31.8.16

The least popular word in this greed-driven market economy is sacrifice.

"…despite trying to steer the process of work in a specific direction or channel, avoiding the eddies and spills that surround that channel, very often it is those eddies and spills that end up being the more persistent draw, and end up being followed…"
Waist is the plane of navel.
Relaxation deepens the breath and widens the smile.
Once you have successfully tackled and subdued the over active mind (reduced its weight and influence) then the buoyancy of thymos (natural self as opposed to ego: unnatural self) depends largely on the support of the waist whose muscles, especially those either side of the lumber spine, need to be strong. But it is not a usual muscular strength, which is one able to contract intermittently to deliver force, but one able to supply a steady stream of upward energy to balance the inexorable descent of gravity. When we walk and run the legs naturally pump such energy up the body, which is why these activities are often used to bring up the spirit. But when sitting we get no help from the legs so the heart tends to slump and the mind tends to get nervous and start chattering to itself ten to the dozen. When this happens it is far better to either get up and walk around or lie down flat to let the back rest.

30.8.16

Most mental activity is present solely to obscure energy.

"We don't exist unless we are deeply and sensually in touch with that which can be touched but not known."
Each hero has a tragic flaw that'll be the death of them. It's par for the course.
Don't be surprised if, at some point, you find, intuitively, that you need to do the opposite of what your teacher told you. It's not that they were wrong, necessarily, it's just that you probably overdid the instruction – used force. Misinterpretation is inevitable, and this is why every instruction you've ever taken on board must be regularly reassessed – re-understood, re-appreciated – in the fresh light of progress.
The work has to be gentle, subtle, otherwise it's just a mockery and will never get inside, never make a difference.
Last night a sounder of wild boar ploughed up the landlord's beautiful English lawn. I do love subversion.

29.8.16


THE GYM IS EVERYWHERE.

Reebok advertising slogan.
Mind, if you let it, and we all do, bullies the heart. Our own, and others.
What, do you feel, looks better to you: a heart full and proud with a head held high and a midriff tight and strong or a sunken chest collapsing into a distended belly with a head craning forward?
Don't be so foolish – so ignorant – as to equate knowledge with information. Some things can only be known if you've spent decades developing your energy – preparing yourself. Such things, on occasion, may be put into words by a teacher but never to convey the knowledge, only to inspire a student to work so that he may eventually find out for himself.
"The tiny fraction of time between waking and sleep, with no distinct perception of reality is a moment to be held and absorbed for as long as possible."

28.8.16

Understanding dawns slowly as something is taken to heart. It has nothing to do with words and everything to do with love.

27.8.16

Nothing more irritating than a student who is constantly nodding their head and agreeing with everything you say, as though they either knew already or know now because they've heard your words. Give me blank incomprehension or abject terror any day.
Sinking in Taiji is not only a sinking down to Earth, but a sinking into energy – into an underlying reality – a deeper connectedness. This is achieved by relaxing both body and mind. A practical philosophy. Theory always an afterthought.
The espousal of a philosophy is only ever a declaration of preference – an expression of ego.

26.8.16

deep knowledge
continuous practice
relentless search

Every action is a reaction – a response – to a call, an urge, a reminder. So everything I do is an opportunity to yield.

Yielding is an attitude of heart/mind that acknowledges every instance as an event worthy of complete engagement.
When watching the breath during meditation, see how in turns to out and how out turns to in. Each turn is, if done softly and naturally, an act of yielding.
"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."
True yielding contains not a smidgen of struggle. It happens suddenly but without speed. It takes you by surprise. Always appropriate yet always unexpected. Mysterious, miraculous. It feels as though your intention and spirit have been swallowed up and, in that instant, you've been transported to a different dimension and transformed into a different person. Regardless of whether you are the yielder or the one yielded to.

If the meaning of life is to become a better person – closer to God – softer, wiser, more compassionate, more loving, more understanding, then this is not achieved by practising softness and compassion in your own time but by living under such stress that you are forced, in real time, to exercise every ounce of spirit and energy you can muster to show your real worth. See life as an opportunity for revelation, otherwise no one really knows who you are – you least of all.

25.8.16

"If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice.”
grandeur & largess
If spirit is right then mind and body will right themselves. This insight must be rediscovered time and again until we finally internalize its truth – make it foundation.
Can't think straight? Sign of progress.

Discover, uncover and recover spirit. This is our life project, and this is Taiji. It starts and ends with the same question: What is spirit? A question that cannot be elucidated with thought.
A thankful heart is as light as a feather.

24.8.16

Bend the legs and don't look down.
"Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty."

23.8.16

Find firm ground and build your house. This for many is life – empire. But we Taoists know that unless there is also a contrary drift – a slippage back to ocean – life lacks balance, perspective and meaning. Never forget soul. It's as old as the hills, breathes with gills, and is most at home in nature.

originality takes refuge in a translucent emptiness
Sit still and listen. A skill that many lack. But without it the finer points of energy will never be appreciated.

22.8.16

"After the beheading, what is left on our shoulders? An innovative and enduring intuition."
Taiji softens the practitioner only if yielding is conceived, perceived and received as an act of compassion.

Behavior, actions, decisions are largely governed by conformity: by a fearful need to keep an external value system intact. They keep the law; out of habit, duty, conscience, or for want of imagination, authenticity, individuality – spirit. Spirit is the devil in the detail – in the now – that breaks the law, which is why any system, of governance, values, or whatever, will always struggle to at least contain and subdue it if not eradicate it altogether.
Break the rules but keep the faith.
To abide in the present, fully, the past must be remembered, recollected, recaptured, reawakened, otherwise there is no fullness, no wholeness, no peace. The enemy, if there is one, is resistance, repression, forgetfulness – whatever makes time chronological, linear. The present is not a tight infinitesimal point on an infinite line, but the presence of a past brought alive through awareness and respect, and the acceptance of a future without me. Things continue, life goes on, but I don't.

21.8.16

If when standing at the sink, or in line at the post office, or awaiting the bus, you have the presence of mind to bend the legs very slightly by breaking at the knees and especially the hips, and remember gravity streaming down through the body, then you are practising – you are meditating. If instead you lock out the legs so that the idle mind can comfortably absent itself and think about something else – daydream – then you are wasting valuable time.

20.8.16

Sense, meaning, and other attachments, are attempts to escape reality by creating a world.

18.8.16


Good character allows you to keep an even keel through thick or thin; allows you to be a good Taoist.
DO NO HARM BUT TAKE NO SHIT

Graffiti on the bus this morning.

16.8.16

"Music can teach you about life, about how to make passion and discipline co-exist."
The age of entitlement has gone, thank God. We are entitled to nothing: not health, not wealth, not love and not life. Everything must be earned, everything must be paid for. This is why character is all.
Sleep requires a drift from focused front-brain to relaxed back-brain. From a frown of intent to a smile of content. From consciousness to unconsciousness. From foreground to background.

15.8.16


"Nine years to learn to yield, then one year to learn to attack." This maxim was drilled into me from day one: the notion that attack without prior yielding is aggressive and vulgar; that yielding is our primary concern and should be our principal study. Yet one of the reasons the concept of yielding is so difficult to grasp – so nebulous – for beginners is because there are no longer any direct attacks to yield to because we have forgotten how to be fully present – how to be attackable. We have lost touch with our power – our thymos – and instead cower like whimpering children behind a mask of conformity. So, for me, the real problem facing all of us is learning to be present, which first means becoming presentable – donning suitable apparel – a gleaming breast plate of courage and good will – an open heart. Then yielding will take care of itself because life will have the opportunity to teach us the lessons we need to learn.
If the art, first and foremost, doesn't improve my character then I'm wasting my time. And who should feel and benefit from this improvement? Not me, necessarily, but others. I work, primarily, for others: for those I love, for those I work with, and for those I encounter. Otherwise I'm just like everyone else: bringing down the world with mediocrity, self-indulgence and self-pity.

13.8.16

Happiness is absence of worry.
Tension is a wall – an opaque barrier – built around things we'd rather not face. Painful things, difficult things: things that contradict the prevailing model of reality. The path to relaxation inevitably exposes these traumas; hence the pains and difficulties we encounter along the way – signs of progress – which the good student bravely faces until they (trauma/student) fade away, though never without a good struggle.
Deep relaxation requires complete reevaluation.

12.8.16

"Order is never more than an island or archipelago. In the midst of the multiple, one finds universe-isles."

11.8.16

Heaven is up, Earth is down, with me in the middle, drawn by both. Problems set in when the part of me that belongs to Earth, body, rises upwards, and the part that belongs to Heaven, spirit, falls to Earth.
Nothing less sexy than a thinker.

10.8.16

Full of self there's little room for else.
"The best way to know people is to work with them, and that's a very serious form of intimacy."

9.8.16

It's not enough to feel the lightness, you must become it. So much so that by the time you die that's all you are.
"The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers."
Most of those who claim to be happy are so because they have ordered their lives in such a way as to avoid all that makes them unhappy, especially difficult memories. We are all guilty of this; we are all masters of avoidance – cowards.
Meditation helps you realise that most activity is an excuse not to listen; a way of blotting out reality.
"To do the thing is easy enough, but to put yourself in a position to do it is extremely difficult."

We haven't really understood reality, we've tamed it, domesticated it, bullied its beauty, dampened its turbulence, and made it laminar, regular, predictable, boring. Hence depression. Our only hope is spirit with its whirligigs and curlicues; its effusive nonsense; its ticklish excess/caress.
Chaosmos, not in a negative sense, but as pure affirmation: yes and yes and yes and

8.8.16

The present moment is not just a passing through point, an arbitrary stretch of road on a busy highway. It is an infinite multiplicity – a nexus of energies and currents – an overflow of possibilities that open up only to those with the heart to embrace it.
Depth comes at a cost. And that cost is pain.

6.8.16

Humility or humbleness can be summed up in one simple phrase: nothing special. Content and satisfied with the present moment; neither interfering nor hankering after entertainment. It is perhaps the quality that most eludes us, having been reared in a culture that puts self above all else.
We are delicate, vulnerable creatures made largely of soft tissue, befraught with doubts and fears, yet programmed to respond to spirit.

4.8.16


The critical mind is easy to discern. It is felt as a tightening and narrowing of the forehead. But also a slackening and weakening of the mind's core – a loss of centre – and a congealing of mind around the object of criticism. We aim in our work for the opposite – a dense well-gathered centre in the middle of the brain, and a relaxed expanding brow, face and smile. This will be very difficult at first. It will feel like you're going crazy – losing your mind. Which of course you are – losing the false mind in order to find true mind. You'll know when you've got it right because when the mind is properly centred then so are the belly and heart – everything slots nicely into place.
Quiet and receptive. Brain a receiver; spirit the generator.
Stand on only one leg for a minute. Not too difficult, especially if your sense of balance has been developed with Taiji. Now stand on only one leg for a whole minute with eyes closed tight. A little more difficult? This is because we use the eyes to latch onto stationary objects in our environment in order to assist balance. Which is not really balance at all but a locking or a freezing – a hardening into solidity – which is not Taiji either because it goes against the basic principles of softness and equilibrium. Now, sit quiet and still with the eyes closed for as long as it takes to achieve internal peace. Then slowly open the eyes without leaping out of them to grasp what you see – let the world come to you – into your sanctum – your pool of compassion. What you may feel, as these sights enter your heart, is a movement of spirit in the opposite direction – from your soul to whatever your eyes touch. This is the spiritual dimension of vision – an exchange of grace.

2.8.16

Now or never.
Eventually, if you persist in this game, you'll need to shift from a life of principle to a life of prayer. A move demonstrated most clearly and most beautifully by Grand Master Chi Chiang-Tao.

The teacher indicates what and how to change. It's then up to you to institute that change.
Corruption is infectious. Take, for example, modern athletics: if one person in the field is taking steroids then they all have to otherwise they can't compete. This is why our work is so painstaking, if not painful, and lonely – it really is an uphill and largely thankless struggle. Not for everyone, obviously; for those who, deep in their heart, know they have no choice.
"there would even be the risk that domestication has already come into effect, if I were to give in to my own melancholy"
The strength to achieve balance and the courage to tip the balance.
Only when I give (to the Other) do I find my centre, my place, my home, my Heart.
Arms do the heart's bidding.

We must, as a matter of urgency, ditch our outdated metaphysics that lazily privileges extension over intention, solid over fluid, space over time, force over energy, similarity over difference, single over multiple, stillness over movement, silence over noise. This was, in fact, the major project of the Modernists a hundred years ago. It requires, above all else, the admission of spirit and an understanding of energy. And, probably, a new language.
The heart touches first, then the hand.