23.8.17

It is weight that gives meaning to weightlessness.

Do you have the heart to hear the Truth? Do you have the courage (which is also heart – a raging heart) to practise Truth?
One morning last week, whilst in Sinai, we caught a cab South towards Nuweiba to spend the day at Little Head – next to Ras El Satan – where the reef and breeze are both better than where we were. The cabbie – a Bedouin boy who didn't look old enough to drive and probably wasn't – drove the whole way with his left hand on the wheel and his right palm facing up as though holding a delicate flame. I looked into his face and he was deep in prayer. He was remembering God. And this is the trick: never squander an opportunity to pray. The only antidote to forgetfulness is remembering. Become religious.
Play becomes joy, joy becomes work, work becomes play.
At best, when most connected, when least forgetful, nothing more than the expression of God's intention. God intends me. A life dedicated to realising and honouring this fact.
In darkness because of forgetfulness.

22.8.17


"There is no foreground or background, only a continuity of interlacing relationships."
My teacher was always giving me – as budding teacher – guidelines. One was that if a student hadn't got into serious practice within six months of starting Taiji, then they're never going to. Another was that serious work needs to commence before the age of 27. At this age, when most are establishing a career, starting a family, galavanting about the globe on ever more exotic and expensive holidays, the spiritually inclined student is starting the process of giving up the world for the sake of following and developing a relatively undistracted internal life.
"I believe in an art that is born out of man’s need to open his heart."
As parents we encourage our children to try lots of different things in the hope that they'll find something they love doing – something that suits them really well. Then we just pray that they'll find within themselves the courage and fortitude to persevere, so that they become really good at something, at least. We know, from our own experience, that it is only by persisting through thick or thin – by driving through the inevitable barriers – that character and strength, inner and outer, are developed. And the more difficult the trials and tribulations along the way, the stronger one eventually becomes. This is the rationale behind all practice. So, for example, learning to play the piano well develops general character as well as a specialized skill, otherwise it would be a very limited and limiting use of time.
I'm only trying to do what I can't do.

"My art is rooted in a single reflection: why am I not as others are? My art gives meaning to my life."
Experience brings wisdom. But, it is the experience of repeating the same practice, day in day out, to join the creative process of generating meaningful novelty by coming to the absolute unrepeatable uniqueness of the Now. Not the experience of trying lots of different things for a short time – that's just childish. The experience of depth that forever deepens, rather than surface that forever flattens.
"The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real."

Meditation is simply looking at the self. Staring it down.

21.8.17

Happiness is an internal state – a function of internal quiet and centredness. Nothing whatsoever to do with the external state of affairs. Otherwise your happiness, which is purely your responsibility, would be at the mercy of circumstances always beyond your control. This is our peculiarly Taoist stoicism.
To be is to be vulnerable.


A music that gently marks the passage and flow of time without recourse to drone, clamour or beat.
"Forming grammatically correct sentences is for the normal individual the prerequisite for any submission to social laws. No one is supposed to be ignorant of grammaticality; those who are belong in special institutions. The unity of language is fundamentally political."
Words do not really describe reality – not adequately – they deny reality. Reality is where words are not; where words dare not go.
"All currency is neurotic."
Most students nowadays are not students at all. They don't study – practice – all hours of the day. They don't respect the teaching. They don't even acknowledge that there is a teaching. They will smile and nod knowingly when you tell them something that pleases them, and they will protest and regard you with pity and contempt when you tell them something that threatens their cozy world view. They sincerely believe that ego will disappear just because they decide it should. They basically behave like spoilt brats – spiritual tourists. They know nothing of reality because for them knowledge is merely information gathered along the way. What they all have in common is that they want want want and so feel it is their God given right to take take take. They are exhausting.
Love without attachment is light.

Peace lies in finding the true war. I think it was Norman O Brown that said that. The true war is the one that's raging, whether we like it or not, whether we know it or not – we always feel it – deep down beneath the sheen of bourgeois serenity: the battle for our soul.
A path lined with giant guardians, sombre sentinels, silent witnesses to divine progress.
"I believe that the very process of looking can make a thing beautiful."
Ever wake up feeling too tired, too rushed, too distracted to practise? A voice tells you that you can't possibly give it your best shot so why not wait till evening when everything's out of the way and you're more settled. Well that's Satan fighting back, filling your head with excuses to prevent any attack to his sovereignty of your being.
Silence is so accurate.

We say we're not religious, yet we worship Ego with as much dedication and devotion as zealous fundamentalists their God.
"I have to change to stay the same."
Modern comforts would better be called dire distractions.

20.8.17

Extend (frequency) range out of perception, out of comprehension. Down into deep time (infinite time) where span is but a blink – of no significance – and up to a high fizz (infinitesimal time) where spirit dances at seemingly infinite speed, and takes otherworldly shape. Otherwise we remain lodged in, and ruled by, the mundane rhythms of heart and breath, the tedious vulgar economies of the human mind.
One works without thinking how to work.
"The worst thing you can think about when you’re working is yourself."
The stone in the belly – focus and weight – where a quiet disciplined mind wants to settle, should more appropriately be called the plumb in the belly. That small ball of lead better suits the essential nature of dantien – its feeling of concentrated essence – its density and mass always pulling the spine into verticality. Taoism is heavily influenced by Chinese alchemy – the art of extracting essence from substance, from things. Imagine the early chemists' amazement when they discovered that when certain rocks from the Earth were crushed and heated very hot, a trickle of dense shiny liquid appeared which cooled into metal with all its remarkable qualities, not least its ability to be fashioned into jewellery and weaponry. The very concept of essence – the idea that things have an essential nature somehow independent of external character and form – is the foundation of our concept of the Internal.
"You paint the way you have to in order to give. That's life itself, and someone will look and say it is the product of knowing, but it has nothing to do with knowing, it has to do with giving."
Quiet mind is not just quiet; neither is it inactive, nor passive. It is centred, anchored ruthlessly in dantien, so that it can intend – move energy, clearly and effectively, by stretching wherever it needs to go. This is good tension (the correct use of the word). The only reason for bad tension would be if the mind stopped being quiet and the resulting anxiety caused you to tighten up in an effort to hold things together and get things done. This is actually quite a complex and difficult procedure, and could only possibly be learnt if placed at a very young age in an environment saturated in chronic anxiety. Sound familiar?
I used to meditate until I learned to stop thinking.

Engagement with great Art is not, ultimately, sensual nor intellectual but spiritual. The same with Nature. The same with Time. But for this we need to surrender self, and sacrifice our precious time, our internal space. We need to give.

19.8.17

"The enormous pitfall is devotion to oneself instead of to life."
Tension is our way of compensating for an undisciplined mind.
Heart yearns to love and be loved. Ego demands to possess.
I paint with my back to the world.

We spend a life expecting the world to miraculously kowtow to our desires. Happy when it does, miserable when it doesn't. How childish can we get?
"Nothing will work unless you do."
We must ask ourselves why the mind is so dominant, so lordly and all-knowing. Is it because it is virtuous and strong or is it because the heart has become weak and unsure, no longer capable of standing up for itself, in which case mind is little more than a schoolyard bully. The mind, the self, needs to be taken down a peg – made to know its place – then heart can find its place, its space, to open up and flourish. Mind and heart should be clearly distinguished otherwise they trespass into each others territory and confuse each other. When distinguished they can happily do what they are designed to do – approach and obey spirit, each in its own wonderful way.
Ego would rather you die than give up control.
Doing what you were born to do. That's the way to be happy.
"small memorable phrases he called pebbles to slay Goliath"
Dantien anchors mind as root anchors body.
Lao Tzu: Soft, like ice about to melt. Transforming by unforming. Brink, break, point and place of failure. Becoming liquid. Always, potentially, the point, place, of tears.
Physical tension indicates that you're using the body to do something that the mind could manage much better if only it were quiet, if only it could intend.
"Fear is always built on a lie. Always! You can never adequately deal with fear unless you deal with the lie behind it. Deal with the lie and the fear will die."

"Deplorable mania, when something happens, to inquire what."
Something bizarrely ironic about the Church declaring that anything but the humble way is heresy.
A few days ago, whilst in Sinai, I met someone who had just holidayed in highland Laos. "How was it?" I inquired. "O it was wonderful! Totally unspoilt by tourism." Mmmm, I thought, so now you can claim to be one of the first spoilers of Laos, as I can claim to be one of the last spoilers of the fragile Sinai reef which is tragically disappearing at a rate of knots.
Transformation, not information.

18.8.17

My Redeemer, redeem me, for I am yours; the one who has come forth from you.
You are my mind; bring me forth!
You are my treasure house; open for me!
You are my fullness; take me to you!
You are repose; give me the perfect thing that cannot be grasped!

"The life of a saint is not the life of a great man or woman, but of God's life in an ordinary man or woman."
Tense shoulders are a barricade protecting ego from anything that may potentially threaten it.
Instead of curling up like a dormouse into the comfort of opinion, open out into the world of energy and spirit. It's much more interesting. And you never know, you may even glimpse God – when you least expect it. Grace befalls always when you least expect it.
this humble project of transformation

17.8.17

the instantaneous surprise of an Other

"They are perhaps unwavering and fixed and my fitful perceiving the cause of their inconstancy."
Becoming energy, where energy is simply movement – a wave passing through a vast population called a body – a Mexican wave – becoming swarm/shoal. This precedes spiritual work otherwise it's all in the head.
"Human evolution is itself, I suppose, a process of becoming divine."
Never worry unduly about what other people think or say about you. If they are negative the chances are they are either not getting what they want out of you, or you are not conforming to their value system, either of which should indicate that you're getting something right.
Divine Love is the surrender of self.

It's really very very simple. Jesus lives in your heart, Satan in your head. Whom do you love the most? If you say the heart (the centre of which is always God, whichever way you look at it) then invest a little time each day proving it, because the rest of the time you're confirming the opposite. And if you refuse this challenge then you're full of shit.
If the work doesn't bring you low then it's just another ego trip.
Be gracious, not greedy.

14.8.17

Always aware of the medium we breathe and move through, the forces that operate (especially gravity) and the passage of time. This is humility, or what The Cloud of Unknowing calls imperfect meekness, imperfect only because it is not the be all and end all. Perfect meekness is the spark and dance of spirit within this mindful continuum which your bountiful compassion triggers and stimulates. Humility only comes with subduing the Adamic ego – heroically tackling original sin.
stifled by the anxieties, wealth and gaieties of time

13.8.17


From thought to energy, from front to back, from knowing to unknowing, from head to heart.

12.8.17

"Self-knowledge is the only way to get and keep the virtue of humility."
Thought thwarts heart.
Every aspect of being, informed and regulated by the softness of touch.
freedom from over-identification
"Basically, humility is seeing yourself as you really are. It's that simple."

(Literally: Meekness in itself is nothing but a true knowing and feeling of a man's self as he is.)
So why God, or some such? Because without you eventually reach an ontological or existential impasse – a labyrinth – an impenetrable mist. We all need a Rule, an Ordo Virtutum, a Catechism of sorts to get us through. Only one in a million can go it alone.
Disillusioned, not with life but with self. For the dullard there is little difference since life is always experienced and mediated through the self. Our work is to distinguish life from self, a task that can only be approached through faith and therefore heart.

11.8.17

Softness – the real softness of a tender touch – is the quality that should resonate through all actions and whole being.
Creation is not an event in the past, but a relationship in the present.

This is the allegorical nature of scripture – not about past events at all (who cares?) but about what's happening now in your soul and psyche.

Woke up this morning with a phrase in my head: "Irrevocably touched by the absolute reciprocity of touch." As I lay and mulled it over I remembered the first time I encountered that beautiful word 'reciprocity.' It was in a poem by Wilfred Owen which ends with the phrase – The eternal reciprocity of tears – tears being a sensitive response, the only response, to touch, to being touched.
Everything we do, of any spiritual worth, trees do so much better. They don't have freedom of choice muddying the issue.
Belief is a natural state – a natural process – and the work is not so much to believe as to suspend disbelief – to soften the cynicism of self. Otherwise we focus too much on articles of faith, dogma, creed, and miss the trusting love at/of the heart.
How to live a life such that that living constitutes a continuous and gentle process of worship, without recourse to God or self?

10.8.17

"He would always go off to some place where he could be alone and pray."

It's very nice to go trav'ling 
But it's oh so nice to come home. 

This is the feeling the work gives me – homecoming.
my peace is there in the receding mist
when I may cease from treading these long shifting thresholds
and live the space of a door
that opens and shuts

9.8.17

My teacher, like many teachers, would sometimes liken the spiritual journey to climbing a mountain. He would always quip that it wasn't climbing the mountain that's difficult but what you do when you get to the top. I don't know about that. Is all I know is that whenever I dip into Philip Gröning's Into Great Silence, which I do regularly, I never fail to realise that I haven't even reached the foothills let alone the mighty ascent.
Happiness is a deep internal state (calling from the cold mines beneath my sanity) completely unaffected by whether the world is pleasing or displeasing. And when you touch this state then you give the world the greatest gift – spiritual grace.
"You must come away to some lonely place all by yourself and rest for a while"

Spiritual work reduces you to the point of knowing with all your heart and soul that you have no choice. From then on it's plain sailing. Sort of.
Remember when we were kids, school holidays were anticipated eagerly as the term drew to a close, and then enjoyed immensely once they arrived. And, being selfish children, we instantly assumed that because we enjoyed them then our parents did so too. It's only on becoming parents ourselves that it begins to dawn on us that school holidays filled our parents with exactly the same dread that they fill us. Well the situation is pretty much the same as spending time with your teacher. You assume that because her company is so beneficial and enriching for you then your company must be the same for her, when, in actual fact, the chances are she can't bear the sight of your selfish face nor the thought, let alone the presence, of your demanding, whinging ego. The teaching she offers is then whatever she feels you need to work on to make your company bearable. What she gets from the encounter is the opportunity to humbly cast aside her distaste and practice hope.
"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature."
At some point the work inevitably becomes difficult, heartbreakingly so. If it didn't then it wouldn't be work, it would just be a pastime, a hobby. Most students, at this point, either give up or, worse still, use the force of their ego to constantly drag the work back into familiar territory every time it threatens. Soon they become such experts at this that the teacher stops correcting them – effectively stops teaching – a situation that is far worse for the teacher than it is for the student who has effectively turned the tables. Those that refuse such manipulations (which are always conscious) continue the work with redoubled effort. When the going gets tough the tough get going.
Grow from the inside out.

"We do not need more intellectual power, we need more spiritual power. We do not need more things that are seen, we need more things that are unseen."
Therapy aims to heal and rehabilitate a wounded ego so that the individual can effectively function within society. Spiritual work aims to purify the heart and soul so that the individual can affectively commune with God. Clearly these are not the same. Not even close. They operate on completely different dimensions. Modern therapies get rid of soul by inventing models that don't include one, and spiritual work struggles to get through and beyond ego. Therapy builds you up, spiritual work crushes you down.

8.8.17

from impenetrable self to impenetrable unself by way of neither
Love is the spirit of between.

7.8.17

Compassion does not attempt to take suffering away from the other, but to help them manage the process of change that the suffering makes unavoidable. A case of make or break.

I remember, many years ago, reading an interview with an elderly guitarist. The interviewer asked him if he still practised, to which he replied, aghast at the question, "Of course!" The interviewer then asked why, given that he was still gigging so was hardly likely to lose it, and, given his age, wasn't likely to technically improve either. The guitarist simply said, "Because I love practising."
asylum head
sole blot
Without a practice regime, established over time under the experienced guidance of a master, exposure to great teaching can do nothing but feed a probably already inflated ego. Such 'students' waft and drift around in a haze of smug self-satisfaction – spiritual and experiential materialists to a tee – until the shit hits the fan, which it inevitably will, by which time, of course, it's probably too late to sincerely change.
The work is never easy. If it appears so it is probably because it has been subsumed into ego. This is inevitable in some way and is why you must have a teacher – she will help wrench it out and put you back on the path. And this is why there is always an element of dread associated with both teacher and teaching – they are guarantees of suffering.

6.8.17

Every man must choose his world.

The work must first reject, on every possible level, the will to power, otherwise it is yet another self-centered pursuit. This is another way of saying that the work must come from the heart and not the ego. A humbling work designed to grind us down to absolute obedience.

5.8.17

"Our part is to yield and trust."
The Adamic ego.
Dr Chi, my Taiji grandpa, is on my mind a lot lately. Largely his religious turn – his wholehearted embrace of Jesus when it became clear to him that Taiji could take him no further – but also his light intelligence and humour, which is clear to see in his Form as well as his open face. I remember my teacher telling me that the first time he stayed for any length of time with Dr Chi in Taipei it began to dawn on him that given his present state of progress it would take him about 200 years to reach his teacher's level, so he asked Dr Chi, somewhat despairingly, how one progresses, to which the master replied, quite simply, "Somehow."
"Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you."

Laziness is choosing to do something else instead of what needs to be done. The secret is to somehow align desire and need.
You know what it's like: some days you just don't want to go into work. You may be tired, hungover, grumpy, or just plain sick to death of the tedium. But you know you don't really have a choice, you need a roof over your head and food to eat so you steal yourself out of bed, shower (already feeling better), dress (that's smart), quick coffee (just what you needed) and then out of the door and on your way. And by the time you arrive the early morning blues are forgotten and you click into the job. Well it's exactly the same with coming to practice. It's always difficult and daunting, but for the sake of your soul – your real life – you steal yourself away from distraction and just get on with it. And without this daily grind – this beautiful act of faith – there is no real character development. You remain, internally, at worst asleep and at best an over-pampered child. "You are truly blessed to know you have no choice."

3.8.17

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Apparently Dr Chi's class mates all acknowledged that he was the best. They used to joke that it was because he didn't have the strength to get it wrong (he was always physically very frail).

2.8.17

Solitude is not simply time alone. It is pure quiet time, free of all distraction, especially that of the restless mind.

It all boils down to whether you work to bolster and strengthen the self or work to weaken and reduce it. Be honest. There's a world of difference.
Inside us is an infinite abyss, which, unless filled by an infinite presence, collapses constantly into itself despite the pathetic efforts of the ego to either puff it out or cover it over.
"The shortest road is faithfulness to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit."
In order to push up with any force I must also push down – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The same principle holds with statements of authority – as soon as I propose something with any degree of force then its opposite immediately enters the picture as a necessary possibility. This is the Taoist model of reality – a dance of yin and yang rather than a declaration of yin or yang. Reality is positive and affirmative rather than conditional. But to join it – to become real – the work needs to reduce my conditionality – ego – to nothing.
The more you bleed in practice the less you'll bleed in the fight.

We practice not to accrue wonderful spiritual experiences but for the love of God. This is the sacrificial nature of the work. So it matters little whether the work is enjoyable or odious. What matters is the faithfulness that drives its quotidian regularity and continuance.
The work is not materialistic – not acquisitive – but fundamentally reductive. It's all about reducing my self to nothing – what the hesychasts call dying to the world – so that I can eventually become pure channel and vessel for the love of God.
"For the love of God." The beauty of this phrase is its ambiguity – there is no clear indication whether the love mentioned is my love for God or his love for me – and so, in its utterance, these two loves become one, or at least resonate intimately. When I love with any degree of truth and authenticity – selflessly – then it is really God loving through me.

1.8.17

"On average, American adults are watching five hours and four minutes of television per day." Imagine them all sacrificing 10% of that to meditate? What a change in consciousness it would bring about!
our world of inanity & automatism

If talking to oneself is the first sign of madness doesn't that make us all mad?