Star Wars

“Star Wars” is back!


rogueone_onesheeta_1000_309ed8f6Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens tomorrow (well, there will be special showings tonight!) and I promise I’ll be there.  There are the special effects, and the stirring music, and the familiar characters and settings. But all of these things are merely in service to the story, and when that story is expressed clearly and creatively, a BILLION people worldwide respond by buying tickets.

It is the Lifewriting position that this core story can be extracted and used not only as a “plot” or “structure” guideline, but also used to guide the PROCESS of writing a story, and further, the actual path of your life.  Last Saturday we analyzed a story using the “Hero’s Journey”, Joseph Campbell’s explanation of this pattern (somewhat modified by yours truly, so that it works in all three arenas), and if you haven’t listened, please do yourself a favor!

You will hear me go through all of the steps in relation to the story (the “War Artist”, a good one!) but you’ll profit by also reading the story and asking your own questions.

You’ll hear me address the following questions:

  1. HERO CONFRONTED WITH A CHALLENGE.  Who is the hero? What is the challenge she faces?
  2. REJECTS THE CHALLENGE.   What negative emotion blocks her or slows her?
  3. ACCEPTS THE CHALLENGE.  What motivates her to move through the challenge and begin her process of change?
  4. ROAD OF TRIALS. What ACTIONS does she take to solve her problem? Where does she go?  What does she do?
  5. ALLIES AND POWERS.  Who helps her along the way? What capacities does she have that enable her success? What does she have to learn, and how does she have to grow?
  6. CONFRONT EVIL–DEFEAT.  What is the greatest barrier she encounters?
  7. DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL.  What are the negative emotions that swarm up and engulf her, rob her of her strength?
  8. LEAP OF FAITH.  What external or deep internal strength or resource helps her through this moment?
  9. CONFRONT EVIL–VICTORIOUS.   What internal or external demons does she defeat, and what is the reward?
  10. THE STUDENT BECOMES THE TEACHER.  What is the lesson?  What higher or deeper level does she expand to?

Note: this pattern is very broad. Subtler stories will use a portion of this pattern, or invert it, or minimalize or exaggerate it–this is where the “craft” of writing comes in.

But the “art” of writing is in CONNECTING THIS EXTERNAL STRUCTURE WITH YOUR OWN INTERNAL JOURNEY.  Finding the metaphorical truth that will resonate deeply with your readers.

So…write a story about YOUR OWN journey to write a story…or any other struggle in your life.  Find these steps.  Emphasize them until you can see the connections.

I challenge each and every one of you to do that.   

Then…if you really want to thrive, CREATE A “STORY” ABOUT THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, looking at:

  1. The challenges you will face
  2. The fear you will feel
  3. The motivations to move through the resistance
  4. The actions you will take
  5. The resources and strategies and allies you will need to gather
  6. The major barriers that others have hit along their paths to accomplish similar goals.
  7. The nature and intensity of their depression and despair
  8. The type of faith or commitment that beat that fear
  9. The way others crashed through those barriers
  10. The joy of moving to the next level.

Do this, actually imagining the steps, researching the prices others paid, committing to the process, taking the actions and mastering your emotions…you will build a new and better life.



(I actually created the world’s only self-improvement book based on Star Wars and other famous Science Fiction/Fantasy films.   Get your copy on Amazon at:

Regaining Balance

Michelle Pinkus threw a good party this last weekend at Loscon.  I needed it: the last two weeks I’ve done a LOT of caretaking for people in a range of emergencies, some talking suicide, many in despair and depression, some dealing with serious health issues and other things…at the same time that I’m juggling multiple projects and waiting for sloooow motion feedback on Hollywood projects.  Sigh.

The aggregate of all of this is that by Friday morning I could feel I was off balance. Not hugely, but enough that it was palpable.  So off to the convention.

Today is “Love yourself” day–take care of yourself, especially if you are a caretaker.   Thought I’d make a few observations about how I did this at the convention.

  1. Sleep.   I made very sure to schedule more than eight hours of sleep Friday and Saturday night.   I didn’t get out of bed until my body felt “cool and light” which is my kinesthetic signal that I’m rested.
  2. Meditation.  Had really solid sessions Saturday and Sunday morning.
  3. Exercise.   Yoga Friday morning, and Saturday morning martial arts and Flowfit, my “travel exercise” plan.
  4. Morning ritual.   Very careful to do Tai Chi along with focus, goals, and chanted affirmations.  This is so powerful that I suspect you cannot do it and not have a transformation. Your ego will resist this, so you can literally measure your internal permission to heal and grow in whether you can do this on a regular basis.  It is fantastic to have such an “early warning” system for breakdown and going unconscious.  Get a calendar.  Just mark the days that you did it.   You’ll be able to get a quick, broad view of your week/month/quarter in a single snapshot.
  5. Got hugs.  LOTS of them.    Seriously nurturing.
  6. Had really fun conversations with lots of different people. Found out what was going on in their lives.  And, I admit…I ran off at the mouth a few times, just “let it go” and had fun.  Eyes rolled.   I enjoyed myself just too much.
  7. Helped people.   Went out of my way to find a few people who specifically needed to talk to me.  There is always someone like this, and finding them is one of the Mystery Tours most enjoyable at a Con.   
  8. Had a couple of “real” conversations.   Cons tend to have a lot of trivial talk.  But it is also possible to dig deep, and speak of very real things.  I had serious (but very enjoyable) conversations about love, stress, writing, race, gender, Libertarianism (so, yeah, I do pretty much understand the core ideas.  I’d wondered about that)  the election, and goal-setting.   Earned my air.
  9. Had a surprise.  Photographer Richard Man mentioned that he studied Tai Chi, and we had a chance to play.  Within three seconds I knew I was dealing with a person who has studied a VERY evolved structure, with real sensitivity.  What a joy.  “Push Hands” represents a single instant of interaction as two people move toward each other. While the form develops your connection to your own balance, “Push Hands” tests your ability to create a unity between two people.  Do this properly, and it is a dance. If one person’s structure has holes, you flow through and touch them so as to give feedback.  If they try to dominate you, their ego focus creates not only weaknesses, but a gift of energy–they spear themselves on your bones.  You don’t really need to do anything much but observe.  Richard was more fun to play with than anyone I’ve met in months.
  10. Did business.   Had multiple conversations with different people on our Lifewriting program.  We’re almost finished with the REVOLUTIONARY ART program (registration closes this Saturday, and won’t be open again until next February).  My goal is just one new student a day, which will take me to my goal in three years.  Got five students over the weekend, so I’m very very happy.
  11. Came home and watched Bryan Cranston in “The Infiltrator.”  Always love stories about undercover agents whose emotions get out of control.  The last sequence in this one was just absolutely crackling.  Best wedding ever.  I was howling.

All in all, a great weekend.

Steven Barnes

Another note to my younger self

I want to write this morning to you.  Steven Barnes.  You’re thirty five, have published a few novels, and practiced martial arts for over a decade, and love your sweetheart.   But I’m going to transplant that person to the current world, because I know that that guy, so filled with both doubt and hope, would be gobsmacked by the events swirling around you.  And that means that that guy, who is still inside me, is still experiencing a nightmare cocktail of  emotions if he is not very very careful.  And of course, the thirty year old is in there, barely published. And the twenty-five year old, just hoping. And the twenty year old: no publication, barely any martial training, and no real love in your life, wondering what he might learn in college that will help him navigate the world.  

And the fifteen year old is there, confused and having no idea if men will ever respect him or women ever be attracted to him. And the ten year old, who wondered why his father was not there to guide him. And the five year old, who just wanted to love and dance and sing and be held by his mother, and his sister, and his beloved dad…who would soon disappear from his life.

Thirty-five year old Steve?  What would I say to him that would help, given that foundation?   Given the instability of the world?  

  1. First, I would tell you to love yourself. Take care of yourself.  To stop lying and using euphemisms like anxious, nervous, concerned.  Or masks like anger, fury, indignation, disappointment: you are afraid.  Counter that fear with daily action toward your goals regardless of what the voices in your head scream at you.  IF all is lost, why not enjoy the time you have?  And if there is hope, only those who keep moving will find the way out of the maze before the Minotaur eats them.  There is no percentage in giving up.  None at all. Tell those voices that you love them, know that they are only trying to protect you from pain, but you will die before you stop fighting to protect those younger version of “you” especially that five year old.   And that lonely ten year old, so pitiful that he used to make pets of the flies that landed on his hands at his lonely lunch table.  You will stand for him, and do all you can to help him connect his dreams to the world.  No one else can.
  2. You will learn to love more deeply.  Fully.  Connect soul to soul. It will take time. You will make mistakes. But the fight to make that connection will teach you so much about yourself, and love, and life, and other human beings. There is nothing more worthwhile.
  3. You will understand the world.   You were given a badly flawed map of reality, especially when it comes to your racial identity. The Encyclopedia Brittanica said your group was inferior. Your favorite authors agreed.   Your mother was ashamed and afraid of her black blood.   Your teachers assumed you inferior and sorted you into the “slow” group until you proved otherwise, while the white students were sorted into the “fast” group unless THEY proved otherwise.   You can waste your energy screaming and blaming and hating…or you can dig in and understand how and  why human beings do this.  Right now, at thirty-five, you are operating on faith that these stories are lies.  Pure faith. And it takes energy to sustain that faith. But…keep digging. There is foundation under your feet.  Go deeper than race, or gender, or culture, or even species.  You will learn and grow, and find that bedrock of understanding. And from there you will build back up, constructing maps of reality that are stronger and more accurate than the social constructs, and you will understand.  And that truth will set you free. It will be harder than you can imagine, but for those moments when you can keep awake, keep your eyes open, you will see beyond the dualities, and be not merely at peace, but gain the energy the unconscious uses to maintain the illusions.   That is POWER Steve.   And those trapped in the duality will never understand you.  But you will become strong enough to stand alone if necessary.  But thank God you will have someone to love you.  Cherish her.   
  4. You will find your tribe. The people who either see that non-duality, or can lead you with information and experiences, cheer you on, or become students.   You need only point out the path–their burden is not yours to bear, but they will walk ahead of you, or at your side, or follow your footsteps.  And those behind you on this particular journey will want to know how to deal with fear, how to pierce the lies, how to answer the questions “who am I?” and “what is true?”  You cannot dig their gold for them, but you can say “X marks the spot” and hand them a shovel. And know that if they dig long enough, and hard enough, they will find.  You will also understand that those locked into the lies, those asleep, those adhering to a map that never really described the territory will oppose you, will try to pull things in another direction, will deny that unity of humanity.  And you will let them sleep, or follow their own path, or politely tell them that they may not disturb your journey…and be prepared to back it up.  And teach others to be strong enough to do the same.
  5. You will succeed.  You will. You will be respected by the men you respect. Desired by the women you desire.  Continue to refine and expand your tribe, such that your voice, in your writing, is unique.  Not “better” than others…just singular.   That Buddha baby “Earth below, Heaven Above, no one in the world like me!” will be revealed within you.   You will find a way to connect your dreams and values, speak your truth, and stand strong so that others can see it is possible.

And the current stresses?   You will ride them out.  And show light to others who have also followed warped maps, and wish to try a different path. And if they simply choose to be happy, you will help them do that thing.  And if they wish to change and heal the world, you will teach them to put their feet so solidly on a true path that they can guide others.  If they are fighters, teach them to fight fairly, and with all their hearts.  If they are healers, to heal without taking the emotional and spiritual diseases into their own bodies.  If they are artists, to speak their truth so clearly it fractures the lies.

This is your destiny, Steve.   You are no better than an ant, and no less than the stars.  NEVER forget this.  Never stop sharing it.  And when people ask you how you can be happy in chaos, how can you love in a storm of hate, how you can have faith in the face of fear, how you can succeed when all seems lost, you will smile and draw them close, and hold them, and whisper in their ears: “First…love yourself.”



(You can still join us for the fourth live REVOLUTIONARY WRITING class Saturday the 12th, Steve, at the above URL.   And you can also join us for the free LIFEWRITING show tomorrow morning at 11am pst.   Because we’re going to explore tools to help you deal with stress and fear…and to love yourself.    Phone Number: (724) 444-7444.  Call ID: 137903.

Principle #13: The Sixth Sense

The sixth sense defies description! It cannot be described to a person who has not mastered the other principles of this philosophy, because such a person has no knowledge, and no experience with which the sixth sense may be compared. Under- standing of the sixth sense comes only by meditation through mind development from within. The sixth sense probably is the medium of contact between the finite mind of man and Infinite Intelligence, and for this reason, it is a mixture of both the mental and the spiritual. It is believed to be the point at which the mind of man contacts the Universal Mind.”–Napoleon Hill

The last formal principle of “Think And Grow Rich” is that of “The Sixth Sense” which is said to resemble a “guardian angel” that warns of danger and sensitizes one to opportunity.  It seems to be a cumulative result of applying the other principles, but the one practice that Hill stresses in this chapter is what might be called an “Imaginary Council”, basically studying the biographies of famous people until you can imagine actual conversations with them, and bringing them into a nightly imaginary “council meeting” where they advise you and provide models of excellence.

Models.  I’ve encountered similar patterns of learning by imitation in practices like Deep Trance Identification, “Hero Circles” and so forth.    Hill commented that the imaginings went so deep that he became afraid for his sanity, and certainly afraid to tell others what he had been doing.  TAGR represented his first willingness to share this practice.

It might be interesting at his point to ask a very serious question: does his method work? And the most natural extension of this; did it work for Napoleon Hill?


I have a habit of deliberately searching out negative comments about people I admire, or goods and services I enjoy and use.   And “Napoleon Hill Fraud” is a fun search term.  Try it.   One thing that comes up repeatedly is that he had a number of businesses that went bust, was broke at times, and apparently wasn’t the best husband he could have been.

And on this evidence, there are a couple of sites that claim he was a failure.

Well…that’s kind of fun, considering that TAGR alone sold over twenty million copies, and he wrote about forty more, many of which sold well, as well as endless articles, lectures, and courses based on the same research. He also performed success coaching, and unless he gave his time away for free, it is impossible to imagine that someone with a twenty million book platform couldn’t make all the money he wanted advising people on the contents of his books.

He died with a net worth of about a million dollars in 1970. Not bad at all, really.   I like what I see in that biography: he may not have been brilliant enough to match the performance of his role models, but to the degree that they functioned as his Master Mind, and role models, he did just fine.


This is a great moment to speak in a kind of Meta way about what he did.  It was what NLP refers to as “Modeling” and the entire book Think and Grow Rich is filled with the Mental Syntax, Belief Systems, and Behaviors of successful men.

The idea is this: if you want to bake a cake, you can experiment with different proportions of sugar, flour, water, eggs, milk, heat, and so forth, and after years of mess, you’ll come up with something edible.

Or…you can buy cook books and follow them…or even buy packages of cake mix and use them.  These are both “modeling” as well, and it works. This is pretty much the formal education approach.

But IMO the very best approach would be to sample a LOT of cakes until you find one you love. Then find the cook, and induce them to let you follow them around the kitchen for a day as they work their magic.   You learn their ingredient, the order in which they combine them, the model and make of the oven, the temperature at which you cook and the time you leave it in, the humidity of the kitchen, and so forth.   To the degree that you can accurately determine what they did AND THEN DO THE SAME THING, you will get the same results. In a single afternoon, you can learn to make a cake it took someone twenty years to create.

THAT is the power of modeling.    You can do it unconsciously (by sort of “dreaming” about the person) or deliberately by analyzing their actions, vividly imagining them in different circumstances, having real and/or imaginary conversations with them, and so on and so on.

Remember what Lonnie Athens said about career criminals?What creates them?

1) Brutalization or violent horrification.   Pain to himself or someone he empathizes with (seeing his mother beaten, for instance)

2) “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.”

3) Acting out with increasing success.

4) Finding a group of peers/role models who support his values.

5) Internalizing their voices.

Remember that by the time you get to step 5 there is no known form of rehabilitation that can change them?

Let’s turn that inside out.   Assuming that this is the process of DEEP PROGRAMMING, and can be used positively as well as negatively.

1) Motivation by extreme emotion.  A BURNING DESIRE for excellence, wealth, whatever, created by an overload of positive or negative emotions, sufficient to overcome inertia.

2) Making a DECISION and “burning your bridges behind you.

3) Taking MASSIVE ACTION at the same time that you are learning the rules of engagement, and creating a map of reality you constantly work to improve.

4) Find role models and mentors, and people with whom to Mastermind.  Learn their behaviors and thoughts, and brainstorm with them.  DO NOT NEGLECT THIS STEP.  It is the ONLY known way to compensate for lack of resources or mental capacity.

5) Internalize their attitudes until you can “hear their voices” in your head advising you.

First of all, does it become clearer why your daily associations, your friends, and especially your intimate connections can have a killer influence on your life? Why those who can communicate with you while you are in a highly emotionalized state are accessing and programming your unconscious mind?


We’ve looked at this from the personal perspective. Shall we expand it to the social?  Let’s.

You can apply this methodology to any group performance, but I’m focusing on one group whose history and status I understand best: black Americans.

1) Motivation by extreme emotion.  Well, 250 years of slavery followed by another century of Jim Crow and Segregation.   What was the group called “African slaves” programmed for: survival.  The primary tool of survival?  Obedience and mindless work.  Put this in conflict with the natural human drive to succeed, grow, thrive.  Now ask yourself how much fear it takes to crush that instinct.  THAT is what was programmed in, along with beliefs that suggest the very best you could ever hope for was simple freedom.  Not excellence. Not kicking ass. Not “being the best.”  Just survival, and maybe one day freedom. DARE to hope for equality one day. Average all this out, and you get a pretty nasty picture: if you have negatives, the only way to balance at “Average” is to have equal and opposite Superiority Complex.   If you only go from Negative to “Equal” you have to end in the negative. The average of -10 and “Zero” is minus Five, get it?

2) “I’m mad as hell”.   There have been waves of this through our history, and every time attempts were made to crush it. There was NEVER a time when the perpetrators admitted to the abuse.   Slavery was a good thing, Jim Crow was caused by Northern Interference, “our Nigras were happy until those Commie agitators came down here”, “you have equality now, shut up and be satisfied” and “you have a black President, what more do you want?”   Every previous generation, EVERY ONE, was in the position of little Orphan Oliver going to an overseer gruel bowl in hand saying “please sir, I want some more.”

If you want to know where the terror and violence is coming from, just look at the fear on both sides: fear from blacks finally hoping to dream that they can be as egotistically self-confident as white folks. Fear of white folks that they have finally, FINALLY lost control of the narrative.  That rather than “please sir, I want some more” you have a generation saying “excuse me.  I’d like you to explain why my children should expect one whit less from life than yours. And if you like, we can have this conversation outside.”

Oh, yeah.  It’s getting really interesting.  Be too nice, and people think they can dole out the gruel a spoonful at a time. Get too mad, and they’ll pretend not to understand that they would have been just as pissed off. Pretend that white people don’t riot, scream, thrash, act irrationally and violently when the system seems not to support them.  Pretend that one out of 43 men serving as President being black means all is well.   Want to know what standard I’d accept, rather than that outlier?   Try percentage in the Senate.  We’re 13 percent of the population.  We’re about 2 percent of the Senate.  I’m waiting.

3) Action.  Want to know how to chain an elephant? Start when it is a baby, with a heavy chain. It will try and try and try, and finally give up. And then when it is large enough to pull a tree out of the ground, you can keep it tied with a slender rope. There is a wonderful scene at the end of Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” where several slaves are sitting in a jail cart. The door is open.  They don’t know what to do.

350 years of “if you dare to look a white man in the eye, you’ll be killed” leaves a mark, even if the actual frequency of killings diminished over the years.   THOSE SCARS GO DEEP. The natural drive to succeed and achieve turns on itself, becomes self-loathing, or a belief in “milk and honey on the other side.” This world will not be fair.  Hope for the next.

Or perhaps, just perhaps…those white folks are right about us. Maybe we really aren’t quite as good…

It is sad that there is so much guilt about the massive amount of cultural brain-washing and operant conditioning that went on for 350 years that many folks can’t even consider the implications.  “It can’t be that bad.  Surely its no worse than immigration…” and so forth.

And the sad one: “Steve, when you make me look at these things, it hurts. It triggers massive discomfort and shame. Please stop.”

All I can say is that you would NEVER have survived being black in America.  And while I’m sorry about your pain, the only way out is honesty.  Be honest, stop defending the actions of your ancestors, and you need carry not an ounce of guilt. You can even enjoy your advantage…just stop pretending you don’t have it.

And for black folks: the damage within our community can ONLY be cured by us.  Yeah, we didn’t dig our way into this hole, but we have to climb out.  Its not a matter of what is “fair” or “unfair.”  It just “is.”

And now, for the first time, we have role models of success to every level of accomplishment.  NOW you really can model the way to get anywhere you want. The door is open. Don’t be the elephant, programmed by what happened in the past, to our ancestors.  Those same ancestors are watching to see what we will do. Will be appreciate their sacrifice?  Can we be as strong as they were?

I’d often wondered why my beloved karate instructor Steve Muhammad could be so strong, arguably the best and strongest human being I’ve ever had the chance to observe at close range over time.  And he was raised by his grandparents in Mississippi…WHO HAD BEEN SLAVES.  All the bullshit burned out of them.  Stripped to their essentials, but somehow managing to survive.  THAT is reality.   Anyone with THAT strength combined with 21st century opportunity will kick ASS.

Act.  Learn what is true.

4) Create associations and role models.   Seek out successful people.   Surround yourself with ambition and hope.  Study endlessly.  Close your mind tightly against negative thoughts.  Remember: YOU are the hope and the dream of the slave.  It is YOUR turn.  YOUR world now.

5) Internalize their positive lessons.   Be very, very careful who you let into that circle.  You will be highly emotionalized, and they will imprint. And when you are imprinted, it is hugely difficult to un-program

And relate it to the Fivefold Path:

1) Love yourself. Ruthlessly.  With discipline and forgiveness.  Dare to dream

2) Love others.  Create relationships and Masterminds, but be careful to choose wisely. Love everyone, but don’t let everyone hook their bloodstream to yours.  Sick people deserve love too…but you have no obligation to let them infect you.  Don’t get down in the water with a drowning person if you cannot swim. Get your feet on dry land and throw them a life preserver.

3) Understand the flow of human behavior and history without guilt, blame, or shame.  CRITICAL, whether you are black or white. The history of race in America is one of Mankind’s ugliest, palest experiences. But you cannot move on without seeing the truth, and it it cripples you with guilt, you will sabotage your own efforts.

4) Build tribe, let the children sleep and avoid (or step on!) snakes.    You don’t need total agreement to take action. However, respect the rights and humanity even of those you disagree with.  Even if they attack you.  Don’t let them infect you with their fear.  Circle your wagons.

5) SUCCEED.  Nothing, NOTHING attracts attention like success.  The purpose of life, according to the Dalai Lama, is to be happy. Works for me. Show the world that you are happy, whole, successful.  At the VERY least you’ve had a great life. At best, you open the path to the future.

Wow.  O.K., there are additional chapters, but these have been the 13 steps.  Any questions before we dive further in?



When is winning losing?


This morning I remembered a speech I gave some years ago to Nicki’s elementary school class about DARE, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education.


The trouble is that I considered the program bullshit.  Looking at the pamphlets, it seemed to me that they were dishonest in the extreme, exaggerating the dangers of drugs while simultaneously suggesting that alcohol was a different more positive matter.   A perfect example of what happens when alcohol drinkers get to set the laws for the other man’s poison.   Much better, I’ve always thought, to have teetotlers write the laws for both.  That would at least be more fair and honest.


But…I know damned well I don’t want kids using drugs OR alcohol.  But if I used lies and exaggerations, the kids would know and stop listening. So…what do I think the problem actually is?


Well…there are physical downsides to the injestion of most drugs.   But they vary.  People who say “smoking pot is as bad as smoking cigarettes” are right in some senses, and very wrong in others (just the fact that only the most extreme potheads smoke the equivalent of a pack a day is just the beginning).  It is also true that you can ingest pot by vaping or eating it, so you are inviting creative thinking for those seeking a loophole.


What about muzzy-headedness?   I can’t think of a psychoactive that doesn’t scramble your thinking at least a bit.  I mean, that’s kinda the point.   But one could effectively argue that once it leaves your system, thought patterns return to normal, and then quote studies to back up your position.  Another argument.


So I chose the following: pain is good.  So is pleasure.  They are teaching mechanisms, signals to take action or notice the results you got from a past action.   Diseases that numb you to pain are actually dangerous, making it more likely to hurt yourself by changing your sensorial relation with your environment.   You literally cannot create an accurate map of reality.


Pot certainly is pleasureable, as is alcohol, and any number of other substances.   I take the position that children are learning the most basic maps of reality, the pains and pleasures, disciplines and connections that allow them to begin the process of navigating to adulthood, asking the question: how can I accomplish my dreams? How do I maximize my pleasure and minimize my pain long term?


ANY psychoactive worth a damn short-circuits the pain-pleasure process, and allows us to feel good even if the circumstances suck. That’s why we like ‘em.  But note the danger, if you use it in the wrong part of the learning cycle, or if you allow the substance to substitute for action to get the hell OUT of there…


That approach I could both defend and feel honest about.  But…how else are we doing this?  Does this same principle obtain in other arenas?


I think it does.


  1. The obesity epidemic is partially due to the success of civilization. There is no longer a direct link between action and result.  Caloric expenditure is no longer tied to caloric intake. A single hour of a minimum-wage office job can earn you all the calories you can eat (at a cheap salad bar, say).  In comparison, the “wealthiest” society I’ve heard of are hunter-gatherers in lush areas where gathering nuts and berries for 2-3 hours a day gets you all the food you need.   We simply didn’t evolve to have it that easy, and we’re paying for it.
  2. Video games (and to a lesser degree spectator sports,  books, television, and film) allow us to experience the evolutionarily programmed excitement and pleasure of peak physical performance without ANY of the disciplines or pains associated with learning skill or strengthening your body in the real world. Heck, because the physics are phony, you can’t even model skills as you can watching spectator sports.  You can sit all day and imagine yourself a warrior, athlete, criminal, whatever…and the images bend to your touch.
  3. I mentioned that the physics are off, which makes modeling those behaviors potentially disastrous.   Well, what happens when the games follow rules that are contrary to the rules of society?   Grand Theft Auto is hysterical fun BECAUSE it is transgressive as hell. But…what if you are just developing your moral sense?  Imagine playing for hours in an alpha-hypnotic state of imprintability, talking online to a tribe of others playing the same game, laughing at hurting people, stealing, lying, killing.     Hmmm.  Do you think we evolved to do THAT?  Do you think that an impressionable person might begin to hear those voices in their heads, start having difficulty sorting one reality from another?    It is not an absurd question.  We learn the rules that avoid pain and gain pleasure.  That’s what we’re designed to do.


So I look at this stuff.   Most of my concern is for children, who live in a world of magic disconnected from the cause and effect of actually earning a living.  Kids want to be heroes, strong and powerful and smart and attractive to whoever they are attracted to.   We say: learn these things, express yourself in these ways, learn to deal with your fear and sloth and dishonesty and you can have these rewards.   Evolutionary/Cultural carrot and stick.


What happens if we short-circuit that?  What is the emotional equivalent of being able to type for an hour and get all the food you need?  Human beings struggled most of our existence to survive the elements and the animals. And now…we are powerful enough to drive animals into extinction (and have been for about 10% of our species’ lifetime, about 20 thousand years), and I would agree with those who say that we are having one hell of an effect on our climate.  

We’ve won, dammit.  

And its time to transition to being “good winners”, gracious conquerors, or we’re going to pay a price.  The oppressed become the oppressors.  Wow.  That can happen with humans versus environment, humans versus humans, emotions versus intellect, one survival drive versus another.


Balance.  This is just morning musings, and I’m not sure where it goes, but wanted to get it out this morning and see if anyone had thoughts on all of this…




A “Time Capsule” to my younger self: Fear

Part of the value of the “Ancient Child” technique is to communicate between your current and younger selves. This can be the “Child” communicating creativity or energy or motivation to you, or you communicating comfort back.   The question came to me this morning: what would I do if I could reach back and send specific communications to my younger self?   They would have to be carefully chosen, so as to not change the “present me” too much (wouldn’t want Jason to disappear!) but still…I needed help.


The first thing that occurs to me is the phobic response I had to sparring.   This had nothing at all to do with my skills. It had to do with a very specific event when I was about 25 and got my ass kicked in a school sparring match by a kid who was about 14.  He went on to become Welterweight champion of the world, so it was kind of like being beaten in a piano playing contest by a young Mozart.  But…he reminded me too much of the bullies who had thumped me in Junior High school. As he crowed to the class “I beat a man!” something in me cracked and shriveled.  The voice in my head said “you will never be strong. You will always be weak and helpless.   Give up.”


And for the next two decades I fought with that voice, struggled against it.  Continued to study until I reached the point where my body responded automatically…and then the fear came back and I would almost vomit at the idea of going to a school and being humiliated like that again. I remember leaving a denim jacket at a school, and being terrified to go back and get it, fearing that someone might ask me out on the floor.


I remember driving down La Brea Avenue with tears streaming down my face, screaming “Dammit, God!  Will you either take away my urge to practice this shit or just let me DO it???”


It was horrible.  I couldn’t stop, and couldn’t go forward.  Well, fast forward a bunch of years and thanks to people like Terry Letteau, Harley Reagan, and Scott Sonnon I not only figured out what was going on, and that fear was a totally natural thing I had mis-interpreted hugely, but techniques to actually deal with it.


And dammit, if I had known that last piece, I could have actually used that fear to make me better.  You see, fear is an action signal to DO something, either flee or fight.  Non-clinical depression seems to be fear without anywhere to run and with nothing to fight.  Might as well curl up and die, right?


Wrong.  The answer was right in front of me, but I needed Coach Sonnon’s fear removal technique, the thing we call the “Spider Exercise” to turn that fear into power.


The Spider Technique works this way: choose a fear you want to master. Say…Arachnophobia.  Let’s say that every time you see a spider, you have a “10+” fear response on a scale of 1-10.


To perform the Spider technique you need an aerobic exercise where you go into “second wind”.  CRITICAL that you be sure you have this.  Know what second wind is?  It kicks in somewhere between 12-15 minutes of a steady state aerobic exercise. (as a quick reference: An aerobic exercise is one where you are exerting yourself enough that you can talk, but you cannot sing).  Walking, running, singing, swimming, any number of activities can work, so long as you hit this mark.


Now.  Let’s say it’s walking on a treadmill (and yes, a little privacy is excellent, for reasons that will become apparent).


  1. Sit next to the treadmill.  Begin to imagine spiders crawling all over your body (or whatever your “worst case scenario” might be)
  2. Do this for 10 minutes, getting into the emotion intensely, “until you are crying out of your nose” as another rough measure of total physiological investment in the experience.
  3. Now, IMMEDIATELY jump onto the treadmill (or begin to perform the chosen aerobic exercise.)
  4. Perform the exercise until you hit “second wind”.  You need not be consciously thinking about the spiders.  This all happens on the unconscious level.
  5. As soon as you enter “second wind” you are done. You can continue exercising, if you wish, but it doesn’t matter.


You can perform this exercise about once a week–no more often, though.    It works because fear and cardiorespiratory distress have enough similarities in the body that your brain doesn’t care which is which, and you have a capacity to “shift gears” to become more physiologically efficient and effective, and when you do it WHILE the negative emotions are surging through your body, you are teaching your hindbrain to cope with the powerful survival “dump” of adrenaline and norepinephrine and so forth.  It really does work like magic.


Our research suggests that every time you do this, your fear reaction to that specific stimulus will diminish by about 15%. Which means that if you do it five or six times, you’ll go from a 10+ to about a 3, and manageable.  Again…you have to try it to see what I mean.  Magic.


So: what would I have said to my younger self, if I could send back a time capsule:


“Dear Steve.  You are experiencing massive fear around sparring, and that fear leads to shame and guilt.    I am writing to you from the future, in which I am no longer troubled by that emotion.  Oh, I still have fear, but now I understand that it is just a feeling, just a reaction or sensation like cold, or fatigue, or hunger.  You will have enough trouble just dealing with the fear: don’t bother carrying the additional load of secondary emotions.


But…it’s easy to say that, harder to do.  Let me give you two exercises to master this:


  1. Glitter in Water.  Got this from Terry Letteau, Steve, a Shorei Chito-Ryu instructor who is an absolute badass.   Visualize a glass tube filled with water.   Glitter is suspended in the water.  Watch it until the glitter settles to the bottom. It took me about six weeks for the glitter to settle. It was worth it.  No, I won’t tell you what happened. You’ll need to discover that for yourself.
  2. The Spider exercise.   One change: your aerobic exercise will be working the heavy bag.  Visualize being utterly humiliated and hurt by the toughest guy at your school.   Really get into the misery of it.  Now…envision your five year old self hiding behind you. All you have to do is stop this monster, slow him down, give 100% of everything you have, and that five year old self will be safe, and will love you TOTALLY just for giving it all you have.     Go for it.


Those two things (and hey, I added the Ancient Child in there, did you catch that?) would have transformed my life, vastly sped up my passage through an emotional hell.    When I think of all the people I could have helped if I’d had this specific tool to offer thirty years ago…sigh.


Anyway, that would be the first “Time Capsule” I’d send back.    More on this idea soon…




Using the Dynamic Sphere

If the Hero’s Journey and the Chakras together make a dynamic sphere of human potential, how do we use it to our benefit?  I can best illustrate it by choosing a specific illustration.   There are four major aspects of our existence that are superb to focus on.   Career, finances, body, and emotions/relationship.


The beautiful thing about these is that each can be managed with a tiny initial investment in time.  Let’s get more specific and see how these relate to a writer.  Let’s look at a “minimum program” and an “optimal program” in each.  Minimum is the least you can do and still move forward.   Optimal is the “sweet spot” where you are doing just enough to max out results without falling into diminishing returns.  The following is a possible answer to min-max thinking.  Of course there are other patterns.


  1. Career: write a minimum of a line a day.   Optimal: a story a week/every other week, reading 10X what you write.
  2. Finances: save 1% of your gross earnings.   Optimal: save 10% of your gross earnings.
  3. Body.   Minimum: Exercise 10 minutes a day (say, Five Tibetans and/or Joint Mobility).   Optimal:  one minute exercise per year of age (distributed between aerobic, anaerobic and yoga.)
  4. Emotions.  Minimum: Five minute miracle (five sixty-second “breathing breaks” distributed through the day).  Optimal 5MM plus 20-30 minutes Ancient Child/Heartbeat Med


Let’s say your problem is that you don’t exercise, and see that this is going to catch up with you…some day.   How do you motivate yourself to take action NOW?


Body/fitness is 3rd Chakra, between “sex” and “love.”   That’s where the wound is.   The Hero’s Journey combined with this understanding might suggest the following tactic:


  1. Confronted with challenge.   CLEARLY define the change you wish to make. Be specific.  “Lose 50 pounds of fat, build 30 pounds of muscle” might be clear enough.  So might “fit into a size 5 dress.”
  2. Reject the challenge. What are the fears that have stopped you?  What would you LOSE if you accepted the discipline and values that are necessary to put physics working FOR you rather than AGAINST you?  Afraid of becoming more attractive? Of failing again? Of breaking rapport with friends or family?  Of wasting time?  Of letting society “win”?  WRITE YOUR FEARS DOWN!  Look at them carefully: are they logical and reasonable, or are they b.s.?
  3. Accept the Challenge.  At some point you have to DECIDE to do it, to BOTH diet and exercise (and trust me, you’ll have to do BOTH to lose and keep the weight off).  Say the words. Write them down.  Give yourself a deadline, losing no more than 1-2 pounds per week.
  4. Road of Trials.   This is the distance you will have to travel between where you are and where you want to be.  Lose 50 pounds?  Six months to a year.  1-2 pounds per week.  Let’s say you decide to do 12 minutes of kettlebells or 15 minutes of yoga six days a week, plus Intermittent Fasting.   Whoa. Good program!  Now…what will keep you on track?
  5. Allies and powers.   Will the people around you support your efforts or tear you down?   What new activities will you need to integrate?  What emotions will have to change to support those activities?  I know a woman who couldn’t lose weight until her children begged her to stay alive.   She COULD NOT lose it for herself, but thinking of her children’s pain finally motivated her.    The PAIN in her “heart” got her moving.  Once she spoke to her doctor and laid out a plan, she realized she needed greater motivation, and that was where she reached out to me.   Sex and Power and emotion (2nd, 3rd, 4th chakras). The wound was somewhere in there.  What was her attitude toward sex? She loved it, but had once been an absolute knock-out, and attracted men who didn’t care about her heart.  Used her.  She accepted the possibility that she didn’t trust herself to differentiate between good and bad partners, and was literally afraid of being “too attractive.” Figured that if she was less physically attractive, the men who came to her wouldn’t just be looking for externals.


The problem was, she didn’t find these guys attractive. She wanted someone dynamic, positive, and…oops…lean-bodied. In other words, she wasn’t attracted to the male version of herself!   In the name of congruence, she HAD to either change her values, or change her current state so that she was “on the wavelength” of the kind of men she wanted in her life.  More sex, better sex, better heart-space connection.


Great: chakras 2 and 3 covered and four all covered.   


You see, if you don’t do something, it is because there is too much pain associate with doing it, and too much pleasure associated with leaving things as they are.  Too much fear of change, not enough love of possibility.  You can change this by writing out your feelings about the issues of the surrounding chakras (if your problem is in the “survival” 1st Chakra, then bend it into a circle and look at #7 and #2.    If your problem is spiritual (#7) do the same, looking at #6 and #1)


So she attached fear to the negatives (loneliness, sickness, incongruence, bad example, lack of energy) and love to the positives (better role model, longer life, more attractive partners, increased self-love, etc.)


These were all HER motivations. HER positives and negatives.  And she dug in and dug in until she was crazy wild about her positive vision of the future, and totally sick of the direction she was currently headed.   When you attach enough pain to the one AND pleasure to the other, you will ALWAYS move.  Conversely, if you aren’t moving, you’ve yet to associate enough pain and pleasure in the proper directions.


6) Confront evil–defeat.  It is inevitable that you will fall on your face. Lying to yourself about this is setting yourself up for disaster.   WHEN you fail, the question will be: what did you learn? How fast did you get yourself back up?  What did it mean to you?   What new allies and powers do you need to integrate?   A common one is to try to lose the weight too quickly (Lose 7 pounds a week on the cocoanut diet!) or to ONLY control portions OR exercise rather than both, or use a “diet” instead of a “lifestyle change” or to realize that your inner voices are going to play merry hell with you.   How do you prepare for this?  By finding, reading about, studying, talking to people who have lost weight and maintained the lean body for five years, say.  Doesn’t matter if there aren’t many of them–there aren’t many successful published writers, either, but by studying them you can and will max your chance of becoming one.


7) Dark night of the soul.  It is impossible to move from one major point in your life to the next without resistance.  If there was no resistance, you’d already be there.  The Hero’s Journey is the path between one “chakra” and the next, which means that we repeat the pattern at least seven major times before reaching maturity.  You WILL lose faith and reach despair and depression. So…look back over your life.   See other times you have been discouraged, picked yourself back up and kept going.  How did you do it?  Who did you lean on?  What did you visualize to get you moving?   Keep records.   


8)Leap of Faith.   Faith in yourself (“I can do it!”) Faith in your companions (“My kids need me.  My doctor wouldn’t lie to me.  My coach believes in me”) or Faith in a Higher Power (“my natural state is health and fitness.  This weight issue is a socially-maintained illusion, created by a totally artificial work and life environment.  I choose to be in alignment with nature.”).  Choose one, or all.  Get into it.


9) Confront evil-succeed.  If you follow the previous steps, and DO NOT QUIT, your victory is almost inevitable.


10) Student Becomes the Teacher/Movement to the higher level.    You will need to choose a new goal and start the cycle over again. And…the best way to integrate everything is to teach someone else, to be a link in the chain pointing toward waking up.


That is ONE way you could apply the Dynamic Sphere to ONE problem. There are countless others, but by starting with the Big Four (Emotions, Body, Career, Finance) you lay a foundation that will allow you to push like crazy without hurting yourself or others.   This lets you take your brakes off, and that leads to momentum.  Which will take you eventually to take-off speed.


And once you’re in the air, the territory looks very very different.




Focus and Flow

I think we’ve reached the critical mass we’ve been waiting for over on the Lifewriting site (, where the conversations and questions are organic to the experience, and I can actually do my daily blog entry about specific issues.   Wow. So much fun!   I will be selecting one every day and going into detail on it.  Here’s one from “Lou”…



I’m unsure if this is the correct group in which to post what I’m about to post; apologies in advance if I’m in the wrong spot. How does one…


“Gather tools to help you create laser-like concentration so you can dive into flow state if you only have 30 minutes instead of four hours…”


This was one of many intriguing lines in Tananarive Due’s download secretstoawriterslifebonus.pdf. I’m love the doc. Great essays and useful insights.


Now I’d love to know more about creating laser-like concentration — that’s something I used to have but feel has degenerated over the past three years. I’m very keen to get it back.


What are these tools of which this wonderful PDF speaks?



Fabulous question.  Thank you!    Here is what we suggest for all newbies to the site:

Choose a goal you can accomplish in 30 days IF you are totally on-point. The intention here is not just to accomplish it, but to perform a “diagnostic” on your ability to:

  1. Keep your commitments to yourself
  2. Time manage
  3. Focus
  4. Flow
  5. Research
  6. Network


Or anything else that holds you back from accomplishing your dream.  Sure, “Luck” factors in there.  But unless you have EXTRAORDINARILY bad luck, you will have opportunities.  Sure, resources can limit you, but if you have the time and internet access to read these words, that’s probably more rationale than reason.


So…what do you do?


  1. Define your thirty day goal.
  2. Set up your Daily Ritual.  This is a combination of movement (walking works great) while speaking affirmations and declaring/visualizing/feeling goals AT THE SAME TIME.    10-20 minutes of this, with passion and commitment, is just an astounding way to start your day.
  3. Five times a day, once every three hours, stop and breathe deeply and slowly for 60 seconds.  This is called the “Five Minute Miracle” or 5MM.
  4. All of the above is “focus.”  Now comes the “flow.”   Every morning and night, as you fall asleep and just as you awaken, you enter the “hypnogogic state”, half-way between sleep and wake.  It is a kind of dreamy reality, a version of the “flow” state that artists enter to write or paint, yogis seek in asana, Tai Chi masters seek in motion, runners seek in “runner’s high.”   Download the “Ancient Child” meditation (look in “Free Stuff”) and listen to it, and start visualizing that “child” when you first awaken, and before you go to sleep.  
  5. Deliberately seek out this same “feeling” in other aspects of your life.  Deliberately seek to trigger it during your 5MM sessions.
  6. If you want to intensify this, actually sit up in bed after you awaken and spend your first 10-20 minutes listening to your heartbeat and deliberately seeking to replicate this gauzy, hazy sense…while simultaneously focusing. This is tricky, a little like balancing on a rope, but with practice you’ll get it.
  7. If you need more help, use the “Warrior Sleep” MP3, also available at the Free Stuff tab.


Hope that that helps.  The ability to focus and flow on demand is one of the doorways to excellence.  Balanced excellence leads to self-discovery and adulthood.   Self-discovery reveals the wounds and blockages that stop you from awakening. And awakening leads to  a transformed personal world, which allows you to share that discovery with others, and affect wider change, propagating light like yeast added to bread dough…


Everything is connected. Start with thirty days. Start with five minutes of breathing.


Go for it!





Can I count on your help?

As you know, we’re launching the Lifewriting Premium site ( where I’ll have a chance to give people more personalized attention, as well as give access to our best products for a fraction of the usual cost.  Its the most effective and efficient way I can think of to change the world–my goal is one million awake aware adult human beings, and the specific method will be by nurturing a community of one thousand awake aware adult entrepreneurial artists and artistic entrepreneurs, people who want to build lives balanced in body, mind, spirit, and finances–and help heal and change the world.

And this is where I need your help.  I’m building a COMMUNITY, not a soap-box.   The very best way to establish value is a personal recommendation.  Word of mouth.   “Testmonials.”   For years I’ve reported back what the territory looks like along my path, and many of you have said that my bloggings, comments, techniques, coaching, or products have been of use to you in your lives.  If (and ONLY if) you would recommend such things as:

The Ancient Child
The Daily Ritual
Firedance Tai Chi

Or the other roads up this mountain, I would deeply appreciate it if you would send me a few sentences about your experiences, how you were helped, what you think of my approach and why you would recommend it.  Your comments might have to do with writing (have you improved? Finished more work?  Published? Won awards?), relationships (healed your heart, found love, released pain or fear), Finances, or body (grown stronger, healed, improved sleep, lost weight or gained muscle?  Progressed in martial arts?)

If any of these things describe your life as a result of our interactions, you can help other people by sharing your journey.   These comments will be posted on my blog, with your name.

If you would be so kind, please send your brief comments to:

If you sent me a recommendation within the last year, it may have gotten swamped in my email pile, which is why I’ve created this new address, so that we can collect them in one place.  In that case, please re-send your kind comments to

Only people who have actually used the techniques, and actually gotten positive results, please.  It is CRITICAL that every step I take here be totally honest, transparent, and above-board.  There is so much fraud and charlatanism in the world, so many illusions. So much Fool’s Gold.  People have been hurt and disappointed, and have so many damned good reasons not to extend faith.

But if you would recommend this path, these teachings to your brothers or sisters, or your own younger self…then I humbly ask you to help me tell those who would benefit from this approach that here they will find safe harbor, people who genuinely care about them, and an honest exchange of value for value.

We can change the world together, but no one can do it alone

Thank you so very much

The danger of lying to yourself

The very worst people to try to help are therapists, because they know all the buzz words and can create delusional architectures that sound perfectly reasonable…to themselves.

I recently spoke with a guy who has an horrific history of relationships: one dysfunctional partner after another after another.  Not surprisingly, he came from a family where the mother abused him and the father let it happen.  

Trying to talk to this therapist, who is now in the middle of the latest in his long list of problems is a non-stop exercise in watching deflections generated as fast as parries in a fencing match.  Noticing everything except the turd floating in the punchbowl.  Look at that pineapple!  And I used the best orange juice!  And isn’t the ice sculpture nice..?


This relates to self-love. If you love yourself, you are willing to look at what is really hurting you. Only a fear that if you see the truth, it will be too painful. That if you look deeply, you’ll find that your mother and father were right to abuse and neglect you.

But if you love yourself, you will fight for your heart the way you would for your own most beloved child.  Hear the diagnosis.   Be willing to see both the victories and the losses.

No, the women he chose were not charity cases, not accidents, and not typical of the general population. They were a cavalcade of walking issues, and he wasn’t healthy enough to avoid them.  Chose them. And then gets angry with them when they simply do what they do.   

You can’t marry someone who is an X, and then be angry when they behave like an X.   Do that, and what the REAL game is is:  “I will be unhappy.  I will not heal myself, will ignore my own damage, and to do that I create a blind spot so that I cannot see the damage in others.   I will refuse to consider the implications of my pattern, and delete any information concerning healthier people or relationships. I will consider issues to be THEIR problem, and ignore the fact that I am choosing them…again and again and again.”  Why?  I can’t be sure, but one suspects that it is those rules they learned at their parent’s feet.

You are not lovable. You are not deserving of protection.  You do not have the ability to do better, so it is best not to dream.

To me, this is the waste of a life, and it grieves me.   But sometimes, when you know the trainwreck is coming, all you can do is get a chair and some popcorn, sit back and watch the show.




(there are better paths.  There is healing. Please find your way to joy.  At Lifewriting Premium we are gathering the very best tools I know of, so if you find my approach touches your heart, try us for a month and see.   WWW.LIFEWRITE.COM)