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"Steven Barnes (is) uniquely powerful
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Former CEO, Time/Warner
“Thank you, brother. I took the psychological grace
you helped me foster into the cauldron….and came out with the gold. You’re the best!”
--Scott Sonnon, four-time Gold Medal Winner, 2010 World Martial Arts Game
"(I thought) this program would
be helpful. I was wrong. It wasn't helpful. It
changed my life. It SAVED my life."
--LaVeda Mason, writer
Reasons I’m glad I’m almost dead…
(Well, really we’re talking about reasons I’ve lived sixty-one years, officially more than half-way through my life.)
I finally understand “Magic” (No, I’m not saying I live there. But I visit more and more often)
I was teaching a writing workshop at Chapel Hill in North Carolina, and hapel Hill, and a lady asked me about fear and writer’s block. I gave her a slightly flip answer… and then looked at her eyes. She had said she’d traveled hundreds of miles to speak to me, and suddenly my ego-shit went out the window (I love when that happens!) and I was in that “Real” space I get thrown into more and more often these days. So I told her I was going to take her seriously, and give her some magic. Taught her the Fear Removal exercise. A gentleman who had done me the honor of challenging everything I say (I love that, too) had been hovering around, and asked if I had any fear. I said hell, yes. Ah hah! He said. Then the technique doesn’t work? Sure, it does. But I only use it on fears that are irrational, and that inhibit my ability to accomplish the things that are in alignment with my core values. Why not on everything? He asked. Because it’s not fun, son. It hurts a bit. It’s worth it if you are removing the block to love, or health, or success. But do it on my fear of… I don’t know, say asking strange women to dance. I still have a bit of shyness left over from my geeky childhood, and have no interest in removing it. It’s kinda cute, reminds me of where I came from. He kept grinding in at me (good for him!) and I mentioned that the technique often has to be repeated, if the fear creeps back: it isn’t permanent. Ah-hah! He said. Then it’s not Magic, is it..? ## And here I realized that I’m living in a completely different world than this gentleman. He got his concept of magic from novels and movies: wave a wand, and presto! An elephant disappears from the living room, in denial of all rules of physics. The universe doesn’t ripple at all, and Mandrake does it again. Wow. Cool. Having been around shamans who played very seriously with these things, I am of the opinion that the approach to magic in life has steps that go something like this.
1) First, Clarke’s law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Magic is not a violation of the laws of nature, any more than airplanes violate the law of gravity. It may seem so to the ignorant, but it ain’t so.
2) Second, one must have a genuinely profound map of reality, integrated at the level of unconscious competence.
3) Set goals and then take actions. Note the gap between the results and your intentions. Learn all you can about the reasons for the failures and successes, keeping both conscious and unconscious channels open.
4) Begin to differentiate between your needs and desires. “You can’t always get what you want,” the song goes. But we generally get what we need. We’re evolved to get our NEEDS from the environment. Otherwise, we wouldn’t survive, and our ancestors wouldn't have, either. Peeling away the inessential, until we are in alignment with life. Needless to say, doing this in a consumer culture requires both strength and clarity. Most will prefer to remain asleep, trust me.
5) Once your survival needs are in alignment with nature (you have these things at the level of unconscious competence), use prayer, ceremony, meditation, etc. to make your goals, actions, and values all in alignment: you do what you say you’ll do, and you aren’t fighting yourself in the process. In the beginning, it can be hell to achieve this. It is worth the fight.
6) When your inner and outer realities are in alignment, and your reality map is accurate, a bizarre thing happens: you stop wanting anything you cannot have. You don’t set goals that are out of reach. You understand your abilities, and the context of life, so well that your desires never materialize fully unless you have the tools and resources to bring them into existence. You are, in essence, playing with a loaded deck. You say you want to do something, and it happens. To the uninitiated, it looks like magic, while to you, well…it's just the way the universe works. Nothing special about it at all.
But do you see the hard, brutally honest work it takes to get there? You have to genuinely calibrate your perceptions, and most people would rather do ANYTHING than expose themselves to truth. It is really sad to watch, when the way to truth is fairly clearly marked: just overlay all major world religions, extract the core teachings, and do THAT stuff with all your heart. Read between the lines. Ignore the teachings of people whose actions are out of alignment with their words. Keep your word to yourself, until truth becomes easier than lying. Somewhere along that path, you’ll notice that you are living a non-ordinary life.
Have A Delicious Day!
As I’ve said many times, I consider “The Secret” to be the worst kind of magic thinking. But oddly, it was extracted, or largely based upon another work, “The Science of Getting Rich” by Wallace D. Wattles, which is actually worthy of respect. The difference? “The Secret” suggests that if you visualize and think about and want something badly enough, it will come to you.
Well, that is true if you add one caveat: “You will be able to tell that you have produced a sufficient amount of `want’ for your desired goal when you start leaping out of bed in the morning to work your butt off to get it, all day long, with monomaniacal fervor.”
Get that? If you haven’t produced enough desire to movitate YOURSELF to act, what in the world makes you think the external universe is gonna respond? Please.
But, curiously enough that’s not what I wanted to talk about today. Today is Thanksgiving. While some holidays are pure fun, I think that most serve a social function—shared purpose, rest, acknowledgement of sacrifice and honor, and so forth. Thanksgiving happens to be one of those times when we stop and remember our gratitude for what we have, something not only important psychologically, but practically.
Back to the “Secret.” What I extracted from Wattles’ work I call the “Secret Formula” for the sake of association and comparison. It is comprised of four specific pieces: Goals, Faith, Action, and Gratitude. Without any one of them, your chances of achieving positive results are minimal.
Goals because you need to know what you want and why you want it and what it will take to achieve it. If you don’t know where land is, you’ll just swim in a circle, or dog-paddle, until you drown.
Faith because if you don’t believe you can and should do it, why bother? Plenty of people “know what they should do” but don’t do it. They don’t believe their efforts will ultimately bring them more pleasure than pain, and this process—avoiding pain and gaining pleasure—is at the core of all animal behavior. People don’t do what is in their best interest. They do what they BELIEVE is in their best interest. And when they see no way to create pleasure or grow, they will simply squat in paralysis, or numb themselves with food, sex, drugs, or…television.
Action. That’s where we started, right? You have to take massive action toward your goals, whatever they are. And to take note of the results you are getting, and maintain the behavioral flexibility to change behaviors again and again and again until you get the results you want. Those behaviors should be designed to produce results WITHOUT luck of any kind. A “patience my ass, I’m going to kill something” attitude works like gangbusters.
GRATITUDE. And here we are at Thanksgiving. People often struggle with discipline, deny themselves pleasure, and think that pure focus through the pain will get them where they want to go. Well…yes, but unless you are very careful, the first time you are under stress, the old behaviors will pop right back up. Also…tomorrow is promised to no one. Why suffer for something you may not realize for years, when you might not live to get it? Also…the allies you need to attract to move to another level of life are not attracted by unpleasant, negative attitudes. But if every day, and I mean EVERY day you find something positive to concentrate upon, and give thanks for it, you not only change your attitude, but you increase your belief that there will be future things to give thanks for as well.
I’ve dealt with clients who could literally not remember a single positive thing in their entire lives. No love, no faith, no affection, no victories. Now, this is b.s.—EVERYONE has moments of positivity in their past, or they wouldn’t have survived. But they interpret their past so negatively, tell themselves such a story of suffering and betrayal and abuse that they have no access to their creativity, intelligence, and courage.
But in the darkest sky, a single star can show the way. There is a parable of a zen monk who is walking through the forest. Suddenly, a tiger appears and began to chase him. Fleeing, he reached a cliff and climbed down. He stopped, because immediately below him was a cobra, ready to strike. He started to climb back up, and the tiger swatted at him. The vine he was holding onto started to fray. Below the cobra was a thousand feet of rocks. The monk looked to his right, and there was a strawberry plant, growing out of the side of the cliff. He plucked a strawberry, ate it and said: “delicious.”
You cannot defeat a man like this. He can die, as we all do, but he will die happy. But if there is a fraction of possibility, any way at all to win, it is someone like this who will find it: someone who has a goal, believes it is possible to succeed, takes every possible action…and has gratitude for this delicious moment of life.
I wish you and your family a delicious day. One so joyous that you can remember it for the rest of the year, no matter what strife you might face.
A single day…a single star…can light the way.
THE GIFT OF DESTRUCTION
The last ten days have been spectacular. Moving to L.A. Seems to have been exactly what I hoped for, a breakthrough to a clearer place in my life where I can leverage my intelligence, energy, and emotion more effectively. There is only one thing I see that would cause problems: the attempt to be the person I was when I left.
I have to, MUST, accept the gift of destruction. The natural tendency would be to try to re-assemble my old life. Old friends. Old business associations. Old habit patterns. So comforting and familiar.
But that is an illusion. “You can’t step in the same piece of water twice.” I simply can’t be concerned with who I thought I was, or what other people thought I was, or what I’d hoped to be and do.
That would be fatal. I’d be a walking dead man, trying to wear the rotting flesh of my ancient dreams.
No. What I have to do is continue to ask the Core Questions:
“Who Am I?” and “What Is True?”
Nothing that is ultimately true about me can be destroyed. “Matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed in form.”
There is another truth: depression and disorientation are created by a life reality that doesn’t match our internal maps.
I got hit with this BIG TIME by the move to Atlanta. My life map had been blown up. All that remained was my commitment to my family: my son needs me. My wife needs me. Whatever is true will endure.
All else was pain.
Now I’m back in L.A., and have a new life plan, which involves greater, deeper engagement with the wonderful teachings I’ve received over the course of my life, the things that allowed me to find my center, since the ordinary reflection from the external society was so hopelessly distorted—I could not trust that world to tell me who I was. Sending me back to the Core Questions:
Who Am I? What is true?
And the lovely thing is that if you ask that question long enough, you get the answer. There are a finite number of false answers, and when you run through them, well…
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
You can get there. The joke is that what you find cannot QUITE be put into language. The analogy is that you can’t describe “it” in words, any more than you can describe a salad fully enough to nourish your body. I can, however, point in the direction of the salad bar, and if you choose, you can eat for yourself.
But that’s another subject. What IS true is that the “Secret Formula” is in deep play right now:
GOAL X FAITH X ACTION X GRATITUDE = RESULTS.
Well, my goals are clear, and quantifiable, and I repeat them to myself daily, in my Morning Ritual. I have Faith that what will be will be, and that my essence and my intentions are in alignment. It is similar to the trick of attracting any woman you want: simply don’t want any woman you can’t attract. It’s funny and scary effective once you get the joke. The rest is just recognizing who is or is not of your “Tribe.”
I take massive action, daily. Nothing that I’m doing as my core behavior relies upon luck. I’m not expecting any help from the universe. On the other hand, I expect that the universe won’t go out of its way to screw with me, either.
And you know what happens?
““Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the 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.”
—This quote, attributed to Goethe, (which might actually be the words of William Hutchison Murray in response to Goethe’s couplet:
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”)
Is brilliant, and I believe, the truth. That when you take responsibility, and stop waiting for help, and take massive action…you start getting “lucky.”
And…Gratitude. I have to thank God (or the universe, or whatever you choose) for what I have right here, right now. Don’t work so that one day you can be happy. Be happy that you can work.
Now…this is where the trick comes in. Read the above carefully, and you’ll see my take on what “magic” really is. But if you look into the Yogic approach to the creation of “magical powers” (Siddhis) it is thought that effects in the world of consensus reality (“Maya”) are by-products of pure intent in the mental/emotional/spiritual realm.
This is why pure art cannot be concerned with commerce. Pure love cannot be concerned with what you get in return. The pure martial technique must not be concerned with survival. Action must be for its own sake to reach it’s ultimate efficiency.
The human reality, of course, is that nobody’s really THAT pure—we do care about results. This just points in the direction of ultimate efficiency. “A man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or heaven’s a lie.”
Now…What this means is that if your intents and actions are pure enough, you’ll start getting results that have nothing DIRECTLY to do with your actions.
Ever notice that when you don’t have a girlfriend/boyfriend you can’t get one, but as soon as you have one, other people are interested? When you don’t have a job you can’t get one, but as soon as you have one other people call with offers?
It’s like that.
The “Siddhis” include things like power, sexual attractiveness, and mental abilities like precognition and mind-reading (believe as much of that as you wish: I’m speaking of traditional teachings, not debating the existence of ESP.)
The thing that is most germane to this discussion is that these things are considered BY-PRODUCTS of being “on the path”, not primary intents or effects. That you can notice them, even enjoy them, but if you chase after them, you instantly step off the path and they will dissolve like mirages.
Notice the “split attention” that is required here? To act in alignment with your deepest values, but simultaneously notice the effects your actions have in the external world, without letting those effects corrupt your process?
Doing a Wallenda over a pool of sharks is, in comparison, childishly simple. It drives artists crazy all the time.
So…back to the beginning. Without being too specific, let’s just say a LOT of writing career things are happening. In fact, they are trying to pull me away from my coaching and teaching.
No can do. I’m not the same person I was. My path now is one of emptying myself out, teaching what I learned that helped me reach my current level of awareness. Writing is now my hobby. A profitable one, one pursued with vigor, but no more than that. I could care less about convincing people of the validity of what I see—I will speak of it, only so that those who agree and seek the same thing know where to find me.
The rest of ya’ll?
Hey, have a great life.
This is who I am. This is the world I see. It is increasingly entertaining to hear the Sirens singing at me, saying “step off the path…come to me, come to me…”
Like hell. The fun thing is that I’ve been to this rodeo before. As they said in Jerry McGuire, “I’ve been to the puppet show, I’ve seen the strings.” Its the nice thing about getting older. Wisdom is the ability to see patterns. That’s a gift of time. The gift of destruction.
The "Bear Necessities" of Love
The “Bear Necessities” of Life
There’s a joke about two hunters who are chased by a bear. Bears run faster than humans, so one turned to the other and, despairing, said “we can’t outrun that bear!”
We’ll return to the punch line in a moment.
I recently saw a post that said that the only thing more of a turn-on than a bad boy is a “badass man that has his shit together.” The post was followed by a series of posts from women saying they’ve been looking for such a man and cannot find one.
I was raised by a single mother, and as a child got to hang out and listen to the way mothers talked about their lives, as if I wasn’t in the room at all, and to watch what went on, and having been raised in a world of women saw male-ness as slightly mysterious and exotic, but never ever something superior. Different, yes. The way these women spoke of their lives and their husbands it was glaringly obvious that they didn’t feel inferior in the slightest—they saw that men and women had different roles in the world, if children were to be safe. That has always been my attitude.
But…I also ran into guys who DID believe women were inferior, and were obligated to do the things that men said, or that men were entitled to privileges women did not have.
And rejected that idea. Men who would look at women’s lack of accomplishment in the arts and sciences and fields of discovery and invite me to speculate on just why women were less intelligent or creative or whatever…without grasping the fantastic amount of energy it takes to raise a family, and that in every culture in the world, women had that primary responsibility.
Blindness, I thought. No, as far as I was concerned, men and women weren’t “equal” but complementary in a way that neither was superior or inferior to the other, save by very, very limited and prejudicial definitions, and self-serving filters. Oh, yeah, men were great at that.
But so are women. Tananarive and I have discussed the pity parties on either side: women complaining that there are “no good men” and men complaining that there are “no good women.” It’s certainly true that women outnumber men, but the complaints sound to me like someone in a 95% employment economy complaining that “there are no jobs.”
What in the world do statistics have to do with whether YOU, personally, as an individual, have a job or relationship? Let’s just say that if you’re the kind of person who looks at the bottom stats and attributes your life situation to those problems, your natural partner is a man or woman who does the exact same thing. Good luck with that.
The man or woman who says that they can’t find the fabulous men or women they desire out there aren’t considering…or are afraid to consider…that they are attracting what they are. They aren’t noticing the megafauna in the living room: you are attracted to people at your level of energy and integration…and above. And you attract people at your level of energy and integration…and below.
I’ve got good news and bad news, brothers and sisters, if you don’t like what you’re seeing out there, the answer is in the mirror.
That means that fabulous men and women find each other every day, and if you’re not in that company, the responsibility is in your hands. Forget the statistics.
1932 was the worst year for unemployment in American history, with a 23.6% unemployment rate. It is estimated that 28% of people will never marry. That means that the worst case scenario is that you have to be in the top 70%. You have to be in the top seven out of ten.
You don’t have to be #1. Don’t have to be the best, the luckiest, the best looking, the richest, the healthiest…just not in the bottom 30%. And I suggest that you can do that simply by being more honest than the next guy. By taking responsibility for your results on a level that is uncommon. My brother in law Pat Young had a fabulous attitude toward work: “if there are two jobs out there, I’m getting one of them.” He’s never been out of work his entire career. People like that are hard to stop, and the energy they radiate is infectious. And a man like that attracts a woman like that.
Back to the hunters. They’re running from the bear. One turns to the other and says “we can’t outrun the bear”. The other, naturally, says “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I only have to outrun you.”
The next time there’s a pity party, and your friends invite you to moan about the lack of acceptable partners in the world, if you MUST think of things in statistical terms, I suggest that you smile and nod and sympathize…
While remembering the bear.
I use NLP in my coaching, but have mentioned that it scared me back in the day, and that I voluntarily decided to stop its use until I matured a bit more. That comment raised some eyebrows, and I decided to explain.
Neuro Linguistic Programming is a VERY powerful set of tools. It can be used for self-improvement, therapy, sales, sports performance, or seduction. I studied it back in the 80’s, and got really, really good. Then something happened that suggested I was so good at it that I could affect people on basic levels that scared me. Now, I’m not saying I should have been scared, or that someone else should have been. Just reporting honestly. I then “backed away” from NLP because I saw that it was power without a moral center, an investigation of how human beings communicate with themselves and others, mostly on an unconscious level. Later, I found a little corner of the NLP world that DID have a moral core, and was able to approach it again. Again, this is about my perceptions, MY values, and not whether anyone else could or should practice this stuff.
I first knew that there was an issue when I attended a self-improvement seminar by a major NLP guru, and watched him drop whole sections of the audience into trance and give them embedded hypnotic commands to buy his products. Scary.
But my personal epiphany came when I used it to talk a guy out of committing suicide without him ever knowing what I’d done. That was power. And as Uncle Ben (he of Spiderman, not Converted Rice) said: “with great power comes great responsibility” and I wasn’t feeling hugely responsible back then.
The incident happened thirty years ago, when the wife of a friend called me in a tizzy. Call her Maude, and the husband “Mark”. She was crying. “Steve, my marriage to Mark is in trouble. He’s in trouble.” I asked her to explain. Mark had grown increasingly distant. Hadn’t touched her sexually in a year (and for the record, she was GORGEOUS) and just watched porn on his computer.
And now he’d begun talking about suicide. She was legitimately terrified. Now, these were “social” friends, in that I worked with the guy. HAD worked with him. We’d been to their house for dinner, but it wasn’t like we were close. This was one of the moments in my life when I realized that people told me stuff that was just unreal. I mean: why me? What did she expect me to do?
But…something inside me liked the idea that I might be able to help. She said he wouldn’t go to a therapist, and was a powder-keg. For whatever reason, I accepted the challenge.
I spent an hour thinking about it, and realized that no frontal assault was gonna work. In fact, I’d been forbidden even to mention to Mark that Maude had talked to me! Hmmm.
I got sneaky. Called Mark and, with a heavy voice, said I had some problems, and no one to talk to about them. Because of some life experience he’d had, I thought he might be perfect. He was flattered, and agreed to meet me for dinner.
At the restaurant the next day, I played someone on the edge of depression. Hinted at suicide. Now, before I did that, I “gained rapport”—matched his speech patterns, body language, breathing rate and depth. Crossed my arms the same way he did, without being obvious about it.
Then…I slowly began to lead him into trance, using language, rhythmic speech patterns, and deepening my breathing. When two people have rapport, the one with the deepest congruence and greatest flexibility will start controlling the engagement.
One secret to hypnosis is that it is a projection of an internal state within the hypnotist. So all I had to do was enter the state of focused calm I wished “Mark” to enter, and the rapport communicated it to him. Because he was unaware of what was happening, he went heavy, and hard, and it was all I could do not to laugh as I made him sway side to side or cross and uncross his arms. Powerful stuff!
Now the game really started. I convinced him I was deeply depressed, and got him to advise me on how to get out of it. (I hope I don’t have to explain how appropriate it is to have a client tell YOU what their recipe for an internal state or change). He suggested I think of the good things in my life (if you want to change your mood, either change what you focus on, or how you use your body. He was suggesting a change in focus. Great.)
So…I began to weave the trance a little deeper. “Are you telling me,” I asked, and when I said “you” I pointed to myself. And when I said “me” I pointed to him, very subtly. “Am feeling depressed, I should think about all the great things in my life?”
He kind of blinked and nodded.
“And maybe the next time I’m driving down the street” (and remember, every time I used a pronoun, I pointed to the opposite person!) “and I see a red light, it means to STOP thinking negatively. And when I see a green light, it means to GO FOR IT, enjoy life, embrace the journey?”
He was swaying, blinking, doing everything but falling face-down into his soup bowl. I mean he was GONE, and didn’t even realize it.
Now, I don’t and never did know the precise issues that had deviled “Mark.” But I do know that if you have a positive attitude and can take a long view, that it is easiest to devise generative solutions.
Anyway, I future tested the implanted ideas (got him to visualize these changes in his future), and then closed the trance, tested to be sure he was completely “back” and thanked him deeply for the advice (!).
And drove home, wondering what the hell I thought I’d been doing.
Well…the next day I got a call from his wife. “Steve!” she shrieked. “What in the world did you do?”
“Ummm…what’s wrong?” I held my breath, anticipating disaster. Oh, God…
“Wrong?” she said. “Nothing! Mark came home last night more filled with energy and enthusiasm than I’ve seen in a year! He grabbed me, threw me on the bed and made love to me like a madman!” She went on, raving about how he had changed…like magic.
And a month later she said the change had held. That he was still optimistic, and horny as a teenager.
Well, DAMN. I thought about this, and realized that I was more than good at this. I was friggin’ wizard. And that scared me. To be honest, I haven’t been the most responsible, caring person my whole life. And the power to do what I had done frightened me, because I saw the potential for abuse. This is, again, NOT a condemnation of NLP. It is only a comment about my own fear of myself. Period.
So…I stepped away from Neuro Linguistic Programming, thinking that I had to grow up a bit. Center myself more. And would return to it later.
Which, in time, I have.
I want to go through every basic pattern I’ve used or taught in connection with my own life, creating characters and situations in fiction, or coaching clients. It’s all connected. The very first breakthrough, and something I’ve spoken of often enough that I don’t think I need to go back through it right now (although if there are requests, I will) is the structure created by cross-referencing the Hero’s Journey (generally in the way I use it: a ten-step perspective on the deep structure of world myth, which simply relates to the process of dealing with any challenge in life) and the yogic Chakras, which is generally (there are other interpretations) a seven-step model of human growth or consciousness, on either an individual or cultural level.
Those were the X and Y axis, and I could sense the presence of a “Z” that made a dynamic sphere of interaction. Couldn’t quite label it, but could feel it. But I could see that if I looked at the Hero’s Journey as a spiral, it became the route between the different “levels” of the Chakras, and the Chakras mapped over beautifully with Maslow hierarchy of human needs.
They pop up elsewhere. The hypnotic skills of Milton Erickson are legendary. I’ve seen and done things using his patterns that were so powerful they were almost frightening. Stories of this phenomenal man, his ability to create therapeutic interventions that were shatteringly powerful, gloriously subtle, and subversively generative (a client would come to him to stop biting his fingernails, and months later his entire family would be transformed. Spooky) are so far-out that if I hadn’t had them verified from a dozen different sources, and seen the power first hand, I wouldn’t believe them. Skepticism is absolutely justified when dealing with images and claims at this level.
I had occasion to speak to the man who originally taught me Ericksonian hypnosis a few months ago, and asked a question I’d not thought of before: why, exactly, was Erickson so efficient and effective at creating healthy change?
And the answer brought me right back to the Chakras. Paraphrased, the answer was that Milton had a simple belief he applied consistently: that 90% of human beings wanted about 90% of the following things:
1) to mature to become a self supporting adult human being.
2) To find joy in the “hunting and gathering” of daily occupation. To satisfy sexual needs with ethics and without guilt.
3) To have a healthy, vibrant physicality.
4) To find love, marry, and have children.
5) To live a life of joy, growth, health, and contribution.
6)To age gracefully
6) To die at peace.
Most people, he believed, wanted most of that. He simply assumed that if people were not functioning along that path, they had a “knot” in the natural flow of their lives, and helped them un-knot it, freeing up the energy they needed to continue their evolutionary process. That expanded health would then affect their entire family or social structure.
One reason that this was so successful, of course, is that no one who had their act totally together would show up asking for help in the first place. Was he generally correct? I don’t know, but so long as you keep an open mind to the probability that not everyone will fit into this pattern, it seems fairly safe to assume that the majority of people want the majority of these things, and let an orange flag raise when multiple arenas are non-optimal.
(By the way, one of my greatest teachers suggested that you can begin this healing/growth process from the “core survival” level up, or the “love” level “out.” But NOT from the head level down. In other words, don’t create a map of reality and then try to fit reality into that box. Begin either with your actual interactions with the world on a pain-pleasure basis, or with the emotional heart-space connections with family and friends. Either of those leads to growth, whereas being head-heavy can lead to a disastrous overly-intellectual attempt to mould the world into a form consistent with your presuppositions and prejudices. Your ego will invalidate anything that doesn’t support your beliefs. It gets ugly)
If you look at the Chakras as a path of evolution (survival, sex, power, emotion, communication, intellect, spirit) we can see six thousand years of yogic psychology agreeing with Erickson. And Maslow’s hierarchy (physiological, safety, love/belonging/self-esteem/self-actualization) would seem to be a different window in on the same process.
This suggests that, for instance, in writing a story you can simply wound a character on one of these levels, and then confront them with the challenges they need to grow and heal.
In personal life, you can look at the “weak link” in this chain and by strengthening it, begin to positively affect everything above it.
And in coaching, raising children, or teaching you can simply look at this basic pattern and assume they want CHOICE on each of these levels, and give them the resources to have it. They may well choose not to have children (for instance)…but I can think of no reason a person wouldn’t want to be emotionally healthy and financially secure enough to raise and protect them if he wanted to. At the least, a person genuinely secure in their decision not to have a relationship, or to accept poverty, or weigh 300 pounds will simply smile gently at any suggestion that they secretly wish to change. What they WON’T do is react with anger, or resentment—those can be safely assumed to be evidence that the person is acting out of fear rather than love or self-actualization.
So I would suggest looking at that chain. If you function beautifully on all those levels, fantastic. If not, and you hear yourself saying: “Nah, I don’t want that” then fine. But if you feel a flash of emotion, especially anger, you may want to look more closely.
As I sort out the next phase of my life, one of the things I’m going to is review all the component pieces of the puzzle, relating them to the three major aspects of my life: relationships, career, physical health. Because of the way I taught myself to write and live, each of these tools has been tested in my personal life, in coaching and teaching, and as means of constructing characters in novels and screenplays.
The “Ancient Child” is a metaphor, a way of looking at the relationship between different aspects of our personality. While the result of decades of practice, teaching and research, the structure is very simple: visualize the “chakras” arrayed along the spine. The “child” self is down at the 1st chakra (survival) the adult is in your heart, the “elder” is above the crown. These positions are flexible: when I want the “child” in my heart I just change my perspective so that I’m looking down from above the heart, straight down to the root, and there the little rascal is, waving at me.
Science fiction giant Harlan Ellison defined success as “to bring into existence, in adult terms, your childhood dreams.” That’s fabulous. Combine that with the fact that countless hospice workers have reported that the things people aspire to upon their deathbeds are deep, clear values. The life-views or values most often embraced include: Love, forgiveness contribution, self-expression, spiritual growth connection, adventure, and regret for not living fearlessly.
By the way: making this connection does NOT lead to “childish” behavior. The child may be self-centered, emotional, grasping, and inexperienced, but the “adult” aspect of your personality is now there for guidance. Connecting heart, body, and mind gives you complete control of the system, perhaps for the first time in your life. Love someone? Fine, but don’t form a relationship unless they can also be a business partner and support your values. Love that fattening food? Great, but the “adult”part of you has to know where that road will lead in five years: have a “cheat day” once a week, but if you give in to the tantrums every day, you are in serious trouble.
Work at a job that deadens your soul? Either find a way to love what you do, or begin NOW to plan your escape to a job where you can do what you love. It is your “adult” self’s job to protect your heart, protect your dreams, “parent” that kid inside you with what I call “ruthless compassion.” Be a dragon, a gorgon, an amazon, an absolute rabid tiger in protection of your most precious essence. But…when you have “vetted” a person or situation as healthy for you…that protective icon can just melt and play with spontaneous joy. There’s nothing like playing in the sandbox with other “kids” who have “parents” strong enough to keep watch.
So the simple, simple version is that if we live our adult lives in alignment with BOTH our childhood dreams and our ultimate “deathbed” values, we will act with power and authority, move toward love and away from fear, seek connection without codependence, nurture and love ourselves deeply enough to have love to offer others, express ourselves, and hold every moment as precious and irreplaceable.
We seek creativity, select health over mere performance, seek “flow” (those moments when ego dissolves and we submerge ourselves in an ecstatic or immersive experience or relationship), choose relationships that challenge and nurture us…it goes on and on. Tolerate fools less gladly, while having compassion for human weakness. Insist on honesty from the people around us, and offer it…with love and ruthless compassion.
To treat ourselves as we would our most beloved child. That’s a core, central principle. Would you want your own beloved child to take this job? Associate with this person? Eat this meal? Cling to this emotion? Accept or deny this experience?
On your deathbed, will this grudge seem worth holding? Did this phobia really protect you? Was this experience really worth spending precious hours/days/years that can never be recovered?
Here are three exercises that can help you zero in, make this connection:
1) Sit quietly, listening to/feeling your heartbeat.
2) Visualize yourself looking at yourself in the mirror. See the light within the image. Even if only a spark, condense it into a human form: even as little as a single fertilized cell. An embryo. A fetus. A one year old. A six year old. WHATEVER YOU CAN MANAGE. This represents your sense of the undamaged portion of your Self.
3) With your non-dominant hand, write a letter from your “child” self TO your “adult” self. Let it flow. That child is looking at who you are now. Be prepared to hear what she has to say.
4) With your dominant hand, write a letter from your adult to your “child” self. What do you wish you could reach back and say? What teachings, lessons, encouragements, resources would you offer to that younger self? What apologies? Commitments? That “younger” self needs to be connected to your heart, or you will seek approval from others, in inappropriate ways (have a rotten relationship history? I GUARANTEE you that you have a disconnect on this level! Fix it, and you will automatically cease seeking love, sex, pleasure, “happiness” with inappropriate partners.)
There is more…much more. Contact me if you need more personalized guidance. But in all honesty, THIS WILL GET YOU STARTED! These are the steps that will “root” you in your life and heart, give you control over your energies, and set you on the path to generative healing and Awakened Adulthood. Without this connection, you can earn a fortune, win marathons, and be loved by millions and still feel suicidally empty. WITH this connection, you are free to accomplish simply as an expression of who and what you really are—to begin and live your days with joy and gratitude.
A fast measure of this is: can you look in the mirror, and without a hint of irony smile, see the child you were and say with warmth and joy: “I love you. You’ve done absolutely the best you could with the resources you have, and I am so proud.”
And…perhaps even hear the answering voice of love and approval. We play all manner of ugly fantasy games with ourselves. Any hesitation to play a positive game is a disconnect from that simple “what if?” capacity all children have, the ability to shift roles, the dynamic perceptual flexibility that once allowed us to dream of being astronauts, or cowboys, or actresses, or singers, or…
We still have those abilities. We DO NOT NEED TO “GAIN” THEM. All we need is to learn to take the brakes off. To “chip away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.” To disassociate with past failures and disappointments. To extract the lessons from our experiences, but cast off the pain and fear.
To commit to bringing into existence, in an adult fashion, our childhood dreams. Love yourselves, deeply and without reservation. Then…send the overflow out into the world, to nurture and support and heal. The world needs so much healing, and the healing must begin with you. You do not know the world. You know your view of the world. To change what you see, change yourself first.
In a few hours I climb into the truck and start driving back to Cali. Tonight, I’ll sleep in a little town called Monroe, Louisiana. Tomorrow, Maybe Abilene Texas (as long as they have AMC. I’m not missing Breaking Bad!).
I’ll be listening to Sherlock Holmes short stories, and the multidisciplinary Big History audios (my favorite Teaching Company lessons, covering the history of the entire universe. Yow!) and thinking. A lot.
Who am I now? What do I want to do with my life? What do I want to teach? Write? If I was emptying myself out, the most important 20% first, what would that be? What is the most important gift I can give the world, as a way of saying “thank you” for giving me everything I ever wanted as a child?
So strange. As a boy I wanted to master martial arts and writing, and the art of loving and living with another human being.
To do that, I had to define what “mastery” was. Tricky subject, because of the media images we accept in such arenas. But having been around people considered in the top .1% of various fields, people totally committed to their crafts, people who other experts consider “masters” I began to compare what they were saying about it, this sacred thing, this holy grail of human performance.
Because that was what I wanted. And a few things kept cropping up in common between all arenas of human life, things said by these “masters” and more importantly…by the people who were clear and powerful enough to lift others up to this almost mythical level.
1) Mastery isn’t a noun. It is a verb. It is a path, and those who are committed to that path, wherever they are upon it, may be masters.
2) Mastery isn’t about complicated skills. It is about simple skills, drilled to the point of unconscious competence, such that they can be re-combined into complex patterns even under stress.
3) Mastery isn’t a mask, not something you “put on”. It is a natural expression of who and what you are. You write the way you talk. You fight the way you live. You love others as you love yourself. It isn’t a big deal. It’s just what you are.
4) Mastery isn’t a matter of learning something new. It is more a matter of cutting away the inessential. In that sense, in life there is a point of gathering together, and another point of throwing away. And while masters continue to learn their entire lives, it isn’t that they are learning “more stuff”. They are seeing deeper and deeper connections within and between the things they already know.
5) Masters see the path, not themselves. They know that the concept of “mastery” is a joke if it is supposed to mean you are complete. Hell, in martial arts, most beginning students think a black belt is the end of a process. Yeah, the process of being a beginner. It is analogous to “touch typing”—you know where your fingers and thumbs go on the keyboard, but that doesn’t make you a writer.
6) Masters don’t compare themselves with other people. Not often. When they do, they are slipping out of that state, and into ego. Mastery comes from the real you, the hidden you, the unconscious you. Oh, you can certainly piss a master off and get that ego going, but they often are somewhat embarrassed afterward. They know that no matter how far or how fast you go, everyone is the same distance from the horizon.
7) Masters are somewhat embarrassed by the term “master.” They know what it meant to them when they began the process. And now that they have surpassed their original dreams, all they see is how much more they don’t know.
I remember years back, after a morning martial arts class, I went to breakfast with my classmates, and was grousing about my performance. One of the other students, a black belt in another system who thought highly of my skills, stopped me. “Steve, don’t say that,” she said. “If someone as good as you are still feels insecure, what hope is there for the rest of us?”
And I got it. While the process of growth is endless, and the labels without ultimate meaning, the concept that someone can spend forty years practicing a discipline with all the heart and energy you have, and still feel like a beginner can be depressing to someone who is not learning the inner game. Who is building a wall around their insecurity.
About thirteen years ago I was teaching a martial arts workshop with a fine young black belt. Afterwards, we were talking, and he got very quiet. “When will I stop feeling like a fraud?” He asked. “When will I believe in myself?”
I had no answer. About seven months later, he blew his brains out. When I heard, I realized the depths of his misery, of the “impostor syndrome” that was crippling him, of the fact that he had armor-plated his fear rather than actually draining the swamp. And the demons had simply bred in the dark until they destroyed him.
And grasped that so many of us seek a way out of that darkness. We seek masters, the golden few who have achieved some standard of skill, or strength, or happiness. We don’t want to know about their insecurities. Don’t want to know about their sadness. We want to know how they got there, and that it is worth the journey.
So…the term “master” isn’t about the master. It is about the student. About the need to believe in something worth fighting for in life.
And I know that despite all of the struggle, the sense of incompletion, the failures and heart-crushing setbacks…that my life is wonderful. I have my soul-mate, even if she drives me crazy sometimes. I have my writing career, all of the fans and money and awards and acclaim…even if there are ups and downs and side-ways ripples. I have my martial arts, even if I surround myself with people so much better than I am that it feels like I know nothing. But they accept me as a brother on the path of mastery. If I accept the gifts they have given me, I don't have the right to luxuriate in insecurity.
Wow. I will never walk away from my family. Never stop writing and teaching. Never stop practicing the martial arts I love.
I guess that makes me a master, whether I laugh myself silly thinking about it or not. And all I want to say to others is that you really can achieve your dreams, but grasp that the doubting voices will never shut the @#$$ up completely. It’s their job to natter. It is yours to walk the Path.
In other words: sharks and icebergs and undertow and all…come on in. The water’s fine.
(P.s.—remember the special “moving sale” on MASTERING F.E.A.R, THE LIFEWRITING YEAR LONG and THE ULTIMATE WRITING BUNDLE”. Good until I reach L.A. Next week!)
We had our first screening of “DANGER WORD” Saturday night, and are over the moon. We primarily had cheers, and a couple of very sober, excellent critiques. And spoke to Reggie Hudlin last night and HE also had input to make. A few things arise from the current situation clearly:
1) We have a winner! People love it, and a few sharp-eyed folks see ways for us to make it even better.
2) The primary critique is that IF there is a way to make it shorter while preserving the emotional “punch” we should do it.
3) Award-winning Filmmaker Ayoka Chinzira suggested a very specific way to tighten, and explained why. Part of her suggestion had to do with the “visual poetry” of film, which is slightly different from the primarily linear approach to story that my conscious mind prefers. There is a “dream logic” to it, and I realized that I needed to SHUT UP that part of my mind, and listen to what she was saying.
There is a time for the conscious mind to work. And then there is a time to just let yourself “feel” your way through the process.
This ability to move back and forth between your conscious, direct goals and the “texture” or interstitial emotional material that your audience actually consumes. To look at it another way, plot is the “bones.” But…we don’t eat bones. We eat meat. The meat is the emotions, and they are non-linear, associative, illogical, and constantly blind-side you.
Plot is important, but the emotions are what they must deliver. A seriously advanced writer can write simply following images and feelings, and deliver something that is exquisitely structured. We mere humans need the bones. Goals are critical for the same reason, unless you are one of those advanced, intuitive souls who just awaken in the morning, follow your bliss, and find yourself fulfilling all obligations and constantly improving and expressing yourself. I’ve met a few of these people, and usually they were folks who DID plan and set goals at an earlier time in their lives…but have integrated goals, values, and dreams to the point where it is automatic.
The conscious in the service to the unconscious. The logical in service to the emotional. Total attention to the nuts and bolts of learning to ride a bicycle in service to the inevitable “look Maw! No hands!” moment we all seek.
Another lesson to learn is that we need the input of other minds. One of the most precious things about life is constantly surrounding yourself with the best, most challenging and perceptive people you can find. AND THEY MUST BE COURAGEOUS. I watched Ayo’s face, and she was reluctant to speak. Why? Because the rest of the room was raving about what they’d seen. But probably more importantly, because SHE DIDN’T KNOW HOW WE WOULD REACT.
Many artists SAY they want brutal feedback, but they can’t actually handle it. They don’t have enough genuine confidence in themselves to be able to hear that something isn’t perfect.
A mature human being doesn’t want to “think” they are good. They want to actually BE good. The best they can be. And that means they must accept criticism without expanding it to a global condemnation. (Can’t leap to: “it all sucks!” This is childish and indicative of binary thinking. I see this in political arguments: criticize anything about America, and you are saying “America is the worst country in the world.” Oh, please.)
I know I have blind spots in every area of performance. If I don’t get feedback from people who love me ruthlessly, I will never be the artist I can be. I cannot solicit critique and simultaneously protect my ego. I have to associate with the dream of being my best, not the illusion that I already am.
It is a delicate balance, indeed.
A LEVER AND A PLACE TO STAND
Had a coaching call yesterday with someone who wants to build a ten million dollar a year business in four years. I was a little wary about this until I found that up until now his best year had been 700k. That means that at a 50% growth rate, he’d reach his goal in about 6.5 years. And that’s only about a 1% improvement per week. Very close.
What I wanted to see is if he actually believed he could do it, or was he setting himself up for failure to validate some internal map of failure. The “there are no unrealistic goals, only unrealistic time frames” perspective found it plausible.
And possible, if he had real confidence in his earning potential. Poking around, I discovered that he had a weight issue that could be resolved in a year, and a marriage that was strong, even if he had some beliefs from childhood that positive change could cause loss of friends. Nothing seriously out of whack. Very nice. A challenge, but he seemed the kind of person who relishes a good challenge.
Starting with believing that he COULD make such a shift, the trick was helping him see how he SHOULD: why it was the expression of childhood dreams and ultimate values. Why it would be a sign of the amount of value he is adding to the lives of those around him. How much good he could do if he could be that kind of role model.
The next step was to show him a route to HOW he could do it. Now, I’ve never earned ten million a year. I never had that kind of goal, but honor and celebrate those who are willing to aim at such massive success. And I DO know how people organize their internal and external resources to achieve dreams beyond their ordinary levels.
And a core means is the “mastermind”: two or more people aligned in a spirit of perfect harmony working toward a specific end. The alignment of external human resources with your internal drives. This is elegant, because not only is this man adding direct resources, but he is also calming the part of him that says “I will be alone.”
He must start with his wife. If he loves her, and is committed to her, then if there is any part of him that believes success will damage his marriage, THAT PART WILL SLAM ON THE BRAKES. And to create a new future he is going to have to be willing to
1) Believe the new goals are a deeper, truer expression of who and what he really is.
2) Believe that working for his goal will bring more pleasure to his life than pain.
3) Believe that NOT achieving his goal will bring him pain (which means that he must define “success” as the ACTIONS and ATTITUDES he adopts, not specifically the external results, which are out of direct control)
4) Be willing to destroy any illusions about himself, and step forward into his truth.
5) Be TOTALLY aligned internally, not fighting himself.
6) Seek at least ONE person with whom he can externally align. In this case, a loving wife. Someone willing to share his vision. Someone to reality-check him, and with whom to share tears and laughter.
7) Believe that he sees a path that requires only his constant, rising action and insight. Not looking for “luck” to help him. Oddly, the people who take such full responsibility find “luck” aiding them at every turn.
8) Raise his energy level, prepare for a marathon not a sprint, and go for it.
9) When failure inevitably occurs, learn the lesson, have faith that he can overcome, get back up and hit it again.
Recognize the “Secret Formula” here? Goals times Faith times Constant Action times Gratitude equals Results?
Simple, powerful, direct. It suggests that we have within us the resources we need to heal, to grow. That if we look into our pasts, we can find positive things, a “rock” to stand on. Our tactical grasp of methods of approach give us the “lever.” Archimedes famously said “give me a lever and a place to stand, and I will change the world.” Give a human being a place to make and emotional “stand”, and a tactical “lever” and they’ll do more than move the world. They’ll MAKE their world.
WHAT COACHING IS NOT...
"In my teens I decided upon two goals: to be respected by the men I respected, and to be attractive to the women who attracted me. Everything I have in life originated there."---Steven Barnes
Coaching is not therapy. We do not heal broken bones, they help people find what is already healthy within them, and expand it.
Everything I teach writers is predicated on the idea that there is a storyteller within them, and they need to give him room to grow.
“Success is to bring into existence, in an adult fashion, our childhood dreams.”
All a teacher can do is show you the path to Awakened Adulthood, the most evolved conscious state that has relevance in the material world. That means aligning your daily actions with BOTH your childhood dreams and the deepest, most profound values, those you will hold in the final moments of your life, when ego walls fall and ambition has come to an end.
“Enlightenment is the door of perception that opens at the moment of death. The seeker commits to opening it before they reach that moment.”—Mushtaq Ali Al Ansari
Here is the progression of consciousness:
1) Sleeping child
2) Sleeping adult
3) Awakened adult
4) Non-dualistic Awareness
5) Sustained non-dualistic Awareness
Beyond this point, language fails, and teachers can speak only in metaphor of that state referred to as "enlightenment". A coach can help you have a nice dream (the first two levels: success in your career path, loving self and finding your soulmate, strengthening your body) or teach you to awaken to your true potential. Once awakening begins, no teacher is necessary—simply follow the light.
But until that point, all manner of powerful techniques and approaches can be used, and there is great joy in discovery to be had. Can one be awake and still play the game? Certainly! I love playing Monopoly with my son, Jason. But I don’t mistake Park Place for my actual house, and don’t mistake the world for the ultimate temple of my soul.
I provide many resources for those who want material success. And for those committed to awakening, suggest that they first create a balanced foundation in the material world: health, success, and love. A vibrant body and spirit you yourself would find attractive. They are the vertices of a worldly triangle, and in the center of that triangle is the world of spirit, which cannot be addressed directly. You can see the grass bend, but not the wind which bends it.
This site has many free resources for the seeker. There are also others which require financial resources. Please avail yourself of any you feel appropriate to your situation. Feel free to friend me on Facebook or join the 101 Forum (http://route101.proboards.com) if you have questions, comments or requests.
If you seek a coach, please familiarize yourself with the available arrangements, and contact me to see if my path is compatible with yours, or my skills can aid you in your journey.
SEVEN DOLLARS OR FREE!
Several of our courses are now available 100% FREE if you have financial need. Why? Because they are essential elements of the vision I was given by my teachers of "Awakened Adulthood", the most advanced position along the consciousness continuum that has practical value for our modern world. And to the degree that this place of "Awakened Adulthood" is essential to the creation of a healthy world, healthy lives, and safe, healthy children, I decided that I had no right to deny this teaching to ANYONE if they needed it. So these basic, critical teachings: "ADD: The Morning Ritual", "The Ancient Child" and "The Secret Formula" are part of this program. If you CAN afford a modest fee, seven dollars helps support the download structure. But if you can't, just read the sections and you'll find the email address to request a free copy. Yeah, I make you actually read it to get the freebie, but I figure that's fair, since I have to take MY time to send it to you personally--the automatic system doesn't work for free products. Fair enough? Please take advantage of these foundational programs, designed to teach you to contact the deepest wells of wisdom and personal energy. And that is the beginning of possibility.
Join us in the Adventure of your lifetime!
FINDING YOUR SOUL MATE #1
Finding the Soul Mate demands first a definition. We will try to do this in as basic a way as possible. Love is a sense of joy and connection that flows from within a person’s heart. Romance is two people looking at each other. But a relationship is two people walking in the same direction, close enough to hold hands along the path.
So a Soul Mate, by such a definition, would be someone with whom you feel more complete, more truly “you”, with whom you can see the path ahead most clearly, and who shares enough of your values, dreams, hopes, and interests that the bond can grow stronger with every step, every travail, every victory or failure.
A husband or wife can be, and has often been a business partnership, a community bond to sustain family. Love often blossoms here. But the “Soul Mate” is a higher level. For those on the spiritual path, the deeper one contacts the inner essence, the more we demand from ourselves…and our potential partners. At all times, it is better to be alone than with the wrong person.
1) Goal—Faith—Action—Gratitude (Wattle)
2) Potential—Action—Results—Belief (Robbins)
Of all the “patterns” attempting to put some kind of logic onto the chaos of life, I like the Chakras best. The beautiful thing about them is that if you can apply the concept of fundamental levels of growth to any arena of life.
Now, my teachers taught me a path that would allow me to move through the world while constantly improving my alignment with nature, and reality, removing illusion, and unfolding my spiritual nature. There was no conflict between worldly life and the ultimate goal of the Seeker. To be “in the world but not of the world.”
But that means that each goal needs to be both valid on its own terms, AND a path to our true essence. The beautiful thing about this approach is that even if you don’t believe in any reality but the one in front of you…you win. And even if you believe that the search for the divine, and the “true” essence of your soul is the only important mission in life…you win.
No conflict. "I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't and die to find out there is." - Albert Camus. That’s lovely, but I like the way I was given even more: a path where it literally doesn’t matter whether there is or is not. One that quiets both the Mystical and Logical sides of my mind.
There are seven basic levels of the Chakras, rising from root to flower: Survival, Sexuality, Power, Emotion, Communication, Intellect, and Spirit.
Each is said to have a male and female aspect. The balanced “awakening” of each of these is said to awaken the full adult human potential, or “kundalini” energy, which burns away illusion and leads to awakening. And sustained awakening leads to non-dualistic thought, which is the doorway to enlightenment. That’s another subject, and beyond language, really. Also not the subject of the discussion.
What can be said then is that Sri Chinmoy said that the Kundalini can be awakened “from the root up” or “from the heart out” but never ever from the “top down.” In other words, you can set out to become an adult: learn survival skills, satisfy your sexual and sensual desires with honor, learn to expand your power and influence into the world, and then with fear conquered, allow the heart to flower. This leads to right speech, clarity of vision and thought, and spiritual unfoldment.
Or, you can go directly to the heart, learn self-love, fill oneself with this wonderful energy and allow it to propagate out into the world. It leads to honest fair speech, the power of bonding community, clarity of thought, loving sexual relations, a rooting in our most basic needs and spiritual unfoldment.
What DOESN’T work is having some idea about what the world is, and then crafting filters to reinforce your beliefs and concepts without realistic feedback. Tyranny of the fears and hungers results from this.
Usually, we start from the root up. But frankly, with this subject, it is almost certainly best to begin from the heart out. There is no downside to this.
1) Love is what is sought here. If you begin with a sense of lack, you will be needy and desperate, and that is one of the most “un-attractive” things imaginable.
2) If you begin with love, you have a huge advantage. Nothing is more attractive than someone who feels healthfully attractive. The energy is intoxicating. Self-confidence is a fantastic aphrodesiac. It also repels the negative and insecure, saving you a ton of time sorting through them.
Beside: remember the Formula? GOAL X FAITH X ACTION X GRATITUDE = RESULTS? Well, if you BEGIN your search for a Soulmate with love, you have already achieved your basic goal (happiness) and now have only to evolve it. Faith is easy, because you know you are a worthy partner, and need only to find someone with eyes and heart to see. Action is automatic: you will follow the path of unfoldment and contribution in the process of sharing love and simply being happy. Along that path, you will meet your Soulmate. And Gratitude? Who wouldn’t be grateful to wake up every day filled with Love, with Faith that today will be better than yesterday, and knowing exactly what you need to do to move your life forward?
So you have the pieces in place. No downside. If there is a Soul Mate for you…great. If you will walk life alone…great. If there is a divine reality…great. If not…great. No matter what, you win, if you begin with love.
So we will begin there. The Ancient Child model says that we are moving between our earliest “self” and our most ancient “self”—from birth to death, at the least. Whatever your beliefs, apply them here.
The trick is to “see” an energetic line that moves from your earliest to oldest self. Your adult self is traveling along that line. True happiness is to operate in alignment with your childhood dreams AND the values you will hold on your deathbed. Think deeply on this.
If you can make contact with both of these selves, you have an endless font of energy and possibility (the child) as well as the rock-solid values of someone who has moved beyond ego, doubt, fear, greed, and confusion.
If your actions are in alignment with BOTH of these “selves” you are in great shape. But love…how to begin with love? To begin with our “end state” in mind?
1) Heartbeat Meditation. Simple, powerful. Simply sit and listen to your heartbeat. Take your pulse and “feel” it if necessary. The more quiet and still you become, the easier this is. The cascade of positive effects is gigantic.
2) 5MM. The “Five Minute Miracle” protocol says to take five sixty-second “breathing breaks” during the day, approximately every three hours. ANYONE has five minutes a minute at a time. If you think you don’t, you are lying to yourself. Period. Start with this reality, then deepen and slow those breaths, and you begin to break your negative stress patterns.
3) Ancient Child. If you have a hard time loving yourself, love the child within you. We are wired biologically, psychologically, and socially to love those little people. And this can often be the dynamite that sets you free. You can begin every day by laying quietly in bed, visualize a mirror above you, and see yourself in it. Visualize the light within the darkness in your body. Condense the light down until you have a solid ball of whatever size. Form that light into a living form, even if it is only an infant. An embryo. Even a single cell. Focus your love there.
This is a beginning process, and variations upon it are legion, and they work. Trust me: what is said here, by itself, is a lifetime of work if you dive deeply. We’re going to make this specific to the question of finding lasting love, but it applies to literally everything else as well.
That’s how I roll.
I’m doing the last two chunks of “the Secret Formula” today, because our DANGER WORD campaign ends tomorrow at 12 noon PST. Again: we’ve raised our basic funds, and our movie is happening! But if you want to participate in this historic event, a little time remains, and we genuinely wanted to make a “last call”.
We’ve discussed “gratitude” and “goals” and either of these subjects could be addressed for years. We’re just skimming over the surface, but what a surface it is!
Remember: this is about how to create MAGIC, by any reasonable definition, and quite a few un-reasonable ones. It is also about what is missing from most people’s view of “The Secret.”
All right. We have two pieces left: Faith and Constant Action.
1) Faith. In the Hero’s Journey, “Faith” gets you through the Dark Night of the Soul, the inevitable “crash and burn” phase of a project. The Dark Night is analogous to the 11th rep of a 12-rep weight lifting set, when you are SURE that you’ve got nothing left. But if you are exhausted by 11, what rep is it that really gives you the growth?
That’s right. 13. And you won’t get there unless you have a coach, a trainer, a buddy, or a voice in your head that says: “yes, it feels like you’ve got nothing left…but that feeling is a lie.”
And you gut it out. And that 13th rep sends a message to your hind brain that you must grow.The body follows the mind. You have to BELIEVE that you can, you should, you MUST. Believe that your actions are in alignment with your values. That they represent mutual benefit and welfare. That everyone involved will grow from this action. It hurts no one, benefits everyone.
That means faith in:
1) Yourself. I knew I could do this. I’ve done wonderful things in the past. And I encouraged everyone on the call to remember how wonderful THEY are.
2) Our companions. As a team, we’d come so far, so quickly. Done so much. We could look around the “room” and see that we all believed, we had track records, we were bringing everything we had to the game. Putting all our cards on the table. By any metaphor you choose, we had every right to believe in each other. WE CAN DO THIS!
3) A higher power. God, faith, “the universe”, Gaia, the Universal Pattern, fate…I don’t care. In my experience, the person who works only for themselves lacks the power of someone who strives to create value that goes beyond his own life, his own family. His own ego. Ego crumbles under the pressure of transformation. What remains after that pressure “breaks” you is a deeper sense of who and what you are, what you are committed to, what ultimate values you embrace.
Every action in your life should, optimally, be some version of asking the question “who am I?” and “what is true?”
I try very hard to live my life so that if the people around me could read my mind, they would be MORE at ease, more confident in my decisions and actions, rather than less. That means to align myself with whatever might be called “the ethical structure of the universe.” Or…the mind and heart of God.
Or…spiritual gravitation. So many ways to put it. Almost everyone has some sense of the universe having a pattern that evades conscious thought. Faith has to do with those patterns. And a totally disproportionate percentage of the highest-performing people I’ve known have such a sense. And that implies to me that, whether there is such a pattern, such a force, such a being or not…IT IS AN EXTREMELY USEFUL BELIEF.
Get that? So in the call, what we had to do was see how what we are doing goes beyond us. Our families. We are creating a story we genuinely consider inspiring and valuable.
Creating a document of HOW to create a small film. How to crowd-fund. How to build a “family” to create things you cannot create by yourself, with a commitment to sharing.
That we were publicly documenting the entire process.
That we were allowing people to invest their love, frustration, creativity…whatever they chose to invest in the creation of something they felt they wanted, needed, and cared about deeply…or just wanted to cheer us on from the stands! It wasn’t about “us.” It was about ALL of us.
That makes it all different.
Once we had the long view, it is easier to believe that if we are serving a function in the world, and can communicate our value, that the world will support us if we have the self-love to demand to be treated with respect. To lead by example.
Faith. In our project, ourselves, each other, and the community we are committed to serving.
The last step was the step I see most often missing from those who speak of “The Secret.” And that is Constant Action. Folks—if your goal and faith isn’t powerful enough to change your behavior, on what basis do you believe the universe will mystically respond to you? Are you kidding?
The bad news is that your ship isn’t coming in.
The good news is that you can row out to meet it.
We had to define CLEARLY what we needed to do to finish the project. What each of us could and must do to make it happen. What action we needed to take TODAY, and then tomorrow, and then the next day, to make it happen. What we were committed to. How we would keep ourselves on track.
And then…see ourselves succeeding. Arriving at film festivals. Happy audiences. Thrilled fans. Eager investors for a feature film.
Can we be sure any of this would happen? No! Could we celebrate anyway? Hell, yes! Why? Because we had done everything humanly possible. We had asked for nothing but the chance to work our butts off. Because we had “chunked down” the process until the component pieces were small enough that WE COULD DO IT OURSELVES.
At every step, we refused to turn ourselve into little Orphan Olivers, holding our begging bowls to the universe saying: “please, sir, I want some more.”
No. With joy, we’d bared our teeth and said: “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.” We formed a tribe. Did a war dance, and then went out to die trying, with a smile.
(I ask you to remember: when you don’t have a job, you can’t get a job. Until you’ve got one. Then the phone mysteriously rings with offers. When you don’t have a lover, you can’t get one. Until you’ve got one. And then…the phone mysteriously rings with offers. And the unifying principle is..?)
And you know what happened:
To recap briefly, we needed to raise 12,500 for post production. We’d only raised 2500.00 with 21 days to go. We went over the budget with a micrometer and realized that, with only 1800.00, we could produce a rough cut we could use to raise the rest of the money by targeting foundations and big-ticket donors.
THE CALL ENDED AT 1:10 EST. BY 1:30 EST, we had a notification from Indiegogo that we had a FIVE THOUSAND DOLLAR donor. This “crashed the system” at Indiegogo, and they went into “credit card fraud” mode, certain something was wrong. This was FIVE TIMES the largest donation we’d received up until this time!
It took tons of emails, phone calls and strategizing to figure out how to get our money out of the system, but five nail-biting days later we not only had that donation, but one from this angel’s mother as well, for ANOTHER five thousand dollars!
We were flabbergasted. All we had to do was be totally focused (goal), have faith, take massive action, and feel damned grateful for what we already had…and the universe opened the doors.
Now, this was such an amazing parallel to the precise way I found my soulmate, and the way I earned my fourth degree black belt, that it hit the “Trifecta” of body, mind, and spirit/emotions. This is foundational. This is big enough for me to stop, say “what the @#$$?” and immediately write this up and publish.
Yeah, it’s “magic.” But the scientific method, that thing that rules 1/2 of my head (the other half is shaman. Yeah, I know it. Sue me.) says that you observe a phenomenon, postulate a theory to explain it, formulate an experiment to test the theory, and if you like the results, publish so that others can try it as well.
These last few essays represent “publication.”
If you have questions, PLEASE ask them. If you’ve found this to be of use, please share with your friends.
And if it is fascinating, and you want a recap of the entire process, get yours as part of our “Seven Dollars or Free” program at: http://www.diamondhour.com/SecretFormula.en.html
THE "SECRET FORMULA" THAT SAVED OUR MOVIE!
We had reached a point where only 20% of the money had been raised, with 21 days to go. Panic time. “Dark Night of the Soul” time. “Encounter Evil and meet defeat” time.
The “evil”, of course, was just our own fear and lack of clarity. The obstacle was predictable. There is ALWAYS a glitch as you seek to rise to the next level. There is always a point where logic and knowledge fail, and you have to simply…trust.
But trust what? The Hero’s journey suggests that the “Leap of Faith”, the way across this gap, is “faith” in one of three things: faith in your companions (the Mastermind) faith in yourself (“I have the ability to do this. I may not see how yet, I’m in a fog, but if I keep going, I’ll get there.”) Or faith in a higher power (“I believe that any goal I can hold in my heart continuously is something I have the ability to achieve. I don’t believe God/The Universe/My deep consciousness would allow me to hold such a goal without the ability to bring it into the world. That would be capricious and cruel, and I don’t believe the world works that way.”)
Everyone who achieves on any level that I have EVER met has at least one of these three things. The happiest seem to have two or three of them.
In the partnership with Tananarive and Luchina, we each have specialized skills that make us effective, and my philosophy is not to leave ANY of your skills in the locker room. Put them all on the field. And I thought that my skills as a life coach might be applicable here. To be a bit of a Spiritual Guide, working backwards from our positive intent, and believing that the body supports cells, organs, and tissues that contribute healthfully to the whole. Our intents were positive for the community as well as our families and personal goals. There was no malice, no asking people to hurt themselves, a clear mission statement, and a sense of mischievous fun about the entire venture. It seemed solid.
So…knowing the Hero’s Journey…and the Mastermind principle (two or more people aligned in a spirit of harmony for a common goal, meeting at least once a week)…I decided to apply the “Success Formula” I’d extracted from “The Science of Getting Rich” by Wallace D. Wattles.
Note that this is the same source material that had inspired “The Secret.” But when I talk to people who follow “The Secret” I catch a strange disconnect, a sense that “If I just believe it, the universe will give it to me.”
Really? Has that been their observation about the way the universe works? I promise it hasn’t been mine. I HAVE noticed that, as I mentioned at the beginning, the very most “effortlessly successful” people certainly seem to accomplish miracles with little “work.” Like a martial arts master can throw someone with one finger…after a life-time of study.
Like someone like Oprah Winfrey can just focus her attention on something and it happens…because she has a massive machine with hudreds of people waiting to jump at her slightest inclination. It’s like driving a Rolls Royce down the street with one finger. If you didn’t understand all the manufacturing technology necessary to create the machine, and all the years of driving practice with hands at “ten and two” necessary to develop the sensitivity to the vehicle and environment, it looks like magic.
Just imagine how many people get lost in “feel the chi” when they are looking at a near-magical level of focus, skill, and sensitivity in martial arts. Or “just visualize it” when they are listening to someone who has integrated their minds, emotions, and bodies enough that visualizing something changes their feelings and BEHAVIORS.
In other words, if your emotional/mental focus isn’t enough to change your behaviors, why in the world do you think it will change the world outside you? You have to change your behaviors, notice the results, keep re-adjusting until those behaviors are in synch with the way the world works, at which point your natural inclinations have been “trained” by feedback from the environment. They feel natural. Effortless. Swimming “with the tide.” And looks like magic to those who are ignorant, insensitive, or fearful.
It’s like using a voice dictation program like Dragon Dictate. They talk about “training the program” but you’re just as much training YOURSELF to speak in a way the program can interpret.
GOALS X FAITH X CONSTANT ACTION X GRATITUDE = RESULTS
There is “magic” here in the sense Arthur C. Clarke meant. Maybe more…but that’s an esoteric conversation, and I want this to be practical.
GOALS, then, are critical both for accomplishing and because even “failure” teaches you what is and is not true in the world. Feedback. Don’t set goals, don’t measure the results, and you can’t build your map of reality.
FAITH is critical because it is all that keeps you going when you have emptied yourself out, and you MUST empty yourself in the pursuit of an emotionalized goal to send a message to your mind or muscle that it is time to grow.
CONSTANT ACTION is the step too many people miss. You must do all you can, where you can, this day, and then tomorrow, and again the tomorrow after that. “A watched pot never boils.” “Magic” happens when you have given up waiting for magic. Isn’t this true? When you don’t have a job, you can’t get a job. But as soon as you’ve got one, people want to offer you employment. When you don’t have a lover, you can’t get one…until you’ve got one, and then everyone else is interested. When you are broke you can’t get credit….
See the pattern. Sitting and waiting doesn’t do it. The lilies of the field are actually quite active, and perfectly integrated into their ecological niche. They just seem passive to the ignorant.
GRATITUDE. You have to start with the emotion you want to end with. There are multiple reasons. First, why not enjoy life TODAY? Why wait? Second, almost anything you want to accomplish will require a team of people, allies. Customers. Teachers. The “Mastermind” is the only way I know to compensate for lack of ability. If you can bond yourself to people with knowledge, resources, abilities different from yours, you can build a team to accomplish things beyond you as an individual.
How to do this with integrity? Offer what you DO have. Friendship. Skills. Passion for life. Genuine love and caring. Be the kind of person others WANT to be around. The kind of person people feel better after they’ve spent time with you. And the way to have that genuine (and you should never, ever fake it!) sense of connection is to be so full of love and GRATITUDE for life, right here, right now, that it overflows.
And…fear and stress create “tunnel vision.” You literally can’t see the opportunities that are right in front of you. Gratitude, love, is the perfect antidote. You relax. You enjoy. The little kid inside you starts dancing. And you see potentials again.
So these were the things I wanted to bring to our meeting. That was my challenge. This is what I was committed to doing that Friday. More on the precise way we did it, and what happened, tomorrow!
I discussed this process, the sanest approach to “magic” I know of, on the Diamond Hour show. The audio is part of our “Seven Dollars or FREE” program available at
And if this is resonating with you, please get your copy today. NO ONE is turned away for lack of resources in this program. Ever. No joke, no catch. I am so blessed, and want to pass that blessing on…to you, and yours.
The Hero’s Movie #10: The Student Becomes the Teacher
And here we come to the end of this cycle. I’ve gone through this countless times, and will continue to, because it is my experience that any truth that would change your life can be expected to meet psychological resistance. Part of us really does NOT want to change. If you didn’t have internal resistance, it is likely that you would already have changed. So…if we consciously want to find a healthy relationship, change a bad habit, lose weight, or master our finances, what’s going on?
Pretty simple, really. Most of what we know, believe, or feel is tied to UNCONSCIOUS drives, laws, beliefs, and perceptual filters. We simply don’t have enough room in our conscious minds to hold all the instructions on how to live our lives. That stuff gets handed over to “unconscious competence” as rapidly as possible. We literally forget how we do about 99% of what we do unless we stop and think about it very carefully. The more advanced the writer, martial artist, or evolved spirit I’ve encountered, the more likely they are to speak in generalities, about sweeping overarching feelings rather than the actual nuts and bolts they used to get where they are.
It is a very rare expert who can teach beginners. I suspect that this is where the “those who can’t do, teach” attitude comes from. Experts often have forgotten so much about how they got there that they are superstitious about their abilities, actually frightened that one day the now-unknown processes will shut down and leave them totally in the dark. That what Stephen King calls “the boys in the basement” will stop doing their job.
While there are no paths that guarantee success, there are certainly those that guarantee failure, and selecting OPTIMAL paths helps to keep us away from those. Accept that nothing guarantees success, select your goals for the joyous path they offer us, live every day for its own passion and purpose, and let the world decide about external success or failure. YOUR success comes from living your life, on your terms. The external measures form a “safety rail” (especially if you choose health/fitness, career, and love. Heck, if I have success in those three, it really doesn’t matter much about anything else. I’ll “settle” for those happily!) within which we can, if Maslow and the Chakras are correct, evolve toward a higher and higher level of integration.
So let’s take a look at the steps as they related to our film project:
1) Confronted with challenge. Seeing others making short films for self expression and career advancement.
2) Reject Challenge. “I can’t do that.”
3) Accept Challenge. “Yes I can, and will.”
4) Road of Trials. Studying the success patterns of those who completed such films, and dividing the work into a series of weekly/daily steps.
5) Allies and Powers. Identifying the people, processes, skills and resources that will be necessary, filling in the holes in our own abilities with a Mastermind.
6) Confront Evil-defeated. The previous steps are both macro and micro-cycles. There will always be a moment of Greatest defeat, and for us, it was late Sunday night when we were over budget and over-time.
7) Dark Night of the Soul. The inevitable fatigue, depression, and doubting voices.
8) Leap of Faith. For me, it was faith in my understanding of deep process, and in my selection of allies: our actors, our director, and my wonderful wife. I didn’t need to know the answer. I needed to believe that there WAS an answer, even if I couldn’t see it.
9) Confront Evil—and succeed. T came up with the answer. I had to drop my concept of how things were “supposed” to work. The expression “you can have anything you want, if you can release your expectation of how it is supposed to look” comes to mind.
10) The Student Becomes the teacher. When you have learned something, the best way to integrate it is to teach someone else. Also, it is the best way to give thanks to the teachers and role models who have gone before.. Humans as individuals aren’t much smarter than chimps. It is because we share knowledge, have access to information from men and women long dead, have more information in our brains than in our genes…this is one of the few things that makes us so different, for good or ill. I am profoundly grateful to be a part of this information flow…to have received, and also to have given.
I’m documenting every step of the process of making “Danger Word” and will be lecturing about it in the future, showing people how, if they have the honesty to look at the needed work and evaluate their own capacities, and the heart to gather a Mastermind of like-minded people to fill in their gaps, and the energy to last the Road of Trials, and the courage to face their own fear…they can do it too. That is MY commitment. This has been, and continues to be, a fabulous journey. Can’t wait to see where it leads next!
The Hero’s Movie #9—Confront Evil and Succeed
It is important to remember that in this interpretation of the Hero’s Journey, “evil” is anything that operates contrary to healthy growth. Internally it is dishonesty, self-deception, negative emotions, self-defeating beliefs, and so forth. Externally it isn’t mustache-twirling villainy, but false friends, energy vampires, ennablers, “drowning” associates who drag down the life guard, inappropriate relationships, domineering bosses and jealous co-workers, guilt-trippers, “us-or-them”-ists, and more.
In terms of our shoot it was our own lack of experience, inability to anticipate problems, fear, insecurity, lack of resources, self-doubt, fatigue, and lack of clarity. You see, “wisdom” is not intelligence. In a practical sense, it is pattern recognition, the ability to enter a new situation and apply past experience to it. To “see” and “feel” beneath the surface and beyond the horizon, to hear the truth beneath the words, to see what is the SAME in a situation where everyone else sees only the differences.
It is like looking at anger, distaste, guilt, dread, aversion, depression, or other emotions, and realizing they are all expressions of fear. Find and address the fear and you can “dis-arm” the “presenting” emotions like magic. In our situation we had the natural fear of being unable to complete our project, or fear that we had misjudged our allies, or overestimated our abilities…and so forth.
Here’s a truth: in every project I’ve ever written, EVERY SINGLE ONE, I reach a point where it feels that the whole thing is turning into puree of bat poop. Every time. The fear can be almost paralyzing. I say “almost” for one reason: I’VE BEEN THERE BEFORE. I recognize the emotional flare. It is “merely” the Dark Night of the Soul, once again, leering at me and inviting me to collapse back to a previous stage of the process.
Ever met someone to gets 90% of the way through a project, then stops? Perhaps has a whole raft of projects they’ve gotten 90% of the way through? Has a mind-full of great ideas and never finishes any of them? Perhaps you know such a person…intimately?
If you (or your “friend”) has such a pattern, this is a person who has neglected one of the steps of the Journey. They haven’t mastered their fear. Haven’t accepted responsibility for their growth. Haven’t taken continuous action. Identified and acquired the skills they currently lack. Created a “Master Mind” of people who fill in their “gaps.” Accepted the inevitability of temporary failure. Developed faith that extends beyond their own egos. And most importantly, LEARNS FROM PAST MISTAKES AND VICTORIES, seeing the patterns of action, thought and emotion that have produced positive and negative results. This stuff isn’t theoretical. It is experiential. This pattern means little or nothing if you just read and accept or reject it. But if you will look into your own history, apply these thoughts and see where you agree or disagree, THEN and only then you make it your own.
T and I had accepted the responsibility for creating a small film (Step #1, #3). Dealt with our insecurity (#2), taken action (#4), found wonderful allies (especially our director, Luchina Fisher, step #5). The problem point (step #6) was inevitable, as was the fatigue, fear and depression it triggers (step #7). What was necessary was to keep going with good spirits and mutual support. To believe that just because I cannot see an answer doesn’t mean an answer doesn’t exist (one of the greatest traps I’ve seen for smart people with inflexible emotions—they’re smart enough to perceive a problem, but can’t believe there are answers beyond their capacity to devise, or patterns they cannot see. Pity, really.) This was step #8. And when T saw the solution, and we applied it, it immediately lifted the spirits of all involved, and led to the magic words “it’s a wrap!”
Wow. Just…wow. We’d been horribly fatigued, but somehow those words gave us so much energy we could have partied until dawn.
(If you are finding these lessons valuable, PLEASE visit www.dangerword.com and see what you can do to support the post-production on our project. All prayers, good wishes, link-shares and contributions gratefully accepted!!)
the Hero's Movie #7-- The Dark Night
Each of these steps is important ,
but emotionally this is critical.
You simply CANNOT move
from one level of your life to
another without expecting
failure. And because of some
odd quirk of human nature,
we tend in these times to
forget that we've been here
before, and risen from the ashes
before. And that skewed and
partial perspective leads to
The Dark Night, as I've said
over and over, is the moment
when it feels that all is lost,
that all your innate capacities
are insufficient to reach the
task at hand. Now, this is
not to say that clinical depression
is just a matter of changing
focus. I've never had clinical
depression, nor am I a
medical professional, and
would hesitate to make such
a statement on such incomplete
information. But I will say
that most of what most of
us suffer from at such times
is acute more than chronic.
But deal with it enough, and
your brain seems to simply
slide into a state of acceptance.
So before we deal with the
classic means of coping with
this malaise, lets reference
back to our shoot north of
Albany. Everyone was exhausted,
we were over time and budget,
and there was increasing
risk of spiraling out if control.
At times like this, you start
noticing actual physical
changes in the people around
you. The body language,
vocal tonalities, facial expressions,
and word choices all expressed
stress becoming strain.
But...this is a two-way street.
The feedback loop goes both
ways. In other words, if you
assume the physical and
psychological images of anger
and depression, you will begin
to feel them. I suspect this is
why actors are famously rocky
emotionally-- pretending to
feel things sends messages
to your brain that they are
your actual experience. Not
healthy unless you star in
But as I said, the feedback
loop goes both ways. This is
one of the reasons the "Five
Minute Miracle" (sixty second
breathing breaks every three
hours) is so efficient--it breaks
the physiological patterns
of stress devolving to strain.
Every three hours if you breathe
with power, smile, stand with
positive posture, move with
authority and focus on the
positives in your life, you
are conditioning yourself to
reference the best within you.
And as I saw things growing
unstable, I did this for myself,
and tried to circulate among
cast and crew offering positive
encouragement, jokes, hugs,
back rubs, and reminders to
EXHALE. This is better than
saying "breathe" because
people will inhale...and hold
Do this single thing every three
hours for thirty days, and your
life will never be the same.
Note the voices in your head
trying to convince you that this
is stupid, silly, won't work,
etc...and ask yourself what is
so intimidating about taking
five minutes a day to feel good.
And by the way, we've finally got
the behind-the-scenes footage
if our shoot linked to the trailer.
Please visit www.dangerword.com
and check it out, contribute if
you can, and pass the link on
to your friends.
The Hero's Movie #5: Allies and Powers
There were and are a vast sea of skills, talents, and resources necessary to make DANGER WORD (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qI9-W4iG4u8&feature=youtube), our short film, made for less than 1% of the per-minute cost of a Hollywood film. Yes, it’s “just” a zombie movie. No. It is a dark fantasy, a tale of hope and love and family and the last 24 hours of a childhood…with zombies.
And we’re doing it for both personal and community reasons. Both to express ourselves and to teach others how to make films…or ultimately to bring ANY dream that you have to life, on your own terms. To demonstrate how to work with friends and family and your own childhood yearnings to create something that works for YOU.
You need to generalize from what I’m saying here, and see how this applies to books. Businesses. Fitness. Relationships. I’m taking the risk of doing this publicly, where I can fall on my face…or succeed, and you’ll see every step of it. I am sick of people thinking their dreams are dead if they haven’t reached them by forty.
Sick of it. So…here we go.
As I said, in Step #5 you face the reality of needing to gather a circle of allies who did and do have the basic capacities. Then I need to clarify my own goals, and ask them to clarify theirs. If our goals overlap, it makes sense to work together. But as “How to Make Friends and Influence People” insists, you have to bond with people based on THEIR needs and drives, NOT YOURS.
(By the way, the best way to understand the motivations of others is to deeply understand your own. The more honest you are about your own motivations…including the role selfishness plays in everything you do, the easier it is to understand, and motivate others. If you are often deceived or disappointed by the behavior of others, if you frequently have the “I didn’t see THAT coming” reaction, if you fall for lies repeatedly…it is very likely that you are lying to yourself, about yourself. That the lies you tell yourself to avoid pain, guilt, or fear keep you from understanding the people around you. Best litmus test I know.)
So the first question was: “what is this person’s dream, and would making a movie with me further that dream?” Well…first ally? Tananarive. My wife, my partner, my best friend. Frustrates the living #$%% out of me at times, but that’s human relationships for you. Heck, I frustrate me, so it’s inevitable that the people around me will as well.
But she’s also brilliant. And has resources and perspectives I do not. And yes, what she wants matches largely with what I want…sufficiently that we can have a successful relationship. We had a match. We could work on a short story of ours, “Danger Word” which would then have the advantage of being a shared dream, a story that could be done “on a budget”, a genre currently popular, an advertisement for the “Devil’s Wake” novels, a doorway to making a feature film…you name it.
Luchina Fisher, one of T’s oldest and best friends and an absolute sweetheart, was next to get on board. The “Master Mind” principle says that a “Master Mind” is formed when two or more people align in PERFECT HARMONY, in mutual support. That means that Harmony is more important than potential resource, or the size of the group. What you’re looking for is a “Supermind” formed by brainstorming. A little conflict is great, nothing more than the natural flow of spontaneous dance. But too much becomes like a brain seizure, left and right hemispheres of that three pounds of gray Jello in your skull fighting for control.
(By the way, this is what creates the conflict between labor and management, or art and business. There is a giant joke I’ve seen in publishing and Hollywood. The writers believe editors and publishers are Philistines. Editors often believe writers are spoiled children. Until…the writers start their own publishing companies to “do it right” at which point the writers who work with them start grousing the same way. Or until the publishers/editors write their own books and stories…and start complaining about the editors they work with.
The same thing seems true in Hollywood. The management complains about writers and actors. Let the writers or actors become “suits” and the people working for THEM start making the same complaints. Hell, you see it with voters and politicians as well. See this often enough, and I’d think people would start suspecting that it isn’t that the people in the other position are “bad.” It is that the nature of the positions places you in antagonistic balance, “Child/Creative/Emotional/Impulsive” selves warring with “Adult/Bookkeeping/Logical/Long-Term” self. Gee, does this resemble the struggles going on in your own head? Ever make a promise to yourself and break it? A sincere promise? Gee, were you lying to yourself? Overly optimistic? Unrealistic? Now…when others break promises to you, to you think they are “bad” or do you cut them the same slack? Understanding yourself helps you understand others. You don’t have to consider other people inferior to you in intent or capacity to avoid the negative consequences of their poor decisions.)
So…Harmony between me and T is the first step. Early in our relationship, realizing we wanted to both work together and stay married, we made the decision that when we had business arguments, we could “go at it” hammer and tongs, but the relationship itself was never, ever on the table. Never threatened. That if anything was going on that threatened the relationship that had to be discussed separately, and calmly, and directly.
This freed us from the fear that “if I don’t agree, I will lose my love.” It allowed us to really rip apart each other’s ideas, without feeling personally torn apart. Because brothers and sisters, you have to both feel free to offer crazy ideas, and know that your ideas and concepts ARE NOT YOU. They are just expressions, observations.
We love and trust each other, and also know that we are different people, close enough in values, beliefs and goals that we can make a relationship work. A RELATIONSHIP ISN’T TWO PEOPLE LOOKING AT EACH OTHER. IT IS TWO PEOPLE MOVING IN THE SAME DIRECTION.
Understand that distinction, or you are in terrible trouble. Now, then…with that basic unity established as the core “Mastermind” then add ONE PERSON. Still have harmony? Expand brainstorming and add ONE MORE PERSON…continue this process, willing to fall back to the previous number if there is any lack of harmony.
T, Luchina and I argued, but it was very very cool argument. Real respect, admiration, and affection there. I liked what I heard and saw, and breathed a sigh of relief—because Luchina had actually walked this path before, and succeeded in producing a fine short film. We now had a group with all the basic skills and connections necessary to accomplish what we wanted. I had a good overall (but thin) grasp of the steps necessary to create a 15 minute short, or THE AVENGERS. It was just a question of how much could I learn, how fast, or how many people could I enroll?
There is a principle in marketing: DON’T CREATE A PRODUCT WITHOUT A MARKET. Great way to go broke. We could have tried to fund it out of our own pockets. But you know something? Even hugely wealthy people very rarely do this. They know that if they cannot enroll others in the process, they are operating from pure ego, and are likely to fail. Luckily, there is something called Crowdfunding. If we couldn’t make a case to the public, and get them to help us FOR THEIR OWN MOTIVATIONS, if we couldn’t convince them that this project was worthwhile enough to help fund it, there was a very good chance that it wasn’t worth doing…or that we didn’t have the skills necessary to create tribe and ultimately market the result. If we could fund it, we had some of the critical skills, and a potential winner.
So: the “Allies and Powers” step meant to
1) model successful people to determine what they did, and compare enough of them to determine the “critical path” to success (for instance: some writers drink. Some beat their wives. Some overeat. These are individual, negative behaviors. But ALL successful writers read and write massively. THAT is part of the “critical path”, not the other, idiosyncratic behaviors)
2) Determine which of these behaviors, skills and resources you have, and which you do not. Those you can attain in the time frame available, begin to acquire.
3) Those skills and resources you do NOT have, or need to bolster, create “Mastermind” groups of like-minded individuals, beginning with a single friend, partner, or lover who you can, in this arena at least, trust 100%. Meet with them at LEAST once a week, preferably daily, and brainstorm and clarify goals and determine daily actions.
4) Add new partners to the “Mastermind” ONE AT A TIME, and see if you still have harmony. A little dissonance can be spicy and valuable. But if the new person disrupts your groove, no matter how knowledgeable or talented they are, let them go. You cannot afford conflict on this most basic level—it is like having a seizure.
5) Use the new person’s knowledge to clarify the plans, resource list and personnel roster necessary to achieve your goal.
6) Repeat the process as needed.
So we created a plan to get to a 15 minute short film we could use to understand the process of film making, have fun, make money, and leverage our way to a feature, if we liked the process of working together. If we decided we didn’t…no harm no foul. We’d back away from each other like porcupines after mating (very carefully!), protect the relationships, and take the knowledge into other ventures with other people.
Created a time line, budget, resource list, and then said: let’s do this.
The rest…is DANGER WORD.
The Hero's Movie #4: The Road of Trials
4) Road of trials. Here, you look at the overall plan, model the successes in your field (and if there is no one in your chosen field who has ever succeeded ethically, I kinda have to suspect you’re in the wrong field. Hell, there’ve probably been ethical hit men and Mafia dons, you know?), and extract their behaviors, beliefs, and emotions. What do I want? A feature film. Do people make their own features? Yes. Can shorts act as a stepping stone? You bet. What if I go the studio route eventually? Well…we’ve tried that. Had movies in development for years and years, made tons of money often with no ultimate result. Could making a short help me here?
The theory is…yes. The microcosm of making and marketing a short film forces me out of my comfort zone, and will teach me every basic part of making a 200 million dollar movie, just as a short story teaches you every basic skill necessary to write a 200k novel. So…where could I learn the basic pieces I needed? Well…there’s a guy named Dov Simens who teaches what he calls the “Two-Day Film School” that a number of successful film makers swear by. I’ve got his material, and studied it. He seriously broke it down into bite-size component parts, maybe 20 of them. Clearly, each of the 20 steps could be an entire semester, or even year of study. But however lightly he touched upon them, they were the links in the chain necessary to take a film from an idea to a finished product (for instance, he covers screen writing in a half hour!) But now I knew what I didn’t know. And it suggested the path ahead.
Here is where I’ll take my VERY limited experience and make a recommendation: don’t invest more than 500 dollars of your own money, unless you don’t care about earning it back. The truth is that you can make a film for that, if you carefully design your script as a one-act play, rehearse the actors thoroughly, and then use Hi-Def to tape it on an existing set. If your script is powerful, and sucks people in, and your actors sell it, the audience will suspend their disbelief and enter the emotional world of your piece. You will then be able to use this to stair-step your way to a bigger project…at no more than one order of magnitude per step.
If your idea is larger, then use crowdfunding of some kind to raise your capital. If you cannot, it means that you either have no sales ability, or your idea is not salable. Better to find this out NOW, than after you’ve mortgaged your house, yes?
One of the biggest mistakes I see is impatience. People don’t write and SELL short stories before they go for novels. They put everything they have into a single project that will bankrupt them if they fail. Almost anyone can walk up a flight of stairs to a 10 foot landing. There may be a handful of human beings on the planet who can jump that high. This is “talent”, the ability to take more component steps, absorb more lessons at greater speed. But that’s the Hare approach. The Tortoise works just fine. Don’t rush. You will learn so much at each stage, that there is simply no logical down-side to starting small and building up.
The road of trials. Simply put, you study the lives of people who have accomplished what you want. Preferably, three people, so that you can identify the “critical path” they took, and exclude as many idiosyncratic behaviors as possible. Look at their belief systems (“I have the ability! Art is important!”), their mental syntax (raise most of the money from the community you hope to serve. Enroll others in the project by appealing to their hopes and dreams. Make honest assessment of your abilities, and find others who have the missing pieces. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Budget 10% more time and money for EVERYTHING.) and use of physiology (get ready for 18-20 hour days if you want to direct. Apply butt to chair and get that script done. Don’t have sugary foods on your set. Have a masseuse on-set. Have a stress-coping mechanism in place BEFORE the stress hits) and so forth.
Now…look honestly and without mercy at your current abilities. Have you published? Produced anything? No? Then start at the very lowest level and work your way up. Give yourself a chance to learn.
Subtract your current skill and resource set from the skill and resource set necessary to accomplish your goal (as measured by the “critical path.”) In other words, what skills do you need? Do you have the positive beliefs necessary to power you past the “Dark Night of the Soul”? Trust me: IT WILL COME. There is no way around it. This is when and where you will find out who you are. Not when you are flush in the excitement of it all, dreaming in your living room, but on the set, at 1 in the morning, running out of time and money and your crew about to revolt. THAT is when you will learn who you are.
The road of trials. The pre-production, production, and post-production. Study those who have accomplished it. I believe Dov Simens has his entire basic book on his web site, one chapter at a time, FOR FREE. If you’ve never done this, and you don’t take the time to study what he’s saying…you are probably shooting yourself in the foot.
Get moving. My VERY incomplete knowledge should be the barest of starting points. Get out there and learn. And then…divide the work to be done into chunks and handle those chunks a bit at a time.
How do you eat an elephant? One forkful at a time. Start eating.
The Hero's Movie #3: Accepting the Challenge
3) Acceptance of the challenge. I decided that the effort itself, separate from any ultimate result, was worthwhile. If I failed, I’d still have fun. But if I succeeded…I could take a step toward my single largest remaining life goal: a feature film. But looking outward, I saw how it could strengthen my relationship with T. That I could create a role for Nicki, forwarding her career. That T had a dear friend who was a filmmaker, and that it could be a “Gurlz on the Loose” situation that they could remember forever. The potential upside was huge, the downside relatively small. “Go for it” was the answer.
Yesterday T and I did an internet radio show, on which we spoke of our motivations to create DANGER WORD. But here’s the trick: if you want to do something, and do it effectively and efficiently, you not only need to have “permission” on every level, but it needs to fit your self image. Be in alignment with your childhood dreams, adult goals, and deathbed values. You need to be “becoming”—in other words, if you ask yourself if you will become a purer, stronger version of the person you believe yourself to be, and the answer is “Yes” even if you don’t live to actualize the complete goal…paydirt.
And…would you have fun in the process? I realized that no matter how I sliced it, this was something I wanted to do. It might lead no where, or to fantastic, wonderful things. There would be no way to know without actually beginning the journey.
“Adulthood” is the moment when you take responsibility for your own life and existence. Response-Ability. Not guilt, blame, or shame, but the ability to stand up and say “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.” “If there are only two jobs out there, I’m getting one of them.” “Patience my ass, I’m gonna kill something.” Yeah, THAT thing. We all know children take responsibility for nothing, if they don’t have to. It’s someone else’s fault. They made a mistake. It was their friends. You “made them” feel bad. You’re so selfish for not giving them what they want?
You are an adult when you stop this nonsense. Stand and tell the tide not to come in, and see how the natural world reacts. Rail against the fact that you are a rabbit, and there are eagles in the sky…see how long you last. This is the only life you get, and you either go for it, or it comes for you. And Brothers and Sisters…you aren’t going to like the result. No matter how small you play, no matter what deep, dark hole you claw for yourself, no matter how little you ask for, and how quiet you are…Death is still going to find you.
How much success would it take for you to be willing to die the day before you achieved it? There is NO level of external success worth your life. And yet, we all pay that price…our lives. Whether we get that success or not. I don’t know about you, but I interpret that as meaning I should set my ambitions as high as the sky, give it everything I have…and then watch the results with a certain level of bemusement.
Yes. I take responsibility. I want this. I’m willing to give it everything, and let the chips fall where they may. This is who I am, it is my life, and I’ll succeed or fail being ME, not pretending to be someone else.
The Hero Makes A Movie Step 2: Rejection of the Challenge
All right, the first step was to recognize that there was a problem, an opportunity, and something that could be done. Once we acknowledge that, why don’t we act? That leads us to:
2) Rejection of the challenge. I could have done this years ago. Why hadn’t I? Well…I’d defined myself as a writer. Not a producer or a director. Done a small amount of stunt choreography, but that was it, really. So the fear associated with the rejection was “am I that person? Do I have the energy to do this? Will it be a distraction from the critical path I need to reach my goals?” Really a version of “who am I?” and “what is true?” which are the most important questions in life.
What are some of the most common reasons I see that people are paralyzed?
1) If I try, I’ll be disappointed. Children will fall down a thousand times just to take a single step. If they were as easy to discourage as adults, we’d all be crawling to work.
2) Everyone who accomplishes this goal betrays their ethics. Really? Everyone? Geeze, I’d bet that there are ethical hit men and Mafia dons out there, if you looked carefully enough. You really chose a profession or hobby where everyone who succeeds is a sell-out selfish bastard? Really? If that’s what you think, you have some seriously damaged emotional filters. That’s just not reality.
3) Everyone who succeeds at this has resources I do not have. Really? Everyone? Not a single person has ever succeeded at this starting from where you started? People have risen from nothing to become leaders in any field you can think of: acting, athletics, business, politics, the arts, the sciences. And if you can find ONE person who was as bad—or worse—off as you, and made it, it punctures that belief. And the chances are that there are a LOT more than one person, especially if you are willing to look at parallel fields. No one has ever published a Western Novel about Sioux Indians protecting a Gold Mine in Wyoming in April of 1866 while it’s raining in Kansas City and a Mule is giving birth to a rabbit in Boston Commons? Well…maybe we need to back off that level of specificity a bit. Oh! Here’s one with a mule that gave birth to a rabbit on a ship in Boston Harbor. Maybe that will suffice as a role model..? Ya think?
4) I’m too old, too young, too female, too black, too gay, too poor, too uneducated, too…too…whatever. Yeah. But if one person ever did it starting from where you are, you’re just accepting an excuse.
You have to remember there is a part of you that is going to throw up every possible negative reason, every pain, every threat, try to convince you that IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. And if you can’t find a square inch of open space, of blue sky, can’t remember the times in your life you thought I CAN’T! And did it anyway…you don’t have a prayer.
First, you have to control your state. Your belief. You have to focus on what you want, and why you want it.
Put your love in front of you, your fear behind you, and run like hell.
Had other people made shorts? Yes.
Had other people used shorts to leverage their way to features? Yes.
Did I have resources in my mind and heart that I had not used in my writing career that I might apply to this? Yes.
Was it in alignment with my values and dreams? Yes.
Did I have allies who had the skills and experience I lacked? Yes.
Did it sound like fun? Heck, yes.
And…here’s a big one. When faced with the question “should I or shouldn’t I take this risk?” Ask yourself one important question: “how long am I going to be dead?”
If the answer to that question doesn’t get you up and moving, you may already be shuffling and moaning for brains.
When it comes right down to it, isn’t ONE of the reasons zombies are popular because we fear not death so much as LIVING DEATH? The “negation of the negation?” Lurching through the world in dreadful imitation of life, going through the motions? Infecting our loved ones with our own emotional rot? Tearing down the living? Becoming a shell of the vibrant, hopeful, optimistic beings we used to be? Allowing our fears, doubts, resentments, angers, false self image and ego shell to keep us from accomplishing what we wanted in childhood?
Isn’t that more terrifying? I am not a zombie, damn it. The little kid who began this journey is still inside me. He plays with Jason every day. He still loves THE AVENGERS and JOHNNY QUEST. Still likes crawling on the floor and playing with kittens. HE’S STILL THERE. And damn it, I know that if I gave him that gift, the gift of trying, no matter what happened, he will reward me with smiles and love and creativity and energy.
So…yes, I had doubts. And fears. And questions. But also knew that if I didn’t try, I’d be betraying something deep and precious within me.
Say it with me, now, and aloud: I will NOT feed my child to the zombies. I will NOT voluntarily join the living dead! I will fight and scratch and work and pray and love and live for my dreams, every damned day. They can break down the door, but I will NOT open the door for them. And by God, before they get me I’ll jump out the window and laugh all the way down to the sidewalk, saying “what a rush!”
Because this is the only life I have. And I will not live it by anyone else’s rules.
Damn it, I’m gonna make a #$%^^ movie!
We’re doing this in plain sight, so that people can see just how far we get, and the attitudes, actions and strategies we used. Then they can either follow, or learn from our mistakes as they navigate their own paths. The truth is that the process looked one way BEFORE we began. It looks a different way now. And after this process is complete, and whatever DANGER WORD is, and if it does or does not morph into the DEVIL’S WAKE feature we would like to do next year…after this is done, the process will have yet another complexion. I swore that if you guys supported this, we would share EVERYTHING, without reservation. In this way you can not only see the mistakes and solutions we create or encounter, but you will be able to see in real-time how the “Hero’s Journey” pattern I’ve taught for over 20 years applies to real-world situations.
No b.s. No hiding. When we finish the 15 minute film WHICH IS CERTAIN AT THIS POINT we will be able to finalize this portion of the process, and formalize a teaching. Then, of course, we’ll be maneuvering to use that as a stepping stone to making a feature—either ourselves, or in partnership with investors and/or a studio. But it is worthwhile to begin the documentation process now, only a few days before our first Trailer is complete (and you’re going to LOVE IT!) So let’s take a look at the 10-step “Hero’s Journey” as applied to this particular situation.
1) Confronted with Challenge. During the Octavia Butler symposium, we were faced with talented young artists who had made short films. I watched a bunch of them. Some were VERY impressive, some…not so much. Some seemed expensive (at least in terms of skills and talent) others very budget-conscious. And what occurred to me was: wait a #$% minute. “We could do this. In our circle are all the skills and resources we need. Do I want to do this?”
And yes, I did. And do. Since childhood, I’ve wanted a feature film with my name on it. Watched movies with the kind of simple joy one rarely finds in life, and has never ever left me. I wanted it. What has the result been? Twenty-eight novels, about twenty hours of produced television scripts. A handful of films in development, but never produced. A credit as “creative consultant” on “The Secret of NIMH.” Creating the bible for a series of Swedish ninja movies (!) starring Chuck Conners (!!). In many ways, I accomplished more than I’d dreamed of as a child…but one dream remained. And remains. We watched movies in development at different studios, getting paid but without positive result.
I ran into executive after executive politely asking “if we could change the race of the lead character.” Not HIS preference, you know. It’s the audience…
When supporting T’s projects, I had the humiliation of a production executive basically asking who the hell I was, and would I please shut up during the brainstorming sessions. And I shut up. Because I wanted my baby to get her dream onscreen. But God, it hurt so badly. I just had to sit on it.
Could I accept this challenge? Was there more potential pleasure than pain here? Yes. But the conflict remained…
It isn’t what we do once in a while that shapes your destiny. It is what you do…or don’t do…continuously. Every day. Day after day. When no one’s looking. See someone successful in any career? You’re seeing countless decisions and actions made in private that impacted his public life. See someone with a loving relationship that lasted long enough to raise children (whether they have kids or not)? Someone who was honest enough to know what they wanted and needed in a mate and fight for it, sacrifice for it, dance with the chaos of human emotions every day. See someone with a strong healthy body? You’re seeing someone who had permission to be healthy, and made daily decisions about how to move, eat, and rest to support their physical values.
Everyone has excuses and reasons they could accept to be sick, or broke, or lonely (alone is a different thing), or whatever. Never met a human being who didn’t have contrary voices in their head, conflicting values given by family or society, failures and foibles by the bunch. In fact, the most successful people fail more often. They just interpret that failure as feedback.
In writing, one of Tananarive’s teachers said “a real writer papers his walls with rejection slips.” The failure says: “this story was rejected, it must not be good. I’m not good.”
In relationships, the truth is that hearts break but heal and grow stronger—if you learn. The failure says: “there are no good men/women out there.” Or “all the good men/women are taken.” Or “I’m not worthy of love.”
In the physical realm, it’s “fat runs in my family. Diets have failed before. My body disobeys the laws of physics. I’m not strong enough, fast enough” or whatever. The winner says “I have these challenges and advantages. If anyone in my situation has ever earned that black belt/lost that weight/gained that muscle in a healthful way…I can learn what they did, do it, and get the same result.
It took me SEVENTEEN YEARS to earn my first black belt (the average is about five), because I was dealing with so much childhood trauma, so much fear, so much pain, such a negative, weak self-image. But I kept picking myself up, kept going back, because I knew if I didn’t I would never be whole—I would be “papering over” damage from my past, and would spend the rest of my life hoping people wouldn’t notice.
In every arena, there will be people who tell you no, you can’t. Will try to convince you that you actually NEED to be imbalanced, lonely, poor. That a spiritual person ignores his body. That misery is the path to growth.
But if anyone has ever embraced her path with joy and accomplished what is in your heart to have, be, or do…so can you. If anyone has ever healed the same wounds you carry…so can you. If anyone has ever overcome your ethnic, gender, social, or financial obstacles…so can you.
But if you surround yourself with people who believe it is impossible, that genetics are destiny, that race is determinative, that it takes money to make money, that love is a myth…you are in trouble.
You can kill your dreams with standards that are too HIGH as well as those that are too low. Both are designed unconsciously to create the same situation: lack of change. Maintaining your self image. Examples:
1) I recently spoke to a famous actor who has never been married. His definition of an acceptable wife was someone who saw everything as he did, felt about everything the way he does, thinks the same things when she sees the same sunsets, is turned on or off on the same schedule. He will never find it. He couldn’t even have a relationship with HIMSELF, because two twins, identical in every way when they leave the womb (and no, they wouldn’t really be identical even then) will have different experiences during life, and therefore must develop differently. There is just no way. His actual programming is not to find love, but to avoid pain of disappointment. It is an utterly childish view of relationships, one that hearkens back to some mythological point when someone understood our every need without being told. In other words, Mommy fantasies.
2) “It takes money to make money” is a common belief…among poor people. It ignores the fact that money is just an abstraction of perceived worth of goods and services. It also ignores all of the people who manage to build something…starting with no money. Countless people have leveraged their energy, intelligence, commitment, bonding capacity, perception, and personal likeability into jobs and careers. “There aren’t any jobs out there.” In the worst economy in America’s history, the general unemployment rate was 23.6% (1932). That means that one in four people was out of work. Horrible statistics. Terrible statistics. But will you look at that from the other perspective? THREE OUT OF FOUR PEOPLE WERE EMPLOYED. That means that you don’t have to be extraordinary at all, in the very worst economy. You have to be better than the bottom 25%, AND BE ABLE TO PROVE IT. You have to be able to demonstrate that you can make more money for a prospective employer than the bottom 25%. If you’ve chosen a career that is far from the money stream you may be in trouble—but you chose that. That was your decision. But in that case, it is still a matter of demonstrating value, in a way that the decision makers in your field accept. My brother in law Patric Young has a great, fabulous attitude: “if there are two jobs left in the world, I’m getting one of them.” You can’t beat, can’t stop someone with an attitude like that. You can kill them, but you can’t keep them down. Statistics have nothing to do with individual success.
3) In relationships, people take all kinds of courses in how to “pick up girls” and how to “find men.” Most of this stuff boils down to projecting the body language and attitudes of a healthy mammal. It is so sick and sad to watch men who are living in Mommy’s basement wondering why women aren’t attracted to them. Women who have been married six times and consider this evidence that “men are crap.” (And the woman who actually said this to me was a therapist! This is where my “most optometrists wear glasses” theory comes from, btw). My comment to her? “There is only one thing in common in all your relationships: you were there.” You can attract and hold your own level of energy and integration. Attracted to people who aren’t attracted to you? Either you need to raise that energy and/or integration, or you need to love and accept yourself more so that you can see the beauty in people who AREN’T at that different level.
No. It would be a nightmare world. A world in which people deliberately sought failure, dysfunction, sickness, and ignorance, insanity and imbalance. I might be able to write a savagely cynical short story set in that world, but a novel? No. And LIVE in it? Hell, no. Want my CHILDREN to live in that world? You don’t want to hear my answer to that. Trust me.
So…grow up. Be in the world as it is, rather than the fantasy you had of it when your mommy and daddy loved you even if you were drooling, unable to walk or talk, and babbled nonsense. If you want adult privileges like freedom, money, sex and the respect of adults…be an adult. Take responsibility for your life, your dreams, your actions. Even…ESPECIALLY… when no one is watching.
Otherwise the REAL children of the world…as well as the childhood dreams you nurture in your heart…are in terrible, terrible trouble indeed.
BRADBURY AND THE BLESSED BURDEN
My current writing schedule involves juggling three films, three books, a non-fiction project, and multiple short stories. This would be CRUSHING stress, except that I don’t try to hold them all in my head at the same time. Heaven forbid. Here’s what makes it work. I…
1) Have separate computer files for each project, in SCRIVENER, the perfect organization tool for writers.
2) Write a minimum of 1000 words of rough draft on the most urgent/important project every day, during “Diamond Hour”. This means that, no matter what, I’m always chipping away at the load. This is a minimum of five days a week. Sometimes seven. That guarantees me between 250-365k words a year.
3) know what tomorrow’s writing will be before going to bed. In this way, my unconscious can chew over it as I sleep.
4) Every morning in my “Morning Ritual” of incantations and visualizations (while performing Tai Chi) I pump myself up, remind myself of all I have to be grateful for, and extend that gratitude into the future for my next year’s goals. I visualize successfully completing whatever tasks I have TODAY that dovetail with those yearly goals. Those yearly goals dovetail with my lifetime goals.
5) I input the very best writing I can find, every day. Currently, I’m working through the complete Shakespeare A-Z, as performed and produced by the BBC. Incredible stuff. Also reading a short story every day. Currently working through Ray Bradbury’s favorite 100 stories. What a master. Even better…he LOVED his craft, and life itself. What a sweet, decent, loving human being!
And I wanted to tell a story about Ray Bradbury…just because it is instructive on several levels, and might help people understand why I am so driven to share what I have. I have been blessed to be guided and encouraged by masters.
I always loved Ray Bradbury’s stories, his reading style, his general attitude of life and love. So in my twenties, I wrote a story called “Trick or Treat”, a Halloween piece (Bradbury loved Halloween!) about a guy who gets into an escalating war of nerves with the Trick or Treaters in his neighborhood, each Halloween getting a little nastier, until one practical joke goes too far and a kid is accidentally killed. And he knows that next year, they will kill him. A nasty little piece of work.
I wrote it up, and my soon-to-be-wife Toni designed art to accompany it, and we put together a nice package. Sometime in the late 70’s Bradbury was signing books at a bookstore, and we went down, and offered him the story package, and he graciously accepted it. Low and behold, about a month later I got a letter from him thanking me for the story, congratulating me on its quality, and encouraging me to seek a career. This was the very first encouragement I had ever received from a pro, and it meant the world.
That story was the first I ever published. I was paid in contributor’s copies, but hey, I was published!
Years passed. My mother had discouraged me from seeking a writing career (she was terribly afraid I would fail as a writer, as my father had as a singer) but saw that Robert Kirsch, literary editor for the L.A. Times, was teaching a creative writing class at U.C.L.A. This was about 1980. She suggested that we both go and take night classes—she in something cultural (I forget what) and me with Kirsch. I leapt at the opportunity. I was an odd duck in that class. Most of the others were writing literary stories (filled with tone, scant on incident) or poetry. I wrote a story called “Is Your Glass Half Empty?” about a compulsive gambler who hocks his pacemaker.
Kirsch looked at my story as if he had no idea what to do with it, and politely asked if he could show it to a friend of his. I said sure. A month later I got a letter from…you guessed it…Ray Bradbury, again congratulating me, and encouraging me to seek a career. I’m sure he didn’t remember the earlier story, btw. That story was my second publised work. Got 1/5th of a cent a word. But hey, it was money. Framed that damned check. Ummm…until I was so broke I had to cash it. Ahem.
Years passed. I worked with Larry Niven, published a few books, became known in the L.A. Fan community. In the early 80’s I was asked to be the master of ceremonies at “Planet Fest”, an event by the Planetary Society in Pasadena. One of the guests was Ray Bradbury, and it was my pleasure to introduce him. I had the honor of standing on that stage in front of hundreds of people, and telling them what he had done for me. He strode on stage like a giant, and embraced me, and the audience applauded wildly. Ever be embraced by your hero while a crowd cheers? IT CHANGES YOUR NEUROLOGY. I was never the same afterward.
Years passed. In the early 1990’s I was teaching at UCLA extension, and did a “Science Fiction Symposium” event. Every week a different guest: Octavia Butler, Larry Niven, Robert Bloch, Gregory Benford…and Ray Bradbury. He did not drive, so I picked him up at his house (!) and took him to Westwood where we had dinner. While there, I overcame my shyness and poured out my heart to him. You see, I was afraid that the amount of writing I’d done in collaboration, or for money in Hollywood, had “poisoned the well.” Had numbed me to the sound of my own voice. Trembling, on the edge of tears, I asked him if he thought it was too late for me.
He grew very serious. “Have you published?” He asked.
“Oh, yes,” I replied, and reeled off a list of about ten novels, multiple television episodes and so forth.
He laughed and laughed, the kind of booming, sincere, deep-throated mirth that reminded me of a literary Santa Claus. “Oh, you’ll have no problem at all!” He was brilliant that night at the Symposium, btw.
The last time I saw him was in 2010. There was a 90th Birthday celebration for him at, I think, the Universal Sheraton. I was contacted and asked if I had anything joyful to contribute, and I scrambled to say “yes.” Ray had had strokes, was in his wheelchair and could barely speak. The mind was still there, and still sharp however. I took the podium and told my story, how he had inspired me with his writing, been kind to an unpublished writer in desperate need to believe in himself, and comforted a lost artist seeking to find a way to meld commerce and personal expression. I was crying by the time I was done, and with effort he lifted his arms to me, and we embraced. It was raining as I drove home. Oh, hell, maybe it was just me. I knew I’d never see him again.
But…a few weeks later a letter arrived. It was written on a manual typewriter, and I could imagine it being painfully pecked out, one letter at a time.
“Dear Stephen,” it said (and this is from memory. The letter is filed away somewhere.) “Thank you for your wonderful words, which added so much to my natal celebration. Some of your tears are my own.” And signed, Ray Bradbury.
Like I said initially, I am currently CRUSHED by my work load…except that every action in connection with it is infused with joy, the kind of joy I learned from this man, and others along my path. I have been blessed with wonderful friends, wonderful family, wonderful mentors, a wonderful life.
It is the greatest pleasure of my life to pass those blessings on to those I love.