Author: Steven Barnes

Communication and human growth are my fascinations. I balance careers as novelist, television writer, life coach, and movement instructor. My interests are writing, teaching, martial arts, yoga, and my family: blood and extended. If it doesn't connect with one of these, I don't bother. We only have so much time in life.

Is Meditation Dangerous

An interesting question, one addressed in articles like this:


The scenario is troubling, but not uncommon: a person seeking stress control, or the “meaning of life” or spiritual enlightenment begins a meditation practice, usually some visualization or mental exercise that takes them into a world they’ve never known. They spend more and more time there, an hour a day. Two hours. They attend meditation retreats, build encyclopedic arcane libraries, and their lives begin to revolve around their practice.


And they start having panic attacks, visions of nothingness or deep waves of negative emotions.  Fall into a pit of meaninglessness, or develop a sense of cosmic inadequacy.   Loss of identity, and sometimes a sense that life itself is undesirable.    If fortunate, they find a mentor who can help them, a more experienced meditator. Or seek the advice and counsel of a therapist.


If unfortunate, well…as one former meditator said just today:


“Yes, I can see it as dangerous because sitting and meditating for 20 minutes makes me ready to cut my own throat.”



The SOULMATE PROCESS asks to start with Self-Love, and the means to achieve that state include various meditations.   So it is reasonable to ask: is it dangerous?


  1. Anything that is powerful has the potential to be dangerous.  ANYTHING.
  2. The most common cause of negative reactions is loss of ego identity: we start to lose our sense of who we are.   A sovereign clue that we were not well balanced or integrated, but that is not an uncommon human experience.
  3. A corollary to this is that the ego itself will cause panic response: especially if you have a corrupted or distorted identity (due to abuse or negative experiences/programming) and begin to disassemble that shell, it will FREAK and try to prevent you from going further.   Fear, drowsiness, a volcano of internal voices…all kinda tricks.
  4. If you have had depression or other mental issues, it is best to meditate under the tutilage of an experienced teacher or licensed professional.



Who would be the least likely to succeed in meditation?  My answer at this moment is: a person with a totally unrealistic self-image, either positive or negative. If negative, the “bad voices” come vomiting up, and they can seem overwhelming. This is like squeezing pus out of a wound.


If positive?  Once you see the truth, if it doesn’t match reality, you can get hit with guilt, shame, and massive impostor syndrome.  How DARE you think you could accomplish X?


Frankly, the people most likely to fit into this category are people without a physical discipline.   The body exists in the world. It doesn’t care about your opinions or theories: it is a laboratory in which you find out, objectively, what works and what does not. Avoiding the body allows you to have any theories about life you want. You can hallucinate about your discipline and focus all you want, and sitting on the couch eating Pop Tarts at 50 feels about the same as sitting on the couch eating them at 12.    You don’t have to deal with time, decay, the costs of our decisions and actions.  We blame our bodies for decades of bad habits, rather than asking ourselves WHY we don’t have the healthy connection to our bodies any damned hamster in a cage yearns for.


“I had a horrible experience with sports in grade school!” So did many of us.   That is a fact. It does NOT control what you did yesterday.   If you are to be healthy, you have to process, heal, remove, tame, or destroy your demons, and anything that connects you directly with the reality your ancestors dealt with: if they didn’t move, they didn’t eat.  Simple as that.  Destroy that connection, and you risk turning your body into a garbage bag, a place you never visit except for food and sex.


Move.  Anchor your breathing into your movement.  Learn how you breathe when you are under physical stress, and you’ll start recognizing the way your breathing changes when you are emotionally stressed.   You’ll start seeing that a large part of the day you are pumping “ALARM!” juice into your body, such that you view the world through a fear filter, or protect yourself with delusions and theories.


That’s one level.  The full quote from the meditation student:  “”Yes, I can see it as dangerous because sitting and meditating for 20 minutes makes me ready to cut my own throat.  I meditate when I’m MOVING, such as swinging clubbells.”


How to take this into the spiritual realm?  Easy.  Follow the breathing while moving.  Move until you enter a metative state, by moving with conscious rhythm for 12-15 minutes, until you notice emotional emersion in the “flow”.  Note how you are breathing.  Take it low and slow and under control, following the “thread” and never letting it break.




How to take this into the emotions?    Reduce the physical load as much as you can without losing focus.  Some people HAVE to exert themselves to focus. Others can use light weights, or just walk, or finally sit.    There is still exertion if you notice the movements and adjustments necessary to stay balanced and erect.    Quiet further.


A smooth, repeated pattern like Tai Chi or asana can be very good for this.  You go inward to the finer and finer distinctions.   And when mind, breath, and alignment all coordinate, you will find an internal balance that is lovely.  Start noticing how you breathe, hold your posture, move when in other aspects of your life.  Notice your internal dialogue, and attentional focus.   If you are stressed to the max, just BREATHE for sixty seconds once every 1-3 hours.


Subtler is “just” following your heartbeat, but this can feel like a more advanced practice. The breathing, combined with movement, does fine for most people, and will give you a foundation. All the angst, fear, guilt, shame, ALL that stuff?


Disappears if I cut off your air. Instantly all that bullshit is gone, and what remains is core survival.   All you have to do is slow the breathing and you start flirting with the same circuitry: throwing off all false identity and connecting with the raw struggle for life.  THERE’S your damned motivation. It was always there.  THERE’S your love of life.  The rest was illusion.




I actually feel sorry for people without a daily physical discipline. There is an entire realm of human experience they will never know, entire ranges of emotion they can stuff, creating the risk of an unexamined life.  Its so easy, and so easy to forget or talk yourself out of.


Breathe.   It is the doorway to so many wonderful things in the human spirit.


And…if you can do it while visualizing the child you were, so that you are PLAYING with her?


You have opened a new doorway. And behind it is a more authentic life.


And all the love you’ve ever sought.





The Influence of Influence

It is often noted that the discourse on my pages tends to be polite, and a few times a week I get inquiries about why this is true. It is very simple: tone flows down from the top.   If the top is organized, things may unravel as you get closer to the bottom, but its hugely better than if the top is scattered.  In this particular instance, then, it is simple: I strive to be courteous, and I demand courtesy from the guests on my page.  I will cometimes allow two combative guests to square off and go at it, but ONLY if they seem to both be enjoying it.


And even there, if the name calling gets to a certain level, I’ll call an end to it.  Why?  Because I’ve never seen anything positive happen once the slurs begin.   As long as people are talking, even heatedly, exchanging ideas, there is the possibility of growth and change. I believe in communication, even when it is intense.


But I insist that my pages be a safe space for all my guests.  The most consistent reasons I’ve ever blocked people is because they would not be polite, NOT for their attitudes or politics.   I have actual racists among my FB friends, and many who “aren’t sure” what they think (IMO code for: “yes, I’m racist, but lack the clarity/courage to admit it out loud.”


That’s o.k.  Doesn’t make them bad people. But I don’t let them talk about race on my threads.  Why?  Because I have people who have been genuinely traumatized, who are carrying emotional scars and real fear from living in a world where they are diminished because of the color of their skin, especially by people who then claim nothing has happened.   They will NOT have to deal with that in my space.  About half the people who have been blocked were people who refused to accept this ban.  Again, rude.


My house.  My rules.  I like to be a good host.











So back to Brendon Burchard’s “Peak Performance” method, which I’m going to explore this year.  I really do love diving deep into one approach, and then another, for a long enough period of time to get real immersion and integrate the good parts into my “unconscious competence”


Today…Influence. This is team building, and critical.  According to Napoleon Hill, the “Grandfather” of all modern self-help, the only known way to compensate for a lack of ability is the “Master Mind”–the gathering of people of different skills and inclinations to create a larger more powerful whole.  With a company, this will include employees: you don’t want drones who all do the same things.  You want people with complementary capacities, so that together you can accomplish more than you can individually.


And the ability to “model” success is so critical to life. I would go as far as to say that whatever I”ve accomplished in life, a majority of those positive results have come from studying the lives, attitudes, behaviors, and strategies of successful people.   80% studying success, 20% looking at failures.   The difference between their clustered attitudes gives a very clear map of what to do, and what to avoid.


The ability to attract and hold those employees, or get close enough to a role model to really see what’s cookin’ in the kitchen, is to build rapport with them…INFLUENCE.  When I wanted to boost my career, I sought out professional writers and interacted with them until I found one who would let me close enough to actually see how they did what they did.   Larry Niven was the one who let me close enough to really dive deep.    Now, this was a man of massive achievement, smarter than me, richer than me, more skilled then me.


What in the world could I offer him to get close enough to really understand what he was doing?


Honesty.   Energy.   Love.


I was as open and clear as I could be, as positive and energetic as I couid be.  Offered genuine affection, admiration, and friendship.  “How can I make his life better?” I asked myself. “How can I ensure that EVERY time he sees me, he feels better than before I arrived?”    I was transparent: I had no hidden agendas, everything out front.


“Hello Mr. Niven,” I said to him that first day.  “My name is Steven Barnes, and I’m a writer.”


“All right,” he said to me, puffing on his pipe.  “Tell me a story.”


And because I had just submitted a story about a compulsive gambler who hocks his pacemaker (!) I was able to stutter out a synopsis of the story, while he nodded and smiled.  I found out later that from the way I’d come on, I had about thirty seconds to prove I wasn’t an asshole.


Because I’d done my homework, because I was polite and low-key, because I spoke to him of an arena of shared interest, because I was honestly on the same road he was on, EVEN IF HORIZONS BEHIND HIM…


We developed rapport.   Influence. And the rest is history.



With customers, “influence” can also be considered “rapport”–they need to trust you.   “Customers don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”  If your customers feel that you are genuinely interested in their lives and dreams, they begin to lower their guard.  It seems to me that developing influence then demands a combination of the other five characteristics. Let’s see how:


  1. Clarity.   People follow a leader. We crave direction.    The person with greatest clarity will have the greatest influence, all other things being equal.  Where are we going?  What will we accomplish? I am confused…do YOU know what you are doing?    The beautiful thing about this is that people have greater or lesser clarity in different aspects of life. Everyone can lead, everyone can follow. It all depends on the arena.
  2. Energy.  Another addictive quality. Sexy as hell. I’m not attracted to obesity. But I’ve been VERY attracted to some ladies who could stand to lose some weight. Their energy and confidence compensated for the extra tissue.    I could see that on the level of attitude, we shared the same values. That opened the door to the possibility of bonding, at least on the level of fun.   Being around someone with high or “cultivated” energy allows you to vibrate to their frequency, like two tuning forks.  A wonderful experience.
  3. Necessity.   We are attracted to people who have a sense of urgency.  Moving at a faster pace. It can be exhausting if that vibration is TOO much higher than your own…but if it is maybe 10-20% higher?  You get swept up in it. It is hypnotic.
  4. Productivity.  We love people who get a lot done, as long as it is high-quality work.   Some people make the mistake of thinking production alone is sufficient. No, it doesn’t matter how many arrows you fire if you miss the target.  (BTW….something I’ve never seen in a Western is a “fast draw” expert who was faster than the hero…but less accurate.  That would be SO much fun!)  So if you get a lot done, AND you are good and especially if you are improving…wow.   When you can SEE someone improve in real time?    Astounding. But I often hear people argue that the loser of a boxing match was actually the winner, just because they threw more punches…until someone points out that those punches missed, or lacked power.
  5. Courage.  Again, we want a leader with courage. We all have fear, and those fears limit our perceived options. A person who exhibits physical or moral courage inspires us to move beyond those limits.  We understand on some level that we cheat ourselves by letting fear of rejection, loneliness, or even death stop us from expressing our true selves.  The courageous can seem almost insane in comparison to the risk-averse.


I met Rick Avery, a professional stunt man last night.  Used to double for John Travolta.   And we spoke of those who make a profession of doing things most people run away from.   “Maybe it’s crazy” he laughed.


I shook my head. “A teacher once told me that any culture that doesn’t produce a sufficient number of those wild, crazy Bad Boys will get wiped out by the cultures that do.”   The “risk gene” is a valuable thing.  But then he got sober.  “I wish people could see how carefully and soberly we prepare for those gags” he said.    Stuntmen were not risk-averse…but they weren’t crazy either.


I wanted to ask him about falling down the stairs. I’d just watched “Casino Royale” and there is an epic fistfight on a stairway (ending in one of only two times Bond has ever killed someone with his bare hands) and a scene where a guy is thrown down the stairs.  I mean DAMN…how the heck do you make THAT safe?


I saw the little smile on Rick’s face.   “You sort of just do it,” he said.  “And hope you don’t have to do more than three takes.”


Ouch.   What was it John Wayne’s John Booker says to Ron Howard in “The Shootist”?  Being a gunfighter isn’t about being a good shot.  Its being a good shot when someone is shooting back. What is the secret?   “You’ve got to be willing.  Most ain’t.”


Or as Worf once said, “perhaps today IS a good day to die.”   Courage is valuing   an objective higher than the risk of consequences.   Honor or contribution or growth above risk to life, limb, or social standing.  We all have fear.  Heroes do what must be done in spite of it.   That “tonight we dine in hell!” attitude that powers legends for three thousand years after our deaths.


O.K.  Enough about that.  Clearly, Influence is a valid part of a web of qualities, NONE of which are particularly limited by innate capacity. All of them can be increased by will and action.  And all contribute to success.


Good stuff.




(and lurking in the background, you’ll find these six principles applied to the art of mating.   Still time to join the discussion at:

Fun With Racism

I just saw a post with someone saying: “Jesse Smollet is clearly racist…” detailing the offenses he is now accused of. They include filing a false police report, and creating a public disturbance. If guilty, the man needs to go to jail.

But “racist”? Really? By what precise definition you find honest and useful?

There is basically one I find to be both: “To attribute differential worth or capacity on the basis of race or ethnicity.”

Get that? You think that X’s are better than Y’s. It isn’t “I hate them”. It isn’t “I don’t have any Y’s as friends” or “I’ve never dated/married/worked with/love Y’s.” Not “I prefer to hang out with X’s.”

It is that you think one group is smarter, better, more honest, or whatever, based on innate genetics or spiritual qualities. That’s it.

My favorite question for flushing them out in America? “Under the same historical circumstances, would white people have been as damaged by slavery, and had as much trouble healing?

If you can answer that question with an immediate and enthusiastic “yes,” racism is not your issue.

If you waffle, complain that the question is unfair or theoretical, shift the conversation to “Irish slaves” or Jews or whatever who functioned well under some analogous circumstance…I am not willing to trust that you aren’t a racist, because in my experience you can expect a wide variety of other political and philosophical attitudes hat cluster around that end of the spectrum. You may be a wonderful, intelligent human being, but you don’t get to discuss race on my threads. There is nothing to be gained.

I saw Jordan Peterson play some games with this. He defined “Racism” as “attributing the qualities of an individual to an entire group.” That means that unless you think ALL Y’s are Z, you are not a racist. Which means that no one is a racist, because everyone knows an exception. That is bad enough, but then he went on to say his was the ONLY definition. The OED would argue with that, and so would I.

It is a useless definition, good only for obscuring one’s actual attitudes. Well…I suppose that means it is useful, to a particular type of person. But we’ll leave that for another time.

So there we have it. Society has agreed that “racism” is bad. So the answer isn’t to be honest about those attitudes and root them out, or identify the people who cling to them and isolate them, or even merely to be aware that they are part of the voting public and compensate for the damage they do and the degree to which they put brakes on social change. The answer is to con people into changing the definition.

Get that? Don’t change yourself. Change the language. Problem solved, right? Racism is over! Because NOBODY actually attributes the characteristics of an individual to an entire group. Fake News, indeed.

By the way, this goes for the other side too, IMO. Conflating “institutionalized racism” with “racism” to say that you can’t have this particular toxicity if you are in the underclass is a slight-of-mouth technique. It allows you to “other.” The problem is “out there,” not within the human heart itself. The problem is in the mirror. There is no “them.” There is only “us” in the final analysis.

One soul, looking out through many eyes.

So…be careful how you play with words. Be sure you are willing to really live with them.

  1. Is it true? Does it define and explain an observable phenomenon?
  2. Is it useful? Does it help us understand the past, cope with the present, and predict a path to a loving, and healthful future?
  3. Is it kind? Are you defining something to use as a bludgeon, carefully trimming the words until they fit a specific box that absolves your group of the need for introspection? Are you “Othering” them, suggesting that they are corrupt, evil, stunted, soulless?

My definition, the OED’s definition, does all of those. It doesn’t demand thinking racists are evil, although racism has led to some of the greatest evils in human history. It is a perspective. A belief arising fairly naturally from the dualistic mind, the “X is greater/less than Y” mind that is so common among even good and intelligent people.

I try not to judge people for thinking this way, in part because it is so difficult to separate it from “tribalism,” which is the preference for one group over another

To clarify my usage, then:

“Tribalism” is cheering for the home team.

“Racism” is actually believing the visiting team are bums.

“Violent Racism” or perhaps “Bigotry” is willingnesss to knee-cap the quarterback.

Back to Smollet, shall we? Current thinking is that he did it to pimp himself for a raise on “Empire.” In which case he tried to gain sympathy for himself by making it seem we was the victim of a racist attack. He was, definitely, assuming people would believe that Trump voters are racist. Does that say anything about the average white person? Let alone “all” white people. Nope.

Being willing to exploit racism isn’t racist. It is cynical, opportunistic evil.

What if he was motivated by pure politics? Wanted to strike against MAGA? Again, is he saying something about the average white person? All white people? He might well be thinking that the average PERSON is stupid enough for him to get away with his fraud, but that’s a contempt for humanity, not for one racial group.

Whether Smollet is a racist, whether he thinks (for instance) white people are, on average, inferior mentally or morally is a separate question. He may. I’d estimate 10–20% of people have a belief that “theirs” are better than “those others.” We’re polite about it, but man, it runs deep, and is the social version of “my dog is the smartest, my mommy the prettiest, my daddy the strongest.” Nothing unusual.

So…watch out for people jiggering definitions so that they are useless for anything but bludgeoning the other side.

You just can’t trust a jigger lover.



“Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018)

Finally saw “Bohemian Rhapsody” and enjoyed it quite a bit.  It really reinforces my sense that society’s rejection of our basic being (Freddy Mercury’s gayness in this sense) eats at the soul, tears a human being to pieces.  In the conceit of the screenwriters, made him crave the anonymous adoration of the crowd as replacement for truly intimate connection with a single human being.


There is a point where the crowd is actually “talking back” to the band by stamping their feet, clapping, and chanting. And Freddy is rhapsodic indeed, overwhelmed by the adoration of thousands of lovers. Seeking to fill the place in his heart that no human being, no thunderous herd of human beings, can ever fill.


The man he eventually bonded with tells him at one point, in effect, “call me when you like yourself.”   When, in other words, you accept who you really are.  WHAT you really are.   Which can be horribly difficult unless you get positive feed-back from the image makers, beginning with your parents, and going outward from there to society. Don’t have it from society or parents?  You have to find a way to like yourself, love yourself.


A fear arises in many.  If they have done “bad” things (or been accused of them by people you trust or rely upon), even to enable survival, it can be in conflict with deeply inculcated values and beliefs.   And if those bad things, damaging and hurtful things, or even inadequate and unsuccessful things cut against those values in core ways, the ability to simply love yourself can be deeply damaged.


This can lead to a sense of a corrupted soul, or a belief that human beings are, at core evil.   This is so unfortunate, and what is often the saddest thing is that  some of the kindest, most passionately loving people who have the sense that we are, at core, corrupt and evil.  Major religions have promoted this concept.


When you point out that all human behaviors are on a continuum with animal behaviors, they can’t hear you.   We are worse than animals, they seem to say, because we are not better.  The conceptual knot reflects values conflicts up the wazoo, as well as a tendency to be overly impressed by intelligence.    We are all just precisely smart enough to tie ourselves into knots, to devise strategies to overwhelm our own resources.


Intelligence is problem-solving.  WISDOM on the other hand, is knowing which problems to solve.  Big difference.




I realized how powerful and necessary just loving ourselves is when my daughter Nicki was about five or six.  I stood her in front of a mirror and asked her to say “I like myself.”   She felt shy, had a hard time even looking at her reflection.  “I like myself!” I repeated. And after several tries she finally stuttered out “I like myself.”


And looked away, as if she was bad even for saying such a thing.  I had her repeat it again, and again, and…something happened. A smile broke through on her face, and she started giggling.   “I like myself!” she said, laughing and joyful.


Daddy had had to give her permission, just to see her own beauty.   If you cannot unironically look at yourself in the mirror and say, with feeling, “I like myself!  I love myself!” you have to wonder: who taught you that you were unlovable?


No, you don’t have to be miserable to create or perform.   Fear and pain are only half the motivation equation. The other half is love and pleasure.


I lost a friendship with a famous writer because he could not abide the notion that we can be joyous and loving and still be creative and safe.  He simply wouldn’t believe that creativity came from anything other than pain, or that, at his core, he was a good man.  Every example of a creative person not consumed with pain or twisted emotions he just ignored.  It was sad, as he attacked and attacked until one day, I gave him the slightest little tap in return…and he couldn’t handle it and ended our friendship.


Everything you have ever done, EVER, was an attempt to escape pain and approach joy.  Everything ANYONE has ever done is nothing more than this, no matter how twisted their reasoning (or lack of it) might be.  And ultimately, everything they have ever done, YOU have ever done, is an attempt to approach the divine, or that sense of peace we had in the womb.


That’s it. That simple.   That doesn’t excuse the terrible things human beings do to themselves and others in the name of seeking relief.  But if you can see how this operates, and has always operated in your own life, you will understand humanity without guilt, blame, or shame.


We’re just little bits of protoplasm, but along the path of life we take on so many identities from the people and society around us. We aren’t just “us”. We are a child, a sibling, a student, a boyfriend, student, a teacher, a worker, a boss, a spouse, a screwup, a champion, a parent, a grandparent…all of these labels, with different missions and meanings and values and beliefs tied to each.


What was that line Robert Heinlein said about society’s endless rules and laws existing so that no matter WHAT you do, you are breaking a law?  That “they” can always nail you?


Well…the same thing is true of the way our egos compose themselves of thousands of overlapping roles, beliefs, memories, and value hierarchies.  If you start with the belief that you are corrupt, evil, wrong?  You will ALWAYS find evidence to back it up. And…you are pretty much screwed. Will spend your life fleeing fear without ever accepting yourself and your flaws enough to really embrace joy.


You’ll tear yourself apart.  Enter bad relationships.  Destroy your own dreams. Damage your body. Never see that at every moment of your life, you’ve done the best you could with the resources you have.


And you are a prime target to be manipulated by society, relationships, your own demons.


Sigh.   How can you tell what someone’s internal demons say?  Listen to the way they talk about other people, the way they treat them. Do they constantly tear others down?   It is safest to assume that, deep inside, they are doing the same to themselves, however much their egos mask that with bravado.


You have to have love and understanding within you to extend it to others in a genuine sense. Watch them under stress: when they are tired, or intoxicated, or frightened. That is when you will see what they are when not monitoring themselves. That is when you can catch a glimpse of the demon…or the angel within.


Or just the frightened, hungry, anxious little monkey in their hindbrains.   It means no harm. It just want to stop hurting, and start feeling joy.




Starting with love and joy, finding a way to give yourself permission to feel that divine connection daily means to START your day with the emotions most people think they have to work to achieve.  No.  You can give yourself those emotions, any time you want, by changing what you focus on, moving your body as if you were happy and energetic, and monitoring your self-talk.


Looking in the mirror, smiling, and saying “I like myself!” is a simple, simple version of this. If you do it, and hear the demons hissing and coiling, or voices telling you that your efforts are absurd, IF YOU FEEL ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE SIMPLE JOY YOU WOULD FEEL HOLDING YOUR MOST BELOVED CHILD…


You have identified the work that needs to be done. And then it is up to you to find the tools and allies to help you.  You can run from fear forever, but the truth is that it will always be there: you bring it with you.


Or, you can focus on what you love, until your heart is so full that you run TOWARD it, with a full heart, a sense of joy and purpose and unfolding.


The most beautiful thing about this is that when you do this, you have optimized your chance of meeting another such person, and bonding with love and shared values and purpose.


If you treasure yourself, your heart, your mind, your body and sexuality, then you can look at a prince or a princess, and confidently say that if you put all of YOURSELF on the table, you are equal to whatever weight they put there.  Everything for everything.    If you don’t treasure yourself…what is the value of the gift you give your lover, your friends, your family?   How can you see their light, their strength and beauty without shrinking away in shame?


How often have you seen people hammer down the confidence, sabotage the plans, derail the progress of people around them, for fear they can’t keep up?   How often accept toxic relationships because they don’t BELIEVE they deserve better?


We can be happy and productive. Loving and self-protective.  Happy alone, or together.  We can make the world better just by how we move through it.


But it all starts with love.


We make the choice every day.  EVERY SINGLE DAY.   By what we focus on.  How we move.  What we say.



What is your choice today?




Kids deserve to know they are loved

Last night, Tananarive was out of the house doing a podcast. As often happens, when one or the other of us is gone, Jason gets talkative, came into the bedroom while I was watching the last act of THE SHOOTIST and we chatted about life, business, and stuff.  He is so proud of his new grades, and I can see the wheels starting to turn in his head.


Clear Goal: “B” Average

Why?  To prepare himself for life (long term). To get an Iphone 8 or X (short term)

How: Do his homework and classwork, turn it in every day.   EVERY day.


His backpack used to be a blizzard of rumpled, crumpled paper jammed into every crevice, with no way to find anything.  It is neat now.  We were fighting to double-check every assignment, but the new high school has the “Aeries” program so we can check on-line.  We can communicate via email with his teachers, and identified the critical teacher who seemed to be the key to his issues, and met with him.


What: “B” Average

Why: long and short-term pleasure, avoidance of long and short term pain.

How: do and turn in his work every day.


Just that, with the skills he has now, is getting him a “B” average.  Just wait until he learns some advanced study and organization skills!


But back to the story.  I remembered the horrible battles I had with him EVERY SINGLE DAY to get him to read.  He STILL does not read for fun, dammit. Except for subtitles on Anime.  Yeah, I noticed that, and we actually went through a period where I let him read THOSE off the screen for credit.    But he clearly has no problems at all now, even if only at school.  The fear of disappointing me made him “freeze up” when it was time to perform at home. I mean real, deep, raving terror.   Something inside him associated the reading with love. It was a way his connection to me was at risk.  HE DARED NOT FAIL.   So there was no pleasure in succeeding, but fear and pain associated with failing.   That drained all the life from it.  Heck, I KNOW he was enjoying reading “Have Spacesuit Will Travel” (“yuck yuck yukkity yuck!”), but it just never translated.


I asked him if he remembered the struggle we used to have (I no longer force him to read at home, as long as he gets his work done.   I was very careful to be sure that completing his work demanded reading skills.  Yep, it does) and he nodded soberly.


“Are you glad we went through that?” he nodded again.  He was skritching his yellow tabby, Ginger.

“Did you ever think I’d give up on you?”   I saw his mouth tighten into a line.  He shook his head no.

Interesting.  I would have thought he’d be afraid of that.   Knowing that there might be a bit of fibbing here, I carefully probed.

“Because I’m so stubborn?” I asked.

He relaxed a bit.   Shook his head, smiling a little.

I got it. “Because I love you?”

“Yep” he said.

And I remembered something his therapist said: Jason had anger issues. And fear issues, and lack of clarity.  But…he KNEW THAT WE LOVED HIM.  Had no doubt of that.


Thank God. On that rock, I shall build his castle.


I remember the hole in my heart left by my father’s absence.  I didn’t know, couldn’t know, WHY he was not there, raising me.  Teaching me to catch a ball. Teaching me about life. About girls. About bullies.  It took countless thousands of hours of therapy, meditation, ceremony, martial arts and yoga to heal that wound.  I remember so clearly being curled into a fetal position, crying, wondering doesn’t anyone love me?  Doesn’t anyone want to be my daddy? Am I such an ugly thing..?


I don’t know what might have happened had I not had that.  I held on to my self-image by my fingernails. I KNEW that my Mom loved me. My sister loved me.  NO, IT WASN’T ENOUGH.  It was enough for me to be a healthy human being.  But I just didn’t know what being a man was. And without that, I couldn’t get the reactions I wanted from either men OR women.  I didn’t want to just be a “human being”. I wanted to be a MAN.  To be respected by the men I respected, and desired by the women I desired.    That’s the simple truth.


And didn’t know. And had to spend those thousands of hours trying to heal a wound that Dad could have prevented just by being there as a role model, someone to bounce ideas off of, to push against, to get slapped down by.


Who am I?  What is true?


Everyone has to find their own way to those questions, the answers for which are embedded in every challenge you face, if only you pay attention and ask the universe for answers. We all get there, in time.


But at what cost?   Jason will have his own issues.  BUT HE WILL NOT HAVE MINE, by God.   My battles will not be his.  He will stand on my shoulders, and whether he is taller or shorter than I, he will see further.


That’s what I wanted for him. That is why I knew, after raising Nicki, that I had enough life and energy left to raise another child. Tananarive laughs at me (“you were DONE” she says).   Yeah, but I had enough left. I knew that I loved being a dad.  That out there in the aether, or someplace in the world, there was another child who needed a father like me. And that I was willing to empty myself out to be that father.


HE KNOWS I LOVE HIM.  No matter what.  We have forged that bond.   No matter what happens to him later in life, he will have that. No one will ever be able to convince him he is worthless.   Mom and Dad love him. Period.


When you have that confidence, you can look at your flaws…because you know that despite them, you are worthy of love.


You can walk away from a bad relationship…because you know you deserve better.


You can pick yourself up from failure and try again. And again. And again. Because you know that win or lose, you are loved.


You can walk away from a bad job. Because you know you are loved, you can love yourself, and fight for yourself, and unleash the survival drive, the toothy little mammal in your soul that will back itself into a corner and bare its fangs…or run down its pray and fight to the death to defend the bleeding meat from rivals.   “If there are two jobs left in the world, I’m getting one of them.”   THAT’S the attitude I want my boy to have.  And then…teach him how to sell, how to market. Because THAT skill guarantees you’ll never, ever be out of work.    More than any other I know of.


You can be alone, because you know that you are lovable, and love yourself, and therefore will be attracted to some of the people who find you pleasing. We attract those at our level and below.  We are ATTRACTED to those at our level and above.


If those circles overlap…Bob’s your uncle.




I don’t know what happens tomorrow. Whatever it is, we’ll face it together.   And we’ll win. I’ll never quit, because I love him.


And thank heaven and all the gods…he knows it.





The Power of Love

One of the Soulmate students asked for more information about loving yourself. Let me give you an example of what it is not, and why you need it.

Many years ago, my first girlfriend Sandy, had a friend (“Shelly”) who was in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend. The boyfriend went to jail, and while he was away, she started a new relationship. When the boyfriend got out, he beat the new boyfriend half to death and attacked “Shelly” viciously. When she recovered, she got back together with him. Sandy was aghast, and asked Shelly why.

Shelly’s reply: “you just don’t know what love it.”



How beaten down does Shelly have to be to accept such a relationship? How frightened of the world, to think that the arms of a beast are a safer harbor for her than finding a way to freedom? What does she believe she deserves in a relationship? What role models for healthy relationships could she have had?

Her reaction, and the entire situation, are so toxic that, absent an epiphany, I doubt Shelly is still alive today. She would have stumbled from one predatory relationship to the next, one damaging situation to the next, until she lost all hope, numbed the world with alcohol, drugs, and meaningless sex, lost all sense of being a precious gem, without which a human soul withers.

Why not die? Precisely why stick around here in a world of pain?

Dear God…my heart breaks just to remember her.


Do we need to ask if Shelly loved herself? All we need to do is ask the question: Would she want her own most beloved child to have a similar relationship?

She might, just MIGHT answer “but that’s all there is in this world.” If she is beaten down enough, if her sense of agency had been violated enough that she saw her sexuality as a commodity, or as garbage ( the deepest damage of childhood sexual abuse, IMO) then she might well think that SHE is not worthy, but few are so damaged they do not want better for their children.)

So if she says “She deserves it, but there is nothing better in life” you have a tiny opening. TINY, but visible. An opening where you can ask:

“Is it true?” Is it true that there is no real love in the world? That no one is in a relationship of mutual respect and support, deep affection, reveling in each other’s sexuality? Is it true?

Because if she can admit that it is true…if she will accept a role model of possibility, if she sees that she’d want her own daughter to have it…then you have exposed the heart of her damage:


What happened to her? Who told her she was less than perfect, of less value than the stars in the sky? (Conversely, of course, she is no MORE valuable than a grain of sand. But that is another discussion) Trust me, if you look carefully enough, there is ALWAYS a voice. Always someone in her head telling her she can’t, shouldn’t, mustn’t, isn’t worth it, that happiness is not for people like her.

And then you can ask the next question: WHOSE VOICE IS THAT?

Because one of the greatest basic secrets, one of the doors to freedom once you get the ugly joke, is:


Understand that when you meditate, and the entire activity shifts in meaning. Who told you? Who hurt you? Who convinced you there was no real joy in life, that the very best you can do is is avoid pain.

Now note: there is nothing wrong with avoiding pain. With moving away from fear. But that is a basic animal response, the first stage of learning. The intermediate stage is integrating anti-fear, anti-pain behaviors at the level of habit. You stop falling on your face because you tie your shoes every morning, without argument or thought.

You take care of your body, rest and nutrition and exercise

You take care of your finances: hunting and gathering and marketing and perfecting your skills.

You take care of your relationships: communicating and serving and negotiating and working together.

You do them to avoid pain. Until the basics are learned, at which point you have time to ask the next question: what is joy? What do I love?

And IF you have learned and integrated your basics, you then get to put your consciousness on the question of pursuing joy. And IF you keep those basic plates spinning, with your values and beliefs and goals and habits all integrated, you are able to make choices that are a pursuit of joy, rather than an avoidance of fear and pain. Avoiding pain becomes automatic. Think of Tai Chi: people with bad backs study it to avoid pain. But if you do it enough, you find the flow of joy. Now, you do it every day for the JOY, but the avoidance of back pain comes automatically. Does that make sense?

If you use wisdom, you don’t have to dwell on the threats, the pain, because your automatic love-driven actions handle them with unconscious competence.

Be very careful of people whose primary expertise is fear-based. They can have vast experience in toxic relationships, but remember THEY CHOSE THEM. They may be a Shelly, without the self-love and wisdom to avoid the monsters, and rather than look into her own darkness, her own paleness, she tars the world. There is nothing else. Love is a fantasy…

Because if she thought, for a moment: Maybe it isn’t the world. Maybe its me…

That is ego death. A shattering of your self-image, or a reduction of it to total worthlessness.


Unless Shelly loved herself FIRST. BEFORE she generated the realization that it wasn’t the world. IF and ONLY IF she loves herself, those thoughts can go…

Maybe it isn’t the world. Maybe its me.

Why do I treat myself that way? What voice in my head tells me I’m not worth while?

Who is that voice? I KNOW it’s not me. Further, since I love myself, I know it is WRONG.

Mother? Father? Early relationship? The social fabric as a whole, a thousand small yammering voices, creating a chorus of programmed pain?


If a mother loves a child, she will stand against the entire world. If she believes in that child it doesn’t matter how much testimony there is from strangers that that child is wrong and bad and corrupt.

Isn’t that what we all want? Someone who believes in us? Who would stand with us against all liars and denigrators and abuser?

Isn’t that what we deserve?

When you love yourself, you can give YOURSELF that loving “parent”. You can take a stand with a flaming sword, our child-heart huddled behind us, snarling up at the demon screaming “you shall not pass!”

And when you do that, when you take that stand for yourself, something happens. That child self doesn’t care if you win. She cares THAT YOU TRIED. She cares THAT YOU CARE.

And will return love for love. And at that moment, you will grasp that the love you have sought from others has always been within you. That “child” has the aliveness, the creativity, the emotional energy you’ve always sought. And as the apocryphal mother lifts the car off her trapped child, you will unleash the full potential of mind and heart. Once you take total responsibility for your own happiness, you are in the “do or die” place, where you will bet EVERYTHING to protect that child.

And…there is nothing in this world more dangerous than a human being with nothing left to lose, and motivation to kill you. Nothing more clever and cunning, nothing more resistant to fatigue and fear.

Would YOU want to fight someone like that?

I didn’t think so. And the demons of the world, the doubters, those who would beat you down to build themselves up…

Those creatures have one fear: that you will awaken to your power. That you will realize that escaping fear is only half the equation. The rest is love. Love for yourself. For your potential. For the possibility of contributing to others. To living a life of joy.

And if you DO love yourself, and tear yourself free of whatever demon’s grasp that has held you back? You will recognize other survivors. And one of them will have different, complementary wounds to your own. And you will see and feel that if you bond together you are stronger. And if you are climbing the same mountain, at the same speed, along the same path…that bond can last a lifetime.

And if you DON’T have those wounds, if you got the blessing of a good home, and social support, and the right mentors? You have the potential to integrate more fully and rapidly with the same effort. And you then might…just might…decide to take the responsibility to be a role model. To show the Shellys of the world that joy and love exist. That there is more than pain in the world. You SHOW them by the way you walk the world, your willingness to share.

(This, by the way, is one of the reasons I’ve loved the martial arts. I started them from fear. But if you dig deeply enough, you feel the fear’s rightful place in your life, confine it there like wolves snapping at your heels. Then you can focus on the love in front of you, and run like hell. And if you run fast enough, the wolves are so far behind you you cannot see or hear them. They come close from time to time. And at times you must actually fight them. But if you go even deeper…the wolves join your team, and become sled dogs. But that is another discussion…)

Loving yourself is the key to believing you deserve better. Which is the key to looking for examples of possibility. Which is the key to COMMITTING to the new way. Which is the key to picking yourself up again and again when you inevitably stumble.

How many times would you encourage your child to get up and walk? That’s right: UNTIL SHE WALKS.

Love opens the door to possibility. Beware of people who can only teach you to avoid pain. They are telling you that they haven’t learned their most basic lessons, that their own burdens were too great, that they were too afraid of their own demons to face them directly, so they projected them onto the rest of the world and now believe that’s all there is.

Love yourself enough to get angry at your own bullshit, and have faith that there is more.

This is where it begins. Without it, life is simply running from the wolves.



The Value of Self-Love

The next  five weeks will be exciting: as we teach the first “Soulmate” class all we have to do is speak truth, lay out a perspective and respond to the students.  Here is today’s:

“Just finished the webinar and I liked the combination of having the powerpoint with the salient points outlined, along with the dialogue. Tananarive’s comment about how love is not supposed to make you feel insecure, was insightful; and poked at past relationships where I wasn’t engaging with my equal, punching above or below my weight, so to speak. Then Steven’s bullet point about a lioness needing a lion rang true and acted as a bookend about the ‘insecurity’. There’s a lot packed in that webinar, but I like things to mentally chew on, so I appreciate it. I’m also looking forward to the “playbook” and the exploration, and what will come up. My hang up is age, I’m older and while happy with myself and being alone, I wonder if my lion is out there.”


Let me just address a few of these wonderful thoughts, from the framework of the first week’s lesson: LOVE YOURSELF.


“Love is not supposed to make you feel insecure.”   Love gives strength.  You feel like you can push over a mountain.   The level of protective ferocity a mother feels for her child is a beautiful example of this.  Loving yourself should give you this, and anything less than that is a sign that that connection has been damaged, probably in childhood or prior relationships.


“A lioness needs a lion.”   You have the right to someone who completes and mirrors YOU.  What kind of partner would you want for your son or daughter?   Would you want them to “settle” or shoot for the moon?  Set your standards high…but be sure that you are willing to meet that standard yourself. More on this in week #2, but it starts here.


“I’m older…I wonder if my lion is still out there.”  This is totally rational, and for women, the statistics can look daunting as they outlive the men.  And this, again, is where Self-Love comes in.

  1. You must be content to be alone to be healthy with another person.   So NO MATTER WHAT, we start here.
  2. When you love yourself, you begin to understand your unique strengths.   You have to have that “Earth Below, Heaven Above, No One In The World Like Me!” Buddha baby attitude…but balanced with a sense that every snowflake in an avalanche is unique…but simultaneously the same.  The same in their universal uniqueness. Balancing on that edge is a fascinating philosophical position.
  3. The stats may be bad. But if you love and believe in yourself, if you are willing to fight for your life, you develop an amazing new resource: confidence. Confidence is an aphrodesiac to other healthy people.   It is magnetic, and often compensates for external power or physical attractiveness.  It has ENERGY.    My brother in law Patric Young had a great philosophy about work:   “If there are only two jobs left in the world…I’m getting one of ’em.”


Wow.  THAT is an attitude.  THAT man is going to have a job, no matter what.  So if there are only 90 men for every 100 women…all you have to do is be sure you aren’t in the bottom 10%.  That is the brutal truth. And simply by being confident, happy in who you are, you AUTOMATICALLY lift yourself up.


Get that?   If there ARE no men, you are gonna be happy. But if there are? You will be magnetic.  You WANT a relationship, but don’t NEED one.  That is an element in the “indirect magnetism” we will speak of, the ability to be enormously attractive to the right people without really trying.


IT CANNOT BE FAKED. The “Pick Up Artist” and “Make a Man Fall In Love With You” communities try to “fake” being healthy animals available for mating.  Here’s a radical concept…how about actually being one?


And the first step is loving yourself.






(the “Ancient Child” meditation is one of the most powerful tools we have for connecting with your loving heart.  Get your free copy, and join this amazing free class, at:

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!





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.





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.