Steven Barnes is a life coach, CST coach and certified hypnotist. He has more than 30 years’ experience in the self-development arts, including hypnosis certification with Transformative Arts Institute in Marin, CA, training as a yoga and Tai Chi instructor, and fourth-degree black belt. He has counseled executives, royalty, prominent politicians and Hollywood celebrities at the Moonview Sanctuary in Santa Monica. Steve has gained a unique understanding of the relationship between myth, energy and consciousness, and has shared it with thousands of students and clients since 1980.

If Talent doesn’t rule…what does?

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race
 Calvin Coolidge



I don’t believe in talent.  I believe in honesty,  hard work and modeling excellence.  When I was in college, after a couple of years of trying not to write (to make my Mom happy) I finally took a writing course from a teacher we’ll call Jane Swallows.   She had a student in her class we’ll call Carl, who was quite smart, and had a flowing, literary style Jane loved.


She loved more than that about Carl, but we’ll postpone that part.    At any rate, Carl would write stories about strong, silent guys who ponder The Meaning Of Life as they go about   buildin’ and fixin’ stuff.  The sort of stories where guys erect mighty houses and then, from their perch on the rooftop, look out over the world and See Things about Humanity.


I thought he was very good.  So did Dr. Swallows. She  went on and on about how wonderful he was, and defended him like a Mommy Tiger if any student dared hurt his feelings with a criticism.

And when a shy, nervous kid named Steve asked her what she thought of his OWN work (wasn’t exactly existential.  I think it was about a giant amoeba that ate a village), she derisively called him “the king of slick.”  The class laughed.  Carl laughed and sneered.


I sat there, burning.  Humiliated.    Carl was the star, and I wasn’t even in the same league, she’d made that clear.  Later, I found out they were bumping pelvises.    Wasn’t that chummy?


Carl rubbed in his contempt for me, every chance he got,  and I bit back my anger. Because I knew something.  I had watched him react when people criticized him.   Even a mild criticism of his work pissed him off. He never considered it.


And I knew in that moment that while he laughed at me and mocked me…I was going to succeed, and he wasn’t.  Why? HE COULDN’T HANDLE CRITICISM.


And that meant that I would seek out critiques, and teachers, and role models who would tear my work to pieces in front of me, and learn from every one of them.  I would write every day.  Would use my anger and pain to motivate me to work harder.   Would do my million words of crap to find my voice.


The Hero’s Journey says:


  1. I had to know what I wanted
  2. I needed to have enough reasons to act to outweigh the resistance
  3. Needed to make a clear declaration, and cut off the chance of retreat
  4. To take daily action, and observe the results
  5. To find allies and mentors and role models to teach me not just how to write, but how to SELL what I’d written
  6. To prepare for the inevitable disasters and setbacks along the path
  7. To know how to deal with total emotional crash-and-burn
  8. To find the faith I needed to keep going when I was emptied out.
  9. To define victory clearly, and keep fighting until I succeeded
  10. To commit to constant improvement, as well as teaching others the path to success.


If I believed in such things, I’d say Carl had talent.  I had a dream, and was willing to get kicked in the teeth again and again….until I learned enough to kick back.


Despite the mockery, it was comforting to know that Carl would never get there, would end up being one of those guys who built houses, instead of someone who wrote about them. A good life…but inside, he’d always know he’d let himself down.


And if you think THAT was petty, just wait.


And I knew that if I could handle that pain, and keep going, if I kept learning and growing and was too pissed to let him or her or anyone on this planet tell me “no”…I’d make it.   That would be my revenge on Carl.


That, and, well…I slept with his wife.


I contain multitudes.






(The path to successful writing starts with a commitment to write just ONE SENTENCE A DAY.  If you will make that commitment, you will be a different, better, more successful writer in one year…guaranteed.   ONE DOLLAR gets you started!   Oh, and by the way…Carl never published a damned thing.


Coco (2017)

The newest Pixar wonder is almost a perfect piece of storytelling, combined with a real commitment to accurately portray the mythic world-view of the Mexican  culture.   It deals with a   boy named Miguel who longs to be a musician while his family wants him to join their shoemaking  business. He rebels, and that’s as much as I want to say about it, or as much as you should let anyone tell you, other than to say that it rocks.


We’ve spoken at length about the power of storytelliing on a personal or cultural level.  They create perspective on the infinite complexity of life, and if you allow your heart to guide you, you will be able to glimpse the overall pattern of existence if you absorb enough gems from bards and griots from around the world.


I wanted to look at a tiny sliver of an idea in the movie, and that in response to sentiments I’ve heard that  Miguel’s family was “abusive.”  Similar comments I’ve heard over the years is that parents, or society, or school are “dream killers”, “creativity crushers” and so forth.   That is certainly Miguel’s position at the beginning of the movie.  It probably isn’t giving anything away to say that both Miguel and his family change over the course of the film.


But let’s examine that core thought, shall we?  It is a common cry of the child, or the artist: “You aren’t supporting my DREAM!”  WAHHH!




Remember that there are two ways to mature, to grow and evolve as a human being.  One is “from the bottom up”.  The other is “from the heart out.”  Never, ever, ever from the head down.




My mother burned my stories.   I was horrified, heartbroken, furious.   How dare she. How could she do such a thing?


She was just trying to do her job. Poorly, yes.   But attempting to do what parents do, regardless of how it felt to me.  Of how painful it was to me. Of how I cried myself to sleep.  No one understood me. No one supported me. There were no paths to success for me, and I was clear on the notion that if I couldn’t succeed, life would crush me.


“No matter what you do in life, you’ll have to work very hard” she had told me.   “So be sure that you choose something that you love, and put everything you have behind it.”


I’d found something that I loved.  And the person I trusted most in all the world told me it was wrong. OR impossible.  I’m not sure which was worse.




“When I was ten years old, she told me “If you let white people see how smart you are, Stevie…they will kill you.”


There it was.  I couldn’t follow a path that called to my heart.   I couldn’t shine to the limits of my capacity without being killed–she had grown up in rural Georgia in a time of Klan lynchings, and was just tying to give me the lessons I needed to survive.  Instead, she had boxed me in. There was, according to her, according to the lessons she had learned, NO WAY FOR ME TO BE HAPPY. Couldn’t follow my heart, couldn’t even shine and succeed. And if I did neither, I’d be crushed anyway.


Heads you lose, tails they win.  THAT is what happens if you are cut off from the stories of your ancestors.  They went through anything you can imagine, and in the stories told around the campfires, in the manhood ceremonies and in the communcal songs, are all the seeds of all the answers you could possibly want or need.  And damn, did I need it.


I had no tribe to protect me, no path to success, no role-models to guide me.   Anyone who wants to know why someone like me would spend almost half a century studying how to kill people, or that same period studying how to love himself and forgive others…the answer is in my attempt to solve that puzzle.




My father was a back-up singer for Nat “King” Cole.  He had artistic dreams, and artistic talent, and ultimately his career failed.   That failure led to the destruction of my parent’s marriage.   Heartbroken, she put everything she had into helping me and my sister Joyce prepare for life, although she screamed at night from the nightmares of Universal monsters chasing her across graveyard landscapes of her dreams.  The fact that these nightmares usually came after staying up late trying to make $100 cover $250 of bills is a coincidence, I’m sure.


Was she cruel to burn my stories?  Hell, no.  SHE WAS TRYING TO KEEP ME ALIVE.


It isn’t a parent’s primary job to help you find your dreams.  It is their job to get you safely to your maturity, and in terms of genetics, to help you become a parent.   Genetically, you don’t succeed when you become a parent.  You succeed when you become a GRANDPARENT. A parent’s job is to become superfluous as rapidly as possible.


That means that you have to be sure that your children can survive without you.  So they teach you the attitudes, values, perspectives that helped them survive.    They give you their connections, pass you their connections, give you opportunities that they understand will help you minimize pain and gain pleasure.   But mostly avoid pain.


That’s living from the bottom up.Survive, reproduce, control your environment to minimize pain…and THEN begin to ask what makes you happy.


First generation, sharecroppers. Second generation, storekeepers.   Then teachers.  Then doctors and lawyers.  THEN artists.  You have built a foundation, so that if those artists fail, they have siblings and cousins to help them with a safety net.   This is a reason why it is critical that artists remember where they came from: their right to make a living singing or dancing or storytelling is dependent upon providing something of value to those doctors and lawyers and teachers and storekeepers and sharecroppers.  Otherwise, they are just playing with themselves.


IT WAS NOT HER JOB TO ENCOURAGE ME TO BE AN ARTIST.  It was my job to gain my survival skills FIRST. And then, if I had the heart, or the mind to focus my energies sufficiently to survive the countless bumps and disappointments and learn, and master my art AFTER I mastered the basics of life…if I could accelerate despite the barriers and chains and survive the sniping that MAYBE I could achieve escape velocity, escape the “gravitational well” of the multi-generational wisdom of SURVIVE, DAMMIT then I could BOTH raise my family AND create dreams that whispered “this is the way to meld your heart with your survival drives. Do this, and you have something precious to teach.”


So the martial arts for focus and fear

Yoga for energy and removing emotional blockage

Meditation for focus

Shamanic training for alignment with nature.


I refused to fail.  Driven by BOTH fear and love, I took another step, and another and another.   Did I make mistakes?  Hell, yes, because I had no role models for the complete process. What was the biggest?  Not saving 10% of everything I earned. That would have handled a vast swath of issues that were hiding in the shadow of the very success I won.  Another story.


Mom wasn’t being abusive. She was coming from a broken heart, a world of fear, a desperate hope to give the son she loved the tools he needed to survive and be strong enough that, one day, I COULD  show myself to the world without fear.


Christ, its been a long road.  But I made it, Mom.  I know what you were trying to do, the dreams you had for me and the nightmares that tore you apart.


If SHE had had a “Coco”…one that touched on her cultural experience, connected her to a wisdom stretching back a hundred generations…if we had been able to watch that movie together when I was ten…maybe, just maybe, we would have understood each other better.  But we damned sure understand each other now.


I have very few pictures of you.  But I have your ashes in my office in a green-tinged copper urn.  And every day I look at it, and ask: “am I doing all right, Mom?”


And I swear I can see her smile.





A Cubic Inch of Opportunity

“From time to time life gives you a cubic inch of opportunity.  When it comes, you either grab it, or it is gone forever.”  (author unknown)


When I was a kid, my mom played LPs (remember them?) of motivational, inspirational, and strategic self-help works like THINK AND GROW RICH, THE GOLDEN KEY, THE STRANGEST SECRET, PSYCHO-CYBERNETICS, and so forth. I hated it.  Really.  But…it sank in, and in adulthood, I found myself returning to it and sorting through all that wealth to find the most useful nuggets.


Fast forward.


I’m teaching at UCLA.  A “Writer’s Toolbox” course (smashing writer’s block, brainstorming, mindstorming, budgeting time, structure, character, controlling emotions, dealing with fear and doubt.  All the tools you need to be a writer).  The class loved it, but one guy raised his hand.


“Mr. Barnes, you’ve given us all these terrific tools, but I don’t  think I’m going to be able to use them.”


“Why not?”


Because his wife didn’t understand his urge to write, his kids ate up all his free time, his job was killing him with stress, and on and on.


I listened.  And in that moment, I got one of the best five or six “cubic inches of opportunity” of my entire life.   I don’t know where the inspiration came from, but there it was.


The class was looking at me, wondering what Teacher was gonna say.  I took a deep breath and said words that changed my life:  “If you were a character in a story you were writing, and at the end of the story that character got everything they needed, what would you have him do next?”


I watched the steam come out of his ears, and his eyes damned near crossed as his ego circuits fried.  And slowly, haltingly, he said  “Ummm…I could trade home chores with my wife to arrange more time.  I could convince my kids it would be fun to have their Dad be a writer, and enroll them in helping me.  I could eat my lunch at my desk, and write from noon until one…” and so forth. It was bizarre. Like he’d flipped a switch in his head, leading to a “mini cube” realization:




(Is this always true?  No.  But it is true often enough that assuming you are dealing with an unconscious block, a confusion of values, bears fruit more often than not.)


I tested the idea on the other students, and they responded the same way.  They LOVED the exercise.  And I drove home that night in confusion. What had happened? Why had this worked so well?   I spent the next days researching, trying to understand, and came across a quote from Joseph Campbell to the effect that “stories are the depersonalized personal dreams. Dreams are the personalized cultural myths.”  In other words, there was a connection between the stories we tell our children, and the way we represent our lives internally.


Or to be more specific, human beings are creatures who create matrices of meaning by connecting emotions and high-intensity moments. We don’t just record our lives, we seek to make meaning of them, often non-linearly.  You remember your first kiss one hell of a lot better than you remember what you ate for breakfast a week ago.   The stories we tell about ourselves, our lives, our families, our society, our world, affect our perceptions and emotions.


I asked myself another question: “what if stories are the elders of the tribe telling the younger members `this is what life will be’?”   What love, mating, hunting, gathering, survival, having children, watching parents age, growing old yourself, teaching the next generation, learning and growing.   Stories are about this basic stuff.  99% of stories can be hooked into the basic levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy, or the Chakras.


What if, in other words, the secrets of life are hidden right in plain sight, in the stories that have been told and found of value generation after generation.  Look at the stories that have been with us for centuries or thousands of years, and they contain something people connect with on a deep level.  Relate to something basic about humanity or the world we live in. What if?


So…I extracted a version of the “Hero’s Journey” that applied not only to writing but life itself:


  1. Hero Confronted with a challenge
  2. Hero rejects the challenge (usually due to fear or lack of understanding)
  3. Hero accepts the challenge
  4. The Road of trials
  5. Gathering Allies and powers
  6. Confront evil–defeated
  7. Dark night of the soul
  8. Leap of faith
  9. Confront evil–victorious
  10. Student becomes the teacher.


I’ve seen dozens of different interpretations of this cycle. They all have utility to one degree or another.  This one allows you to write stories, to diagram the PROCESS of writing stories, and also can be applied to any goal you have.


I asked: what if I take all of the self-help “stuff” I’ve learned over the years, and applied it to this pattern? If I considered this the “syntax” of progress to a new goal?   I tried it, and it was a revelation. And have been teaching what I learned for thirty years.   Just as an example, I’ll mention the way some of the tools I teach fit into this pattern:


  1. Hero confronted with challenge. Goal setting.
  2. Hero rejects the challenge.   Heartbeat meditation
  3. Hero accepts the challenge.  Affirmations.
  4. The road of trials.  “Five Minute Miracles”
  5. Gathering Allies and powers.  “Ancient Child”
  6. Confront evil–defeated.   The Morning Ritual
  7. Dark Night of the Soul.  Glitter in water technique
  8. Leap of Faith.  Prayer.
  9. Confront Evil–victory.  The Art of War
  10. Student Becomes the Teacher.  Lifewriting itself.


There would be countless ways of organizing resources. And beyond a doubt, you have resources of your own, or you wouldn’t have survived so long.  Try organizing them in this pattern,and see what you get.





(btw.   If you want to see how this relates to some of my recent enthusiasms, try this: Lifewriting leads to writing.  Writing leads to genre writing.  A sub-set of genre is Science Fiction. A sub-set of SF is “Afrofuturism”.  And arguably the greatest exemplar of Afrofuturism EVER is the new “Black Panther” film.     I can draw a direct line between a “mere” movie and a core primal way of viewing reality.  Make sense?)

All you can do is the best you can do

Twenty-five years ago, my oldest friend “Chuck”was dying.  I lived in Vancouver Washington, and we were locked in a snowstorm. I had to get down to Los Angeles to see him one last time, and PDX was closed.  So…I packed up my car, and tried to drive down, praying I could get over the Siskiyou pass.  I was only about ten miles down the road, inching along in the snow, when I accelerated and went into a skid, and then a 270 degree spin.   I was perpendicular on the road, looked up, and saw a semi-truck heading right for me.   I remember thinking…”I’m sorry, Chuck.  I tried.”


The truck managed to stop about three  feet from the driver’s side window.   Defeated, I started my car, turned around, and inched home to my wife and child.

And my only thought was how I had disappointed my friend.


Many years later, “Chuck’s” son “Derek”  friended me on Facebook. The kid was obviously lost, drifting, in emotional and financial trouble. I decided to do what I could to help him, but he had a bad combination of entitlement, low skills, unrealistic self-image and the belief that he had unique insight into Christianity, politics, psychology, and how the world really worked.  He constantly spewed extreme Libertarian theories that made Sovereign Citizen types seem rational.  Conspiracy theories of all kinds and in general no real grounding of understanding how to leverage this genius he felt he had to produce financial stability.


I actually helped raise money so he could pay his bills a couple of times, and offered to actually PAY HIM to read and synopsize my favorite self-help book Think And Grow Rich.


I don’t think he got further than the first chapter. But continued to complain about money.  I began to pressure him a bit more to have some rigor in his thoughts, and he became verbally abusive. When I told him flatly that wouldn’t be allowed, he became rather ugly, unfriending me after telling me that his father, on his deathbed, said I was a bad friend, who hadn’t even come to see him.


Oh, my.  Never heard from Derek again.




I knew that if I hadn’t done all I could to see Chuck, hadn’t literally risked my life, that Derek’s words would have devastated me. But because I knew there was nothing more I could have done, KNEW I’d gone above and beyond, I just sighed.  Oh well. Even if Chuck had said that, he was dying, the cancer eating away at his brain. There was no way my old friend would have wanted me to die trying to see him. “I’m sorry, Chuck,” I thought.  “I tried to help him.”


And I had.   I couldn’t let him poison my page with his irrationality, his insecurity, but I’d tried.




We will all hit points where we can do no more.   And we WILL run into people who try to savage us, to attack our sense of self, guilt-trip and gaslight us.  This is why it is critical that in the core aspects of our lives, we have to know we’ve done all we can, that our actions express our values, our values and beliefs flow from the clearest experience and logic we can muster, and that those things that are based on faith are divided from those things we can “Prove” with facts.


Because when people have nothing, when they are desperate, they will strike out at you as a drowning swimmer might to a lifeguard. It is nothing personal. You don’t really exist to them. You are a projection of their egos, not an actual human being.


And they will try to manipulate you, stop you, control you, to their own benefit.


My sense of self, my sense of love for Chuck, went all the way down to the core. Had I not loved myself more, loved my wife and child more, I might have kept driving that day, motivated by some horrid guilt rather than love.


Had I not had that memory, Derek could have guilt-tripped me into letting him spew emotional and conceptual garbage all over my page, damaging people who trust me.


This was an extreme example. But instead of weakening me, Derek helped me understand even more clearly that SOMEONE needs to be the adult in the room, or the children are not safe. Derek is in trouble in life, will likely end in some low-level job, certain the world has cheated him, wondering where it all went wrong.


I’m sorry about that. But its not my responsibility.  My responsibility is to be clear enough to teach teachers.  The world is hard on the Dereks among us.   Perhaps, though…if I can continue to grow and deepen my connection to the light…I can help him out of the darkness.  But he’ll have to come to me.  I cannot go to him.




The Single Best Practice I know: The Morning Ritual

When our family moved to Atlanta, I was in a situation I’d never prepared for or anticipated.  For various reasons, my reaction was something near emotional collapse, with none of the resources I counted on to not merely survive, but progress as a human being.


In terms of pain, it felt like the pain I experienced of my mother dying…every month.  On and on.  Existential despair, with the only thing holding me together was my commitment to Jason.   Seriously. That was it.


I was in an unresourceful state, which meant that I couldn’t see options and my inner voices were horrific.  That meant that I was set up for failure, leading to even more negative emotions, leading to unresourceful actions, in a descending spiral literally worse than anything I’ve ever experienced.  I felt totally out of control.


I had to break that pattern, or something bad was going to happen.    I did what I always do in such situations: I go outside myself, find someone who is either further along the path  or with a healthier perspective, someone who has helped others out of similar problems, suspend my own judgement, empty my cup, and DO WHAT THEY SAY for at least a week.  Aim at a month. A month is a good minimum time, and frankly, if I can promise myself I’ll do something for a month, I can do it longer.


But a month, thirty days, is a decent minimum.   Six weeks is better, and seems about the minimum period for PHYSIOLOGICAL changes, but a month, a full moon-cycle, is solid.


I found a coach working with a teacher I respected, and asked their advice.   They reminded me of the “Morning Ritual” concept, something that I knew (not under that name) from countless other practices.  The idea is that the first minutes of the day set the tone for the rest of the day.   Yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, journaling, reviewing goals, reading inspirational literature, hugs, sex play, all sorts of things have been suggested by serious teachers over the years to specifically “program” these early moments.


15-20 minutes

Positive emotions

Mental focus

Powerful physical motion

Inner connection


The idea is that you get jammed up with emotional/spiritual crap, and if you don’t process it, it will weigh you down and poison you.


The idea is that you don’t know who you really are.  If you would do less to protect yourself than you would to protect your child, your survival circuits are jammed up.


If you cannot access the same motivation to act that you would find if someone stuck your head in a toilet, your survival circuits are jammed up.


You can come from survival, or from love.  If you come from fear, or from your head…your basic circuitry is jammed up.


So I “stacked” ideas.  Starting from first awakening:


  1. Focus on my heartbeat.
  2. Sit up in bed, focus on the heartbeat, create a ball of “light” that forms into my “child” self and amplify the light and warmth.
  3. Get up and perform the Morning Ritual
  4. The Morning Ritual has multiple parts”
    1. Some PHYSICAL MOVEMENT.  Walking, dancing, running, rebounding, yoga, Five Tibetans, etc.  I use Tai Chi.
    2. WHILE MOVING I CHANT ALOUD the following things, aspects of the “M.A.G.I.C. Formula”:
      1. My belief that I can grow and change (“Every day in every way I’m getting better and better” is an example of such a chant)
      2. What I am grateful for in my past (and if you think there is nothing to be happy about, you are lying to yourself.  Look deeper), including accomplishments (did you learn to walk? Read?  Were you proud?  ACCESS THOSE MEMORIES)(“I’m so grateful for all the success I’ve had in my career…”)
      3. What I am grateful for in my present (the same.  If you would mourn the loss of your vision, what stops you from being grateful for it now?)  (“I’m so grateful for the people who love me and trust me…”)
      4. Now…take  that gratitude and EXTEND IT INTO THE FUTURE, feeling gratitude IN ADVANCE for your long-term goals.
      5. Focus that same feeling of gratitude for successful completion of what you need to do TODAY to make your long-term goals happen.
      6. Another affirmation of confidence that you have the capacity to make it happen (“All I need is within me now.”)


  1. All the chanting is ALOUD, WHILE MOVING.
  2. The body, voice, facial expression, breathing, EVERYTHING is as positive and focused.  For a few minutes you work to become a “human laser”–everything working in the same direction.
  3. IT WILL NOT COME NATURALLY.   Every internal demon will squeal and hiss at you.
  4. Your ego will do everything it can to stop you.
  5. THEORY: If you can do this for thirty days, you will connect with a deeper sense of meaning, joy, focus, and energy.    But the more damage you are dealing with, the less likely that you can actually do the thirty days.


  1. If you use a “thirty day mental diet” approach, then you journal every day, keep track of your success, and when you “forgot” or “ran out of time” or “got busy” or were “too tired” to do it.  Note the information, and start the 30 days over again.
  2. Most people will feel a real change in just seven days.  So a “Seven Day Mental Diet” is also a reasonable approach. But if you have a serious issue, go for 30.


If you were abused, neglected, criticized ESPECIALLY IN CHILDHOOD BY YOUR GUARDIANS then you have internalized their voices, and they will try to TEAR YOU APART if you begin to dismantle their toxic prison walls.    This is why you need to look at these as a minimum:

  1. Heartbeat meditation
  2. Morning Ritual
  3. Journaling


I began down this road.   Remembered that once upon a time I’d had a chance with the most attractive woman I’d ever seen, and blown it because I hadn’t prepared myself properly.  I was too open, not centered enough, not fit enough to match her energy.    Because I’d neglected my “rituals” of exercise and meditation.  But although I lost that relationship, as soon as I “got back on the horse” and took responsibility for these things, I jumped up an entirely new level of personal integration, saw right through the bullshit mating games, saw the “machine code” of dating/sexual attraction (it really was like Neo in The Matrix, I kid you not.  In that energetic space, it was like I only saw the women who were attracted to me, and it was devastatingly easy to attract them.  Effortless. ) and found my soul mate.


Given that faith, I proceeded. It had worked before, it would work again, if I focused and made the implicit explicit.  If I could only do ONE thing, it would be the Morning Ritual, because it includes:

  1. Physical health (joint mobility, breathing)
  2. Physical skill (Patterned Tai Chi movement)
  3. Emotional health (synching breath, motion and mental focus)
  4. Mental focus (clarifying my long term outcomes and short term actions that lead there)


For 15-20 minutes (sometimes less) I am doing everything humanly possible to align myself. The negative voices scream “this is bullshit!” “you can’t change!” “What kind of woo-woo nonsense is this!” “you can do it tomorrow”.  And so on.



I was in Steve Muhammad’s hotel room once. I’ve mentioned him: the greatest karate man I’ve ever known personally.   He as about 72 years old at the time, and still fought anyone who came in his school.  He was sitting on the edge of the bed, looking at a bottle of water.    I was confused, and asked him if he was thirsty.


“Yes,” he said softly.


Ummm…would he like me to hand him the bottle?  (I was wondering: was his back hurting, perhaps?)


“No,” he answered.


“What are you doing?”  I asked.


“I’m practicing my will power.”   Holy crap.  He wanted the water.  He was thirsty.  But he wasn’t going to give in to the voices in his head.  By the way…this is one of the most powerful effects of Intermittent Fasting. You can CLEARLY hear the voices in your head telling you that you MUST eat.  But think about it: did your ancestors HAVE to eat three times a day?  If they didn’t, did they die?  If that had been true, NO ONE WOULD BE ALIVE TODAY.   We descended from hunter-gatherers.   They had to have the ability to go days without eating and still function, or they would die.


Discomfort?  Sure.   Death?   Hardly.


The demons in your mind are lying to you.   NO, you don’t have to drink that water.  Eat that food.  Have sex with that inappropriate partner.  Lie. Steal.  Hurt others.


But the voices will tell you you do.  And if you don’t learn that YOU ARE NOT THE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD. YOU ARE THE ONE LISTENING TO THE VOICES, then you will forever be controlled by the people who hurt you in childhood.



The “Morning Ritual” hits that switch.  The voices will tell you  it doesn’t work, can’t work.  But if you are exercising AS you do it, then you are already taking steps toward your goal, right?   That PROVES that the demons are lying to you.   THEY LIE.  And once you understand that…once you realize they are not “you” it can cause a chain reaction, a positive life spiral.


Give yourself thirty days.  Move, chant, visualize.   Know WHAT you want and WHY you want it.   Focus faith and confidence and gratitude for just a few minutes a day, consciously. You will be shocked at how much more you will accomplish, and the pleasure you’ll have doing it.



So I did it every day in Atlanta.  And within two weeks I noticed I was just…happier.    That I had the perspective to see that this was just the flow of life, that I had it better than many, many people who were happier than me, and there was just no excuse for that.  Began to feel gratitude for being where I was, and from there had the resources to see there were actions I wasn’t taking. Began taking new actions, which led to new results, which gave me new emotions.


BUT I DID THE RITUAL EVERY DAMNED MORNING, whether I felt like it or not.  I wrote down all the negative voices coming up in my head, everything they said…


And realized those voices were from specific people: friends, teachers, even my mom.  But they weren’t me. And I didn’t have to obey them, or even take them seriously.


It changed my life.


It put me in touch with my joy.    And when you feel both joy and pain, you are in touch with your core survival drives, the things that never leave you in life.  And if you dig deep enough you can find them and connect them with your goals.


WHAT do you want?

WHY do you want it?

Only then does “HOW” matter in the slightest.  In fact, without a clear powerful “WHY” you simply won’t see the truth of your life, and be able to find the right options to optimalize your choices.


While I love the Ancient Child, and Heartbeat Meditation and the other tools, they can all be folded into “The Morning Ritual” and while it can be “unpacked” to find a dozen different technologies woven into its woof…for the average person, I’d suggest it first. Then, Heartbeat meditation. Then, the Ancient Child.  Then…Intermittent Fasting and Intense exercise to hype up your energy.    More power to take MASSIVE ACTION toward your goal.



But the Morning Ritual has saved me twice, even when I didn’t realize I was doing it. And…it can save you, too.





Healing dualistic wounds

The wounds I address most directly are black/white, child/adult and male/female. There are others: rich/poor, Conservative/Liberal, gay/straight,  body/mind and so forth.  All such conflicts are doorways to knowledge. Resolve a duality and you gain options and energy.  (By the way, do you catch the implication that the actual “Knot” I need to focus on is the needs of black women?    In other words, when I follow my interests to their logical conclusion, the place where the lines meet is the set called “black women. ” That’s the fulcrum.   Their allies and supporters radiate out from that point.  More on that later, but I thought that was something I should make explicit, as I’ve kinda run out of polite bullshit)




All you have to do is take responsibility for your own emotions and actions. Realize that anger is fear.  Extend your own humanity to your “enemy”.   Do this, and you release energy that can be used for personal or social evolution.  The path is clear, once you resolve the duality.




Let’s look at this process in the realm of gender relationships.


My student Daniel had a relationship with a very sexual woman. She spoke of her previous relationships, and it caused him great pain.  He was, in other words, attracted to what she could do for him in bed, but resented the relationships that both gave her that necessary experience, and expressed her free and creative sexuality.


Years of therapy had gotten nowhere.  And I’d gotten sucked into his “game” by talking about the past situation. After a year, I woke the #$%% up and realized I was “looking where the light was rather than where he dropped the keys.”


The problem wasn’t her.  It wasn’t his relationship with her. The problem was him. Boom. Period.  In a relationship, if you are there, you believe that’s the best you can do. And in that realm…what you believe tends to manifest as truth.


So he had to take responsibility.   Had to STOP TALKING ABOUT HER. But talking about her was pleasant, attractive.   Kept sneaking her back in.  So I started fining him for every mention.   $5, $10, $15.  Guess what?  He stopped mentioning her when the pain got bad enough.  Game over. Let’s get to work!


So now separate “need” and “want”.  He thought he needed sex.  Nope, he wanted it.    Step away.

He began to question his beliefs: she was, in essence, acting with a typical male psychology with a woman’s physiology.  In other words: WHOOPIE!


So…why didn’t he react with “Wowsah!  I’m the luckiest guy in town!”  He had some pre-existing belief pattern.  A wound on the level of Mommy and Daddy are the most likely.


  1. Mommy issues.  Sex drops your barriers. It is a return to the core moment of existence, when male and female energies come together to create new life.    If you aren’t balanced, you can be horribly hurt by the notion that she offered this essence to another man.   The more wounded you are in the “Mommy space” the less you’d want to hear about past relationships.  My guess: she KNEW this about him.  Was testing him by pushing that button. If he couldn’t get past it, it would be emotional suicide for her to really open her heart to him.  Sure as shit, he’d throw it in her face one day.
  2. Daddy Issues. His father had the same problem.   And it manifested in a Madonna/Whore split, where he wants passion, but doesn’t trust it.  Sick, but probably connected to the reproductive drive to be sure your progeny are really yours.  Research shows that when they can get away with it, women screw around almost as much as guys. Guys who don’t get jealous are more likely to be bred out of existence by those who are more controlling.    Madonna/Whore is genetic survival shit…but psychological poison. Death to relationships.   And Daniel had been infected.


So…focus on HIS end of it.  What did he need to do?


  1. Define WHAT his goal is.  (to heal, to be able to have a healthy emotional/sexual relationship)
  2. WHY does he want it? To be happy.
  3. HOW does he approach it?
    1. Break the old pattern (stop talking about her.  Step away from sexual relationships if possible, until healed)
    2. Focus on the internal mechanisms of happiness (heartbeat med)
    3. Heal the “inner child” by giving him the love he is seeking from others.  (“Ancient Child”)



Today the following comment from him:


Ok, Steven Barnes. I am super weak, but my higher self is incredibly strong… Yesterday (I do ancient-child-yoga nidra quite a lot!) I had the deep insight I need the FEMALE inner child now (for healing the sexual wound) and the FEMALE elder (to re-connect to Mother Gaia/Earth)… so I don´t have to look for mummy any more…



Some thoughts.

  1. He is not weak. His EGO is weak.  His truth is a rock.
  2. He is grasping the reality that we must be balanced between these aspects, or we will either become addicted to them or fear and loath them.  Need to control them.
  3. When he connects with his female “child” self, he will grasp both its strength and vulnerability.
  4. When he connects with his female “adult” self, he will grasp both its strength and vulnerability.
  5. Sex is an adult game.   If you cannot take responsibility for your own emotions and actions, for your explicit communications and physical/emotional security YOU SHOULD NOT ENGAGE IN IT.  You are playing with dynamite, and someone is going to get blown the @#$$ up.


Daniel is taking responsibility. He is connecting to his own heart, his own female energy.  Developing the skills and strengths that would enable him to be the “father” to a healthy little girl. The “husband” to a healthy woman.  And once you have that?   Holy Toledo.  NOW he is in a position to play hearts and bodies.  Not before.


At some point in this journey, he will meet a woman who is headed in the same direction, at the same position of growth, traveling the same road at the same speed. They will look at each other, and their energies and bodies will reflect similar values and potentials.


Their hind-brains will go “ding!” Their hearts will open, and their minds will grasp that they can walk the road of life together.




Now…an exercise for the reader: could you apply this same process to the other dualities? Black-white? Gay-Straight?    Conservative-Liberal?


Because if you can, you can be one of the ones who create a better future. You aren’t “bad” if you cannot. But you are asleep, and should not be driving, especially if there are sleeping children in the back seat.  You may be a perfectly wonderful person…but still enmeshed in the dream





Wakandan hunger syndrome

May I suggest a measure of the impact Black Panther is going to have?   Well…remember the reaction to the “No Man’s Land” sequence of “Wonder Woman” and the “I didn’t even know I needed to see this?”


There was a story of a single “women only” showing of WW at the Alamo Drafthouse.   Now…compare this with the stories of people buying out entire theaters to distribute tickets to inner city kids.  And some of the people buying out those theaters are black women, so please don’t suggest women didn’t have the financial power to do it.   I suggest they didn’t have the same desire, the same perception of need.  However hungry they were…they weren’t STARVING.


Different depth of stimulus = different height of response.  If you want to understand, empty your cup and actually listen to what people are saying.  Different response…different stimulus.  It isn’t complicated.


Tomorrow at 6pm Tananarive will be giving her (spoiler free) review of Black Panther, on a special episode of AFROFUTURISM LIVE!   We’ll also set the context for the movie, and discuss the history of Afrofuturism.

to register, go to: WWW.WAKANDALIVES.COM

Take a nap, would you?

If a person complains about some lack in their life, I don’t say “poor baby”.  I offer a suggestion.   If they wanted “poor baby” they need to SAY they just want emotional comfort.  If they don’t say that, and get upset if I offer a suggestion, they are being childish: they want me to read their mind (“I don’t want fixing, I want comfort”) without being able to read mine (“here is a problem.  Let me see what can be done.”)


Get the game?  The INSTANT someone holds you responsible for reading their mind, knowing what they want, without them being able to read yours (ummm…if they could read your mind, they’d know how you were going to respond, right?  In which case they set you up to fail, and then are trying to use that to trigger guilt.)


A childish, manipulative game.  Either ask for what you want, or accept the fact that human beings really aren’t good at this “mind reading” thing.     It is why we developed language, doncha think?


When you DO find someone who knows what you want without specific words, you have found something rare and precious.   A deep friend. A soul mate.


But if you ASSUME someone can read between the lines, read your mind, understand what an oblique comment means?  Without you being able to read theirs?    You are possibly dishonest and manipulative.  And that’s not the worst possibility: the worst possibility is that you BELIEVE that bullshit.  That you BELIEVE you can read their mind, know what they want.   If you try to navigate the world like that, you are going to be horribly disappointed.


I leave it as an exercise for the reader to see how this might manifest in business, gender relationships, race relationships, parenting, the “war of art and commerce.”


At very best you are “asleep”,  yearning for infancy, when a cry told Mommy you wanted cuddling and milk.  And if you are presenting yourself as an adult in the world?


You are part of the problem.  You shouldn’t be driving: the children are not safe with you behind the wheel.  Pull over and take a damned nap.




“Edge of Tomorrow” (2014) and the path of growth

I have a student who enjoyed his girlfriend’s abundant sexuality, but couldn’t deal with the “Madonna/Whore” voices in his head, and the fact that she talked about prior boyfriends.  I worked with him for a year on attitudes, processes and so forth.   He’d been in therapy for years, and gotten no where.


And after a year, he wasn’t much better.  This engaged me, because my commitment is to helping people heal, and I just wasn’t helping him.   What was wrong?


And then something occurred to me.


  1. we create our emotions through a combination of focus, movement, and language.
  2. Anger is fear.
  3. The most powerful way I know to deal with fear involves physical movement.
  4. He was doing everything I asked, but somehow it wasn’t working.


So…either my model of the human psyche is wrong…or I’m not seeing something.  If my commitment is to helping him, then I have to FIRST start with the assumption that the model is correct, but I’m screwing up.   If that fails, then I have to adjust the model.


Something hit me: he talked about her all the time, with real pain.   Wait a minute: that meant he was “grooving” the old pattern neurologically, literally deepening and strengthening it with every repetition.


He had a goal.  He had motivation.  He was taking action.  What I”d missed was I WASN’T INTERRUPTING THE OLD PATTERN.


He TALKED about her, which created temporary relief (“someone understands!”) but actually stopped him from engaging with the issue.  Ever take your car to the shop, and suddenly it stops “pinging” and no one can cause the issue, so they can’t diagnose and fix it?


The ego is like that.   It will play peek-a-boo with your issues.  So…I ordered him to stop talking about her.   The next time he mentioned her, he had to pay me five bucks.  He shut up for a couple of weeks, focusing on his own emotions. Then he mentioned her again. This time I charged him ten dollars. Oops!   Again he shut up. And…within a couple of weeks of NOT being able to blame his emotions on her, he was startled to find himself making progress.  It was just terrific.


He mentioned her again a week ago.  Fifteen bucks.   “Dragon Roll” time at the local sushi bar. Yippee!


Ahem.   Now, finally, he is digging where the gold really is.  He is “bottling up” his emotions so that his physical work is actually processing it.  Whatever metaphor you use, what matters is that he is taking control of his life and emotions. And starting to integrate his life at a higher and deeper level.


Wonderful.  I LOVE this.




How can you use this?


Identify WHAT you want to change

Identify WHY you want to change it.

Identify HOW you will proceed, short and long-term.


Now…INTERRUPT YOUR OLD PATTERN somehow.  This can be, should be, like scratching a CD or DVD. Scratch it enough and you can’t play it.


Practice the new pattern, “fail successfully” and learn something.  Start the cycle over again, with the new knowledge.  What Why How.  What Why How.


Over and over again, until you reach your goal.




You don’t have to be a genius to see this pattern in fiction.  The character wants a goal.  They hit a wall, and won’t move forward until you increase the motivations. They take actions which succeed or (usually) fail, and in the process learn something. They try again.


Remember the Tom Cruise movie “Edge of Tomorrow”?  Where he was fighting a war over and over again, dying horribly again and again but constantly learning?  Every time he failed, he learned at least ONE NEW THING, so that the next time he resurrected he could get a little further?


THAT’S IT!!!   The movie was too raw and obvious to be a classic, but it absolutely played with this principle.


The pattern was in my student (trying new things until he found a coach who could help him).  It was present in me (trying new things until I found the way to help).   And we are addicted to stories because they provide us with faith that efforts lead to knowledge leading to better efforts, in an ascending spiral that eventually leads to success.


Of course, your “coach” must be sympatico with you. And frankly, the more like you the “coach” (or role model) is, the easier it is to learn and apply the lessons.  So women seeking empowerment felt the “No Man’s Land” sequence in WW more than they had ever felt a similar sequence with a male hero.   And black women watching Florence Kasumba say “Move…or be moved” FELT that shit.    It resonated at a level they didn’t even know they needed to see.


And if you have had endless, infinite, daily role models you just won’t feel it.  Might even be in contempt if you lack empathy, if you are naïve enough to think you constructed yourself without outside help.


Right: you learned to walk, and talk, and read ALL BY YOURSELF.  Dream on.


This is why it is important to see ourselves as part of a continuing flow of humanity. That our art is an expression of our “is-ness” and emotions. See craft as the LANGUAGE by which we communicate our perception and experience. It all flows together, and always has.


There is a fascinating change going on in the 21st Century.  Images that are just…different.  More powerfully inclusive, especially along lines of race and gender. I see them as both symptoms and drivers of change.  And as I relish that future, they bring me joy.


For some…they trigger fear. And I suggest that you  heal yourself, and fill yourself with enough love and strength that you can turn around and help those who are willing to whisper that they are ready.


Help them identify the change they want to make

Help them connect with their reasons to change

Help them create a strategy to optimize their actions.


When they fail or relapse, help them see its just a part of the process. Why should you help them? Because YOU will have been the recipient of endless support by the men and women who came before you.


If you don’t pass it on…isn’t that a kind of theft?





“Fractal” Goal Setting


What do I want?

Why do I want it?

How do I do it?

Tony Robbins calls it the “RPM” system (Results focused, Purpose driven, Massive action system) but what is really remarkable about it is it’s fractal nature.

Here’s how it can work:

What do I want? To be happy

Why do I want it?  To be a symbol of light in the world.

How do I do it?   Define balance: Body, mind, spirit, emotions, finances, family.  Lead a balanced life, and make progress on all aspects on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.


Now zoom in on ONE of these at a time:


What do I want? To be more fit.

Why do I want it? To be happier and more energetic. To be sexier and more powerful.  To be in better touch with my animal self. To be safer and healthier in the world. To be a better role model for my friends and family.  To be able to practice my sport and art with greater amplitude.

How do I do it?  Define the biggest flaw in my physical balance, and work there.  Let’s say strength and fat  control by developing washboard abs.


What do I want?  Washboard abs

Why do I want them? They indicate strength, fat loss, protect my internal organs, convey power from lower to upper body, and it is hard to have them without being generally fit.  They also give huge bang for the buck in terms of cost-benefit for time and energy investment.

How do I do it?   I could target them directly, or indirectly.  I choose indirectly because that ensures that my abs are tied into the rest of my body, and not worked like a frankenstein patchwork.  I must control diet AND exercise to get them.


What do I want?  To research the most effective and efficient means of developing washboard abs.

Why do I want it?  Because I want to do as little as possible to achieve the greatest effect.

How do I do it?   Research and modeling.



See how it works?

WHAT is the outcome

WHY is the emotional “juice” that will motivate your action.

HOW is the search for the most efficient and effective means.


Zoom in, zoom out. See the overall pattern of your life, or focus on some tiny little piece of it.  But by doing this constantly, it becomes a habit of mind.  For ANYTHING you want to accomplish, if you know the WHAT and the WHY, the HOW then has meaning, and you’ll have the motivation and direction to do it right.