The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jack Bauer Power Hour Returns!

Wow. Tonight is the first episode of "24" in almost two years. Can't believe it's been so long. And last season SUCKED. Here's hoping we're back on track.


Day Four of the 101

ᅠI'm so sorry that I can't run these days in perfect synch. Still working to get the beta test version up. The fourth day is a consideration of the relationship between stress and strain. In short, it isn't stress you have to concern yourself's STRAIN. The difference is that stress implies that you are under pressure. Strain is the degree to which that stress warps you out of "true." The first physiological sign of stress/strain is the breathing. Breath becomes, well, funky. You breathe higher, shallower, choppier. Just all screwed up. The real value of disciplines like yoga, tai chi, etc. is that they teach you to be both deeply relaxed and sharply focused under stress. And they do it by guiding the breathing as you corkscrew your body into previously impossible positions. But note: the odd positions aren't the point. They merely define the "edge" of energy and attention.

The "Be Breathed" technique will teach you to breathe in a way that is EXTREMELY useful if you want to track the effects of stress. Take this technique and explore it with the five movements of the Five Tibetans. Figure out the way that each Tibetan is actually a different version of the very same idea.

There is something that can't QUITE be put into words about this, and we'll go more deeply later. But for now, five times a day, at every hour divisible by 3, stop for sixty seconds and breathe slow and deep. Try to catch yourself during the day losing this calm place, and deliberately drop back into your former breathing pattern. It will do you a world of good.


More on my sordid sexual, not really. When I went to college, I was still dating Sandy, but while there I met my first wife, Toni. She honestly reminded me a lot of "Adrienne" in the Rocky movies. Sweet, smart, shy, and just seething with potential. She hung out with the drama folks at Pepperdine University, and I think she thought I was a jock. The girl's dorm had the best television lounge, and I was hanging out watching some crap or other, when she came in, and very timidly said that there was a movie coming on that she's like to see...kind of a silly movie, really, called...The Wizard of Oz.

I flipped. 'Really?" And turned the channel, and we watched Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion et. al, for two hours, hooting and whooping as we did. That was the start. Things didn't pick up until a strange event where some of the guys she hung out with tried to embarrass us both, and Toni and I ended up bonding over it. We shared our first kiss that night, and it was wonderful. Over the next months things got hotter and hotter, until...well, you know.

I really loved Toni, and still do. I was so desperate to be a writer, and nobody, I mean NOBODY, believed in me. She did. I needed that like roses need rain. My own mother had torn my stories up, frightened, perhaps, that I would fail in my entertainment career, like my father did. (He was a back-up singer for Nat King Cole. I was in the recording studio when he and his group recorded "Ramblin' Rose" and I can still hear my Dad's voice every time the song comes on the radio.)

But I had to write. Mom was upset that Toni was white, and her Dad wasn't thrilled that I was black. Unfortunately, Mom didn't really get over it until she was on her death-bed, but then Mom had real problems with her racial identification. I play racial games, but I don't mistake my skin for who I am.

Back to sex.

Now, on and off (so to speak) I was still dating Sandy at this time, and Sandy was goin' nuts, trying to convince me that Toni's race was some huge factor I needed to beware of. I remember a couple of really intense evenings when Sandy tried to prove that a black woman's sexual rhythms were different, going back to the Mother Land, as it were, and therefore more...hmmm, how can I say this? More deeply, primally satisfying. I was laughing inside, but let's just say I enjoyed letting her try to make her point.

Years later, I encountered Sandy in a grocery store. Still looked good, but boy was she embarrassed. Seemed she'd married a white guy. I just LOVE irony, don't you?


Mark Jones said...

By the way, Steve, since you're getting the 101 beta ready to go--I've changed my email address. I'm not sure if I was still using my old address when I volunteered to beta. But just in case, my email now is

Kami said...

I'm having the most trouble with the breathing exercises--not the breathing itself. I've had classes in yoga and practiced zen for a short time, including going to a zen retreat. That was fun. Anyway, it's my day. It's very fluid. On school days I get up with the kids, but other than that, I eat when I'm hungry (except on fast days, ;-) ) start dinner when it starts to get dark (this time of year, anyway) and I very, very seldom check the clock. Is the rhythm of the exercise, meaning the regular spacing over the course of the day, the important part, or just settling into breathe deep 6-7 times a day?

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Please write more about breathing and the Tibetans. I've been trying to figure out what "on the breath" means, and I[ve come to the conclusion that I have no idea.

Does the breath lead the movement? Does the movement lead the breath? It's something else entirely?

Also, I've made some progress in being able to feel my breathing, I've still got a long way to go. Anything that might help.

Steven Barnes said...

The movement CREATES the exhalation. Note a sit-up. Coming up, exhale. At the top, when the spine is perpendicular to the ground, relax slightly, allowing the partial vacuum in your lungs to draw in air. Do NOT inhale...rather, let the inhalation "just happen."
There is nothing sacred about a 3-hour gap between breathing times. It is just that spreading your practice out during the day is more powerful than the exact same amount of time all done at once.