Tao Te Ching: Verse 22

A compelling philosophy about yielding to resistance rather than fighting the natural way of things. I hope many of you, any of you, find this thought-provoking and helpful. Please excuse my previous patriarchal language; from now on, I’ll aspire to include an equal amount of references to “wise women” and “wise persons”.


Verse 22 [original]

The flexible are preserved unbroken.
The bent become straight.
The empty are filled.
The exhausted become renewed.
The poor are enriched.
The rich are confounded.

Therefore the sage embraces the one.
Because he doesn’t display himself,
people can see his light.
Because he has nothing to prove,
people can trust his words.
Because he doesn’t know who he is,
people recognise themselves in him.
Because he has no goal in mind,
everything he does succeeds.

The old saying that the flexible are preserved unbroken is surely right!
If you have truly attained wholeness,
everything will flock to you.


Verse 22 [my interpretation]

The flexible survive unhurt.

Through practicing emptiness,
you are prepared to be filled.
Through practicing adaptability,
you are ready for all life has to offer.

In this way, the exhausted will become renewed,
the bent will straighten,
the poor will be enriched and so on.
So too will the energised become lethargic,
the straightened will become bent
and the rich become confounded.
Yield to the natural cycles of the Way!

The wise person has no goals, no judgements, no attachments;
thus everything that happens to her is neither good nor bad,
and she will never fail nor succeed.

She who is humble [has no ego] may be recognised.
She who has nothing to prove [has no ego] can be trusted.
She who has no identity [has no ego] allows others to recognise themselves in her.

By being flexible like the palm tree or the fern,
strong of root and soft of body,
everything in life will flock to you
(neither good nor bad, needed or unneeded).

Tao Te Ching: Verse 20

Reading today’s verse, I realise that in many ways I am like a hermit on the mountain top: I have practically no responsibilities or earthly distractions at this stage in my life, and I am more fortunate than most in this regard as it  gives me the freedom to pursue my personal growth. I wish that everyone had the same opportunity (or indeed, chose to take advantage of the opportunities that already exist) so that the world might be bettered for it.


Verse 20 [original]

Give up learning and you will be free
from all your cares.
What is the difference between yes and no?
What is the difference between good and evil?

Must I fear what others fear?
Should I fear desolation
when there is abundance?
Should I fear darkness
when that light is shining everywhere?

In spring, some go to the park and climb the terrace,
but I alone am drifting, not knowing where I am.
Like a newborn babe before it learns to smile,
I am alone, without a place to go. 

Most people have too much;
I alone seem to be missing something.
Mine is indeed the mind of an ignoramus
in its unadulterated simplicity.
I am but a guest in this world.
While others rush about to get things done,
I accept what is offered.
I alone seem foolish,
earning little, spending less.

Other people strive for fame;
I avoid the limelight,
preferring to be left alone.
Indeed, I seem like an idiot:
no mind, no worries.

I drift like a wave on the ocean.
I blow as aimless at the wind.

All men settle down in their grooves;
I alone am stubborn and remain outside.
But wherein I am most different from others is
in knowing to take sustenance from the great Mother!


Verse 20 [my interpretation]

Give up learning
and you will be free from all your cares. 
What is the difference between yin and yang?
[Highly paradoxical and controversial ideas which confuse me.]

Do not let the ignorance of others colour your own knowing.
Enjoy what is, here and now,
rather than what is not.
Do not strive to be elsewhere;
be present as the current of life carries you. 

Most people have too much
yet want to be and possess even more.
It is better to live simply, to think simple, to be simply.

The foolish cannot understand the wise;
the sage may be misunderstood, even ostracised.
But the greater difference between the two
is that the wise man knows the Tao. 


The latest of my blog posts for TINO.


I don’t know about you guys, but Perth has had (and is having) a pretty long string of stormy days and cloudy weather. I find that during times like these, where the languished light of the sun barely penetrates the veil of clouds, my mood is very often much lower than on bright, sunny days. I thought I was the only one who experienced it, who seriously felt the difference when the weather took a turn for the worse, but it turns out there’s a diagnostic subset of depression associated with the winter blues.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (a.k.a. SAD) can be thought of a very specific form of depression. Commonly associated with the season of winter, there are some days when I wake up exhausted after ten hours sleep. I’ll spend hours dragging myself around lethargically, apathetically going through the movements of my life. Accompanying my low energy will be my equally low mood, filling me with a sense of exhausted despair, irritability with people (God, don’t they get it? It’s a crappy day and I’m feeling crappy and if they don’t leave me alone I’m going to de-friend them on facebook.) and loss of pleasure at things that normally cheer me up. The bleak weather mirrors my bleak mental state, and I find everyday tasks magnitudes harder than they normally are. Although I don’t do this as much, some people find they start to overeat, especially their comfort foods. And since it’s harder to go out and exercise while it’s raining, this typically leads to weight gain (more on this in a moment). And of course, my poor physical, emotional and mental health all feed into each other making me feel worse and worse until I want nothing more than to crawl back into bed and sleep until the sun comes out (however many hours or days that might take).

It’s somewhat comforting for me to know that SAD is a real thing, and I’m not just being grumpy, lazy and hopeless just because I feel like it. Studies have shown that the actual cause of SAD is not due to the wet weather, but to the quality of light. When the clouds cover the sun, it gets darker in a very specific way. There’s no real way of replicating “daylight on a cloudy day”, but trust me when I say there’s a difference between “dimly lit” and “cloudy weather”. Somehow, this change in light triggers a complex set of hormones in the body to basically say “Oh no, it’s going to rain today, shut everything down. Yes, everything. Better hoard some nutrients, so start craving fatty foods rich in carbohydrates and then conserve energy; waste no effort on extraneous movement, high emotions or social pleasantries. It’s time to engage hibernation mode.” My theory is that in the millions of years that human beings (and our pre-evolved predecessors) have been on the planet, it’s been drilled into us that cloudy days mean bad days for hunting, gathering, building, travelling or any outdoor activity. Rainy days meant sitting in the cave, staring outside, waiting for the freezing water to stop falling so that life could carry on. And despite all our technological advances, we still can’t shake our instinct that when the light dims, it’s going to be “one of those days”.

However, those labcoat-wearing scientists up in their bigwig laboratories have developed a number of ways of diminishing the effects of SAD, and there are plenty of things that we can do to help or conquer seasonal depression.

  • The most common treatment is light exposure therapy, where people who experience SAD are exposed to bright light, usually in the morning, for between thirty and ninety minutes at a time. This essentially tricks the brain into thinking it’s a sunny day, cutting off the “hibernating hormones”. Fear not- this technology is not sequestered away in government labs, but can easily be replicated at home with a bright lamp. I recommend getting white (instead of yellow) globes, at 60 watts or higher. I find that yellow bulbs, particularly the 40W variants, make me feel lethargic and insipid (even if it’s a bright day outside). If SAD is something that affects you commonly, it may be worth replacing all the bulbs in your house with brighter, whiter ones. Experiment and see what works best for you.
  • I’ve found that being in locations where there is no natural light can help immensely. On rainy days, I used to love going to work because the lighting never changed- I had no idea what the weather was like unless I walked up to a window and looked out of it. This, combined with simple tasks that occupied my hands and my mind, inevitably made me feel better.
  • Exercise can be an amazing pick-me-up. I know I just said it’s fighting against the natural biology of the body, but most of the time it really is worth the effort. The sheer endorphins released from doing physical exertion makes it an instant feel-good activity, and it comes with the important role of keeping you mentally and physically healthy where you might otherwise be tempted to sit at home, be miserable and gain weight. As with most things, exercise is better with good company, so if you’re not already part of such a group, try a team sport or join a local fitness club with a friend. Whatever it is, make it something fun– you may as well enjoy yourself if you’re going to put in the effort.
  • Something I like to do when I see clouds on the horizon is to check the forecast. If I see that it’s only expected to be a single day of partially cloudy weather, I do my best to not let it inconvenience me. If I discover that there’s a week of storms ahead, at least I can brace myself for the daily challenges SAD brings, and start planning ways in which I can make it easier for me.
  • Speaking of which, one should always be prepared for potential “bad days”. Having a well-equipped Mental Health First Aid Kit is something everyone should invest in. After all, Seasonal Affective Disorder is just a form of depression, so the rules for taking care of yourself on your SAD days are the same as any other poor mental health day.
  • Get absorbed into a totally different world. On days where I feel truly terrible, watching a good movie or reading an intensely engaging book can somehow change everything. By focussing my attention on something else for a few hours, I no longer have the ability to focus on my own problems. And when I stop focussing on my problems, I stop feeding into the negative cycles (e.g. “Oh I feel terrible today. Look, I barely have the energy to make toast for lunch. It’s cold, and I don’t want to [study/work/anything]… God, I feel even worse than I did this morning. Maybe I’ll just stay home today”).
  • Sheer willpower. There are plenty of studies into the power of the mind changing the emotions and physical responses of the body, so if you feel up for it, feel free to change your thoughts. there are many ways you could go about doing this, but here are three simple ways. You could try finding the positive light in everything (“Okay, so it’s raining today, and I feel tired and crummy. That’s okay- in fact, it’s great! It’s the perfect excuse to make a hot chocolate, get into my snuggie and play video games until dinner.”), practicing mindfulness (“Right here, right now, I am not suffering. I am not in danger. There is nothing in the past or future more important than this present moment, and in this moment, I am quite able to be at peace.”) or exercising cognitive behavioural therapy (“Every time I think the thought ‘Today is a terrible day’, I’m going to catch myself and say instead ‘It’s raining today, but I’m not going to let that ruin my mood.’”).
  • In cases that are truly severe, where nothing you do changes your mood and you’re stuck in a cycle of despair and grief, it may be worthwhile to get additional help. Although it’s temporary, the experience of SAD can be quite profound, and if you need to talk to someone urgently you can call a crisis line and speak to a counsellor about how you’re feeling. Alternatively, you can look for counsellors (many education systems provide a free counselling service) for slightly longer-term treatment, or join a group of people who experience similar symptoms.

Above all, remind yourself that how you’re feeling (emotionally, physically and mentally) is due to the condensation of water molecules in the sky, and nothing more. Try and avoid making major life decisions just because the very temporary weather is getting you down. I know that on my SAD days, when I feel like dropping out of uni, quitting work and just staying home for the rest of my life, it’s better to wait a few days before actually handing in that resignation/withdrawal form. The Chinese have a saying: a storm cannot last all day. No matter how sad you get, the natural cycle of things is such that the clouds will eventually pass in their own time, and that the sun is always shining (whether you can see it or not).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go re-read my favourite book by a bright lamp, robed in my dressing gown and with a hot drink. Keep warm and bright everyone.

Tao Te Ching: Verse 16

I wanted to share today’s verse because it contains some very powerful messages about the nature of life and the universe. I think that everyone, no matter where they’re from or what they believe, would benefit from knowing/remembering these insightful truths.


Verse 16 [original]

Become totally empty.
Let your heart be at peace.
Amidst the rush of worldly comings and goings,
observe how endings become beginnings.

Things flourish, each by each,
only to return to the Source . . .
to what is and what is to be.

To return to the root is to find peace.
To find peace is to fulfill one’s destiny.
To fulfill one’s destiny is to be constant.
To know the constant is called insight.
Not knowing this cycle
leads to eternal disaster.

Knowing the constant gives perspective.
The perspective is impartial.
Impartiality is the highest nobility;
the highest nobility is Divine.

Being Divine, you will be at one with the Tao.
Being at one with the Tao is eternal.
This way is everlasting,
not endangered by physical death. 


Verse 16 [my interpretation]

As life rushes around about you,
let yourself become empty and at peace.

Know that it is the nature of all things to “flourish” for a while,
only to diminish and return to the Source soon after.
This has always happened, will always happen, and is always happening.

Know that your nature is to find peace;
find peace to fulfill your nature.
Be part of the cycle of yin and yang,
constantly changing, to fulfill your destiny.
To be constant means to stay the same,
and to change means to be different.
Paradoxically, the world’s only constant is that it is forever changing.

Being aware of the cyclical nature of life is insight.
Not being aware of it is suffering.

Having gained insight,
the wise man is aware of his divinity,
and his role in the eternal cycle.
Knowing his immortal self,
he is impartial to the world of 10 000 things.


I realise that my interpretations are still vague and cryptic, but as it says in the first verse of the Tao Te Ching, the Tao that can be explained is not the real Tao. Sometimes there is no clearer word for “the Source” or “his immortal self”. We are what we are, and the world is what the world is. Knowing this is peace. Have a great day everyone!

PS: My veganity no longer seems to be causing me ill-health effects. I’ve regained much of the weight I’ve lost and my energy levels are quite fine. Particularly sprightly at the moment, actually, from the amazing circus conditioning class I went to this morning. It’s strange, but despite the loss of sleep, getting up super early and working up a sweat to some great music and with excellent company fills me with energy for most of the day. If anyone wants to try it, I urge them to; it really transforms your mornings into something amazing.


Here’s the final blog post that I’ve written for TINO (so far- I’m about to write another one). This is a surprisingly special one as I’ve had about a dozen people leaving comments on the website talking about how relatable they found it after experiencing so much shame and social backlash. I find it very humbling and very wonderful to provide a small space where the discussion of an unspoken, but apparently common ideal can be shared without retribution. If you haven’t read it already, I hope you enjoy the article.



Polyamory is the idea of having multiple partners at the same time. It is a form of “ethical non-monogamy”- that is to say, it is a consensual choice to not be limited to having only one romantic partner at a time. It is entirely different from non-ethical non-monogamy (i.e., cheating, or having multiple partners without their informed consent). A lot of stigma exists against people who choose to live a polyamorous lifestyle, and this article is intended to have a brief look into what it means to be polyamorous and debunk some of the myths surrounding it. Polyamory isn’t for everyone, and that’s fantastic! We’re all different, and I’m not trying to promote one thing or the other: I just want to share some information about different ways of relating to people. I feel this is especially important for issues that are largely unspoken, because they are so misunderstood. This blog post is for anyone who wants to learn more about another perspective on relationships.

As I said, polyamory is an ethical form of non-monogamy, and it literally means “many loves”- it basically refers to being in a relationship with more than one person at a time. It is distinct from “monogamy”, which means having only one romantic partner in your life at a time. Perhaps like me you thought it didn’t exist in the Western world, but polyamory has always existed, and will continue to exist wherever people want to connect to one another. Like any other sub-culture (e.g. your local queer community, or your group of anime/manga fans), it is likely that there is a polyamorous community living in your area, doing their own thing and being part of society without threatening its structural integrity in any way. It’s always been there, and your life probably hasn’t been adversely affected by its existence.

I’d like to make it clear that I am not challenging the virtues of monogamy: it is and has always been a meaningful way of relating to people. However, this doesn’t inherently make it ethical: depending on your social values, certain relationships can be seen as harmful. For example, most people would consider it non-ethical for a brother to start a sexual relationship with his sister. Similarly, there is non-ethical non-monogamy: for example, having multiple partners who don’t know about each other. Simply put, cheating and infidelity have literally destroyed lives. What I must make clear is that I’m not saying that polyamory is better than monogamy or vice versa, but that our understandings of what is acceptable and what is taboo is due to value-laden social and cultural conditioning. What’s important is not whether you’re monogamous or non-monogamous, but whether or not you act ethically in the way you relate to people.



I’d like to put forward a bizarre idea: all of us are polyamorous.

Think about the people in your life that matter to you. Not just romantically, but as friends, neighbours, community members, family, distant acquaintances. You have a relationship with every single one of them. Some of them are really great to talk to about topics that you share a passion for. Others give warm hugs when you feel low. Some of them are excellent tennis partners but lousy friends, while others are really amazing to have sex with. When we use the word “relationship”, we tend to think of it in a romantic way, but it literally means how we relate to one another. And in that sense, you most definitely have multiple important relationships. This is essentially polyamory. And although polyamorous relationships aren’t necessarily based on romance, this is largely what I’m going to focus on for this blog post.

Bizarre idea number two: you can romantically love more than one person in your life.

Have you ever had a break up with someone you loved? I remember when I had just turned fifteen and I broke up with my first serious girlfriend, V, after nearly two years. Although I was still relatively young, my love was profoundly real, and it hurt deeply when our relationship ended. I swore that day that I would never love again, that I would carry the pain of the separation in my heart like a knife every day. I’m still not completely over her, but fortunately time has a way of dulling the pain and I’ve since renounced that vow. It allowed me to meet my current partner, Beth, who I can scarcely imagine being any more perfect for me.

My point is that even though you love or have loved someone, it’s possible to eventually love someone else. But what would have happened if I had met Beth while I was dating V? What if I discovered that I loved Beth, even though I was currently in a relationship with someone else? According to monogamy I’d have to choose between two very amazing people, and that choice would forever change the way that one of them would relate to me. Why is it okay to fall in love after you’re broken up, but horribly wrong to fall in love while you currently have a partner? As I’ve mentioned before, we rarely choose who we fall in love with, so why is it frowned upon so much?



Let me first say that every relationship is different. Just like every couple has rules and understandings that they know innately (leave the toilet seat down, don’t pester him before he’s had his coffee, when she’s studying she’d appreciate a little quiet etc.), every polyamorous couple/group/constellation has different ways of relating to one another. There are an infinite number of relationship possibilities.

  • Sasha might be seeing both Ben and Ivan.
  • James might be sleeping with Madeline, but also enjoy cuddling and flirting and kissing Natalie without ever intending for it to go further.
  • Bei might be seeing Adam, Michael, Zoe and Andrea and be sleeping with all of them. But Adam, Michael, Zoe and Andrea are not in the slightest bit interested in sleeping with each other- they might have their own relationships outside of the one with Bei, or they might not.
  • Cathy, Jacque and Mikael might all act in the role of parents for their children, who all sleep in one big bed together.
  • Any potential combination of more than one human being relating to another in a romantic way, regardless of whether sex is involved, is a kind of polyamorous relationship. How “romantic” is defined is up to the people in the relationship.

Complex, right? Well, maybe. But it’s not very different from being friends with two people who are fighting, or being part of friend groups that have completely different interests. You learn, subconsciously or otherwise, how to get on with the people that matter to you. Participants in complex constellations (my favourite word for referring to polyamorous groups) constantly negotiate their relationships and understandings of their roles in order to live harmoniously. And no combination of relationships is wrong as long as everyone gives informed consent (that is, as long as everyone understands what’s going on and is comfortable with it). If you and your partners have well-developed relationship skills, most potential difficulties will be possible to overcome with the intention to.



Love isn’t restrictive. It doesn’t bind people, and it doesn’t run out: it is free and accepting, without condition or restraint. Just because you love your boyfriend doesn’t mean you love your little brother any less, right? This, I feel, is the essential value behind polyamory. If I felt attracted to another woman, it doesn’t mean I’d love my girlfriend any less. And because Beth and I communicate freely, especially about the hard stuff, she would know that no one could ever replace her- no one could ever mean the same to me for the same reasons. Hopefully, if I was excited about meeting someone who nourished me, who provided for some need I had (someone to talk about my job with, or someone who made me feel especially attractive again) and made me happy, she would be happy for me too. As long as I wasn’t causing any damage to other relationships, and largely positive, happy, wonderful things were coming from relating to this other person, and Beth was totally fine with all of it, what would the real harm be?

This is not, absolutely not the same thing as cheating. All relationships are based on expectations. You might expect your neighbour not to use your spare key to help themselves to your sugar, just as you might expect your partner not to bring a new love interest home without talking to you about it first. Infidelity means breaking these expectations, which are different for everybody. If your partner understands that you would not like it if they had sex with someone else and then they do it anyway, that’s cheating. If you make it clear to your partner that you’re okay with them looking but not touching, and all you do is look, then that’s fine. If your partner is okay with you having one night stands, as long as you come back to them in the morning, that’s cool. These expectations are different to everybody, and it hurts just as much when someone betrays your trust, regardless of what you trusted them to do.

Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of polyamory, and that’s totally fine. Nobody should be forced to do anything that they’re not comfortable with. But this article is for anyone who is interested in learning a little bit more and getting a new perspective. I can personally see the potential in polyamory for solving or preventing a number of relationship troubles, not because anyone is doing anything “wrong”, but because the values we have as a monogamous society have drilled it into us that it’s tantamount to betrayal to be attracted to someone while you’re currently in a relationship. I find this kind of thinking unhelpful and limiting at best, and destructive and heartbreaking at worst. So while I’m not advocating everyone goes out there and hooks up with as many people simultaneously as feasible, I am hoping that anyone who has read this far gives a little thought to how their relationships could benefit by loving freely, not possessively.



I’d like to end on a personal example of how one experience of polyamory enriched my life and my relationships. I was on holiday in Egypt and the UK, and I’d been away from Beth for almost a month. I’d spent the past fortnight with Arabic men and mostly middle-aged tourists, and so when I boarded a bus to tour the mountains of Scotland, it came as a surprise to see so many young people my age. Some chemical deep in my brain, consumed with longing for my girlfriend, latched onto the closest available girl who I found attractive. On those long bus rides I got to know Rachel quite well, and I found myself outrageously smitten by her. At the first opportunity I got, I emailed Bethwyn explaining how confused and guilty I felt to find infatuation so far from home. I talked about Rachel and how she made me feel, and I asked her very sincerely to let me know her reaction to everything I’d said and what she wanted me to do about it. The email I got in response still blows my mind.

Ever since we started looking into polyamory, initially as an assignment for uni, we’d had the idea at the back of our minds and had been mulling it over quietly. But now we were faced with a dilemma, and we had no idea how to proceed. Reading about it and living it are entirely two different things. Beth told me, with such love, trust and respect (all those wonderful ingredients of a healthy relationship), that I could enjoy flirting with Rachel without feeling guilty, and that I could enjoy her company while I had the opportunity. She thought she might be okay if, somehow, I ended up in a position where I might like to kiss her. But that was the line and she did not think she could process or accept any more than that without becoming upset.

After that my interest in Rachel plummeted. I was so overcome with how grateful and in love I was with Beth that I wasn’t even remotely attracted to the other girls on the bus. And although I’ve had crushes and fleeting attractions since, all of which have been accepted gracefully and lovingly, none of them have held a candle to my most wonderful girlfriend.

Although this story is, in a way, about the success of monogamy, the point I’m trying to make is that my relationship with Rachel (irrespective of the outcome) did not affect my relationship with Beth in a negative way at all. Indeed, it deepened the trust, respect and love I have for her, and I consider that a wonderful thing. When I stepped outside the artifice of internalised cultural values, I found that polyamory isn’t inherently bad. In fact, it has enormous potential in enriching relationships of every kind.

I hope you’ve found this article interesting, even valuable, and it gives you some ideas about how to improve your own personal relationships by looking at things from a new perspective. I wish you all the best.




For additional reading I highly recommend Easton and Hardy’s “The Ethical Slut” (2009), a highly engaging and well-written book. Don’t be misled by its title- it’s about reclaiming the right to express yourself as a sexual person, particularly in a polyamorous context. Although there is no such thing as an applicable step-by-step manual or instruction book for having a successful relationship (let alone multiple ones), it is a most excellent handbook to something so little spoken about in our societies today.


Oh Iwata-san, I love your gentle exploration, your genuine openness, your skillful communication and direction of interviewing and the warmth of your heart. And Eguchi-san, although this is the first time I’ve seen you, I love the twinkle in your eye, the honesty of your smile and your dream to make many people happy through Nintendo (leave luck to heaven!).


Circus Conditioning and Tao Te Ching: Verse 9

Let me prelude today’s thoughts on the Tao Te Ching by telling you about my morning. I got up at 5:30 today to go to a circus-style conditioning class that’s starting up in the Academy of Traditional Fighting Arts. It’s being run by the lead physiotherapist of China’s Cirque du Soleil, who also happens to be the brother in law of my two martial arts teachers. Being such a big kid, I was really excited about the class and I wasn’t disappointed! Although getting up early kinda sucked, it was like an adventure and the traffic wasn’t too bad. Actually, it was quite refreshing to be awake before the sun was up! The whole class was really enjoyable, and I had so much fun doing even the most strenuous exercises. From my experience of group fitness classes, focusing on how hard the exercise is and how sore your body is is a quick way to demotivate yourself to continue. With Trev, everything seemed like a game and it was easy to forget the strain and just enjoy it! And the equipment that we used is kind of radical. Unlike traditional weights, the exercises we did were highly applicable to motions we do in every-day life, and because they’re so unusual and require creative manipulation, the possibility for imagination explodes. Last night’s boxing/fitness class is a good comparison, where I was holding a bridge position, there wasn’t really much to focus on other than how hard it was to maintain good form. So I started visualising Goku telling me that the Z Warriors needed me to do it in order to save the Earth somehow, that Ivy had challenged me to a bridge contest in front of all her macho Muay Thai friends, that I was keeping Bethwyn alive by shielding her from snow which would otherwise drop her core temperature to freezing… I really had to stretch my imagination to find motivation to just keep going. But in the class this morning, doing a similar bridge, the addition of a freeform board just made it so much fun (albeit it, it worked different muscle groups) I barely noticed the sweat I worked up.

Afterward, the sun had just crested the horizon when Rob and I walked out of the dojo. The morning sun was so unusual for me, but it felt like the rays were filling me with energy and life. I felt so happy and healthy! And I carried that energy and joy with me all the way home. It started to wear off in the shower and over breakfast, but doing taiji and meditation restored it in waves. And reading the Tao Te Ching brought on unexpected waves of tremendous peace, love and acceptance. All in all, a truly spectacular morning- not bad for 10am! Now, on to today’s lessons… In particular, I am reminded of my good friends Ju Transcendancing, and Lee Wong (who taught me that “Enough is a feast!”).

Verse 9 [original]

To keep on filling
is not as good as stopping.
Overfilled, the cupped hands drip,
better to stop pouring. 

Sharpen a blade too much
and its edge will soon be lost.
Fill your house with jade and gold
and it brings insecurity. 
Puff yourself with honour and pride
and no one can save you from a fall.

Retire when the work is done;
this is the way of heaven.

Verse 9 [my interpretation]

Endless desire can never be sated.
It is better to know when demand is enough
than to aspire to finite supply.

When you achieve perfection, and then continue to strive
you undo what you have worked for.
Amassing more wealth than you need does not increase your happiness,
only your insecurity.
Having too much ego (the idea that you are more important)
will always lead to suffering;
it is far better to know humility and humbleness.

Know when enough is enough.
And then stop.

This is the Way.

The Key to Really Great Sex

I know my bpd (blogs per day) ratio is currently above one, but I couldn’t help but slip in this blog post which I wrote for TINO. And speaking of slipping things in…


Warning. This blog post deals with some confrontational issues and requires a fair bit of maturity to process. If you giggle or flinch at words like masturbation or anus, you probably won’t enjoy this article.

Sex. It’s everywhere, and with good reason. Human beings are inherently sexual, from the moment we’re born til the moment we die. That’s not to say we’re always ready, willing and able to have sex- our sexuality develops just as we do, and every person is different. Some men rarely experience sexual arousal until their fifties, while some young girls can’t stop thinking about sex, and every combination imaginable. Some people are asexual entirely, without any libido whatsoever. We’re all different, and we all grow.

This week [was] Sexual Health Awareness week, and I wanted to write an article about sex, because let’s face it, most people think about it from time to time, some more than others. It’s highly likely you’ve come across information about sex before- how to do it, what feels good for you and your partner/s, what type of contraception exists, STI’s and the horrific pictures that follow… But something I’ve noticed among young people my age is that there’s not a lot of information about how to have enjoyable sex that isn’t oppressive or disrespectful. Essentially what I’d like to write about are the interconnected issues of respect and consent. But before you say “I’ve heard it all before- Australia says no etc. etc.”, these are actually fairly complex issues and it’s important to re-examine them in new light. I urge you to take five minutes to read this article- it might seriously improve your sex life forever.

Sex is generally considered to be awesome. But what is sex? Is it strictly limited to vaginal intercourse? What about anal sex? Oral sex? Manual sex? What about dry sex (with at least some clothes on)? What about fondling? French kissing? Heavy petting? Sexting? I’d argue that any exchange of a sexual nature (that is, inciting sexual arousal) is a form of sex, some more intimate than others.

I’d also like to throw a crazy idea out there: all sex is great, as long as everyone consents to it. I’ll explain the second half of that statement in a moment, but let’s think about this first. Gay sex is great. Sadomasochism is great. Role playing is great. Anal sex, water sports, bondage and domination, transvesticism, fetishes, they’re all really, really great. As long as there’s consent. I’m not comfortable with a lot of things. For example, I’m not comfortable masturbating onto someone’s feet. But if someone in the world really enjoys having someone masturbate onto his/her feet, then that’s absolutely fine. There are people in the world doing all sorts of sex-based activities right now, some of which horrify me, but if the people involved are fully committed and enjoying themselves, I have no right in the world to stop them. This is exactly the nature of consent.

Consent is agreeing to something whilst being fully aware of what that something involves. To give a common example, if a man wants to have vaginal intercourse with a woman, she must be fully aware of what it means to have a penis inside her vagina and agree to it in order to provide consent. Someone who is drunk and not in full control of their faculties cannot, by definition, give consent. Someone who is unconscious, who is underage or mentally underdeveloped, who is tied up with a gag in their mouth, who is mentally ill, who (God forbid) is dead, who is a stranger who is witnessing (or worse, experiencing) a sexual act without being asked first if they wanted to see/experience it… All of them are unable to give consent, and it is never okay to force, coerce or trick them into having any kind of sexual contact, not even a little bit. Not even if they were enjoying it ten seconds ago and suddenly changed their mind. Not even if you think that their actions are speaking louder than their words. If they so “No”, “Stop”, “Wait!”, or anything along the lines of “I don’t want to do that with you”, then you shouldn’t do it. Forcing sex of any kind is illegal, and perhaps worse, it hurts people in the most intimate of ways.

But consent isn’t just about following the law. There’s a damn good reason why it’s so important: respect. Respect is something that isn’t always understood or valued, but it is the foundation for any kind of meaningful connection. And if you’re not meaningfully connected during sex, you have some real issues that you need to look at. There is no more important time to be respectful than when you are in the very most intimate of places you can be with a person. But how does respect help you have better sex?

I cannot think of anything less sexy than hurting someone I care about. I would never find it arousing to hurt, shame or bully my girlfriend into doing something for my benefit. I would, on the other hand, find it ridiculously arousing if I asked her to do something for me and she did it willingly because she wanted me to enjoy it. I don’t particularly care who you are or what you’re into- that’s your business. But it’s also the business of your partner/s. If you want your boyfriend to role play as a secret agent then ask him. If you want your girlfriend to wear her sexy underwear around the house then ask her. If you want your partner to try anal sex then ask them.  And most importantly of all, respect their decision to say no!

Once you get to the stage where you respect your partner enough to ask them, and your partner respects you enough to consider what you’re asking, everything changes. When you start talking about sex, what you enjoy, what you fantasise about, what you’d really like your partner to do some day if they didn’t mind trying it, sex becomes limitless. You don’t have to feel guilty about what you like. You can start experimenting, if you and your partner want to, in whatever way you both enjoy. Good sex (however you like it) becomes a gift rather than something you have to steal or take or fantasise about secretly. You’re free to experience PLEASURE. And God, isn’t that what it’s all about? Why should anyone have to feel guilty about enjoying themselves as long as everyone’s okay with it? (I’m careful not to say “as long as no one gets hurt”, because some people like a good spanking among other things, and that’s cool too.)

So I guess what I’m really what I’m trying to say is that sex is really great, but it becomes so much better when you know that your partner is either enjoying it too, or doing it freely because they care about you enough to give you pleasure. In my books, the key to really amazing sex comes not from any activity in particular, but a value-based attitude: respect. Now go out there and get some.

PS: Just as a matter of interest, there are a number of Declarations of Sexual Rights, but this one is probably my favourite.

  1. The right to sexual freedom. Sexual freedom encompasses the possibility for individuals to express their full sexual potential. However, this excludes all forms of sexual coercion, exploitation and abuse at any time and situations in life.
  2. The right to sexual autonomy, sexual integrity, and safety of the sexual body. This right involves the ability to make autonomous decisions about one’s sexual life within a context of one’s own personal and social ethics. It also encompasses control and enjoyment of our own bodies free from torture, mutilation and violence of any sort.
  3. The right to sexual privacy. This involves the right for individual decisions and behaviors about intimacy as long as they do not intrude on the sexual rights of others.
  4. The right to sexual equity. This refers to freedom from all forms of discrimination regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, race, social class, religion, or physical and emotional disability.
  5. The right to sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure, including autoeroticism, is a source of physical, psychological, intellectual and spiritual well being.
  6. The right to emotional sexual expression. Sexual expression is more than erotic pleasure or sexual acts. Individuals have a right to express their sexuality through communication, touch, emotional expression and love.
  7. The right to sexually associate freely. This means the possibility to marry or not, to divorce, and to establish other types of responsible sexual associations.
  8. The right to make free and responsible reproductive choices. This encompasses the right to decide whether or not to have children, the number and spacing of children, and the right to full access to the means of fertility regulation.
  9. The right to sexual information based upon scientific inquiry. This right implies that sexual information should be generated through the process of unencumbered and yet scientifically ethical inquiry, and disseminated in appropriate ways at all societal levels.
  10. The right to comprehensive sexuality education. This is a lifelong process from birth throughout the life cycle and should involve all social institutions.
  11. The right to sexual health care. Sexual health care should be available for prevention and treatment of all sexual concerns, problems and disorders.

Sexual Rights are Fundamental and Universal Human Rights

Adopted in Hong Kong at the 14th World Congress of Sexology, August 26, 1999

Veganity and Tao Te Ching: Verse 8

Just as brief aside, I’m getting a tiny bit worried about my veganism. The lifestyle is surprisingly easy to maintain when I have such inspirations as my good friends Rach and Aaron, and of course my darling Bethwyn (whose diet is gluten and dairy-free). It helps of course that Bethwyn rarely eats food that I can’t have, so we usually enjoy our meals together. After weeks/months of discipline, I no longer particularly feel the craving for chocolate or chips. My snacks now are mostly whatever’s lying around, but I’d like to start eating more fruit. My weight dropped a fair bit over the first few months (lost about a kilo a fortnight at first, then about a kilo a month) but now I seem to have stabilised at about 58kg’s. I saw my doctor after being vegan for three months, but he didn’t think it was worth investigating just yet since my energy levels were fine and I seemed healthy enough. But lately my energy levels have been a bit lower than ordinary- the past three or four days I’ve set my alarm for 8.5 hours sleep, but when morning comes round I turn it off and sleep and extra hour. It’s a little concerning, but I’m going to give it another week or so to see if it’s due to my increased levels of exercise, the weather or some other external factor. If it’s dietary, well, I guess I can compromise and eat animal products/animals to stay healthy. We’ll see!

Now, for the Tao Te Ching… Oh, and just as another aside, Tao is pronounced more like “Dao”- an alternate spelling of “Tao Te Ching” is “Daodejing”. Just in case you were, like me, calling it “Taoism” all this time.

Verse 8 [original]

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It flows to low places loathed by all men.
Therefore it is like the Tao.

Live in accordance with the nature of things.
In dwelling, be close to the land.
In meditation, go deep in the heart.
In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.
Stand by your word.
Govern with equity.
Be timely in choosing the right moment.

One who lives in accordance with nature
does not go against the way of things.
He moves in harmony with the present moment,
always knowing the truth of just what to do.

Verse 8 [my interpretation]

The Tao is like water:
It is flowing, gentle, transformative, nourishing and life-sustaining.
It does not withhold itself from those it deems unworthy
but gives freely of itself to all creation.
And when it gives, it is not destroyed, but transformed.
All of this it does not because it wants to,
but because it is its nature.

Always live according to the nature of things:
there is little to gain from struggling against the Way of the world.

Live a simple life, close to the land
so that one can always be reminded that one is part of the natural world.
Be gentle and kind.
Keep your word.
Treat others fairly.
Choose the right moment.
Remember who you are, what you are, and rejoice!

By being presently harmonious with nature,
one will understand nature, and thus the Tao.
In understanding the Tao,
one will always know just what to do.

The Nietzschean idea of “the overman”

Golly, I’m really pumping out the blog posts. Anyway, a few days ago my good friend posted a link on my facebook to Sarah Kay, a skillful and amazing performance poet. It reminded me very fondly of my Year 10 English teacher, Mr John Watson, who was a drama enthusiast and life-ful man. After looking him up on facebook, I found his website was still operational and I flung him an email with the link. He responded, we got talking, and now we’re meeting up for coffee (well, vegan hot chocolate or tea in my case)! It’s really interesting how we’re all still connected.

One of the things we got talking about was Nietzsche and the idea of “I can, I will!”. John linked me to this article, and after reading it, I simply have to write about it otherwise all the thoughts will leak out of my head and be forgotten on the sidewalk. Be warned, the article is difficult to read and takes a while to get into, but if you persist, suddenly you’ll find it all very interesting and comprehensible. Like Shakespeare, you probably won’t care for or understand any of it for a few minutes, then all of a sudden it will make perfect sense and astound you. Please note that these are my thoughts for my sake, and I’m posting them here so that I can find them in the future, and for the off chance that someone might  find them remotely interesting. I am not really adding anything to what is already written in the article, merely translating it into a way that is easier for me to understand.


The Nietzschean idea of “the overman” (“ubermensch“, which might be better translated as “the super man”) is very profound, but mentioned only briefly in his works. At its core, it is the idea that there is a “better man”, the concept that the Red Skull endorsed in the Captain America movie. Not everyone can be this “super man”- not all people are equal, and some people are inherently smarter, stronger and more talented than others. But what separates a good man from a super man?

One of the attributes of the ubermensch is the willingness to put the good of humanity ahead of one’s own selfish desires. Aristotle believed contemplation was the most important characteristic of man, but Nietzsche believed that a philosopher needed to be part of the world, and to affect it rather than hiding away on mountain tops and in caves, hoarding their wisdom. A true overman would overcome the inherently selfish, even violent nature of being human. He would stop struggling with other men to get the best resources for himself, put his own desires aside, and strive to improve life for all mankind.

Another attribute is the ability to forge one’s own values for oneself, realising that one doesn’t have to accept the current cultural and social values as inherent. That is to say, a super man says “To hell with what society thinks, I don’t have to conform to you just because you all follow each other like sheep.” He believes in his own values and does what he believes is best, even if no one else agrees with him.

Something else that defines an overman is the ability to impact history indefinitely. Nietzsche considered Napoleon an ubermensch for the way he changed the fate of Europe forever. I suspect he would have felt the same about Hitler. Using the “will-to-power”, a highly ambiguous term, a super man would not waste his energy squabbling for personal gain but use it to influence and dominate the thoughts of others from generation to generation. In this way, he and his legacy can live on indefinitely. As an example, the ideas of Hippocrates continue to dominate the field of Western medicine.

The overman is also aware of the inherent suffering of life. He knows that it is easy to see life as painful, meaningless and repetitive (something which resonates with me at the moment). But he does not despair at all this misery: he holds the belief that in his life (this same life of suffering), there will be a moment which redeems all the negativity. That every action and experience he has ever had (wise or foolish, destructive or constructive, good or bad etc.) was necessary in order for him to become the man he is today. Knowing this, he embraces all that life is and is still able to say “life is good”. One might even go so far as to say “it was, and thus I willed it”. I take this to mean that “it happened to me because it was meant to happen to me“.

Nietzsche also explores the idea of the Apollonion and the Dionysian- the two approaches men have to thinking. The Apollonian is likened to light, rationality and order, where the Dionysian is associated with darkness, irrationality and disorder. Essentially, they compare logic with emotion, rational thought with intuition. Nietzsche believed that Socrates put too much stock in the Apollonion principle and the defence of rationality; imagine what this world would be like without emotion, without passion, without art! We would lose a crucial part of what makes us human! Yet Socrates’ ideas still pervade the modern sciences- as a species we tend to believe that we can improve upon the problems inherent in nature through logic, and that we can make life better for everyone through scientific innovation. This is a dangerous and misguided line of thought.

The Dionysian principle is not inherently evil by virtue of being chaotic- it is very much a part of all human beings.  Emotion is a natural part of being human- it should not be repressed in favour of logic! This is psychologically disastrous (something I should note for myself in the future when I feel deadpan), and will ultimately lead to the expression of the Dionysian principle in a way that is destructive. For example, it is possible that repressing feelings around sexual assault can eventually develop into cancer of the genitalia. Rather than trying to overcome our Dionysian nature, we must embrace it and express it appropriately. All people have the capacity to create art, and a good artist should be able to combine creatively with his perception of the world (i.e. embrace both the Apollonion and Dioynsian parts of himself) and express it well in his work. This  leads to beauty, to richness; the parts of life that make life worth living.

Finally, Nietzsche concedes that everyone has different values and ideals. This means that his idea of an overman may not be everyone else’s. He consequently urges for the revaluation of traditional values such as the supression of emotion and the devotion to rationalism. An overman, in his view, should not be restricted by tradition nor bounded by convention, but has independent values of his own. Ultimately, the overman spends each day of his life creating beauty, which affects the minds of others throughout time, knowing that his life has value and meaning since his willed experiences will live on indefinitely.