An uncompromising ethic: the refusal to knowingly abuse or neglect spirit.


Extend down through root into Earth, up through heart-reach to Heaven. This is the lifeline to which one clings whilst sinking deep into the darkness – the primordial cave of the unconscious. A journey that must be taken regularly otherwise it’s all a little theoretical.
Confrontation is face to face. Friendship is side by side. So turning really does turn an opponent into a friend. Potentially.
The courage to dwell at the edge of impending reversal, the point where yin flips to yang.

Happiness is round. Don’t be square.
There's no honey without bees.

Use polar coordinates with dantien or heart as centre.
When we talk of relaxation in Taiji it is more a relaxation into work – into the doing of Taiji – than a becoming flaccid. More the sheer joy of unimpeded movement than static enervation or entropic dispersal.
Dismantle the Cartesian scaffolding of mind and let energy paint its abstract textures, its myriad creatures.
Nothing better than relaxing into the natural tension of connexion.
A painting is not a structure of colours and lines, but an animal, a night, a cry, a man, or all of these together.

A straight face breaking into a smile.

Taiji is all about turning. Creating circles, spirals, arcs and curves. Even the seemingly straight lines bend and rifle.
During meditation dantien becomes a campfire around which the local community (mind body spirit, along with ancestors and angels) gather for warmth and togetherness – tenderness. A singsong to celebrate the work of the day.
Shimmer: the hum of any fluid system that has stabilized by equilibrating via natural feedback loops.


When I paint, I liberate monsters.
The big breakthrough every student needs to make is the establishment of an effective daily practice regime. Then they simply need the courage to keep it going for the rest of their life. This will only happen if you feel the truth of what you do. This is the key.
Sometimes you have to travel afar, go out on a limb, make a superhuman effort, just to be able to hear the simplest of instructions. If an exotically clad Tibetan monk in deepest Nepal whom you’ve spent a few weeks traveling to tells you to ‘Just sit’ then that is obviously going to mean much more than the exact same instruction coming from the mouth of the part-time meditation instructor at your local adult education center. Context, as always, is everything.
Much if not most of what you need to know to make spiritual progress you must find out for yourself, the hard way. No one can tell you because you wouldn’t listen.


Bear in mind that wages are never adequate reward for your precious time so unless your employment provides at least some spiritual benefits then you're wasting your time, energy and a large portion of your life.

We will never have repose. The present is perpetual.
Most of our developed strength is what we call coarse strength or hardness – the strength that comes from using the body without due care – habitually, carelessly, mindlessly. We want to replace this with a fine strength or softness – the strength that results when you listen respectfully, carefully and mindfully.

When you plant and plunge a root the head and heart stop drooping and lift upward. This is the start of real faith, solid faith, a faith with no need of creed because want and need coincide, at last, in this deep desire to worship by rising upward out of self.
Force is simply too much energy – energy pooled into something akin to matter rather than squeezed into spirit. Force moves things around. Energy flows through things.
Movement is Life. Move well and you live well.

Everything the teacher instructs you to do would happen naturally if only you stopped resisting and using force. Where have you heard that one before?
Once an object has been incorporated in a picture it accepts a new destiny. One of the beautiful aphorisms of Georges Braque. And this is what the teaching and teacher offer – a bigger better picture in which to embed oneself.

Every student worth their salt resists the teaching tooth and nail, and so the job of the teacher is to seduce and suck them in. They do this by making an offer that cannot be refused. Once the offer has been accepted and the student is well and truly ensnared, then it's simply a matter of time.
Give me a break.
The painting is finished when the idea has disappeared.

It is only in trying to express it, write it down, inscribe and archive, that you begin to realize that since the very beginning you’ve had hold of a thread, a lifeline so tenuous yet vital, that the work reinforces thereby saving your (inner) life. This thread is your destiny which the world and its awful forces of conformity conspire to smother.
Reality only reveals itself when illuminated by a ray of poetry.
The work is a journey of and into faith. Not a faith inferior to knowledge, but a knowing without vocabulary. A silent knowledge. So, whilst the work is a constant reworking, a rewriting, a shuffling and reassembling of the same old words, it does so knowing deeply that these must one day give way to a silence that presently cannot be borne.
Repeat the same thing, day in, day out, mindlessly, and you quickly get sucked into the dreadful mire of habit. But repeat it mindfully and you develop fineness and finesse – your energy refines. Mindless is all about the same, the status quo. Mindful is all about difference, the subtle changes.
purely out of necessity – I simply couldn’t do anything else

The work is all about breaking the family curse. Breaking those inherited habits of mind that force life along stifling tramlines of resentment, force it to lie down and accept a set of worst-case scenario expectations rather than live up to a vision born of spirit and destiny.


anyone with half a brain and passion should do it
glittering in gneiss 
snowflakes on eyelashes 
frail songs by torrents


Principles are forever – eternal – and operate at every level. Time invariant and scale invariant; they are not so common. Images and concepts (visualisations) on the other hand are two a penny, and can shift and change as the mood requires. Notice a cat basking in the sun and you become cat. Teacher says the word 'tree' and you become tree. This is the beauty of humans – so impressionable. It all depends on what turns you on.
Spiritual work attempts the impossible: to change the way we see ourselves, and the way we operate moment to moment.

Art is a wound turned into light.
During meditation direct the pressure on the sitting bones up into sacrum, sternum and cranium. These three bones are effectively in parts: sacrum a stack of vertebrae, sternum two symmetrical plates separated by a vertical central seam and cranium a jigsaw of pieces that breathe with the craniosacral rhythm. Directing energy (movement) into these areas will help them relax and bring them alive.
I don't really trust ideas, especially good ones. Rather I put my trust in the materials that confront me, because they put me in touch with the unknown.
Muscles in the lower leg and foot especially calves (the hearts of the legs) pump energy up the leg from the ground. Thighs support the torso; hamstrings hug the Earth (pull it up into the dantien). Hips and sacroiliacs relax so that the pelvis floats free rather than being held rigid. Then energy from the Earth passes into the upper body unimpeded. When you get it right the whole body will feel light and alive, and the heart will lift naturally – out of itself and beyond itself.
Arms want to straighten, legs want to bend.


Taiji is, first and foremost, a means to understanding energy. Secondly, a martial art.
I use the words bored and understand interchangeably.

The difficulty nowadays, where the seductive pressure to conform is stronger than it has been for a long time, is to live one’s vision and be damned.
There's some mysterious process at work here, which I don't even want to understand.


The place where spiritual comes natural and natural becomes spiritual.

The destination is the journey. We are always arriving, if only we’d wake up to the fact. The path – The Way – is endless and, at every point, continuous.
Use words as though they’re either blessings or prayers, which, of course, they are.
Waking up to the horribly beautiful thought that nobody reads my words.
Finding new words to say the same old things. In a sense this is what the work is – a perennial struggle to keep things fresh.
We have lost our spiritual connexion with Mother Earth and Father Sky. And so we are lost ourselves.

I don’t care how qualified you are, if you’re not a good person then you’re nothing.
Without a good connexion to Earth you’ll never learn to reach for the stars.
In normal life the legs are used to stand up and get around. In Taiji the legs are used to grab the ground and generate energy. There is a world of difference. A world of softness.
We had a teacher at school who insisted that his pupils wouldn’t learn a thing if they didn’t have good posture. So we sat up straight, off the back of the chair, with feet flat on the ground. I guess then he had thirty or so bright eager faces to contend with. When pupils listen then the class teaches itself.
Piss or get off the pot.


a gravitas and at once a light, one might say the light of stone
Sit into the leg rather than stand on it. The erecting spine takes me up as the bending leg takes me down. This is Central Equilibrium.


Familiarity breeds contempt. It’s the unfamiliar, the unknown, the unbeknownst that keeps us fresh and on our toes. This is a principle that works at every level. So, as practice provides facility and expertise and the possibility of careless ease, there should be a scouting spirit always at play, on the look out for the next problem that will change everything. When the student catches this then progress is assured.

Not more of the same but different. Unless you’re content with a war of attrition.
Treading on hoarfrost
Solid ice will come.

sitting in the dusk 
duration becomes substance 
you could lay your hand on it

When personal profit is the prime motivator in society then technological profligacy, over-consumption and over-population are bound to result. A plethora of things. This all relies on division of labour: an army of others making and providing what I consume. If I were only allowed to consume what I can grow and make myself then things would be very different. Spiritual work has such self-sufficiency at its core. As my teacher used to say: I can't do the work for you, and if I could, I wouldn't.
The ability, on the one hand, to attend the minutiae of the moment whilst, on the other, slipping into long time – ancestral time – dream time. Front brain and back brain.


The Weekend Workshop Syndrome:

a tendency to hanker after new experience whilst eschewing both depth and commitment, in the deluded hope that this indicates progress along a spiritual path.
The Truth must dazzle gradually 
Or every man be blind

All I ask is that we compare human consciousness with spirochete ecology.
The opposite of mindfulness is forgetfulness, the tragic flaw of man.
If strength allows you to be careless then better without it.
​Don’t just consume, give back – change!
​Matter is merely mind deadened by the development of habit to the point where the breaking up of these habits is very difficult.

Practice breaks up bad habits and reinforces good ones. The teacher provides tools, moral guidance and encouragement through example.
Destined to stand between Heaven and Earth, forgetting fears and aspirations, trusting what’s in store.
Drop the body, lift the spirit and go!

​Let's face it, nothing could be as tedious as what goes on inside our heads.
I don't mind what happens. This is the essence of inner freedom.


​It takes a certain humility to be self-critical – to see oneself from the other’s vantage.
​Lasting change is always imperceptible.
​Practice – repeating the same thing day in day out – is only boring if you refuse change.
​Until you realize you have no choice you will always be wrongly motivated.

​Happier on one leg? Then you’re on the right track.

I assumed that everything would lead to complete failure, but I decided that didn't matter – that would be my life.

What makes an experience new is not the circumstance of that experience but the openness of the mind that engages it.


​People's lives are too busy, their time too full, and so there is little possibility of waking up to energy, to the fine shimmer of spirit that dances all around all the time. Meditation is the creation of empty time which is then free to fill with magic as it will.
in fidelity to clarity 
the wounds in the rocks 
Knowledge and experience must abide quietly in body and energy so mind can be empty and receptive.

​Reality is not simply what is. That's just a tiny part of the real. Reality is largely the shimmer of potential and possibility. What can be, what could be, what should be, what was, what will be. This is all vibrating, here, now.
The long quiet process of abandoning externals in order to acquire the Internal.
the moth-eaten brocade of progressive hope
Legs hug the Earth and I become infused with its energy and power inspiring me to engage in its dramas. 

Legs straighten and I break away from Earth enabling me to disconnect and slip into my own private dramas.
There’s a level at which words are spirit and paper is skin. That’s the fascination of archives. There’s still a bodily trace.

Don’t merely perceive reality – that always puts you at least one step removed – a tourist. Instead become reality by practising spirit – become an artist.


rebellious return to the blessedness of beginning again
Spirit fights, tooth and nail. It fights the system, first and foremost. The slack bloat of majority ups its hackles and its ire. In time, with guidance, the fight comes inside. Ego a more worthy opponent for spirit.

By definition the underdog has better spirit. By necessity.
You just go on your nerve.


Stop wanting stuff;
it keeps you from seeing what's real. 
When you want stuff, 
all you see are things.
Giving the Other what they want at your own expense is certainly not what we mean by giving. There is no redistribution of energy. Rather you offer them a subtle challenge of spirit – to wake up and connect. This won’t necessarily make their life easier but it will add meaning, and if they accept the challenge then everything will change.
The rot sets in as soon as we learn to stand.
​Clearly distinguish full and empty, matter and energy, material and spiritual. Don’t let them become sticky and confused. Then they will mix naturally and appropriately as the situation requires.
​Real intelligence is always acutely aware of its own limitations.

Am I out of fashion? I certainly hope so. The majority position is by definition over-subscribed; and therefore in no need of further representation.
​Are you really that shallow as to be satisfied with getting what you want? Are you even able to adequately formulate what you want? Beware unintended consequences.


zones of confluence and diffluence


Thoughts and feelings amount to the same thing: opinions about the world. These we learn to mistrust and instead delve into what we call Truth – a level of reality beyond thoughts and feelings. The good student believes in Truth – it’s what drives their passion for work. The poor student is terrified of Truth – and this fear is behind their mockery of anything truthful. The mediocre student believes when Truth is apparent – when it’s staring them in the face or when it’s laid on a plate for them – but they won’t lift a finger to discover it for themselves, not for long anyway.
how did you get here 
your mind wandering 
what grace guided your steps

Strange – we are always inhabiting more than one realm of existence – but they all fit in if the art is right.
Meditation is all about slowly coming to your own personal understanding, of life, of ego, of death, which is definitely not something you can read or buy. You gradually become an undivided individual, a part of Nature and, if you have the spirit, a force of Nature.

Spine is a tall chimney, massive and heavy yet hollow, containing and directing a plume of rising lightness.
​Unprejudiced thinking is one of the most beautiful activities a human being is capable of. It’s just that it’s so damn rare. Find the other (side of the argument), strike a balance, let it wobble, shimmer, play a little. This, the energy of equilibrium, we call peace.


Dantien is the weighted keel that keeps the mast – the spine – erect. The legs must be soft and accommodating enough to allow it to find its natural place – usually slightly forward of where the ego prefers it.

Enlightenment is, I guess, a permanent openness – a rawness – any more than a few seconds of which would tip the average person into insanity. An irrevocable loneliness – no longer able to keep oneself company because self has evaporated.


​For the mind to think, idly, as it does, it must assume immortality; it must assume an abundance of time. So, to stop the mind and come to one's senses it is necessary to confront the one thing the mind cannot bear: death, the notion of death, the reality of death, the finality of death.
​perceptions are dew 
people are mist 
days are thistledown
​Listen to the heart. But not its words – mere projections of the silly mind. Listen to its beating – that beautiful insistence. Feel its quality – its life. Let it consume you – entrance you. Because when it stops you die.
All heart.

Most alive on embracing death.

Thomas A Clark has a new book out – Farm by the Shore – which reads like a Taoist textbook. Why be dragged down by badly written prose when you can be lifted out of yourself by beautiful poetry?
Meditation: time to bask.


​Tightening dantien establishes centre. Squeeze a little harder to find circumference, periphery, rim, outer limits. Intensity defines domain, arena, tiny yet vital, within which spirit reigns supreme. Outside this is a different matter, a matter for grace and God.
a stone from the shore 
carried in the rucksack 
to act as a ballast 
to the impetus of summits
an exacting freedom

Dantien is alive, quietly yet supremely active, like a slowly coiling snake, or like a nematode whipping its length through a continuous lemniscate. And that activity should be the source of every action we make. Dantien is not only a centre of gravity but a veritable spring. 
​So still, so pure, so content in solitude that access is finally granted.
​The strength to be weak.
Without labor nothing prospers.
A centre, which any point is, in its way, has two activities or modes simply by virtue of its existence. One we call gravitation, which is the tendency of that point to establish and consolidate itself by drawing into itself and thereby exercising a pull on its environment. The other we call emanation, which is the tendency of that centre to radiate out of itself an infinite number of radii – potential lines of connexion – and thereby exert a pressure on its environment. These are the yin and yang, the pull and push, of any centre, any point, any object, and ultimately any thing. Our job, as Taoists, is to understand this dynamic equilibrium as deeply as possible – to see how one mode requires and in fact generates the other – in order to live it fully. In fact, these two activities – gravitation and emanation – could also be called understanding and living.


Humour is the play of difference. Not simply a surface effect but an energy that must be imbibed before depth can be plumbed with relative impunity.
the tonality or ethos
of a floating world 
is pooled in rock
in wrack and tangle
Start with a promise then proceed by living up to it. This is honour.
"Believe me, I speak as my understanding instructs me, and as mine honesty puts it to utterance."


the HEART, by way of the BREATH, to the LINE
Blessed with a strong healthy body? Such an instrument begs to be worked long and hard otherwise, on some level, the spirit just isn’t happy.
Let the game come to you.


searching to understand but never know
The negative is just as important as the positive.

Whatever is going to happen is already happening.
A religion preaching that sex is sinful will produce perverts. An education teaching this against that will produce narrow minded bigots. Really, it’s obvious.


Crawling from A to B, pathetically, heroically. There'll be no time for C, D, E...


Despite its increasing improbability, one must keep alive, against all odds, a belief, at least, in the possibility of real change.
Use the legs to maintain an intimate relationship with the Earth. Every step pulls the Earth up into your groin. Without a dantien this process will be resisted or ignored.

"Yes, in my life, since we must call it so, there were three things, the inability to speak, the inability to be silent, and solitude, that’s what I’ve had to make the best of."
Mind springs naturally from a body primed and charged with spirit.
Soothe by exposing sooth.
There is, at the moment, in philosophy, a resurgence of realism, after centuries of idealism. And yet these new realist philosophers still only think the real – think its primacy over mind. Our task, as real philosophers, philosophers of the real, is to live reality through the intensity of our spirit bound to body, and show that mind – the imaginative mind, the imagination – so conjured, is just as real. It is only when the mind slows down, as spirit dissipates, and starts to turn around itself like the last dregs of bath water going down the drain, a process we call thinking, that it all starts to go flat then sour. Reality cannot be thought (about). It can only be lived with spirit (by definition) and then, at a later date, maybe, recollected with the self same spirit.
Find a way not to get in the way (of the natural process).

Your real teachers are those you teach.
Find a work that brings out the best in you. This is only apparent after the event. Seek a haruspex to point the way.
The Tao always provides what’s needed, by definition.


Give what you can and take what comes.
“In Art, something comes out of a wound and a love in a creative equilibrium.”

A working process; a work in process.
The artist struggles – systematically, explicitly, heroically – to be free of ego in order to create something that takes her completely by surprise. This is the magic we all secretly yearn for, the magic of the creative process which life should be.
Ignorantia juris non excusat.
Attune to the undercurrents. We are always forewarned. And forewarned is forearmed.
bodies groping their way

Use all that come your way but abuse none. And it's a fine line, a very fine line.
Come rain or shine.

Feeling bad? Don’t worry, it'll pass. Feeling good? Don’t settle, it'll pass.
When I meet 'spiritual people' nowadays, which, mercifully, I don't do too often, the word I hear most is Me. The mistake they make is to think that this life revolves around them, and the reason for this is lack of practice, because practice, if you do it, regularly and sincerely, always brings you to the same place, a place where you are reduced to next to nothing.
Happy New Year.