Predicting the Dark Night

WARNING:  I have to talk about depression today, and want to make it very clear I am not speaking of CLINICAL depression. This will be repeated, for emphasis.  If you have any sense that such a discussion would trigger guilt, blame, shame or any other negative reaction, please stop now.

 

###

 

The Seventh step of the Hero’s Journey is called “The Dark Night of the Soul.”  It is the moment when the Hero has tried everything and it just isn’t working.   Only some external circumstance of devastating power (you/your family will be killed or damaged) moves the hero through this in lotsa Hollywood films. And it is very normal to be able to push yourself through this for others (“my kids need me” more easily than for yourself.)  The POTENTIAL was there.    The CAPACITY was there. But the self-image was so damaged that they cannot tap into that potential for themselves.   If you can do it for others, but not for yourself, THAT is the measure of the degree to which you are not tapped directly into your survival drives.

 

 

###

 

I got this PM yesterday:

 

 

Hello Steven, I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for turning me on to The Morning Ritual. These last few weeks have been challenging, my (parent) is in the final stages of Parkinson’s, my finances are screwed up, just a lot of things compounding each other and I found myself dwelling in self pity. I kept doing my morning ritual which consists of a combination of Chi Gung and joint mobility exercises and the other day when I was doing my routine and reciting to myself all I’m thankful for I felt a jolt. I suddenly realized all I had and all I could give. I got all I need to fix this. I realized I could choose to wallow in despair or take ownership of my situation. I’m chose not to be a passenger. I formulated a strategy to get my finances under control and I visit my (parent) every day with an enormous sense of gratitude for everything (they have) given me and I try and let (them) know how much I live and appreciate (them). When I did the ritual this morning I felt at peace and looked forward to the rest of the day rather than dread it. Thanks again. The Morning Ritual seems so simple and yet the effects are profound.”

 

 

I’ve been running a group for people learning internet marketing, running them through Russell Brunson’s 30-Day marketing program. The challenge ends today, and its been like drinking from a fire-hose, believe me.  The challenge was said to be 4 weeks, but it was actually 5 weeks, with week #1 being setting yourself up emotionally.  And there were some comments and questions about this, to the effect of: “I wanted to learn internet marketing. What’s all this emotional stuff?

 

What is it?   Remember the Hero’s Journey?  It says that the process of moving from one stage of your life to another, at ANYTHING, will pass through the “Dark Night of the Soul.” The moment that it feels as if nothing they do will solve the puzzle, win the day, produce a happy result.   They can’t do it. All their capacities are insufficient.

 

Do you get that?   You have to EXPECT this emotional passage, or it will catch you unaware.

 

So today, we got a very predictable response:   “Now I’m getting depressed. I either have to spend a lot of time working my way into blogs or interviews or whatever, or a lot of money testing out hooks on paid ads. And I can spend a lot of money working with the Click Funnels site and software, or a lot of time figuring out how to make my own funnels. I have a day job and a family and I already feel like I’m not getting done what I need to get done. (Like I should have been working on my taxes the last few weeks.)”

 

So…what can be extracted from this?

 

  1. The emotional “downswing” is  predictable. If you could accomplish something with your current skill/emotional set, you’d already be doing it.   You must GROW. And that requires killing your current self-image.  It will fight back, under even the healthiest situations, often using fear.
  2. (Non-clinical) Depression, in THIS context, is   pure overwhelm, combined with fear and guilt.   The TECHNICAL means of dealing with overwhelm are less important than the emotional aspects. Given the right emotions, the technical stuff is just organizing a prioritized checklist and doing a little every day.  But the emotions will kill you.
  3. It is totally natural, but of course different conditions, life experiences, and physiologies and pharmacological interactions can make things hugely worse.  This is an arena for experts, and if clinical depression is a factor in your life, you need to have a medical professional in your resource circle.

 

But one thing to look at carefully is the “guilt, blame, shame” aspects of it all.  Combined with fear (“I can’t”), the feelings of “I shouldn’t, I mustn’t, I’m not enough, I’m bad, I’m inadequate” or whatever, combined with beliefs and unrealistic self-image (“I must do it perfectly”) can clearly be crippling.

 

If I want to discuss the whole picture of achievement, the emotional aspect may be the most important…but it is also the one where our ego can protect itself by literally poisoning us against our own potential.

 

IF the problem is one of lack of belief, conflicting values, basic environmental factors as opposed to an underlying disorder, then there are things we can do, as awake, aware, adults, to support positive emotions.

 

We spoke yesterday of the “Ancient Child” and “Heartbeat Meditation.”  But if you want to nuke yourself, you should try the “Morning Ritual.”   It hits every aspect of who and what we are.

 

Our emotions are determined by a combination of

  1. How we use our bodies
  2. What we focus on
  3. Our self-talk

 

To the degree that this is true, then a practice that controls ALL THREE at the same time is a massive shift.  In fact, I suspect that the practice is so powerful that if you are seriously depressive you cannot do it.  That you’ll be hit by a crippling emotional knot that stops you, using guilt, blame, shame, exhaustion and fear to shut you down. Again…professional intervention, please.

 

But for the average person, where the problem is lack of muscle development rather than a broken bone?   A habit enables to you make change, but also acts as a diagnostic:

 

IF you do it, you’ll get the result.

IF you find that you cannot force yourself to follow through,  you have a specific focal point.  You’ve just identified an obstacle. What stops you?  If there is any doubt you have the time and energy, you focus down to the smallest chunk of the process that will create forward motion.  With writing, it’s a “sentence a day”.   Do that, and things will change.

 

The smallest unit of change for our overall psychology might well be the “Daily Ritual”.    Do it, and you make progress.  Don’t do it, and you’ve identified one of the hidden demons plaguing your life:

 

So I just wanted to re-state the basics, which can be applied to any aspect of life:

 

  1. For 10-20 minutes a day, you MOVE YOUR BODY.  Walk, run, rebound, dance.  I use Tai Chi.  Get the blood running.
  2. Simultaneously, you chant ALOUD, with as great a sense of positivity as possible.  The chant follows the “MAGIC Formula” (Magic = Action X Gratitude X Intention X Conviction):

 

  1. Your belief that you CAN and SHOULD  achieve/succeed. That you will gain more pleasure than pain from the process.
  2. GRATITUDE for the blessings you already have in your life.  I promise you that you have them.   If you are telling yourself you don’t, you are lying to yourself. Ask if you’d miss your eyes.  Yes? Then be grateful you have them now.
  3. Now this is critical: EXPRESS GRATITUDE FOR THE SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF YOUR LONG TERM GOALS.   And gratitude for what you are going to do TODAY to bring them into existence.  (say: “I write at least one sentence every day” as a minimum for writing)  IN other words, you transfer the emotions of having successfully completed something in the PAST to your FUTURE behaviors.  The better you get at this, the easier it is to motivate yourself to do anything at all.
  4. Your conviction that you have all the emotional, physical, and mental skills necessary to accomplish it.

 

Look at all you accomplish in one place.  And as you get better and better at it, you will begin to go deeper and deeper into the process every time.

 

Once you’ve established the habit, you might:

 

  1. Add meditation or journaling
  2. Add more exercise to raise your physical energy
  3. Get better at time management and tactical problem solving.
  4. Get better at accessing your emotions, so that your “WHY” gets more and more powerful.

 

So much in so short a period of time.

 

Whether I’m teaching writing, martial arts, marketing, or life skills, this is the MOST CRITICAL thing: the ability to take another step every day, on a wisely chosen spectrum of personal and business issues.  Identifying the blocks. Controlling the INNER world, so that when the opportunities arise, you are READY.

 

 

##

 

I was shattered a few years back,  and used the “Morning Ritual” to crawl out of that hole.  Started with needing to do things for Jason.   Intensified the physical in times when I was resistant to positivity.  Daily sought a 1% improvement in clarity of the WHAT and the WHY of it all.

 

Until after some months of sometimes grueling effort (my ego was throwing EVERYTHING at me to try to get me to stop!) I looked up…and I was happy, and healthy, and using my mind to seek answers instead of problems.  It was the difference between bicycling through the forest looking at trees, or looking at the empty spaces BETWEEN the trees. You crash a LOT less.

 

So…I know that in our SOULMATE CLASS, we will need to define the smallest daily increments, and create a ritual so that our students access the WHY every day. They must BELIEVE it is possible to find lasting love, BELIEVE that they are WORTH lasting love, and that the search for it will bring more pleasure than pain.

 

If you believe the effort to improve will bring more pleasure than pain to your life, YOU CANNOT STOP YOURSELF FROM DOING IT.  If you believe it will bring more pain than pleasure, your chances of continuing to do it, voluntarily, long-term are almost zero.

 

Its going to be a challenge. I can’t wait!

 

 

Namaste

Steve

www.soulmateprocess.com

Advertisements

Giving The Gift of Love…to Yourself

On Valentine’s day, I hope you will take a moment to let the people you love know they adore them.  Don’t take it for granted that they know.  Reach out.

 

And the most important person to connect with, acknowledge, and love with all your heart is…yourself.

 

###

 

 

I was speaking to a woman with several children, who was in an abusive relationship with their step-father.    She was desperately unhappy. The pain radiated off of her.  Her hair lacked luster, her posture slumped, her complexion had gone bad in the last couple of years.   She seemed to be imploding.

 

“How did he change after you married him?” I asked.

“He didn’t.  Not really. I thought that he would.”   I could hear the fragility in her voice. She had that “whipped dog” posture, waiting for me to drop an avalanche of shame on her.  Dear God, I wished that I’d spoken to her a decade sooner.

 

What could I say?  I thought about it and asked another question.  “If you saw the flaws and problems…why did you marry him?”   I hoped that was neutral enough.  Luckily it triggered something positive.

 

“He needed love,” she said.  “Everyone deserves love.”

 

Yes, I thought.  But not from you.   So we had someone who prized themselves on being a source of love.  And had believed that her love, her sexuality, could heal a wounded heart.

 

Hadn’t Yoko Ono said that she could have saved Hitler’s soul by sleeping with him?   It isn’t some rare fantasy. And anyone who has been in a healthy relationship knows how incredibly valuable the love of a good partner can be in healing your heart. But…where is the dividing line?

 

I had an inspiration.   First, I had her sit up straight, changing her body language.  Get the posture.   Get the facial expression to at least a small smile.   Sink her breathing down to her navel.   Get her in the physiology of confidence and clarity.  Then I asked the bomber question:

 

“Would you have wanted your own daughter to marry him?”

 

And THERE it was. The fierceness, the protectiveness, the “Mommy Lion” sense.  Hell NO she wouldn’t have wanted her daughter to marry such a man.    So, then…why didn’t she believe she deserved the same consideration.

 

Her posture tried to slump, but I kept bringing her back to upright, moving her expression to neutral, reminding her of her breathing.

 

From this (relatively) positive position, she spoke of her programming, to put the needs of others before her own. To not think of herself, and in fact her own self-esteem had been torn down by a neglectful father and religiously strict mother.  She had entered the world of sexual/romantic relationships with a damaged sense of self, a willingness to accept any scraps, any tokens, any symbols of the happy life (like…a man, no matter how little positive influence he might be) and to take pride in “saving” a damaged soul.

 

Isn’t that the “Beauty and the Beast” model?   He is a monster on the outside, but a beautiful  prince beneath?   And there are aspects of this that work great–if there is actually a loving soul within, as well as enough power to balance with the beauty brought to the relationship.

 

  1. If there is an imbalance of beauty and power (the 21st Century model of this seems to be equal amounts of each on both sides, so that works too) then one partner will try to drag the other down, for fear of loss. They will literally sabotage your health and self-respect, for fear that if you have too much beauty or power and will find someone new and leave them.
  2. If you have your self-esteem invested in supporting someone else, UNLESS it is balanced with love of your own heart and soul, you will actually tear yourself down, hold yourself back, to stop yourself from outpacing your partner.   I have had women tell me that they were afraid to lose weight, because if they did they would become attractive to other men and cheat on their husbands.
  3. The combined power of love and sex opens primal circuits in your mind, and that “we’re soulmates!” feeling.   CRITICAL point: this is the precise reason it is a bad idea to start having sex until you are a self-supporting adult, disabused of the notion that anyone is going to come and rescue you.  Rescue yourself.
  4. The test question: “would you want your own child to do X?” is wonderfully powerful.  You can use it to determine the actual worth of a habit, association, life path.  We almost always have higher standards for our children than we have for ourselves.
  5. A common statement is “women are taught to sacrifice themselves”. And men often don’t see that sacrifice. But the truth is that men are taught to sacrifice THEMSELVES as well. Often with an occupation that shortens his life.  And women miss THAT about as often as men miss the degree to which women harden their hearts to get through their days and raise a family.

 

It is time to end this war between men and women, between the child and adult aspects of our own being.  To reclaim our aliveness and potential for love and creativity.  And the first step is such a basic thing: LOVE YOURSELF.

 

How?   First, commit to doing it.  Just…commit.

Then, find people who have this characteristic, and model them.   What are their beliefs, values, actions?  DO THAT.

While you are searching, I suggest a couple of things.

  1. Heartbeat Meditation.  Simply sitting and listening to/feeling your own heartbeat for 10-20 minutes a day.  Of course, you have to give yourself permission to be healthy and happy, or you will find an excuse not to do it, or stop yourself after a day or two (people who expect to undo decades of damage in hours are really just trying to stop themselves from changing).
  2. Inner Child work. The symbol of the child within our own hearts, whether a connection to the past, or to the seed of our future potential, is incredibly powerful.    There are countless approaches, but simply visualizing that child and asking her what she wants you to do next, can change your life.

 

 

A note: meditation is not “easy.”  Your thoughts and feelings will float around and confuse you.   You will find it impossible to sit still. Fall asleep.   Find it impossible to create a photograph-clear visualization (that’s all right: no one this side of Nicola Tesla can create such an image.   If you think you can’t visualize, answer this question: what color is your car?  If you can answer that, I’m willing to bet you have visual memory).     The first 10-15 minutes, on average, are cloudy and confused. It is AFTER that point that you will usually find a more peaceful place.

 

It can take WEEKS to work through the muck, and it can feel like pumping sewage out of a flooded basement.   But…there is a finite amount of that gunk. You WILL get through it.

 

If you have faith that something deep within you is perfect, beautiful. Or if you are willing to have faith that just the process is a worthy fight.  Remember: you children don’t expect you to be perfect. They expect you to try. They expect you to be there.  They expect you to love them.

 

Love yourself.  Enough to let the love of a good and decent, loving, healthy partner into your life.  If you are not healthy, love yourself anyway, and commit to healing.  If you really see yourself on a path of healing, you will recognize another heart on the same journey…and now you have your potential partner.

 

But come what may, you deserve to love yourself.  You’re the only one who will always be there.

 

 

Namaste

Steve

www.soulmateprocess.com

The Talking Stick

“I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.”

John Wayne “The Shootist”

###

A few years back, an old friend disliked something I had done, and sat me down to communicate their thoughts and feelings to me. When I tried to explain, they basically said: “shut up and listen.”

I killed the very real flare of anger: I don’t talk to adults that way, but because of long association, I did as they asked, figuring that if they really, really needed to get it out of their system…so be it. At no point did they ask my side, why I did what I did, or display the slightest interest in my perspective.

Again, so be it. But I can tell you something: I’ve lived my entire life avoiding people who feel they have the right to do this. I consider it infantalizing and disrespectful. It is the action of someone convinced that they know all there is to know about a situation, need no additional information, and convinced that you would be improved by being more like them, and/or following their instructions.

I don’t play that. I don’t do that to other people, and I don’t let people do that to me. But…because of the aforementioned long association (of decades), I tolerated it, and hoped they’d gotten it out of their system.

A couple of weeks later we spoke again. And…the haranguing began anew. I tried to suggest that they had never asked my side of things, and therefore my intents and motivations were unknown to them. They were apparently not interested in the slightest, never asked, just continued to lay in to me. I repeated a couple of times that what I considered a critical step in the discussion had not been taken.

But…it wasn’t a discussion, apparently. It was just a dressing-down.

Fine. Haven’t reached out to them since. They reached out to me once, and I responded politely, and that was it. Saw them once, and responded politely, and that was that.

I just do not let people treat me in a way I don’t treat others. Core principle. If you don’t like something you observe me doing, but aren’t interested in my perspective on what happened, you are playing by rules I don’t play by. And if I suspect that, were the shoe on the other foot you would resent someone doing that to you…then I have to wonder what the actual intent was, what the perspective was, what your belief about what you were doing and the nature of our relationship might be.

As of this moment, I don’t know. Because I have no interest in being subjected to that again. Heck, Mommy used to do that. But if you aren’t my Mommy, you don’t have that right.

In all likelihood, that relationship won’t recover. If this person really felt that approach was appropriate, then they deserve to surround themselves with people who agree. I am not one of those people, and never will be.

###

When someone treats you a specific way, it is wise to pay attention. A question comes immediately to mind: How would they like being treated/spoken to like that? Would they consider it respectful and appropriate?

I used to test this, by deliberately mirroring back an attitude, body language, phrasing, tonality or facial expression. The intent: to determine what that behavior means TO THEM. If they respond well, then I have to just consider it part of their psychological or cultural make-up.

For instance: someone yells at you while arguing. You yell back. If they tell you it was disrespectful for you to yell, then they were disrespecting you, assuming you are both adults. If on the other hand they bat the ball back to you, that might just be the way they grew up: people yell, and then hug, and get over it.

In fact, in some cases if you DON’T yell back they consider you weak. Or even that you don’t love them(!). What do you do if that’s the case? I would suggest asking yourself if you would enjoy this kind of relationship. If not, you can explain your preferences, and give them a chance to respond. If they feel they would enjoy communicating differently, you have a chance.

If not, separate.

Each of you has the right to be treated in the manner that brings you joy. Neither of you has the right to impose your preferences on another adult.

###

What is my personal preference? The “Talking Stick”. Basically, you use some object, say…a stick.

  1. #1 holds the stick. They say their piece.
  2. #2 repeats back to #1 what they said, and continues until #1 agrees that the essence of the communication is sound.
  3. #1 now gives the Talking Stick to #2. #2 says THEIR piece.
  4. #1must now repeat back what has been said, until #2 is satisfied.
  5. #2 passes the Talking Stick back to #1, and the process continues until the communication is complete.

The first time I used this with Jason, it was a breakthrough. He SO enjoyed having the power, and making Dad say something over and over until I got it right. But after the little flash of power was over, he actually settled down and we really communicated. He felt respected and heard, especially when Daddy had to back up and try again.

It was a breakthrough moment. I’ve used this technique with Tananarive as well, and it has never failed to improve communication…and it is often fun to see where I accidentally “step on” her communications, or mishear or misinterpret. Sheesh!

##

I had an experience where a pair of friends (they had once been married) experienced communication difficulties, and I suggested a Talking Stick. What came out rapidly was that one partner talked and thought over the other one CONSTANTLY, hallucinated meanings, presumed knowledge they didn’t have, broke the rules of engagement…it was seriously damaged communication. Frankly, I wondered why in the world anyone would put up with it.

Maybe the sex was REALLY good.

Nah. If nookie was all THAT, we’d never get out of bed. Similar to the same reason men’s backs are stiff. Ummm…let’s not go there right now, shall we?

Anyway, the real point is that you observe the words and behaviors of a friend or potential friend. Do you want to play by those rules? Give them a chance to adjust. If they don’t, LEAVE.

Mirror the behaviors back to them. If they get angry when you do to them what they did to you, you understand what that behavior means to THEM. That then tells you the hidden content of their communication. Do you like that message? Are you willing to play by those rules? No? LEAVE.

How about people who change behaviors after you are in a relationship? Well…that is definitely a risk, and a real monster can conceal themselves.

But here are some tests:

  1. Go on a road trip with them. Long miles, bad food, and sleeping in odd places are stressors that make the person focus on their discomfort. Often, their real nature will peek out for you.
  2. Watch them when winning. When something goes really well. How do they handle success and power?
  3. Watch them when losing. When things go really badly. How do they handle threats to their world view and self-image?
  4. How do they handle people who have MORE power than them?
  5. How do they handle people with LESS power than them?
  6. How are they with children? Animals?
  7. How are they when sleepy? Intoxicated?

I remember a military guy saying that he didn’t trust a man until he’d seen him drunk. In Vino Veritas, as the saying goes.

In other words, know that people can only focus on one thing at a time. When they do, the rest of their personality goes on automatic, and you can glimpse their real nature IF AND ONLY IF they are not aware of what you are looking for.

I’ve gotten sneakier than that. If I’m at someone’s house, and I had an odd premonition about them, I’ve made a fast, aggressive movement at their dog when they’re out of the room. If the dog flinches away, I know something.

But if that dog just looks at me like I’m an idiot, I know a different set of things.

##

Determine a potential lover’s, or a friend’s, values, beliefs and rules of engagement. If they don’t match yours, beware. For both your sakes: remember: THEY deserve to be surrounded by people who match their values, just like you. Hell, if you care about them…do you want to inflict yourself on them if they really, really object so strongly to your nature?

I thought not. So don’t let them inflict theirs upon you, either.

Namaste

Steve

www.soulmateprocess.com

What They Say, What They Do, What They Say About What They Do (and Vice Versa)

 

 

“The way a person talks about other people in front of you is how they will talk about you in front of other people.”–David Gerrold

 

My friend SF titan David Gerrold was on a podcast recently, waiting to go on a show discussing Star Trek when he heard another guest bad-mouthing people venomously.  His heart sank, and he hung up, deciding not to be a part of such a hate-fest. Luckily, the host understood that something bad had happened, and rescheduled the call for another time.

 

David’s point was that you need to be careful with whom you share a platform; you lend them legitimacy.  Or…they lend YOU illegitimacy.  People presume that water is seeking its own level.

 

So often when a client or friend tells me of a bad relationship they are trapped in, when you ask about how the person behaved BEFORE the relationship began, the clues were right there, in things that the person said or did…or said about what they did, or did about what they said.   Here are some warning signs to pay attention to.

 

  1. Talking smack about previous relationships.  If every previous relationship was bad…THEY are the problem. They are either a bad relationship magnet, or they are blaming others for their own dysfunction.
  2. Talking rudely to others.  Either in your presence, or bragging about things they said to put-down people they perceive as having wronged them.  While everyone enjoys a good “burn” now and then, be wary of people who seem to find opportunities to insult people too often.   That thin skin will one day be triggered by your slightest mistake.
  3. People who deny doing things that you KNOW they did.  Beware of “gas-lighters”.   Sociopathic liars or the garden variety fibber.    Especially the kind who, when finally cornered, just laugh and say they were kidding.  Such people are nightmares once your finances and personal integrity are legally enmeshed, let along your deepest and most vulnerable emotions.
  4. People who cannot admit that they were wrong, ever.  I actually ran into a guy who BRAGGED that he never admitted he was wrong, as if this was a sterling character trait.  No doubt some consider that strength.  They are fools.
  5. People who cannot keep their word.  PAY ATTENTION.  This may be the most critical thing about speech: not only do they tell the truth about what is past, but do their promises and statements accurately predict their future behavior?

 

What they say, what they do, what they say about what they do, and what they do about what they say.    Remember that you will become what you surround yourself with.   Whether “just” friends, or a life partner, be careful.

 

 

We’ll be discussing core concepts surrounding relationships in our FINDING AND NURTURING YOUR SOULMATE class, totally FREE, beginning this Saturday the 16th.  Join us at: www.soulmateprocess.com

 

 

Namaste

Steve

“The Prodigy” (2019)

The mother wonders: is the eight year old boy she brought into the world really her son?  Has she glimpsed another, older, leering presence hiding in his cherubic face?  Is his advanced intellect and stunted emotions indicative of genius, or something far more disturbing? And when her frustrated husband leaves the house, and her child appears in her bedroom at night and asks “can I sleep with you Mommy..?” and crawls into her bed…

 

What in the world is she supposed to think and feel?

 

###

 

A middling entry in the “evil child” genre, what we have here is the tale of a serial killer who dies at the same moment a child is born, and transfers his soul into another body. There, the two souls battle for possession of the body, while his loving parents struggle first to understand what is happening as the boy acts with increasing lethality and damage, and then to believe the ideas presented to them, and then to decide what to do and how to do it.

 

By the numbers, but still engaging if you buy into the notion, I enjoyed “Prodigy” without overly respecting it. The  kid actor, Jackson Robert Scott, does a very nice job balancing positive and negative aspects.  And the best scene isn’t a scene of violence but rather the encounter between the possessed child and an expert in past-life regression. Yerch.

 

But ultimately, we’ve seen this sort of thing before, and there isn’t anything really new here.  I also have some problems with the father’s behavior, which seemed manipulated by author convenience so that they could have the final scene between mother and child alone.  But…like I said, I enjoyed it.

 

###

 

The one thing that works beautifully about “The Prodigy” is how fast they pull you into the story IF YOU BELIEVE THE PREMISE.  Reading reviews, I got the sense that a number of viewers were sitting in the “Its only a movie” position, and criticizing instead of experiencing.

 

Why?  Because the premise is horrifying. And because anyone who has ever had kids has had the experience of wondering what the #$%% is happening with them.  What has posssessed the sweet little darlings.  As a parent you get tired, and stressed, and scared, and see no answers.   “Parenting isn’t hard” a grandmother once said.  “It’s just daily.”

 

The bond to those children is critical…and so is the bond between the parents themselves.  A healthy marriage raises the chances of those children surviving and thriving. In the sense that human life exists to perpetuate itself, the human pair bond instinct, that combination of love and sexual passion, is one of the most powerful human drives.  Considering the number of people who have died protecting their families, or totally changed their dreams and ambitions to provide food and shelter, one could make an argument that it is even stronger than individual survival.

 

Love, sex, and faith in a shared future creates a massive overload, shorting out other thought and creating obsessive behavior. You REALLY need to be careful in who you allow access to this “wiring” in your head and heart, because it is so damned powerful.

 

On a physiological/psychological level, it is the doorway to the “Soulmate” experience, a level of passion and connection strong enough to create a bond that will survive a lifetime of extreme stress.   And it seems to be independent of whether the lovers are gay or straight, or even whether or not they have or want children. The WIRING is there, and when you respect it (even if not yielding to it) it can guide you.

 

Is your potential partner healthy?   Energetic?  A problem-solver?  Honest?  Have a good sense of humor?  Passionate? Compassionate?   Creative?  Emotionally stable?   Forgiving?  Strong and protective?  Nurturing?

 

Aren’t all of these characteristics things you would want in a partner, whether you are raising a child or not? Of course they are. And the more of them the partner is missing, the more likely you are to have problems.

 

And the most beautiful thing? Approached correctly, the mating drive motivates you to be a better, stronger, healthier person whether you are looking for, or in, a relationship or not.   These characteristics also make a healthy individual.

 

If you would like to look more deeply into the SOULMATE PROCESS, the five-week class starts this Saturday the 16th.  TOTALLY FREE as we learn what we need to communicate this life-changing concept that begins with loving yourself so deeply that you are willing to settle for nothing less than the best, and are totally happy alone if need be.

 

To register, please visit WWW.SOULMATEPROCESS.COM.

 

Namaste

Steve

Mystery Is My Hobby

 

Why do I write stories of the fantastic and bizarre? Because my mind has always worked that way. And because I went looking for oddness, sometimes it found me. This isn’t the strangest story I have…but it was a life-changing one.

Oh yes. It was

##

This happened about thirty years ago.   I was at LAX airport, awaiting the arrival of my guru, Sri Chinmoy.  I’d had a phone call from one of his other students telling me that Chinmoy was coming through on his way to Korean, taking a three hour layover and spending that time with those students who might gather to see him.

download.jpg

 

I’d been studying him for about ten years, and studying WITH him for about three, I’d reckon.   He had fascinated me because, although a meditation instructor, he had some unusual characteristics.  He’d written hundreds of books, thousands of poems, and a MILLION little bird-drawings.  He recorded music with about twenty instruments (to this day, I use his flute music for meditation. The other music…well, let’s say he doesn’t seem to have been classically trained, and leave It at that), and had many notable students who raved about the power of his presence, including Carlos Santana and Roberta Flack.

 

So from all of that, and his words and lectures, I got the impression of a deeply spiritual man whose teachings were more or less in alignment with the traditions I’d followed previously. But what blew me away, what made me do a real Scooby-take (urrrr?) was his physical dimension.    The guy was an ultra marathoner, and encouraged his students to engage in sports, to anchor their bodies to the earth.  More than his 24-hour running sessions, he also performed freaky feats of strength, including a one-armed overhead lift of various dignitaries and notables (the expressions on their faces were priceless) and leverage lifts of planes, cars, and small crowds.  It was pretty spooky to watch, and the most impressive was a SEVEN THOUSAND POUND barbell held in an overhead lift.

155.jpg

(the picture above is from a much lighter lift, obviously)  Witnesses said he lifted it, one-armed, about an inch.  I’ve seen the photos, and can’t swear that he lifted it. However, what I CAN say is that THE BAR BENT with the pressure he applied.   Body Building champion Bill Pearl was one of his students, a man of huge strength and serious experience in the iron game, and he witnessed several of the events, and told me that he has no idea how Chinmoy does it–that he considers it superhuman.

 

I will say that the above factoids are what lured me into becoming a student: of all the spiritual teachers I’d ever heard of, the physical, material things he did came the closest to seeming like real-world miracles. No, it wasn’t as impressive as, say, levitating a dime. But anyone who can do all those things is someone who is clearly operating at the outer edges of human capacity, something I’ve always loved studying.

 

And eventually…I saw more.

##

So I’m at LAX, waiting for him to get off the plane, wondering what this miracle man would seem like in person.  I expected him to walk off the plane strolling like a human tiger.  But when he came, it was odd. He moved a little clumsily, it seemed.  I’d expected him to have the body-mind dynamic of a martial arts master, but instead it was almost as if he wasn’t in his body. As if he was…operating a marrionette.  Pulling strings from ABOVE his body, as it were. Hmmm

 

We all went to an alcove were about fifty adherents were gathered, with a sort of low platform with a comfortable-looking chair positioned  in the middle. He sat, talking to us in a low, pleasant voice, of spiritual things. But what was odd was that he kept wiggling, constantly rotating his ankles with crossed legs, almost like a squggly child who can’t keep still.

 

Then…it happened. I knew that potential students had to submit a photo to him, and that he went through some process to determine if the student was appropriate.  I’d felt lucky to be chosen, but also took it with a grain of salt.

 

Well…a senior student came to him, bringing an envelope of photographs, potential students.  He started looking through them, slowly.    His eyes vibrated side to side as he did.   For maybe fifteen minutes this continued, him staring at the pictures, his eyes flickering.  I got impatient and started to say something, and the person I was sitting with, who had originally invited me, put a hand on my shoulder to silence me.

 

And then…I noticed that something was wrong in the room. The light was funny. He wasn’t backlit, but I noticed there was a slight nimbus shining around him.  It was steel gray/yellow and started at his right shoulder, flowing up around his head down to his left shoulder, maybe 3-4 inches beyond his skin. I blinked hard, thinking that maybe something was wrong with my contact lenses.   Looked at the lights.  WTF..?

 

No, that light was there.  Reminded me of a layer of lemon Jello or something.  I’d never seen anything like that at ALL.  After about five minutes, it faded…and about three minutes later, Chinmoy came out of his trance, and the talk continued.

##

After it was all over, I very very carefully asked a couple of people if they had noticed anything…odd…with the light.   None had.

 

The guy who had invited me heard my question sand asked why I was asking, and he laughed. “Oh, that,” he said.  “That was a gift from Guru to you. You have the kind of mid that has to be shown.”

 

##

 

Hey, I’m a visitor in this territory. Just a tourist. Hell, I don’t know!   But years later, Harley “Swift Deer” Reagan from whom I learned martial arts and shamanism, heard the story and disagreed.  “No, Steve.  It wasn’t Chinmoy. It was you.  You were the one who could see.”

 

##

 

Heck. I don’t know. I’ve seen the human aura many times since then, but have no solid opinion about what it means. If I had to make a decision, I’d say it was an “artifact effect”, something created by the human mind, rather than an objective reality outside it.  But to what end?   I suggest something I call a “complex equivalent.”  The brain is taking in a vast amount of information faster than conscious thought. To give you an indication of something unusual going on, or give you access to all of this massive storehouse of information, your brain creates a symbolic representation.  Floating colors, perhaps. Sensations.  Auditory cues, things just at the threshold of consciousness.  And you can learn to interpret them, in time.

 

That strikes me as the most likely answer. But the truth?  The truth is that I don’t really know. The story above is about as true as I can remember, and still puzzles me.  It happened, but I don’t know what it means: I know what different people have SAID it means, and I know what conclusions I reach after researching and meditating for almost thirty years after the event…

 

But I don’t really know. And the coolest thing?  I don’t need to.  Hey, who doesn’t love a good mystery?

 

 

Namaste

Steve

www.sunkenplaceclass.com

Liam’s Sin Is Ours As Well

“Who hurt you?” the boy asked his friend, who had been brutalized.   The description was given, and a fountain of hate and anger erupts in a young heart.  Seizing a weapon, the boy stalks the night in search of anyone, ANYONE, who looks like the perpetrator.   He must defend his friend.  His tribe.  He seeks…a black man to beat into the ground, the flames of anger and fear consuming morality and reason.

 

And many years later, Liam Neeson admits that he did this.  Triggering fear and anger in others.  Especially those who have felt such emotions themselves, and are ashamed.

 

###

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/liam-neeson-rape-black-man-attack-cosh-cold-pursuit-sexual-assault-interview-a8760866.html?fbclid=IwAR1j0GyEI_LOcIhJsBGxaiXIcwrr8jB-lXuJlHgY7ES6gSST_3-ve___Msc

 

There is no question that his internal dialogue would have been racist as hell.   None.   But the man who ADMITS this behavior soberly and with sorrow, is precisely the sort of human being I love.

 

Is there anyone who hasn’t had loathsome self-talk?   Cursed your parents?   Wanted to hurt the driver who cut us off on the freeway?  Wanted OUT of a relationship, with venomous self-talk about “that person”?

 

So if the attacker had been a Brit. Or a Chinese, or a Frenchman.  Or from a rival school. Or is a fan of the other team.     How about voters for the other candidate?   The “tribal” thing clicks in:  “one of theirs attacked one of ours. Even the score!”

 

It’s the Hatfields and McCoys, killing each other for generations over a wandering pig.  “Those” Hatfields.  “Those” McCoys.  Hate them because they are who they are.

 

If you can honestly say that you’ve never had such a thought, never “othered” someone and wanted to do them wrong, never had a family member or friend hurt by a “them” and gone red-hearted and hungry for payback…then it is legitimate for you to, perhaps, fail to grasp how basic and human this is, how honest and mature Neeson is being to admit that this happened.

 

Isn’t this what we want?   Don’t we NEED people who look at their own earlier behavior and distance themselves? Learn from who they were?    How about people able to look at social history and do the same: “my parents did this. It was wrong.  Terribly wrong. I will not be a part of this.”

 

If you defend the behavior, the sin is yours.   Confession is the road to awakening, the path to healing.  EVERYONE NEEDS FORGIVENESS.   “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” a believer might well put it.

 

And this is more than any single spiritual tradition: you find this thought EVERYWHERE.

 

Christianity says “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

 

Buddhism says:  “The faults of others we see easily; our own are very difficult to see.”

 

Sikhism says: “Those who quarrel with others, instead of quarreling with their own hearts, waste their lives.”

 

By the way, IMO it is a waste of time to try to determine where this principle originated, as if there was some sublime enlightened being who saw something ONCE which then spread around the world.  No.  This is common folk wisdom. Observable truth.   There was no original thought.  It was just something which, if one lives long enough…you see everywhere in action.

 

If we pillory people for admitting past errors, all we do is discourage people from honesty, from self-reflection, and ultimately from growth.  And because none of US are free from sin, from evil, from the horrid thought or deed, ultimately we define ourselves as twisted things, unworthy of redemption or love.

 

We become horrors.   Pale shadows lurching through our own purgatory, seeking not to lift ourselves up but to drag others down into our own misery.  We are the zombies, the were-creatures, the vampires, the cannibal killers.

 

Inability to love and forgive ourselves, and then extend that humanity to others, is one of the doors to hell.

 

I say that I am horrified by what happened to his friend, and also by his reflexive urge for vengeance. And proud of a man strong enough to risk his public image by revealing a private misery.

 

Isn’t THAT what we want? To cleanse the wounds so that they can heal?  Should we expect a perfection that cannot exist? Or ask people to lie about their weakness?  We talk about “toxic” behavior. Aren’t WE creating it with our lack of forgiveness, even to those who humble themselves?

 

If it is not safe to be weak…we pretend to be strong.

 

Again, if we do that to others, can we possibly avoid doing it to ourselves? Our children?  When Jason mouths off to me at night, running to his room and slamming the door, do you think I don’t know he’s waiting to see my face in the morning?  Do I forgive?  Do I understand he’s doing the best he can?   Does he get another chance at being a loving being, or must he carry the rock of his sins upon his back, until he is so bent he cannot stand up at all and joins those crawling in the gutter?

 

Do we not ultimately condemn all mankind if we walk that path?

 

Anyone who knows my martial background knows I take no shit from anyone. NO one lays a hand on me or my family.   But that said…I choose forgiveness, and love. And feeling that the man who can admit such a thing is PRECISELY the sort of man I’d want as a friend and brother, who I would trust to watch my children as I watched his, or watch my back in an alley fight.

 

Condemn him only if you believe you have never had such thoughts. And if you are such an angel…?   I believe you will see the soul within the sinner, and forgive.

 

 

Namaste

Steve

www.sunkenplaceclass.com

A Night To Remember

I was at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, and found myself watching the wonderful Keith (“The Thing” and “They Live”) David being interviewed on the red carpet. Afterwards, I was talking to director Ernest Dickerson (“Demon Knight”) and Keith came over and we all started jawing.

I wondered if I was going to do it. I’d had a joke I’d kept in my mind for YEARS and never thought I’d really have the chance to say to the folks concerned. But then…the opening happened.

“I’ve had a joke I’ve told for years, Mr. David. And it involves you. May I tell you?”

He was amused. “Sure,” he said.

“Well, I dreamed that I saw a theater marquee. The names were Keith David and David Keith, and the title was `Palindrome’.”

He cracked up, and I relaxed. Man, I’d had that one in my head for twenty years! And he laughed. Taa-Daah! There he is, third from the left end, seated next to T. At the very end? Tony “Candyman” Todd!

###

Really, the event was great, a celebration of SHUDDER network’s documentary “HORROR NOIRE”, a celebration of black horror films from the earliest (“Birth of a Nation” was front and center) to “Get Out”. Based on the nonfiction cinema book by Robin R. Means Coleman Phd, and executive produced by my wifie Tananarive Due, this is a terrific piece of work: funny, heart-breaking, infuriating, uplifting, and educational. Very well done.

I had so much fun watching T being a star, introducing people like Rusty Cundieff (“Tales from the Hood”, “Fear of a Black Hat”) and Tony Todd (“Candyman”) to a packed house. I know that she felt isolated much of her professional life, and being in a room of “horror heads”, let alone “BLACK horror heads” — meaning black people who create and enjoy horror, and white folks who enjoy it as well — had to feel like a homecoming.

William Crain, the director of 1972’s “Blacula” was there (he’ s on the left end of the picture, next to Tony Todd) , and I had a chance to speak with him too, shake his hand and thank him for his place in history. What a blast!

But the most fun might have been Rusty Cundieff. I’d met him briefly at an NAACP Image Awards lunch, but being able to actually rap with him about “Fear of a Black Hat”, a movie that ranks with “Spinal Tap” as the best music mockumentary, was a blast. Especially talking about the range of music, from the immortal “Booty Juice” (you had to be there) all the way to “Guerrillas in the Midst” which, if you didn’t know it was a put-on, would have been straight-up gangsta. He talked about current plans (not for me to talk about, but I smiled a LOT) and how they designed the songs: some silly and some deadly serious (in context). It was great.

I was happy to have had that conversation, because I couldn’t be at UCLA the day he lectured T’s class. That was a hell of a talk, and we wanted to share it…and will. There’s a little teeny catch. We got Rusty’s permission to use his video to raise a little money for the POOR ORPHANS OF UGANDA fund. It’s FREE: if you’ll make a small donation, we’ll share the video with you. Not a dime goes into our pockets. These are kids experiencing the REAL horror of not enough food, shelter, or clean water. Won’t you help us stop their nightmare?

Then…listen to Rusty talking about “Tales From The Hood 2”, and where he goes from here. It’s a hoot!

All the best,

Steve

www.freehorrortalk.com

On Blackface and Accusations

A couple of events in the last week which, in Black History Month, it might be reasonable to expect me to comment on.

  1. Blackface is anchored to an entire network of insult. It is possible to explain its use under the categories “ignorance” and “obliviousness” but also “callousness” and “bigotry.” I wouldn’t automatically condemn someone who did it, especially in the past, but would listen very carefully to their explanations and attitudes. A clear statement of “oops? God I was stupid” and a crystal clear condemnation of the entire social structure that supported it? I’d probably just shake my head and move on. But…I would be listening carefully for justifications. In other words, there are reasons, but not excuses.
  2. I am disturbed by an accusation of assault when the only witness refuses to let us check the facts. If you say you were on the phone at the time, LET US SEE THE PHONE RECORDS. If the event was real, we need to know, and as the situation has been politicized, it is totally reasonable for those implicated by association to doubt absent proof. Have proof? Put it on the table. And…if I’m not mistaken, felony accusations are false somewhere between 5%-10% of the time. If the accusations are true, WE NEED TO KNOW. If they are true, and we are not convinced, that emboldens the aggressors. If the accusations are false, WE NEED TO KNOW, because if we DO have a wave of assaults, any false accusation becomes a “boy who cried wolf” scenario, endangering innocent people as well as driving wedges.

No matter what happened, true or false, this is dangerous. And no, I don’t automatically believe alleged victims: I believe that a citizen’s testimony deserves to be carefully investigated, neither discounted nor automatically accepted. Either extreme is a dangerous, knee-jerk responses.

I already see people fearing disaster if the accusations turn out to be false. That will only be true if they are widely believed. Otherwise, it isn’t about gays, or blacks, or SJWs or whatever — it would be about one person’s false testimony.

And if the accusations are true? And the evidence thereof is being concealed? That’s even worse. Demons breed in the dark. If people don’t stand up and clearly present their reasons for a position, those demons can strike again, and yet again, knowing that if they choose their victims carefully, they will never be taken seriously until its too late.

There is truth here. And we deserve to know PRECISELY what it is. And right now? We don’t.

Namaste

Steven Barnes

www.sunkenplaceclass.com

“Night of the Living Dead” (1968) and the art of transgression

 

The theater was dark, and cool.   It was midnight, abut 1972, and I felt the darkness as I rarely had before, the black and white images on the screen taking me into a world I’d never experienced.  I was watching Night of the Living Dead for the first time, and I was not happy.

 

Something was happening on the screen that I couldn’t explain.   From “they’re coming to get you, Barbara” through the gathering of the main characters in the lonely house, boarding up the windows and fending off the ghouls, I had a creeping sense of dread that couldn’t be explained by the core images I was seeing on-screen.  I felt that cold to my bones, and began looking around the theater, seeking exits in case the people around me…weren’t really people.

 

Something was WRONG.   This wasn’t a normal horror film, and I couldn’t put my finger on quite why.

 

Maybe it was  the first major casualties, when young lovers Tom and Judy are accidentally burned alive in their truck. That’s bad enough…but then they are torn apart and DEVOURED. Onscreen.  That was an extreme WTF moment, I can tell you.   People stopped  eating their popcorn.   This shit had just gotten real, in a way we’d never seen.

 

Worse than that was the moment when the entire theater went “Oh My GOD!” as a group.  It was the moment that the little girl Karen stabs her mother Helen to death with a masonry trowel.    It seemed to go on forever, spattering Bosco all over the screen.

 

Little girls butchering their mothers?   Beautiful young lovers turned into barbecue?   Both terrible.

 

But there was something else that hit America even harder, I think.  Not because it was worse than a little girl filleting Mommy, but because people couldn’t even articulate what disturbed them.

 

How about the spectacle of a black man taking charge of a group of white people in a desperate fight for life?   Remember this was 1968, just three years after the Voting Rights Act finally gave black Americans full citizenship, in effect finally recognizing their actual humanity for the first time in four centuries.  I have to think what black audiences would think of a movie in which a group of black people were dominated by a brash white man, and realize that yeah, whether they could admit it or not, the images onscreen had to be uncomfortable as hell.  Now multiply that by an order of magnitude: black audiences have seen whites dominating them in films countless times: we’re very aware that’s a favorite fantasy.  But white audiences had NEVER seen anything like this.  (Well…not often.  IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT had come out the year before.   It is just barely possible to consider Ben in NOTLD as an artistic conversation with Virgil Tibbs.  There’s an essay…)

 

Anyway…black men beating the hell out of white men, and then shooting them? And he’s the hero?

 

By the end of that movie, I’m pretty sure director George Romero had delivered one of the most “transgressive” movies in history, crossing lines the audience was unprepared for, so that they could barely believe their eyes, couldn’t even admit to themselves how badly  their expectations and values had been savagely scrambled.

 

###

 

NOTLD is one of the most successful films ever made, earning over 100 million dollars (really, as it lost copyright, it is probably impossible to really determine how much money it made) on a budged of about 150k.  How could it have that kind of impact? Well, in the flow of a well structured, paced, and directed genre film, there were at least three separate events audiences had never seen onscreen before.  And because the creativity was in the script not expensive FX, we went for a low-budget journey without the low budget damaging the experience.    And at least part of that “transgression” wasn’t planned: apparently Romero had written the role of “Ben” as race-neutral.  Duane Jones   NAILED the audition, and was cast.  We may never know precisely when Romero knew lightning had struck. At the audition?   During rehearsals?  Performance?  First dailies?  The first screening?  I don’t know, but for sure, he realized he’d done something amazing and unique, something so shocking critics and audiences couldn’t even honestly articulate their shock.  He tried to imitate that same shock in his later films, and certainly in the remakes, even the remakes of the sequels. But you can’t step in the same piece of water twice.

 

What would it take to create that level of “transgression” today…?

 

Maybe a mid-transition transexual would work.  Latino.  With a gay lover.  Or how about the lover being another mid-transition transexual going the other way?   Swap the young lovers for Ben, make them a team protagonist?  Nah…kill one of them, turning the other into an angel of vengence, pushed beyond limits and taking zero shit.  I’d pay to see that.

 

That MIGHT create the same shock, as a very femme stealth lead totally dominates a group of macho assholes.    Done straight, that would make the great heartland FLIP, and you might be able to parlay that into the kind of disorientation, fear, and shock that could then power a classic horror film.

 

##

 

Tonight, I’m driving in to Hollywood to the premier of “Horror Noir” the Shudder Network documentary executive produced by, and featuring my good lady wife the amazing Tananarive Due.  And I know that as I watch it, I’ll be watching a threshold moment: when black film has produced so many excellent movies that there are actual mini-genres within the main genre, a body of work worthy of serious critique and celebration.

 

And it is no mistake that this is also a time in our nation’s history when core questions of being are bubbling to the surface, and voices once silenced and ignored are demanding to be heart.  And I wondered this morning…what next?  Who will be the next to take transgression to the level of art?

 

There are so many possibilities.

 

Women are doing this as they break barriers and demand release from the cultural boxes.  This isn’t new, and we’ve always had movies that broke those moulds…but the pace of change and confrontation is accelerating.    “Silence of the Lambs” tapped into this, to huge effect.

 

Gays are certainly doing this. Something like “Cruising” was almost certainly designed to shock and appall straight audiences, and certainly shot steam out of MY ears.   But the movie that tells a story simultaneously empowering and disturbing?   Not sure that one has hit the screens yet, not in a wide cultural way. And we may have seen too many images for the same shock a NOTLD created.

 

How about immigration?   Really, you’re looking at migration patterns, things far older than national boundaries, and the notion is terrifying to people who believe legal boundaries are realer than those patterns, and especially to those who believe the newcomers are of inferior stock.  They may be polite about it, but what percentage of people do YOU think are assholes?   Whatever you guess, I suggest that the same percentage (not necessarily the same people. A mite defensive, are we?) are racists.

 

Watching “The Day After Tomorrow”, where North America is hit by a nightmare of freezing blizzards and Americans fled to Mexico, wading across the Rio Grande carrying their possessions, was just too rich, in context.   But it was in fun.   Doing that SERIOUSLY, playing out that scenario without a single wink at the audience could trigger genuine fear.   Focusing on a single family’s terror and hope?  Can’t wait to see THAT.

 

Where else can we find transgression? What concepts seem to trigger the greatest fear, discomfort, argumentation?  In the hands of a canny artist, these become FUEL for your art.   But you have to know the basic forms and rules to know how and when to bend them, and where to stick the nozzle.

 

Otherwise, as I suspect happened with NOTLD, you might not be able to do it deliberately (as “Get Out” most certainly did) but you might lurch into it in the dead of night, like a zombie searching for brains.

 

 

Namaste

Steve

(If you love “Horror Noire”, genre film, or the sublime art of artistic transgression, check out the webinar course Tananarive and I have taught for years: www.sunkenplaceclass.com)