31.3.19

To dwell is to garden.

Dwelling is not primarily inhabiting but taking care of and creating that space within which something comes into its own and flourishes.
Why do indigenous people take to alcohol when they enter civilization? Just look around. We have eradicated magic and spirit from our lives, and so their only recourse is to look into a bottle.

The heart-mind should simply be open to receive the world.
When we sink into our root the earth feeds the body with upward flowing energy. Similarly, when we relax the spirit upward to the heavens then we are rewarded with a rain of grace which the heart funnels into the soul.
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.

Nothing is everything that doesn't happen at this very moment.
Nature is now something to be visited at the weekend. The human universe has not only replaced the natural, it has destroyed the natural.
The heart is a glorious, fragrant flower atop a stem fed by a root from the earth. It naturally seeks light, the sun, God. If the stem (spine and legs) or the pressure from the root (energy and spirit) or the flower's faith (desire for God) are weak then the flower will wilt and wither.
Our dissociation from nature, from earth and sky, happened long ago. It's why we invented God – to attenuate the burgeoning ego.
my fears quickly dissipated when my cousin Doris accepted me not only with open arms but with a slice of bannock bread, and sage for smudging

The real teacher lets nothing else be learned than learning.
Spirit is the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons. It always upsets the apple cart, the harmony of the group, the established order. This is why it is both difficult and exciting. Without spirit we would never move on.
The subtle things are the most important, and poetry is the language of subtlety – giving word to energy.
Live for the unexpected. Imagine the openness and vigilance – the spirit – required to see it everywhere.

30.3.19

In Urueu-Wau-Wau cosmology, the sun is a benevolent being whereas the moon is a wasteland populated by nightmares that fall down upon the earth.

Knowledge seeks to explain, while knowing waits for clarity of vision.
Within the clearing, a gathering.
Too late for the gods, too early for Being. This our predicament. We are transitional creatures. Let's hope we earn the time to get to that next stage.

We have become monstrosities. The self/ego now dominates every aspect of our lives, so much so that it has become impossible to imagine other possibilities. McLuhan described our technologies as extensions of the nervous system, but they are more like channels for the ego to blossom and externalize. The virtual, which for Deleuze was the play of pure spirit, has become instead the collective arena of ego. Real spiritual truths are hard won. They come after decades of dedicated, selfless work. But the ego wants such goodies now and so manufactures a world where semblances of the truth are available for those who can afford a coach. There is absolutely nothing in our environment, whether external or internal, that could possibly be called natural anymore. Our lives are simulations and we are simulacra, ugly manikins, vicious automata of self-will.
Any human 'machination' makes the human being more 'hard of hearing' for the language of God, which is drowned out by the 'noise of media which they almost consider to be the voice of God.'

Cats are creatures of comfort.
The correct way is through the Other and the wrong way is through the Self. This is why partner work in Taiji is as necessary as the air we breathe. So what about solo practice? Surely that is doomed to failure since the Other is not present? But this is the point of solo practice: to find Otherness in the absence of the Other. For an artist Otherness is the muse. For us Otherness is simply spirit. To succeed in practice you must be inspired, and thereby become inspiring.
Bottled water has rightly been called "the most wasteful indulgence in the first world." You know what would be truly green? All of us planning ahead and carrying around a reusable water bottle, so we never have to worry about the impact of our hydration habits again.
The clearing is a space that permits a change of heart.
In English the word smile and the word miracle have the same root.

29.3.19


to open up and take true measure of the dimension of our existence
Ballet and fencing. Two disciplines, according to my teacher, that provide excellent grounding for Taiji. They both work on/with lightness of spirit. The poised leap, displayed best of all by Chi Chiang-dao who, with an almost unbearable lightness, leapt from foot to foot with cat-like agility.
When the mind settles and quietens, a clearing opens up.
Chi Chiang-dao, my teacher's teacher, recommended three Short Forms per practice session. The first, free and easy to warm up and relax. The second, slow and precise to firmly define the Form. The third, quick and lively, to fill the Form with spirit.
Poetry is the creative source of the humanness of the dwelling life of man.

28.3.19


vicious automata of self-will
We all know how annoying, irritating and insulting it is to be phubbed – to have the person you're with suddenly take their attention from you and give it instead to their phone. Well we effectively do this to God all the time, so now we know how it feels.
Watching The Sound of Music with Tai, my 10 year old daughter. After the first tiff between the Captain and Maria I said to her:
–Don't worry, they get married in the end.
–Yeah, I know.
–Oh, you've seen it before?
–No.
–So how do you know?
–Dad, it's obvious…
The artist is the origin of the work. The work is the origin of the artist. Neither is without the other.

27.3.19

The imagination is the space of metaphor, where every becoming becomes possible.

We live in a culture, a time, obsessed with visual documentation. If there is no photographic evidence then there is no authentic memory. Our memories are now saved on a hard-drive or in the cloud rather than in our own hearts. The ego bursts the bounds of body and mind and floods into an Instagram stream. When I hear people say, having revisited old haunts, "So disappointing! Not how I remember it at all," then I think, "Lucky you! You had, at one time, an inner life."
Young people are so busy documenting their lives, they forget to live them.
Few people have the imagination for reality.
To really engage reality you need a vivid imagination because the vast portion of reality is actually imaginary (energetic).
Purge the archives. Travel light.

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.
The heart is, first and foremost, the seat of the imagination – what my teacher called energy. As a primary centre and mover it has been largely replaced by the ego, except in young children and some creative people.
When a train of thought takes you on a marvelous adventure, rather than into anxious calculation, then it probably comes from the heart, or at least from outside the mind. A healthy mind always takes its cue from the heart/imagination, never from itself.
Each Form a foray into the imagination.
Postures of prayer.

It's not enough to just turn up. You must also have something to give: energy, heart, enthusiasm, openness, imagination, willingness, a smile. And if you find that you don't then the chances are you don't want to be there. So leave. Be honest.
Many a practice session has been ruined by trying to repeat yesterday's.

26.3.19

Science encounters only what its kind of representation has admitted beforehand as an object possible for science.

The average person dwells slightly behind their place of full power. This opens up a space of thought – a closet within which the mind can happily rabbit away to itself. If I am in my place of full power then I do not think to myself: I create, I love God, I issue forth imaginative possibilities that require a simple step forward to realise. Our culture has made a virtue of this dislocation – rewarding passive thinkers and dissuading passionate action. Even our schools are full of beautiful children medicated, with screens as well as Ritalin, into conformity.
Careful not to fly too close to the sun.

25.3.19

As you get old, which I guess I'm doing, you tend to fall back on past wisdom. Not because it's easy but because you begin to feel something in the past throbbing and trying to pass through to you. This throb has always been there, but since technological progress has replaced spiritual progress we've backgrounded it – not only stopped listening but willfully atrophied the heart that hears.

God seeks the moments of stillness which emerge when the technical apparatus are turned off and fall silent.

24.3.19

The work starts well before the appearance of the teacher. Before thinking, before trauma. Before the womb.

Eventually, after many decades, the work becomes all-consuming. No part it hasn't seeped into. No privacy, no self, no throne of thought. Just one big heart.
It's raw, it's rugged, it's real.

vita contemplativa

It is difficult to get on top of things if you don't first get under them. Understand them, subject to them – subject the self. This our Taoism – apprenticeship. The student spends time with a master, serving, watching, listening, slowly soaking up the energy of the art until the master puts her to use, to practice. Then it becomes a slow incorporation, embodiment, internalization. It takes time to deepen and become real.
These ponderings attempt to let themselves be appropriated by the event.
a new sense accruing to the old terms
Taiji's a drag. What Cheng Man-ching called swimming in air.

Ageing with time rather than simply getting older. Laboring through time, feeling the work, the energy in each breath, each movement. Otherwise there's no maturation.
Meditation is being and breathing. Thinking and feeling are disturbances. One spins a continuous thread of time which throbs with the beating heart.

23.3.19

Language is what stops the heart exploding.
Be one but know the other.

22.3.19

Faith does not provide comfort, not for long anyway. Faith provides work, real work – work without immediate reward.

21.3.19


Just as the person who exists inauthentically constantly loses time and never 'has' any, it is the distinction of the temporality of authentic existence that in resoluteness it never loses time and 'always has time.'
via contemplativa
In the footpath’s seasonally changing breeze a knowing gladsomeness thrives.
Awareness is great and all, but you really see a person's true character when you catch them unawares – before they've had a chance to don their mask.

to bear the stillness of hidden growth and awaiting

Power comes from living the life you were destined for rather than the one everyone wants you to live. Going against the grain of convention, of the external, in order to live true to the internal. Such individuals shine and give, simply by being. They appear so calm and radiant, yet for them life is a transitional purgatory, a way to something/somewhere else they know not what, but which calls to them deafeningly.
When it comes to spirit, everything is personal. On a technical level this means turning from the root rather than the waist – twisting, twining – working, working. On a philosophical level it means that immanence, far from giving rise to a flat ontology, generates a thoroughly lumpy gravy, a space-time defined not by external coordinates but by the individual intensities of the creatures that inhabit it. On a religious level it means God loves each personally, for what they are rather than for what he wants them to be, with absolute unconditionality. It also means that we find God as much in latibule as in the temple – he is the absolute interior (the internal of the internal) as well as the great beyond (the external of the external).
This soul is but the awakening of an affectability, and this remains disaffected in the absence of a timbre, a color, a fragrance, in the absence of the sensible event that excites it.

To live a life with meaning and power – a destiny – one needs a well-defined set of principles to work with. These principles will certainly change over time as one's energy improves and understanding deepens, but the one thing that is constant is work – they must be worked with rather than simply lived by, otherwise the spirit, at some point, will fade and cease generating joy.

20.3.19

External truth requires intelligence to understand. Internal truth requires spirit to understand.

A life that puts the Other first.

For me God is simply the force of the cosmos pulling my spirit away from the Earth. And I feel we have lost God because we have lost the cosmos. We have no living cosmology, no sense of the beyond. Human beings now are smaller and less significant than they have ever been. Our paltry minds stay locked on our own paltry lives. The cosmos is left to the scientists while we remain in the mire of the mundane. Primitive cultures all have imaginative cosmologies. For them the universe is a giant turtle, or whatever, and because of that rich story their poetic consciousness reaches into that turtle and becomes that turtle. They hold the cosmos in their mind as the cosmos holds their body in its, and so God, as I define him, is as natural and as abundant as the air they breathe.
A life built on faith rather than knowledge.
Consciousness is being awake to the self.
Awareness is being awake to the world.
Respect is being awake to the self's impact on the world. ​
facing 
the worst 
laugh 
till you burst

Magical realism.
When a kid, listening to my mother chatting with friends, I'd often hear the phrase: "We're only together for the children." At the time I thought what a terrible reason to live with someone but now I find it difficult to think of a better reason.
I'd be in greater danger of mirth, if it wasn't so easy
Rather than rise to the challenge of spirit, we rationalize opting for the status quo. This is pure fear in the guise of being sensible or reasonable.
temporal sedimentations emitting a phosphorescent glow

Imagine waking in the morning.

19.3.19

Nature loves to hide. But learn to be still and quiet and she will always reveal herself.

18.3.19

Only through intense relationships do things become real.
The only time I have ever been in a car accident was in 1981. Four of us were driving from Johannesburg to Cape Town. I was in the back seat and I remember hearing the girl next to the driver scream and then bang, I was flung forward with enough force to render me almost unconscious. As I came round I remember my mind struggling to mend my reality, and the major part of that struggle was deciding where to apportion blame – whose fault was it? Clearly the other driver because they had suddenly pulled out causing the accident. And as my mind furiously worked I passively watched the guy next to me rush out of the car to ask the other driver if they were OK. That was the point when I realised I needed to get out of my mind and into my body.
The good student is never bored.

gratiarum actio
Be aware. The simplest way to make the world a better place.

17.3.19

I don't express myself in my paintings. I express my not-self.

16.3.19

The heart a fire licking up to Heaven. The belly a pool seeping down to Earth. This the way things are; or should be. We do the latter a great disservice by calling it gravity – we rob it of character, energy; relegate it to mere force. And the former, as principle and constant, has been largely lost, at least by the ignorant, agnostic bourgeoisie, to which, let's face it, we all belong.
an adventure into an unknown world

The feeling is going on with the task.
Chi Chiang-tao turned to Jesus, Cheng Man-ching turned to drink. Where will we turn when we finally get fed up with self?

glow  glimmer  glimpse  glisten  gleam  glitter  glance  glass ​
If we managed to focus on the principles of Taiji with the same ferocity that we focus on self then we'd all be masters in no time.
Self doesn't work.

Deep relaxation – the relaxation required for advanced Taiji – is only possible when faith is the bedrock of your life. Or, to put it an old-fashioned way, when you put your life in God's hands. This is why Dr Chi turned to Jesus. Without such a turn one always relies on one's own anxiety (tension) to bind the life and give it meaning, coherence.
Lingering at the threshold. This is meditation.

15.3.19

Trauma and destiny – two sides of the same coin, the same life. Past and future.
Distinguish each bad habit – see it for what it is – then decide to live without it. A bad habit is one that holds you back.
It is true that every artist has his own religion.

Each of us a member of many groups, a cog in many machines – family, friends, work, Taiji school, environment, Earth, etc. For each, we have a responsibility to be, if not at our best, at least honest and willing.
Everyday, add some beauty to the world. For me, this is what the work is all about. It's not for me, it's for those I love. And as my heart expands, with the work, that becomes everything.

14.3.19

If you try too hard to get at something, you almost push it away.
Information has no heart. Truth is the presence of spirit. Nothing to do with facts or facticity.
Eventually everything becomes principle.

Rest in peace. Such a beautiful phrase. Shame it's been requisitioned by the dead.
Castaneda's advice the best — Find a path with heart then follow it to/till the end.
To get out more than you could ever put in then you must put in more than you could ever get out. This is a spiritual economy: not an exchange but a transformation.
The work is an alternative to the self. Something meaningful for a life to revolve around.
Everyone's fucking everyone but no one's touching anyone.

12.3.19


I had the landscape in my arms as I painted it.
Meditation trains the mind to enter a worshipful state. Taiji trains the heart to expand and reach for the stars. Together they make a great team.
If you work hard then eventually you reach a wall which you spend the rest of your life banging your head against. If you're lucky a brick may budge. If you're really lucky that brick will fall and you'll glimpse the other side. If you're impossibly lucky, you'll make a hole big enough to crawl through.

11.3.19

The teacher's words contain power rather than information. Their truth lies not in the words per se but in the student's response – do they wake up or do they not?
Without ethical consciousness, a painter is only a decorator.

I tend to avoid last episodes – they're always a let down.
Paralyzed for fear of pain.
I'd rather risk an ugly surprise than rely on things I know I can do.

The root is beneath the foot, a deep well you lower your weight into by relaxing down as the spirit relaxes up. It is important to minimize the area you project downward: any slumping (collapse) of posture works against the root.
Where there are scents, there is self-gathering.

We would rather live a life of constant anxiety than trust in God. All in the name of individual freedom.

Each session (of partner work) starts with the distance of strangers and ends with an intensity of lovers.

10.3.19

Weak because scattered. This best describes the modern mind. A strong mind is one able to create duration by staying focused and concentrated. The aim of meditation is to strengthen the mind – to stay focused when there is nothing to focus on but the breath and the passing seconds.
A living teaching generates new material and takes you places your teacher never ventured.
innovating is as natural as breathing

Expect nothing. Do your work. Celebrate!
Love for love's sake. This is love of God – love without the love-object.
Mind full, heart empty; empty mind, full heart. That's the choice.

9.3.19

Once you're living the impeccable life (one that refuses to waste energy on unnecessary externals, and revolves, as much as possible, around the internal work) then you can rest assured that anything that befalls you is a positive omen from the Tao. Such things as injury, illness, avenues opening, avenues closing, even something as trivial as missing the bus or as momentous as death.
breathe infinity

tapestries of intimate breathing between me and the world
Artists, the best ones, work from their wounds, constantly picking off the scabs to keep themselves bleeding, to keep the work authentic, true.
If, as Emerson suggests, the meaning of life is not to be happy but to be useful, and if happiness, as many suggest, is a purely subjective affair, then simply reprogram yourself to be happy when useful and unhappy when useless.
We are all traumatised – wounded. It is in our nature. That's what the concept of original sin is all about – the harbouring of trauma. We are rent by wounds, imperfections, which means we bleed continually, but it also offers a chance for salvation – a way in; without the wound no salve would be needed. The modern approach to trauma is to heal it – patch it up – stop the leak so that all our energy can be devoted to ourselves. This, as well as being impossible, misses the point and misses a great opportunity for spiritual work.
the one-sidedness and seclusion of ego

Conventual rather than conventional.
A force to be reckoned with.
my seven brothers tree 

shade 
shelter 
blossom 
scent 
fruit 
wood 
fire
When things become easy we tend to slacken off, get careless, bored and the mind wanders until it inevitably finds its way back to self – the place it feels most at home. So, at least until the mind has learnt to dwell naturally in God, make things difficult for yourself.
Live off limits.

8.3.19


The eight trigrams and five elements are innate within us.

Traditionally, the three requisites for success in Taiji are correct teaching, practice and talent. And the important thing is to use the first two to venture beyond the third. But beware that the further beyond you go, the more dangerous the going – the more strain the work puts on both body and sanity.
As we get older both stretching and cardiovascular work become more and more important.

7.3.19

The virtual world (screens, smartphones, Internet, social media, etc) is an externalization of the mind. The person talking next to me is no longer speaking to me but to someone miles away. We have lost touch with the physical world, which has become so safe and boring that it only requires scant cursory glances to navigate and pass through. Mind is now all important, but not the deep quiet mind that lingers like a limpid mist, but the nervous mind that cannot stop, flits anxiously from one sensation to the next, and never finishes anything.
When I stand before a canvas, I never know what I'll do, and I am the first one surprised at what comes out.

Art is not truth; art is the lie which makes us see the truth.
Spiritual work aims to clearly and cleanly distinguish the different dimensions of body, mind and spirit, so they can co-operate in communion, as community, through awareness. This entails the slow dismantling of the fearful self – what we call the Ego. Ego moulds mind, body and spirit together into what it takes to be an attractive front but which is in fact a frightful mess. This is clearly seen in the TV talent shows my daughter loves so much. Talented but boring people using their talents to appear interesting to people who lack talent themselves. However, every now and then a performer comes along who has real spirit breaking out of them like cytoplasm from an amoeba. Vulnerable, fragile, delicate and beautiful, regardless of how they look. They are the real artists, performing out of inner need rather than because they've been told they have a talent they can profit from.
Each of us a tiny speck on Mother Earth, and Earth herself a tiny speck in Father Sky. These the two inescapable presences in our lives: the embrace of the Mother and the call of the Father.
Ego shrouds the spirit in vulgarity, releasing it momentarily to get its own way.
Eli was prescribed antiseizure medication for his epilepsy. A common side effect is depression.

('Antiseizure medication' is a good term for modern culture.)
The trouble with ego is that, compared to our divine aspect, namely spirit, it is an extremely blunt instrument, capable of getting us only so far. Ego, by definition, locks us to the mundane. To reach the stars we must let it go.

6.3.19

Without great solitude no serious work is possible.
If we wish for real peace and harmony then the first thing to go must be the ego. But instead, being clever creatures, we use the ego to manufacture the appearance of external harmony without any inner harmony at all. It then becomes impossible to gain inner peace because we have removed the external stimuli that necessitate the work to acquire it.
Taiji advises we get intimate enough to touch and mingle whilst at the same time standing back to see the bigger picture.

5.3.19

Please God, let the gale drop.
Musicians make a distinction between practising and playing. When they play a piece of music they present it to the world. When they practice the piece they work on it, perfect it, meet its demands and internalize its execution. All work and no play may make Jack a dull boy, but all play and no work makes Jack an idle incompetent loafer – a bullshitter.
In Taiji we touch and we listen. In a way these are the same thing, but in another sense they are complimentary opposites or companions. Imagine a blind person's hands and fingers roving with such delicate sensitivity over surfaces. The fingers extend to touch and then yield to listen, almost, but not quite, instantaneously. And to adequately listen the touch must extend beyond the surfaces it encounters, and into the depths of things. To do this I must be open enough to allow what I'm touching into my own depths. Touching and listening, in their active capacity at least, combine as a motor of being. Our presence presents not just a living thing but a creature that at once flows outwards to touch and flows inward to listen. The energy of presence is then the fine oscillation between these two processes. Pure Taiji.
To draw you must close your eyes and sing.

Truth is what's there before we ruin it by thinking about it. There is a fraction of a second separating presence and perception – that's where truth resides. What my teacher called the humour of the natural process. We are involved (connected) long before we become aware, and the task is to inhabit that mindless zone – The Before. Does practising mindfulness eventually get you there? Maybe. It's why young people take drugs – to venture beyond the conscious mind – to be free of consciousness and the dreary responsibilities it demands.
The human mind was designed to worship God not supplant him. We don't do freedom very well.

Since the human race took the technological turn (which started with the mesolithic, a long time before agriculture) we have striven to externalize rather than internalize. It's high time we reversed the trend.
I don't work from nature, I work like nature.
The human race is no longer God's answer, it is Earth's disease.
My 10 year old daughter suffers from morning nausea and stomach cramps. We discussed it recently and I suggested that it may be psychosomatic. She asked what that word meant (her first language is Hebrew) and I said: First in the mind, then in the body. She pondered for a while and said: Dad, it's totally psychosomatic! That brought to mind an event, over 30 years ago, when my teacher was trying, valiantly, to get us feeling each others energy skins. A sceptical student suggested that it may be psychosomatic to which my teacher retorted, with some vehemence: Everything is psychosomatic!

4.3.19

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

When I flew back to Tel Aviv from Gatwick a couple of weeks ago, the plane had a large contingent of Orthodox Jews: black-hatters as I call them, or Stamford Hill Cowboys as they're affectionately termed in Hackney. And, as is their custom on such flights, at one point a quorum of men gathered at the front of the plane to pray. Halfway through their prayers, the chief stewardess interrupted them and ordered them to the back of the plane. So they dutifully marched down the aisle, past us all, still praying, chanting, singing. And boy, were those guys in the zone! It was as though the rest of us didn't exist. They have been my constant inspiration (and companions) ever since.

When you love you lose. Lovers are losers. That's what's so beautiful about being in love. By investing in loss you enter a gift economy and thereby put yourself in the way of grace.

The first stage of Taiji is developing a root. What makes it so difficult is that there are no thoughts underground, just energy, so the student must first train her mind to listen to/for energy rather than thoughts/words. And, as my teacher never tired of repeating, there is only the first stage, constantly reiterating, eternally returning. Human beings don't have the capacity to go further. We must wait, to be reborn as cats or trees or whatever, to go to the next stage, whatever/wherever that is.
How deep is your love? 
Can it go deeper?

3.3.19

When people bore me by regaling the wonderful experiences they've had whilst meditating then all I know for sure is that they haven't made a habit of meditating – they don't practice – they just dabble (then babble) when they feel like it, when it suits them.

If I sit for an hour then I get some place. If I sit for two hours then I get some place else, and that place cannot be gotten to any other way. It all boils down to how much time I'm prepared to put in. Good teaching points in the right direction. Talent enables me to excel, but only over others, never over myself. For that I need hours, plenty of them.

2.3.19

A great teacher fills you with what used to be called fear of God before fear and God became dirty words and we started to design lives where we never had to confront either.
The difficulty with internal work is that its economy is completely contrary to the one we're accustomed to, and questions like What's in it for me? immediately indicate that the student is getting it wrong.

1.3.19

The average student blows hot and cold.