We are all wonderful engineers. We engineer a world, a life, a society – a folly – designing, building, repairing, so that we never need face the flaws in our character that prevent us from becoming in any way fully conscious. This is our brilliance, and, ultimately, our downfall. And by the time we discover the folly it's all too late.
Softness is the space between the eyes which expands into a plane of compassion hovering over your world.
"frankly happiness is based on the heart considerably more than it is on external circumstance"
Look and you pull out of the picture. See and you fall into the picture. We look with the eyes but we see with the heart.
Shoulders fall from spine and drop to hips. This is the downward consequence of gravity. Earth drives up through heel, sacrum, heart, head, like a cool spear. This is the upward consequence of gravity. Surrender to each. Be aware of each. Feel how one generates the other.


Remove evolutionary forces, as we seem to have done to our species, and we don't just stay still, we devolve.
A good life is not one that maximises pleasure and minimises pain but one that consciously works through karma – one that isn't wasted.
"Never surrender to the momentum of mediocrity."


sometimes i can get really into a normal thing just by fucking with the way i perceive it
Out in the moshav with Tai yesterday, we passed a boy riding a hoverboard. "Is it difficult?" she asked him. "Only if you're frightened," he replied.


Gilda, the neighbour's dog, a pitbull cross, was always chained up – had once nipped a stranger. Always needy, she gave me such greetings: pure excitement and affection. Now, reprieved, she is free to roam and eat at will, so has become fat and depressed, unable to muster enthusiasm for anything. But she's happy, and of course that's all that matters.
before everyone got blinded by options and retreated into fitting in
break the habit of automatic pilot


The freedom that lies beyond culture.
"Just being told by an unsmiling guy in a white coat that you're going to be dead in four months definitely turns on the lights. It makes life rich and poignant. When it first happened, and I got these diagnoses, I could see the light of eternity, à la William Blake, shining through every leaf. I mean, a bug walking across the ground moved me to tears."

"Not what I have, but what I do, is my kingdom."


The unassuming clarity of emptiness.
If I have correct posture, of mind as well as body, then every action, every thought and feeling, every response to the world, takes me into my root, and that root, duly stimulated, sends up a jolt of energy that lifts the heart. In this sense happiness (maybe joy would be a better word) comes from the root, from the Earth, and is simply a lifting of the heart to God.
Tension, bad tension, results from holding onto something that is not true. Without letting go there is no clarity, only wishful thinking.
"A man lives by believing something; not by debating and arguing about many things."

Only when I empty of self can I fill with what is, and thereby come alive.
"the inward harmony of coherence which is its soul"
Positive in the sense that simply by being I am giving.
Don't let the desire to be, or to have, something special cripple you. It is singular enough to be simply you.
The compassion not only to see both sides but to harbour them.


heaps of money hoarded by the hidden class
"Everything is expressed through RELATIONSHIPS."
Relax the body, settle the mind and present the soul.
What does this mind/body/spirit serve? The answer should be, I guess, life itself – where service and expression come together. But for most a more honest answer would be self or ego – the congealed sum of all attachments.
Depression mourns a spirit lost to the forces of conformity.


"Intellect confuses intuition."

"The only problem in art is to achieve a balance between subjective and objective."


An obligation to give.
In an act of trust – trust in life, in being – the mind lets go, relaxes, and the body, centered in dantien, sinks down to earth, and the spirit, centered at heart, rises heavenward. The hands then reach out to the Other with something to offer.


If a situation isn't going your way then you have three courses: get your revenge on life and the world by sulking – being unhappy, miserable, depressed; changing the situation – redesigning it to your own liking or taking yourself out of it altogether; changing your mood, energy, heart to better fit the situation. This last one is a spiritual exercise we call yielding.
Prenatal mind. Mind before ego, before the sentimental coochy-coos demanded conditioned response. When we breathed via navel and swam and grew and only knew the maternal love of warm water.

Lungs & heart need aerobic work. Lots of it.
Continuity. Connexion through time. Joining the dots, the moments; an elastic thread, stretching, tightening, breathing never breaking.


"Far from being a psychological trait, the spirit of revenge is the principle on which our whole psychology depends."
Three years to learn relaxation.
Three years to learn tension.
Three years to learn spirit.
Tighten & lighten. Belly tightens, heart lightens. These should go together, require each other, demand each other. A true duality. The value of unity is two. When belly tightens as it should then you'll feel the heart expand and lift; when the heart lightens as it should you'll feel the belly squeeze. Two poles of an elastic, living continuum.

"Generally, the more weight you put on, the less effective you are."
Mr Nice Guy doesn't get the job done.
When you enjoy a work of art (a poem, a flower, a single malt) do you analyse what's said or do you let it transport/transform you? Of course both. Always both. Work on the one that doesn't come natural.


An antic disposition.


"The way in which I create myself is by means of a quest. I go out into the world in order to come back with myself."

They go together, yield and attack, as two poles of a continuum. Can't have one without the other.
Matter & time. It's just a matter of time.


till other voices wake
us or we drown


God is Love. Not entity but feeling, emotion. Reality is in feelings not in things.
Great minds think alike, fools beg (sic) to differ. Truth versus opinion.


Work the two poles of being: that which threatens to be constantly overwhelmed by life, and that that can be neither touched nor reached. The rest will take care of itself.
Time to upset the apple cart.
It doesn't matter how much talent you have or how much instruction you've received, eventually you'll reach a seemingly impassable wall. You can then either stop, rest on your laurels, become an institution, an expert, a teacher, occasionally banging your head against the wall, or you can drop everything, lighten the load, and start scaling.
Remember playing Cops & Robbers or Cowboys & Indians as a kid? How much more exciting it was to be a Robber or an Indian, to be a minority fighting against an oppressive majority? (The modern version of the game, played by kids here, is Americans & Al Qaeda.)
"The struggle for us all is the same — to become good students."
John Kells


"It's ridiculous what I do. I can't believe in it – but I have to."
It's a mean spiteful mind that says this not that.
For the heart to be effective it must be light and open. But for it to be light and open without floating away on a wave of self indulgence it must be firmly anchored by a fiercely dense dantien.
Dantien is centre of the universe. To get there requires a mood of grim, detached determination yet once there one beams out at the world with a heart of compassion. This is a paradox, a tension, that cannot be resolved by the mind, only embraced and contained.
"Be aware that everyone else is thinking far too hard about themselves to be thinking about you, whoever you are."
Pull yourself together. Mind in dantien. A taut, focused determination to be useful, supportive, exemplar and challenge to everything in your world.


"truth is not naturally sought, rather one is involuntarily driven to the truth"
All is energy and everything is in its rightful place. The univocity of being. This is where the work is taking us.
The majority is always wrong, even when they're right. It's a matter of grammar.
"Ghosts appear in place of whatever a given people will not face"

We live in terribly corrupt times, where most proudly champion selfishness over principle. The least we can do is reverse this trend for and in ourselves. And there is value in such resistance – it helps keep the smouldering spirit alive.


About 15 years ago I was crossing London Bridge on my way to teach a Taiji class in Bermondsey when I received a phone call from my teacher:
"Listen Steve, I'm only going to say it once — SOFTNESS IS THE ACHE IN EVERY DREAM TO BE A BETTER SOUL."
And that was it.
These words, and especially the energy of their saying, still resonate unsettlingly inside me.
"I'd rather roll my body in these songs."
Depression results from dwelling in an unnourishing past.
When it comes to behaviour, 'good' is obedience to what is established whereas 'bad' is breaking the law, breaking the mold, breaking (with) things. Very rarely, if at all, is 'good' an active positive force. This is a typical bourgeois inversion of true value.

"There's a whole world waiting for you on the other side of ordinary."
Slowly dismantling the safety net.
closer to madness than madcap
Nothing is more terrifying than the prospect of a life without fear. This is because the fear becomes so institutionalized, so foundational, so built in to all our psychic and social structures that (even when it is finally noticed) a life without it is both inconceivable and unimaginable. And this is why enlightened human beings are the rarest creatures on the planet.


"The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal."

"The world is a harmony of tensions."
Think the legs as extending all the way up to the top of the hip bones (iliac crests); attached to the sides of the pelvis rather than underneath. I got that from a professional dancer. It's the sort of conceptualisation that changes not just the work but the life.
The only comfort the master's words provide is the comfort of knowing that you have your work cut out for the next couple of lifetimes at the very least.
Recollection of an idle chat with my teacher about 20 years ago.
JK: I heard Bob Dylan today on the radio – Blowing In The Wind. It sounded weak and dated.
SM: But he was a great songwriter and he did write about freedom.
JK: Yes, precisely the sort of freedom I already have too much of.

Our freedom is not economic freedom or political freedom – not the freedom to make choices or develop opinions (which tend to follow the herd anyway), but freedom of spirit – the freedom to be at your best when required, which means freedom from resentment and self-pity, freedom from ego.
the dynamic force of life in its singular unfolding

Just graft away.
Not much more to say.
Experiment: that which one does in order to provoke a novel occurrence, to elicit a new event, to produce a new body.
Love is an exercise in depersonalization.
"The divine escapes men's notice because of their incredulity."


a solid devotion to using up and making do

"it is only amidst dysfunction that the structure of a situation is revealed"
For and against opposing each other
This is the mind's disease.
Nomadic. Moving around: place to place, principle to principle. Moving on. Following the bison; the game. Following the nose. Shifting view, vista, vantage, perspective; change of scene. Switching lenses, not to see better, more clearly, but different. Questioning everything. Testing everything. Looking, actively, for difficulty. Searching for weakness. A mistrust of, an unease in, strength, knowledge, established and establishment. A life shrouded in mist and mystery.
If truly present then all thought of time, of past and future, is erased. A naked intensity that makes the hackles rise. We call this becoming animal.
Seek out slippage planes, border zones, boundaries. Neither one nor the other. No man's land.


Psychotherapies assume that one is defined by one's vocabulary. One hell of an assumption. But just in case, we suggest an extended, deep vocabulary, ever growing, honing, enriching.
The humility to fall; the arrogance to rise. The intelligent student acquires an elastic rubbery fabric so that this oscillation becomes natural. On the way down beg for rock bottom (then you'll bounce higher), on the way up be like the sun at midday, knowing you'll rise another day. The Eternal Return.
"Private property has made us so stupid and partial that an object is only ours when we have it. Thus all the physical and intellectual senses have been replaced by the sense of having."
We think we live in a world dominated by a clutter of objects, of things. We assume that everything is such a thing, in possession of mass so inertia so momentum and so time, slowness. Then what blocks our engagement with spirit is the seeming impossibility of conceptualizing a thing without mass and without time, at once everywhere. Because, in fear posing as wisdom, we have invented an image of man that puts thinking first, that requires something to be first held in the mind before it can be experienced. This is the image that your teacher, if he is a teacher, strives to erode in you, by offering an alternative with spirit at centre, constantly stressing it as a more appropriate model for a martial artist and for someone trying to wake up. Eventually though even that image begins to fall away as, having found the ground, you begin to grow up and realize that Earth and Heaven are sufficient.
Don't make choices; make balance.


a very deep and dubwise center of gravity
Depression is glorified sulking.
"a non-unitary vision of the subject as situated beyond the liberal model of an entity that coincides with self-reflexive individualism and is consequently capable of self-correcting agency, transcendental consciousness and moral universalism"
What could be more selfish than the path to enlightenment? Look instead for the company of those who have worked on their character by actively and passionately helping others. They're the real people.
Without the assurance of dogma or the cynicism of doxa.


Always be willing to venture into areas you have no expertise for, even if it means your downfall.
Education wows the world with learning but stifles originality.