity, passion) effectuates a change in consciousness by subtly altering brain chemistry – effectively a drug. This is our sensitivity and our will.
Melting bleeding breaking: real spiritual work is about the restless dissolution of boundaries; the departitioning of life; Thanatos – the Freudian death-wish; the nagging desire for union with God.
For most people, especially in these selfish times, the prime indicator that life is on track is happiness – feeling good about oneself and about things in general. The fundamental task and responsibility of the student of spiritual work is to replace happiness with grace – the connectedness and free energy that one has at one's disposal. When you concentrate on this then the work will begin to take you deeper: into life, heart and soul. And, beautifully, your grace will peak at the point of death. Concentrate on happiness and you will remain shallow and frightened and essentially ignorant all your life.

20.2.16

Indebted neither to banks nor creditors but to connexion — to God.

An economy based on grace. Just how much can you give for free?
The value of Otherness: it wakes me up, and obliges me to be respectful – connected.
"The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Remember when music was something you actually listened to – something you gave your full attention – rather than something you had on in the background to jolly along the time?
Mindfulness is simply connexion.
"an infinity, then, of shapes and curves, an infinity of variations and practices"

Familiarity breeds contempt.
Tense in the sense of connected: bound by obligation.
Mindful movement, for me, is generally misunderstood. For example if I were to take this full mug of tea from the kitchen to the living room I would be careful not to spill the tea – I would make sure I kept the cup stable and level and didn't make any sudden movements, and I would keep half an eye on the path ahead to ensure I didn't bang into anything. This is mindful OK but it is an anxious mind that puts the tea and the cup first rather than the movement itself. Taiji suggests that true mindfulness is awareness of motivation and instigation: namely spirit. How the spirit and mind mobilise the energy and then body. In this sort of action the cup and the tea become swallowed up by the energy and the movement. Every action becomes a dance, a ritual, with power and meaning in itself beyond mere usefulness.
"the overflowing heat of movement which never falters and never fails"
Tense in the sense of dense: internally gathered.
neighbour mindlessly mooching
child soundly sleeping
clock ticking timely

19.2.16

an emptiness full of love – a love that may more accurately be called respect for otherness
"We can close our eyes but we can't close our ears."

18.2.16

One of our problems is that when standing we rely too much on strength in the legs, which then become stiff and straight, and not enough on the lower back, which becomes weak and injury prone. Then my heart, instead of being strong and active, becomes disconnected and passive, full only of its own resentments and a few good intentions which never have the impetus to go very far because the lower back has no whip in it.
Conceptually, freedom is erroneously considered to be freedom from otherness – freedom from everything I can't control. But spiritual work reveals that real freedom is freedom from self, especially from self-control.
What matters is the fabric of life. Let the work insinuate each strand. This is relaxation.

The wild flow of spirit is no silent spring but rather undoes our perspectives.
"Wilderness occurs when the spirit undoes us by exposing the strange alterity of our everyday spaces."
beyond my control and thus dangerously free
Insights are the fruits of our labours – stepping stones that enable us to navigate treacherous terrain.
The problem with Taiji is that despite its promise it is not particularly effective at tackling psychological and relationship issues. To be used as such the student needs a really fine teacher, a lot of honesty and the constant challenge of otherness.

17.2.16

'much of his working time is spent getting to the point’
compression & rarefaction
Meditation with sun in eyes.

16.2.16

"An experiment to understand the origin of music and its basic primordial role when there wasn’t any particular word for it, only the ritual act of practising it as part of everyday life."
If you find that the soft relaxation of Taiji makes you feel weak and feeble then you probably lack core strength.
The main concern of my Taiji and my teaching is to wake up Spirit in order to cultivate develop and cherish an Internal life. There are many pitfalls – becoming obsessed with posture or qi or power – but they all boil down to the same thing: avoiding Spirit.

What we call work is any activity that foregrounds the Internal.
"You don't try. That's very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more."
When sitting the pelvis is stabilised through contact with the ground and the spine (especially head) sways gently in the energetic breeze.
When I was eleven, and scraped into the local grammar school, I started having clarinet lessons, partly because the teacher was cool (he had long hair, smoked rollups and was on the telly each Sunday playing in the orchestra on Songs Of Praise) and partly because my dad owned a clarinet so we didn't have to hire one. The first ten minutes of each lesson, and each daily practice session, was always long notes – playing an unwavering tone for the duration of a breath, sometimes with but usually without crescendo and/or diminuendo. It took me a long time to learn to enjoy the shear physicality of producing sound and to appreciate that, in time, this was the only way to develop a beautiful and mature tone. Somewhat similar to meditation where we learn to sink into the simple joy of breathing, and hopefully develop a relaxed and beautiful presence.
"In my past life I was a cloud, and I was very happy being a cloud." This beautiful statement of Thich Nhat Hahn teaches, amongst other things, that happiness is neither feeling nor emotion, but presence. Meditation is the necessarily and inevitably slow process of arriving at this reality.

Like the proverbial drunkard who miraculously keeps his footing despite every bone in his relaxed body wobbling.
The dogs have settled; the wild boar have returned to the forest. Now only the sound of distant jackals, and horses munching fresh hubeza.

Spirit here (and elsewhere) is simply a selfless response to the Other.

15.2.16

The poor student always knows best.
Intelligence is no substitute for sincerity.
Unfortunately the Internal never comes on credit.
The only students who succeed (that is: continue) at this game are those who become convinced that God is far more interesting than they are. In my experience such students have had this conviction all along.

Most of us bring tension into our being (bodies & minds) in order to create a feeling of stability and security from which to function — think, feel and act. Unfortunately such stability is always stiff and unyielding, and inhibits especially spirit, which thrives best in a light and loose environment. Consequently, if I need a little magic, a little extra energy, I have to resort to force or emotion. Taiji proposes that I relax and rely on the natural stability of the ground beneath my feet rather than constructed tension (ego) which is inevitably going to bias all my perceptions and actions.
an existence that defies conceptualization

14.2.16

Ostensibly meditation is about becoming still and quiet but only so that I can become aware of the minor movements and the subtle sounds beneath the coarse crap of living.
Even more deadly than a morass of anxiety is the enforced quietude of one who thinks he's under control.
"If humanity does not opt for integrity we are through completely. It is absolutely touch and go. Each one of us could make the difference."
The job at hand is to root out fascism – the oppression of softness – in all its guises.
How long should I meditate for?
Until you feel so peaceful that you don't want to stop.
(Or until you have better things to do.)
Destiny, let me tell you, is not some amazing life of fulfillment and recognition. It is an awful responsibility – a life of servitude devoted to keeping a tiny and seemingly trivial aspect of the Internal alive and well. You never become complete let alone happy. You just do what you have to do. A choiceless and thankless life.

13.2.16

The transformative power of helplessness. This phrase came to me whilst taking an elevator with Tai and Yonatan. A man got in cradling a month old Jack Russell puppy. As soon as the children noticed the dog their energy changed completely.
Step outside the box. For this you need grace: the gift of otherness.

12.2.16

"I have no self by myself or for myself. I really have no identity that I can specify except the intersection point of a multitude of things that are not mine. They have been given to me."
Compassionately attuned to other than self.
Just do what you have to do. And if you don't have to then don't. Ethics doesn't need to get any more complicated than this. The difficulty, of course, is knowing what has to be done. This is where the heart comes in. It really all depends upon how selflessly brave that organ is. Clarity of mind is a matter of courage, a matter of heart.
An ideal exercise accoutrement would be a tight rubber suit that gave gentle even resistance to every movement, including breathing and heartbeat. Then I would become aware not only of movement but of the mind and spirit that motivated movement. In the absence of such a suit I can always imagine that I am wearing one. This is our unique power as humans: an imagination that actualizes rather than fantasizes a new reality. As TT Liang used to say: Imagination becomes reality.

11.2.16

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
During meditation I sit in the field (of gravity) knowing that if only I am quiet enough something will happen. What happens is always a surprise so knowing doesn't really help, other than maybe motivating me to sit in the first place.
"Man seeks himself in everything — even God."
Sin is the act of putting the self (and its extensions: family, race, species) first. The only viable way out of sin (and therefore into grace) is to become ecologically aware: to be constantly mindful of interaction, interdependence and interplay – in a word: communication; especially the listening component.

10.2.16

Strange that the average intelligent person realises full well that they couldn't possibly attempt rocket science or brain surgery without at least a decade of full time dedicated study, and yet they dabble with astral projection or lucid dreaming or other highly advanced meditation techniques after a weekend workshop. And all because they are greedy for experiences they feel entitled to but don't actually deserve.
You'll know when you get it right: you'll hear the angels rejoicing.

9.2.16


Truth is always approximate.

8.2.16

A heart forever breaking.
"What I would like to call love is a renunciation of the demands of a self that wants to exert power over the other, a renunciation that would accept, without giving in, so good-heartedly, to deliver itself, to open up, to give rise to the other while respecting them, and that, is love itself."
Catch the ruthless thread. Quieten the mind, feel the continuity of the breath and observe what collapses when the mind starts thinking. That is the ruthless thread with which you haul yourself to freedom (from self) if that is your want.

7.2.16

Work religiously.
For Heaven's sake.

6.2.16

The energetic path through body, from sole or seat to palm or head, should be clear and even, uninterrupted and unhindered. Then, and only then, palm and face contain and proffer heart and love.
On the veranda of a vast estate...
Touch: to come into contact with and perceive – exchange energy.

Everything touches; everything perceives – feels.

Relax the touch until it becomes everything.

Touch and bleed.
In greed and laziness we turn the world into a convenience, and then whinge like spoilt brats when we get bored and depressed.
"the entire web of relations that make possible our lives"

5.2.16

I am always struck, when teaching meditation, how much the spirit improves when the student progresses from chair to floor. Even if you need a high pile of cushions, it is preferable to sit crosslegged than chairbound.
To be exposed by the Spirit in our vulnerability.
"Spirit traces a wild immanence"

4.2.16

the infinite declension of the diverse
"The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery."
Mindful
above all
of motive.
Spirit encapsulated—
that's all we are.
Everything else is illusion.

3.2.16

Given that we are all unavoidably habitual, try to develop a few good ones.

Perception is always deeply conditioned by fear. We have to realise this otherwise we'll end up believing what we see.
"Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist."
Eventually all is revealed and there is no depth – neither hidden nor hiding – no secrets – just a simple surface – a plain plane. Hence the Zen master's miracle: to eat when hungry and sleep when tired.

2.2.16

An open heart is a proffered heart – a heart full of lightness and light.
Instead of allowing mood to control spirit, try to let spirit create mood.
Through the work we develop enough integrity – togetherness – to confidently throw ourselves into the maelstrom of life without fear of coming undone.

1.2.16


"Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time."
The fundamental desire to have your voice – to let forth a beautiful and distinctive sound – to sing. It doesn't need to be mellifluous but it must be impassioned – you must mean it. Meaning is in the passion.
We have two minds. One operates in real time in real space and is fueled by spirit. It comes to the fore when danger or excitement is in the air. It is you focused and responsive, aware and atuned to a multiplicity of external and internal stimuli. The other mind is reflective, contemplative, meditative. It falls into itself where time and space dissolve into a featureless energetic continuum – a quiet realm of pure acceptance. Thinking functions to disrupt both minds and place self or ego centrestage. Ego is the great trickster: it can pose as anything and turn any table to its own advantage. But it cannot compete with these two minds.
"Your well designed life of lies"
That's the easy one to tackle.

"The Inherited Wound"
That's the tricky one...