The emotional yo-yo

In all my writing and teaching, the emotional component is acknowledged to control your ability to leverage mental and physical skills.   If you are feeling confident, you can have a coach scream and yell at you, call you a sissy or worse, and it just makes you mad and makes it easier to tap deeper wells of energy. But if your internal demons AGREE with that coach?  Sheesh. Disaster.


Over on the Revolutionary Writing board, students are taught to delve into their emotions, develop their world view, learn to express it courageously and honestly embedded in a structure of effective dramatic writing so that it represents your view of humanity or reality.  Do this properly, and the “politics” or “philosophy” is secondary to solid story telling, and bingo. But the ability to do the work over time, to trust your emotions and perceptions, to develop your own position despite the winds of encouragement or disapproval that WILL try to blow you down and away once you stand up and declare yourself…that is tough.

We use a special annotated version of THINK AND GROW RICH, which is the grandpappy of all self-help books.  It contains countless ideas and perspectives to clarify and emotionalize your goals, then strategies to improve performance, team-build, and learn to sell your personal services or products to your community.  But brothers and sisters, if there is any part of you that is frightened by the concept of success, repelled by the notion of wealth, believes that money is evil, thinks you cannot achieve unless you have cultural agreement or the entire world supports you…you WILL be turned off by a book that is so steadfastly positive. That, in essence, BELIEVES IN YOU MORE THAN YOU BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.

Your ego, threatened by its contents, will find ANY way to turn you off.  It must, or you will begin to experience a new reality, and your old self-concept will suffer and shatter.  A typical tool the ego uses is to take offense at something, refusing to “read between the lines” of a book written almost a century ago, railing against its regressive politics, inaccurate scientific theories, quaint phrasing, or lack of minority or female role models.

We had a student speaking to this, who reacted strongly to an anecdote where Napoleon Hill used a hyper “you can do it!” example that the student actually found offensive.  I explained my own point of view, and got back the following comment I found perceptive and honest.  After first admitting that she deals with depression she went on:

“There’s a fine line between compassionate support and actively detrimental words in depression, so sometimes I have to come back to something and read it later — or many times later. Someone can say something along the lines of “Get up and get moving!” to me when I’m deeply depressed and I’ll interpret it as condescending, unsupportive and clueless. Someone can say the EXACT SAME WORDS to me as I’m recovering, starting to live again, or in a great mood, and I’ll interpret it as either a) not really helpful, but the best support person can offer or b) a friendly supportive hand up or even c) a funny joke.”

That is accurate and honest and useful, IMO.  If you can begin to separate yourself from your emotional responses, you can function despite the storms.  Not swept along by either the “ups” or the “downs” but merely doing, day by day, what you need to do to bring your righteous dreams and goals into existence.

I believe this is a worthy goal.  What about you?






Social action or individual responsibility?


I am enjoying the conversations developing over on the REVOLUTIONARY WRITING board.  The class is designed to teach people to express their philosophies in their writing.  If they want to get political, that’s their business, but politics is (IMO) secondary to core perceptions and intent and sense of “What Is True?” and “Who am I?”


But as Friday is “SUCCEED” day, you have to get real about something: you can write the best, most honest and precious stories in the world, but if you never sell them, people will never see them. Therefore you really do have to factor in external success. You know…money.  Sales. Marketing. All that scary, non-subjective stuff.  It sucks, but there it is.


To that end, we use the very best book on success ever written IMO, THINK AND GROW RICH.   Every student gets a free copy, supported by my annotations. And we had a great comment today related to a chapter where Hill talks about using visualizations and powerful emotional stimuli to help his deaf son develop hearing (!)  


A student commented as follows:


“I probably won’t be commenting a lot because I’m at stage 1 of Steve’s stages (“love yourself without guilt or shame”) and socializing has always baffled me and/or caused me stress.

So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, reading (Think & Grow Rich), writing, and reflecting, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts and questions.

In Chapter 2 when Hill described how he dealt with his son’s condition (being born without ears or the biological apparatus for hearing) I was actually offended. I understand what he was saying. Convince the mind and the material effects will follow. But my god, the degree he went to make his child “normal” offended me.

On that note, is anyone else occasionally unnerved by Hill’s lack of conscientiousness toward mental health? He probably didn’t understand that some of the causes of failure (procrastination, ill health, negative thoughts) aren’t necessarily a result of bad habit, but (unless the internet has misguided me) it’s not that people with mental illness and/or chronic illness can’t manage and be successful, it’s that the bar for what is successful is dependent on a criteria of “normal” that excludes them. And I don’t feel Hill recognizes this in the field of mental or physical health which makes it hard to take every little thing he says to heart.”


My answering comments (slightly altered):

Dear XX:

“Think And Grow Rich” is an amazing look into the minds of people who have lifted themselves up and become “successful” in the sense of “the progressive realization of a worthy goal.” There is an enormous gap between the thought patterns of such people, and the thought patterns of identical people in identical situations who get lesser results.

And it is even more true that if life “breaks” people–and it often does–they develop thought patterns that justify their condition. If you don’t, it is possible to “break” with self-loathing. This is why you MUST start by loving yourself–only someone who loves herself can look at failings without it damaging their self image.  This often motivates people to delude themselves about their situation or capacities: false ego to protect a fear of inferiority.

Your comments range over a wide number of perfectly good points, but I’ll just take the first one: “But my god, the degree he went to make his child “normal” offended me.”


So. Let’s “unpack” this. I would guess that this reaction relates to the movement to ask society to change or accept the “differently abled”. Blind, deaf, autistic, whatever–let us not say that there is something wrong with them. Let us say that WE do not have the right to place our judgements upon them.

This is a compassionate approach, designed to shift the “tribe” of man to care more about individuals and understand that no standards we place upon them are ultimately valid. But what was the context of his drive to “help” his son? I suspect a lifetime of seeing that people who are “deaf” deal with poverty, want, and diminished likelihood of meaningful success. THAT IS WHAT HE WOULD HAVE SEEN AT THAT TIME. What does a father do? Try to change all of society so that they will support and nurture his son? Become a political activist for the rights of the hearing impaired? That is an approach, certainly.

He chose another path, right or not. He chose to think that survival is a value in and of itself. And that the entire thrust of the philosophy he spent his life studying is that THE INDIVIDUAL IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RESULTS HE GETS. Is that cruel? So is poverty. The fear of a parent, knowing they cannot always be there to help a child, imagining that child in want and misery, is immense.

I have been criticized for saying women should study self-defense. “Don’t tell women to defend themselves. Teach men not to attack them.” Well, that’s an approach. But if I’m sending my daughter off to college in a strange town, precisely how does that work? Do I spend years with every boy going to that school to be certain he respects and protects women? Impossible. Do I spend twenty hours with my daughter teaching her environmental awareness, when and how to attract attention, how to read body language, how to project confidence, how to “flip the switch” in her head and go berserk on someone? How to use her body or improvised weapons to create pain and fear and incapacity in an attacker?    

Personally, I say you do BOTH. So that might be what Hill should optimally have done, especially from a “Liberal” or “Progressive” position.

Can you see how this relates to Social Justice? IF you are dealing with, say, a poor black kid from the inner city, you may have help him understand that, yes, society is unjust, yes,   his people got screwed over for centuries and it affects him today,  yes, he is surrounded by pain and lack, and no, white people would have been just as hurt and angry given the same history. And that voting, and forming alliances, and marching and protesting will help change society. That and more is all valid.

But you ALSO have to show him what individuals born into his circumstances have done to lift themselves up. As individuals. Even without help. Even if society is against him. Because if he doesn’t, you are saying: unless society changes, you can do nothing. You are helpless. And that isn’t true. Social circumstances make it LESS LIKELY ON AVERAGE to achieve. But individuals CAN AND DO thrive in the worst circumstances. They are not “normal”–they are either extraordinary, or have been fortunate enough to meet extraordinary teachers and mentors or have extraordinary family who guide them even though the circumstances are dreadful.  Perhaps find an extraordinary book, and give themselves over to its teachings.

It is true that our circumstances guide our average results. It is also true that people, through extraordinary focus, can raise themselves up. Both of these things are true: we must become “awake, aware, adult human beings” or our children starve, and our “dream children” dwindle.

So what did Hill do? Everything in his power to give his son the ability to compete on equal terms in a dog-eat-dog world. He saw a cold, cruel landscape that might eat his child alive, and did everything in his power to give that boy the capacity to stand up and kick ass. That is a very “Yang” approach. The “Yin” approach is to implore society to be more inclusive and kind and supportive.

BOTH the “Yin” and the “Yang” must be combined to create “The Tao”, the whole picture. You have to rise beyond the political or philosophical dualities. It is true that I want society to be kind and fair. It is also true that if my children are strong and smart and tough enough…they can create a life of meaning and DEMAND that society treat them with respect.

The book “Think And Grow Rich” is 100% coming from the position that we can determine our fates, to a degree most human beings never understand. It is frightening if, deep inside, you are afraid of taking full Response-Ability for your life.

And you know? Almost no one does. It is a heavy burden. But if you don’t…all of your dreams can die. Ultimately, we have to make the choice: will we risk taking too much responsibility, and risk guilt, blame, and shame? Or will we believe we have less power than we do, and let our lives slip away?

We have to make a choice. I’m hoping you’ll join me on this side of the line: life can be hard. So we must be strong.

But, of course, we must also be compassionate and loving. If you can handle that duality, it opens the door to a different world.



P.S.–if you have a dream of sharing your vision with the world, join us in the Revolutionary Writing class.  We’re creating something different: the ability to convey your philosophies in your work consciously, without sacrificing the quality and entertainment of the work.   This is an ongoing workshop, although we are creating the first six weeks of work as we speak.  The sooner you join, the sooner you can help us know what YOU need to succeed!

Announce Your Intentions

A nice set of thoughts about finding community:


Remember the first steps along my Five Fold Path:

  1. Love yourself (enough to keep yourself safe, and forgive for your flaws)
  2. Love another person (extend your sense of “self” beyond your own skin)
  3. Love mankind (and understand how we got where we are without guilt, blame, or shame) which leads to:
  4. Find your tribe.


We need to have a group, a family, friends and companions, mentors and students, clients and customers.   IF the foundational steps have been taken, this one is powerful indeed.  If you’ve not taken the other steps, this one might feel impossible.  


I like the first step in Lisa Rankin’s list: set your intentions.   I’ve created my entire life by seeking to be attractive to the women I was attracted to, and respected by the men I was respected by.   Seriously, it was in many ways that simple.


Given a different world, I probably wouldn’t have spent much time in the martial arts.  Probably more time in Yoga or the arts. Dancing. Music.  I was such a gentle boy.   So open hearted and happy, until I slammed into reality.    I got hurt a LOT, and felt I had no protection anywhere.   In a tribal culture, I’d probably have been a griot, shaman, or healer.  Those are the more “natural” paths for me.   The warriors of the tribe would have protected me in exchange for providing value to their lives, and I would have worked my heart out to take care of them.


I had no such ring of protection.   So the only choice I could see was to become my own protection, and went down that road, no matter how brutally hard it might have been, until I felt safe at last.  I thought I could banish my fear, but instead learned to live with it healthfully.  Accept and love myself.  Forgive myself.  Along the way, I found love, developed a sense of history and human existence that allows me to understand what I see around me as well as understand history and anticipate future changes with a sense of unfolding.  There is chaos and grief and pain and fear…and there is love and creativity and sharing and sacrifice and healing.  All is well.  It’s just life.


And in that process I’ve also gained students and readers, clients and allies, family and friends.   To my delight and surprise, the martial artists I admire respect me–not necessarily because I’m some paragon, but because they know I walk the same road they walk, that I’ve done the best I could with the resources I had, that I’ve gone as far below the surface as I could, and come to them with an open heart.


The same is true of the path of writing.   I know so many fine men and women who are beyond my horizon in terms of skill and accomplishment…but I walk the same road.  That’s all we can do.  And no matter how far and how fast we run, we’re never any closer to the horizon.  There is The Work.  And if you keep your attention on that, rather than “who’s better?” then you won’t stray off that path.


My tribe is the group of people who believe human beings are basically just human beings, that there are no differences worth dwelling on between races, that we are building this world together and that the most basic realities of life and existence are a balance between entropy and increasing complexity, and you have to choose a side.  


The first step is love, without which the fear and doubt and lack of faith can destroy you.  We start there, we end there.   And when finding your tribe remember not to admit those who cannot see the same reality you see.  Do not let them lure you into negative thinking or perceptions, even if they dangle rewards of money, love, sex, or fame at you.  Ultimately, you are responsible only to the Child you were, and the Ancient you are becoming.  


My commitment: One Million Awake, Aware, Adult human beings. My strategy: to nurture one thousand Awake, Aware, Adult writers.  I am so happy for all of you who have declared yourself walking the same path: you are my tribe.


All others, I wish success and health on your path. Report back, please. Let me know how your journey is working out for you: if you are getting better results, I promise I’ll investigate and see if there is something there for me to incorporate in my own Way.




How Do You Know What You Know?

If the two most important questions are “Who am I?” and “What is True?” then the next would have to be “how do you know what you know?”  If you are the kind of person who wants to know, wants to base your decisions about life based on the most accurate judgements of the world you can, PLEASE read the following.

I assume that the apparatus for determining this is built into us: there would be no evolutionary advantage to building inaccurate views of reality.  So I look at what we’re given at birth: a few basic reactions and instincts upon which the rest of our perceptions and evaluations are based across a lifetime.

And most basic are our senses: babies evaluate the world with touch, taste, smell, sound, smell.   What is increasingly true is that the modern world enables us to APPARENTLY navigate the world within a web of illusion: computer screen, book pages, digital games. The physics can be convincing, the visuals spectacular, the information flow overwhelming…but it isn’t the same as dealing directly with reality.

One way to cut through this is a daily physical discipline. Your body doesn’t lie as promiscuously as your vision, let alone your mental constructs, which can have NOTHING to do with reality, but still seem quite convincing.

This is where the Morning Ritual shines. By creating a physical practice which connects mind, body, and emotions is a core value in the Yogic and Martial disciplines.


  1. If you have never had the time to explore them, but feel they would be of value…
  2. If you HAVE explored them, and seek to connect your physical and mental/emotional aspects more deeply…
  3. If you have wished to develop a daily practice that connects every aspect of your life so that you can see, day to day, how you are progressing on the larger map of life…
  4. Or if you’ve just wanted to see if Tai Chi Chuan is an art you would enjoy…
  5. Or if you are deviled by stress, and want a simple daily practice to master it forever…


Then please come to the November 5th FIREDANCE TAI CHI WORKSHOP.  You’ll get a 30 day program to see for yourself if you can be more alive, more aware, more in control of your life.  If after 30 days you don’t feel I’ve delivered everything I promise and more, your money will be happily refunded.  Heck, if after the first three hours you don’t agree you’ve gotten more than your money’s worth, we’ll be happy to give you back your money.

You have nothing at all to lose, and so much to gain!  Go to WWW.FIREDANCETAICHI.COM and see for yourself if spending a day to change your life is the kind of investment in yourself that warms your heart.

See you on the 5th!


Yours in flow,








Refining the map


Wednesday is the day we think about the process of expanding  our sense of self to include the entire world.  If you love yourself (step #1) and forgive yourself, knowing you’ve done the best you can with the resources you have…and then expand that to include one other person (step #2), seeing how your ability to enjoy the greatest pleasure in life is based on your capacity to forgive and accept human flaws as the flip-side of human beauty and power.


Keep expanding.   I do NOT in any way expect people to accept my view of life.   What I hope is that they will develop a theory of humanity that allows them to understand human nature with the same sense of clarity, love, and centeredness that they use in evaluating themselves, and their family.  That they are as clear in THEIR beliefs as I am in mine, such that they know precisely why they believe what they believe, and can defend those beliefs without fear.  Because if you have a belief, and express it, you WILL be challenged. And the more insecure people are in their beliefs, the more violently they will attack you.


(That is not to say that you can’t be attacked by people VERY certain in their beliefs, but who believe your positions are dangerous.  You will!)


Writers and artists would be well served to have a world view grounded in both their emotions and a theory of how the world works.  Preferably, ground this in psychology, history, possibly even biology.  Physics, if you can push that far.  Then, when you express yourself, you aren’t blown this way and that by persuasive arguments, you can say: “when X or Y objective measurement changes, I will change my mind.”  People will rail at you.


How DARE you suggest an objective measure!   I know what I’m talking about! Listen to me!


Of course, you can walk down the road and meet a hundred people a day who say this, every one of them with a different opinion about the same subject.  If you don’t have BOTH an opinion AND an understanding of how you came to that opinion, you are vulnerable.


  1. A clear position on reality.  That is the “What is true?” question.  Always go deeper, understanding that you must ground this BOTH in your own perceptions and some non-subjective measurement.   And understand that that “objective” measure was decided upon using subjective criteria, your values, and perceptual tunnels.  You cannot escape that completely.  All you can do, IMO is constantly test your beliefs and positions: “If X is true, then Y would be true as well” you might think, and then research to see if your assumptions are correct. Or: “If X is true, then Z will happen next” then wait to see if Z occurs.  If it does, your position has a predictive capacity, and your belief in it has been strengthened.   You’ll never get to 100%, but if you can BOTH understand the past, feel safe in the present, and predict enough future events to make a pattern…that’s not bad.
  2. A clear position on who YOU are.  And once found, ask if that explains the world around you.  You are looking for the aspect of your own being that is universal.  If the world is peopled with people like you, how does that explain history?  Of course, the observant reader will see the problem here: I”m making a pre-assumption that people are basically alike.  Yup.  So…if that is NOT your belief, then you need to be as clear on what you DO believe as I am in what I believe in order to make rapid decisions and evaluations.   Of course, there are pre-assumptions in that statement as well: that clarity is better than confusion, knowing better than mystery, rapid action and decision better than delayed, even that there is a “better” and “worse” to be discussed.


Back to “what is true?”   Ah, its a maze, and all of it can be deconstructed endlessly.   I’ve made a choice to operate in the world of action, take my stand there, although maintaining awareness that that is an illusion as well. I can deal with the duality.


The point is this: If I say “model successful people” you can fall down a rabbit hole asking which traits to model, which values are worthwhile, whether external results affect internal states, on and on.  Spend your whole life doing that. And my belief is that people who do this are not deeper in some way. They are just afraid to commit.


Of course, that’s a belief and an evaluation as well.


You will NEVER make everyone happy.  There will ALWAYS be people who disagree. That’s fine.  That’s step #4, remember?  FIND YOUR TRIBE. Don’t try to convince everyone–that way lies paralysis and madness.


Choose.  Decide to create an accurate map of reality that describes you, your beloved, and the history of humanity.   Create it as you choose. And then?  Then I will assume that you, like all living things, wish to avoid pain and gain pleasure.  And then?  Assume that the greater accuracy your map, the better you will be at reaching your destination (all things being equal…which they never are.   So you have to average the map results across as many people as possible who hold a given position, IMO).  So if you feel more joy and less pain, I’m going to be more interested in your view.  And if you have better results in all four arenas, I’ll be REALLY interested.


And if, on analyzing your journey, you seemed to start where I started, with equal or fewer resources, and STILL got better results?  I’m going to switch to your path, take your opinions and test them in my life to see what happens.


That’s MY epistemology. My way of asking “how do I know what I know?”   Which relates to “who am I?” and “what is true?”

Have yourse.  Go deep.  Understand yourself, your family, and human history without a mass of kludgy patchwork beliefs that allow you to navigate pre-selected political, religious or philosophical positions, or social rules, or the things your friends want you to believe, or what your lovers tell you you have to believe to be sexually acceptable.


THINK FOR YOURSELF.  Then test.  Then share your thoughts and let people criticize them, while you watch to see what is said, relating all of it to those basic views of life.


Mine, for instance, says that the core of the universe is love and connection. Therefore, the deeper the reality someone sees, the more they are connected to that source of creation.  Therefore, a person who believes they see more deeply, but that perception leaves them shaken and insecure, fearful and doubting…that person is using a very different map of reality.  They would need extraordinary proof to shake a map I’ve been working on for many decades, and has served me well.  It happens. People DO and HAVE shaken my map, torn it up, made me start over.  But it isn’t easy, and some get frustrated and say “you think you know it all” “you won’t listen” “it is impossible to get you to open your eyes” and so forth.


Not realizing, of course, that they’re really saying “why won’t you admit I know better than you?” Or, “how dare you think your opinion is equal to mine!”  And I smile.   


I don’t try to change people’s minds. That’s a pointless activity. I merely state what I see, and allow others to decide if they like the view.  If they don’t, they are welcome to take another path.


But I promise you: I WILL watch to see what results you get. And if we meet years later, I’ll ask: “how’s that working out for you?”


And seriously, what I always hope to hear is: just fine.


Because I’m always trying to refine that damned map.




Thoughts on an important subject


In a recent discussion of racism, I was asked some questions that deserved detailed response.  I thought I’d do that here on the blog, and then link this to the thread.


“Are you up for sharing some of your anecdotes for what makes you think it’s diminishing and dying off?”

I did NOT say racism is  “dying off.” I said “diminishing.”   My anecdotal evidence?   Numbers of mixed couples seen on the streets around the country and in media.  Huge indicator in my book.  In general, media images people are paying to see: I consider that a measure of unconscious preferences, and in television, film, or anywhere else, there is simply no comparison, no slightest similarity in frequency and variety of non-white images between now and my own childhood: a single human lifetime.  I consider that positive indications of how people feel and think, in their hearts.


“I’m also curious: Do you get to choose the people you surround yourself with?”

Everyone makes choices.   Mine optimize my ability to be around people I like.  It wasn’t always that way, and I travel broadly and come in contact with all levels of humanity.

“For instance now that I am back in the hospital [works in the medical profession], I have to serve every patient in every room in all the departments I am responsible for.

In private practice I can choose who I see or not, which really reduces the amount of racist and sexist experiences I have…

In the hospital, not so much. I have to see everyone, and that wide net re-introduces me to a swath of people with varying attitudes that I would probably never come across otherwise.

Things that bring me down from my optimism rather quickly and depressingly.”


Trust me: I’m not optimistic because I’m surrounded by people who mirror my point of view.  

I’m optimistic because I have a view of reality, and human history, that says people are basically just trying to avoid pain. That anger and violence stem from fear.  And that long-term, the strategies and tactics that allow us to avoid pain are the things that we call “good” in life.  So, given that, it is reasonable to interpret history as coming together, increasing communication and finding ways to live together peacefully.  Interrupted of course by war and slaughter and the wages of fear and evil. Ah, well…still, we have more peace than war, more good than bad overall, or things would break down over the centuries rather than become more complex.


None of this invalidates anyone’s personal experience.


However, that said: remember what I said about the rules of engagement for social change? The first step is to love yourself, and care for yourself.  If you are in a stressful life situation, your first job it to take care of YOU.   Seek the specific resources that will prevent stress from mutating into strain, which is the damaging part of the spectrum.   Here’s a fast suggestion I’ve made countless times:


Every three hours, about five times a day, stop and perform deep, slow, diaphragmatic breathing for sixty seconds.
This single practice will balance your sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous systems so that the fight-or-flight drives are not out of balance.   Then you can add peaceful visualizations, prayer, affirmation, power moves, or anything else. But…five times a day, every three hours, for sixty seconds.   The result is amazing.

Of swimming, fear, and love


A student wrote today:


Oh my! Today I just wrote a little note to myself in reference to fear.

Today’s meditation vision: I saw myself and a skinny young man cringing in the corner of a swimming pool. I was in my college swimming class, when the swim professor threatened to give us Fs if we don’t dive into the deep end.

My heart skipped several beats before I gained the courage to jump off the diving board. I jumped nonetheless and received an A.

So, I thought how does this apply to my life? Then I realized that I should have no fear in pursuing my writing career. I should go ahead and send those stories out regardless of rejection, because if I don’t I will certainly fail as a writer and fear would have won.”


There are conflicting theories about what dreams represent. Somewhere between random flecks of thoughts tumbling in a sleeping brain to messages from the Ultimate Wisdom Beyond is probably the answer.  Personally, I think it is the mind sorting through memories and experiences seeking metaphorical connections and selecting thematic threads for long-term memory tapestries. But that’s just me.


The idea of “plunging into the deep end” as a swimming/life metaphor works perfectly.  We do have to “jump in” to life, trust our skills or companions (the lifeguard!) and learn how to survive in the water.  The longer you wait at the side watching, the greater your anxiety can become.  


On the other hand, you have to evaluate your skills sufficiently to calculate your risks.  You don’t jump in the deep end if there are not other swimmers and lifeguards, or if you’ve not successfully navigated the shallows.  People make mistakes BOTH by not risking enough…or risking too much.


Tuesday is “Love another person” day, so let’s relate this to that.   Love relationships can be both the greatest pleasure and greatest pains in life.    You HAVE to risk.  Just yesterday, a client was speaking of a relationship with an emotionally unstable partner.  The partner’s erratic behavior is painful, but the Client must deal with that pain because they are smart enough to know that you cannot open your heart to recieve the full bounty of a sexual/romantic connection and simultaneously bar the door to pain.


Doesn’t work.  What you CAN and MUST do is be genuinely confident in your ability to survive heartbreak.  To recover from financial damage a husband or wife can do, and to have the self-respect and resources to walk or run away from abuse.


In other words, your ability to have a good relationship with another person is dependent upon having a healthy relationship with yourself.


  1. Love yourself?  Check.  Then you won’t have a problem believing another person can love you, and won’t fall into the “I wouldn’t belong to any club that would have me” b.s.
  2. Protect yourself? Do you take care of your body with discipline and intelligence? Allow your emotions to stop you from that habits that would make you a healthy animal?   Build financial security?  Guys…if you don’t have this, and you don’t have a love relationship, look no further for the reason.   This single arena impacts your attraction to the opposite sex so powerfully that most want to be in denial about its truth.    Don’t debate me: PERFORM THE EXPERIMENT.  Resolve this in your own life, fight your way to security (say…own your own home) and tell me if your romantic fortunes don’t change. See what results you get, and then either refute my position, or support it.  
  3. Like yourself?  Would you be attracted to you?  When you look at yourself, hear the internal dialogue, see the actions…would you? Really?  Or are you hoping people will overlook your flaws?  Well, they will…to the degree you are willing to overlook theirs.  And they may not be the precise same flaws.  You have 3-4 major arenas: body, self-love, career skills, and financial security.  You might have a flaw in one, but your prospective partner will probably display theirs in another.  Do you really love yourself enough to accept yourself despite imperfections? Can you extend your own humanity to another person, and accept that they are operating at your level, but wounded in another limb?  If you can, you can find love. But if you aren’t attracted to the people attracted to you, you have healing to do.  If you cannot heal the external issue, you must deepen your spirituality to move beyond the external. But do NOT expect a partner to be more forgiving than you are willing to be.  That is a recipe for bitterness and disaster.


Trusting your ability to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of another person is CRITICAL to being able to find love.  To understand what you are dealing with with another human being, you have to be able to see beyond the “limerence” the sexual infatuation (I used to call this the “First 100 @#$$ Syndrome.)  One of the best ways to do this is to ask if you would be interested in being a friend with this person if you had the same plumbing (unless you’re gay, of course!)


I often hear comedians talking about how they hate their boyfriend/girlfriend’s friends.  Really? That seems to be far more common than hating the friends of your buddies.   Why is that, I wonder?  I suspect because some very different criteria are being applied: you’re blinded by the nookie.  Sorry, but sex just isn’t that special.  IF you love yourself and have developed your attractive factors so that you know you can attract what you desire, there is no desperation, and you’ll see that there are many,many potential partners.  From them, choose the ones you find most attractive, but also who you would enjoy as friends even if sex was not involved.


How do you develop the confidence to know you aren’t making a mistake? Frankly, by surviving  mistakes.   In certain ways, there is no other option.  But here are some ways to tell how deep the pool is…or once you get in the ocean, the rip tides and heaven forbid, the sharks.


  1. Meet their friends and family.   Listen between the words of what people say about your intended.  Get a sense of how they spoke of their past relationships.
  2. Meet their actual exes if possible.  If your intended gets bad-mouthed, either they deserve it, or they have poor judgement in partners.  
  3. Watch the way they treat other people. Friends, service individuals. The way they speak about exes, co-workers, business partners, bosses.  PAY ATTENTION. The way they treat other people is your best measure of how they will treat you. The way they talk about their exes is the way they’ll speak of you, one day real soon.
  4. Watch the way they are under stress.  When sick, or broke, or dealing with troublesome family.  Do NOT assume that their bad behavior will never be directed at you.  Huge, horrible mistake.  Yes, it will.
  5. Pay more attention to what they do than what they say.  “I’m sorry.  It won’t happen again” is only believable once or twice.   Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time, its enemy action.
  6. Ask yourself: “if I had a son or daughter I adored, would I advise them to be in relationship with this person?”  If not, why are YOU in relationship with them?
  7. Your partner is you, flipped   and scrambled a bit, but with the same amount of basic “stuff”, good and bad.   I chuckle at the “I don’t deserve my wife/husband” stuff.  “She’s too good for me…” Its a good joke, and a sweet thing to say…unless you’re serious. Because if you’re serious, the other half of that has to be that you don’t respect their judgement.  If you did, you’d respect their choice…in you. If you don’t love yourself, you won’t be able to see the good in yourself, and your partner’s love will actually undermine your respect for them.  Or, you will develop “Impostor Syndrome” and begin to sabotage that relationship…


Jeeze.  You can drill down on this forever.   But the point is that this second level (finding a partner) is only secondary in importance to finding yourself.   It is a major part of the chain of life in most higher species, and humans are no exception.  Every rabbit in the woods finds a mate.  If you don’t, or cannot, I suggest that you go back to step #1, love yourself more deeply, gird up your loins and take another shot.


Yeah, you have to get in the pool.  You have to swallow a little water.  Or you’ll always sit on the sidelines, watching the others have fun, and blaming the world for things you should have done for yourself.




Love Hurts


Monday Is Love Yourself Day


“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh


I went into the martial arts to feel safe.  No one had ever told me that fear was a natural emotion that everyone feels, so I interpreted my own discomfort and anxiety to a character flaw: I thought it meant I couldn’t, or mustn’t, or was weak, or a coward.   And it was crippling to my self-image.  I felt safe nowhere, and hallucinated that others could see my weakness and would hate me for it.


Pretty bad.   Over the years, I found the resources to come to grips with this aspect of life, but it was brutal.  My only tool was a refusal to quit, a sense that “you can kill me but you can’t stop me.”   No matter how many times I got knocked down, I’d get back up again and try and try and try…


Until finally I found a teacher who opened the door for me, and welcomed me into the company of the men and women who know fear is just a feeling, and needn’t define your existence.


What kept me going?  Both fear and love.  Fear that if I couldn’t succeed in life, I’d be crushed.  Existential terror, genuine concern for my life.


And love.    The love of my dream: a dream of a loving relationship, of a happy career, of mastering the martial arts.   I wanted those three things SO MUCH. And had always been in touch with the kid inside me, the writer kid, the nerd, the lonely kid, who wanted these things.  I could hear him cry at night when things went wrong.  Felt his heartache when girls rejected him.  Remember his pain when other kids laughed as he was beaten up.


Yesterday, I was at Cliff Stewart’s CAMP OF THE MASTERS, a wonderful yearly gathering where Guru Cliff’s amazing friends come together to share knowledge.  I was only able to attend for about five hours (busy weekend!) but it was wonderful as always, and I had the great fun of being thrown around like a rag doll by Guru Louie Campos, but also helping other students break down the insanely complex motions of Serak and Bukti Negara so that they could begin to understand.


Did the little boy inside me ever love this!   To be both student and teacher in the same time frame. To be on equal footing, lower, and higher all at the same time.  In other words, to feel like part of a chain of knowledge.  Just simply to be.  All there IS is that road of learning. The “Masters” you admire are just further down that road.  Sometimes beyond the horizon (as was Paul De Thours when I first met him. The Pendekar!   I literally could not understand how he did what he did.  His technology was sufficiently advance to be indistinguishable from magic).   Other times those superior to you are close to the horizon but not beyond it: you can understand how they do what they do…but simply cannot do it.  Yet.  But can feel that if you dedicated similar time and energy, eventually…


And get to ask yourself: “Am I willing to expend that time and energy?”  Well, are you?   Some of the things in my life are motivated by avoidance of pain (I have to pay the bills!) others by gaining pleasure (This is fun!) and the best things are those which are both: having fun means paying the bills. Not sure it gets much better than that in consensus reality.


I even got to hug the Pendekar’s widow, and tell his sons how much I respected their father.  That is good. Felt right.  Life flows onward, and it is good to share joy with those around you.


Makes my little boy feel good.  Woke up this morning needing yoga, oh yes I do. And smiling.  Sometimes, healthy pain is love.



(p.s.–aligning your emotions, goals, and values allows you to find joy in the necessary tasks in life, to “hunger” for the tasks that bring your dreams into existence.   This is far better than “discipline” and available through the Morning Ritual.  If you would like to build a 10-20 minute practice using Tai Chi or Joint Mobility that aligns body, mind, and emotions all at the same time…join us in Los Angeles on November 5th.

More on “SJZs”


In the discussion of the  “Social Justice Warrior” concept, I said I liked the term “Social Justice Zealot” as a pejorative because it implies “going too far” whether that is exaggeration, lying, twisting language or reportage, etc.

I was accused of the “No True Scottsman” fallacy: that I’m saying no SJW would do such a thing.  And that is simply wrong.   I’m saying that only the denotative definition of a term like “Social Justice Warrior” is honest: “a person willing to fight for what they believe is just and right in society.”    In the set of such people, some will be to the Left, some to the Right.  Some will tilt at windmills, others at real social problems. Some will act honorably and intelligently, others dishonorably and stupidly.  


To say otherwise would be to say “all warriors are good. Someone who does a bad thing is therefore not a warrior.”   Nonsense.   “Bad” or “Evil” warriors are a sub-set of Warriors.    Just as “good” or “bad”, honorable or dishonorable “SJWs” are sub-sets of “SJWs”. “Social Justice Zealot” would describe someone who is in a sub-set of the category “SJW”, and behaving badly. Those bad behaviors SHOULD be examined.


The truth is that people tried to criticize the entire category of people willing to stand up for what they believe in this sense, and twist a more general category into a very specific box: “Lefties who act badly.”    That’s nice, but since they did not provide an equivalent term for Righties who act badly in the defense of their social dreams, or Lefties who fight for those dreams honorably, I’m going to say that this is an attempt to twist language, to stop people from thinking, by having a convenient tar-brush.   

Complain about something you perceive as being a social injustice?  Someone who disagrees simply labels you a “SJW” thereby ending the discussion: it isn’t a discussion of whether your tactics are appropriate or inappropriate, just CARING makes you this bad person.  End of conversation.  I’ve seen Leftists use similar tactics: it is a common rhetorical device, but I call shennanigans.


The problem is that the irony is head-spinning.  Here are people who believe the world is being warped by those who want to disrupt or change the current order, or have damaged it already.   In other words, they are concerned with social issues.  And by engaging and arguing they are fighting for what they believe to be a better world they are, in essence  SJWs.  But by only using that term for their political opponents, and only associating negative actions to it, they are Orwelling the hell out of the issue, saying “we can define these three words to mean this negative thing, and then drop anyone we want into that category.”


Well, you can in your own mind, sure.  But if you do, you are being incredibly hypocritical, because you are being exactly what you are criticizing: someone fighting for what they believe is a better social world, using manipulative and dishonest tactics.


I am happy to be a SJW.   So is my wife Tananarive. And her family. And many of my friends.   If you have an issue with some specific cause I support, or tactic I use, please feel free to question or criticize me about it.  But you have precisely the right to define me (“you’re not a SJW, Steve!”) that I have to define you.  No more, no less.


My rules for SJWs are simple, and overlap with my rules for life. I don’t care which side of the political divide you are on, so long as you are willing to see my humanity and present your thoughts courteously and honestly.

  1. Love yourself
  2. Love at least one other person.
  3. Develop an understanding of human  psychology that allows you to understand our history without guilt, blame, or shame.
  4. Create your tribe.  Stop trying to convince other people to change, but respect their “inwardness” and rights.  Remember that you’ve been wrong before, and will be again.  Be kind and honest in communication. But don’t take any shit, either.
  5. Succeed.  Be the change you wish to see in the world, and let the world see your results. If they are positive, it is reasonable to “scale up” your actions.   This is why, for instance, I ask Libertarians to let me see the largest functioning Libertarian society, so that I can judge their results.  Success is its own Marketing department.


Nothing in these five steps implies much of a political tilt that.  I know people on all sides of issues who are loving and wise about the flow of human history.  And those on all sides who are hateful and fearful.  Politics isn’t my core concern: “how can we live together?” is.  “Who are we?” is.  “What is true?” is.  Far more basic.


Anyway: that’s my position.  Nothing else. If you want to demonize a phrase to make political leverage, you’ll have to do it on your own threads.   Period.  If you want to discuss rules of engagement, what would make one a Positive or Negative warrior for a cause you believe in,  you are welcome. Want to discuss “what is true?” you are welcome. But you will find no support for the notion that a single side in this argument possesses all or most of the “good” in humanity. That is simply politically manipulative b.s.




“Birth of a Nation” (2016)


Birth of A Nation (2016)


The story of America’s largest slave uprising, the Nat Turner rebellion, comes to the screen in a scathing film that is as controversial as a movie can be.   It doesn’t just “touch” what used to be the third rail of American cinema.  It embraces it with both arms and wraps its legs around the sucker until it smokes.  Prior to “12 Years A Slave” I’m not sure how long it had been since there was a serious major studio theatrical film on the subject of slavery that actually depicted slaves as human beings with “inwardness”.  Former slaves (“Beloved”, “Glory”), people on their way to being slaves (“Amastad”) and white folks talking about slavery (“Lincoln”).  But the thing itself?  What, “Mandingo”?   Please.  Maybe…”Skin Game” (1971) forty-five years ago?  With James Garner and Lou Gossett Jr.? Terrific movie, and it had to frame itself as a comedy to even be able to discuss or depict the issue.


Not an accident: the entire subject, 250 years which, depending upon perspective was either a glorious lost moment of American aristocracy (“Gone with the Wind”), or total crawling horror, the “original sin” of the American experiment.


So there is literally no way to make a film that would make both sides happy. Can’t do it.  People are welcome to believe that it was a benign institution “no worse than Irish indentured servitude” or that it was something of unique and pervasive destructive force, flensing millions of people of humanity while pretending they were born that way.  

I have no interest in arguing: you know which camp you’re in, and you know the implications of either path of reasoning.


“Birth of A Nation” is a single film in a sub-genre people were saying we’d seen “too much” of when it was a category contained almost nothing at all.  It is THAT painful a subject.   If you aren’t prepared to deal with real, crawling human horror, stay away.


That said, it is a flawed, wonderful, painful, and gloriously courageous movie in my humble opinion, hugely important and as much a litmus test for unconscious attitudes as one can imagine.  I cannot recommend it generally, as the story of a man who is brutalized to the breaking point (Remember Lonnie Athens rules to create a violent criminal?  Start with brutalization or “violent horrification”.  Bake for 250 years.  Serve hot) and the actions that result.  My own reactions spanned a wide range, but ultimately I walked out both crying and feeling happy that we are finally, after all this time, beginning to discuss this aspect of the past as we always should have.  

How many such movies should there be?  When there are as many hours of them as there have been of Civil War films, I will consider that discussion can validly begin. Until then, it is a distraction.

Nate Parker has made an important, scathing, difficult film, and I won’t rate it except to say it is both brutal and beautiful.   I didn’t want to discuss it until someone finally, on my FB stream, made a comment I knew was coming…

And it happened today.

At last!    Someone finally brought up the killing in “Birth of A Nation”, and whether the screen images matched the historical slaughter of slave owners (described in the post as “plantation owners”) and school children.   No, of course the filmed images weren’t as ghastly as the historical reality–but then that’s been true of 99% of the images of slavery as well.  Or the conquest of the Western frontier, or any number of other mythology-makers.   

One has two choices, basically: to ask what is different about the individuals that they would commit such acts, or ask what level of brutalization and dehumanization would create enough fear to create so much anger that it strips away social programming to manifests in such unspeakable horror.    I have no interest in arguing about it: the reader will sort themselves into their appropriate category based on how they react.

Those are the two basic positions:

Either we are different, and the different actions are expressions of some innate evil or good, or we are basically the same, and when you see differences in behavior across groups, it is wisest to assume that there is something different about the environmental conditions.  

To ask “how much pain would I have to suffer to strip away that much of my humanity?” is IMO the better path, and a path to wisdom and the resolution of apparent duality.

But the cost of that would be then asking of the slave owners: “what would have to happen to me that I would be willing and capable of applying or supporting the application of so much fear, pain, and horror to people to extract their labor to my benefit?  And to then support a cultural lie that they were born broken?”

The exact same willingness to see the basic nature of humanity, to go beyond the surface and ask: “why do we do what we do?” until we see that these actions are rooted in basic human fear and need…that exact same willingness is necessary to understand both.


To stop at the surface is to devolve into racism and bigotry: Nat Turner was a monster, as were his murderous followers who were sub-human beasts.  

Or: every non-Abolitionist white was a monster, and the entire fabric of white society was peopled by terroristic, murderous, raping, brain-washing, kidnapping and self-righteous sub-human beasts, deserving of what happened to them.

Or: we as flawed human beings are driven by fear and guilt, remain unconscious whenever it is convenient for us, consider ourselves so much better than those we need to hurt that it justifies whatever we do.  That this ability to reduce others to objects for our use or disposal can be seen in the behavior of almost any group who has ever stolen power from others.    There is no “terrible them.”  There is only “terrible us” when we fail to extend our humanity to others.

In other words: the harder it is for you to see how BOTH sides are behaving as humans do when they are unconscious to the spiritual reality of human Oneness…the more likely you would have been to do as they did.

That’s all it takes: to believe “they” are different.  That is the road to hell.   That is another tribe.   I won’t go that way, and neither will my brothers and sisters.