The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Turning stress into strength

As I’ve said before, Dr. Hans Selye, the popularizer of the modern concept of stress, confessed that he had slightly mis-labeled the phenomenon of human reaction to adverse (or even pleasurable!) circumstance.  Instead of Stress (pressure per unit area) he should have said “strain” (deformation per unit length).  In other words, it’s not how much pressure you’re under, it’s whether that pressure bends and twists you out of shape.  When you’re “in the zone” you don’t feel the pressure—in fact, the pressure just locks you into a flow of creative energy.  If you are balanced, that energy spirals “up” through the different levels of your existence, giving you the strength to deal with issues in every arena of your life.  As you deal with them, you free up more energy to deal with the next level, and so forth.

Of course, this sounds easier than it is, otherwise we’d all walk on water.  The Lifewriting approach to writing says to create a link between our inner concerns and the outer work. Through meditation, introspection, or journaling, we find the little kinks and knots in our consciousness, the things that plague us or engage us, and write about them, make them core issues in our work.  In that way, we create little teaching metaphors that link our conscious and unconscious minds in such a way that everything we do to improve ourselves makes us better writers, and everything we write automatically makes us better, healthier, happier, better integrated people.

But, again, how do we keep from getting thrown off-track by life?  Those who have read me for a while will know that there are certain images in film that really push my buttons. We needn’t go into the specifics of them right here.  Ahem.  But it hit me last week that there was absolutely no way to avoid them, if I was going to expose myself to popular media.  What to do?

I decided to experiment with a new approach.  Every time I saw one of the images, I would consciously Be Breathed (from the Five Minute Miracle) for sixty seconds.  Further, because the thrust of the technique is to concentrate only on the EXHALATION portion, I decided that as my diaphragm relaxed (creating an INHALATION) I would concentrate on my heartbeat.  This created an inner “soft focus” as I had to center into a sense of relaxed concentration.  In sixty seconds I was calm, and had a rush of energy.  Only about an hour later, BANG!  The media threw another of those irritating images at me.  Another sixty seconds of Be Breathed/Heartbeat Meditation.

And so on.  And it got to the point that I was laughing the next time I saw the trigger images.  On Sunday, the opener of “24” came on, and I was thrown for a loop, but did the breathing again.  Out of my emotional pain came a mini-essay, written in pure flow without editing, that received more answering e-mail than anything I’d written in many months.  Wow.  By managing my pain until I could express rather than just hurt, I touched people.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?

So…find a good stress-relieving breathing technique from yoga, Tai chi, or get my Five Minute Miracle.  Every time something happens that ordinarily knocks you  off balance, breathe for sixty seconds.  You’ll be delighted by the results.
The most complete set of tools ever gathered
for the writer can be found in the Lifewriting
Year-Long course, available at

Stressed out?  The Five Minute Miracle may be
the answer.  Do yourself a favor and order it at:

Copyright 2006, Steven Barnes and
Dark Dream Productions.

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Steven Barnes
Dark Dream Productions
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Covina, California 91724

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