article series

Why I stopped teaching Lifewriting

 

About 27 years ago, I was teaching at UCLA and my students helped me gain a unique insight into the relationship between storytelling and life itself. That, our personal “stories” are the personalized cultural myths, and that those cultural myths are generalized and metaphorically shifted versions of our personal lives.

 

I asked the question: “what if stories are the village elders telling the children `this is what your lives will be’ in one way or another.  This makes huge sense if it is true that there are only two philosophical inquiries: “Who am I?” And “What is true?”

 

Or in storytelling parlance, there are only two things to write about: human beings and the worlds they inhabit.  

 

If this is true, then the stories that have passed down to us over the ages might be seen as the combined wisdom of all the “village elders” on the invisible patterns of life itself.  I decided to test that theory by organizing every bit of “success philosophy” material my mother had pumped into my head in childhood into a ten-step pattern I adapted from Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces.  That pattern was:

 

  1. The Hero Is Confronted With a Challenge
  2. Rejects the challenge
  3. Forced to, or allowed to, accept the challenge
  4. The Road of Trials
  5. Gathering Allies and gaining powers
  6. Confrontation with evil–defeat
  7. The Dark Night of the Soul
  8. The Leap of Faith
  9. Confront Evil–succeed
  10. The Student Becomes the Teacher.

 

Oh, sure, there are other ways to look at this pattern. But this one has worked to teach critical pattern skills to thousands of students for decades, and I’m standing by it until I have a damned good reason to shift.  It works for planning stories, writing stories, guiding life, and even understanding the needs of a target audience.  

 

Around this pattern I clustered techniques of goal setting, mastering fear, raising energy, building relationships, healing emotions…it was natural, elegant, and the beautiful thing is that once you’ve played with it for a while, you can actually see problems BEFORE they arrive. Peek around the corner, as it were.   When I cross-bred it with the yogic Chakras and Musashi’s Nine Principles, it was amazing how powerful the tool became.

 

But…there was a problem. Despite the thousands of courses I sold, and thousands of people I worked with in “Lifewriting” workshops or via the web, the problem was that it was all conceptual.  And without anchoring the principles in heart and body, people could parrot back the principles and keep their ego shells intact.

 

Two things shifted for me.  One was a principle of my guru Sri Chinmoy, who advised his followers to train their bodies, and taught the Ananhata “Heartbeat” meditation I treasure.  What he said was that you could “awaken” a human being from the body “up” or from the heart “out”, but never ever from the head “down.”   

 

Or as my Sufi friend and teacher Mushtaq Ali Al Ansari said, he will no longer teach students who have no physical discipline.

 

Or as Mr Miyagi said, “never trust a spiritual teacher who does not dance.”

 

The head will trick you.  As Shakira said, “hips don’t lie.”

 

I backed away from Lifewriting, despite the value thousands of people had told me they’d gained. (There was another reason too–my life was out of balance after my first marriage dissolved.  But I’ve had that handled for seventeen years, and its time to shake it off and get back in the game!)  There was, frankly, too much room for delusion, for the ego to trick you into thinking that you were making progress, “waking up”, when the only reality was that you were chasing your tail in a circle, “looking where the light is, rather than where you dropped your keys.”

 

What to do?  The people who come to transformational workshops THINK they want to change, but if they don’t move their bodies differently, or change their emotional responses, they’re kidding themselves.  What to do?  I tried encouraging thinkers to move, and frankly, was not happy with the results.

 

So…after twenty years, I’ve figured out how to “get back on the horse.”   I’m going in through the other side of the equation. Rather than training thinkers and feelers to move, I’m going to train movers to feel and think.  I’m starting with the root.   And anchored with the heart-space, I think that is actually my very best route to helping people at the core level.

 

That goal of mine–to guide one million human beings to Awakened Adulthood, is back on the table.

 

To that end, I’m completely rewriting the original Lifewriting material, creating a totally new workshop that will be available online and in live workshops, and the first doorway in is the FIREDANCE TAI CHI workshop.   There, we will explore the relationship between breath, movement, structure and the stress/strain equation. Because if stress does not become strain, and you address your goals in balance, there is NOTHING your nervous system can do but grow more sophisticated. Nothing your spirit can do but evolve.  How rapidly is up to you, and will depend on the quality of coping mechanisms and the efficiency and effectiveness of your modeling.  

 

Tai Chi originates from ancient Chinese martial techniques rooted in Indian spiritual disciplines.   Someone realized that even if you remove the martial applications, the health and meditative aspects are simply wonderful.  So even if you don’t believe any of the mental aspects, the system evolves. You don’t have to believe. Simply changing the way you physically address stress and conflict while in balance will change your life.

 

Yes, I’ll use other tools such as Be Breathed, Joint Mobility and the Five Tibetans.  But Tai Chi, which I’ve practiced and taught for almost 35 years, is the doorway.  Almost fifty years of martial arts practice and almost six decades of yoga, combined with almost forty years of professional writing have given me a unique perspective on a way “up the mountain” and I want to do everything I can with it, for as long as I have to live, and help as many people as possible.

 

On April 17th we’re doing our first full-day FIREDANCE TAI CHI workshop in Bothell Washington.  Please come. If after two hours you feel this is not for you, I’ll happily refund every penny.  

 

But I promise you won’t ask for that refund.  Promise to give you absolutely 100% of everything I have, every minute you’re there, and that you’ll leave with a new plan for your life, and the tools to make it happen.  To move away from pain: physical, emotional, financial…and toward pleasure. The joy you deserve.

 

Make me prove it.  Take the challenge.

 

April 17th, Bothell Washington.  Hope to see you there.

 

www.firedancetaichi.com

 

Namaste,

Steve

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Kill The Monster While It’s Small

A long time ago, I invested in a  weekend with master coach Joseph McClendon, who told a story about infomercial guru Tony Robbins.  Apparently, Robbins enjoys adventure outings with his friends, and took them all to a Fantasy Top Gun school.   Each had a jet (and of course a co-pilot actually doing the real flying) and the idea was that they would dog-fight.   Joe got into the air first, and before Robbins could get his own jet off the ground, Joe dive-bombed him and strafed him into oblivion.
“Why did you do that?”  I asked.

“Kill the monster while it’s small” he replied.

I loved that.

##
A lot of our negative behaviors have threshold points.  At one point, we can control the urge, and at another, the urge is in control: the anger, fear, hunger, whatever, has us in its grip. Or…our financial problems have yet to spiral out of control. Or the relationship rift is still small enough to yield to honest inquiry.  And then the point comes when we are rageaholics, or scarfing down that Haagan-Daaz quart, or stealing, or beating the hell out of someone, or binge drinking.   If you can break the pattern BEFORE you reach this point, you can maintain control, and possibly even change a habit.
But you must “kill the monster while it is small.”

###
I’d noticed that before Jason has what we call a “brain fart”–losing control, screaming, throwing things, disobeying etc.–he will make nonsense sounds, distort his posture or move without coordination, make small defiant gestures, and display unreasonable irritation with small things.
You can control your emotions if you control:

Your focus
Your internal monologue
Your physical movement.

One of the strengths of the “Five Minute Miracle” is that it forces you to “check in” on these three things during the day. You will eventually begin to check in automatically: what am I thinking? What’s my focus?   What is my posture and expression?  How am I breathing?
Just noticing these things and knowing what focus, thoughts, posture and breath patterns are optimal, and realizing you can make  conscious decisions that affect how you feel and therefore how you perform, is an incredibly powerful thing.
But could I give this to Jason?   I decided to teach him the concept: “Kill the monster while its small.” To point out to him the precursive behaviors that lead to an eruption.  Breathing. Voice. Posture. Movement.  Ask him what’s going on inside him.  Before he gets upset, are there internal sounds? Images? Muscle tensions? What happens?
After he comes “down” from a tantrum, ask him to describe what was happening inside him.  Did it have color?  Weight? Sound?  Motion? Temperature? Taste?  Smell?  Texture?
A headache thus addressed can often be eliminated (just rotate through the submodalities again and again. Every time you do, you’ll notice the pain diminishing).  Could it work for something like a “brainfart”?  I don’t know.  Worth a try, though.
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THE MORNING RITUAL
Jason comes into my office in the morning, every school day. Stands against the wall with his hands at his sides and waits for me to acknowledge him.  When I do he bows. Then he comes and sits in my lap, and we hug.
The next phase has always been breathing–count from one to ten, breathing slowly.  I would hold his hands and watch his eyes, and if his eyes left mine, I squeeze his hand to remind him to get back on point.  A couple of years ago he couldn’t meet my gaze, and now he likes staring contests.
But recently, he has wanted to do headstands in the morning.   Hmmm…breath counting while standing on his head?  Does that give me feedback about his focus? You bet.  And headstands are a “royal” exercise for scholars, writers, etc., a yogic balm with vast respect.  I decided to let him do it, using fingertip pressure to guide his balance.   In a few seconds I can get an excellent fast-and-dirty measure of his health, focus, balance, emotional state and more just by how he does this one exercise, as well as putting him on a path that can lead to real internal control.  I like that.
After he comes down (20-60 seconds or so) we sit cross-legged and hold hands.  I ask him:
“What is your job?”

“To be good”

“Were you good yesterday” (if not, what went wrong?)

“Yes” (Yaaay!)
Then:
“What are the laws?”

(And here he recites Musashi’s Nine Principles.  If he had a problem the previous day, it is almost always relatable to one of those principles)
“What are the rules?’

(And here he goes down a list of behavioral rules we’ve evolved to cover problems at school.  These can shift a bit if he masters one)
“What are your goals?”

(And here he has had two goals, including enjoying reading.   I ask if he accomplished them the day before.  If not, what went wrong? If so, great!)
And here I added a new one: “Kill the monster while it’s small.”
This has only been a part of his routine for a couple of weeks.   Every time he’s had a blow-up I’ve asked him about the precursive sensations, sounds, movements, and thoughts.
We recently changed his after-school routine so that he has to do his reading BEFORE he playstations or goes to the skate park. He hates that, but I’ve held my ground.
He gets to take 60-90 minutes off after school before reading, and had some REAL problems with not being allowed to do his favorite things during that time.    Three days ago he got VERY angry, defiant, stormed off up to his “boy cave” stomping his feet.  It looked bad.
Fifteen minutes later I went up to check on him, and he was looking at Ipad videoes.  Looked up at me kind of sheepishly, and quietly said:  “I killed the monster while it was small.”
Moments like that make this whole “Dad” thing soooooo much more fun.

Namaste,

Steve

(p.s.–what “monsters” do you have in your own life?  How can you “kill them while they are small”?  Can you think of ways this applies to larger life or social issues?)

Octavia Butler’s Life and Legacy

octavia-butler_612x380

This month celebrates Octavia Butler’s life and legacy. I find myself pulled into numerous discussions on the subject, although I’m not a scholar of her work: she was my friend, my big sister, my neighbor, my colleague. Sigh. It is good to see people finally recognizing what we had walking among us, but also just a little sad. TELL THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE THAT YOU LOVE THEM WHILE THEY ARE ALIVE will you please???

Octavia was a hard-SF writer who was driven by questions about sexuality, gender relations, race relations, human violence, and our misuse of the environment. “Who are we?” and “What is true?” To me, although she certainly had politics, she was far far more philosophical, genuinely wondering if humanity had what it would take to survive, given our hierarchical and egotistical tendencies. And…her massive research into realms biological suggested to me that she was searching the natural world for answers. Were we animals? And if so, were our flaws outgrowths of our survival traits? Or our destructive traits? Or something else?

Hard, hard questions, and very few writers have gone as deeply into these questions, let alone written of them with grace and power. She was one of a kind.

Tananarive and I visited with her as often as possible, and for years Octavia and I lived walking distance from each other, and frequently got together for dinner, lunch, and conversation. She didn’t drive, and I often took her to speaking engagements so that she’d not have to take the bus.

This Friday, we’re going to discuss her life and legacy, art and craft, politics and philosophy in our ongoing exploration of how the inner and outer worlds of the artist combine to create genius. This Friday, 6pm pst on Lifewriting

Join us!

https://lifewriting.leadpages.co/octaviabutlerlessons/

 

Namaste,

Steve

Being the Hero of your own story

 

It’s Sunday, and I’m mostly taking it off.  “Off” for me is working on something fun while I’m watching television.  Today that means a short story for the HIEROGLYPH anthology, a cross-fertilization between NASA and academia creating images of near-future space exploration.  I’ve got a great idea for a Bradbury-esque story, and have been given the space to do it.  This is great.   Short stories are a “palate cleanser” as well as the fastest way to increase skill.  I can always use both.

 

Right now, T and I have a dozen different writing projects: books in various stages of development or research, short stories, television and film projects.   Wow. All contracted projects earning money, which is funny as hell because I DON’T WANT TO BE A PROFESSIONAL WRITER ANYMORE.  Been there, done that.  My goal now is to be an AMATEUR writer. A “gentleman” writer who does it for the sheer fun of it.  THAT sounds like a real giggle.  Because I love writing more than almost anything in the world.

I think that love came out in the “Writing and Social Justice” teleseminar we did on Friday for a hundred avid listeners.  If you were there, you know how much fun it was.  If you weren’t, then please listen to the replay:

http://www.talkshoe.com/talkshoe/web/audioPop.jsp?episodeId=1054906&cmd=apop

 

The most important concept from the entire workshop (IMO) is the “Lifewriting” principle, which is simply that you use the SAME tools IN the story (plot, character, etc.) that you use to CREATE the story (the Hero’s Journey as your path of action,  Understanding human nature to push through your own fear and lack of focus and writer’s block, etc.) and to guide your LIFE (using The Hero’s Journey to look at the entire process of your own life; body, mind, emotions) and to understand the market (the “journey” your readers are traveling in their lives, and how you can add to their resource) and your allies (editors, agents, producers…all have their own human issues, all on their own journey).

 

In other words, if you understand people and process you understand yourself, your characters, your audience, and your potential business partners.  Concentrating on this core thread is the very core of “Lifewriting”, and everything I’ve taught over the last thirty years has proceeded from this insight.    

 

Used properly,

EVERYTHING YOU LEARN MAKES YOU A BETTER WRITER, and EVERYTHING YOU WRITE MAKES YOU A BETTER PERSON.   

 

That’s the core of it.   

 

See yourself as a character in a story you are writing.   At the end of the story, that character has the love, the health, the career that they desire.   What do they do next?   What do they do this week?  If they are totally happy with their progress–JUST KEEP DOING IT!  Until you hit the “wall” (you always will) and then the way through is trusting someone to help you break “out of the box”.  You will need new resources, allies, habits.  You will have to push your way out of your “comfort zone.”

 

Just as in every story, you test your character to the limit, force them to learn new things about themselves of the world.     If your story doesn’t push them, they don’t learn, and your tale is “flat”.    If you don’t push yourself, your life is “flat.”

 

Think about your five favorite films, and ask what the point of maximum pressure was.  It was probably within 15 minutes of the end of the movie.   The hero/heroine has reached maximum internal or external resistance.  This is their moment of truth.

 

YOU have experienced this countless times: you get 90% of the way through your book or story or script, and then quit. Or don’t rewrite. Or don’t submit. Or don’t immediately start on your next project. Or don’t re-submit when you’ve gotten a rejection.

 

What stopped you?  Whatever it is, write your next story ABOUT THAT EMOTION.   Give your character the same issue.  Work through it.  Do that, and your next story will not only be more honest, but you will have engaged your problem-solving mechanism in a way that, the next time YOU run into that issue, you’ll remember what your character did, and actually gain strength.  

 

Try it!

 

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Remember that the special sale price on the LIFEWRITING TEN WEEK workshop expires at midnight tonight.   There is a 100% money-back guarantee.  If our approach to writing and life appeals to you, please don’t get 90% of the way to making the decision.  MAKE IT!  DO IT!   NOW!   

 

Here’s your link if you want to continue and deepen our conversation.    This HALF PRICE SALE price is only available until midnight tonight, Sunday the 20th!   www.lifewritingdiscount.com

 

Be the Hero in the Adventure of your lifetime!

Steve and Tananarive

Surviving Valentine’s Day

 

It is true that not everyone wants or needs love, and connection, and a sensual sexual relationship.  But that’s the way to bet, and those who are genuinely disinterested have no emotional reaction to a claim that this is a near-universal desire.

 

For those who have the craving, but have yet to find a relationship, or have lost one due to breakup, divorce, or death, holidays can be hell.  And Valentine’s Day can be the absolute worst, triggering depression (“what’s wrong with me?”), cynicism (“it’s all about money!”), anger (“what’s wrong with THEM!”) and hopelessness (“things will never change.”)

 

The “Soulmate Process” addresses relationshps by suggesting that they are mirrors of our inner life, and that they are valuable arenas for growth. But they are NOT to be pursued directly–a healthy relationship is a byproduct of being a healthy human being fully engaged with life, filled with light and “energy” and simply following your path. Along that path, you will meet others traveling in the same direction at the same speed with the same values.   But the “a watched pot never boils” idea, the “money comes to those who don’t need it” notion, the “second attention” concept where an artist has to keep her eye on “the ball” of doing the work, without directly paying attention to the results 99% of the time, is critical here.  The Zen archery concept to pay attention to form, and mind, and emotions, and clarity, and let the result come as it will.  

 

This has to be applied to the heart as well. YOUR job, happily, is to be happy.   Relationships are not an end, THEY ARE A MEANS.  You want a relationship because you believe (and have experienced) that they bring joy.

 

If you have heard the Sufi philosophy that the beginning of evil is treating human beings as means rather than ends, on the other hand, you can see the problem.   To have a healthy relationship, you can’t be “trying” to find one.To receive from human beings, you must treat them like ends rather than means.  You must give to receive.  In “Soulmate” terms, you must BE the mirror of the person you desire…but you cannot “try” to do this “in order to find someone”.  That is watching the pot, trying to control the wind.

 

All you can do is be the best you you can be, be happy, healthy, and as dynamic and loving as you can be…and then nature takes its course.  Some thoughts to this end.

 

  1. Your first task is to be happy.   To feel love. And that means that you have to do this whether anyone else agrees with you, anyone else is there to support the feeling or not.   The sense that your happiness flows from others is poisonous in the extreme.   Take care of yourself!  Practice Heartbeat meditation to connect to love.   
  2. Use the Ancient Child to touch the most vulnerable and creative part of yourself, and commit to loving and protecting your essence. The critical thing about this is that once you have committed to taking care of yourself, and experience the vast ocean of love available to you, you will automatically begin to expand your realm. THE PROBLEM IS NOT SELFISHNESS.  THE PROBLEM IS A LIMITED DEFINITION OF “SELF.”  Manipulative people will try to shame you for putting yourself first–but grasp the dishonesty there: they have placed themselves first, and are trying to con you into doing otherwise.  Don’t fall for it.
  3. Be so busy “becoming” your best self that you don’t notice your results 99% of the time.    Be like a submarine, just poking your periscope up to check your bearings a couple of times a day to make course corrections.  Spend so much time in “flow” that you are aligned with your heart and head, just “being”.    
  4. Remember the “Secret Formula.”  Your GOAL is to be happy. Relationships and accomplishments and money are just means to this.   You must have FAITH that you can be happy, love yourself, and grow.  If you genuinely love yourself, and are growing, and are engaging with the world, you will meet others doing the same.  If you genuinely love yourself, you will find things to love in others who are at your level, moving at your speed. Thats the way the world works, and misery comes from NOT loving yourself, and hoping others won’t notice the crap you dislike about your own life and being.  Concentrate on healing this, not hoping others will settle for less than you’re willing to settle for.  You must take daily ACTION to be happy, and that means engaging with the “who am I?” question, aligning your behaviors to take you closer to your heart, one step at a time, each and every day.  And you must feel GRATITUDE for the love you already have within you, and what you have experienced in your life.
  5. EVERYONE HAS EXPERIENCED LOVE. If you think not, you are lying to yourself.  Unnurtured, human infants die.   Period. No argument, no exceptions.  You may have to “drill down” to a pre-verbal self to find these memories and emotions, but once you have, you can tap into them every day of your life.  That core, once exposed, can burn away the negative emotions, but you have to do the work every day to tap into it.  Once you have, it can power the actions that drive your healing/growing process.  And there is nothing more attractive than a person who is “becoming”, who loves herself.  Who respects herself enough to demand the best of herself…and the world.  Such a person can give freely, because she is noticing who gives in return, and surrounds herself with a tribe with the same values: people who enjoy giving.  And never lets anyone hurt her twice.
  6. Find a hundred different ways to make yourself smile.  Take yourself to the zoo. Write yourself a love letter.  Have a mix CD of favorite songs.   Take yourself shopping in the 99 cent store for toys…and then give them to the first children you pass.  Go see a silly movie.  KNOW HOW TO MAKE YOURSELF HAPPY.   
  7. Five times a day, once every three hours, stop and take sixty seconds of deep belly breathing.   Connect with your “Ancient Child”–the child within, and the “Ancient” you will one day be. Haven’t you ever seen the sacred connection between grandparents and grandchildren?  It is simple love, absent the stress of the parent-child connection.   You can experience this for yourself in your morning meditation, and once achieved can trigger it five times a day to remind yourself you are loved, you are loving, you are joyous…that while you are no more than an ant, you are also no less than the stars.  Feel that connection between the child just starting the journey, and the Elder nearing completion.  Touch your heart, go deep.  
  8. Make a study of being happy, remembering that happiness is probably as close to a one-word “meaning of life” that can be spoken aloud.  All one then needs do is align happiness with your conscious values: giving, growing, loving, contribution, whatever.   Do them to be happy.   Give without expectation of receiving. Take your attention off your emotions by giving Valentines at a homeless shelter or a retirement home.  Adopt a pet. Remember the good times with a departed love.   Embrace the totality of your emotions, even the sadness, with love.
  9. Never, ever, ever forget that sadness and happiness flow in cycles.  On Valentine’s Day, commit to at least five moments of joy, faith, and gratitude.  Just five.   For sixty seconds each.   You will have planted seeds that will grow all year.
  10. Make someone smile. And take joy from it.  A stranger. A child.  A cat’s purr, the wag of a dog’s tail.   Find beauty in small things.  Remember happy times.  

 

Be kind to yourself.   Remember that you have been, are, and will always be loved.

 

Namaste,

Steve

 

http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/deer_park/living/counseling-corner-surviving-valentine-s-day-without-someone-special/article_73e054a7-533a-50b0-997f-d6d3a5e623f5.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/debbie-robins/14-tips-for-surviving-val_b_456496.html

What times zero equals one?

 

When I was in high school, I flunked a math class (mostly through laziness) and ended up in summer school at Dorsey High School.  There went my summer!   What was worse, is that I resented the fact that so many of the math problems would have been SOOOO much easier if you’d just been able to do the impossible: multiply or divide by zero.

 

Hated that.  Well, we came to the end of the semester, and our final exam.  I sat there looking at the test paper, and knew I was going to fail.  I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the math.   So…I cheated.   No, I didn’t crib from another student, or sneak a peek at the textbook.  I remembered that the teacher was a very nice guy with a wild sense of humor and a bit of a nutty streak.  So I took a chance.

 

Right there, on the paper, I created a new number system.  Called it “Superla”, and “Superla” was the multiplicative identity of zero.  In other words “S” x 0 = 1.

 

I was grinning at the absurdity of it, but after establishing my premise, I whipped through the test, giving every answer in terms of “Superla” and turned in my paper.  And then held my breath…

 

And when my grades came back, the teacher had given me a “C” on that test, with a note that he had greater admiration for my imagination than my study habits.  I’d passed.  Whew!!

 

###

 

In reality of course, “Zero” times anything equals “Zero”. This is why the “Secret Formula” is so interesting to me.  Not that there aren’t more factors than GOALS, FAITH, ACTION, and GRATITUDE, but that if you have a “zero” in any category, no matter how hard you work in the others, you will crap out.

 

No GOALS?   You drift aimlessly, or waste your efforts.  Drive in a circle until you run out of gas.  Only the rarest of human beings, some mutant combination of Zen awareness and perfect conditioning or potential, can simply drift through life and still evolve and succeed.   Rare.  Dangerous, because it is as misleading as a Ray Bradbury short story.  It looks so easy…

 

No FAITH?  If you don’t believe you can and SHOULD pursue and achieve your goals, you cannot find the motivation to “give everything” or indeed to get started at all.  The path of success DEMANDS that you empty yourself out. That point of emptying will create panic. It feels like death.   And unless you believe either that you have reserves beyond conscious awareness, or that your path is worth dying for, you will never, ever pass this barrier, and fall back to the previous level like someone eternally “losing weight” but losing and regaining the same twenty pounds again and again.

 

No ACTION?   Do I need to tell you how angry I am at the people who preach that all you need to succeed is to “want” it enough?   “Think about it” enough?   I could take some very specific actions on their buttocks, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.   But…how about this?  How about if we ask the next question: “how do you know if you want it enough?”    If the answer is “if it feels right” you are pretty much on the Buttocks Brigade.  But if your answer is: “I want it enough if I can’t wait to get up in the morning and GET TO WORK making it happen. Take ACTIONS every day, notice the results I get, and if they aren’t working take DIFFERENT ACTIONS based on modeling successful people, until I get what the @#$$ I demand from life!”   And you develop that level of “oomph” by having clear goals that align with your values, see the path to their accomplishment, and believe that “going for it” will bring more pleasure than pain.   In fact, it is impossible not to take action if you have these things.  Reverse engineering says that any time you meet someone who ISN’T taking action, they either lack clear goals, clear values, haven’t aligned goals with values, or have lost faith that they can achieve it.

 

No GRATITUDE?   Well, then you’ve lost before you begin.   Because you can win the whole outer world, but unless you feel grateful for love, for life, for opportunity, for all of the wonders we experience every day…you have little or nothing.  Anyone who can read these words has more, much more than some in this world who live life with full happy hearts.  You may ignore your blessings, they may seem insignificant in comparison with your travails, but that is ego.  In the nastiest septic tank, there is clean water. Just as in the cleanest aquifer there is fecal material.   It is up to you what you concentrate upon.

 

Have a “1” in every category (as a minimum) and at least you’re in the game.  But have a “zero” in any category, and everything else falls apart.   Make it a must, an absolute requirement of yourself, that you have at least a bit of a goal, a little faith, a minimal action, a dab of gratitude.  Needless to say, this is thin ice. But if you can “amp up” the other areas and maintain at least a “1” in the others, you can make progress, and move forward.

 

And if you’ve chosen your goals in balance (body, mind, emotions, finances) you will heal and move beyond petty fear.  Fill your heart with gratitude and love, and begin to expand.   And as you do, you grow.   

 

I think the political divide is largely those who begin from survival, and those who begin from their hearts.   EITHER WAY WORKS. What you cannot do it begin from your concepts alone. Your head isn’t smart enough without heart and action and the feedback of engaging with the world.

 

It is hard.  Brutally hard at times…which is why you need faith and gratitude.

 

It all fits together, really.    Repeat after me: “There is no Superla.  Zero times a million equals Zero.    I will begin every day being certain to have at least a “1” in every category.”

 

Please, do this.  Try this for just a month. It costs you nothing, and can gain you everything.

 

There is no Superla.

 

Namaste,

Steve

The Art of Striving Without Striving

“Work (with desire) is verily far inferior to that performed with the mind undisturbed by thoughts of results”–the Bhagavad Gita

 

There is no arena of life to which this cannot be applied.  Yes, you must be sure that you have “right action” in the sense that during your planning phase, you design your daily actions so that, if they are properly performed, they maximize your chance of reaching your goal.   But the actions must be pleasureable in and of themselves, or it is difficult to enter “flow”, and without flow, you will never reach your full potential.   And hey, what about pleasure for its own sake?  After all, you might get hit by a meteor tomorrow morning.  Why postpone your joy until the end of the month?

 

  1. Body.   Daily actions of discipline and exertion must tie into your “fun” wiring, or at least your “inquiry” wiring.  Learning, expressing, exploring.  Most people treat their bodies like hamsters on wheels: “if I do enough of this mindless exercise, my body will whip into shape”.  In reality, they are often WIDENING the gap between mind and body: exercising on a treadmill while watching television.  Since it takes about five hours of jogging or walking to burn off a single Whopper, this is not the smartest approach.

 

2) Mind.   Look at the arts.    The greatest artists rarely worried about the money and fame, even though it came to them.  They are concerned with the quality of the work. But if they are shrewd businessmen (as, say, Shakespeare apparently was) then they must also calibrate by watching the audience, tracking the sales, and so forth.  This might be considered the split between “flow” and “editing” states, “child” and “adult” states, with each part doing its job. The “adult” self might decide that XYZ is the appropriate homework that will lead to the good grades. But he must then lather the “child” self with love and approval (as well as implied punishment/pain: carrot AND stick works better than either alone) to keep that little guy on track.

 

3) Relationships.   The entire “Soulmate Process” notion is to design your life so that you automatically, for your own reasons, do the things that make you more attractive to others. Don’t do it to manipulate, or attract some particular person.  Do it because a healthy, vibrant expression of self is the precise attractant you need.  If you “try” to attract other people, you actually become desperate and weak.  But if your commitment is to being a healthy animal with a loving heart and a keen hunter-gatherer, you won’t be able to beat them off with a stick.    

 

All of this is the same as a warrior going off to war without looking back at his family, or concerning himself with survival.  His attention is on doing his duty, and performing his function at maximum efficiency and effectiveness.  If he does this, without concern for his own life, his skills integrated at the level of “unconscious competence” will take care of survival, while his tactical and strategic mind concentrates on, well, killing his enemies.  And he therefore will have the maximum chance of finding himself alive at the end of the day.  

 

Before action, fear or eagerness.

After action, relief and gratitude

During action, “you” are not there.  Something else comes up, Stephen King’s “boys in the basement”.  Bruce Lee’s “bloody violent man”.  Something deeper, stronger, smarter.   More real than the part of you that seeks money, fame, sex, or survival.

 

That’s the paradox.  You must act with efficiency and effectiveness.  And you also have to not care about the results.  find a way to resolve that paradox, and you’ve taken another step.

 

Namaste

Steve

How O.J. won us the Image Award

Yesterday I gave my reasons why it was and is far simpler and more logical to believe O.J. “did it” than any alternative scenario that has ever been offered.    It simply wouldn’t make sense, and in fact would make hash of much I believe about human nature.   But it was all heresay and supposition.  There was nothing to be done with it.  To be that certain of the identity of a monster and be unable to do squat about it really ate at me.

 

But as some of you may have noticed, I’m a writer.    

 

Tananarive and I had created, with actor Blair Underwood, the detective novel “Casanegra”, a tale of a former actor turned bodyguard and detective, solving the murder of the most prominent female rapper.  It had been very well received, and we wondered what to do next.   The idea of the series was to take events in Hollywood and turn them into Roman a clef mysteries.     

 

I’m not saying  the story of “T.D. Jackson”  in IN THE NIGHT OF THE HEAT (yes, each title was a play on a famous movie) bears any resemblance at all to O.J.’s tale, but I will say that plotting it was an enormous joy.     The core aspects of the tale certainly did resemble core elements of the Nicole Simpson/Ron Goldman murders, but due to circumstances beyond his control, after an initial appearance at a black Fraternity reunion, good old T.D., actor and former football hero, was sadly murdered.  Sob sob.

 

So the story was not “did he do it?” but rather “did he do it? And if he did, how and why? And if he did, did it somehow lead to his death, and at who’s hands?”  Which allowed us to not merely vent the poison in my own heart, but say some things we believed about the cult of celebrity, sports, politics, the weight of old money, and small-town psychology.   Once we laid out the core, wrapping the rest of the story around that chewy center was a dream.

 

Readers loved it, and it won the NAACP Image Award (Stacey Dash can bite me) so I think that all’s well that ends well. IN THE NIGHT OF THE HEAT was a combination of:

 

  1. Skilled writing (We plotted together but T wrote the first draft, to place the vulnerability and heart at the core of the character)
  2. Passion.  I really CARED about this story.
  3. Specialized knowledge.  Ask John Grisham if this doesn’t matter.   Audiences love feeling that you’ve “pulled the curtain aside” for them.  And boy, did I have a story to tell!

 

We wrote four novels in the Tennyson Hardwick series. There may be no more.  But in many ways, I think the entire series existed so that HEAT could be written.

 

###

Tonight, T goes to the Image Awards for the third time, to see if her collection “GHOST SUMMER” wins.   Fingers crossed. But if it’s someone else’s turn…

 

Hey, we’ve got ours!

 

Image

 

Namaste,

Steve

(ain’t it purty?)

Shot

The picture above is of a regulation 16-pound shot (next to my iPad, for reference).    I use it for various grip, endurance, and power exercises, and was showing some two-man drills to Jason yesterday, much like using a medicine ball, passing it back and forth.  Let’s just say that a mistake was made, and it ended up falling on my left toe.  

 

Yeouch!  The swelling and bruising was a wonder to behold (let alone “befelt”) but that’s not the most interesting thing…

 

I knew I needed a good night’s sleep to give my body a chance to heal. And got a pretty good rest, but when I woke up in the morning…my toe felt pretty good…

 

But my left groin muscles ached.  If I hadn’t seen this before, it would have been a real WTF moment.  I bang my toe, and ANOTHER part of my body gets the pain?  What’s up with that?   

 

Well, there are a lot of things, but the most obvious one is that when you hurt part of your body, you change balance and focus to protect it…putting strain on ANOTHER part of your body.   The pain/injury can “travel” to another part of the kinetic chain, nesting there like a rabid rat, burrowing in and waiting for you not to notice…so that you can get hurt again, and again, bouncing around your body one step ahead of your perceptions.

 

Lasting, deep injury is made of such things.   So in a few minutes I’ll do yoga, because my routine (a single repetition of the entire Bikram series.  Takes about 35 minutes) works the entire body, every bit of the “chain” whether I have conscious awareness of the issues or not.   And when I do that, no matter where the damage “bounces” I’m dealing with it, and the whole thing will fade within a couple of days.

 

The trick is that this works psychologically as well.  Damage, fear, disappointment, guilt, shame…they enter our systems through one door, but then bounce around and break a window in another room.  Your boss makes a disparaging remark, and you take it out on your kids, damaging your relationship.  You get a rejection on your latest story, and become more vulnerable to “road rage.”  You stop smoking and gain weight.   The examples are endless.

 

And you CANNOT always predict where the “redirected” damage will pop up.  This is why you need a “generative” practice of some kind, something that shines light into the entire room, whether you think about that little dusty corner or not.  That corner is where your demons will hide.

 

Heartbeat Meditation, the Ancient Child, pranayama, journaling…there are endless possibilities.   My Morning Ritual covers everything in “Quantum” form, the minimum necessary to check in and step forward in body, mind, and emotions.   The “seed” of all my other actions, so that if I do it, I know that I’m moving, moving, moving, never sliding backwards.  And as long as you are making any progress, your fear level drops. Which increases faith, which makes it possible to take more actions, in a positive spiral that can take you anywhere you want to go.

 

Find something that will have this function for you.  Do it every day, to get those dust bunnies out of the corner.

 

Those psychological/emotional groin sprains are no fun at all.

 

Namaste,

Steve

“The People Versus O.J. Simpson”

 

Yeah, I thought he was innocent too.  But it didn’t’ take long for me to come to very different conclusions, and as the years went by, more and more evidence came my way, until I reached my current level of conviction that he is a murdering bastard.  And no, I don’t think the “Not guilty” verdict meant any more there than it did with George Zimmerman.

 

I felt total fury at the fact that I knew I couldn’t prove anything, but T and I laid out our case in the Tennyson Hardwick novel IN THE NIGHT OF THE HEAT, in which we punished his fictional avatar.  Perhaps coincidentally, that book won the NAACP Image Award.  Gee, you think maybe there were some other pissed people?

 

At any rate, as the television movie is about to hit, I thought I’d lay out my case.   Every word I’m saying is true so far as I know it.

 

  1. My first thought when I heard of the murders, and the fact that the cops were looking at him, was that he was much too smart to do it.  If anything, he would have hired it done.   The first crack in the image came when I heard the phone conversation in the White Bronco driven by his good ol’ pal Al Cowlings. I believe that  the Bronco chase took place when he didn’t want to turn himself in to the police, and that bizarre slow-motion chase, the LAPD giving him so much rope you could have woven him a cocoon out of it, was all the evidence I needed that yes, as I had heard, the cops LOVED O.J.  Adored him.   Any way, the cell phone conversation was  basically self-pitying:  “sob sob”  I hope my children remember me as I was, and not this miserable creature here today…” or something of the like.

 

And…the hair on the back of my neck stood up.   Something wasn’t right.  I called about five male friends and asked them the following question: “say you’re divorced from your wife, who you still love. She and a friend are BUTCHERED in the driveway of her house, while your children are asleep upstairs.  What is your first thought?”

And every single one of them, EVERY ONE, said: “OMG!  The Mansons must have gone after my family!   Protect those children!”   That was the first thought of any man I knew.   There would only be one reason I could accept for that not to hit anyone with a spoon of testosterone (hell, or estrogen): you knew who did it, and knew that there was no risk to the kids.

 

Under what circumstances would O.J. KNOW who did it, but not speak, allowing the life he had spent decades building to be utterly destroyed?  Who could that be?   His son? His brother?  A friend?  I don’t believe any of that.   Get that close friend or relative the best legal defense in the world?  Sure.  While O.J. is out eating steak and screwing starlets.  Not for a fraction of an instant to I believe that man loved anyone or anything enough to destroy his own life to protect him.

 

How about the theory that a drug ring did it, and his children would only be safe so long as he remained quiet?  All I can say is that anyone who believes that has seen entirely too many direct to video movies.

 

No, at that moment I realized that I would respect him MORE if he killed his wife than any scenario I could think of if he didn’t. There was simply no way he could know who did it and not speak. And if he didn’t know who did it, there was no way he wouldn’t think his children could be next, and be concerned.

 

The simplest conclusion: he did it.    I wasn’t quite sure yet…and the next piece came months later.

2. Ronnie Ship was the LAPD cop who claimed O.J. was partying after the murder.  O.J.’s defense team made him out a liar.  The problem is that I went to Alta Loma elementary school with Ronnie Ship. He was a straight-shooter, a protector of the weak even then, and used to pull bullies off me.   My oldest friend, Lee Taylor, called me one day and told me to turn on the television. The trial was on.  Ronnie Ship was on the stand.   He was testifying, but looked heartbroken.   I watched him look directly at Simpson and silently mouth the words:  “tell the truth, O.J.”  Whoa.

3.  Let’s say that due to a series of coincidences, I came to know a “very” good friend of a friend of O.J.’s., call him “Driver”.     This person told me that QUITE soon after the murders,  “Driver” showed up at their door in an extremely agitated state.    And said that there was nothing in the world as stimulating as cutting a woman’s throat.

 

4)   In O.J.’s book, “If I Did It” he lays out a hypothetical scenario for the night of the murders.  In it, he says that a friend went with him that night, and helped him execute the crime.

5)   I was standing in line at a grocery store, and picked up a tabloid newspaper, one of the ones that actually has a reputation for breaking real (if lurid) stories.   On a back page was a column of short articles.   One said that a woman in the same line of work as the person  in #3, a friend of White Bronco owner Al Cowlings said that the reason the infamous Bloody Glove didn’t fit was that it belonged to good old Al.

6.  Following the acquittal, he has behaved precisely as I would expect someone with an exploded ego and a shitload of guilt to act: simultaneously considering himself invulnerable, and seeking redemption through punishment.

 

Look–none of this is likely to change any minds.  I’m just saying that in combination, we have precisely my reason to consider him a monster.  Others are welcome to think of him what they will.

 

But as with Zimmerman, to me he is a walking pusticle, and I couldn’t wait to watch the world fall on him.  It did.

 

Batter up, G.Z.

 

Steve

(and tomorrow, I’ll talk about how T and I channeled our outrage into the book!)