Autobiography

These are stories from the life of Steven Barnes, science fiction writer, martial arts expert, hypnotherapist, teacher, public speaker, father, and lover of life.

Zero Net Time Part 4: The Five Tibetans

 

I’m not going to vamp any more.  It’s time to give you the next major piece in the “Zero Net Time” system. Whether you want to change your body composition, double your energy, increase your focus…we’ve got it, and all totally free.  The system was designed to give you maximum results in not just minimum time (in fact, ZERO NET TIME!) but save you enough money to easily afford the equipment you’ll want to go beyond “ordinary” fitness levels, if you wish to.

 

But right now, you need nothing more than focus to get very serious results.  Shall we go over the pieces thus far?

  1. The Morning Ritual.  This is the entire context of the actions, a concept that turns “merely” physical action into something emotionally and even spiritually transformative.
  2. The Five Minute Miracle.  A key to stress mastery.  Interruptin g the stress–>strain loop, and eventually programming yourself to automatically shift to a resourceful pattern the first time your unconscious mind senses your physiologcial shifts to the negative.
  3. Joint Mobility.  After proper breathing, the single most important health movement you can perform.   If you have a bad back or aching joints HERE IS YOUR MEDICINE. The saying is: “if you want to fix a bad back, do this slowly.  If you want to prevent a bad back, do it daily.”  It is so powerful that I could just weep when people tell me of their aches and pains. I wish so much that I could get them to do this single thing.  Five minutes a day, every day. Freedom.

 

And now you’re ready for the next piece, THE FIVE TIBETANS.  In 1939 a man named Peter Kelder wrote a book entitled “The Eye of Revelation”, detailing his relationship with a “Colonel Bradford.”  Initially broken-down and old, Bradford supposedly traveled to a Tibetan temple and there learned a series of brief exercises that rejuvenated him, were “the ancient secret of the Fountain of Youth.”  Kelder tried them, was astonished by the results, taught them to others, saw the benefits yet again, and then wrote a book which has been in print continuously ever since.

 

Google “The Eye of Revelation” and you’ll find totally free PDFs of the book.    Go to Youtube and search for “The Five Tibetans” and you’ll find a dozen different demonstrations.  Watch at least three of them before you begin. Some thoughts:

  1. The story is probably apocryphal.  No one really knows where the exercises came from, and the closest analogues seem to be Turkish or even Russian. I kind of like the idea that they are Russian: one can imagine Kelder’s publisher being reluctant to put out a book in 1939 called “The Five Russians.”  There is a long tradition of people who create or synthesize systems saying they learned it from an old man on a mountain, or elders in secret caves, or shamans in the desert…none of whom are ever available for fact-check.
  2. The important thing is that they work. Millions of people have used the system. Go to Amazon and look at the comments from various people applying different versions of the system, and you’ll see that they have powerful effects that verge on the miraculous if you aren’t aware of the healing power of proper motion.
  3. They probably are no better than yoga, but simpler and can actually be learned from a book or video–THAT, and the fact that the information is available free is part of the reason they have been included.
  4. The “Five Tibetans” are, (unsurprisingly) five exercises performed at moderate pace.   NEVER push beyond what is comfortable (remember pain staying below a “3”.)
  5. Begin with ONLY THREE REPETITIONS of each of the five exercises.  This will take less than five minutes.    Add 1-2 repetitions per week, as it feels comfortable.
  6. Go to a maximum of 21 repetitions of each. This will take you 15-20 minutes total.  Don’t go beyond 21.
  7. Once you’ve reached 21, you can “wave” the number, varying the intensity from day to day.
  8. Perform these exercises 3-7 days a week.  The strict recommendation is seven, but we’re playing a slightly different game, and 3 is fine.
  9. Take what you know of breathing: exhale on compressions, inhale on expansions.  Most importantly, BREATHE.  EXHALE.  The inhales will take care of themselves.
  10. The “Five Tibetans” will handle multiple basic fitness aspects on a basic level: flexibility, strength (upper and lower body), core strength, alignment, balance, muscular endurance and a bit of cardio (once you hit the higher numbers.)
  11. It is hard to imagine a 10-20 minute investment of time that will provide more benefits.
  12. Be smart: Each of the exercises can be modified.  It is possible to change levels, put your hands or feel higher or lower to increase or decrease the strain.  ALWAYS DO A LITTLE LESS THAN YOU THINK YOU CAN DO.   Prioritize health over fitness.
  13. If you did only the Five Tibetans 5-6 days a week, you would be lean, strong, flexible and balanced.   Combine them with Joint Mobility and you have a fantastic whole-body wellness program in a box, without spending a dime on trainers or equipment.  Add the “Five Minute Miracle”, taking what you’re learning about breathing and you have a stress-buster par excellence.  Add the Morning Ritual and you have a complete body-mind system for focus, physical and emotional health all tied together.

 

Are you understanding how this all works now?  Good. Because we’re about to take it up a notch.  Once you have integrated the previous pieces, which might take a week or six months (and that means you are doing at least 10 Tibetans, to be sure your body is basically integrated and healthy), you are ready to move to the next level.  And that level is FITNESS.

 

How far can you take this?   Honestly I’m not sure.  But…I suspect that you can take it to the 99th Percentile, all with ZERO NET TIME.   I’m sure curious.  Hope you are too!

Why my meditations suck

I go through cycles of clarity and swimming in molasses.    This is a molasses period, where I have too much connection to the people and social tissues around me to make rapid progress: I have to bring enough “tribe” along with me that I’m paying back what I was given.  I figure that’s 1000 storytellers and artists (which will magnify to 1,000,000 humans in general) so I’m in a very very low gear heading up a very steep hill, and it can feel like the greatest weight in the universe.  But that’s o.k….it’s just the work, and it is a joy to know there is enough strength to pull the plow.

There are so many things a person might engage with: environmental, political, rights connected to gender, race, national security…so many things where you might say: “I would die for this” and commit to change it in your lifetime.  Perhaps you will.  Perhaps Moses cannot enter the promised land, and it will take another generation to finish the job. It is not our place to know.  It is ours to express our truth, and be strong enough for the next generation to stand on our shoulders.  It’s just my turn in the barrel.

My obsessions in this sense are probably body-mind balance, awakening, racial issues, and what I call “self directed human evolution.”  I can always tell when I get spun off into one direction or another (to go back to the first sentence) by the amount of obstruction in my morning meditations: it feels as if I’m at the bottom of a collapsed building, as opposed to a mountaintop. Sigh.  Roll up the sleeves, and get back to work.

This has been a good week, but I got slapped in the face yesterday, yet again, with the difference between the political and the philosophical.   This time I think it may stick: I may “get” that it is unwise to enter a political conversation with a philosophical perspective. Wrong tool, wrong task.   Bad judgement on my part.  When people are in pain or fear, logic and information, even if correct, are inappropriate. Wrong key, wrong lock.   My bad.  Back up, reevaluate, see truth, behave appropriately.

 

Sigh.  Humans are such fascinating creatures.    I was tickled to see this “classic” post of mine, from 2007, found and posted by David Roel, who has been doing wonderful archival work for me, and who I appreciate.  It was and is very applicable to the struggle I’m undergoing right now, and I hope you find it interesting, in context.

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All living systems crave homeostasis, the state where all systems are in balance. Note what happens in a problem situation: “Lack of awareness of any need results in the splitting off of a part of oneself that continues to seek completion.” In gestalt therapy, this process is referred to as gestalt formation and gestalt destruction. This process aids the organism in returning to balance, and interruption of this process can be considered a neurosis. This interruption results in an unmet need. The expression “time heals all wounds” isn’t really accurate. “Unmet needs, unrecognized or unexpressed feelings, don’t go away.” “Left unresolved, the result is that a part of the self becomes preoccupied with this completion, and thus unavailable for a more present-centered focus.”

For instance, anger feelings at a parent are “dismissed out of loyalty or due to the consequences of this anger.” The natural process of gestalt formation–destruction never reaches completion. The child deadens itself to emotion that is too painful or dangerous to experience.

Compare this idea to those found in Yogic psychology.

For the organism to grow, there has to be a flow of “energy” smoothly from the root chakra (survival) or outward from the heart chakra. In other words, you can’t leave unresolved or repressed emotion behind you. If you have abandonment issues, fear or power issues with parental figures, this stuff can drain the joy from your life, and that joy is one of the “evolutionary” energies that enable growth within a human organism.

Many forms of therapy address this: analysis, role-playing, “parts party” zero-content work, dream analysis, journaling, etc. The point is to dig into the past and see if any of those basic developmental steps have been missed. Is there anything to communicate to a parent? Anybody out there ever paid 100 bucks an hour to scream at a chair? Or at a stranger in a therapy group playing your molesting uncle? That’s what’s going on.

I know a very good lady who was horribly abused as a child. Her parents should have realized something was going on—her father was far too involved in his career. She cannot deal with the possible loss of her paternal relationship, and has had difficulty confronting him. The anger knots up with her fear issues, and makes her weight armor almost impossible to lose. Man, she has struggled horrifically with it, and when she starts to lose it, she gets nightmares like crazy.

For this lady, if she can’t strangle the people who hurt her, if she won’t confront her father, then she has to process the emotion in some other way, or she will NEVER lose that weight. We might as well consider it a wall of solid fear. And that wall protects a child. Until she dissolves it, the energy will not be available to move her to full adulthood.

Scott Sonnon’s brilliant “Body Flow” concepts help explain why yoga and other body-mind disciplines work. Let’s just say that once you focus on the way your breath, emotions, and body work together to create each other, you can use your breath to measure, control, and express emotional states. The release is also available through journaling, dream work, etc. The point is to develop a clear image of what a fully realized, independent version of yourself would be, and then take full responsibility for walking that path. Those steps are steps toward adulthood—which might be considered a goal rather than a destination. A verb rather than a noun. A wave rather than a particle.

And that path is also the path to the “Gateless Gate” of enlightenment. That is: it won’t take you all the way there, but you can’t approach that gate along any other road.

And what has this to do with groups? To the degree that a group obeys some of the same principles as an individual (the thesis we’re exploring) then a group that is subjugated and dependent for food and shelter on another group develops a parental attachment. (Note Stockholm Syndrome for one version of this). If that “parental figure” is abusive, and the subjugated group cannot directly express its anger and pain, its “psyche” becomes fractured, and that energy is not available for maturation. Note that it serves the “organization” for individuals to remain immature, in the same way it serves your body that individual cells don’t wander off and become amoebas. This stuff is hard-wired into both sides: oppressor and oppressed. It takes no conscious thought. More’s the pity.

But the answer is the same, in a way. Honesty must be expressed. The truth must be told. The enemy, external and internal, must be confronted. If the abusing uncle is no longer alive (can you read Simon LeGree?) then through art, play-acting, cultural “dreams” (storytelling?) and other methods, the pain has to be expressed.

To my knowledge, there was only one short period of American history when this started coming out: the late 60’s and early 70’s. In the streets, in music, and in cinema, some of the anger from Slavery and Segregation finally started emerging, a dialogue within the black community. Needless to say, whites were scared as hell. Understandable. Confused, too: “what did I do? I owned no slaves. My ancestors didn’t own any slaves…”

All valid. Express it, and alienate the very allies you need to get bank loans, jobs, houses, fair play in the courts. Don’t express it, and your psyche splits. And the energy turns back in on itself in self-destructive behaviors and fantasies. Note that rap music originally railed against “the Man.” Now there is still plenty of violence in Rap…and it’s all black-on-black. Do you really think these guys are primarily angry at other black people? Are you that naïve? Ask yourself what happened that they stopped being able to tell the truth. There were both financial incentives…and the culture simply slapped them down. Police departments and the legal system are great for that. You can ALWAYS find something to hassle someone about, if you don’t like them or what they’re doing. And it doesn’t take an unlimited amount of legal attention to correct an undesirable behavior.

The pain, unexpressed, turns in on itself. Neighborhoods burn.

But how do you forgive with a free heart, when that heart has actually been coerced?

1) Tell the truth. To yourself, or a few select friends. You don’t have to broadcast your truth to the world, if it puts you at risk.
2) Commit to dealing with the world from a position of love.
3) Start by loving yourself. As individuals. As a community.
4) Commit to dealing with the world from a position of strength as well. Take responsibility for your emotions, your children, your neighborhood.
5) Make certain that your sexual interactions are responsible and mature. Regardless of what we try to say, the human hind brain interprets intercourse as reproductive behavior. Chemical or mechanical contraceptives don’t change this. So sex without emotions or commitments can be devastating to the psyche, and leave already damaged individuals with even more damage. And if children are born…they are born to grown-up children, and an even deeper cycle of dysfunction is triggered. If you aren’t self-supporting, don’t have sex.
6) Move heaven and earth to support yourself in a safe home of your own devising. Clean up your credit. Learn the skills necessary to provide goods and services to your community that will result in the money needed to support yourself.
7) Understand your legal rights, and fight for the leverage necessary to hire lawyers to protect them.
8) Write your truth down. Keep a journal. Tell stories. Write plays. But only broadcast stories that deal with issues you have resolved, unless you can see your way past conflict to love. Even Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” while having no answers, saw that the problem did not lie with the “Other.” It was within the nature of humanity itself. Grasp this, and you’ll see that the only work to be done is within ourselves.

-Steve Barnes, http://darkush.blogspot.com/2007/03/gestalt-formation-maturation-and-race.html

Zero Net Time Part 3

ZERO NET TIME

 

So we’ve come a long way, established why even if you are a sedentary writer, you need fitness and vitality.

How you can begin the process in FIVE MINUTES A DAY and if you don’t take those five minutes (one sixty second breathing breaks, one every three hours) or five minutes of joint recovery drills.

That if you want to tell me you don’t have five minutes to care for your physical body, but you had five minutes to watch this video, YOU ARE LYING TO YOURSELF.

Tim Piering said that you can accomplish miracles if you have

  1. Clear written goals
  2. Plans for their accomplishment expressed in continuous action
  3. The ability to take action despite the voices in your head.

 

You are allowing the voices in your head to run your game. I don’t want to get into a complex discussion of metaphysics or meditation, so I’ll give you a tip, a trick, something which, if taken seriously, will change your life: you are not the voices in your head.  You are the one LISTENING to the voices.

 

Who am I?  What is true?  These are the questions that drive all philosophy, as opposed to politics, which is “how can we win?”  A different question, one which can lead to corruption if it is not grounded on the first two.

 

Back to ZNT.  You can’t sustain accomplishment that is contrary to your self image.   A person who sees themselves as a winner, as an athlete, as a lover will move heaven and earth to support that vision if they start slipping.  And a person who does NOT see themselves as those things will, if positive change comes into their life, find a way to sabotage it like someone with poverty consciousness spending a Lottery windfall as fast as possible.

 

The Bible says “where there is no vision, the people perish.”  And if you do not have a vision for your life, for your health, happiness, and success, you will react only from pain, exist in a stress tunnel, fail to see opportunities that are right in front of you, and believe that fear is stronger than love.

 

We all know people like that.  And we all, from time to time, ARE those people.

 

So to use the ZNT system, you have to grasp that YOU HAVE TO HAVE PERMISSION TO SUCCEED. To be healthy, and vital, and energetic. That you have to have PERMISSION to accomplish your dreams, to be HAPPY.  If you don’t, on every level, THAT is the grit in the system, the kink in the wiring.   Our goal is to turn you into a room-temperature superconductor. A healthy animal, aligned with your human and spiritual levels.  Life is hard, but it is also simple.  The answer to “life is hard” is: “BE STRONG, DAMMIT!”  You parents and ancestors were strong for you.  YOU be strong for the children who will follow, and in the process, you create the room for your own dreams.

 

All you need to do to have a wonderful life is to live in alignment with BOTH your childhood dreams and the ultimate values you will hold on your deathbed.  Navigate that path in the adult world, and you will have everything you want or need.  Don’t try to be perfect: be OUTSTANDING.   Are you “fair” at your important tasks? You will get poor rewards.  “Good”?  You’ll get “fair” rewards.  “Excellent”?  You’ll get “good” rewards.  Want excellent rewards?  YOU MUST BE OUTSTANDING.  You can scream about how unfair that is all you want. The universe doesn’t care. Try standing at the shore and screaming at the tide not to come in.  Your shoes will still get wet.

 

Most political arguing is screaming at the tide.   Take philosophical action…back up a friggin’ step.  Or take off your shoes and dance in the waves.

 

But be with life AS IT IS, or you’ll miss the whole party.

 

So…ZERO NET TIME says that we can change your entire life, starting with your heart and your body, in a maximum of five minutes a day net investment…at the beginning. We’ve explained that.

 

Now we’re going to give you the next piece, and you’ll have to wait a few days to see how it all comes together.

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THE MORNING RITUAL is how you focus your mind and heart, change your self image so that your goals, dreams, self-image, values and actions ALL LINE UP so that you are winning every damned day, regardless of what happens in six months or six years.  Every day a victory.  All you have to do is to this, and you get the emotions that EVERYONE is seeking, as well as become as efficient and effective as a human being is capable of being.

 

You will need a physical activity: walking, dancing, rebounding, yoga, tai chi. The Zero Net Time program will give you all you need here, but you can start with the joint mobility drills.

You will also need to WRITE DOWN your long term life outcomes, as well as your 1-year outcomes in the arenas of body, career, and relationships.  And three-month. And one-month. And weekly.

 

And WHY YOU WANT THEM. Remember: EMOTION DRIVES MOTION.  WHY you want something will drive you to discover the HOWS.   (And remember: if you can’t find the HOWS, it is time to take the question to your MASTERMIND GROUP.   The “Mastermind”, the group of people you have bonded to you with love and service, is the only known way to compensate for a lack of resources, talent, even intelligence!).

 

The “Morning Ritual” uses the “M.A.G.I.C. formula”:  MAGIC = Action X Gratitude X Intention X Conviction.  Get that?  You must take ACTION, must feel GRATITUDE for what you already have, have clear INTENTION for your actions, and CONVICTION that you CAN and SHOULD accomplish your dreams, and that your actions will bring you more pleasure than pain.

 

If you have all of these…you have magic.  Now, let’s anchor this into your body, not just bounce it around in your head.

 

(By the way, you don’t have to create your entire outcome structure at once. Simply start with the idea of getting 1% better at your Morning Ritual every day–the rest will follow!).

 

  1. WHILE MOVING, you CHANT ALOUD an affirmation of CONVICTION that you are improving every day.  (For instance: “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better”)
  2. CONTINUING TO MOVE, you CHANT ALOUD AND MENTALLY FOCUS on What you have in the past to be GRATEFUL for. (Your health, sight, life, family, friends, internet access, etc.)
  3. CONTINUING TO MOVE, you CHANT ALOUD AND MENTALLY FOCUS on your LONG TERM OUTCOMES (I climb Kilimanjaro, Jason graduates college Magna Cum Laude, I create the best and most successful writing projects of my life, etc.)
  4. CONTINUING TO MOVE, you CHANT ALOUD AND MENTALLY FOCUS on what you need to do TODAY to step along this path. Who do you need to be?   How does this person look and feel and breathe?  (“I am dynamic.  I am totally honest and open.   I use my fear and my love BOTH to write 1000 words, to let my passion pull my body another step, to focus on improving my martial motion, to give 100% to my family)
  5. CONTINUING TO MOVE, you re-affirm that you have all the capacity you need to create your dream life (“All I need is within me now”)

 

Assuming that your entire MR lasts 10 minutes, each piece of this takes about 2 minutes.  Compress or expand proportionally.  Aim to become a HUMAN LASER, your emotions, focus, and body all moving in the same direction. The greater your challenges, the more OOMPH you put into this.  “fake it until you make it” using energy, acting, facial expressions, body language, vocal tonality–all supporting each other.  THE MORE YOU GIVE, THE MORE YOU’LL GET.

 

See yourself as the body you want to have.  See that body supporting the drive and energy you need to reach your goals.  For just 10-20 minutes do this, and then keep track of what you are accomplishing every day.

 

Again, if you simply get this single piece right, and work to make it 1% more powerful, dynamic, clearer, more positive and more fearless each and every day…

 

Everything else in your life will change, guaranteed.  Try it for 30 days.  Bet you a dollar I’m right.

 

Take the bet?

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

(p.s.–we’ve now laid out a good chunk of the emotional and philosophical “basics” behind the ZNT system, as well as the basic health (joint mobility and stress mastery) pieces, and emotional mastery.  Given these, you can change almost anything in your life…but YOU MUST DO THEM. This is not a theoretical system.  We’ll be picking up speed. Next:

  1. Basic fitness
  2. Advance Fitness
  3. Nutrition
  4. Zero Net Time

 

Join me!

What If..?

I woke up this morning with a thought: all of us have concerns, things that we care about, problems we would like to fix, visions we would like to bring into existence.  Things that will affect the lives of children unborn.

 

I believe this is true of each of us.   Well…what if YOU made the difference?  What if we were close to the tipping point, and if YOU gave everything you had–

 

–if you dreamed enough

–if you loved enough

–if you were willing to burn yourself in the fire of your passion

–if you were willing to move beyond past failures, to cease clinging to past wounds

–if you were willing to risk enough, give enough…

–if you were willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES…

–if you were willing to max out your genetic and psychological potential for energy, honesty, courage, tolerance for rejection and mockery and pain

–if the world needed ONE MORE HERO

–what if it was up to you?  If YOU were the one we’ve been waiting for.  If YOUR example, YOUR actions, YOUR clarity was what it would take to tip that balance and change the world in the specific positive ways you most desire…

 

What would happen? Would we make it?  If you gave it 100% of what you have?

 

If instead of discussing theories, you took ACTION?  If instead of wasting the substance of your life with arguments, you SUPPORTED the people who agreed with you…and realized that EVERYONE IN THE WORLD has points upon which you agree?  If you took more actions from LOVE than from FEAR?

 

If all it took to get everything you dreamed was everything you’ve got?

 

Would the children be safe?

Zero Net Time part 2

So yesterday, a reader said that my constant harping on the body made her feel uncomfortable.  Please desist.

With all due respect, I cannot.  All any of us can do is explore our answers to two questions: “who am I?” and “what is true?”   These take us along the path of evolution.  One truth is that the answers to these questions are ultimately beyond conscious grasping, in the way that the wind is invisible.   But our ancestors understood long ago that while the wind is invisible, various of its effects are not: the bending of the grass.

 

So to determine growth and change and the effects of the invisible world (“Detect those things that cannot be seen” as Musashi said) I take a different approach. When in Tanzania, I noted that in an entire herd of zebras, well, they all looked pretty much exactly alike.  The same genetics, the same environment, the same daily actions…virtually identical animals.

 

And zebras today are about the same as were zebras a hundred thousand years ago.

 

A herd of humans would be about the same. But in the modern world, it is clear that we are different (and yeah, to a zebra we might look all the same. But allow me my little analogies, please!)  And I suggest to you that where we diverge from the norm, especially where we diverge from the norm…or our ancestors.

 

What are these norms?  Well, we are descended from thousands of generations of human beings who mated, who could efficiently hunt and gather, who could avoid predators and navigate their environment with sufficient grace to survive.  And human beings are, in some important ways, the greatest athletes on the planet: no other animal compares in the decathlon of life.  Nothing else can run AND jump AND climb AND swim AND lift AND throw AND so forth like we can.   And our ancestors had that.

 

But look around us, and you’ll see that something has gone wrong.   We are maladapted to our own lives, so many of us lonely (mating), and struggling financially (hunting and gathering), or have bodies that out of balance with our caloric intake.  This stuff isn’t our FAULTS.  It is not about a flaw in our personalities.

 

But it is our RESPONSIBILITY to do something about it, if anything is to be done.  There is no one else to do it.

 

So I speak of finding love, although some are uncomfortable about it. I speak of financial success in a career you enjoy, although some are uncomfortable about that. And I speak of having a body in alignment with your own values (in other words…when you fantasize sexually, are you thinking of someone with a body like yours?   Is your caloric intake in balance with your output?)  If not…my path says that there is something to look at there. That there is an inhibitor to your joy in life. And that we must put guilt, blame, or shame aside…but take responsibility or we might wander off a path with invisible edges, and become lost.

 

It is not our fault. It is our responsibility.

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Back to writing.   The modern world is unique in human history.  Hunter gatherer cultures in some parts of the world can produce a day’s calories with no more than three or four hours of gathering.   But in the United States, the average person can often earn an entire day’s calories with a single hour of sedentary work.   This breaks the connection between mind, body, and survival results.

 

To accelerate the problem there is the emotional element. The Hawaiian Huna suggest that the body is like a black bag, where we store all of our unprocessed emotions.   If you are sedentary, and deal with the normal grief, pain, fear, anger, and regret of life, it can build up in your body-mind like sediment.  Start to “break it up” through exercise and that pain surfaces.  It feels as if the activity CAUSES the pain.  No, it just breaks up the cysts that store the poison. Don’t break it up and it will leech into your system over time and kill you slowly.  Break it up quickly and it can make you dizzy and sick.

 

So if you want to change your body, and you have stored pain and fear in your body-mind unit, you have to take that into account and build some kind of compensatory activity, you will mistake the pain of awakening for the activity hurting you.  Major error.

 

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But let’s say that you take no pleasure in physical motion (and doctors would tell you that a baby or child who does not play or explore his environment physically is sick), and have only sedentary goals: scholarship, writing, whatever. Why, we’re back with writing again!

 

THE PRIMARY FUEL OF ANY ACTION IS EMOTION.   Your emotions will drive you or hold you back. If you don’t have EMOTIONAL reasons to do something…you won’t do it.

 

So no program can succeed unless you feel a driving NEED for success, reasons that will keep you moving forward even when you are tired, or stressed.  Unless you see the value in it even when you are not given bad news by a doctor.  If being told “you will die in six months unless you exercise” is the only way you will stop watching television or logging into Facebook to do it (and it is hysterical to me…or tragic, depending on my mood…how many people will spend hours on FB every week, and then claim they have no time to exercise.   Wow.   Are they even aware they are lying to themselves?  Musashi’s first principle: DO NOT THINK DISHONESTLY. When you do, you are lost.)

 

So let’s look at the process of writing, the most sedentary of activities, and see how exercise fits in there.  What is THE MACHINE again?

  1. Write a sentence a day
  2. Write 1-4 stories a month
  3. Submit and re-submit until they sell
  4. Don’t re-write except to editorial request
  5. Read 10x what you write
  6. Repeat 100 times
  7. Don’t write a novel until you’ve sold 10 stories.

 

Can you see the time, energy, fear mastery, discipline, capacity to resist fatique and discouragement necessary to do this?  Do you remember that “fatigue makes cowards of us all”?  That when you run out of energy life starts looking pale and progress impossible?  Can you see it?

 

All right, try this, the process of Behavioral Modification:

  1. Identify the pattern you wish to change
  2. Identify the pattern you wish to adapt.
  3. RAISE YOUR ENERGY LEVEL
  4. Practice the new program
  5. “Fail successfully”
  6. Correlate your results and re-adjust.
  7. Begin again

 

Do you see it this time? That without energy, you will fall back into your prior behavior patterns, your comfortable habits, and not improve?

 

Do you grasp that your energy is what broadcasts your identity to the world?  That your ability to experience JOY in life is related to your energy?

 

That is you had no other goal than to increase and refine your energy by 1% per day, in a year you would totally change for the better?

 

If you can’t see that, these messages are not for you. But if you do, and there is a part of you that longs to break out of a prison of diminishing life force, hope, joy and evolutionary potential…you are my tribe.

##

So the first thing to do is to demolish the lies and illusions, the “I will hurt myself” the “I have no time” and the “I don’t know what to do”  and “Its too expensive.”

 

We’re going to do that by putting “safety rails” on the entire process.

  1. It will take very little time: at the lowest levels, only FIVE MINUTES A DAY. And at the highest levels?   ZERO NET TIME.  I kid you not.
  2. By prioritizing health over fitness, and emotional health over physical health, we are placing things in the correct sequence, and not allowing you to hurt yourself UNLESS YOU IGNORE INSTRUCTIONS. And oh yes, any of you who do not have permission to access your joy, and heal your emotional wounds, WILL try to find a way to hurt yourselves, so that you can say “I tried.  It didn’t work”.
  3. We will start with things that take no money at all.   Later, an investment will be required. But the ZERO NET TIME program will help you handle that, too.  Yeah, I know how that sounds.   Bear with me.

 

So the first piece of the puzzle is to clarify the emotions while we build a few basic habits.

Stress is often mentioned as an obstacle to exercise, and that is a pisser, because exercise is one of the things that best handles stress. Moving the body is better than just bouncing ideas around in your head.

 

Hans Selye, the man who popularized the concept of stress, spoke about four languages, and English was not his first.    Before he died, he said that if English HAD been his first language, he’d have been known as the father of Strain rather than the father of Stress.

 

From an engineering point of view, Stress is “pressure per unit area” whereas Strain is “deformation per unit length.”  In other words: heat and pressure make DIAMONDS…but handled badly, they also crush and crunch us out of shape.  Stress is what we NEED to evolve.  Strain is what we need to avoid.

 

According to Coach Sonnon, the Russians look at all physical techniques as composed of three elements: breath, motion, and structural alignment. And say that each of them is created by the other two. In other words, structure is created by motion and breath, motion is created by structure and breath, and breath is created by motion and structure.

 

If you “dis-integrate” this structure, you create strain.  In other words, if you undergo more stress than you can handle…OR if you paradoxically take too little stress.

 

But if you deliberately work to integrate this triad, you are on the path of physical evolution, which connects to the emotional…which is then the fuel you need for the mental aspects.

 

Cool, huh?  Seeing how this all fits? Most of the world’s spiritual disciplines focus on one aspect of this: the breath. And this is appropriate, because the breath is the canary in the coal mine. It is the ONLY aspect of our body-mind that is BOTH voluntary and autonomic, and therefore the doorway to our hidden inner world.  Slow your breathing down below about four per minute and your carbon dioxide levels skyrocket, triggering your sympathetic nervous system controlling your fight-or-flight response, and attendant fear signals. This leads to anxiety, stress, and strain.

 

Learn to handle this, to breathe under stress without that breath becoming warped and shallow, and you have learned a core secret to a powerful life: grace under pressure.

 

Because in life, they pay you for how much stress you can take without breaking.

 

So what have we done so far?

  1. Given you THE FIVE MINUTE MIRACLE, a way to re-wire your body’s response to stress by performing deep, slow, diaphragmatic “belly breaths” for sixty seconds, five times a day.
  2. This not only begins your physical integration, but will reveal your own illusions, the degree to which your ego is destroying you, because NO ONE with the time to read these words doesn’t have five minutes a day.  In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say no one AT ALL doesn’t have five minutes a day.  There is a story about two woodsmen who went into the forest to chop wood for five hours. At the end of the time, one of them had chopped three times the wood of the other, and the losing woodsman was baffled, and asked the winner how he did it. “You didn’t see what I spent three of those hours doing” the winner said.  “I was sharpening my axe.”  The more critical the activity, the more important that you sharpen your axe before you go to work.  There is nothing sadder than burning up all your energy chopping with a dull axe
  3. We’ve given you JOINT MOBILITY drills. These are the single most important PHYSICAL exercise you can do, working your entire body in only minutes a day.

 

Here’s the next piece.    Again from Coach Sonnon, whose contribution to the basics of this system are enormous.

 

Create a scale of pain, from 1-10.  1 is “no pain” while 10 is “the worst pain you’ve ever experienced.”  Those with chronic pain will need to modify this, of course.  If you can walk, and do walk, you need to exercise consciously just to limit the amount of damage from the simple action.  CONSCIOUS motion for the purpose of self-discovery and growth is different from motion designed to perform work or provide ambulation.  CONSCIOUS is the key.

 

Create another scale, and this one of proper movement. Think of the absolute most perfect movement you can imagine.  Fred Astaire, Bruce Lee, Barishnikov…like that.   That’s a “10”. Total, perfect alignment, perfect relaxation.

 

Then think of terrible, clumsy, tight, spastic motion. No balance or grace. That is a “1”.

 

Got that?  We’re all somewhere on that spectrum.  Now then.  When you are moving, you work to keep your pain levels below a “3”.  Again, this is subjective, and if you have chronic pain, you might say “no more pain than you experience walking”. If THIS is hugely painful, you may be confined to bed or a wheelchair.  In that case, say a “3” is “I can smile and breathe smoothly as I do it.”

 

Got it?  No more than a 3 in pain. And you simultaneously work for a level of “grace in motion” at an “8” or above.

 

And yes, you may never reach that goal. And that’s all right: keep your pain below a 3. Keep your breathing smooth.   PRIORITIZE HEALTH AND SAFETY.   But keep your eyes on perfect movement.   Keep your ego under control: don’t let your ego convince you to try to do a yoga pose that you can’t do. Don’t let your coach or trainer push you beyond the point where you can breathe smoothly or smile.  YOU ARE AN ADULT.  TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.

 

Got is?  Now here is the best part: how do you know when you are ready to push yourself? Get intense?  Really bear down and “go for it”?  If and ONLY if you can simultaneously keep pain below a “3” AND your grace of motion above a “7”.

 

Until you can do both, you are in the rehab phase, the building phase, and you are doing GREAT.  Competition is for people who can hold BOTH of those simultaneously. Only those people can plausibly push their effort above a “6.”

 

Those are your safety rails. Do the best you can, where you can, and over time your body will give you all the strength, power, and grace it is capable of.  When you push harder, you are letting your ego destroy you…and remember that it will KILL you to keep you from killling it.

 

That’s it for today.   Do your joint mobility every morning.  Breathe five times a day for sixty seconds. Never let your pain go higher than what you experience just walking down the street–OR LESS.

 

And you are on the path.  Want to keep the whole thing under five minutes a day, total? Alternate days.  Mobility one day, breathing the next. Or…be smart, and do sixty seconds of joint mobility AND proper breathing, five minutes a day.

 

And I’ll talk to you again, very soon.

 

Namaste,

Steve

The “Zero Net Time” System part one

Saw William F. Nolan at the paperback book fair yesterday.  He’s 89 years old, still sharp, still writing, still hitting the gym every day.  He made an interesting comment about “diets”: “diets are bullshit,” he said.  “Just eat right, and work out every day.   That’s all you need.”  That might be too simple, but its pretty close to true.   I was doing joint mobility drills in between the autographs, circling my fingers and wrists.  “What’s wrong?” one of the assistants asked.  “Just keeping things loose,” I said.

 

“Oh.  Do you have an immune system problem?”

 

“No.”

 

“Fibromyalgia?”

 

“Ummm…no.”

 

He seemed confused. And I realized what the problem was.  Most people aren’t honest with themselves about the fact that they need physical discipline, on a daily level.  Their ancestors had to exert themselves to earn food, and if they lost physical efficiency they got less food. Very direct feed-back, which society has broken.  So they ignore their bodies, ignore the little signals that something is wrong, tell themselves they haven’t the time or resources or motivation to work out until something goes very wrong. Then, suddenly, they discover the time (odd how that works. Hmmm…where was it hiding?) and work out enough to prevent or alleviate the pain.  Hopefully.

 

But…what would have happened if instead of relieving the pain, instead of working out from fear of falling apart, they had exercised for joy of motion, for love of developing vitality and even some happy skill.  To be able to dance or climb or run or play in some way that puts a smile on your face rather than just avoiding a frown.

 

Love, rather than fear.

 

I want to start speaking about the “Zero Net Time” system I’ve been experimenting with.  It is designed to cover all basic aspects of fitness with, as the name implies, a “Zero Net Time” investment–if you follow the program you GAIN time rather than “lose” it.   Yeah, I know that sounds strange, but you’ll see.

 

I want to give it all away.   Eventually, I’ll take these notes and collect them, and sell them over on Clickbank, but you guys are my family.  So…

 

First, a piece I got from Coach Scott Sonnon. Several of these pieces came from him, and I want to be clear about that.   The man is brilliant.  It is the “Three dimensional performance pyramid”–the structure of high performance.  Each level builds on the level previous.

 

I’ve modified it a bit.   The foundation is EMOTIONAL HEALTH.  A belief in self, a love of life, a sense that your days have potential and possibility.     If you have enough EMOTIONAL JUICE, and a clear vision of WHAT you want and WHY you want it, you are half way there.    HEARTBEAT MEDITATION, JOURNALING, DREAM DIARIES, ANCIENT CHILD, and other forms of meditation and inner work are great for this.

 

The next step is PHYSICAL HEALTH.  This isn’t “fitness” per se. It is how you feel and function.   Not just lack of illness but vibrancy, energy, sex drive, the sense of sleeping soundly, waking up ready to go, and having all the energy you need to work hard all week and party on the weekend.  Resistance to stress.    JOINT MOBILITY and THE MORNING RITUAL will take care of these first two levels.  If you look at the “BE BREATHED” exercise, you get to cover this and emotional health at the same time. More on this later.

 

Next comes PHYSICAL FITNESS. Note: the first two levels are far more important.  But this is also great fun, and gives you an “edge”, and is critical if you want to enjoy any sport or physical activity.    This is “how high, how fast, how far, how heavy.”   Not just how you feel, but how you perform.    The best overall tools in terms of “bang for your buck” are probably various bodyweight exercises and Kettlebells.  THE FIVE TIBETANS and KETTLEBELLS cover this level and the previous.

 

Next comes SKILL.  Refinement of some activity you are interested in, something that gets your juices pumping.  This is neurological, assuming that you’ve developed the physical foundation.

 

Then finally PERFORMANCE and COMPETITION.   And this is where ‘weekend athletes” get into trouble. They don’t prepare themselves, don’t have health or fitness or refine their skills, but go out on the slopes or the court and compete with their own self-image or kids half their age…and rip their bodies apart.

 

 

 

##

 

More on this later.  But there you have it, the things you need to have a wonderful life on the physical level: Emotional health, physical vibrancy, fitness, skill, and then and ONLY then…performance and competition.  That is the syntax.  Anything other than that will tear you apart.

 

So…how to begin?  I’d say with the minimum investment of your time and energy.     That would mean a little meditation and your joint mobility drills.  Heartbeat Meditation is my favorite–it is the most powerful  “safe” meditation  and the safest “powerful” meditation.   Simply sit and listen/feel your heartbeat for 10-20 minutes a day.    MINIMUM INVESTMENT?   Five times a day for 60 seconds, listen/feel your heartbeat. Once every three hours.

 

Next, Joint Mobility.  Wake up, put on some fun music (preferably something slow and sexy) and work your way through your joints.  Because every tendon, ligament and voluntary muscle is connected to a joint, in just 3 minutes you can work through the entire body.  Wake yourself up.  Scott Sonnon Intuflow Joint Mobility Beginner Part 1

 

 

That’s all for today.   I have to lay a foundation, and then show you how to optimize it.    You have enough to get started.   If you’re REALLY smart, you’ll figure out a way to combine these first two, to get an amazing effect in just five minutes a day.

 

And…you are smart, right?  Right?

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

 

(Here’s an audio version of this first day’s exploration:

 

Note on Fear

Here’s a note from a student:

###

Good Afternoon Steven,

I have the question of the year for you, it’s right up your alley;

How do you control fear? Better; how do you get rid of fear?

All of my life I have wondered what it is that inhibits me from accomplishing great things.

It can’t be just my environment and upbringing.

Gender may play a part as well as race, but in the end it is up to me to kick those aside. Logically I know this but theory and action are not melding.

I have read your topics related to fear from postings and they help, but I think I need an anti-fear injection (lol).

All joking aside, I need to get a handle on fear and make it work for me at the very least, if not eliminate it.

The most challenging and difficult part of being alive is controlling your thoughts, at least for me it is.

What do you think would help?

Thank you.

M.

######

Dear M—

There are numerous techniques that might work. Let’s put a little frame of reference around it first, though, shall we?

Fear is generally a sign that some aspect of your personality considers the situation or required behaviors to be dangerous or reminiscent of something dangerous—a risk to life and limb, a chance for rejection or humiliation, a reminder of some past failure or catastrophe. Remember that your subconscious is just trying to protect you.

Often, though, you are being “protected” from your own path of growth. And this is no joke. If you complete a cycle of the Hero’s Journey, your ego is in very real risk of shattering, or at the least, expanding. Going through the Dark Night of the Soul is always terrifying and humbling. The “real” you will survive it, while your self image rarely does.

With this in mind, remember that the forward path in life should be taken with deliberate speed, slowly and certainly, a jog or walk rather than a sprint. You’re in this for the long haul. It is wise to have a meditation practice to help you work through the emotional gunk that will inevitably bubble up.

Here are a couple of very specific things that you can try to deal with fear:

1) Visualize a glass tube filled with water. Glitter is suspended in the water. Watch the glitter until it settles to the bottom. Practice this for twenty minutes at a time, minimum. This may take weeks.

2) You don’t need to erase fear from your life (in fact, that is damned near impossible). Instead, get SUPER clear on the value and benefits of your desired goals. In other words—put your fear behind you, your love in front of you, and run like hell!

3) The “Godzilla” of fear-coping mechanisms is Scott Sonnon’s Fear Removal technique, sometimes called the “Spider Exercise.” You need an aerobic exercise (running, walking, rowing, etc.) where you can go into “second wind”—usually about 15-17 minutes of steady state exercise. Here’s what you do: spend 10 minutes visualizing or mentalizing the fear-inducing stimulus. Do this until you are shaking and crying. (BTW—if you are dealing with serious abuse or other issues, consult with a councilor or therapist before doing this!). The way I quantify the desired state of emotional arousal is “crying out of my nose.” Then IMMEDIATELY perform the aerobic exercise until second wind is reached. That’s all. The next time you are confronted by the stimulus, you should feel a 15-25% reduction in fear levels. You can perform this exercise about once a week—no more often than that!

Remember that fear is a normal part of life. The more important and powerful the goal, the more likely you are to experience discomfort. Forgive yourself for being human!

-Steve Barnes, http://darkush.blogspot.com/2007/01/fear-again.html

What you want from your future you already have in your past

 

This is a powerful, paradoxical concept.  It may seem to make no sense, but please bear with me.

 

Connirae Andreas’ Core Transformation process was one of the last major pieces in my own awakening.  It suggested an experiment to test a theory: at the core of all human behaviors, no matter how negative, is the urge to connect with the divine.  This “divinity” could easily be interpreted as the peace we experienced in the womb, a deep and pervasive sense of total  safety and connection.   The experiment involved dropping clients or criminals or yourself into a trance, and discovering the core emotion motivating a behavior, then determining what would happen if you had all of that emotion you needed.   In every case, once people felt powerful, validated, or whatever motivated a surface behavior, no matter how evil, a deeper and more gentle emotion was revealed. And at the core…after all else was removed…what remained was love.

 

It was amazing to watch happen, and a revelation.

 

And this opens the door to a new understanding, both of others, and of yourself.    Back to the statement “everything you want from your future you already have in your past.”  How can this be true?

 

Because we don’t want things. We want FEELINGS.  And we think that things will give us those feelings.  If you want a million dollars, and when you get it you still feel hollow and unhappy, the “is that all there is?” reaction is common.  But if you are poor but happy and content, you are a lucky man.

 

And at the very core of everything we want is love.  The secondary positive emotions: pride, passion, happiness, joy, connection, accomplishment, whatever…all of these are like shades of green. Green itself is that primary: love.

 

And all human children MUST experience love and connection, or they die from “failure to thrive.”   You may not have a conscious memory of it, but its there. At some point, when you were totally helpless, someone loved you and held you and nurtured you.

 

One of the saddest things in the world is someone who believes they are ONLY motivated by pain, fear, and anger.   “The Stick.”  They have forgotten the carrot.   Forgotten what it is to fall in love, and feel like running barefoot through the rain.  They have deleted all the joy from their memory, so that only discomfort or the urge to lash out remains.

 

I’m not saying that negative emotions do not motivate. They do. But it is a lie to believe that they are the ONLY or even the BEST motivation.

 

The Morning Ritual allows you to connect with past joy, and then anchor that to the belief in future victories.   Damaged people will have difficulty connecting with this joy, and when I was working with private clients, one of the first things I did was comb through their memories to find such a positive memory.   In the worst, most depressed cases, it sometimes took weeks. In one case, the breakthrough was a memory of being seven years old an watching Transformers while eating Captain Crunch.  In another, bicycling down the street with two best friends.  In another, riding a horse in the hills, her hair blowing in the wind.

 

Beautiful. And just as the memory of an embarrassment or insult can trigger a negative response for your entire life, memory of a POSITIVE event from childhood can trigger POSITIVE reactions your entire life as well.

 

It’s all focus. And as we default to survival (pain) we sometimes have to CONSCIOUSLY direct our attention at the positive.  We have to make the CHOICE to be happy. Misery often happens all by itself.

 

Everything you want from your future, you already have in your past.  If you can dwell in the possibility of this, and start every day with joy, and laughter, and love with your Morning Ritual, Heartbeat Meditation, or Ancient Child, you then connect with the emotions, the REASONS to do the things you need to do to bring meaning to your existence. From there, every action every day has significance.

 

And if there is a voice in your head telling you that you must be unhappy to function?  I ask you to test that theory. To, for one week, specifically generate POSITIVE emotions in the morning, for just seven days, and see how much you accomplish.

 

And if you cannot get yourself to perform the experiment?  I suggest to you that someone poisoned your heart, and that you need to seek help in healing it.  Love is as powerful a motivation as fear. And unless you would motivate your own child with fear alone…

 

You are betraying your own heart, and the cost will be stupendous. The cost is your life itself.

 

Namaste,

Steve

Seeing those things that cannot be seen

Why can’t you see the forest for the trees? Because the forest isn’t the trees. The forest is the space BETWEEN the trees. The trees GROW in the forest. In order to see the forest, you have to perceive negative space, something that we’re not really programmed to do. The martial art of Aikido is all about seeing the space between–that is (in my mind) the great treasure of randori training. Jazz is what happens between the notes. Poetry is what happens between the words. And so it goes.

Samuel R. Delany wrote a book of literary criticism and writing instruction called, I think, THE JEWEL HINGED JAW. In it, there is a great essay about writing, in which he states that every word must be chosen not for what it means, but for the mental processes that it will trigger in the reader–in other words, where the reader’s mind goes as she attempts to interpret the word. For instance:
THE (alright, we are talking about a person, place, or thing.)
BOY (ah. A human being. Male. Young.)
RAN (a verb. A picture forms in the mind.)
AWAY (a threat? A game?)
WITH (carrying something? Does the boy have a specific attitude or expression?)
ALL (a totality. A grouping)
HIS (possessions? Relationships?)
TOYS (visualizations of drums, stuffed bears. But is he happy? Crying? Angry…?)

Each word is chosen for where the reader’s mind goes IN BETWEEN the words. The invisible space is what controls the emotional content. The specific words we can react to, and filter our response. But we can’t really filter our responses to the spaces “in-between”–and that is where we can nuke the readers.

The same thing is true in martial arts. Movement “off the beat” is harder to react to, because we are motor-set to continue the motion. Using broken rhythm, therefore, is a way of beating someone who is actually faster than you.

In human relationships, you HAVE to read between the lines. You are dead in the water if you don’t. When you date a man or woman, as the saying goes, you are actually dealing with every person that person ever dated. I remember being crazy infatuated with a beautiful dancer we’ll call Rachel. Rachel was the sexiest woman I’d ever met, let alone slept with. But the nicer I was to her, the more distant and nervous she became. Eventually, I realized that her personal dating history included an assortment of real predators, men who came off “nice” at first, and then devolved into true assholery. The way I was coming on triggered her caution response–and some other things as well. Like most of us, she’d done some things in relationship she wasn’t proud of, and on a deep level didn’t believe she was deserving of a good, loving, simple relationship. And more: since in her experience everyone wears a mask, whatever I presented myself as, underneath I had to be something different, right? (Wrong. I’m pretty much the same underneath as I am on the surface. If you don’t like me at first meeting, chances are you won’t like me if you get to know me better. And if you do, chances are you will. I’m pretty transparent.) All of this complication was driving me nuts until I learned to let her behaviors create my picture of her internal representations–and I saw how complicated and confused they were. I remember telling her when we started our relationship that I didn’t think she had permission to be happy. And then, dazzled by her beauty and sexuality and promises, I let myself forget my instinctive hit. How had I known? Simply by taking a look at her relationship history. A long series of disasters. Look at the shadow. Look at the space between the trees. Trust your intuition. The small, quiet voice in your head is rarely wrong. The loud urgent voice in your pants, however…

Once again, it is by engaging with life on all levels that you begin to sense the patterns that go beyond the obvious. Pay attention. You’ll save yourself a world of hurt.

-Steve Barnes

Afrofuturism: Dreams to Banish Nightmares

Let’s see: our guest list for AFROFUTURISM: DREAMS TO BANISH NIGHTMARES might be the best ever collected for such a venture: Cheo Hodari Coker Coker (Luke Cage), Nnedi Okorafor  (Who Fears Death), Reggie Hudlin(Black Panther), Samuel Delany (Dahlgren), Rodney Barnes (Boondocks), Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl In The Ring), Mike Carey (“The Girl With All The Gifts”), Bree Newsome (artist and real-life superhero), and Jamie Broadnax (Black Girl Nerds), as well as Tananarive Due (“The Living Blood”). Oh, and me, of course.

 

I’m kinda thunderstruck at what we’re pulling together, and it isn’t done yet. We get started March 25, and this will be a full 10-week (over an actual longer period than that, because of traveling) with both live and on-line on-demand components and social media. Join us! www.afrofuturismwebinar.com