The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Note from C.

A note from a young reader:

Yesterday, I finished Way of the Peaceful Warrior and knew that I would have to read it at least once or twice more. Before that though, my history teacher, who is quite in touch with himself and very inspirational, gave me the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn to read. He tells me that it was a major influence on his life and while I do not expect to be affected in the exact way, it still seems incredibly insightful.

The sense I am getting from myself these days is that I understand a lot of what I need to in order to embody happiness but I am too lazy or afraid to make the commitment and change life. What I am afraid of is figuring out that school as it is (especially high school, not as much university) is a waste of energy over annoying busy work and then quitting, thus ending my possibilities of getting an extremely high paying job with which I can help myself, my family, and maybe the world (ironic to think that money could help mother Earth).

While I see the teenage years as an unsteady time that would be better left alone, I also see them as a time of malleability with which I could sculpt my life. Pretty much, I am afraid to change my life but something tells me that there is no time like the present especially with the way the present is. Should I try to break my fear? I believe that much like Dan Millman, I will have to break my heart open to the world. Again, I am too afraid of what that would mean. And now for something totally different: I feel like I live my life too much in my head.

  p.s. I love how right now is not only the present, it is also a present

Dear C.:

The question is: should you try to break your fear? Well...there are certainly ways of doing it, but the more important task for you is finding balance between your three aspects, and then observing how each of those aspects is another version of your True Self. As you strive to improve your academics, your emotional connections, and your physical grace, you will learn a huge amount about yourself. This information must be chewed over mentally and emotionally. As you do this, you will learn everything you need to know about yourself. But yes, you must learn to "expose" your heart to the world. To do this, you must have increasing faith that nothing the world can do can damage your most essential core. Trust that nothing real can be created or destroyed. Seek relationships that support you in being your best. A physical discipline that protects and tests your body. And a career of joy, Self-expression and contribution--making money is more marketing than anything else. People get rich doing all kindsa silly stuff--so you might as well choose something that brings you pleasure.


I think it is worthwhile when considering the concept of "adulthood" that the doorways almost always have to do with disciplining and focusing the "animal" energies and urges. Control urination and defecation to become a toddler. Control the instant reward urge to study and plan for the future. Control the "you're not the boss of me" false autonomy urge to work at a job. Control the sexual urge to build a stable relationship. It would be reasonable to say: what is an adult? I'm not certain. But I know what behaviors are clearly labeled "childish" and by controlling these, we certainly open the door to growth.

The hunger urge is one of those basic body urges. Children cannot control it. Babies cry when they don't get their bottle, and children can't understand why they can't have Ice Cream for breakfast. Fasting even for a day will force your food demons out of hiding, force you to answer basic questions about what food means, what meals mean, what demands are appropriate to respond to from our families.

In other words, I.F. gives you the opportunity, every other day, to take a stand against the world. Look at the obesity epidemic in America, and you'll see a nation whose automatic animal urges are so easily satisfied that the great struggle of the 21st Century will be to operate AGAINST our basic human urges: to eat, to consume, to revel in pleasurable sensations, to feed our appetites, to expand power, to demonize the "other," to share power, to deny full humanity to those who do not superficially resemble us. This stuff, which touches everything from obsesity to broken marriages to pollution and global warming to the "war on terror" to racial discrimination to sexism to child abuse...can all be traced to an inability to control basic, innate human/animal urges. The call to "wake up" could not be stronger. You can't open to being more loving when there is an unmanable threat. If the "child" aspect of our personalities is to be safe...and it must be for creativity to thrive...then we must be consciously awake. Adult. We must be aware that there are tigers in the woods, but also grasp that the tigers are just as afraid of us as we are of them. That doesn't mean not to build walls, or kill tigers when they attack. But it also suggests ways of living with tigers so that they do not view us as their natural prey.
Engaging with the "stuff" in our subconscious by commiting to our human relationships, our communities, our healthy sexuality, our abundant physicality, our self-expressive careers...this is a maturing path. Show me someone with healthy relationships, a healthy bank account, and a healthy body, and you're showing me someone who has a very good chance of having mastered the basic questions of life...and is ready to move on to the profound ones.
I'm dying to hear about the experiences of those trying I.F. What are you doing with your extra time? What other different choices are you making in your life? What is the quality of the energy that sustains you through the day?

What, in other words, are you becoming? Who are you, separate from your animal urges?
Or more simply put: what is true?

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