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Why ‘Positive Thinking’ Doesn’t Work…

steve profile booksWhy ‘positive thinking’ doesn’t work.

That happy mask, the fixed inane grin, the stupid idea that ‘anything’s possible’ if you think positive hard enough, usually comes from someone desperately unhappy or someone with their hand in your pocket.

Let me be honest. At least 50% of life is shit. It ranges from dissatisfaction to ‘please kill me now’ suffering. If you learn to deal with with it by becoming durable, it ‘enobles’ you. It means you’ve been hurt so bad for so long, nothing or no one can hurt you as much as you’ve been hurt already. It gives you depth and the ability to deal with life and help others from direct experience.

It means you REALLY appreciate the other 50% of life, when you have no pain life is incredibly beautiful. You appreciate all the beauty in the universe because it’s only beautiful because of it’s fragility, you know it will inevitably wither and die.

So deep happiness and sustainable success comes from wisdom and experience viewed from the right perspective. Life is about BALANCE understanding the way the universe creates it’s own form of harmony. In hindsight, what is hard and painful teaches you how to cope with life and appreciate that other 50%.

Poems, Uncategorized

If I die tonight


Dedicated to my good friend the late Graham Wendes.

If I die tonight will the universe stop?
If I return to the Tao it will be like a wave returning to the sea;
No more ‘being human’ and only ‘sensing’ the infinite;
From whence I came, I will return and be it once more.
My ‘place of refuge’ becomes my home again.

In the infinite, all time exists all of the time, the theatre of life exists because the pot is stirred;
When stirred, one plays off against the other in a binary fashion, simple appears complicated as the picture of life is created;
Pulsing continuously into an ever changing picture like a TV signal;
With each part not realising that that they are all joined, made from the same binary code that itself joins to form the unrecognisable infinite.

The universe creates the unfolding drama to satisfy itself, we unwittingly keep recreating a similar drama for our amusement with theatre, films and TV –
When we wake up, we see it.

By Steve Rowe

Articles, Uncategorized

I Should Be Dead


I know it, the reaper came, hovered and left. I stood between the worlds for months after a collapse with a second serious infection, 5 life saving and crippling surgeries on top of the 9 I’d already had and a second round of months of a cocktail of life saving, gut wrenching, antibiotics and hallucinogenic pain killers left me in serious doubt as to whether I was still meant to be here.

But here I am… still feeling ‘out of place’ and on borrowed time. Pain is a constant reminder and fatigue is always pulling at the back of my eyes and keeping the handbrake on my body. Everything has to be done slowly and carefully, teaching me ‘mindfulness’ in a most unexpected way, death always feels like it could it come with the next breath.

But this is not bad. It gives me perspective and vision that was not available to me before. Other people have a ‘bucket list’ when on borrowed time and try to fit everything into whatever time they have left, frantically running round like headless chickens trying to be distracted from their future demise having lost all perspective due to fear. I’m lucky because a lifetime of meditation and study allows me to sit in the ‘Tao’ and to see my finite life from an infinite mind.

What is important? It’s important to be ‘at ease’ with what and who you are and what part you have to play in this theatre of life. You are born out of this world and not into it. You are a part of everything in this theatre and have always been here in one way or another since the ‘big bang’.

My disability slows me down, this makes me pay attention to everything I rushed past before, ‘paying attention’ to everything, time, places, things, people, their characteristics, actions, words and this opens doors that I never saw before. Sitting still and in constant pain allows me to find that ‘place of refuge’ in my mind where the infinite me that holds all wisdom exists and pain is put into perspective.

I stopped contacting people that didn’t contact me and I let them go. I stopped talking to people that only contacted me when I was ‘useful’ and I let them go. I stopped taking part in the circus of ego feeding, back slapping events that only fed the negativity of needing to be an accepted part of it and fear of being excluded.  I stopped worrying about people, things and places because everything eventually turns to dust, all matter is impermanent. I learned that sometimes anxiety, depression, pain and suffering just arises, but it will pass if you let it be and don’t hang your hat on it. Nothing belongs to me – it’s all transitory.

If I smile with my face I immediately feel better, if I smile from the heart, I feel content and at peace, ‘letting go’ is the capacity to just watch everything as it passes, pay it attention but see it for what it is. If you know the names of your demons, they can’t touch you. Helping people is better than harming them, allowing them to be what they are, without imposing your wishes on them creates a healthy relationship. Building bridges is better than blowing them up, food parcels work better than bombs, inclusion works better than exclusion, ‘spreading the load’ in society makes ‘being human’ turn into humankind.

I don’t need to go anywhere, I don’t need to do anything, I don’t need to become anything, on the contrary, the best me is when I let go of all that desire and then intelligently engage with life from the right perspective and let it all happen naturally.

The more you stir the pot, the more trouble you create, the more you try to ‘make your mark’ and impose yourself and your views over others, the more they will reject you. When you create harmony in yourself, when you spread that into your environment, when you support all the building bricks of life on this planet – then you’ve really got the right perspective.

Articles, Uncategorized


Photo on 25-12-2016 at 12.56.jpg



The human race cannot survive without compassion. It’s what joins us, makes us work together to resolve our problems and evolve.  As the World is becoming more insular, as we separate ourselves from and demonise groups of people, becoming inured to their suffering we are evolving in the wrong direction and ensuring our mutual destruction.

Compassion is to be able to see clearly into the nature of suffering and not be separate from it.  Compassion is itself untainted, it cannot be attached to an outcome, it’s enemies are pity, moral outrage and fear – it transforms suffering.

Meditation builds compassion, it joins us to our environment and others, it teaches empathy, to experience what others feel. Compassion also transforms us, we evolve, it hooks up all the parts of our brain, it enhances our immune system and makes us healthier. Many people turn away from empathy and compassion through fear, the modern zeitgeist teaches us to be selfish and unnaturally attached to those things that wisdom teaches us we cannot hold on to – in trying to hold on to them or aspire to have them we fear those that we are told will take them away from us – and yet ensuring the welfare of others is to ensure our own survival and evolution of the human species.

Compassion requires fearlessness, strength, resilience and an undefended heart. We need ‘a strong back and a soft front’ and that takes training. Truly compassionate people are definitely not weak. This is the ethos of traditional martial arts training. It trains the whole person. We often hear and read that ‘martial arts makes you a better person’ and it’s clear to see who has followed that path and who hasn’t.

We should teach compassion in schools, as very few people fully understand what it is and how it works.  We should teach it to our healthcare workers, our social workers, our politicians – and we should vote for compassion and compassionate politicians.

Compassion reaches out to everyone and all things, it bridges all differences. A compassionate martial arts instructor will have a diverse club that help each other and work out in the community to help those less fortunate than themselves.  You don’t have to agree with others to act compassionately towards them or love them or even like them! Compassion is pure in itself and joins and evolves people – try it!

Meditate developing compassion towards yourself, spread it out to those you love, then those that you like, then those that you feel ambivalent towards, then to those you dislike and eventually to those you hate. See how it frees you and rids you of anger and greed, the more you share, the better person you become.

Learn about it, read about it, listen to lectures about it, meditate on it and act on it, it has to grow upwards from the populace to change our society, politicians and media as they are the people that need to respond to our wishes and not the other way around – power to the people!



Articles, Uncategorized

Winner Or Loser?


Winner Or Loser?

So many people just don’t get it.

If you want to be a winner, you have to learn to win more than you lose.

Firstly you have to decide who and what you want to be.

If you want to be a good traditional martial artist then you have to do more work in that direction than in any other.

It’s your choice. Draw a line in your life and call it ‘Zero’. Every moment you are mindful, in good posture, breathing properly, caring, polite, courteous, determined, resolute, courageous and working with emotional intelligence  you are in the + zone, every moment you are doing the opposite, you are in the – zone. at the end of the day, how many hours did you spend in which zone?

Obvious really.

People tell me they want to be good at Tai Chi, then I see them working on how they look to others, worrying about how others perceive them, becoming arrogant and boastful, doing exercises and techniques that stiffen their body and require aggressive, external, muscular force, and when they come to see me, they’ve got worse not better, they’ve done more work in the – zone than in the +. It’s all a question of balance and direction.

Tai Chi requires good posture, breathing and the right ‘Taoist’ attitude toward life and others, this is developed by constantly working with neigong (inner work) with meditation and standing postures and then development of the neural system, bodycore, spinal flexibility, open joints and myofascia, this is developed through the qigong (energy work) these skills are the underlying principles that are preparation for the dynamics and strategies that are then expressed through the techniques using kung fu (time and effort) with persistent practice in the + zone.

A Tai Chi body and mind is unique and cannot be trained in any other way than the prescribed method unless you want to become something else. So few people ever get around to learning the whole system.

Private, personal study is essential and this needs enough mentoring from someone that is able to pass the complete perspective along. If you don’t have sufficient ‘corrections’ to keep you on the right path, your training will degenerate without you realising. It’s too easy to miss those vital mentoring sessions because life gets in the way and there are always financial, business and family pressures, but the price of not taking them is also very, very, expensive and good mentors are very few and far between, have pressures of their own and are not there forever. Lose one and for the rest of your life you’d wish you made those sessions.

So every day be mindful of staying in the + zone, understand that this will determine your success or failure. The term ‘Buddha’ means ‘one who is awake’ – you need to become  your own Buddha and stay awake and in the + zone and never drop into the – one. Every night before you lay your head on the pillow, ask yourself the question and count the hours of + and – and the answer as to why you are or are not successful will be self evident.

It’s simple, but simple is not always easy.


Disguised Buddhism

3:4 Buddha

Disguised Buddhism

“I went to a business guru meeting over the weekend, it was really motivating!”  Dan was telling the other black belts as they sat on the floor stretching, waiting for the Instructors class to start….

“How to win friends and influence people eh?”  It appears that Geoff was not so impressed.

“And get rich quick!” Francis decided to join in the fun.

“No, no, no,” said Dan, “that’s all very 1960’s!”

“Not if you read the martial arts magazines and my spam emails it ain’t” said Geoff.

“Seriously,” said Dan, “these people have grown since the early days, it’s all about living a balanced life nowadays, how to find success not just in business, but in health, family and life in general, how to be happy.”

“Talking about Buddhism?”  Sensei had entered the Dojo, they all laughed.

“No, said Geoff, Dan’s been to one of those motivational speakers that the martial arts business people are always recommending….

“Ah…. ‘Disguised Buddhism’ you mean” answered Sensei.

“There’s no religion in it” laughed Dan.

“Or in Buddhism”, said Sensei.

“That’s daft,” said Dan, “Buddhism is classed as a religion everywhere.

“It’s sometimes called the religion of the atheist, other cultures have included it into their indigenous religions and cultures, but actually its simple logic.  If the Buddha were alive today, he might be a ‘motivational speaker’ the cultivated speakers today are preaching what the Buddha taught in a reconstituted fashion.  I prefer the original thing.”

“But you are an atheist Sensei!”  Dan looked surprised.

“Exactly,” replied Sensei.  “The Buddha provided the perfect toolbox for us to work with our mind, emotions and body and find a sustainable route through our martial arts without any unnecessary suffering.”

Dan laughed – “The Buddha wasn’t a martial artist!”

“Actually…..  he was one of the most prominent martial artists of his time and excelled at them, winning many tournaments when he was a Prince, he was quite a large man for his culture and trained by the best masters of his time” replied Sensei.

“So how would the Buddha be able to help us?” asked Geoff now beginning to get interested.

“He gave an excellent set of principles for us to live by that ‘ennobles’ us and means that we will be able to sustain the road of progression that we’re on.  He was wise enough to realise that we needed to discover truth for ourselves through self examination and contemplation and not to ‘believe’ the doctrine of others, but to examine and challenge until we actually ‘know’ for real.”  Sensei looked intensely at the three listeners.

“That sounds like a martial artist – give us an example” asked Dan.

“He gave us the 4 Noble Truths, explaining that we have to understand what suffering actually is, what causes it, to realise that it can cease – and the route to making that happen,” ventured Sensei.

“Don’t understand,” said Dan.

“All modern medical diagnosis is based on the same logic” replied Sensei.  “When you go to the doctor he will first see what’s wrong with you, find the cause, see whether it can be cured and if it can, give you the route to the cure….  If you’re not progressing with your training, we’ll examine what the cause is, find the cure and then map out the route to make it happen….  If your business is suffering…”

“I get the idea,” said Dan, “what was the route that the Buddha offered 2500 years ago?”

“The fourth noble truth is the eightfold path and is as relevant today as it’s ever been,” answered Sensei.  “The Buddha broke the path down into 3 sections, the first section is about wisdom, he advised us to have a correct understanding of everything around us and to have the right aspirations for the future.  The second section was about ethical conduct, he advised us to have right speech, right action and right livelihood, you can’t be enlightened of suffering if you hurt others.  The third section was about mental development and advised right effort – too much effort and you fail, too little and you’ll never get there – and to keep an aware and focused mind.

As you can see there’s nothing religious in it – it’s pure logic.”

“You’re right,” mused Dan, “that is essentially the message that the speaker was giving, re-inventing the wheel eh?”

“And you’re paying heavily for it eh?” said Sensei mimicking Dan…

“Tell us more…” pleaded Geoff.

“Without turning it into a lecture of my own, I’ll mention two trilogies’ that are of interest to you, the first is the three characteristics of existence, all existence is always changing, trying to grasp at it is unsatisfactory and its qualities are illusory.”

“That’s true,” said Dan, “I can relate to that, all my suffering in life has been around wanting to keep things the same.  I’ve had a terrible time coming to terms with sickness and the death of people in my family and recovery from my own injuries.”

“Also,” said Sensei, “to succeed on your journey it’s very helpful to be seeking to be ‘awake’ to wisdom, to be seeking the truth and to have people around you on the same path, this is the purpose of the Dojo – the place of ‘seeking the way’..”

“Maybe I should have been studying my own art and related wisdom instead of looking elsewhere,” mused Dan.

“Sometimes looking elsewhere helps you to validate your own journey,” said Sensei, “there just tends to be nothing new if you’re studying a tried and tested system, but you must always keep your eyes open and sometimes looking outside helps you to better understand what’s right under your nose.”