Handling the pressure, passing the gift


Heat and pressure can create diamonds. Irritation can create pearls. Learning how to handle stress so that it strengthens you rather than destroys or corrupts you is one of the core teachings of the world’s religions and philosophies.

That was my first post today, in response to a post by the great Andrew Vachss concerning the fact that some abused children become abusers…while others become protectors.


Almost immediately, one of my readers, teacher Salina Gray, posted:


Ok. I was LITERALLY writing a post about this and how it impacts young people. And I just tagged you in it. This is a SERIOUS concern… I’m seeing children who have zero strategy to manage even the most minor emotional skirmish. Who don’t take `no’ lightly. Who see even a glance as a major offense. And who are willing to fight and hurt at even the most minor instance.”


Wednesday is: “Understand Human History without guilt, blame or shame” day.   To move through the “‘Five Fold Path” that means:


  1. Love yourself enough to be willing to look deeply into your own flaws without guilt, so that you may understand and heal them.
  2. Extend that understanding to at least one other person to find a mate or intimate partner.


Then begin to extend that same understanding to include your neighbors, family, community, nation, and the entire world.  It is possible to  see all of human history as an unfolding of basic principles of sociology rooted in psychology rooted in survival biology rooted in physical reality rooted in ultimate spiritual reality.  You must find your own way, but I implore you to root it so directly that no one can shake you from your belief in love and goodness, no one can disrupt your faith in self, Mankind, or life itself.  Such faith can be attained, I promise you.


The first two “Chakras” or levels of human reality are survival and sex, and you can find one or the other (personal survival and group/genetic survival) at the core of most human action.  The “Sex Transmutation” chapter of Think and Grow Rich touches on this: sex is more powerful than anything other than the immediate urge to breathe or stay alive. Therefore it can be used to “step up” the vibrations of thought to a higher level of focus and commitment.  Think of the fact that, in the seconds leading up to orgasm the entire world vanishes, everything but the driving body rhythms or, if combined with love, the spiritual connection with the beloved.  It is a glimpse, available to anyone, of the power of focus enjoyed by the greatest geniuses Mankind has ever known.


But the same forces, unguided by the experience of the village elders and loving parents and mentors, can tear you apart.  Let’s look at Salina’s paragraph again:


Ok. I was LITERALLY writing a post about this and how it impacts young people.” And i just tagged you in it. This is a SERIOUS concern…”

Yes, it is.  They have all the seed of adulthood within them, with little of the wisdom and experience they will need to navigate the territory.  They are terrified by the question: “what will it take for me to become an adult?   To support myself by creating goods and services I can legally exchange with my community?  To feel safe?  To satisfy my sexual urges with integrity, find love without losing myself, and care for the children that sexuality may create?”  These are questions universal to human beings all over the planet, through all of time, and the similarity of social rules explicit and implicit throughout history state this pretty clearly.   Consciously or unconsciously, this is what about 99% of human beings want and need, and the doubt about our capacity to do it creates FEAR.

Fear is at the base of anger.  Anger births violence.   

Let’s continue:

“I’m seeing children who have zero strategy to manage even the most minor emotional skirmish. Who don’t take `no’ lightly. Who see even a glance as a major offense. And who are willing to fight and hurt at even the most minor instance.”


Yep.  Because they don’t understand themselves as beings of light.  If not raised in safety, with love, they absorb the   rules of the society around them, designed to produce mere Survival and simple pleasures, rather than to guide these drives to create power and safety, open the heart, produce the capacity to speak and share truth, develop a valid map of reality, and open the door to spiritual truth: All are One.


Any disruption of this growth path sends you crashing back down into the basic survival drives, and the simple pleasures of sex, food, and power.  You can see this in individuals who have been damaged, and social structures disrupted by oppression and poverty.  It’s terrible.


Children have zero strategy?   Hell, of COURSE they don’t.  Children are programmed with very basic things like love, fear, and anger.  They react to loud noises and the sensation of falling, and pain. These and a few more very basic programmings become the root of everything else we learn and feel and think in life.  Strategy is either gained by experience or learning from those who have traveled the road before us.  If your parents didn’t solve the puzzle, they will pass on whatever tools they do have to you, hoping you will learn enough to at least survive long enough to reproduce: genetic survival is the production of grandchildren.  


“Babies having babies” anyone?  


Seeing “a glance” as a major offense?  An “insult,” a word which implies injury?   Under what circumstances can eye contact represent challenge or threat?  To a VERY scared, vulnerable, fragile ego.  Someone who exists in a world where you fight for every inch of turf, and your life or status can be challenged at any moment.  Constant
“Condition Orange.”  Horrendous stress.   Based on a dog-eat-dog view of the world, because that’s all you’ve ever known, and it is better to survive, even with your fists clinched, than to be open-hearted and get slaughtered.


Remember the path to the creation of a violent criminal?   Step One is “Brutalization or violent Horrification.”  Either YOU are hurt, or you witness people you EMPATHIZE WITH being hurt.    This leads to rebellion, (“this system doesn’t work”) which leads to “kicking over the table” (a perfectly  rational response to perceived injustice), finding a group of people who agree with you and support you…and then internalizing their voices and values.


If you cannot draw a line from individual kids in disadvantaged communities going feral and violent to political movements around the world and in our news today, you aren’t paying attention.  If you cannot see how fear, mobilized with violence, results from insecurity and fragile self-identity, the destruction of reality maps or the sense of “free-fall” that accompanies future shock or perception of massive unfairness…you aren’t paying attention.


See this in your own life, and the life of someone you adore, so that you can forgive humanity for doing what we have done, just to try to stay alive.  


But…once you have this awareness, WHAT DO YOU DO?  Damned good question.


  1. Love yourself.   This means to want the very best, and be willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to live a healthy life (remember?  This is really the question under all the anger: “how do I live a happy life?”  If you aren’t doing it, how can you help someone else?)  This means you will need to find ways to survive the inevitable stresses in life.  You CANNOT just “think” your way through this. The mind is too small. But you can FEEL your way through it.  Connect to your heart: Love and Faith conquer fear.  There are thousands of meditative practices that are designed for this.


And the other thing you can do is go through the doorway of the body.  Remember that violence stems from anger (most times) and anger is fear.  Remove the reason to fear, and most anger will dissolve. Most fear is basic body stuff: power, sex, survival.  Threats to this level trigger the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”).  There are a wide range of physiological responses affecting breathing, heartbeat, skin temperature and conductivity, adrenal dump and so forth.    IF THESE THINGS DO NOT TRIGGER, YOU WILL NOT EXPERIENCE “FEAR” IN THE SAME WAY.  And more importantly, “stress” (external/internal pressure) will not become “strain” (distortion and degradation of function and capacity).   


This is one of the most important lessons of transformational disciplines like martial arts and yoga.  Hatha Yoga places your body under stress (Asana) and then teaches you to relax (slow breathing, relax muscles and face) even under that physiological pressure.  This begins to teach you to relax under emotional stress (boss screaming at you, kids disobeying/challenging you, spouse screaming and angry) which allows you to see options and potential solutions more clearly. Beautiful stuff.


Martial arts creates the additional stress of…well, frankly, getting hit in the face. Humiliated on the mat.  Dealing with the terror of actually being attacked on the street. Can you relax under THAT stress?  If so, you are, once again, developing “unconscious competence” at triggering the Parasympathetic Nervous system (the “calm-down” circuitry that allows you to go to sleep, or relax) even under stress.


The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are visualized as male and female forces, two serpents “winding up the spine” through the different “chakras”, called “Ida and Pingala”.  When balanced, they trigger the true potential of the human mind and body and spirit, the “Kundalini” force. That’s another topic (and one of my favorites!)


In other words, when Napoleon Hill said that “every problem contains within it the seed of an equivalent benefit” this is what he means: learn to cope with it, and you jump up another level, just as when you learn to lift a weight, your body grows stronger–IF and ONLY IF you also nurture and rest that body so that it can grow.


Children are born with an ‘average’ amount of this survival/adaptation capacity.  Place them in extraordinary circumstances, and most of them will perform below “average” in response. A few will operate in an extraordinary level, and the maps of their responses become the philosophies that allow the others to traverse the territory with power and purpose.

But…back to “how to help?”

Either emotionally (tools like The Ancient Child, Heartbeat Meditation, journaling, prayer, etc) or physically (learning to maintain breathing, relaxation and proper posture under stress).  I love martial arts for this not merely because of the practical (“fighting”) skills, but because the postures encode within them emotional states of authority and courage.  You can discover this for yourself merely by shifting between emotions of security and fear, and noting the way your posture changes…or shifting postures, note the way your emotions change.


The FASTEST way I know of shifting your emotions is to combine the Morning Ritual (a daily practice of motion, emotion, and focus lasting 10-20 minutes EVERY DAY) with the “Five Minute Miracle” (every three hours, stop and breathe deeply and fully and slowly, a “mini” version of the Morning Ritual).  Try both for just thirty days, and you’ll be shocked and delighted: you can literally re-wire your reaction to stress so that it doesn’t become strain.

A simplified version of this: get the kids to show you their “power stance”: stand and breathe and hold their faces as if they are centered, powerful, confident. Then every hour or so, get them to stand and actually take that position for one minute.

It breaks the cycle of stress like a miracle.  Heck, just get them to stand and BREATHE!  Or close their eyes and feel their heartbeat.  MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY. Get that habit in there!


And when that happens?  So long as you get proper rest and nutrients? The only way the system can respond is to become stronger.  


Heat and Pressure make diamonds–IF you can maintain balance and poise under that stress.  Few people spontaneously learn this at anything other than an ordinary level. If you would function in extraordinary circumstances, you will probably need to follow the teachings of a Jesus, a Ghandi, a Socrates, an MLK, a Usheiba, a Muhammad.


Find a physical discipline with such encodings within it, and dive deep. You will begin to carry yourself differently, deal with life differently, express both love and confidence. And the fearful children with SEE it in you. They will test you, but if you pass those tests, they will gather around and beg you to tell them how you do it.


And you will throw your arms around them and draw them close, and whisper in their ear:

First, love yourself






November 5th we are holding the next Firedance Tai Chi body-mind workshop in Los Angeles.   Tai Chi has the physical lessons needed to encode these teachings, and we have “hacked” it to extract the physical benefits without years of study, and scaled it to provide benefits to those at any fitness level (at the last workshop we had a student in a wheelchair!).   We’ll create a “Morning Ritual” for every participant, so that you can perform your own thirty-day experiment to test whether what we’re saying is true.   Get out of your head: get into your heart, and your body IN ONE DAY.  The road awaits.   WWW.FIREDANCETAICHI.COM


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