Self development

The only 100% guaranteed path to success: begin with gratitude!

Secret Formula #4: Gratitude

The best prayers are prayers of thanks and gratitude–not “begging”.  When you begin yur day with a sense of gratitude, you are giving yourself the emotions that others think they have to have external accomplishment or validation to experience.   I ask you to consider: what if that is precisely wrong?  What if, instead of accomplishing to feel joyful, we joyfully accomplish?

The point of a “morning ritual” is to deliberately center yourself in the intentions, emotions, and attitudes that

  1. Allow you to feel your very best: dynamic, creative, confident, energetic, optimistic.
  2. Allow you to access your intelligence and creativity with greatest efficiency and effectiveness.  See #1.


With crystal-clear goals expressed in constant, massive action and a belief that you CAN and SHOULD do it, all that remains is a sense of joy and gratitude for all the blessings in your life.  If you can’t think of them, keep thinking.

Are you loved? Have you friends? Are your friggin’ ALIVE and have another blessed day of existence to savor this beautiful world?   Do you have past victories?  Do you have arms and legs and eyes?

No matter where you are, no matter your situation, if you can read these words I PROMISE you that there are people with less than you who are happier than you are.    And people with more who are miserable.

It’s your choice.   How do you control your emotions?

  1. What you focus on
  2. How you use language
  3. How you use your body.

Every single day, and I mean EVERY day, I move my body (Tai Chi) while focusing on my goals, focusing on faith, reminding myself what I’m grateful for, and remembering that all the power, intelligence, creativity and courage I need in life is already within me.   Every damned day.

When I don’t, I start “losing” myself, start feeling bland and blah and vaguely uncomfortable with existence.  When I perform my ritual, I accomplish far more in a day, and am far happier.

Really, seriously, the choice is yours.

Begin with gratitude.  Begin where others think they’ll end.  Any day you are grateful…you’ve already won.



The best way to get lucky is not to need luck

The Secret Formula #3


So you have clear goals, and a belief that you CAN and SHOULD have the things you desire, and that their achievement and/or pursuit will bring more pleasure than pain into your life.  Clear?


Step #3: Constant Action.  And here is where too many devotees of “The Secret” go off the rails, IMHO.   I’ve actually heard the “if you want it enough, if your desire is enough, it will come to you” routine.


Well, here’s a question: how do you measure whether or not you “want it enough?”   How about this: if you are sufficiently motivated to get your butt off the couch, out of your chair, and work like hell to make it happen.  How about that?  How about: “if you don’t want it enough to motivate yourself to action, what in the world makes you think the Universe will give a damn?”


On the other hand, you have another saying that is quite useful here:   “a watched pot never boils.”  Or the line from Broadcast News that I love: “wouldn’t it be great if needy were a turn-on?”


Well, it’s not, except to predators or the dysfunctional.  When you need money, banks won’t loan it. When you need a girlfriend/boyfriend, no one is interested.   No matter how far or how fast you run, the horizon is always the same distance away.


So “trying” doesn’t help.  But neither does “doing nothing.”  And that apparent conundrum is a mind-bender.  Well…I’ve used the “Secret Formula” about seven times, and each time, “luck” appeared.  And my conclusion is this:   to get lucky, you have to NOT NEED THE LUCK.


A door–to-door salesman knows something: most people will say “no.”   What, maybe 95%?   So he doesn’t ask for “luck”.  He prepares his spiel, polishes his product, and knocks on doors.  Focuses on making a perfect presentation, NOT on selling to some particular person.  And if he does, he makes sales.  Gets “lucky.”  The application of this idea to, say, dating, shouldn’t need to be explained.  Ahem.


There is a cartoon I love.  A pair of vultures are sitting on a tree limb. One turns to the other and says: “Patience my ass.  I’m gonna kill something.”


THAT has to be the attitude of the “action” part of your personality.    Don’t ask for luck.  Don’t ask for a miracle. Don’t ask for people to help you.  Instead, spend the hard time to figure out a way to get what you need based on your own effort, and kick your own butt making it happen.


And if you can’t?  Well, I once heard that if you sit in one place, with a pad of paper (and preferably a brain-storming partner, but you don’t NEED one) and swear not to move until you come up with an answer to your problem, that any problem will yield an answer within a day.


Your goal should be to brainstorm (or “mind-storm”) at least two hundred possible approaches. Give yourself permission for 90%+ of them to be totally nonsense or impossible.  Let your freak flag fly.   In most cases, if you will do this, long before you reach 200, you’ll have some possible answers.  The “Soulmate Process” is a perfect example of indirect focus:


Want a partner?   Don’t try to find one.  Instead, determine EXACTLY who you would have to be to attract the man/woman of your dreams, and commit mind, heart, body, and soul to becoming that person, NOT finding a partner.  If you have the courage to actually find out what that “better you” would be, and have the faith to believe you can and should improve yourself FOR YOUR OWN REASONS, and not “to get someone”, then the miracle happens–along the path, you will meet your partner.


Want the business deal?  Then make your very best presentation, and instead of biting your fingernails to the wrist waiting for their call, move on to your next project with full focus.


Want to sell your writing?   Send off a short story a week or two a month, and be gut-deep in your writing, three projects down the road, before you even get a rejection slip.


FOCUS ON THE PROCESS, NOT THE PROJECT.   Be the person.  Live the life.  Commit to positive change.   CONSTANT ACTION. Every day, day after day.  Keep your enthusiasm because you know what you want and have found the faith to believe you CAN and SHOULD have it.  Don’t beg, plead, or bargain.  Customers will find you if you can prove your quality is higher, your prices more reasonable, and that whatever you are doing will bring more pleasure than pain to THEIR lives.  Lovers will find you if you are of their tribe, and you both have the “green light” on.   This stuff is SIMPLE, but very, very hard, because you have to rise out of the childhood dream that there is someone who will bring us what we cry for.  That Santa Claus is coming to town.


That’s a dream for children. The rest of us have to work, and shop, and drag a tree home.  The “Elf on the Shelf” is a great game, but if you think he’s climbing out of his box by himself, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.


But…and here is the paradox: IF you do all you can. IF you actually become the person you’d have to be to achieve the goals, get the girl, sell the work, win the tournament…


THAT is when “luck” happens, often from an unexpected direction.  And if you do this right, you’ll be so involved in your process that you’ll barely notice.  “Oh.  Luck.  Well, that’s wonderful.  Let me get back to work.”


When you don’t need luck, that’s when you get it.   Wrap your mind around that, and your life will change forever.




Would you be attracted to yourself?

The Soulmate Process #2

The Soulmate Process was born out of desperation. Sixteen years ago I was living alone in a two-bedroom apartment in Vancouver, Washington. My first marriage had gone belly-up. I’d stopped teaching “Lifewriting” because a core principle was balance, and I had clearly lost my balance. And with that, access to the instinctive “flow” of knowledge that allowed me to teach with integrity.

I was massively depressed, a thousand miles away from family and friends, without a job, or hope, and had nothing but my dog, a bed, a television set, and a gun.

Not a good combination. For the first time in my life, I understood how someone could want to kill himself. Now, I wasn’t going over the falls yet, but I could hear the rapids, if you know what I mean.

I needed to make a massive change in my life, but for the first time in memory, I didn’t know who I was, or what to do next.

And out of that desperation, I asked myself: what would I say if one of my students came to me and asked me what to do in this situation?

And thought that in the “Mind Reading” portion of the Lifewriting workshops, I’d suggested that you look at the physical condition, career, and relationship history and status of anyone you are dealing with, all three at the same time. By committing to all three yourself, you come into contact with your deep beliefs about what causes results in these three arenas. Self-knowledge leads to understanding of others. Apply this standard to the people you meet, and begin to calibrate. If their behavior violates your expectations, you need to look deeper within yourself. When you begin to get the results you expect, you have come closer to a truth, and are beginning to remove the filters needed to disguise your own pain and fear.

“Relationships” were on that list for a variety of reasons.

1) About 99%+ of people want an intimate relationship. I’d reckon less than 1% really don’t want one. About 10% will claim not to. You are safest assuming they’re lying, until proven otherwise.

2) The health of a relationship is indicative of the health of the people involved. Mating isn’t that difficult when you are your natural self. The problem is that we are rarely our natural selves: we are the masks that we wear to be social creatures. And masks just bump up against each other.

3) What we desire is the energetic mirror of our own self-image, or secret longing.

And it was #3 that I realized I could use. I’d lost track of who I was, that kind of cocky self-assurance I’d always had. Devastating. But…I knew what I was attracted to. Boy, did I ever.
And figured that if I could be honest about THAT…if I could describe exactly what I was most attracted to, make a list of everything I wanted and desired, with NO compromise…something extraordinary might result.

If I made a list of everything I really wanted in a woman, in every arena: body, mind, spirit, ambition, emotions…the whole thing…what I was really describing was the energetic “mirror” of my own idealized self.

On some level, I wanted to be the kind of man who could have a woman like THAT.

So if I then looked for the woman who came the closest to what I had on that list, whether she was married or not, then sat her down and asked her what she was looking for in a man, if I listened honestly and had chosen well, what she described would be, in some critical ways, what my heart really longed to be.

The exercise was NOT about chasing after a woman who resembled the list. It was about re-discovering myself.

Does that make sense?

Now…there was an old saying: “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Could this be applied to the arena of relationships? “When the lover is ready, the Beloved will appear”?

Remember the “Secret Formula”? Goal times Faith times Action times Gratitude equals Results. That means that “magic” happens when you are busy in the business of your goal, doing all you can, with clear goals and plans, working your #$%% off, and radiating gratitude for what you already have.

When you don’t have a job, you can’t get a job, until you’ve got one…and then suddenly the phone rings off the hook with offers.

When you don’t have a lover, you can’t get a lover, until you’ve got one, and then everyone’s interested.

Ever had that experience?

It may merely be a psychological artifact, of course. It just seems to be that way.

On the other hand, remember Albert Brooks’ line from “Broadcast News”? “Wouldn’t it be great if `needy’ were a turn-on?”

Well, it isn’t, unless you’re trying to attract broken people, or predators.

Confidence, self-possession, a sense of direction and purpose on the other hand, are HUGELY attractive. To some degree, the universe seems to act as if personal power and self-possession add “mass” to your personality. And in the same way that a heavy gravitational mass literally bends the time-space continuum, causing objects to alter their paths when they come near, the more a human being is in his own power, centered, involved in what he is doing, the more he seems to “bend” reality so that opportunities come to him, and unexpected assistance materializes.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” —Goethe

It is friggin’ bizarre to experience. Now, maybe all it is is that “a watched pot never boils”—that when you are waiting for something to happen, time stretches out eternally. But when you are involved in “becoming” you enter flow, and the standard opportunities that are always around us appear sharper and clearer and we don’t notice how long they took to appear.
Doesn’t really matter which it is, now does it?
As it happens, I knew a woman who came very close to what I had on that list.  Call her “Carol”.  “Carol” was  smart as a whip, beautiful, sensual, spiritual, perfect body, energetic, funny, ambitious, creative…pretty much the whole package.
So on January 1, 1998, I sat down with her in a restaurant and made my pitch: I thought she was fabulous, and was wondering what she was looking for in a man. Made it clear that I wasn’t hitting on her, merely wanted a reflection of what someone like her was looking for.
Yeah, right.
Now…as it happened she was kinda between relationships (my timing was excellent. Hmmm) and for the next couple of months we pretended that she was what I was looking for. Ahem. And that was terrific. And educational.
Because it took some time, but I finally extracted from her the things she sought in a partner.
And…to my shock, I realized that there wasn’t much of a gap between what she described and what I already was (THAT knocked my poor self-image and “needy wounded abandoned child” for a loop, I’ll tell you.)
Two things jumped out at me:
1) “Carol” wanted someone with less body fat than I was carrying at the time. And I realized that, in my emotional distress, I had stopped running and working out as much. As well as begun to engage in “comfort” eating. Oops.
2) Carol wanted someone with more of a spiritual path than I currently had. And…I realized that, as with running, I had neglected my meditation practice.

AGAIN: IT WASN’T ABOUT TRYING TO TURN MYSELF INTO WHAT SHE WANTED. It was about using her as a “mirror” to see my own idealized self. The things she wanted were also in alignment with my values. Things I should have been doing, but had neglected. They were reflected in the things I sought in a partner. But what I desired was not what I was. Oops!
Therefore, I had two options: I could either change my standards, or change myself. But one way or the other, I had to bring my external reality in alignment with my internal goals and values.
And if I was correct, in doing this, I would be placing my feet along a path of self-discovery and expression. And it was while I was on this path, expressing myself fully, totally engaged and so busy “becoming” that I would forget I was lonely…that I would meet my future partner.
Or not.

If this was going to work, I had to be so engaged in “becoming” that I didn’t care whether I found someone or not. I had to be so engaged that I was self-contained. That would radiate the kind of confidence that was massively attractive. Which would have the effect of “bending space” and increasing what might be called my attractive gravitation.

Or not.

I had to be genuinely happy and content, while being in greater and greater alignment with my values and goals. To be “in the world but not of the world” means to do your very best to play the game without succumbing to the illusion that the game is real. To do all we can, without being attached to the results.

To work as hard as hell, and then “let go and let God.”

Easy to say, hard to do.

One bridge between child and adulthood was the goal to become a man who was respected by the men I admired, and attractive to the women I was attracted to. The physical aspect of this was to have a body which, if I stripped down and looked at myself in the mirror, would make me want want to jump my own bones (if I were a woman. Of course. Ahem.)

You attract people at your own level of energetic integration…and below. We are attracted to your own level of integration…and above.

If you don’t like what you are attracting, either change your manifestation, or change your standards. Otherwise, you are in a no-man’s-land, standing in the middle of the road, getting slammed from both sides. Emotional road-kill.

Got that? If you have some issue that you believe would prevent the kind of people you’re attracted to from being attracted to you (you crave swimsuit models, but are unemployed) either get a job, or stop being so picky about potential partners. See beneath the surface. It makes NO sense to expect someone to pay less attention to surface traits and external manifestations than YOU are willing to do.

That of course demands that you KNOW your values to begin with. The work is worth it.


Dating “Carol” was great. But something began to go wrong. It felt as if the more open and honest I was, the further away she backed from me. I tried to compensate by being more open and loving still, until she actually wrote me a letter saying I was, in essence, creeping her out. Our relationship foundered, and finally she broke things off.

I was devastated, but also curious. What in the world had gone wrong?

The answer to that question opened another door in my life, and led directly to my revelation. And directly to being prepared to meet the love of my life, my Soul Mate.

More soon…


The truth will set you free–but first it will piss you off

The Seven Faces of Fear: Part Five

In this fifth part of our series exploring
the entanglement of our fight-or-flight
response, we’ve reached the level called
Vishuddhi in Sanskrit. This is the throat
chakra, and involves communication. And
I’ve got a lot to say about the snarl of
love, fear, and communication.

1) Yesterday, a student emailed me about
his urge to self-publish. He realizes
that it originates from a fear of being
rejected. If you publish your own material
–voila! Book! He wondered if he was
cheating himself of an opportunity for growth
and maturation. My answer: yes.

2) Today, a student communicated that a
new relationship has overlapped with an
old one. The new guy is jealous of a trip
she is taking to see a beau in another
city. Should she have been honest? Should
she cancel the other date? Should she tell
the new guy to back off, he has no right
to her? None of the above. She should be
honest about the fact that she is a vital,
sensual woman who has had a life before she
met the new guy. That the unexpected
deepening of their relationship has nothing
directly to do with her long-standing
relationship with the other gentleman. I
suggested that she offer him the following:
when she returns, they can begin their
relationship over again from the beginning.
If they want to try exclusivity, they
can. But HE must accept that she was a
grown woman before they met, just as she
must accept that he has narrower definitions
of intimacy and sexuality than she may feel
comfortable with. But he was honest about
his emotions, and she must be honest about
hers. Only honesty provides a breeding
ground for a real relationship.

Writer’s Block. Public speaking.
Communication in relationships. Being
honest about your wants and needs. Keeping
a dream diary. Submitting or pitching your
work. Asking for a raise. Telling someone
you love that you love them. Expressing
your sensuality and creativity with every
step you take…

We must feel free to speak our mind, risk
rejection, tell the truth, to KNOW the truth
about ourselves. Nothing stops us but
fear: of disapproval, of revelation of our
true, ugly natures. Of being alone. Of
being attacked. It’s all fear. Fear and
love compete for the same place in your
heart. If you have a dream you are not
expressing or approaching, this is where
the brake and the gas can be found. Learn
to operate them properly, and you’re on
cruise control!

Speak your Truth!

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.

Human beings: angels built on a monkey’s chassis

I’ve drawn fire because I don’t buy that men control the world. I simply can’t apply the same instruments or frameworks to the male-female relationship historically and presently that I can to the inter-tribal conflicts that plague us, and come to that conclusion. The conclusion I reach is that that is an illusion that motivates young men to do the dangerous things necessary to the survival of their grandchildren, and that the actual rules are rather different. We’ve reached a point in our social development where this is no longer necessary, and can negotiate some very different relationships, pointing a very different way toward the future. My sense is that those who believe men have been in charge are those who have accepted the same false values so many men are programmed with. Viewed from that perspective, well sure.

But to me, that’s the Blue Pill, not reality, and I won’t agree with it unless I believed those conscious values were actually the Truth. In 2009 I wrote something about that. A reader, “Mark” offered an intelligent rebuttal. Here are the remarks that followed.


A 2005 Gallup Poll said that American teenagers fear the following things most.
Terrorist attacks
Being alone
The future
Nuclear war

I’d like to find such polls for all ages and cultures. I openly admit that “American teenagers” is hardly indicative of world attitudes, but I only spent five minutes Googling. Please–someone look more deeply and find us more references. But note how many fears on the list are different forms of fear of loss of life (Terrorist attacks, spiders, death, war, crime/violence, nuclear war). I doubt there is any single thing worldwide, that is as agreed upon as a “I don’t want that to happen for as long as possible.” Biologically, we are set up to do almost anything to avoid it.

In no way am I saying we should value life above everything else. I certainly don’t. But unless someone produces surveys where most people value power or money above life, I have to think that any evaluation of the relative health, happiness, or success of different groups HAS to factor in life expectancy, or it is missing a factor which, world-wide, has driven much of human history.

I’d love it if people would go out on the web and find “top ten things valued” type lists or “top things to be avoided” type lists, and help me see if I’m right. Life itself will be at or near the top of the list of things people want. Death itself will be at or near the top of things people want to avoid. And money and power, the things that men have in greater abundance (in most of the world, without much doubt) aren’t the things that people really want the most. And lack of them isn’t at the top of the list of things to be avoided (being dead broke and utterly helpless is nobody’s idea of a good time, of course.)
Mark, you actually did a fine job of presenting your position. But you said I thought death was “the” compensating factor between men and women. No, I think its “a” compensating factor, and a very important one.

Certainly, you did not mean to gloss over the service of every man who ever died believing he was protecting his family and country. You say that men die largely because of risky behaviors. Yep, lots of truth in that. So…if the Huns come over the hill, and the men of the village mount up to protect their families, this doesn’t count, huh? What, in your world, are they supposed to do? Send the women? Not fight at all?

I’ve had this conversation with at least a dozen feminists who share your position–that men have the advantage in life. And they discount the deaths of men in wars because “men start the wars.” That’s simplistic, and even when women reign, if there is a war they STILL send men out to die. Because that’s kinda what we’re built for.


I find this worthy of commentary because I respect Maslow’s Hierarchy greatly, especially when I map it over the Yogic Chakras. THAT was what I meant by “Yoga”–not the asana exercises, but the entire system “Yoga” that tries to organize the techniques of human mental and physical development.

I fear you’ve misunderstood Maslow. If I understand him properly, he was saying that, in general, human beings move from more basic needs to more evolved and complex ones. That IF the lower needs (survival, shelter, food) are not met, it is difficult to evolve to the more elevated ones (self expression, intellectual growth, spirit.) That makes perfect sense to me, but of course doesn’t apply to every human being–it’s just the way to bet. People who have managed to become saints, or massively self-sacrifice for spiritual ideals, (like Masada) set standards we admire for a thousand years–BECAUSE IT IS RARE.

The Chakras say much the same thing, and have been used to understand human behavior for some six thousand years. That doesn’t make it correct, but it does happen that I’ve used it to understand the world for at least forty years, so a challenge to it catches my attention instantly. I don’t want to THINK I’m right about this stuff. I want to BE right, and a good challenge is necessary to see whether the model holds up.

Let’s see if I have any trouble understanding the aspects of human behavior you’ve brought up, IF Maslow/Chakras are an accurate tool.

1) No one would fight in a war? Nonsense. Cultures that fight survive. Those that won’t, or can’t, had better be protected by water, mountains, or have nothing anyone wants. So you have that tricky thing that willingness to risk your life decreases chance of death. A warrior who enters a battle WILLING to die, and READY to die, is less likely to die. The one afraid of death will not have the confidence to use his training, and be cut down by someone with less skill, who has mastered his fear. Every military knows these things, and devotes massive amounts of their training to helping recruits deal with their fear of death. Cultures understand that if the individual members will not risk their lives, it will die, and so will they. One might suspect that religion is one of the tools evolved to deal with this. What if I die? You go to the afterlife. And if you have fought bravely, you will sit on the right hand of God, or Allah, or whatever.

Do you think I, a young man dying on a battlefield, care whether it was a man or woman who sent me to die? Whether it was a man or woman who pulled the trigger on me? Saying that it matters less if I die because of the gender of the person who killed me is heartless–so I can’t believe that’s what Mark is saying because he is a very compassionate man.

As a teacher once told me: “any culture that does not produce some minimum number of crazy, dangerous young men…will die.”

2) Men die in risky jobs: hunting, building, mining, whatever. Men have traditionally taken the most dangerous jobs in a given culture. Someone has to do them, and if men and women do them in equal numbers, that culture will be out-bred by the culture that primarily sends men. How do you do this? By convincing men that it is “manly” to risk their lives, and by breeding men with enough testosterone to drive them slightly crazy. I’ve lost count of the old men, beyond their testosterone flush, who shake their heads at the insanity they thought they had to do as young men BOTH to take a place in the male heirarchy, and to attract women (and make no mistake: women who look like cheerleaders don’t end up with guys who risk like football players accidentally. Guys didn’t ask to be visually-oriented beasts. We’re wired that way. Take it up with God, or evolution, or whoever you want.)

3) People smoke, drink, drive too fast, or eat too much often BECAUSE THEY LIE TO THEMSELVES. Discipline is painful. So we trade short-term pleasure for long-term pain because the long term pain ain’t here yet. Then people anesthetize themselves to the results. In order to motivate yourself to exercise (or whatever) you have to BELIEVE that you can actually do it, that you will actually get the results, and that the results will make you happy. How the hell does that compete with laying on the couch eating Screaming Yellow Zonkers?

Is there a parent out there who hasn’t had to explain long-term benefits to their children? Explain why it is necessary to do homework, go to school, be honest, or whatever? Haven’t you seen how hard it is? As animals, we’re wired up to do what feels good RIGHT NOW, because in a natural situation, that will keep you alive. As human beings, we have to think longer and longer term.

Pollution happens because people don’t think long-term about energy usage, garbage disposal, use of non-biodegradable products. What is the solution? Convincing people that the long-term costs utterly eclipse the short-term gains.

4) People will work years to buy a house. But put a gun to their head and tell them to burn it down or else, and they will. I use a very simple formula: if the threat of death will convince you to give up something, you care more about your life than you do about the thing you’ll give up. Carjackings, rapes, forced labor, slavery…one of the painful things to look at is that about 99.9% black person in this country with a European name is descended from people who decided they would rather be slaves than be dead.

Because the myth of America is that we are a country filled with “give me Liberty or give me death” heroes, I think that blacks were, and are, subtly disrespected. As other groups have done throughout history, they had to be willing to fight in wars to prove this wrong. How do people manage to march off to fight? Couple of the big ones are:

1) They convince themselves that they would rather die than suffer whatever they would suffer if they do not place their lives at risk. (losing honor, families dying, dying running away as opposed to running TOWARD the guns, betraying his brothers, etc.)

2)They convince themselves that THEY aren’t going to be the ones to die. “Nobody ever won a war by dying for his country. He wins by making the other poor sonofabitch die for HIS country.” Who the hell do you think that’s directed at? The guys sitting there shitting their pants, trying to act brave. If I trust my training I’ll survive? Hell, yeah! Hoo-Rah!

ᅠMen didn’t choose this. It simply isn’t efficient to put women into combat under most circumstances (an exception: if you lose a battle, you will be exterminated. Oops! Time to put the women and children on the line!)


Here, exactly, is my thought on it. In the nature of things, men’s lives and women’s dreams are disposable. Women breed and condition males to defend them, men brainwash and intimidate women in to surrendering their individual ambitions. The result is a culture which produces more children who will reproduce.

If you believe, as I do, that women are the equal of men, then it is impossible to genuinely suppress your women without reducing the efficiency of your culture, right? I mean, aren’t you diminishing your talent pool? Or are you saying that men are actually better than women, so it doesn’t matter if women don’t rise to their highest good?

When we talk about male dominance, isn’t the primary tool men use to control women threat of violence? Someone unafraid of death is unafraid of violence, friend. If death isn’t an extreme bugaboo, the rape statistics would be almost zero. In all but one case of rape I know of personally, the motivating factor was fear of violence. (In that other case, it was the threat that the rapist would rape a sister instead. The woman submitted to save her sibling. Wow THAT is an extraordinary human being.)

We go into denial about the long-term results of gambling, drugs, unprotected sex, whatever. The sex thing is a powerful one. Intellectually, we may know that we increase the risk of catching a disease. But skin-on-skin just feels so damned good, and our hindbrain wants to make babies so badly. So we do a mental calculation, and figure: “oh, what the hell! I PROBABLY won’t get it”—the CHANCE of getting AIDS looms less than the CERTAINTY that it’s gonna feel “real good, right now.”

But what if the person KNEW that his partner had AIDS? Knew, and believed, that having unprotected sex with this person would kill them? Not maybe, but certainly. Most people wouldn’t have PROTECTED sex with that person, let alone unprotected.

We lie to ourselves. We play the odds because it feels good right now. And this is one of the core things that therapists and counselors have to do: demonstrate the long-term effects, and convince the person that that’s where they’re going.

Any worm will move away from pain and toward pleasure. Using that principle alone, you can understand a massive amount of how Madison Avenue works (get laid or live longer), parents discipline children (massive pain from parental disapproval, or bleak visions of the future), societies control citizens (be afraid! Vote for the authoritarian and don’t question military spending! Obey the law or face shunning [death for a communal organism], fines [subtracting the fruits of your time and energy], incarceration [loss of freedom, and increased risk of death/pain] or execution.

This stuff is such a part of my core belief systems–that all things being equal, you can learn what is driving someone by seeing where their fears of death and loneliness are wired in. That you can only take your brakes off in life when you are not afraid of death or shunning (the very thing a society tries so damned hard to keep foremost in your mind.)

How much do we spend as a culture to deny the passage of time? Aging? How did our culture go a little wonky when we were afraid planes would start dropping out of the sky, and how many times did you say “yep” when liberal commentators accused the Bush administration of manipulating us with fear by constantly changing the terror alert status? The entire funeral industry exists to take the sting out of death. Some would say that religion itself, one of the most powerful forces on the planet, exists largely to help people deal with their fear of death. That art, children, love itself is shelter from the inevitability of that final breath.

The fact of altruism, self-sacrifice, Cherry-Blossom Squadron type suicide, drug addiction, overeating, and everything else has been debated endlessly by Evolutionary Biologists, and while their explanations are hardly exhaustive, the amount of human behavior explained by the drive for individual or group survival is gigantic. The amount of behavior that is related to the neurological sensations which, in our original evolutionary context were survival-positive but has become problematic is even greater.

Sugar? It was damned hard to eat enough sweet stuff to hurt yourself before the arrival of industrialization and processed foods. Now, it’s a killer. Obesity? In the history of the human race, what proportion of people died from obesity as opposed to starvation? Maybe 1%? Is it any wonder it’s so hard to control eating? Drug addiction? We’re wired to avoid pain and seek pleasure. It can be murderously hard to convince someone that something that feels good will hurt them. OUR BRAINS DON’T WANT TO BELIEVE IT.

Maturing means understanding that everything that feels good isn’t good, and not everything that hurts is bad. My point of view is that neither men nor women “decided” about much of this. We were biologically designed to operate in certain ways: women to have babies, men to be short-lived worker/fighter drones.

And our cultural mythologies cover up this bare wiring with all kindsa happy bullshit. It’s how you get guys to march into cannon fire, and women to remain with brutal husbands or sacrifice their dreams.

If you want to go beyond that, you have to look more carefully. That’s MY position, Mark. We are angels built on a monkey’s chassis. And we’re doing the best we can. We ain’t so bad, but we can, and will, do one hell of a lot better–if we can just take the blinders off and see how biology has used us to its own purposes.

Cultural damage and personal responsibility

Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Cultural and Personal Damage

I remember watching the film “Once Were Warriors” about the collapse of the Maori culture after colonization. What struck me was that the women were holding the families together, while the males were engaged in drunken, irresponsible, often violently self-destructive behavior. And I thought to myself: wow. These guys are acting just like too many blacks I’ve seen in the Inner Cities. And suddenly, I started thinking about stories of Chinese in British occupied Shanghai, Africans in British or German occupied Africa, Mexicans in Spanish occupied Mexico, Native Americans, Irish in Belfast.

What were the things I remembered hearing from the oppressors? Their women were sexually available to the conquerors. The men were criminal, alcoholic, violent, ignorant. Didn’t take care of their families. Not all of these things were ascribed to all of these groups, but this was the general sweep. And if I come from a position that people are basically people, then a lot of the issues seem to be the result of natural cycles of social and interpersonal interaction interrupted by slavery, colonization, and conquest. The male destructive/creative impulse turns inward upon itself. Self-confidence and healthy aggression are replaced by self-loathing, fragile egos (propped up with meaningless sex, money at all costs, faceless violence) distort the reality map with alcohol and drugs, scrambled values . Trapped in a system in which the aggressor cannot be directly combated (due to superior numbers, technology or resources), and representatives of those aggressors can arrest and incarcerate you at will, watching your own children and women more attracted to the dominator than to you and your people…ghastly result.

Women? Begin to change their hair styles, makeup styles, dress styles to make themselves attractive to the dominator males. Plastic surgery requests for “round eye” operations skyrocketed in Japan after WW2. Hell, Jackie Chan’s had the operation. He knows where the money is. They form fire-sale relationships with the dominator males, creating relationships in which skin color or national origin by themselves are important bargaining chips, seeking a better genetic/cultural future for their offspring.

Think of the spiral this creates. In every one of these cultures, females have less negative pressure than males (in certain contexts) because they are considered less of a threat. Incarcerated less, hired more, subjected to different levels of brainwashing–designed not to destroy them but make them pliable and available. An interesting question on this: while “other” males die or are rendered neuter in the entertainments of the dominator group (that pesky “no sex for non-white males in films that earn over 100 million” thingie), females are either available (if casting choices are purely male) or obese/old and sexless. Would this change if the directors/producers/casting agents are female as opposed to male? One would suspect so. Women would tend to want to decrease the competitive advantages of “Other” females, as males would want to decrease the advantages of “Other” males.

This would take more research than I’ve currently done, but the question is tantalizing.


Culturally, I’m very clear on the way the stats on survival and sexuality run in film. And just as convinced that the Hollywood types who make these decisions are actually MORE racially open than the average white males of their education and income across the country. A scary concept, but I stick to it based on 57 years of travel across the country, and 30 years of working in the industry. A terrible thought. Deal with it.

But what I’m actually interested in are two notes from students. Both are women, both dealing with deep-seated issues of self-love and self-deservement. One is new to me, but said that she “doesn’t know what self-love looks like.” The other was terribly abused in childhood by adults her mother trusted to protect her.

This is just ghastly. It is clear to me that cultures raised in relative isolation will develop in patterns that produce stable families and children who accept the values of their grandparents. When those cultures come into competition they change as the must to survive and thrive…usually slowly.

But when cultures encounter cultures that come from a thousand miles away, there are seriously disruptive differences. If the new culture is aggressive or violent, that adjustment must be rapid. If the aggressive culture was part of the Road of Silk, on the land-sea trade routes along which information spread like a virus, then it had a huge advantage over those more isolated and therefore moving more slowly. And the result enabled them to not merely dominate the less-developed (from a technological standpoint) culture, but also to play the standard “we rule, you drool” game primates love: we’re better than you. Closer to God than you. Look how your men quake, and your women fall at our feet. We must be divine.”

Variants of this can be found in every colonized culture I’ve seen or heard of. Human beings as individuals play variations on this. Children dominated physically or sexually go into submission postures or self-destructive behavior (trashing themselves, their families, “their” women, not in a possessive sense, except in the same sense women would talk about “their” men.) “Using every fang and claw in the awfullest way you ever saw.” If you don’t love yourself, if that precious connection within has been sundered, then it is harder to connect with love at all. Love for your children, your spouse, your neighbors and community.

Of course, as you love yourself you become harder for others to manipulate and control, because you don’t need their approval. You may WANT their approval, but not need it. There is an enormous difference.

Because I see no essential difference between racial or gender groups (other than things to do with testosterone and estrogen, and the production and/or protection of children and families) I look very carefully at disruptions. Violence, lack of responsibility, improper imprinting of basic social/survival rules on offspring, the channeling of basic reproductive/aggressive behaviors into patterns that allow proper nurturance of future generations.

Any culture that does NOT do this will be out-competed by those that do. To me, much of this relates to the health of individuals, and the psychic health of individuals is connected to their self-love. Their commitment to their childhood dreams, and the sense that they matter in the universe. If we don’t matter, why try? If we don’t hold ourselves as precious, what does that say about the judgement of any who might love us?

I hold individual women or men who have been raped, oppressed or abused as responsible for healing themselves. Responsible for their relationships, and what they expose their children to. And I have no respect for men or women who suggest that the health and care of their children are not their responsibility–unless they have almost literally worked themselves to death, and have nothing left at all. But that’s not what I see.

Whether the damage is done by rape, incarceration, economic disaster, neglect, abuse, or colonization, the individual is still responsible. Why? Because there is no one else. If you don’t pick yourself up, you will die in the desert. If you don’t swim, you will drown. I didn’t decide that life was like that: I’m just responding to what seems to be true.

The difficult thing is to understand that we are all programmed by our genetics, our families, our cultures. That every one of us is doing the best we can, given the resources we have. And that we have to have a balance of understanding how we were harmed…and understanding how we were blessed. Often by the exact same social forces. This is how I can love my country absolutely…and accept that it damaged me and my racial group horribly. How I can love my mother without deifying her. When I see someone sprawled in the gutter in the street, I try to think of the child they once were. Where did the hopes and dreams go? What mistakes (which all children make) were amplified by a damaged family or an unforgiving culture? If I don’t take the position that where we end in life is determined primarily by our innate capacity, then what the hell programmed these people, and what kind of intervention might have made a difference?

Of course, I have respect for people who take the opposite view: that our status in life is the primary indicator of our innate capacity. I’ve merely noticed that most with that point of view are breaking their arms patting themselves on the back: they are in the upper 10%, and want desperately to believe that they are there because of their spiritual essence. They are doing well because God made them well, and loves them better.

I see the connection between social groups and individuals , in terms of health and manifestation. When someone like Steve Muhammad joins a group (The Nation of Islam) that celebrates black people, and encourages more love and community within that group than between racial groups, this is a simple reaction to 400 years of history: makes perfect sense, even if I personally have chosen another way. I get it. Just like I “get” women who have been abused having negative attitudes about men. Or Americans who have been attacked on 9/11 having a negative attitude toward Arabs or Muslims.

I just think that all of that “Us-Themism” is useful in a raw survival context, and useless for emotional and spiritual growth. Of course, if you don’t survive, you don’t grow, so it’s also obvious why these emotions are so powerful: survival trumps damned near everything.

But with enough love, you can flow through these things. I personally had no support for myself as black, as male, as an American, as almost anything…as a child. And was forced to go through all of those ego-shields to find some bedrock. Mine was in my sense of existing. From there it was simply being a living thing. Then a spiritual being. Then a human being. And then an intellectual being. Then (probably) a Male human being. Nationality and race follow up. But I don’t deceive myself that others share my priorities, and I won’t let myself get seduced into “Us-Themism” without a fight.

And I can’t help but hold onto my belief that love is the answer for all of this. Especially the kind of self-love that is as fiercely protective of your heart and dreams as you would be for the life of your own most beloved child. No compromise on the safety of our children, but an understanding that long-term safety means being at peace with those around us.

And that while we think our children are the most beautiful and precious in the world…everyone else thinks that as well, about theirs. We have to get the joke, or the joke’s on us. We are just as worthy of love and joy as anyone else. As perfect as anything else in the universe, as sacred as the stars.

And yet, to make our way in the world, we also have to play games of “this versus that.” “A” is higher in the hierarchy than “B.” We have to, or insecticide is as good as mother’s milk.

A Meteor Will Hit Your Dog

Now I’m working to deepen “The Ancient Child” which is an organic, heart-centered approach, one that evolved naturally and instinctively through my own practice and working with others. Combining this with the “Secret Formula” and “the Morning Ritual” is creating one seriously powerful approach, one that seems without limits and as generative as a bag of seeds. But a step along the path of sharing it most powerfully is the creation of an autobiography framing the major steps along my path to awakening. And that means taking the essay I wrote for one of those “Who’s Who” books and adding in material: when did I learn X? Where did I first apply Y? My old “Dar Kush” blog is a treasure trove, and I’m just going through it and pulling out essays that seem most powerful and germane. The following is one of these.


A letter from one of the 101 Students bears re-posting. All identifying material (possibly including gender) has been removed or altered.


Dear Steve,

I’ve been trying all day to figure out a polite way to post this to the 101 group, but I think it’s the sort of thing that’s better kept anonymous. Well, except that I’m sharing it with you and if you can figure out a way to make my crazy useful to others feel free. I’ve been more or less good, following the program but I’m back to the early phases, doing the fresh fruit/veggies alternate days and the 5Tibetans and the 5MM and getting my ducks used to my hiding in their pen for 20 minutes a day of meditation. I’ve been journaling and dancing and going for long walks under the stars. Great stuff. It’s been like an exhilarating upstream swim in cool water at the end of a hot day. So here comes the universe with its special talent for tumbling me back over familiar rocks.

I do not get the affection I desire from my husband. Alright, not ideal, but I’m trying to work with what is. So I think I’ve been making really good strides in holding myself responsible for giving myself the love I need. When I’m feeling hurt and lonely and rejected I think to myself “What do I want from that person, that I feel like they aren’t giving to me?” and then I figure out how I can give myself that core experience. I need to love myself until love becomes as fluent to me as my native tongue or any love other people give to me is just going to get lost in translation. I can enjoy my sensuality in my physicality and dance, and cooking and in mindful eating and in gardening and stargazing and giving platonic affection like hugs and kisses and massage to those who are willing to receive it. I give myself my own approval and am honest with myself about what kind of effort I put into something and whether what I say are my priorities are reflected in how I dedicate my time and energy. I’m doing a lot of things right. So I’m feeling really good about this decision to embrace my abstinence with a deep degree of self-sufficiency.

But I tell you what, if you think skipping food gives a person an introduction to the voices, try a long sexual fast. I can get myself off, but I can’t experience that glorious dance, the push and the pull of a real sexual experience, because I promised monogamy to someone who ain’t interested. So I am trying to be good, not just tolerant, but really rising above. So what happens? Men who are not my husband are making themselves all too available. X and I have fooled around off and on, not enough to satisfy me or to freak me out, so his recent friendliness is one of those perennial blooms, but I’ve got old lovers who haven’t touched me in thirteen years writing me with detailed memories of experiences we’ve had naked together. Now Y who lives in Z and had been nothing but a gentleman while we were hanging with friends every (day of the week) is back in town and trying to get me to go driving with him, alone with him, not this cluster of friends stuff we usually do. And he’s got a real pretty rationalization for it, but I can hear it in his voice, he’s hoping to do more than just shoot the breeze. And I’m sure he can hear it in my voice that on some level I am all too flushed and eager. I wish I could bottle this and save it for sometime when I am on the market. ‘Cause I can’t seem to commit myself to fast without a feast showing up at my door. And I know what to do, I’ll hang out with Y with friends, but I ain’t taking that ride, because I want to go for a ride so bad it makes me shake, and I know better.

The thing that makes this your business is that I swear there’s a connection between trying to go through something as transformative as the 101 and getting stuck on Pleasure Island as soon as I leave the puppet shop to become a real boy. Sex is my favorite candy and that’s what the universe is trying to offer. And if I take it I’ll go back to looking into somebody else’s eyes begging them to tell me I’m still here. I’m not taking the bait. Out of respect for my highly resistant husband I don’t want to post this is in a public forum without anonymity. But I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s discovered a lot of temptation on the path. The people I spend time with I can chalk it up to a difference in how I carry myself, but Y has been in Z, he had no way of knowing and he’s being much friendlier than when he left, calling me his first night in town and asking me out. The universe conspires at times like these.

Having nothing to do with any of that, you say the kindest, sweetest most encouraging things on your message board. I practically glow all day after reading them. Thank you so very much.



Here’s the reason that I posted this. Back when I was promoting Dawn Callan’s “Awaken the Warrior Within” workshops, I noticed that if people signed up, they canceled at a bizarrely high rate, and their reasons were simply qualitatively different from the reasons people give for not coming to a dinner party. It was as if their entire universe conspired to keep them away from a transformative experience. The way I put it was “a meteor will hit your dog.”

One of my students is a lady carrying about a hundred extra pounds. She was terribly abused as a child, and this is clearly her subconscious trying to protect her from further pain by obscuring her sexual characteristics. It is safe for her to lose, say, twenty pounds, but anything beyond that triggers her inner alarm buttons. Now this lady is a tiger, and if you put an obstacle in front of her, she’ll do her damnedest to vault it. So I figured that if she ever got onto a REAL weight loss program (both diet and exercise, slowly reducing calories and ramping up the intensity of the exercise until the desired weight loss is occurring) her subconscious would distract her by throwing career opportunities at her. Travel, authority, creativity, lots of extra money…and all she has to do is ignore her body, and she can have all of it.

EXPECT THIS TO HAPPEN as you approach any major threshold in your life. Whatever your weakness is, this is what your Ego-self will throw at you to slow you down.

Now, “B” is trying to create a healthy relationship, a healthy body, a healthy relationship with money. And as she begins to make progress, what happens? Her husband, who mirrored her before her changes began, is disconnected from his own sensuality, and B. is one seriously sensual lady. Old lovers are appearing from her past, offering her sexual goodies, if only she betrays her marriage.

Totally, 100% predictable. It WILL happen as you grow. Might be disasters, might be blessings. But what all of these things boil down to is temptations to step off the Thousand Mile Road, betray your values, and go after the goodies. Don’t take the bait: the instant you do, the goodies will evaporate. You’ll look around and realize you don’t know where the road is any more, lost in darkness.

The path, and forward movement along it, is far more important than any specific gain along the way. They are secondary to moving closer and closer to your true self.

Accept no substitutes.

Fear separates us, love connects us. Choose one.

In putting together an autobiography, I’m pulling from twenty years of internet writings. The following came from Wednesday, December 6, 2006.
More First Chakra Stuff
Waking up at 6:30 to get a little writing done before Jason wakes up—sheesh. I remember sleeping until my body was really ready to roll. That was a luxury I didn’t really appreciate at the time…
I’d like to get up and then exercise immediately, but it takes a few minutes for my mind and body to recognize one another again, and I kinda like to make some use of that time. You’ll notice some spelling errors from time to time in these posts—too groggy to run the spell check! Still, my filters aren’t fully up, so occasionally I’ll say something that surprises me, and that’s worthwhile right there.
We talked about survival, the 1st Chakra stuff, and how it can trip you up. The need to be part of a herd, and how vital that is. Note all of the Polish, Italian, and Jewish actors and singers who changed their names to “blend in” with the Anglo-Saxon majority. The stories of Jews and Aramaics who had their noses bobbed to look more “mainstream.” The fact that virtually every black woman in the media (television, film, music) or public life (politics) straightens her hair. Blending in. Pretending you’re not different. Believe me, if someone came up with a “wonder pill” that would turn black people white, even to this day, they’d be a billionaire in a month.

I remember the devastating day that my mother told me (I was probably about 10): “Steve, if you let white people know how smart you are, they will kill you.”

What the @#$!!? Can you even imagine how damaging something like that is, said by someone you utterly trust and love? She’d grown up in the South, in a time of lynchings and beatings, and had had real, deep fear anchored into her body and psyche. She was VERY light skinned, and could have “passed.” I know for a fact that at times she regretted not having done so. She married my father, a fairly dark-skinned man, when he was a rising singer (he did backup for Nat “King” Cole). When his career stalled, it killed their marriage, I’m pretty sure—which led to her later trying to dissuade me from attempting a career in writing.

I often wonder what the effects of those terrible words were on me. Could they have influenced my performance at school? My damaging ambivalence toward education? My ability to put everything of myself into my work? The pattern I developed of world-class performance on my FIRST attempt at something (first book, first television episode for a given show, etc) followed by a relatively mediocre effort, and a struggle to regain the quality of that initial go? I don’t know. I hate to blame anything outside myself for anything. But we are so vulnerable when we are young. We so desperately need the guidance of those who love and parent us.

And with my father gone, that “male” parent was television, and books, and the American culture as a whole—which wasn’t exactly supportive.
The bedrock of who and what we are is the sense of being connected directly, biologically, physically, to the foundations of the Universe. All religions seek to give their adherents such a grounding, and this is no accident. Unless at the core of you you know that you are precious, and irreplaceable, that you are valuable in the eyes of God, your strength is based on your ego. And ego cracks under pressure.

I kinda suspect that this is a reason why torture doesn’t work as well as logic suggests it should. We use torture primarily on people who have committed to being soldiers, or warriors—who believe themselves willing to die to perform their duty. When captured, and tortured, the fear and shock take them beyond ego. If they are cowards, they would talk without torture. But if they aren’t, then they have grounded themselves in a deep and spiritual aspect of themselves. Torture, in other words, the destruction of their bodies, takes them out of their egos and into their true, deep selves. This is the part of us that lies within every human, that is capable of accepting death with dignity. It is more real than anything we ordinarily think of as “self.” Torture, in other words, gives them strength. The pain and fear of death takes them to a place where “reality”, the “ordinary world” is exposed as the illusion the sages have always said. In a way it is difficult to explain, it provides them with a glimpse of heaven. You could twist my arm and get the truth about a surprise birthday party. But you could pull my eyeballs out, and I wouldn’t shoot my daughter. Can you see the difference?
It is this place, beyond ordinary strength, beyond ego, beyond race or religion or nationality, that we must go to find the bedrock of our being. From this deeper place, we touch the ineffable core hinted at by masters throughout the ages. The “Lifewriting” approach and my teaching in general is based on the idea that striving toward goals in all three arenas simultaneously gives a glimpse of this place.
African immigrants, (or even those descended from Africans without slavery interposed) have a strength in this regard denied to those whose ancestors were slaves—their ancestors can trace themselves directly back to the dawn of time, to the creation of the world itself, in a way impossible for those who carry the names of their former masters. Those with that handicap can still find that place, but they must work harder, must be more extraordinary. They are standing in a hole, rather than on the shoulders of the kings, queens, and warriors who came before them.
But what must you do, what must I do to stand tall, so that my own children can stand on my shoulders?

FIRST, I must be there. This is why I have such contempt for absent fathers, or mothers who CHOOSE to become pregnant without the health to sustain a relationship.
SECOND I must realize that at this deep, core level, there is no race, no gender. Even the distinctions of alive/not-alive, existing/non-existing are illusions to surpass. You must move beyond love and hate, hope and fear. You cannot reach this place while carrying resentments and anger. A slight contradiction here: although you must move beyond anything that has an antonym, the emotion of love can carry you far enough to see the “horizon” of this space. Love is the doorway, if not the goal.

THIRD I must realize that the work is never-ending. Any day that I eat and breathe, I must engage with the process.

FOURTH I must realize that all, and I mean ALL, conscious beings are my brothers and sisters on this process. And that consciousness is a matter both of degree and kind. In other words, it is not for me to judge. It is for me to see the Light in all creatures, all people. The anger and pain I carry within me separates me from Being. I must find a way to vent it, drain it, neutralize it, cry about it, scream and complain and pound my fist against the ground…but understand that that is all the Child within me who wanted so desperately for someone to hold me and say that I am a good and beautiful thing. The search for a Parent outside myself is over, and has been for longer than I have been awakening. God the Father, the Universal Mind, the Deep Self—whatever I call it, my only hope of Salvation, whether viewed spiritually or psychologically, is to accept who and what it is I am utterly, and give myself over to the process.
That first Chakra stuff is a bitch-kitty. We struggle so hard to live that we kill our lives. Instead, kill the ego. Admit that you have dreams and hopes that are beyond our reach, ever, always, beyond our reach. Walk that odd balance between accepting worldly responsibility and abandoning hope. Tell the Universe that you accept the price for true awareness. That price is always the same: one death. Yours.
Fear has colored so much of my life. Fear of not being enough. Being too small or weak. Of not blending in. Of being horribly outnumbered. All of these relate to survival. Appropriate fears for a child. But now I am a father once again, with another chance to grab my psyche by the horns—or wings—and shake it until there is nothing left but truth.

And if I can do that, then my Son, and my Daughter, and every soul I touch will benefit from my struggle. And regardless of the cost, that would be a thing worth the accomplishment.

If you don’t know the difference between winning and losing…you’re probably losing.


Musashi #5: distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters


Again, this is just incredibly common-sensical, and I find it simply amazing how many people don’t take care of business when it comes to this.  Simply put, what does a positive or negative result look like in your endeavor?  Do you know when you’re getting closer to your goal or further away?  FEEDBACK, friends. Feedback.

Think of it as if there are two basic ways to approach a problem, and we have to keep them in balance–almost everyone will have one or the other more solidly in control:

1) The emotional aspect: the skein of feelings, association, emotions, relationships.

2) The quantifiable aspects: how many, how much, how far, etc.

If you look at them as “yin” and “yang” I’m asking you to resolve them into the Tao.  If “female” and “male” I’m asking you to think somewhat hermaphroditically.   Feelings without measurement can lead to delusion.   Measurement without feeling can lead to obsessive chasing of the SYMBOLS of success: money, awards, seductions–instead of the core of success itself: peace, security, love, contribution, and growth.

For instance, I recently had a client say that he needed to “meet” more successful people.  I amended that he needed to PITCH TO more successful people.  Familiarize them with his services.  ASK FOR THE SALE.  In other words, you have to identify the behavior that will lead you to success.  Meeting people isn’t it, unless that leads to pitching them.  And even pitching them won’t help unless your intent is to SELL.  To provide goods and services THAT PEOPLE WANT, find the people who both NEED and CAN AFFORD your service, and transfer your honest enthusiasm to them.  Some percentage of them will say “yes.”  If that percentage is 1% it says that you need to talk to 100 people to sell a vacuum cleaner (or get a date, or find an answer to a physical issue).  It’s just a numbers game (yang).  And…its all about feeling (yin).  You have to work it out.


One presentation of the Ultimate Success Formula is:

1) Choose a goal

2) Learn the behaviors  and beliefs that will lead to the goal.

3) Analyze your current behaviors and beliefs, and see what the difference is.  Then, commit to either changing the goal, or changing the beliefs and behaviors.  Get the point? If your actions are not in alignment with your intentions, start changing one or the other, or you’re in serious crap.

4) Raise your energy level

5) Begin to live as if the beliefs and behaviors are yours.  All kindsa techniques work here: NLP, and positive thinking, and Psycho-Cybernetics, and self-hypnosis and affirmations, and God knows what all.  They all work, if you pay attention and generate real EMOTION.

6) Keep tabs of your results.  Do they take you toward or away from your goal?  Do you actually even do what you’re committed to doing, separate from the issue of the efficiency of the act?  YOU MUST GAIN SENSITIVITY TO THIS.

7) Fail successfully.  Push yourself until the behaviors and habits break down.  “Test to failure.”  Then

8)  Start over again.


This Success Cycle will, with proper learning and effort, take you about anywhere you want to go. But it only works if you pay attention, if you learn to know when things are going well, and when they’re not…and more importantly, know what is actually important.  What things will actually bring you closer to your goal?  What is REALLY winning in life.  Some people would say that getting into an accident because you refused to let some idiot cut them off on the freeway is “winning.”  For others, getting home alive and safe is the prize.  Be VERY clear on what is and is not important in life.  Listen to the men and women who have led healthy, happy, successful lives.  Chose them carefully.  I don’t want to model Edgar Allen Poe unless I want to die in the gutter.   But I can model Poe AND Ray Bradbury, and ask myself what they had in common: passion, scholarship, mountains of work, a trust in their “voice”, writing poetry as well as prose, whatever.

Listen to what they say about what matters.  And if you find that is greatly different from the way you see life or deal with the world?  

Consider changing.