Dealing with trauma is often more traumatic than the trauma itself, but without it one cannot live a real life.
If you concentrate on qi you will be weak
If you concentrate on spirit you will be strong

This is a famous Taiji adage. My teacher pointed out once that when they say qi (ch'i) they actually mean anything that isn't spirit. So, if you use mind expanding drugs to open up consciousness, which a lot of students seem to do nowadays, be aware that this must go hand in hand with disciplined daily practice on and with spirit otherwise it'll end up weakening you. There's little point in having knowledge you don't have the means to either engage or internalise.


"All young artists must go through a discipline so incessant and grueling that only genuine talent can supply the energy to drive through it and the ambition to emerge from it a master and not a plodder."

We all know that if you give a child more than they deserve then not only do they fail to appreciate what they get but they also quickly develop an overweening sense of entitlement. The same is true of students.
"Repetition and imitation are the beginning of art; they are what we call practice."
If you don't agree with what the teacher says then stop. Either stop your shitty opinionated mind or stop wasting his time and find someone else to pester.
The feeling of perfect completeness that you feel/felt with the teaching/teacher is what motivates and fuels the continuing practice. Each session an opportunity to touch that perfection, to evoke the spirit of the teaching/teacher and keep it alive, without which you know you'd be a mere shadow living a shadow life. It's the very least you/we can do.


Glow quietly yet lambently. Believe in your own light, above all. This is our selflessness – our poverty – to glow for the world rather than for self-aggrandizement.
"Art is always the replacement of indifference by attention."
The educated, liberal middle-class: a placcid ovine herd of self-satisfied mediocrities.
Spirit plus consciousness is what Blake called the Imagination. It is what this work is working towards, though most of us probably don't see it as such. The ability to embody your beliefs, the courage to live your own life and vision, but not selfishly, not for self alone, but to further the Image of Man; to aspire and to inspire; inspire aspiration in others. To teach, basically.
"We conquer knowledge by forced marches, learning more and more as we continually press on. Wisdom, on the other hand, is the unhurried expanding organic health of the powerful and well-knit imagination, and it depends on a combination of practice and relaxation."
If there is just one simple instruction to repeat to yourself regularly through the day then I suggest: Heart Up.

Early in life we make a command decision to take on board a whole array of tensions that force our perceptions to conform to those of the herd we find ourselves amidst. Learning to belong to a family, a society. This is what is known as selling your soul to the devil. Spiritual work is then any attempt to locate and relax these tensions so that vision broadens and heightens, and we start to see what God intended.
"A real miracle is an imaginative effort which meets with an imaginative response."
The lengths we go to to wreck our spine, and our chances of salvation, just to construct a lair in the chest for the self. When the spine is erect and healthy there is no reflective ego as such, no place to go to mull things over, only communication – body with Earth (other bodies), spirit with God (other spirits).
Just enough to bring a little grey into an otherwise gaudy existence.


Whatever's worth saying just cannot be said, not adequately, unambiguously. Language is not a means of communication, it's a means of avoiding communication or, at best, a politely distanced stand-in for communication.

"What matters most is what sort of person you are becoming."
Yielding, and its concomitant quality of softness, is a way of life – our way of life. To draw out the element of unconditionality lurking in everything, an element that cannot be confronted, directly, but must be seduced by the same element in ourselves – by spirit. Then asked to dance.


The whole idea is to create a continuous thread through time. Inevitably such a thread will be composed of moments of various lengths and varying intensities. The difficulty is paying sufficient attention to ends and beginnings so that adjacent moments run together seamlessly.


"I retired from everything except work."


If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger; even if it cripples you.

Meditation is an exercise that extends the attention span.
The task for all of us is exactly the same: to break out of class and into humanity. So, whether you are middle class, working class, rich, poor, black, white, male, female, educated, uneducated, first world, third world, jew, arab, straight, gay, these categories must be left behind so that you can become simply the expression of your own magnificent spirit. Sounds easy but in actual fact it is without doubt the most difficult task you could possibly undertake.
Back in 1998 my teacher suddenly abandoned the British Tai Chi Chuan Association, the organisation he had founded in 1970 and which, at its height, in the mid eighties, was the largest and most vibrant Taiji centre in Europe. Admittedly it had been slowly declining ever since he and his family were evicted from the Upper Wimpole Street premises in 1993 due to neglect. In actual fact the decline had started years before then. For some time John Kells had been bored with the Yang style Taiji he was teaching because he felt it wasn't an adequate vehicle for either his Irish spirit or his Celtic vision (he was a true visionary if nothing else). He was playing around with little technical nicknacks he'd picked up here and there – the figure 8 exercise in Taiwan, Chen style push hands from Nitsan Michaeli, his own no-contact rebound – in the hope of injecting a bit of spirit into his complacent students, and maybe developing a new and fresh style of Taiji. And then suddenly he just stopped showing up – leaving it up to me to keep things ticking over. I asked him why and he just said, "I'm tired of being a crutch."
It always seems a miracle, don't you think, to see such joyful carefree children with such depressed mediocre parents. The parents' pain seems to run off them like water off a ducks back. But just wait until those children are their parents age. They'll be carbon copies.
willing the event as such

Pain is the work that needs to be done. The choice that faces us all is whether to buckle down to it or avoid it. Most, of course, chose avoidance. We engineer an anodyne life that backgrounds pain in the hope that pleasure will come forward. But, to the soul, such a life is clearly false because painkillers reduce our ability to feel anything – they dampen the spirit. Hence depression – an inability to grasp the bull by the horns because letting go, walking away and becoming busy with something else is always presented as such a tempting option.
What motivates? Fundamentally, for me, a deep deep desire for justice. So deep, so fundamental, that the word hasn't formed yet. A wordless world. An egoless world. Paradise.


"As soon as we stop paying attention to a particular moment it falls into the past and no longer forms part of our present. Thus the distinction between past and present is fluid and dependent upon one's level of attention."
When solitude is disturbed, loneliness sneaks in.
Genteel poverty.

Every model is provisional – waiting to be displaced by the next instance of brain chemistry alteration. Reality is in relationships, not in things, per se. Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone.
What motivates? At least once a month this should be pondered.
I met Rupert Sheldrake a few times back in the mid 80's. His wife Jill Purce was a friend of a friend. He was terribly Oxbridge (probably still is). On one occasion he asked me what I did.
"That's all?"
"But Taiji's just something you do for ten minutes in the morning isn't it?"
Despite his sensitivity and his remarkable ability to think creatively, he couldn't step out of his class conditioning for the life of him.
Challenge reality with the intensity of your spirit, and it willingly responds with the gift of an event. Disgust reality with selfish demands and it will treat you with the contempt you deserve (by either giving you what you want or not giving you what you want, it matters little).


The present moment is not simply richer but enlivened by full spirited participation. This is what we mean by giving – nothing to do with being nice or helpful.

Meditation strives to use spirit to create time. This is its paradox. Even though sitting still, seemingly passive, your heightened awareness becomes pure activity in its intensity and presence – what Blake called Imagination – and this activity ignites the ever elusive present moment into presence. Such moments then endure as long as there is spirit to fuel them.
The only way to access the present moment is through spirit. In a sense this defines spirit – spirit is the energy of the ever unfolding yet infinitesimally thin present moment.
If you receive the grace of great teaching and yet refuse to give it due respect by taking it into regular practice, then it will, in all likelihood, end up doing more harm than good, if only because you'll have the external experience – so will think you know – and yet nothing has been internalised.
If we were to experience the full glory of the present moment then the shock would consume and as likely kill us. This is the sense in which spirit makes life by bringing to death.
It's not only the words that need to stop – the voices – but the images too. Being awake means entering the realm of pure perception.


Generally what needs to change is not what you do but how you do it.


Time starts now.
Whilst busy thinking, chattering, worrying, you cannot be aware of the flows and forces operating upon you, externally or internally. Every now and then one of these messages is strong enough to dredge you from your stupor and for a short time you marvel at the richness of reality, only to succumb yet again to the seduction of self absorption. This is the way – bouncing ever to and fro – until something in you breaks and you no longer expect the best of both worlds.
"I care not where my body may take me as long as my soul is embarked on a meaningful journey."
Rational thought, we are told, developed in Greece, amongst the idle rich, pampered by fledgling democracies which functioned because over half the population were slaves. Little did they know that they were unleashing upon the world the means of their own enslavement.

All or nothing.
Consider a tall man – his relations with the world. To partake, his head bows forward, eyes look down, heart drops, groin pulls back: all of which have a terrible effect on spirit, and so, on life. A warrior, on the other hand, is short, relatively: small but central, centred, in the midst of giants and ogres. Head pulled back, eyes wide open, heart cast up, groin thrust forward: leading with purple glans through the cosmic vagina (Castaneda's phrase) of time, and ever into living presence.
The rational mind operates from above by looking down upon a world and making judgements. It's use demands the sacrifice of root, the source not only of physical power but also creative power – heart and intention (true mind).


"The heavens call to you, and circle about you, displaying to you their eternal splendors, and your eye gazes only to earth."

all the antitheses with which timid mediocrity attempts to split the world
The trouble with learning to quieten the mind is that then the company of those with undue internal noise, which of course is the vast majority of humanity, becomes tiresome and tiring in the extreme. This is your burden – to bear the other's suffering with compassion and impeccability – to maintain peace of mind in the midst of their disturbance – to swallow them whole with a heart that cannot do otherwise.
The mind quietens so heart can take centre stage. But ego always waits in the wings, ready to throw in its critical tuppence worth.


"There are not only two worlds, but three: the world of vision, the world of sight and the world of memory: the world we create, the world we live in and the world we run away to. The world of memory is an unreal world of reflection and abstract ideas; the world of sight is a potentially real world of subjects and objects; the world of vision is a world of creators and creatures."
Tense hips (repression) and tense shoulders (anxiety) indicate one far more embedded in their own world (internal or social) than the real external world of flows and forces. A teacher kick-starts the long, slow process of relaxation so that reality can get inside and erode these tensions.

"Without unceasing Practice nothing can be done: Practice is Art. If you leave off you are lost."
Spiritual work amounts to training spirit and body to move naturally in opposite directions.
Careful not to believe your own publicity – you'll appear both full of yourself and foolish.
I have a student here who also takes rowing lessons with the top rowing instructor in Israel. Apparently, one particularly grueling lesson, she exclaimed, "Good God, why am I doing this!" to which he replied, "To make your lungs and your heart strong. And when they are strong everything in your life changes."
"The imagination is not a state: it is the human existence itself."

to the eye of a man with jaundice all things appear yellow
One little secret I've discovered along the Way is the use of yerba mate tea to stimulate the correct sort of elastic tension in mind and body, a tension – intention – without which spirit can be neither gathered internally nor directed externally. Coffee doesn't have the elasticity, without which there is no fluidity to directed movement; no energy, only force.
Body is the instrument with which to develop and project spirit.
Without a heart ever lifting to God, the heavy, relaxed shoulders of Taiji will bow you down and, eventually, under.
The most treasured moments are those of simple solitude. Richly attended by ancestors and angels. That's when infinity gets close.


"Francine, let's never let a silly thing like love come between us again!"
Working hard to get stronger is a straightforward if not easy matter. But working so hard that you get weaker takes a certain type of crazy courage, without which softness – that rarest of qualities – forever eludes.
"At the dawn of history we lost something precious, the absence of which has made us ill with narcissism."
The master, above all else, offers a path with heart, a path into heart. To take the path requires a transmission of energy, and a mountain of work. Poignantly, there is no room for passengers, despite the depth of your affections. Gradually all ties to the world are severed, and it passes you by, rather than vice versa.


And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love

Every thing possible
to be believed is an
image of truth.
Problems arise when you fail to go all the way. As well as letting yourself down, you miss the natural return – the inevitable bounce back.
A creature of habit really appreciates an event.


Fraught, frayed, frightened, frazzled. Spirit always leaves at least one of these. Inevitable residue, similar to muscle ache the day after exercise. Par for the course.
Where on Earth is all this going? Wish I knew. Actually glad I don't. Sure I'd chicken out.

Reflective thought is only bad if it distances you from life, if it packages and discards – consumes – like the professional tourist ticking off destinations. Reflection can be creative – it can create an event of foresight – but then this must be worked with like a Trojan – or Spartan – before transformation is effected.
Make rather than take. This is a principle that operates on the level of perception.
Much better to talk with spirit than about spirit.
Conversation with my teacher about 30 years ago:
"How are you feeling?"
"Not too good – think I'm coming down with the flu."
"Ah, sign of progress!"
"Well you have to think that otherwise it wont be."
Strictly Speaking All Knowledge is Particular.

Meditation brings you to a place of peace so that you can let yourself fall apart.
"The sources of art are enthusiasm and inspiration: if society mocks and derides these, it is society that is mad, not the artist, no matter what excesses the latter may commit."


Millennia ago we sold our soul to the devil – traded it for an ego, a sense of self. Now we must go through hell to trade it back. And that journey is a becoming porous if not transparent; allowing energy to flow through each and every pore; holding on to nothing; becoming light.
A real teaching has two parts: an external form which the student struggles to internalize, and an internal transmission that slowly – as the decades roll by and the practice accrues – externalizes. But don't expect many to notice.
Talking, writing, teaching – all a struggle to understand. Once it's understood you know to keep quiet.

These days a regular guy can't afford to be regular.
Instead of going into therapy to talk about your problems, in the vain and vague hope that they'll quietly go away, work with them: grapple with them, wrestle them, fashion them into a machine, a weapon, with which to burrow through the veil of crass convention that envelops everything nowadays, and into the heart of reality.


"If you ever manage to quieten your mind then the shit will really hit the fan."
John Kells

Something my teacher growled at me many years ago. And it's because there is absolute dissonance between reality as is, revealed only when the mind stops, and the world constructed by that mind, which is basically a fabric of social and personal neuroses.


"From wretch to warrior, love gives a man his strength, often at the cost of his mind."
The courage to walk into battle knowing it's your last. A tall order.

No matter
what it is
I’m doing

I’ve never yet
got over the

I’m pretending
to do what
I am.

John Phillips


Courage is finding the will to overcome your fear.


"It is precisely the unthinkable that must be thought."
Mind must be dislodged from its rational perch, dismantled piece by piece, then reassembled with a natural inclination for energy rather than thought. This is basically a descent into madness followed by an ascent into sainthood.
In moving be conscious of what you displace. Swimming in air.


Stopping the internal dialogue is not a forceful matter of pushing the lid down on a boiling pot. Rather it is a matter of switching one's attention and allegiance from mind to spirit.
The portal to the next moment is here, now, but in the realm of spirit. And for us – warriors, dancers – spirit is very real – nothing like the abstract spirit of the religious which is mere wishful thinking – "If I think it and believe it then maybe it'll be true" – a naive misplaced faith in mental formation. For us spirit is an intensity of presence that conjures sufficient magic to turn this here moment into the centre of a creative universe. When I rouse my spirit in the way my teacher taught me then all around teems and seethes with life. Dwell on past events or future possibility and you'll miss it. Due vigilance.
"Only when the inner dialogue stops can the hidden parts of ourselves be seen and revealed."

This says it all really. Psychotherapy is for those without the sobriety and discipline – without the stomach and heart – for this Herculean task of simply shutting up.


The end justifies the means: force.

Unending movement: energy.



Graffiti in TLV

The failure of cautious practice.
"It's OK to be human, but try your best not to be."  
John Kells

In the world – the human universe – but neither of it nor caught by it. You're better than that.
"Never hesitate to trade your cow for a handful of magic beans."
Root: k-hole standing up.
Renunciation & constancy.

the linear expectations of the bourgeois mind
Root: mycelial rather than rhizomatic. (Although all concepts have their uses.)
Lose the mind to find Mind.
The world doesn't need more nice people – if it did then bourgeois society would certainty be fulfilling a function. It needs more seers – more people who see.
"Throughout most of our history, nothing – not flood, famine, plague, or new weapons – has endangered humanity one-tenth as much as the narcissistic ego, with its self-aggrandizing presumptions and its hell-bound spawn of fear and greed."