On ‘Shen’

In Chinese spiritual tradition there is a term of significance: Shen (神). ‘Shen’ has multiple meanings. It is commonly understood to mean ‘spirit’ – the ethereal beings who disturb the living and interfere with their lives. But ‘spirit’ has a deeper meaning, as well as the word ‘shen’: the essence of something (spirit of sportsmanship, […]

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Meditation is a process

The most innocuous-looking things are often the most powerful, and dangerous. To the untrained observer, meditation is just sitting still and being quiet; but it ca herald very profound and bewildering experiences. One needs a highly trained meditation teacher and spiritual guide to do real meditation, and talk through the experience with. This is not […]

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Modernizing traditional teaching systems

Many traditional teaching systems, especially in the Eastern martial arts, are based on the assumption that learners are unmotivated never-do-wells who need harsh prodding. Teachers are often overbearing and authoritative; to question them is to invite a stern rebuke… or worse. This might account for differences in the knowledge between teachers and students – students […]

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The best teacher

Ordinary life is perhaps the best spiritual teacher. You can move to a pristine, secluded location, train and meditate for decades, but even after all of this you may not calmly and logically handle the problems that come your way. And one cannot be isolated from the trials and tribulations of ordinary life forever. This […]

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‘I’

It is often said that spiritual enlightenment is attained by getting rid of the ego, or the ‘I’. That is a convenient suggestion, and perhaps an impossible one. What is ‘I’? A physical body. A self-image. Dispositions. Memories. One’s relation to other people. One’s role in society. ‘I’ is not a permanent state, but a […]

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The Hardest Things

It is hard for the poor to practise charity. It is hard for the rich and powerful to practise The Way. It is hard to avoid abusing one’s authority. It is hard to be even-minded and simple-hearted in dealings with others. It is hard to conquer passions and suppress desires. It is hard to subdue […]

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A guide to meditation

What? Meditation is the art of finding stillness in your life. It is the skill of cultivating your mental and emotional strength, and carries considerable health benefits as well. It is a practice that has existed for millennia, and there are a great number of lineages and techniques. Different teachers and groups may espouse different […]

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The mind of a Taiji pugilist

It is easy to be caught in the snare of aggression and one-upmanship once a Taiji practitioner approaches the martial aspect of the art. It is the nature of martial arts. If you’re mired in this trap, Taiji becomes just another pursuit that wears out your mental and emotional wellbeing, since you need to tap […]

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An art is what you bring into it

Suppose you are an artist and wish to draw something on a canvas. If you like cutesy animals, your canvas will be filled with cutesy animals. If you like horror, it will be filled with scary characters. But a canvas is just that – neither cute nor scary. All artforms and pursuits conform to this […]

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The Zen of anything

Zen (or its trans-national equivalents Dhyana, Chan, Son, and Thien) is not sectarian in nature. Although there is a body of Zen-specific knowledge and a distinctive group of Zen masters, these are not dichotomous with other spiritual or knowledge systems. Zen is inherent in them all. Zen is universal. It is a way of thinking […]

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