Martial Arts

A Black Belt In 24 Hours

I think the Dalai Lama is right: the purpose of life is to be happy.

 

Let me tell you a story.  Years ago, I was working at a women’s self defense workshop under Dawn Callan.  She is the greatest self-defense instructor I’ve ever seen in my life.  In two days, she could teach a woman more about protecting herself than most instructors can in two years. What did she do?  Drill a few simple techniques, and work through the negative emotional crap that comes up for civilized human beings when they consider defending themselves. Then give them a chance to go into “controlled berserk” against a padded attacker, anchoring the hyperemotionalized experience into their bodies.

They have to make connection with a spiritual truth:   we as beings have the right to be here, and the right to defend ourselves.

 

To be free of fear, which opens the door to happiness.

 

Anyway, there was one woman (call her “Ginger”) in the workshop who simply couldn’t hit the kicking shield. Ginger was so lost in illusion, so wrapped up in the rules we give women around social niceties that she was paralyzed by fear.  “I’m afraid I’ll hurt you” she kept sobbing.   No one could help her, and for some odd reason (yeah, right) they brought her to me.

 

After several prompts, Ginger just froze, and stood there with tears streaming down her face.   I had an intuitive flash about a way to reach her.

 

“Do you have a daughter?” I asked.  No.

“Do you have a little sister?”  She nodded.  Bingo.

“Do you love her?”  I asked.  Ginger nodded again, sobbing.

“Would you do anything for her?”  She nodded.

I took a deep breath.  I won’t say exactly what I said to her, but let’s just say it was a very explicit, ugly picture.  “If I get past you, I’m going to ______________”  The kind of thing I wouldn’t put in print.  Whatever you’re thinking, this was probably worse.

 

And…something happened.   Ginger’s  energy shifted, totally.   Instead of thinking about herself, she was thinking about her sister. She didn’t have permission to defend herself…but she damned well DID have permission to protect her sister.

 

And…Ginger knocked me across the room. And jumped on me, and beat the hell out of me. And it took three men to haul her off.

 

“THAT!” I screamed.    “That place, RIGHT THERE. THAT’S the place you have to go!”

 

Crying and sobbing she was…but Ginger also had just learned how to access that space  beyond fear and concern for social rules.

 

Survival. Protection of the tribe.  Rather than the “social” rules operating WITHIN the tribe, she played according to universal rules of survival that exist when core personal or genetic survival is at risk, and from there, she was an unstoppable force.

 

Some women think only women are taught this.  No.  SMALLER PEOPLE are taught their own version–don’t fight back, or you’ll be a target.  LARGER people are taught this.   Don’t be scary or people will hate and fear you.

 

MINORITIES are taught this.  Don’t make waves, or you’ll “reap the whirlwind” of violence and disapproval of the majority group controlling the law enforcement system.   Members of the MAJORITY are taught this: you benefitted by privilege, so shut up and listen, don’t defend yourself or you are an oppressor. 

 

There is no group that doesn’t get hit with this stuff.  In a world of social niceties, where everyone is playing fair, acting according to social rules is survival. Courtesies are social lubricant, and ease the way. There is a reason diplomats speak with so carefully.

 

But you have to know when it is time to forget the niceties. Forget the rules.   WHAT WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO DIE FOR?  That woman was willing to die to protect her little sister. That meant that she didn’t care what I or anyone else thought about her.  She didn’t care if she lived or died. She was only concerned with the maintenance of her ULTIMATE VALUE–her sister’s life.

 

When you are clear about this, you can, as that line from ROAD HOUSE goes…“be nice. Until its time to not be nice.”

 

If you have been damaged by life, it probably affected your sense of self, of being precious and divine.   This is true for women, men, entire social structures, humanity itself.   The truth is that the core attitude of the martial arts is something very close to: “I’m ready to die, and I’m ready to take you with me.”   A human being in that space either dies…or wins.

 

Want to be a black belt in 24 hours?   Spend that time alone in a room, and consider very clearly what you are willing to die for in life.  And then what you are willing to kill to protect. Get clear on the fact that no matter what you do, you cannot live small enough that death will forget to gather you up.   You may not be able to think of doing this to protect yourself, due to damage, due to the fact that you may not have been told that you are precious, and perfect, and made of the same stuff as the stars.  It is not “victim blaming” to say that we must be prepared to make such choices. It is enabling adult responsibility.  RESPONSE-ABILITY. The  ability to respond.  Anything other than this is learned helplessness.   As well as angels, we are also stone cold berserkers. THAT is the reality.  Anything else is what you were taught to survive childhood.  And ESPECIALLY if you were hurt or unloved in that childhood…you may have a very difficult time accessing your truth.

 

But…ALL human beings were nurtured at some point in their lives.  If you weren’t you would have died.  You may have no conscious memory of such a reality,  but the circuitry is there.  Dive deeply enough, and you can find that spark of divinity.  Once you find it, commit to protecting it at all costs.  Find the part of you that will bare its teeth like a mother tiger protecting its young. Once you find this place, and anchor it with a visualization or physical movement, you have a very different relationship with fear.

 

ANGER, pure homicidal anger…in the service of love.  Primal mother/father love.  From this position, you can change your life, express your art, right social wrongs, change the world.

 

Or die in the process.    All great leaders and creators understand that they are burning up the substance of their lives to create something new.    You have to die anyway…why not commit to spend your life energy for something you care about?  Some principle, some cause, your art, a better world, your family if necessary.   Dig deep, and no matter how much the world has tried to bury that live wire its in there, spitting sparks.  Dig it out and connect it to the dynamo of a righteous dream, and you can:

 

  1. Transform your body.
  2. Transform your career and art.
  3. Transform your relationships.

 

What can stop the power of a mother tiger diving through fire to protect her cubs?  THAT is the power of connecting.  My dream, of ONE MILLION AWAKE, AWARE, CONTRIBUTING ADULTS and THOUSANDS of awake, aware, adult artists and storytellers…simply asks you to connect with this survival power, and then apply it to something you care about. To move BEYOND fear to action in the service of something you love.

 

Love. THAT was what was on the other side of all that fear that “Ginger” experienced.   By the end of the workshop, when she had devastated our padded attackers like a Tasmanian Devil, she gave me the longest, sweetest hug I think I’ve ever had in my life, telling me I’d given her the best and most terrible gift she’d ever received, that for the first time in her life she had moved beyond the tragedy of a childhood of abuse to a sense of power…

 

We cried together. She got it. And by giving it to her, I’d connected with that precious place again, the place I found that day I stepped out into the traffic rather than be beaten by bullies.

 

Safety, in the heart of danger.

 

THAT is who we really are. The rest is social games to survive our families, or the world.   But playing small won’t protect you. It is just death, a little dose every day, draining all the pleasure from life until you have to numb yourself just to survive.

 

There is more than survival. There is life. And hope. And love.  But you must break out of the illusion that you are weak. You are not weak. You are more powerful than you have ever imagined. That is why they have to try to control you.

 

When you are free, you can act from love rather than fear. Take the steps to lead you to joy.  And you will have found your life’s purpose: to be happy.

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

 

(These principles are ESSENTIAL for committed artists, or activists seeking to change the world.  You will deal with fear on every level, from survival to social rejection.  The ANCIENT CHILD technique was specifically created to connect you to the primal power programmed into every human being, even if you have no conscious awareness of ever being nurtured. And now you can have it FREE if you will try one month of LIFEWRITING PREMIUM, the world’s only writing system that connects the inner world of the artist with the outer world of the art.  Go to WWW.LIFEWRITINGPREMIUM.COM and take your first step on a new path.  You have nothing to lose but fear of  your fear!)

ZNT: Eating for Energy

Let’s put the last major piece of the Zero Net Time puzzle together.  So far we’ve talked about the Morning Ritual, which is the pattern of thought, focus, and poken  affirmation to use WHILE IN MOTION.  It contains the elements of the “M.A.G.I.C. Formula” (extracted from Wallace D. Wattles’ “The Science of Getting Rich”) and will provide all basic components of mental, physical, and emotional alignment.  People committed to staying where they are should NOT do this.

 

Next, we learned to breathe, and showed how one sixty-second breathing break every three hours can keep stress from becoming strain. Add this to the Morning Ritual and you have a key to constant growth in life.

 

Next, we learned the two primary tools of physical health:  Scott Sonnon’s Joint Mobility and  The Five Tibetans.

 

And finally, we learned two families of exercise necessary to produce FITNESS:  fast (ballistics) and Slow movements (grinds).   Following a suggestion from Pavel Tsatsouline’s work, we use Kettlebell Swings (as many as you can do in five minutes, changing hands every set. When you reach 100, increase weight), and “Turkish Get Ups (when you can do ten in ten minutes, changing sides each time, increase weight).

 

The order would be: Joint Mobility and Tibetans until you reach 21 Tibetans. THEN “sandwich” the Swings and Get Ups between them.    There is serious flexibility built into the system: there are countless joint mobility drills.   There are other ballistics: snatches, cleans, cleans and jerks, jerks.   There are variations on the TGU.  There are variations on and within the Tibetans. No two days need ever be exactly the same. In fact they CANNOT be.

 

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Let’s simplify our motivations, and say that our goal is to double our energy. Nice goal!  Let’s back up a step (all of this is connected) and ask “why?”  I mean, if you live the life of the mind, and have no athletic ambitions, why bother?  Well…you will need to change habit patterns and deal with negative emotions.  Both can be approached through the physical body, which “anchors” us to the earth.   If you want to be sure you’re changing, change your body. People can lie to you, or themselves about their emotional or mental changes, but you can’t lie about your body composition. It’s sitting right there. You either change it or you don’t.  And when you change your body, the rest of you comes along for the ride.

 

Specific to energy, you need:

  1. Proper exercise
  2. Proper mental/emotional focus
  3. Proper rest
  4. Proper nutrition.

 

We’ve discussed everything else.  Let’s talk nutrition.  There are COUNTLESS dietary patterns, a new bestselling book every week. I’m not going to try to compete with all of that, except to say:

 

  1. Anyone who says there is one eating pattern that is optimal for everyone, is probably wrong. There are too many different human cultures eating different ways.   The implication that “if you don’t eat OUR way you’re gonna die!” are probably just selling books.
  2. No matter what anyone says, physics trumps biology or psychology.  No living system breaks the basic laws of physics.  If you take in fewer calories than you burn up you WILL lose weight.  Period.  No exceptions.  There is big money in lying to you about this.
  3. That said, there are numerous complicating factors:  hormonal, lifestyle, psychological, emotional, metabolic, nutritional.   It can be HARD to balance this aspect of your life.  It is not your fault.   Our bodies haven’t gone through some kind of drastic genetic shift, but our society has changed massively: the average person can earn all the food he needs all day with one hour of sedentary work. Nothing like this has ever existed in human history, and we’re paying a big price for our success.  Our bodies are programmed to eat all we can, and be as lazy as possible.   This worked great for about 249,900  years of our history.  But the last century has seen too much shift toward couch-and-chair living.  Not your fault. But it IS your responsibility.
  4. While there are countless different eating patterns, after reading a few hundred different approaches by either nutritionists, anthropologists studying long-lived peoples or individuals who have achieved positive results, I saw something interesting I’d like to present.  I call it the INVERTED PYRAMID.  Imagine a pyramid standing on its tip. Divide it into three sections parallel to the base.   A proportion of 3:2:1 in area is what we’re looking for.  Now, roughly this means:
    1. THREE PARTS fresh fruit and vegetables to
    2. TWO PARTS complex carbohydrates to
    3. ONE PART lean proteins with
    4. VIRTUALLY NO extra fats salts, or sugars.   (You need these, but it is almost impossible to avoid them in our culture.  So if you aim at “none” without being obsessive about it…trust me, you’ll get plenty!)

 

This pattern isn’t something to try to achieve. It is something to aim toward.  Most diets are about the opposite.  Or at best, a kind of 1:1:1.    AIM at this, and see where you are.  The nice thing here is that once you grasp that carbs are mostly fuel (complex or simple) you can see that they aren’t evil.  If you are burning them up, you NEED them. If you aren’t burning them up, your body will store that extra fuel as fat, as if you strapped extra fuel bladders to the hood of your car.  Nothing evil, nothing mysterious.

 

A couple  things here:

  1. The simplest, least painful “diet” is the SMART PHONE DIET.  Just take a photo of everything you eat. Don’t even particularly try to control it.  Once you understand the “inverted pyramid” idea, simply being awake and aware will cause you to shift in the right direction.  BTW–this is a great way to measure if you have emotional blocks.  If you do, snapping a digital picture of EVERYTHING YOU EAT will be almost impossible.
  2. Long slow aerobic exercise is the LEAST efficient and effective way to lose weight.  A pound of fat is 3500 calories.   Jogging  burns about  350-400 calories per hour. That means it would take you EIGHT TO TEN HOURS to lose a pound of fat.  Our bodies are just trying to keep us alive.  They are VERY efficient.   Luckily, you have a simpler way: just by “waving” your caloric output by using a sprint/stop pattern, you shift your metabolism.   And the Zero Net Time program is a sprint/stop.  The “ballistics” portion and “grinds” simply ask you to start your set at the top of the minute (TGU) or every thirty seconds (Swings).     This has multiple positive effects, but metabolic is definitely one of them.

 

If you want to lose weight, you can simply compress the carbs until you are only taking in the fuel you need.  Viewed this way, no matter what style of dietary pattern you want, you are getting the vitamins and minerals (fresh fruit and veggies), building blocks (protein) and fuel you need.   Infinitely flexible, this basic notion can simply lurk in the back of your mind, and if you are affirming the body you want (Morning Ritual) and moving your body in a healthy fashion (ZNT) with the goal of doubling your energy so you can live a life of joy and passion…you are on the road.

 

O.K.!  Next I get to tell you  the last major piece, and how you’re going to save enough hours every week to make this all ZERO NET TIME.

 

Talk to you soon!

Steve

Zero Net Time Part VI: The rubber meets the road

 

Hi!   I’m back with part VI of the “Zero Net Time” program. And where we’ve kinda stretched out previous aspects, this time we’re going to condense. Entire programs have been written, whole LIBRARIES on each of the four major pieces of this puzzle. I’m going to give you some references to look up to get you started. If you will research them, you have entered an entirely new world.

 

So let’s actually discuss what we’ve already given you:

 

  1. Joint Mobility is first. Scott Sonnon Intuflow Joint Mobility Beginner Part 1

 

  1. The Five Tibetans is next.  The 5 Tibetan Rites – Do it Along | Raageshwari

 

 

And you can stay here for as long as you cannot do 21 reps of the Tibetans–you are still improving, and fitness comes from staying on the “edge” between capacity and potential.  So we can add intensity to the program by “sandwiching” exercises between the two.

 

The full program is given now. We can modify it later, but I’ve teased you enough.

  1. Joint Mobility to warm up and relieve “sensory motor amnesia”, the tendency to actually lose proprioception if you stop paying attention to movement

 

2)  The next exercise is KETTLEBELL SWINGS.   The kettlebell looks like a cannon ball with a handle, and is an entire science in itself.  If you are not ready to make that investment, you CAN use a dumbbell, but it isn’t the same, and you’ll need to be careful not to hit your knees.  The swing is an amazing whole-body exercise that teaches you to harness the power of your legs and hips.   Done properly, it is the foundation for all kettlebell “ballistic” exercises like Snatches and Cleans and “Clean and Jerk.”  You can create an aerobic effect beyond belief.  Here is a video to get you started: pavel on swings

 

Your protocol: 5 minutes, all the swings you can do until you can do 100, then raise the weight.  Start light, but imagine that the weight is heavy.  Starting a set every thirty seconds works nicely.

3)  Take a one minute break

 

4)  The next exercise is KETTLEBELL TURKISH GET UPS. An amazing exercise that takes the simple act of standing up from the floor and turns it into a multi-planar, whole-body drill that is the very definition of “functional strength”.    You won’t need much weight here–ten pounds might be enough at first.    If you can do  five minutes of continuous TGU with fifty pounds you are STRONG and FIT.   Turkish Get-Up Basics.   Your protocol: five minutes of continuous TGU, switching sides every time.  It is also possible to do what Steve Maxwell calls a “Turkish Get Down”, changing hands at the standing position instead of on the floor.

 

5)  FIVE TIBETANS.  Start with 3-5 repetitions of each. Add 1-2 per week, as it feels comfortable.  Once you reach 21 reps, you might experiment with other short yoga routines and see how it feels, depending upon your goals.

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The above is to be done on alternate days, three times a week.  On other days, just do yoga: 10-20 minutes of Sun Salutations, Tibetans, any series of restorative movements you wish while STAYING SAFE.  Yoga is not twisting yourself into a pretzel any more than bent grass is the wind. The “pretzels” are the natural result of careful, safe progression over time.  Don’t let your ego get your butt in trouble.  NEVER go deeper than you can go without maintaining a smooth, even breath.

Get it?  Monday, Wednesday, Friday, “ZNT”–mobility, swings and  Get-ups, Tibetans.  Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, some short Yoga-based recovery program.

There are infinite modifications to this, but I’ll only give you one right now:  Alternate between swings and TGUs on “ZNT” days.

In other words, Monday you do mobility, swings, and Tibetans.   Wednesday you to mobility, TGU and Tibetans.  Friday you do mobility, swings, and Tibetans, and the next Monday you do mobility, TGU, and Tibetans.  Continue rotating.

 

Each of these elements can be “waved” and modified:

  1. Different patterns of Mobility drills, different exercises, different lengths of time.
  2. Different weights of swings, different time compressions, different lengths of time.  Alternate with snatches and C&J
  3. Different weights of TGU, different variations.  Going for reps (say, 10) rather than time.
  4. Different numbers of different Tibetans.

 

The possibilities are infinite.  Each of these variables can be Googled. Do so. THE MORE YOU KNOW, THE MORE BENEFITS YOU CAN GET FOR A SMALLER AND SMALLER INVESTMENT OF TIME.

 

  1. Always prioritize health over fitness
  2. Prioritize form over intensity.  PERFECT form is what you seek.
  3. Pain below a “3” and form above a “7” before you take intensity above a “5”
  4. Maintain smooth, even breathing throughout.  This is a primary “safety rail.”  If you cannot breathe smoothly, you are pushing too hard.  If you can…you are probably safe.

 

And have fun!

What you have here is a system that can take you as far as you want to go, in minimum time and maximum efficiency.  Yes, you can substitute a dumb bell for a kettlebell, but KBs give you greater “bang” for your buck.  If you ask questions after I give you the last piece, I’ll answer all I can.

Total raw investment of time?  Between 5-30 minutes a day, depending on your choices.  That means a total max of 3 hours a week.  MAX.  With serious positive results kicking in at about ONE hour a week.  A WEEK.

Combine with your “Morning Ritual” and you have just stepped through the looking glass into a world where you control you mind, body and emotions in a minimum investment of 10-20 minutes a day. Maximum investment of about 30 minutes a day. For every BASIC thing you need to get everything you want.  Want more meditation, more aerobics, more strength?  More flexibility or mobility or balance?  Faster fat burning?  You can easily add them…but all the basics are here.

 

Over forty years of experimentation went into this system.  I beg you to try it and report back.

And if that isn’t enough, in the next lesson I’m going to teach you the secret that really does take this all to “Zero Net Time.”  Join us!

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

Zero Net Time — PART FIVE

So we’re at Part V of the Zero Net Time system, designed for whole body-mind fitness with a minimum investment of time and energy.

 

The modified “3 dimensional performance pyramid” starts with

  1. Psychological health. This comes from aligning our actions with reality, so that we aren’t distorting our reality map. Also by learning to control our emotions by
    1. Moving our bodies
    2. Focusing our minds
    3. Controlling our language.

The specific route to these things is “The morning ritual.”  This gives you the FOCUS on outcomes so that you know WHAT you want, and WHY you want it.

 

  1. Physical health.  Health is how you feel, your energy and aliveness.  Not “absence of disease” which is a core error most people make.  VIBRANCE.   “Doubling your energy” isn’t a bad goal here as well as “Moving with freedom, ease, and playfulness.”
    1. Joint mobility for general awareness and ease of motion is our most basic need.
    2. Then we need aerobic capacity (say, sufficient to walk hills with joy) and enough strength to move our bodies and navigate our lives without strain, as well as basic coordination and body awareness.
    3. The tool for these things is The Five Tibetans.  You might walk while doing your Morning Ritual, or combine Joint Mobility and Tibetans with the Morning Ritual
  2. If you just do the above, you will transform your body from “Couch potato” status: the Five Tibetans is pretty powerful, especially if you haven’t been exercising.  But the level beyond this is FITNESS.  Fitness has to do not with comfort ease and health…but performance.   How high, how fast, how far, how heavy.   Sports deal with Fitness, not Health.   And so long as you have your basics nailed down, it is real fun to build muscle, add endurance, develop speed.   If, for instance, you had a goal of earning a black belt, the smartest thing you can do is to develop your health and fitness OUTSIDE the class, so that in the class you can focus on skill.

 

We’re going to approach this carefully, and combine a few different principles.   Before we introduce the specific ideas in the Zero Net Time program, we want to explore WHY they were chosen. In this way, if you need to modify, you’ll know HOW  to make changes, and not do it randomly.

 

  1. Whole body versus isolation.  The body never moves in isolation. You can’t move your toe without twitching your ear.  So all isolation exercise is ultimately futile at producing improved motion or athleticism–you are training your body in a way quite contrary to its usage.  So many trainers suggest that whole body motion is the way to go.  Squats as opposed to leg extensions, Dead lifts as opposed to back extensions, etc.
  2. Aerobic. Aerobic exercise is in the range where you can talk but you cannot sing (roughly.   The military plays with this, of course).   It is exercise you can continue at intensity for 12-15 minutes.  Sweating, breathing heavy, etc.  The possibility of entering “flow” is strong here. This is very healthy stuff.   If you have a lot of emotional or physical toxins in your system this can be uncomfortable: your sweat can stink and sting as those fat-soluble toxins leave your system.  And old memories can return to consciousness.   But one of the most basic, powerful things you can do for your health.
  3. Core-Centric training.    If you had only one part of the body to work that  would provide the most benefits, it would be the abdominal girdle.   I’ve seen plenty of people with buff arms or strong legs…and sagging guts. But not a single person with a tight, toned abdomen and flabby arms and legs.  Not one.  So you get the biggest “bang for your buck” here in terms of appearance. And function?  The third chakra, the “power” center, maps over with the Chinese Tan Tien and Japanese Hara. These are the center of physical mass in the body, and focus here can give extraordinary balance and sensitivity, as well as real power.  The “core” transfers energy from the lower to the upper body, so that a punch or strike is never just hitting with the arms, but “stepping on the opponent’s face with your fist” as one instructor put it.
  4. Proper syntax.  Choosing WHEN to work a body part is as important as WHAT to work.  One factor is “pre-exhaustion”–which body part do you want to get tired in what order.  For instance, if you tire small stabilizer muscles before large performance muscles, you will never reach your maximum strength potential.  Muhammad Ali used to tire himself out with running before working skill drills, to enhance his ability to perform under stress.  In kettlebell training, there are two major families of exercises, “grinds” (slow heavy lifts) and “ballistics” (rapid lifts, often used for aerobics). And the expression is: “ballistic before grind, kettlebells are kind.  Grind before ballistic?  You’ll be a statistic.”

 

 

So while there are other principles, we’re going to juggle these four:

1)Whole body, not isolation

2)Aerobic result: aiming at continuous stress for over 12-15 minutes

3) Core-centric.  Let’s get the abs and hips and back strong and flexible!

4) Proper sequence of action so that the exercises work with proper synergy.

 

 

Whew!  Who knew this stuff was so technical, right?   But the smarter you are, the less work you have to do to get your result.

 

Next, we’ll actually create the sequence. We have two exercises already: Joint mobility and The Five Tibetans (well, you might look at that as six exercises, but we’re “chunking” here.)

 

See you soon!

 

Steve

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.

 

##

 

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:

 

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

Childhood and Adulthood

I like minimum investments, the smallest amount of work that will maintain forward momentum. Get them down small enough and you have an amount so tiny that there is no LOGICAL reason not to do them.  The real reasons are revealed as emotional.

 

Here are some examples:

 

  1. The “Smartphone” diet.  Simply take a digital picture of everything you eat before you eat it.  Don’t have to modify your eating at all–just be sure you are 100% conscious of every bite.  Amazing how hard this is. And how effective.
  2. “Five Minute Miracle”– one 60-second breathing breaks, one every three hours. A total of five a day.  Re-patterns your stress response.  Amazing.  Combine with your very best abdominal exercise, done very slowly (one sixty-second rep), and you up the game.
  3. A sentence a day.   First step of the Machine.  Because of a variety of logistical and psychological factors, you can ride a sentence a day to a book a year.  Again, it is amazing to watch.
  4. Morning Ritual. 10-20 minutes of movement combined with affirmation and dynamic focus.    “Flooding” yourself with positive emotions.

 

One of the saddest things that I see is people who feel that, without their pain, they would not be creative.   All I can wonder is: whose voice is that in their head? Who told them this?  What is their experience of joy?

 

Both pain AND joy can motivate us.  If I had to use one or the other, would definitely choose carrot over stick. If you cannot find pleasure to focus on, then pain will do…but wow, would you treat your own most beloved child like that?  And if you wouldn’t, why are you doing it to yourself?

 

Consciousness, speaking the truth, is a sovereign remedy for most of what ails us, even if it leads to temporary pain.  “These cigarettes will kill me” causes the temporary pain of discipline, guilt, withdrawal. And saves you the long-term pain of mortal disease.

 

Adulthood is about speaking the truth. Keeping your word to yourself.  Choosing long-term pleasure over short-term pain.  Taking responsible for your own emotions and actions.  We know this in raising children…

Why do we forget it for ourselves?

Don’t lie and say you don’t have “the talent” to do something: you don’t want to spend the thousand hours.  The fact that others might get more results for that investment of time is irrelevant. You can ALWAYS find someone doing better, or worse, than you.

Don’t lie and say you don’t have “the time” if you can start with five or ten minutes a day.  Ummm…you had time to read this, correct?

Don’t lie and say you have nothing to be grateful for.  You can read, correct?  You have the resources to get onto the internet, correct?  Wouldn’t you miss your eyes and computer if they were gone?  Then you can be grateful for them now.

Your focus determines how you feel. Your ability to tell the truth creates an accurate map. Your ability to keep your word to yourself determines whether you will take the small, constant steps that can lead you to love, or health, or success.

  1. Start by loving yourself.  (why change if you don’t love the person who will benefit?)
  2. Love one other person (we will do things for others we won’t do for ourselves.)
  3. Understand the world without guilt, blame, or shame.  (Forgive yourself. You’ve done the best you could, with the resources you have.  This will require that you forgive others as well–the same is true for them)
  4. Find your tribe.  (you cannot rise to your next level without allies and mentors.   Mentor and support others, and you gain the cosmic chips to ask for allies and mentors to help you.)
  5. Win.  (Define victory so that you can achieve it, EVERY DAY.   Five minutes a day will start you.  And from there…the world looks and feels like a different place.)

 

Namaste,

Steve

 

 

 

Healing starts with the heart

There was a discussion of how we can heal the rift in our nation. I believe it is in finding tribes, rather than fighting those we disagree with.
 
The trick is that EVERYONE is tribe with you if you find the correct perspective. There’s not a person our there you cannot create connection with, if you know how, and have the quiet time to connect. (The fact that we cannot always get that quiet time is the reason violence is a necessary tool to master. Sometimes you just have to deal with aggression physically.)
 
The Internet is not the best place for this: I’ve had people who are perfectly pleasant and sweet in person become raging ego-beasts online. We lack the cues of vocal tonalities, facial expressions, real-time reciprocal mammalian pacing leading and following, and body language. So I disagree that the answer is to first decide on “what is true.” That is starting with the head, and most of the conflict I see in the world is a clash of reality maps.
Rather, start with the heart: love is the core reality. (Heart). Go from there to the reality that we are all creatures seeking a cessation of pain (Body). Once connected, THEN we can discuss our maps (Head) and how we hope they will help us experience pleasure.
My page is open to all who are polite and courteous.   Those who are willing to communicate politely ARE MY TRIBE.  
The rude have no greater wisdom I need to hear. They are just rude, not uniquely smart. I can handle anything anyone throws at me verbally (those who think I cannot are welcome to engage with me personally, one on one, face to face.   I’m around)   but people already traumatized have difficulty with aggression. This is MY party, and my guests must know they are safe. So polite crazies are tolerated, but rude crazies are not. That’s the rule. If you don’t like it, there are people who welcome crazies and the rude, and you will find tribe there. Good luck.

The Hope and the Dream of the Slave

In many ways, the best and strongest man I’ve ever known is Steve Muhammad, my beloved karate instructor.  Not only a man of devastating physical skills, an innovative genius, fierce competitor, inspiring teacher and devoted family man, but a creature of deep spirit and vast compassion.   With more street experience than any four other people I know, he is also gentle and humble, a combination that still boggles my mind.

 

From the first moment I saw him at a Martial Arts Expo in about 1974, performing a mass attack skit where four students came at him and he responded with an explosion of speed, power and precision that blew my mind, I knew I wanted to sit at his feet and learn.  What I didn’t realize was that THE DEMO WAS UNREHEARSED.    Years later I got to participate in one, and he simply said: “come at me” to all of us.  And he took us out with absolute control, his punches, kicks, palm strikes and elbows coming within a breath of our skin, kissing our uniforms in machine-gun rhythm…without hurting us.

I’d wondered for decades: HOW COULD HE BE SO STRONG?   And one day, about seven years ago, I found out.

As a child, Steve had been raised in Mississippi by his grandparents, who had been slaves.  Suddenly, it hit me. Dear God. THAT experience had burned away all that was false.  All the lies. All the “First World Problems.” There are two reactions to such stress, really.  It breaks you, husks you, cripples you for generations…or the heat and pressure transforms you into a diamond. The majority are broken. But some few…

 

Suddenly, I grasped that under stress, the few who manage to stand up, to shine, to maintain their humanity, have a knowledge of self, a clarity of their values, that can be shaken by no lesser power.   The 99% will be crushed, diminished, driven to lower their eyes and dull their dreams, crippled by fear and hatred…

 

But those who maintain their humanity are amazing, with near-divine gifts to offer those who will listen: how did I survive? What is true? Who am I?  How can you protect your soul in the midst of chaos?

Oppressed populations reliably under-perform. But they also produce some of the finest music, art, athletics, and spirituality on the planet.   THEY DO WHAT THEY CAN. THEY THRIVE WHERE THEY CAN.  They love each other desperately,  nurture their children and grandchildren, believing in “milk and honey on the other side,” encoding their wrath in fables, channeling their suicidal/homicidal urges into their dance and prayer, finding small joys to warm their hearts as they somehow survive from generation to generation…slaves becoming sharecroppers, who become servants, who become merchants and teachers…who become doctors and lawyers…who become scientists, politicians…and storytellers.

 

They take the fantasies and mythologies, blend them with a burgeoning understanding of the universe around them, and the technology that explores it, and add their own rhythms, creating what the outer world called Science Fiction and Fantasy…and they themselves began to call AFROFUTURISM.

 

And just as Science Fiction has always both expressed human dreams and driven our inquiry, the version of this phenomenon that grew from the depths of black pain, keeping alive the spark until the laws and cultures changed and allowed us to speak our truth more openly, contains lessons that could not be spoken openly until after the fall of Jim Crow, the end of Segregation, the passing of the Voting Rights act, the birth of a generation unafraid of lynchings and oppression.

 

When I was ten years old, my mother, who had grown up in the segregated south, whose childhood had been darkened by the shadows of dangling black men, told me: “Steven, if you show white people how smart you are, they will kill you.”

 

The terror of that statement haunted me. Drove me into the martial arts, where I found a man strong enough to lend that strength to me, so that I could have the courage to create my own dreams, and lend them to a younger generation so that they could stand on my shoulders, see further and imagine a world where children could play together and work together and build together, judging one another not by the color of their skin, or even the content of their character, but on their capacity to create a bridge to a future brighter than any of them had ever known.

 

The wisdom passed to me is beyond my understanding, but a part of my bones.  How to deal with fear, and pain. How to stop hatred and resentment from poisoning you.  HOW TO LIVE WITH LOVE, AND HOPE, NO MATTER WHAT CHAOS AND DANGER SURROUNDS YOU.

 

Lessons for our time.  Available to all with eyes to see and ears to hear.

 

The AFROFUTURISM: DREAMS TO BANISH NIGHTMARES class is a distillation of everything my dear, brave, brilliant wife  and I have learned about art, creativity, extrapolation, fantasy, and personal evolution. It will twine art and science together into a braid that cannot be broken.  You may have a story to write.  A screenplay to finish.  Want to understand what drove an Octavia Butler or Chip Delany or God help me…a Steven Barnes or Tananarive Due.  We will watch movies, study art and poetry, spend ten weeks walking in the footsteps of masters and ask YOU to find the dreams that sustain you, ask you to refine them, teach you to express them, share them with the world at a time we need them most.

 

I’ve been working toward this for twenty years, and its here.  Join us.  Be a part of a movement to be an awake, aware, adult human being by grounding your feet in reality while simultaneously reaching for the stars.

The future is ours, yours, our childrens…if you can keep your dreams alive, understand that we all aspire to the same things…and never stop fighting to create magic in your life

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We have a special discount price for just the remainder of Black History Month.  If you are in total financial emergency, reach out to us and tell us what you can afford and we’ll do all we can to help you.  If you can afford to donate a scholarship for a needy student, please do so.

You can make a difference.  WE can make a difference.  Every one of you, black and white and yellow and brown…if you are a brother or sister in this struggle…YOU are the hope and the dream of the slave.

 

 

Namaste,

Steve