She ’bout knocked me through the wall…

We were in the middle of one of Dawn Callan’s AWAKEN THE WARRIOR WITHIN workshops, where in two days this little human dynamo would teach women more about self defense than most teachers could convey in two years. But this one woman, “Molly”, was a tough nut to crack. She was so filled with fear, timidity, had been so beaten down that we couldn’t get her to hit the pads. She couldn’t kick the shield. Molly would break down into tears at the very idea that she should or could fight back. “I can’t!”

None of the other instructors had been able to help her, so in desperation they brought her to me. I was holding the pad, as tears and snot ran down her face, a woman utterly convinced of her helplessness and unworthiness to defend herself.

This was, I decided, a defining moment in her life. This wasn’t about “doing karate.” This was about an adult human being deciding that she had a right to exist, to defend her space, to choose the rules by which others could enter her world. This wasn’t just about her body, it was about her dreams, and words, and values. About the ability to look at the world and say: “I love you, but you will not define me.”

I saw in her tentative movements, her face frozen in terror, her stuttering speech a lifetime of making excuses, of perceived failure, of attracting predators into her space, of a false self-image that was dragging down her life and extinguishing her dreams.

And decide that it was going to end TODAY. When dealing with a client, the only intent must be to help them. Period. To put their hands on the controls of their life, by any means necessary.

So…I cheated. I looked at her and said: “do you have any kids?” (more…)

Fatigue makes cowards of us all

MONDAY, MAY 12, 2014

Originally published on Darkush as Diamond Hour, Secret Formula and Energy

I feel that I want to look more deeply into the “Diamond Hour” concept–the universe seems to be nudging me in that direction. More requests for it, more sign-ups for that list. Probably more need to solidify my own practices, rooting them more deeply. The question is how to approach it.

Well, I’m going to take a meta-position on this. I’m going to use my own “Diamond Hour” to create this new course, sharing the pieces of it as I go. So I woke up this morning at 5:30, fifteen minutes and meditated. (Ancient Child and Heartbeat). Up, made myself a cup of tea and checked my email and FB messages. Re-wrote my core goals, a statement of Faith (why I believe I can and should achieve them), the action steps today, and what I am grateful for.

Then took a look at what I’ve been asked (or otherwise moved) to look at in terms of DH:

Time management, create, resilience, courage/proper assertiveness. nature and community. balancing creative and financially rewarding work, time management, exercise money management, getting adequate rest, goal setting, study, relationships/love/sex, communication, Rest and energy.


Wow. A lot of different things, and I want to simplify them before I dive in.

So…let’s say that: (more…)

Sex and Fear

(A column from TUESDAY, AUGUST 03, 2010)

Seven Faces of F.E.A.R. part Two
Part Two: Sexuality

As we look at the different ways fear
hides in our lives, I want to restate
the masks in phase #1. Survival fear,
primal fear, would include words such
as fear, stress, terror, anxiety, etc.
–concerns for continued life. Such
stressors affect health, joy in life,
life expentency, energy, sleep, and more.

The second level is fear associated with

“Sex pleasure…is a kind of
magic spell; it demands complete abandon;
if words or movements oppose the magic of
caresses, the spell is broken.”
Simone de Beauvoir

Words, or movements, or emotions. The
causes of sexual dysfunction are many:
rape or abuse, power issues, body image
issues, estrangement, guilt, shame.
Fear that a sex drive is too strong or
too weak, that we lack bedroom skills,
or that our tastes and preferences are
somehow out of line with society or
our partners.

There are more, of course, but the ways
they manifest are simpler to list: anything
that prevents a deep, full experience
of sex with our partners (and/or alone!)
with full excitation to an earth-shattering
orgasm might well be considered a
dysfunction. IN THE PAST MONTH ALONE my
clients and students have expressed the
following problems:
1) A woman who lost her ability to orgasm
following a pair of armed robberies.
2) A man who lost his sex drive when his
career fell apart.
3) A couple that has not had sex in years,
due to financial and life stress.
4) A woman who resents her husband’s lack
of compassion, and with holds her passion
–will not orgasm with him.
5) A woman who has gained over a hundred
pounds due to a rape.
6) A man who, although a fine martial
artist, is dealing with rape trauma and
cannot lose the last fifty pounds
“protecting” him.
7) A woman consumed with guilt due to
childhood sexual experimentation that
has left her making inappropriate choices
for thirty years.
8) A man who is so insecure that he
interprets the slightest reluctance on
the part of his wife as rejection.

These are just a sample. It is so easy
to fall into the “sex is evil, bad, wrong,
risky” crevasse. After all–it IS risky.
Choosing the wrong partner can lead to
violence or disease. Combine that with
using the wrong birth control method can
lead to pregnancy, abortion, or a lifetime
of being bonded to someone you don’t love
or respect. Think of how vulnerable both
men and women must make themselves to
their partners in order to experience
pleasure. Think of the guilt many parents
and institutions grind into their children
to prevent sexual exploration. That is
NOT easily remedied. Guilt, shame, anxiety,
the inability to “turn off” the conscious
mind and simply flow with the moment…
actual emotional pain, feelings of
worthlessness and insecurity…how many
other emotions have you associated with
sex, or seen others associate with it?

Identifying the problem emotions, and the
masks they hide behind, is critical to
the healing process. Sex, expressed
healthfully in the life of a mature
adult (or in a mature relationship of
whatever duration) can be one of the most
healing, joyful, positive and wonderful
things in the world. Anything that
stands between you and an ethically valid
sexual expression is NOT your friend.

1) What were the earliest rules you learned about sex?
2) Is sex “dirty” or “nasty”? Why, or why not?
3) When is it appropriate for a person to first have sex? Why?
4) Under what circumstances is sex healthy
and natural? Under what circumstances is
it wrong, sinful or dangerous?
5) Is your sex life satisfying? Can you
fully enjoy it…or are there doors you
fear to open?

WRITERS can apply the above thoughts to
their characters. Better still, take one
of your own attitudes and experiences,
and exaggerate it into a character’s
foibles or challenges, devising a story
that expresses, reveals or challenges
the sexual status quo.

EVERYONE ELSE: Grasp that our sexual
energy is directly related with creative
energy, second only to survival. Unknot
this one, and your ability to embrace
life can soar.

Embrace Your Life!

Masculinity and Marxist dialectic

A letter on masculinity and myth

At one point I considered creating a “Lifewriting for Men” course (I never created it, but the idea eventually evolved into the “Soulmate” course, on the theory that healthy heterosexual men and women are naturally attracted to each other) but it was greatly educational to watch the comments that flew around in response. Here was a fine example from TUESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2009
Dear Mr. Barnes,

I’m not so sure how serious you are regarding asking us for advice on your upcoming regarding masculinity project. I’d be happy to contribute my thoughts, but am unsure if I’m replying to a ‘bot (or not)!

I’ve been reading your writing tips for something over a year now and they’ve been helping think about some of my own writing habits. Haven’t plunked the money down for “life writing”, though. Yet.

My wife, (DELETED), and I are anthropologists studying prostitution, sexuality, masculinity, sexual tourism and trafficking of women in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. You might say that thinking about masculinity is our profession, as much as writing is yours.

Looking at what you’ve jotted down, I’d say you have to make an early decision: do you wish to talk about masculinity in a real fashion (i.e. with some foot rooted in what science has revealed to us) or do you want to speak about it in mythopoetic fashion, a la Robert Bly’s ‘Iron John’?

Personally, as a man and as an anthropologist, I`d urge you to take the high road and avoid the mythopoetry. Mythical musings which essentialize man as hero or protector or whatever have a long and very ignoble history in the west. At the same time, given that you are a writer, I realize that it`s going to be difficult for you to approach this topic from any angle but the mythopoetic.

In that case…

My friend (DELETED) and I have discussed, on and off for years, the need to revinvent masculine myths and given your particular set of skills and sensibilities, you have a much better shot at doing this than most.

I would thus suggest, then, that you think of masculinity as a sort of performance, one which is open to anyone, including women. De-essentialize masculinity and detach it from sex and the Y chromosome. What is it that men – all men – DO? What set of activities, values and ways of looking at the world seem, to you, to be particularly masculine? You might want to sound out a few gay and lesbian friends on this one, btw, given that many gays and lesbians are highly sensitive observers of masculinity.

When it comes to just “ordinary guys” and their discontents, Christ, I could write a book (and in fact am writing one). With masculinity, however, one needs to always tread a very narrow path. On the one hand, maculinity is generally the privileged gender performance in our civilization and many of its discontents are, in fact, complaints regarding the relative weakening of some of these privileges. On the other hand, masculine people are not taught to express their feelings adequately and, in general, masculine complaints are traditionally hand-waved away as so much whining. Because of this contradictory dynamic, one must be aware that what may first sound like the whining of the privileged often covers up some very deep and disturbing issues which really must be aired and dealt with.

Just uncovering what men’s problems are, then, is a problem in and of itself. Feminism has a ready set of answers but, in spite of being a feminist supporter, I have serious doubts about feminism’s ability to adequately comprehend men. Many – if not most – feminists borrow a victim-victimizer dynamic which is ultimately rooted in Marxist dialectical thought to explain gender. While I don’t want to reject this approach out of hand, it strikes me that it has some obvious weakenesses.

For one thing, in the classical Marxist dialectic, the proletariat is not responsible for the ethical, moral and physical upbringing of the bourgeoisie. In the same dialectic as applied to, say, race, black people generally do not raise white people (yes, there are exceptions – some notorious, but these aren’t general). But generally, women raise men and thus a very great part of what we learn about masculinity is thus transmitted to us and/or reinforced by women.

The dynamic of oppression and reaction which exists between men and women is thus more fractal and complicated than most feminists give it credit for (Camille Paglia and Judith Butler being two notable exceptions). Though I still believe that masculinity is relatively privileged as compared to femininity, I no longer believe that said dynamic can adequately be explained or described by a simple binary Marxist dialect which stipulates a clearly dominant oppressor and a cleary submissive (however combative) oppressed.

Any REAL discussion of masculinity is going to be difficult and an exploration of the unknown (or, better yet, the unarticulated) because of the dynamic described above and will almost inevitably piss a lot of people off.

If you’re understandably not willing to dive into the deep end, then I suggest you just repackage Robert Bly’s primitivist happy-crappy for the gay-affirmative era and leave it at that. 😉

Anyhow, just my two cents.

No, I’m not going to write/record something that is also intended for girls, women, gay women, or whatever. I’ve seen plenty of books written for women by women, understanding that women have some special needs and interests. So do men. And in this case, it is the need to define masculinity in a way that serves them and speaks to their deepest needs and desires. Listen too much to what women want, and you’ll fall into the same trap that women fall into if they listen too much to what men say.

We SAY what is in our conscious minds. We RESPOND to what touches the deeper, unconscious structure. Women are just as likely to manipulate men to be docile and controllable as men are to encourage women to be sexually available. And the result is disaster. The trick, in my mind, is to create the strengths, and then round off the corners, gentle those stallions down. But the core of strength must be there, the ability to respond to aggression, to deal with fear, to build a nest. To be strong, and confident enough in that strength, to have no need to dominate. To be capable of nurturing and protecting a child, even if you have no interest in having one. Much of this stuff is just “what is it to be an adult?” But there are some differences, without which women will not respond to you, and men will not respect you.

Yes, the rules are changing, but not equally across all segments of society, and trying to pretend this is a unisex world before it actually is simply courts frustration, anger and fear. So…no. I won’t interview lesbians and transsexuals about this stuff, although I’m sure they have interesting things to say. I will draw my attitudes from older men and the women who have been married to them long enough to raise a family. Where THOSE attitudes align with the fevers of youth, I will chart a path. Hopefully, what I have to say will be useful to 90% of men. That I certainly hope for. Where the rules are different for, say, gay men, I would hope there are responsible gay men who will write to that need. My suspicion is that many, if not most, of the rules are the same.

Everything else has the risk of running off the edge of the map.

Soulmate #3: A Lioness Wants A Lion

By the way–some of ya’ll ain’t gonna like what I say today. Others are thinking I’m giving some formula for picking up girls. Think deeper, people, please.


So. Where were we? Yes, I remember. I had used the Beauty/Power axis idea to help me define my own pathway–that is, I defined the girl of my dreams, with the assumption that whatever I most deeply aspired to have in my life as a female companion was a mirror to my own idealized self. A theory worth testing! I found a lady. Call her Hazel. Hazel was the most devastatingly sexy woman I had ever known, and also smart and sweet and spiritual and financially stable.

1) She said she wanted a man who had lower BODY FAT than I had at the time. That’s fine–there is probably nothing that says more about you IMMEDIATELY than your body. It speaks of discipline, health, value hierarchies, the way you spend your time and energy, etc. It speaks of self-love, and emotional health. Let alone basic connection to our animal selves: could we hunt, gather, and either evade or defeat predators? It is also immediately a turn on or off to the hind brain.

2) She also wanted someone with deeper spiritual commitments. During the last months trying to work things out with my wife, I had tried to hard to please her (or so I thought) that I had lost sight of myself. Always a mistake. I’d stopped meditating, connecting myself to the divine.

So I started running again, watched my DIET a bit more (a sign of self-respect) and meditated more. Hazel and I started seeing each other–I’d fly out to Arizona to see her. But there was a problem: the sweeter to her I was,the faster she backed away, until finally she broke things off. (more…)

Soulmate #2: It’s not about someone else

So. When last we met, I was an emotional wreck after the dissolution of my first marriage. I realized my marriage was doomed. I’d decided to make a list of everything I wanted in a woman, then to find the woman who came the closest to what I had on that list–whether she was married or not, sit her down, and ask her what she wanted in a man.

Fortunately, I knew a woman who fit the bill. She was sexy, smart, spiritual, kind, sweet, incredibly beautiful, financially successful, and…did I say sexy? Truth be told, she was arguably the purely sexiest woman I had ever met. She lived in Arizona, and I was heading out that way to do some research on my upcoming novel “Charisma.” So, on New Years Day, 1996, I sat her down in a restaurant and said: “I think you are spectacular, and I would really like to know what kind of man you want in your life.” As it happened, my timing was GREAT–she was just coming to the end of a relationship. So over the next few months we saw each other, and I was able to extract from her the list of what she was looking for. To my shock, there wasn’t a huge gap between what she was looking for, and what I was. Two things stuck out:

1) She wanted a man with more of a spiritual base. I thought about that…then realized that life had been so stressful I had stopped meditating.

2) She wanted a man with a harder, more defined body. Believe me, her own body was (and is to this day) spectacular. She had every right to demand quality. I realized that I had stopped running since moving to the Northwest.


What this meant is that I had defined a direction for re-claiming myself.

Remember: the point of the exercise was NOT to get a woman. And certainly not to fall in love with miss X (although I did love her, and had great fun while we were dating–but more on that later).

The point was to get clear on where I had failed myself, stepped off my path. The theory is that if I got back on my path, everything else would clear up.


Well, weirdness ensued. I noticed that the more open and honest and caring and sharing with her I was, the more distant she got. It was bizarre: I had never dealt with anything quite like it before. Finally, during a trip to Los Angeles in March to celebrate my birthday, she broke things off with me. I was devastated. Where had I gone wrong? I brooded about that, and a few weeks later had another break-through…

More later.

Article Series

The Soulmate Process Part One

 NOTE: THIS IS AN EXPERIMENT.  I am in the process of creating my life story, and the first step is porting over articles I’ve created in the last 15 years on various blogs.   I will be cross-posting to Facebook from the new blog.  Please excuse!


This is an intensely PERSONAL story–it could hardly get more personal, actually. Because of that, I am going to take the liberty to change some names and obscure some information: while I feel perfectly comfortable telling stories on myself, I have no right to broach the privacy of others.


In about 1998, my marriage to my first wife, Toni, Nicki’s mom, hit a wall. We’d both made mistakes, we each paid for them in different ways. They added up to an untenable situation. For almost two years I tried to make things work, and finally ran out of gas. I mean, I completely crashed and burned.For the first time in memory, I didn’t even know who I was any more. Or what I wanted. Or what to do. I was utterly numb.


The wall had been hit between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the anniversary of my mother’s death, and always a tough period for me. This just made things a lot worse. But I decided to give myself a week to come up with an answer, to decide what direction to move in. Many of you might have noticed how much easier it is to solve other people’s problems, so I used that approach: What would I say if one of my students came to me with this problem?


A theory   called “The Beauty-Power Axis” clearly states that our relationships are mirrors. Hmmm. I had said for years that our relationships say a lot about us. Hmmm. So I thought one of the smartest things, perhaps THE single smartest thing I ever thought: “I don’t know who I am right now. But I know what I am attracted to. So this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to make a list of everything I’m attracted to. I am going to describe the perfect woman, without any compromises. Her beauty, intelligence, sensuality, warmth, emotional health, spiritual centeredness…everything. EVERYTHING my deepest heart desires. Then, I am going to go out and find the woman who comes the closest to what I’ve described–whether she’s married or not (!), sit her down, and ask her what she wants in a man. If I’ve made my description carefully enough, and chosen carefully enough, whatever she describes is what I want to be–because, in my heart of hearts, what I want is to be a man who  can have a woman like THAT. And we can have anything that we mirror.”


Needless to say, one of the most frightening things I’ve ever done, as well. What if she just wanted a billionaire? Well, then, she doesn’t really match what I had on the list, now would she? A woman attracted to a man with ambition, intelligence and success is onething. But to put a dollar amount on it was another. So I quieted my fears and put my plan into action…


More later.

Article Series