The Jedi’s Journey #1: Confrontation with the Challenge

Oh, I’m having fun over at the Star Wars Saved My Life mailing list.  It’s going back to the very beginning of Lifewriting, looking at what I thought about these things years ago, and updating them for a new generation of fans, as well as renewing a conversation with old friends.   Here is part of the first email sent out to the group (you can sign up at

Greetings!  Welcome to the Star Wars Saved My Life mailing list.   We really are going to explore what makes these fantastic movies work as well as they do, why we love them, and how you can extract from them genuinely valuable lessons to change your life.

We will apply these ideas to writing (how many of ya want to be writers?  Hands, please!) but also other aspects of life.

Become a Jedi? Well…whatever the closest human equivalent is…yes.  And if you can get your hands on a vial of midichloreans, who knows!

We’ll start by taking a stroll through Star Wars: A New Hope, and its application of something called the Hero’s Journey.  Before we do, a quick note.  In the 1960’s and 70’s, cultural
anthropologist Joseph Campbell published a series of studies extracted from a lifetime of cross-cultural, interdisciplinary work on world myth.  He found sets of recurring myth patterns, which have been  interpreted many ways to many different effects.

I strongly suggest seeking out his original work.  With the understanding that I have bent his
thoughts to my own purpose, let’s proceed to look at a version of his most famous idea, the one that George Lucas studied to create that first fabulous movie.
No matter where you go in the world, whether  it is to visit with Eskimo shamans, Native
American storytellers, Celtic Bards, African griots or Hollywood screenwriters, there are
great similarities in the stories they tell, probably  because the heart of storytelling is the reality
of human life itself, with its relatively predictable pattern of events.  This pattern may be the only
“plot structure” that also applies to our own lives, and therefore is incredibly easy to integrate into our work.

Step #1:
The Hero is Confronted with a challenge.   “Come with me, Luke: learn the way of the Force.”

This is  the critical first step. The steady-state   of the lead character is disrupted by a challenge or change from outside of his ordinary world.  If this does not happen, there is no story in the traditional sense, although I have certainly seen experimental pieces where there is no challenge, just a depiction of life itself, often in dreary detail.  As a story element this is obvious.  It is less obvious how this applies to our lives.  All living creatures crave homeostasis.  We try to remain as we are, for as long as possible.  We will change as little as we can.

When writing, ask yourself what your character  needs to complete himself in life, why he has
resisted, and what would force him to begin to change.

Then, ask yourself the same questions…about yourself.   It is vital to begin the process of linking the work to  your own life.  This will be difficult at first, but get  easier as time goes on.

We want to look at all three major arenas of your life, on the theory that you will be best served by correcting imbalances in body, mind, and emotions.

So ask yourself a few questions to get this ball rolling.   NOTE: you don’t need to know how you’ll do it. The first step is admitting you want a given result.  Everything else is tactics and strategy!

“Mind” might be measured by efficiency in hunting and gathering. Education and occupation.   What challenge have you avoided in the arena of your career?  Do you take joy in your occupation?  Make enough money? Have you achieved your educational goals?
“Body” is fitness and health.  In general, you should want to have enough energy to work hard all week and party on the weekend! Feel GOOD when you wake up in the morning, with optimism and aliveness, and a healthy sex drive.  When you strip and look at yourself in the mirror, ask if you would be attracted to you.   That is a VERY good question, because it is critical to match your own values, or at least be striving in that direction.  Do you?
“Emotions”.   I avoid speaking of “spirit” in this context, because that word means too many different things to different people and cultures.  But our love connects us to our own hearts, and to the people around us, and the universe as a whole. So…
do you love yourself?  Could you look at yourself in the mirror, see the child you used to be and without a hint of irony say “I love you.  I will protect you.  I am proud of you”?  Why or why not?
do you love the relationship you are in?  Do you have one?   Do you relish your mate, adore her or him?  Our relationships are reflections of our self-image, what we think we’re worth.

Why not aspire to having a wonderful career, a healthy dynamic body, and a fulfilling passionate relationship?  What if you could have them all by applying the things you learned the very first time you watched STAR WARS?

THAT is what we’re up to here.   I’ve achieved all these things, and taught it to others for thirty years.  And now I want to share the secrets with you.  Just because we are both fans, my friend. Nothing more than that.

May The Force Be With You!


On “Gaslighting” and the dynamics of inequality

I recently mused that work or trade potential exists where there is inequality.  If all the matter and energy in the universe was evenly distributed, there would never have been stars, planets or life.  On the level of trade, this is the basis of exchange.  Got into a discussion of socialism versus capitalism (of course) where my position is that extremes in either direction are equally toxic and destructive of a society.  I think most sane people agree with this, and the only question is: “how much equality of access shall be imposed or permitted?  How much inequality?”  Anyone who believes that either end holds the greater moral authority or intrinsic goodness has swallowed the Kool-ade.

Jeff Wilson said something very true: “people with identical resources can still gain by specialization.Today I’ll hunt while you gather, then we can trade meat and hide and sinew for berries and wood and feathers, so we both have a more varied diet and parts for bows and arrows. Tomorrow we can craft, one of us can chew leather while the other carves”

I replied:   those then would be people with identical POTENTIAL  resources, not actual. If a bunch of identical clones go out into the world to hunt, gather, learn and trade they will come back home with different resources. If I’ve brought back a boatload of tuna, and you’ve brought home a truckload of furs, we have unequal resources, and can trade. My point is that that is the basis of work on the level of physics, and the basis of commerce. Not at all an evil thing–it just “is.” On the other hand, clearly there is no real-world situation where a bunch of clones go out. Human beings aren’t equal in capacity–that is simple observation even if raised in near-identical environs. Nor in motivation. But you also have to add the fact that humans will leverage advantage whether fair or not: strength, numbers, flukes of chance, stumbling across a resource, living near a trade route, whatever. Then they will create beliefs that they are entitled and blessed, and simultaneously dominate and attempt to justify that domination and control. Lends itself to evil quite handily. So you have something that is natural, and both “good” and “bad” depending on perspective and inclinations. This most certainly is a fascinating world.”

Obviously, I believe that the observation that individuals are unequal gets totally twisted when it comes to groups.   People will not only leverage their advantage, but tell you that you DESERVE the oppression. That it is the basic nature of human beings.   I was raised by my mother and sister, and as a boy, was taken to many, many meetings where there were no men in the room, and was ignored as too young to matter. And trust me, those women were just as dismissive of men as I’ve ever heard men be of women.   Men were basically   children, easy to manipulate.  Wow.

You see this stuff  everywhere, whether we’re talking religion, sexual orientation, race, culture, nationality, school, team…anything.   So that reality, that inequality makes action possible, is both a truth and the doorway to hell.

How do we straddle that line?  Personally, I reject any standard created by group “A” that “proves” them better than group “B.”   I know that that is the natural tendency of consciousness, and that the more remarkable thing, by far, is to grant equality and full humanity. That is extraordinary, and so far as I can see, a relatively new thing in human history.  (“But Steve! How can someone as intelligent as you ignore the mathematics behind The Bell Curve?”  I’ve had this asked many many times.  Easy. Because those tests were not created, administered, evaluated or interpreted by frickin’ aliens. They were devised by human beings with conscious and unconscious agendas and perceptual filters.  We delete vast amounts of information, all the time, or we would literally go insane.  And the people who believe The Bell Curve, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, have told me that what I have observed concerning inequality in America is an illusion. If they had ever, even once, admitted that the inequality of opportunity or administration of justice was as unequal as I’ve observed, THEN also maintained their position concerning intelligence tests, I might have listened more closely. But I had a choice: either trust my own observations, or trust the integrity of people I do not know to create, administer, evaluate, compile, and disseminate data that “proves” their group is superior.  Well, it is possible of course. But frankly, I trust my own perceptions more than I trust anyone else’s.)

Yesterday, I posted a link to an article on “gaslighting.”

This is defined as trying to convince someone that their perception of reality is untrue.   We all know this happens in relationships between individuals. But it is also brainwashing between an institution (or family unit) and an individual, or between groups.   I remember the horrific scene in “Saving Private Ryan” where the German soldier is knifing the American soldier, speaking soothingly to him, basically telling him that it is pointless to fight, it’s all right, just let it happen…

Jesus Christ that was horrifying.   Your life isn’t worth fighting for.  Go to sleep…go to sleep…

How many examples of this have I seen in my life?  Countless.  Personal experience and observation both.   Gay kids being told that the love they felt was evil.   Ambitious people told that their aspirations were unrealistic.    Women told that they are weak and inferior, men that they are evil and should be guilt-ridden. Whites that they should feel guilt for things their ancestors did, blacks that they have not experienced the oppression they have observed and experienced on a daily basis.  Atheists that they are wrong to structure the world according to their logic, Christians that they are wrong to embrace their faith.   Americans that they are better (or worse) than other people, other nations.

On and on and on.   Are there actually inequalities? Yes. But…I believe more damage is been done on the level of believing “we” are better than “them” in the modern world than the opposite.   It is quite possible that that binary evaluation was a survival imperative in an earlier world. And might still be important.  But Octavia Butler warned that the greatest danger to humanity was

  1. our hierarchical thinking and
  2. our tendency to place ourselves higher on the hierarchy than others.

It doesn’t take much observation to notice that most people who believe in the Bell Curve are white, most misogynists male, most homophobes straight, most male-haters women, most Islamophobes Christian or Jewish.   Most anti-Semites Christian or Muslim.  And yes, these “antis” and “phobias” denote not merely aversion, but perception of relative value.   One very rarely hears: “they’re as good as we are, but I hate them.”  That is a comment startling enough to be notable.

In other words, for some odd reason, usually only the people benefitted by the comparison tend to consider group X to be inferior.

Isn’t that an odd coincidence?  

So…I start by REJECTING all of that, but will slowly come to the conclusion that a group is warped, or damaged, or dangerous if offered sufficient evidence by a neutral authority, because I know that there are powerful conscious and unconscious forces that strive to twist our minds to believe We are the center of goodness and value.  

Every child has a touch of that Buddha baby nature about her–unless it gets beaten out: “Heaven above, Earth below, no one in the world like me!”  And believes their Mommy is the prettiest, their daddy the strongest, their family the best.  That’s where a healthy ego begins, and we evolve from that point.   Sometimes.  INDIVIDUALS grow beyond that point. But cultures, institutions, have enormous inertia, and abandon that position far more slowly.

You can take the blue pill, and stay in the Matrix.  Or you can take the red pill, and have a very different experience of life.   Ultimately, the choice is yours.



About that route to the Dark Side

I’ve definitely noticed a human tendency: if you don’t see an answer to a problem, or the suggested answers are not to your liking, ignore evidence of a problem.  This can be seen in operation if you say: “statistics suggest X” and the other person stonewalls evidence for X and then at some point  says “but solution Y to X is unfair.”

That’s a different subject.  The first question is 1)  “what is true?”  Not 2) “what shall we do about it?”   Different questions.  But it is obvious that a discussion of position #2 can only be conducted by those who agree that there is an issue.  And that agreement upon what is true is influenced by whether people like the previously proposed solutions.

I find that childish and dishonest… and exceptionally common human behavior.  FIRST discuss what is true.  You will never get total agreement–in fact, some of the disagreement will come from saboteurs and Smiling Monsters who don’t like the proposed solutions (or are simply protecting their own interests, when the truth is that there is an unfair situation that benefits them).  So once you’ve reached the level of certainty you have pre-determined to be appropriate, go right ahead and, among those in agreement, brainstorm solutions.

That said, also remember that you might be wrong. Seek ways to test your premise, of course.  But also be careful to craft solutions that will not be disastrous should your premises be wrong.  Try to find “generative” ideas. For instance, say you believe in anthropogenic global warming. There are those who are intellectually opposed to the idea, those who have been influenced by special interests, and those afraid that the proposed solutions will cause more damage than the warming itself.

Therefore, the best solutions will be those which will cause upset or damage to the fewest people.   Harm to none.   Give oil companies the opportunity to convert that trillion-dollar infrastructure to other purposes, perhaps.    Incourage innovation in energy storage (which will be useful no matter what), and renewable energies (as gas prices rise, this becomes more of a no-brainer every day) while grasping that peak energy resources sustain the industrial civilization needed to maintain our seven-billion population.  Discuss non-coercive, non-hierarchical means of population reduction. And so on.

Human beings have fears of extinction, poverty, lack, and hunger.  These are real things. Grasping that racial, environmental, gender, legal and political issues impact the rules we’ve evolved for millennia is non-optimal.  I see real genocidal terror lurking behind the  apparently absurd reaction to a black actor in STAR WARS.  And fear leads to anger, which leads to violence, which leads to the Dark Side…

Oops.   Not what I meant.  Maybe.

But the point is that you must both have the courage to move forward despite the fact that you will NEVER get full agreement, and also to protect the legitimate interests even of those who disagree (both because you might be wrong, and because they are our brothers and sisters as well).   In addition, we should strive for compassion and connection even to those who cling to irrational beliefs in a right to hegemony.  These folks only become more isolated and dangerous when mocked or reviled (and yes, I’ve made that mistake at times).   Compassion works much better (even though insult and challenge can be sooooo much fun!)

So many issues, so many of which are wired into basic survival patterns or beliefs in a constructed reality.   So be compassionate if you believe them wrong. Trust me: YOU are wrong about some of the things you believe in, and you would want the same compassion extended to you, yes? Would you not wish to be awakened gently, rather than beaten to death in your sleep?

I thought so.



(The “Star Wars Saved My Life” workbook will be available November 7th.  We’ll give away 1000 free copies.  To sign up, just go to:

Star Wars Saved My Life!

For a couple of months now I’ve talked about a very special project I’m working on, designed specifically to adapt the LIFEWRITING technology to science fiction fandom.  I love you guys.  I was a lonely, frustrated, unknown wanna-be writer with no real evidence that I could ever achieve my dreams–and you loved me and supported me and  saved my heart.   I’ve wanted to do something to give back for a very long time.   I was just as drop-jawed as any of you when that Star Destroyer crossed the screen for the first time in A NEW HOPE, back then simply known as “Star Wars.”  That was the movie that brought SF mainstream. EVERYONE saw it, and talked about it, and suddenly Geek Culture was EVERYONE’S culture.   It was a new world.  I wasn’t a total mutant loner any more…I had tribe.  And one of the greatest thrills of my life was going to Skywalker Ranch to work on THE CESTUS DECEPTION, my contribution to the Clone Wars saga.  The circle was complete.

Sigh.  Life is SO good!

And finally, about six months ago, I saw the opportunity to make that contribution.  My new book “STAR WARS SAVED MY LIFE” is a teaching story, of a family of SF fans who learn to use the lessons in their favorite films to change their lives.  It will be available on Amazon, hopefully FREE if we can work things out with Amazon Prime.  And there is a special workbook that will accompany it. That FREE workbook will be available by November 7th, but if you’d like to be one of the first to receive it, please sign up now, and we’ll get it out to you just as fast as we can.

May The Force Be With You! (and meet you in a galaxy Far Far Away December 18th!)

Steven Barnes

From “Friend Zone” to Terrorist?

You don’t have to be a creep to complain about being “friend zoned.”  You’re a creep if your complaints center on how “they” owe you sex or love. Everyone has felt the pain of rejection, of having your love or desire un-returned.  That’s just life.   If that pain leads you to introspection and growth, it can be one of the most positive things in life.  Wanting to find tribe, and mate, and satisfy romantic or sexual drives is simply part of the human experience.   

There is something here, something about the urge for power.  Because men are more likely to seek that power directly, we see the negative and positive effects more clearly. Trust me: as women begin to move into the direct power arena, THEY will experience more of the same stresses, and will if dysfunctional express more of the same disastrous behaviors.    You can’t believe in equality without accepting the reality of equal positive AND negative potentials and expressions.

Are people who feel loved, and connected to the world as likely to act out?  Commit acts of harassment, violence, confrontation, and terrorism, whether emotional, social, political or physical?

Not when those behaviors are fear-based, no.  Love and gratitude are antidotes for fear.   Fear-based anger and violence then decrease.

What can make people feel more connected?  What can we do as individuals to contribute to that sense of Oneness that dissolves such conflict?

The most important thing you can do is love yourself.  This is a critical step, because if you DEEPLY love yourself, you will satisfy all of your basic hungers, the things the dysfunctional and imbalanced feel they need to receive from others: love, validation, acceptance, nurturance.   This is “child” stuff.

If you provide these things for yourself, you know you do not “need” them from others, and further, the notion that they “owe” it to you is absurd.  You begin to see that everyone is just doing the best they can, and that while you have the right to get in that game and get everything YOU can (trade your assets for the greatest amount of power and/or beauty you can attract and hold) neither love, nor sex, nor fame, nor money are OWED you.  

On the personal level, it is clear why co-dependence exists. As children, we really are dependent, and must get everything we get by appealing to…or manipulating…those around us.  Adulthood means growing out of this.  Society has some fascinating contradictions about this (and your family is a small society, of course).  Grow up…but not too far. Be independent…but still follow our instructions.  Take responsibility for your emotions…but let us continue to guilt-trip you, just as Mommy and Daddy did when you were nine.

Ugh.   It is not evil, not “bad” any more than your body is  “bad” for not encouraging individual cells to become amoebas and crawl away.  Organizations don’t care about individuals.  Individuals must care about themselves and each other…but still function within organizations.  The world is too interconnected, and there is no going back.    

“Adulthood” would mean taking responsibility for these basic drives, and aligning your own values and beliefs, and using them to support actions that are in alignment with your deepest needs and highest goals.

“Awakened Adulthood” would be like an individual cell realizing it has the capacity to function outside the body…but (usually) making a conscious decision to remain “in the game.”  This is the “being in the world but not `of’ the world.”  The path of the “householder yogi”, which is my own path.

I am husband, father, student, teacher.  Must create goods and services to exchange with my community to support my family.   And accept that gladly.  But am also a being separate from any definitions of name, gender, race, nationality, occupation or avocation.  And the deconstruction of those ego shells is, and should be, resisted by society and our own psychology like gravity resists your attempt to throw a rock into orbit.   Severe abuse can create some of the same symptoms as the enlightenment experience, but without the balance and healthy flow of rising energy through the different levels of identity.  A destructive explosion rather than an ascent to orbit or escape velocity.  Very different things.

I do not know if I believe that the sad, sick bastards who shoot up schools and go on Men’s Rights forums to find community are examples of failure to launch, failure to progress along this continuum of consciousness.  But it is a theory I’m starting to examine.

Further, I don’t know if domestic, political or religious extremism and terrorism are examples of “sleeping adults” caught in a nightmare, where their beliefs and experienced realities do not match, causing a distortion or shredding of a desperately clung-to “reality map” leading to the point where they would rather die physically  than experience more ego pain.  And, of course, are ready to take you (or their society) with them.

I don’t know if they are related…but again, it is a fascinating question, one that I’m starting to examine.  Because if they ARE related, the suggestion would be that the answer is the same, if extrapolated to a higher level of complexity.  Love. Connection. Compassion.   Which can only arise from strength, of course: frightened children need the loving arms of an adult to calm them

I DON’T KNOW if this is true.  These are questions,  not statements.  

But they are, I think, very good questions indeed.



Does “Lifewriting” apply to poetry and non-fiction?

Steven Barnes and wife Tananarive Due on beach.

The question often comes up: “I write poetry/non-fiction…does the Lifewriting approach work for me?”

Absolutely.  Remember that the original intent of the system was to apply the structures of Campbell’s Hero’s Journey to life itself. Only after a decade did I specifically “tune” it for writers.

So with fiction, it applies in three levels:

  1. Structuring the story (plotting)
  2. Structuring/executing the work (project management)
  3. Gaining perspective on your life itself (goals and resource management, stress control)
  1. For instance, if you KNOW that your character will enter the Dark Night of the Soul at some point (probably in the last 20% of the story).  It is a “pinch point” where all their abilities have been exhausted, and they either expand or die.  Be sure that all of your actions in your novel reinforce this moment.
  2. You KNOW that at some point in the project, it will feel as if the entire thing is totally turning to puree of bat guano.  Might happen during the writing, might happen during the marketing/sales phase.  But it happens, and you have to ask yourself, prior to that point, what you will do to help yourself through it.
  3. You KNOW that you have experienced this “dark night” in every other arena of your life.   Looking back over your life and asking “how many times have I reached despair prior to learning a skill/getting a date/getting a job/surviving a loss?”  Really look at this, until you see the pattern. How did you get through it?  What was your particular “recipe” for misery? (what did you say to yourself, what did you focus on, how did you move your body?)  How did you get back out of it? (time passage, friends interceding, attention caught by another task, going to the gym, etc.)  And the most important question: how will you get out of it next time?  How can you help your friends/children/mate/co-workers/employees through their OWN “Dark Nights” more rapidly, help THEM gain perspective?

Once you connect the inner and outer worlds, the writer and the writing, life lived as a work of creation, the “Lifewriting” approach comes into its own.

With poetry: there is the pattern of creating the work itself, of course.  If the poem is narrative, the same rules apply. If impressionistic, you might ask whose emotions or perspective you are expressing, and where they are in their life at this moment.  

With non-fiction, there is the pattern of creating the work (always).  But narrative is critically important here as well, if you wish the reader to have an emotional response to the raw facts.  Even math textbooks can feature stories about people who learned or applied or created the skills, or “word problems” that help to take abstract concepts concrete.

The human heart seeks to make story out of chaos.  There are endless examples of how this works…hope that this has been useful!

Write with passion!


Is your creative spark dying?

Was there a time in your life you wanted to be a writer? Artist?  Composer?   Did you let that dream die?  Well, today at 6pm pst my wife Tananarive and I are going to do a free Webinar on the “Three Massive Mistakes” made by new writers.

But you know something? I realized that this isn’t just for people who want to write novels or films.  It is also for poets, painters, singers, dancers. Anyone who wants to refine and improve their artistic skills, or find a way to market them so that they can be full-time, or at least supplement their income.

And that means that if you are just a little creative…and I know you are…you’ll be able to hear what we’re saying about WRITING with an open heart that will allow you to apply these principles to anything.  Anything that involves excellence, self-expression, commercial success or artistic accomplishment.

If you ever had those dreams, and wish to reclaim them…

If you already have an artistic career, and want to take it to the next level…

If you know or love an artist and want to be a better ally to her…

Then join us tonight.  Listen, watch, learn, and ask any questions you want!



How do we know our meditations have become “real”?

I recently posted that meditation is useless if you do not take that peace into the world.  What does that mean, and what is the way to accomplish this?

Perhaps a negative example is the best way to explain: you have a meditator, or someone who does beautiful peaceful Tai Chi, or lovely strong deep yoga.  But someone cuts them off on the freeway and they scream curses.  Their child acts out, and they fly into a rage.  They get in a Facebook argument and gush abuse and anger.  Their boss criticizes them, and they quake as if faced by a starving tiger.

Their meditation is still floating on the surface.    Unless you can take that same peace and not react with fear and anger when presented by life stress, they are not yet penetrating the ego shell and connecting with something deeper than their self-image.

  1. Cut off on the freeway.  What does that mean?  That you will be late?  That the other driver disrespected you?  That the other driver put you at risk by cutting lanes?   IDENTIFY THE FEAR.   Did reacting with anger make any of this better?  Have you increased your safety?   Is this action a symbol for other stresses and frustrations in your life, and are you venting from the safety of your rolling fortress?
  2. Your child is acting out.  Who is the adult here?   Are you incensed that your authority has been threatened?   Afraid that you cannot control your child and therefore she is at greater risk?  Is this a direct concern, or symbolic of disrespect in other arenas of your life?  What are you afraid of?
  3. You are having a political argument on Facebook.  How often do highly politicized people change their minds about something in a Facebook argument?  Why are you so invested?  What difference does it make?   How can you rail against the “gridlock” in Washington, when your precise behavior, writ large, is the same kind of ego-dance?   If you do not exemplify the kind of rational, calm discourse that leads to compromise or clarity, on what basis can you criticize our leaders?  If you are so invested in a zero-value conversation–one which ultimately impacts NOTHING, what in the world would you be like if something would actually be on the line?   “Be the change you wish to see.”
  4. If your boss is angry at you, why is she angry?  What is she afraid of?  That your perceived incompetence will cost her her own job?   Is she struggling at home and taking it out on you?  If you lose your job, do you really have no confidence that you will be able to find another?  If so, shouldn’t you invest your energy and time in developing that confidence and self-knowledge?   If you don’t, you will be in fear every single day of your life.   If there is 20% unemployment, why are you so certain that 80% of the population is better than you at marketing themselves?   If you were totally certain you could survive if you lost your job, would you still be afraid?  Upset?   

When you meditate, most of us will deal with mental chatter and “garbage” for the first fifteen minutes, until you reach a “flow.”  Imagine this like shrinking your ego until, like the submarine in “Fantastic Voyage” you can float through the gaps between the obstacles and fears, navigating in the clear spaces.   If there isn’t enough space, if you can’t stop bumping into the disappointments and emotional tangles, you simply haven’t shrunk your ego enough.   You are attached to a particular picture of life, of yourself.  

We are upset when our reality doesn’t match our picture of the way things “ought to be.”

We believe the world revolves around us.  Or conversely, that the world is out to get us.  The reality is between the two: the world is just what it is, and cares about us about as much as you care about an individual cell in your body.

That driver who cut us off on the freeway?  You could have said: “wow.  He must be in a terrible hurry to drive so poorly.  I hope he gets home safe.”

That raging child?  You could say: “his hormones are chaos.  He is filled with fear about an awkward body, a maze of conflicting new rules, confusion about the world and all its violence and sexuality.   I must be calm, so that he can FEEL that calm is possible.”

That Facebook thread?  You could believe that you are a microcosm of our nation, our world.  If you can see the humanity in the other side, see that their anger is fear, you can either communicate better, or at the very least not take it personally.  At all. Hell, they don’t know you. They’re screaming at photons.  How much fear does it take to shut down that much forebrain?  

Your boss is a human being. If YOU were the boss, your employees would say much the same things about you that employees everywhere think about bosses.  And you would start thinking much the same thing about them that bosses typically think. And if you are stuck with a genuinely monstrous boss?  People change jobs every day. Why precisely do you have less confidence in yourself than they have?  What decisions could you make differently that would lead, in a year, to you having more flexibility in options?

In other words: what can YOU do to take responsibility for your life, your actions, your emotions, that lead to more and better choices?   I promise you that if you have the resources and capacity to be reading these words, someone somewhere has had fewer resources than you, and done better.

But you might have to give up your IMAGE of yourself, your MAP of the way you wanted life to be.  And get down to the basics of what you are programmed to seek in life: survival, sex, shelter, love, honest expression and understanding.   Owning your life.  The APPEARANCE of those things is quite secondary.  In most cases, it is like being attached to a red Subaru, and ignoring the fact that someone is offering you a green Toyota…and then claiming you have no transportation.

We make choices, based upon our values, which are based on our beliefs, which are anchored in our emotions, which originate in our sense of “what is true?” and “who am I?”

Meditation seeks to calm us, to dive deeper than the easy answers, down below the chatter, to the original manufacturer specifications: survival, sex, shelter, love.   Not the trivial socially-programmed ego-driven manifestations of these things, but down to where we can examine our choices and decide for ourselves: is this true?  Who am I?

And we know that we have accessed truth not when we find peace sitting cross-legged in a cave, but when we are cut off on the freeway…when our children challenge us…when we are in arguments with strangers…and when our employment is threatened…and our breathing does not change. Nor our posture.   Nor our inner calm. And we can ask: “what do they fear?” rather than “I am attacked!”

If you can maintain calm confidence, compassion, and adult awareness at those times, THEN you are starting to touch something real. To “wake up.”   That is where the rubber meets the road.

Otherwise, it’s like playing video games and thinking that makes you a combat vet, or martial arts master, or race-car driver.   

Start with the surface “games”, yes…but take it into the world.  That is the real test.   



Why not throw a party?

The Ericksonian “Parts Party” technique gives labels to the different “parts” of your personality, then lets them express themselves and have conversations with each other. This is hugely valuable when you have internal conflicts.  A basic one is between the “Artist” and “Salesman” parts.

The “Artist” tends to say: “this is what I want to create. Love it!”  The “Salesman” tends to say: “What do you want to buy?  I’ll provide it!”  The “Manager” or “Producer” personality has to find a way to get these two parts to talk to each other and compromise.  If you have a negative association with any of these three, you are probably struggling.

Perhaps they could use a talk with each other…you don’t need to study meditation or hypnosis to do this (although they help.)   The “hypnogogic state”, the place just between sleep and waking, experienced first thing in the morning, and the last thing at night, is a perfect “waking dream” state where you can begin to cultivate the ability to peer into your mind in a different way.  By personifying the “parts” of your personality as if they are attending a cocktail party, you engage your imagination, and ask logic to step aside a bit.  ANY part of your personality can be “named” and you might very well be shocked at what they have to say to you.



Hi!  I’ve been so looking forward to this week.   The Inaugural Firedance Tai Chi workshop will be this Saturday October 3, 10am, at the LASFS clubhouse 6012 Tyrone Ave, Van Nuys, CA 91401, from 10 to 3.

I’ve taught Tai Chi to thousands of students for almost thirty years, but NEVER a workshop like this, where I’ll have more time for individualized attention, going deeper, and helping every student create a “morning ritual” of movement, thought, and emotion that will power your day in just fifteen minutes.  An absolutely amazing technique, and I’m dying to share it.

We still have eight spots for the workshop, and if you are interested, please go to:


Registration will open at 9:30.   Please be on time! Some important considerations:

1) Be well rested.

2) Wear loose clothing

3) Bring water, a yoga/exercise mat, and a light lunch.

4) Be responsible for your wellness.    NEVER go above a “3” on a scale of 1-10 in terms of pain.   RESPECT YOUR BODY.

5) Bring a notebook.  Recording is recommended.  Cell phone videos rule!

6) Bring a sense of PLAY.  We learn faster when we are having fun!

7) This is the very first time this material is being presented in this way. Please forgive any rough edges!

8) I will send this out again via email, so keep your eyes peeled!

9) Please empty your cup.  Some of you will be coming with previous martial or Tai Chi experience.  I honor that.   We’re going to approach this subject from a rather unique body/mind perspective, and I need you to be open to a different way of examining the processes of flow and structure.

10) Come with an intent.  Something you need/want to work on, that you are prepared to share with the group. Let us support you.

11) YOU are the workshop. You will only get out of it what you put into it: your honest emotions, intent, and movement.

12) Get ready to play!