The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, December 31, 2004

Today's work: Blood Brothers

I am continuing my process of converting my novel "Blood Brothers" into a spec script.  My agent says he needs this as a script sample to get me other work in Hollywood (I've been gone to the Northwest so long it's almost as if I was never here at all.)  So...
I broke the book down into 3-Act structure with a mid-act climax in the second act.  Fifteen scenes 1st act, thirty scenes 2nd  act, fifteen scenes 3rd act.  This is all approximation, like realizing  that a bridge needs so many support beams beneath it--just deliniating the "physics" of a story.  I combined and changed the order of certain scenes, beginning to sense the cinematic rhythm of the piece.  Allright.  Now then, there was a lot of dialogue I really enjoyed in the book.  I don't know if I'll use it, but if I don't I want that to be a conscious choice.  So I've had some relatively easy days, just copying dialogue out of the book into Final Draft (which I love, and use even when writing novels.  I do my first drafts as scripts!).
the next step will be to print, and begin to see how the "Hero's Journeys" of the two main characters: the black computer nerd and the lethal quasi-magical Green Beret white guy, progress and intertwine.  this all has to be well balanced, or the thematic structure will be thrown off.  Should be an interesting day!
The Golden Hour:  this morning, a lecture on MacBeth, specifically on his main soliliquey.  Love the lectureer, Peter Saccio of Dartmouth college, but I find him to have an interesting blind spot.  In discussing "Taming of the Shrew" he goes considerably into the feminist interpretation of the piece, and the question of whether it is sexist.  In "The Merchant of Venice" he goes considerably into the question of its anti-Semitism.  But in "Otello" he gives not the slightest thought to the possibility that Iago was motivated by racial hatred.  He offers six other reasons for the despicable actions that bring "the Noble Moor" down so terribly, but doesn't even consider this factor.  Now, I'm not saying that this would be decided as the cause, but to not concider it, and look into the social context to see if this was a reasonable speculation, strikes me as a major oversight, and possibly willful blindness.  Of course Shakespeare had some sexist, racist, and probably anti-Semitic tendencies--it was the water in which he swam.  But he was also a genius and a consummate artist, and incapable of creating a two-dimensional portrayal or scenario.  The man was just drop-dead brilliant.  But I suspect that people consider racism to be something far away and "over there" rather than a natural human tendency to be guarded against.  And to suspect that the Bard might have been so tainted is just too horrific a thought.  Pity.
Anyway, during the lecture I performed Advanced Tibetans and djuru Sepok.  Afterwards, played one of Nicki's workout CD's and worked kettlebells.  Man, I LOVE those things.  Steve Maxwell created a lovely, painful workout: do shoulder presses until exhausted.  Then do clean and jerks with the same weight until exhausted.  Then do cleans with the same weight until exhausted.  Crawl to the shower and thank God  you're done.  I added a bit of Breathing Ladder protocol to this, and also some Chain: I used the 72 pound KB first, then the 54, and finally the 32, wringing the last bit of strength from my body.  Two breaths per rep between sets with the 72, one breath per rep between sets with the 54, and straight-ahead full tilt boogie with the 32. 
Sweet, sweet agony.  Sets of 10 leg swings to front, side, and back,a nd I'm off to the showers, and ready for the day. 
One damned fine "Golden Hour."  For 5MM today, I'll work Hindu Pushups, and abit of freestyle stick work, using Serak foot patterns.  Life is good.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Hindu Pushup routine

Got this note:
Steve, can you talk in more detail about your own Hindu Pushups routine? How many sets and reps do you do? How many days per week? I admire your level of fitness and would like to make your routine a personal goal to strive for. Thanks!
Exec | 12.30.04 - 3:05 pm |"
Hindu Pushups are like the upward/downward dog segment of a Sun Salutation.  Given that Sun Salutations are considered the very heart of most Yoga systems, it's not surprising that when you extract this one movement and work on it, an extraordinary level of fitness can be achieved.  It is much more "three-dimensional" than an ordinary push-up, and has greater shoulder rotation than a "dive-bomber."  When practised with the "be breathed" technique, it is killer.  An excellent goal to shoot for (eventually) is a set of fifty reps.  Most people will be very lucky to be able to do ten the first time, as they have a total body involvement rare in a calesthenic.  In many ways, a Hindu Pushup is a natural development of the 5th Tibetan (which is done stiff-armed).  Me, personally, I like doing sets throughout the day---remember that I take five short exercise/meditation breaks during the day (the five minute miracle--although in my case it's more like a "15 minute miracle" because each break lasts about three minutes.).  During that break, I will probably do ten or fifteen Hindus, a little martial arts movement, maybe swing a club-bell.  Hindus are a new addition to my program, and I figure to do them three days a week.  On the alternate days, I do yoga.  The trick to the "5MM" is that you NEVER work "on the nerve"--in other words, during your five short exercise breaks, you never come close to a maximum effort.  You are working the SKILL of the movement, not exhausting yourself.  Then once a week or so, go for a max effort. 
On the other hand, if I wanted to specifically work Hindus, I might try sets of ten with five breaths between each set.  If that's too tough, here's a method that will get  your numbers up pretty quick: do a ladder.  One Hindu, and take one breath.  Two Hindus, and take two breaths.  Three Hindus, and three breaths.  Keep going as high as you can, and when you can't go any higher, take the requisite number of breaths, then start back at "one."  Killer!
And HAVE FUN.  This is all about getting to know your body better, not about beating it into shape.  Stretch it, twist it, have fun with it.  And it will love you back.


Sideways (2004)

A marvelous small film from Fox Searchlight, "Sideways" features the excellent Paul Giamatti (American Splendor) in a Woody-Allenish role as a nebbish would-be writer whose best friend is an egotistical, lysing, womanizing minor actor.  Writer takes actor for a pre-wedding trip into the Central California wine country, and to say much more would spoil the film.  This is a quiet work, revealing character in layers.  It is bawdy, heartbreaking, hysterical, and totally worthwhile.  In the Hero's Journey, it is largely Road of Trials, with the central challenge being to make a small step toward integration and owning his own spirit.  Wonderful, delicate stuff.  I give it an "A."

Babies are crawling petri dishes...

As well as little bundles of joy.  Well, Jason Kai has brought the gift of flu into the house.  The sleep-disrupting kind: gummy feeling int he back of the throat, coughing, all of that fun stuff.  But God, the little ankle-biter is worth it.  It's just too much fun watching him begin to explore and understandthe world.  but it takes me an extra hour of sleep to really get together, and it feels as if my recuperative ability is diminished.  On days like this, I scale back to Heartbeat meditation (10-15 minutes), then get up, check the e-mail (and compose this note), followed by my Golden Hour.  I try never to miss this.  Today, I'll listen to a lecture on King Lear while doing Advanced Tibetans: Warrior Wellness, Be Breathed, Back-Bend, Hindu Pushups.  Then I'll work the wonderful Silat djurus learned from Guru Plinck, done Goldilocks style (one set very hard, one set very soft, last set "just right").    In the midst of all of this is the Diamond visualization, and the maintenance of Breathing-Motion-Alignment.  The "Lear" lecture will last 30 minutes, so the last 30 minutes its just me, my spirit,and my body.  Can't wait.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Five Minute Miracle letter

I just received this note from someone who has been using the 5Mm system, and wanted to share it.  Specific identifications have been removed.
Hi Steve,

I'm pretty sure that I have not written to you before from this address, but this is my University account, not the one I use to post in 5MM forum..
It seems somewhat appropriate to write you from this account, as your written words and other works helped me get here.

So, what's
the story? Let's see...

How about the short form? The long story,
it is too much and therefore a tale for another day. 8^)
When I first posted in your 5MM forum back in Feb. 2004, I was one of the washouts from the computer industry.
I had landed in a typesetting position at Allen Press in Aug. 2003, a local academic press covering mostly STM stuff. (Scientific, Technical and Medical)

I took the job they were offering, at the pay they were offering, on the night shift they were offering...
'cause you can only do so much with little income. SO there I was, having sat through month upon months of other people's work and slowly melding my ass to the chair, I discovered that AllenPress had CHEAP gym memberships as a benefit. Just getting moving again, that got me out of the doldrums.

Now, I love the feelings I get from physical exertion, have for years, and I'm always on the lookout for new methods and modalities. I was paging through the stuff at CST looking with undisguised greed at a set of clubells and the thoughts that seem to travel with their users, and I came upon some articles in their Mag by you.

Now you can skip telling Scott Sonnon this if you like, but with my negligible budget, I decided that I could afford one item. The One that I settled on was your 5MM tapes, as they seemed to be a more self-contained modality, needing little in the way of (costly) equipment. I was planning for better days ahead, and would get some things from SS when the cash flow of life was better.

Point of admission here: I never did get equipment from SS, I'm still planning upon it, but the Ideas and the Tribe were what I needed to start my life back towards the direction of growth.

I freely adapted the ideas from your tapes and the Forum, and used them both empty-handed and with the standard gym gear you'll find at most any athletic club. The practice that earned me the most looks (and the largest radius of clear space) was the use of 20 and 30 pound fixed barbells. 
mm mm, nice 4' steel staff, with welded on weights. I had a blast slowly shifting my grip away from the center, and thus adjusting the torque I was getting.)

Needless to say, all this work on the physical and mental fronts boosted my energy levels up
a bit.
I began to look at all the heavy intellectual work that I was helping publish, and I became dissatisfied.
But now it was dissatisfaction with a Focus.
Here I was helping to place commas, all night long, when what I wanted to be doing was the Research and heavy Mental lifting that went into those papers. So I thought it all through, and decided to take the leap.

I looked at all my past skills... Computers, emergency medicine know-how (left over from being a burned out NYC EMT), and being a general knowledge hound... Mixed a desire for the most stable job I could think of, and...

I went to the local university, the University of Kansas, and went to the pharmacy department, and asked them if my prior experience as a EMT would be a boon to my application process. They loved the idea of someone coming in with an emergency medicine background. My BSci in computer science looked good to them, as well.

So, as of August 2004, I went back to school, trying to take things I learned in prior cycles of my life, and parlaying them into a new one.
Just in the past few weeks, I have landed a job on Campus that suits both my short and long term goals. I'm working as the technical and computer lead for the Energy Balance Laboratory. The EBL does research on Metabolism, physical exercise, and obesity. I'm helping with academic research that I think will make a good difference to the world.

The EBL needed a technical person who was interested in research, and the fact that my Doctorate of Pharmacy (Pharm D) will take years to complete sounded good to them, they needed someone who was willing to settle into the position for a few years.

I'm approaching the beginning of my second pre-pharmacy degree, and the world is coming into alignment.
I wanted to stop and thank you for being one of the vectors that helped boost me along this path, and I thought that you might want to hear of the good ripple that your work is making in my part of the world.

My apologies for any grammatical errors in this letter, but I wrote it with a touch of haste. ;^)

Again, My thanks.

Any questions? yes, you in front.

Yours in Practice,
Adam (Surname withheld to protect privacy)

I love letters like this.  There really are secrets out there, short cuts that help you leverage your energy.  The 5MM tape has some of the best I've found in forty years of searching.


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Lose Weight While You Sleep!

Well, not really, but it sounds great, doesn't it? Day after day we are bombarded with "opportunities" to get something for nothing.  I am perfectly aware that the "Five Minute Miracle" sounds exactly like one of those.  I get a great laugh out of that.  But just for the fun of it, I'm going to tell you an application of the "Hero's Journey" that will enable you to do serious self-improvement work while you sit on your butt and watch television.  Seriously.
The next time you are watching a film you've seen before, see if you can pick out the steps of the Hero's Journey.  When does the hero receive the challenge?  What resistence or fear does she show?  When does she accept the task placed before her?  What are the nature of the internal and external trials?  What allies does she gather, what skills does she acquire or learn to express?  What is her moment of  greatest failure?  Greatest doubt?  What type of faith gets her through?  How does she attain victory--or if she fails to take her leap of faith, how does she fail?  And how does she express this new awareness in her life?
There are no perfect "patterns" or formulas that will lead to success in fiction writing, but what you CAN do is sensitize yourself to the pattern of life, and the way these patterns are expressed in drama.  Only a trivial, derivitive story puts all ten steps of the Journey in 1-2-3 order.  An artist understands the value and meaning of the different steps, and then finds ways to use them to create an aesthetic effect.  How did this filmmaker work for or against expectations to accomplish this?
Listen carefully, now: Every time you spot one of the ten steps, take five deep breaths, quieting yourself, and listening (feeling) for your heartbeat.  Visualize your triangle/diamond of goals.  When you purchase the Five Minute Miracle, use THAT breathing technique (wow!). 
What you are doing is anchoring new awareness in your body.  The more times you see these patterns in the world around you, the easier it is to recognize where you yourself are on your journey, and therefore the resources you will need to move forward.  Learn to use this technique, and pretty soon you will see the pattern of the Hero's Journey everywhere you look, and life will reveal a new level of mystery and power.
Lose weight while you sleep?  That's for amateurs.  How about: Enlightenment while watching the Three Stooges?  THAT'S entertainment!

Hero's Journal #10

the Student becomes the Teacher.  A vital part of the cycle of life, this completion, when the seeker steps into the space of mastery, creates the room for another seeker.  While we must all remain students, we must also grow up, becme adults, take our place as holders of wisdom.  As my dear friend Jamie Charles once said to me: "when the alphas of the village refuse to take their position as alphas, the village suffers." 
She made me drop a lot of my b.s.  I've sought for many years, and have found a great deal of truth.  It doesn't serve me, or anyone in the world to pretend this isn't true: thus the web page, the blog, the Five Minute Miracle.  And every one of you reading this has reached maturity in multiple aspects of your life.  We desperately need you to share your knowledge, to have the courage to admit you have learned, to suspend the false ego that makes us feel superior if we act humble.  We must shine, all of us!  I remember expressing dissatisfaction with my martial arts skills in class one day.  One of the newer students basically told me I didn't have the right to do that.  "If someone with your skills isn't proud of what  you've accomplished, what is there to inspire us to keep going?" don't need to slap me upside the head too many times.  I finally got it. 
We must be teachers.  Every one of us.  I cannot put it more eloquently than the words of one of the greatest men in the world, so here he is:
Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond
measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most
frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world. There is
nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people
won't feel insecure about you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to manifest
the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give
other people permission to do the same. As we are
liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically
liberates others."
-- Nelson Mandela
Where in your life can you share with others?  How can you share?  What has your character learned?  How can he share?  Wrestle with these questions.  You now have 1/2 of the complete model of LIFEWRITING.  It is enough to work on for a lifetime, but we have a ways to go yet.  Hold on tight!


Coach Sonnon

I wanted everyone to see an example of what I find valuable and unique about Coach Sonnon.  Scott is a genuine martial artist, a man of extremely high physical skills who is concerned with the evolution of the human spirit.  He is more than just a guy who taught me how to move my body more efficiently.  He is one of the handful of people I am proud to call a brother.  Click here:

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Diamond goal setting

Oh, of course I could have called this "Triangle" goal setting, but the whole technology is still evolving, and I'll call it what the heck I want.  Ahem.  At any rate, here's how  you use the diamond (or "Triangle" for setting and achieving goals.  It is a flat fact that your ability to "stay the course" with a difficult goal is in direct proportion to your motivation to do so.  the longer your list of motivations, the easier it is to keep going when times get rough.  Now, remember your triad: Body, Mind, and Spirit.  Fitness, career, and relationships.  You need to have a goal in each of them for this system to work.   Now, remember in the Five Minute Miracle where we talked about the fact that every physical technique is created by the interaction of Breathing, Motion, and Alignment (another Triad!).  Also remember that each of them is created by the other two.  What we need to do is extend this idea to our goals. In other words, you need to grasp how every aspect of your life is connected to the others.  In other words, Career is enabled by fitness and family.  Relationships are empowered by Career and Fitness.  And Fitness/Health is supported by Career and Relationships.  How might this work?
1)  Career.  In my case, it's writing.  Writing and success therein enables me to support my family, and provide a role model of artistic possibility.  It allows me to express myself in a manner that is healthy for my community, and to explore social and philosophical issues...all good for the world at large.  My career also gives me the freedom to spend flextime exercising: my office is in my gym!  I can stop for five mintues every hour and stretch or practise a bit of kali stick flow, or a serak djuru or two.  It's just too much fun, and I'd lose that freedom with a 9-to-5 job.
2)  Relationships.  My connection to my wife and children teaches me invaluable things I can use in my writing.  It is a constant source of inspiration and motivation.  I also believe that the integrity of my connection to Tananarive is the quality of my connection to my Muse.  Nicki and Jason are my heart, and my love for them motivates everything in my life.  The more I love them, the easier it is to work hard and play hard, and the more precious life becomes.  I want to be as strong and fit as possible as a model of possibility for them--I have to lead by example!
3) Fitness.  My health provides energy for my work and my family.  It is my living contact with the world around me, and my little piece of nature.  It reminds me of my mortality, but also my beauty and power.  It humbles me daily, and tests my willpower, ego, discipline, and resistance to the little voices in my head that love Krispy Kreme doughnuts and just flat laziness.
See?  Each aspect of my life is tied to the other two.  No one part stands alone.  When you do your FIVE MINUTE MIRACLE, five 1-minute bursts during the day, visualize your Diamond (triangle) with the three different role models/goals, and as you practise your special breathing, strengthen the visualization.  As you begin to increase the intensity of your FIVE MINUTE MIRACLE by adding floorwork, or integrating it into Clubbells or Kettlebells, or Yoga, or martial arts or hill-walking, work on your breating-motion-alignment.  As you clarify this Diamond, your subconscious will automatically strengthen the Diamond that supports your non-physical goals--remember: they are all connected!  Empowering one is empowering all, as long as you stay in balance. 
DON'T JUST READ THESE IDEAS.  Begin to apply them in your life.  Actually take your five 1-minute breaks per day, focus and breathe.  Get the Five Minute Miracle, or work with your yoga or martial arts instructor to create short, effective breathing routines that will allow you to explore the mind-body link.  Get started! You're one day older than you were yesterday, and only one day away from tomorrow.  What are you waiting for?

Saturday, December 25, 2004

The Hero's Journal #9

The Hero Confronts Evil Victoriously.  This is the traditional reward for a character who makes it through the previous eight steps honorably and courageously.  Who has faith, good friends, works hard and long, and is clear on goals and values.  In other words, who has become a more mature human being.  Very rarely (no instance comes to mind quickly) where a character has all these things, does all these things, and still fails.  Remember--this is the sum total of world wisdom as displayed in literature myth and song throughout all human history.  This is the path of life.  When you are journaling, note the results you get (and have gotten) through time, and see which of these elements was present, which missing, at your greatest defeats and victories.  Come to your own conclusions about what is important in order to replicate past successes and avoid past disappointments.  SUCCESS LEAVES FOOTPRINTS.  Learn to detect them.  Hunt them down.  Understand them.   Don't just celebrate--stop and understand why you succeeded.  This will tie directly into how your characters fail or succeed in your stories.  You must have a philosophy of life that is explored in your work.  It need not be Ultimate Truth, but it has to hold water,  has to be strong enough for you to defend it from attacks from multiple directions.  Your entire view of the world should tie together so that you are continuously testing or expressing it.  When this is true, then your writing will have a special flavor, a tang that is your style, but more than style: it is your heart, your most preciuos view of life, exposed to the world.  And this is what will enable you to build a readership, or to live a life of integrity. You need not be right, but you have to take a stand somewhere, otherwise how will you ever learn which of your ideas makes sense?  Take a stand.  Express a philosophical point of view.  Begin to turn craft into art.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Hero's Journal #8

The Leap of Faith.  One of th most crucial aspects of the Lifewriting process is Faith.  Simply put, life will throw challenges at you that are beyond your conscious reserves, beyond your concept of self.  What will get you through?  It is fascinating to note that a freakily high percentage of peak performers in business and sports do not take personal responsibility for their success.  They did not accomplish their goal just for themselves.  They thank "Mom", or "the Country", or, most often, "God."  Whether there is a divine being or not, it seems clear that BELIEF in one is and elegant and effective way to trigger latent abilities.  Remember: Campbell's model of the Hero's Journey was drawn from no single culture.  It was the aggregate of thousands of stories from hundreds of cultures across thousands of years.  It is, in other words, the sum total of wisdom for all mankind.  And the majority of these stories feature a moment when the hero has lost all hope.  And in the majoritty of cases, it is Faith that gets him through.  This is not always a supernatural faith: it is faith in one of THREE different things:
1) Faith in a higher power
2) Faith in one's companions
3) Faith in Self.
Faith in Self is faith in your DEEP self, your true self, not your shallow ego-identity. How can you find out who and what you really are? How can you pierce the veil of illusion?  Again, every culture in the world has methods designed to do just this.  Prayer, meditation, sacred movement, breath control, mindfulness exercises--all will get you closer.  What is useless (or at least entirely secondary) is intellectual speculation.  Trying to create an accurate map of reality using the intellect is like trying to hold the ocean in a teacup.  It is "waking your kundalini up backwards."  I would suggest that one of your most important quests in life is to find a spiritual discipline (not necessarily a religion, although it might be) that is in alignment with your heart.  A path with heart. 
Until you find your path, might I suggest an approach: The triangle/heartbeat meditation.  After you can focus your attention on your heartbeat for 15-20 minutes, visualize a triangle holding the heartbeat.  Allow the triangle's sides to beat in turn: Body, Mind, Spirit.  Visualize your goals for each side.  Visualize a role model chosen to represent success on each side.
The walls of the triangle represent the world, the outer manefestation of your spirit.  The heartbeat is your door to spirit itself.  "You can't see the forest for the trees" because the forest ISN'T the trees--the forest is the space in which the trees grow.  You are NOT your body, career, or relationships--but they are the very best external measure of the balance and clarity of your spirit.  You cannot see the spiritual realm directly, but you can measure your contact with it through the three worldly aspects.
1) Your self-respect, discipline, clarity, self-love and control of sensual pleasures is visible in your body.
2) Your love of self, willingness to provide goods and services for your community, access to creativity, clarity, intelligence, honesty, empathy, understanding of human nature  and energy is visible in your material success or career excellence (most teachers are never going to get rich: they can, however, be world-class in changing young lives)
3) Your love of self and love of others, the health of your emotions, your sexual energy, compassion, honesty, self-knowledge, balance, stability, clarity and overall life-force is visible in the integrity of your intimate romantic relationship.
Your spirit--your soul, as it were--is in the middle of the triangle.  It is the thing that cannot be seen.  Blades of grass that bend and twist are not the wind--but they reveal the wind.  So our actions in life are not our essence, but they do reveal it.  Deep down inside, we all know this, but it is painful, so painful to admit it.  "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  None of us are perfect, but when we stop striving, we lose something critical about ourselves.  We must keep faith that tomorrow can be better than today.  That we can be better, stronger, truer, bolder, smarter.  More loving.  Closer to the divine essence.  The day we start thinking that our best is behind us is the day we begin to die.  For some people that's High School graduation.  For others, it's their 109th birthday.  You make the choice.  As Morgan Freeman says in "Shawshank Redemption"--"Start living, or start dying."  The choice is up to you.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Using the Five Minute Miracle to increase your energy

The 5MM works by strengthening the mind-body connection, and by changing the way your breathing, motion, and alignment work on an instinctive level.  It is the doorway to that magical place, The Golden Hour, the Holy Grail when it comes to snatching your life back from the world.  The following is a tiny application of its potential that many of you will be advanced enough to use.
First thing in the morning when you wake up, sit up in bed and perform your first minute of Be Breathed.  As you do, close your eyes and find your heartbeat.  After you do, visualize a triangle and "place" your heartbeat in the center of it.  Mentally "flash" each side of the triangle one at a time, sequentially briefly visualizing your goals for Body, Mind, and spirit.
(For instance: 25 short stories completed in a calendar year.  Intimate time with your spouse.  A daily brisk walk in the park, visualizing a lean, fit body)

ADVANCED STUDENTS: move from higher to lower Chakras, visualizing a triangle at each one, one breath at a time for a total of seven breaths
During the day, during your other 60-second Be Breathed segments, close your eyes (if it is safe--not while driving!) and visualize the triangle again.  Seven breaths.  ADVANCED STUDENTS ONLY: move from lower to higher chakra, one breath at a time.
This is why it works.  Your energy is controlled by four factors:
1) your fitness level,
2) your fuel intake (proper food),
3) your amount and quality of rest,
4)and the clarity of your goals.

You are currently working on the body-mind connection, using the breath to link all of yoru activities.  By using the 5MM you are actually re-patterning the way your breathing works.  Great!
2) Fuel intake become healthier as you start to hear what your body actually wants.  the body-mind connection, again.
3) As you get better at dealing with stress, your body can release into full rest mode more easily.
4) most importantly for this exercise.  To accomplish a goal, you must not only be able to visualize its end point clearly, you must have internal clarity: permission to achieve it.  Otherwise, you are keeping your brakes on.  As you briefly visualize your goals five times a day (a total of just 5 minutes!  Thirty-five breaths!) you are directing your subconscious to align with your conscious mind.  Your actions, beliefs and thoughts begin to move in the same direction.  Motivation is in direct proportion to the clarity of goals AND your belief that they can be, and should be accomplished AND your understanding of the pleasure you will get from the accomplishment.  A constant question should be: "How can I acomplish my goal AND have fun in the process?"
Goals release a floodgate of energy.
Because the 5MM is such a powerful body-mind link, you will find that this apparently "simple" exercise has vast and startling effects.  It may be the most powerful goal-setting system ever devised, and you'll find versions of it in every sacred tradition in the world.  It is another "secret key" to mastery, right out in the open.  Use it for 30 days, journal your results.  You'll get the pleasant surprise of your life!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Hero's Journal #7

Dark Night of the Soul.  This is the moment when it feels that all of your abilities are insufficient to reach your goal.  Most people turn back at this point, and never progress to the next level.  This depression, fear, terror, darkness of the soul, comes to everyone, whether they aim high or low in life.  It is necessary to understand this, and to know it will happen BEFORE you actually reach the point of depression.  Ask yourself the following questions:
1) The last time you were really depressed, how did you get out of it?
2) Do you know people who have dealt successfully with depression?  What did they do?
3) If you are now in a positive state, what could you do to prepare for the next bout of depression?
I promise that the answer will lie in
a) your emotional/spiritual beliefs
b) your mental focus
c) the way you use your body (exercise, diet, rest, etc.)

Examine yourself.  KEEP YOUR JOURNAL.  Look carefully at your entries prior to, during, and after your last depressive bout.  There will be clues.  Follow them.

My Politics

My recent concerns about the Cornell poll attracted some attention, and I wanted to address it as directly as I could.  First, I don't consider myself a very political person.  I think that conversation is for someone with a different mind-set than I have.  Whether I'm around hard-core liberals or hard-core conservatives, I don't feel at home.  If I had to make a choice in such a limited narrow band of choices, I'd probably say Moderate slightly left of center.  Depends on the issues.  Someone on my mailing list (Lifewriting) suggested that the Cornell study has been misinterpreted.  I hope so.  At any rate, here was my answer to his note:
thanks, Geoff.  I don't think monitoring of Muslim groups is a bad thing. I think it is an unfortunate thing, a thing symptomatic of our thinking right now, and a dangerous trend.  the alternative (not monitoring such groups) is possibly even more dangerous.  We're in a this-or-that frame of mind right now (as opposed to this-AND-that), and edging into that territory we must be careful.  It is absolutely predictable for people to behave this way under threat.  The sadness comes from realizing this is a survival trait, and that those who don't think this way tend to end up slaughtered by those who do.  Sigh.  And unfortunately, it's probably not possible to do this while maintaining a high level of respect for Islam--what I hear on right-wing radio disturbs the hell out of me.  But it's human, as human as men and women each thinking they are slightly superior in the Male-Female wars. That dualistic thinking troubles me, but there are no easy alternatives I can think of.  I just want to be careful.  Serpents lurk under the edge of the map, whether you tilt left or right.  They're just slightly different serpents.
End of reply.  I think that the "Right" and the "Left" have a tendency toward different diseases, and the further you go out on the edge, the more likely you are to sniffle.  The disease of the Left is a moral relativism, a tend to include everyone and everything, and to suggest that there is no real right or wrong.  Note that I'm not saying that Lefties are all infected with this.  Just that when I hear someone beginning to speak like this, I can pretty much guess where their politics lie.
On the other hand, the disease of the Right is excessive exclusion, a tendency to label (for instance, I heard Conservatives use "Liberal" as a derogatory label about 10X more often than I heard Liberals, or "Progressives" specifically use "Conservative" as a derogatory label).  More Us-versus-themism.  And on that side of the aisle lurks a disturbing heirarchicalism.  Almost every racist I've ever known came down on the Right side of the aisle. NOT that strict conservatives are all, or largely racist.  But that a racist, cultural elitist or religious bigot is more likely to be conservative. 
I see these two tendencies as being two sides of the same coin, and try to stay away from both.  Try.  I don't say I succeed.  But people on both sides tend to think that they hold moral and intellectual superiority, and tend to deny the disease around them, even if they themselves are not infected.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Why Bush Won the election
Basically, 44% of Americans believe the civil rights of Americans who practise Islam should be curtailed.  This is, of course a pure fear response, one that makes sense, and is deeply saddening.  I find myself angry at the terrorists who have done so much damage to the religion they claimed to love, and angry at the Americans who fed into this fear to advance their own agendas.  The vast right-wing radio talk-show armada, as orchestrated as the Boston Pops (I distinctly remember the day that Dick Cheney called Rush Limbaugh to annoint him as the official voice of the Republican Party.  I was listening that day, folks.  Nobody can tell me it's "just entertainment) has made countless irresponsible and ignorant attacks on Islam, stoking bigotry and fear, and the listeners just ate it up.  It's not their fault.  An absolutely predictable aspect of human consciousness is that the majority of people will simply fall into line when under stress.  They will look for a two-dimensional view of the world, and hold onto it for dear life.  Without a sufficient grasp of complex issues, they look for reassuring paternal-types to tell them what to do.  And this trait seems pretty universal.  We're seeing it right now in America, and it's dangerous as hell.  We are in the valley of the shadow, politically, and it behooves every one of us to be as aware, humane, and loving as we can be--but also strong and committed to taking no b.s. from anyone.  The problems of the world CANNOT be solved by dualistic thinking.  This mode of operation will keep us safe in the short term, and guarantee that our children will have less freedom than we enjoyed.  Everyone capable of consciousness must wake up.  Fast.  It's later than you think.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Hero's Journal #6

Hero confronts evil, and is defeated.
Contrary to most people's beliefs, failure is nothing to be avoided--it is an absolutely vital part of the process of learning your abilities, or accomplishing something new.  "The only way you know how far you can go is by going too far."  Reaching muscle failure is one of the ways you communicate to yoru mind that additional strength is needed.  No worthwhile goal can be accomplished simply by setting out in a straight line. You must try,  and fail, and try something else, and fail again. Most will quit at this point--which is why unusual accomplishment is, by definition, unusual.  What we must learn to do is accept this "failure" as an ordinary and desirable testing of our limits.  How else can we know who and what we are except by understanding both our edge and our center?
In your journal: what events of the day or week seem to be setbacks?  How else can you conceptualize them?  Did you over-react?  What was your internal dialogue?  By becoming sensitive to the voices in your head, you can even begin to differentiate, to determine WHOSE voices those are who give you crap when you hit the wall.  Parents?  Teachers?  Husband?  Wife?  Friends?  Enemies?  Teachers?  This chorus of voices, what criminologist Lonnie Athens calls your "Phantom Community", is a major determiner of how you will and will not behave in life.  Testing your edges helps you to hear them. 
Now, then.  Understanding that failure is an ABSOLUTELY VITAL AND INEVITABLE part of the process of progress, what mechanisms do you have in place to cope with it?  What will get your mood up when it is shattered?  Look into your past actions and emotions, and you will find the key.  Journal this material.  Believe me, if  you keep your journal long enough, and honestly enough, you will  see all of these patterns, and the information contained therein will be better than gold. 
When your character hits the breaking point, what will happen?  What happens when his internal voices of despair agree with his external adversaries, and all seems lost?  In many ways, that is the most interesting moment of all, and the subject of our next discussion.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Kinsey (2004)

Without a doubt, Liam Neeson is one of my favorite actors.  The film "Kinsey," dealing with the life of the controversial sex researcher, definitely pushes buttons, and it took courage to make it.  Does it gloss over aspects of the man's life?  Probably, but it also touches on a vital fact: before Kinsey, there was virtually nothing.  It took a man isolated from his own emotions to break through the social barriers, and once he was there, he found no boundaries.  Neeson takes the part fiercely, fearlessly, doubtless knowing that there was no way to present this story without being attacked.  Did Kinsey abet child abuse?  That probably depends on who you talk to.  Did he practise junk science?  Compared to some sex research today, probably.  In comparison with what existed at the time, the man was Galileo.  This movie is frightening, funny, flawed, and brilliantly performed.  Laura Linney, who plays his wife, is just wonderful.  Kinsey was a man who suggested that sex could be studied without the moral framework that was so crippling and obscuring.  Doubtless he tipped over a few sacred cows.  I'm sure some of his observations were comforting to monsters.  But we needed him.  Thanks, Fox Searchlight.  I give Kinsey an "A-"

H.J. #5 part III

Gathering Allies and Powers.
Remember: if you currently had the skills necessary to accomplish your goal, you'd probably already have it.  What you have to do is to determine the skill and resources you currently have, figure out the skills and resources necessary to reach your goal, subtract the first from the second, and what you have is the skill set you must acquire to hit the mark.  Divide this into chunks small enough to eat one forkful at a time (increasing skills and improvements by 1% per week) and you have a terrific recipe for sustained success.
The best way to gain a skill is to find 3 people who already have the skill.  Study them or interview them, and find out what they do to excell.  Make a list of these things, noting especially (for you NLP folks) their
1) Belief systems ("I can write.  Writing is good.  I can succeed at this." etc)
2) Mental Syntax ("I outline before I write.  I re-write only to editorial request" etc)
3) Use of physiology (Applying butt to chair.  Touch-typing.  No drugs or alcohol during work time. etc.)

Now...and here is a really important part.  Look especially hard at what ALL THREE HAVE IN COMMON.  This stuff, the beliefs, habits of mind, and actions that recur over and over again are what might be called the "Critical Path", the things that you MUST do to succeed.  Pay even more careful attention to what these people do in comparison with those who fail in the same endeavors.  Folks, success leaves clues.  People with healthy relationships have different beliefs and behaviors than those in failed relationships.  People with healthy careers take different actions and have different thought patterns than those who live unhappy, marginal lives.  And those with healthy, sexy bodies take different actions and have different emotional sets from those who don't live up to their own standards.  PAY ATTENTION.  This is called gaining sensory acuity, becoming aware of the reality map. 
Pay very very careful attention to the next sentence: A MAP IS ONLY USEFUL IF YOU KNOW TWO THINGS: FIRST, WHERE YOU ARE GOING.  SECOND, WHERE YOU CURRENTLY ARE.  Friends, if you lack either of these, you are well and truly screwed.  The only way to know where you are, REALLY are, with the minimal chance of self-deception, is to take responsibility in all three arenas.  To say: I created my relationships, for good or ill.  I created my body, for good or ill.  I created my career, for good or ill.  Doing this accomplishes something fantastic: it allows you to use the visible to access the invisible.  It opens a doorway to the inner world.
For writers: you now have a tool that will take you more deeply into character than 99% of writers are willing to go.  If you are strong enough to look unflinchingly at your own positive and negative aspects in ALL THREE arenas, you will learn more about psychology than most therapists know.  Further, you balance on the edge of what I call "Mind Reading"--the ability to just look at someone and know where they're coming from.  To never be lied to again.  Never decieved. The price is embarassing, painful honesty with yourself.  Let me promise you: it's worth the cost.

H.J. #5 Part II: The Beauty-Power Axis

This aspect of Lifewriting might be the most controversial. It suggests that our relationships reveal a huge amount about who and what we are.   If you like what you see across the breakfast table, pat yourself on the back.   And if you don't---you need to do some serious internal work, because that relationship, that man or woman, is the best you can do right now.   If  you could have done better, attracted a partner of greater intelligence, spirit, beauty, sensuality, power, or goodness, you would have.   Your relationship is YOU, turned inside-out, upside-down, and maybe flipped for gender. But you are, in some cosmic way, equals.   It is up to you to come to a mature understanding of how this is, what it means.
In relationships before the 21st Century, the basic trade between men and women was X amount of power (usually in the man) will attract and hold Y amount of beauty (generally in the woman).  I'm not saying this is right or good (I'm not saying it isn't, either.)  Just that it is an observable reality
you ignore at your risk.   I didn't resent it when the most beautiful women in my school wanted to date the older, more powerful guys, stronger more athletic guys, or the guys with the fancier cars.   I just saw it as a reality.   If I wanted to date them, I would need to manifest more power.   That's simple, basic chakra stuff.   And I don't think that there is basically anything unfair about this.   It's not entirely honest when women over fifty complain about men their own age dating younger women.   Wait a frigging minute! I was one of the young men who watched women my own age dating older guys, and the women thought that was just fine...until they were no longer young.   Then suddenly the rules are supposed to change?   Why don't older women criticize the YOUNGER WOMEN as much as they criticize the older guys?   Because they used to BE those younger women.   It's not about what's fair.   Women, like men, would like to have all the options in life.   And guys--if you pump slurpees at the 7-11, you ain't gonna date Halle Berry.   Sorry.   You won't.   Maybe if you own a string of 7-11s you will.   Why is this fair?   Because success is an external measurement of drive, intelligence, energy, focus, vision, self-confidence, creativity, endurance, and self-love.   Not the only measurement, but a damned fine snap-judgement assessment.  And beauty as generally defined today equates to a healthy immune system (clear skin), good posture, discipline (diet and exercise), self-love (discipline), clarity, focus, emotional control and other perfectly reasonable factors.  Do you find crazy attractive?  Lazy?  How about sick?  How about self-loathing?  Stupid?  No, I didn't think so.  But each of these things makes an impact on these two areas: demonstrated power, and manifested beauty.   THERE IS NOT A DIRECT ONE-TO-ONE CORRELATION.   No.   But there is enough that in every culture in the world that anthropologists have ever studied, "beauty"  and "power" as they are adjudged in that culture, gravitate toward each other.   It suggests that this is a normal human drive: woman seeking security for their children, men seeking healthy women to bear those children.   Women complain about men being "shallow," attracted too much to the visual. You know what, ladies?   We didn't design ourselves.   Men are visually stimulated quite easily--it's just the way our brains are wired up.   Men have no conscious control over when we do and don't get sexually aroused.  Women have understood this for thousands of years, and have gotten quite good at manipulating their visual image to create maximum stimulation.   Men have understood that women are attracted to power, and will move heaven and earth to place themselves high on the hierarchy.   That's just the way it is.   You can almost always look at a relationship and see the beauty-power tradeoff.  
In the late 20th Century this began to change a bit.  As women gained more power, they began to demand more beauty from their men!   Note the male movie heartthrobs--they tend to have FAR better physiques than stars in the 30's and 40's.  And that's just fine.   The equation now encourages EQUAL amounts of beauty and power in both partners, and that's just fine.   I have seen damned few relationships where the woman has the power and the man has the beauty.   A few, but it usually doesn't seem to work too well.  It's like the Househusband scenario.  Looks good on paper, but 90% of the time (that I've seen), it ends badly, with the working mom growing slowly discontented with her husband, finding men at her job slowly more and more attractive.  (This applies to men who are SOLELY taking care of the house--not men who work at home.)  I've seen about five marriages break up over this very problem, and it's sad.  The woman begins to withdraw sexually, the man feels unappreciated...yucka.  We haven't evolved socially or biologically to deal as efficiently with this. 
By the way--personally, I prefer the "equal" model.  I would tell my son or daughter to be both as powerful and beautiful as possible.  However, I will also be blunt: in the relationship market, Power is to men as beauty is to women, and it's likely to stay that way for the next ten thousand years or so.  We may get close to equal, or achieve it, but the proportions will never flip in the other direction.  Of course, as Dennis Miller used to say, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Hero's Journal #5

The Hero gathers Allies, and gains Powers.
This will probably require several entries, because it is a vital, and rarely addressed aspect of goal setting.  In story telling, this is the time when the character meets the people who will  help him, and gains the abilities required to resolve the issue.  After all, if you already had all the abilities necessary to accomplish something, it wouldn't be a very interesting goal, would it?  This is where Rocky gains Micky as a trainer.  Where Luke Skywalker meets Han Solo and R2-D2.  Where Huck and Jim go rafting. 
On a personal level, this raises a very thorny issue indeed.  Let me put it this way: if you want to know where you are going to end up in life, just add up all the people you associate with, divide by the number of people, and you are going to be right in the middle of the pack.  It is damned difficult to rise higher than your associations--they will attempt to hold you to your old image, to keep you as the person they are comfortable with.  Ever tried to go on a diet and had your friends start bringing by coffeecake?  Tried to study and had family try to urge you to go to the movies?  Tried to get serious in a relationship and had your single friends encourage you to go to a strip club?  Then you know exactly what I'm talking about.  I'm not saying that you have to dump your friends.  Sometimes our families can be worst at this, and we are stuck with them for life.  But you must be willing to ignore their attempts to hold you back.  One of the most powerful weapons friends and family can use to hold you back is the THREAT of withdrawing their love and support.  Your attitude must be: so be it.  You must be willing to walk alone, if necessary.  The Chinese have a saying: "Thick Face, Black Heart."  To be a winner, your "face" must be "thick" enough to ignore the entreaties and opinions of others, if they are contrary to your growth and evolution.  And your "heart" must be "black" enough to be invulnerable to their supposed pain.  If you are behaving in a moral and honest fashion, being considerate and polite, people will still accuse you of "hurting" them if you attempt to live your life in your own way. 
Pardon me, but adults are responsible for their own emotions.  They are using their self-inflicted pain to manipulate you into not changing.  YOU MUST BE WILLING TO WALK ALONE, if need be.  but do you know something?  If you are willing to listen to your own council, unwilling to be swayed from your path once you know it is right, you will earn your way into the company of others who have made the same painful choice.  And they are some of the warmest, most talented, and loving people in the world.  You must be willing to leave your negative associations behind.  You must be willing to love your family, support your family, but not be defined by them.  Most of what you will ever want in the external world will be gained through exchanges with other human beings.  Surround yourself with quality.


And why should you buy it?  The answer is simple and complicated:  the Five minute Miracle is an introduction to the most sophisticated and powerful exercise concept I have ever come across in over thirty years of searching.  The thunderbolt hit during the first seminar I attended with coach Sonnon, when I realized that if you joined three concepts together ("Perpetual Exercise" and "Synaptic Facilitation") it would be possible to create an exercise system that strengthens that vital body-mind link in only five minutes a day.  I was shocked.  I spent the next months devising a program, testing it with friends and students, and then decided to make a video to teach it.  This is not a joke, nor is it a sham.  It is the PERFECT exercise system for busy people, especially writers.  You might say it is the first exercise system designed specifically for writers, and fits perfectly with the "Lifewriting" system, and the "Golden Hour" concept.
In the first five minutes of using my program, you'll strengthen your abdominals, improve spinal alignment, and increase energy.  The program is based on 100 years of Soviet research into indigenous Russian health systems, and is different from anything generally promoted in the United States: not Isometrics, or weight lifting, or anything like that.  If you already have an exercise system, it will give you an entirely new perspective on what you are doing.  If you don't, it is a darned fine way to "kick yourself in the butt" and get started.
Most importantly, it is the doorway to what I call the "Golden Hour"--the path to mastery.  Start with five minutes, and begin to leverage you way to stealing an hour back from the world.  If you can do that, just that, you can completely re-claim your life, become a citizen of the planet, an awakened human being.  If you already have a dedicated yoga or martial arts practice--GREAT!  The 5MM will still teach you things about your body you didn't know.  It combines perfectly with running, weight lifting, kettlebells, clubbells, martial arts.  It can be performed by paraplegics, but can be integrated into advanced athletic programs.  And of course, it has a 100% money-back guarantee.
It is hard to find something real in a world of charlatans, and I know how this sounds.  I've spent half a century building a reputation as an honest man, and make my living writing books, not selling video courses. But this is just too powerful and positive not to share with you, my friends and family.  This is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the core secrets of integrating body, mind, and spirit.  Once you see it, you will understand physical motion in an entirely new way.  With all my heart, I ask you to take a chance, invest a little time--that's the only risk, because we'll gladly refund your money.   Personally, if I didn't already have this information, I'd easily pay a thousand dollars for it.  I've given copies to my friends and family.  It's the real thing, folks.  Go ahead: Click the button!

Looking Deeper: "Earthsea"

The replies to my recent posts regarding Blade and Earthsea, all tended to go something like this:

The funny thing about Ms. LeGuin's comments is she basically proves the SF book publishers are mildly racist, but that Hollywood (to use the generic term) is seriously racist.

And by racist, I mean people of color are just not included in the plans. Sort of out of sight, out of mind.
Vince |
Email | 12.17.04 - 12:55 am | #"
No, no, no.  I'm afriad that you're missing my point almost entirely.  The problem is NOT Hollywood.  Hollywood is a symptom.  "Hollywood" doesn't exist.  It is a reification, a label covering hundreds of studios and production companies run and influenced by thousands of people.  All it is is a money machine, and it is programmed by the public.  It produces what statistical analysis of ticket-buying and viewing patterns says to produce.  Even more, it produces what people instinctively feel the public wants to see, and in this case, there is ZERO evidence that they are wrong.  In other words, the problem is not "Hollywood", nor is the problem "White America."  Both of these things are comforting over-simplifications.  The problem is in a few basic biosociological survival traits in  human nature:
1) the fear of the "other"
2) Male territoriality
3) Exogamy--the urge to mate outside your own group
4) male sexual insecurity.
5) the urge to increase your own tribe, while decreasing the tribe of "others."
I think you can add a couple of secondary things as well, including  Repressed guilt and memory of the wrongs of slavery--probably the greatest unhealed wound in the American character.
Whenever I talk about this, people instantly leap to the "Hollywood is racist" concept, probably at least partially because they can wrap their minds around this--it is less frightening to think that a few hundred white guys in Hollywood are keeping a choke hold on things, and that things would be great if we just put some black folks in there.  Nope, it wouldn't.  If they made movies with very different imagery, those movies would bomb,and they'd lose their jobs, and we'd be right back where we are.  HOLLYWOOD HAS NO SOUL, NO POLITICS, NO PHILOSOPHY.  It cannot, because it is not a thing, a being.  It is just a place where a lot of people live and work.  Now, the PEOPLE in the So.Cal area are some of the most liberal in the country, living in one of the most integrated parts of the entire world.  Believe me, folks--the cultural buying patterns here in So Cal would definitely support a more integrated film and television product.  It is the rest of America that will not. And if the numbers were reversed, if Black men and women outnumbered whites greatly, and the cultural and religous iconography were reversed, whites would have exactly the same problem non-whites have (or at least that is what I tried to argue in "Lion's Blood" and "Zulu Heart.")
Saying "It's Hollywood" locates the "evil" outside ourselves, allows us to avoid the responsibility of looking into our own hearts and seeing that the same petty fears and prejudices that we think are "trivial" in our daily actions are, when multiplied by tens or hundreds of millions of people, massive finaancial and social trends that exclude whole segments of population from full humanity.  Black people who complain about Eminem "stealing" black music don't grasp that it is an extension of that exact same mind-set that makes whites turn away from black actors.  Fear of extermination.  Fear of our own mortality and insignificance.  Trying to find, in belonging to a "group," the comfort we fail to find in communion with our own souls.
Stop blaming Hollywood. Or America.  Or White people.  Or Brown people.  Or People.  It is not a "blaming" situation.  What we must do is to RECOGNIZE that all such dualistic thinking leads to pain.  It is insane to think dualistically and then criticise others for doing exactly the same thing.  The way out of the box is for every one of us who can rise above this to do so, to lead by example, to take the brunt of the load, to shoulder our own pain and emotional burdens.  To love without ceasing, to be strong enough to look unflinchingly into the face of the Beast within all of us, and not hate ourselves for being animals.
You know what?  That "beast", as racist, sexist, and culturally elitist as it is, kept our ancestors alive.  You are alive because yoru ancestors made crude, broad, over-simplified distinctions between "them" and "not-them."  We have entered a new world, in which we have an opportunity to evolve to being new people.  But you can't get there if your fear of your own frailties keeps you in denial.
The problem is not "out there."  The problem is us.  Happily, the solution is "us" as well.  This blog is, I hope, just one of thousands of voices crying out for sanity and clarity.  I pray that you will seek the others out as well. That you will add your own voice.  That you will heal your heart, and strive to make every action and word in alignment with your deepest values.  Your true self. 
Hollywood is us.  America is us.  The world is us.  It is not, and cannot, be better than we are.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Hero's Journal #4

The Road of Trials.  This is just the "stuff" that the character does along the way, to learn what must be learned and go to the places that must be visited.  The Yellow Brick Road.  In Star Wars, it was Mos  Eisley Cantina, and the Death Star, and Alderaan.  You know the drill. For most of us, its the day to day microadventures that compose our lives.  As  you journal, most of it will jsut be stuff.  Observations, feelings, going to work, coming home.  You can't expect major changes and shifts to happen easily.  Aim at about 1% positive change per week, and you'll be fine.  Remember , your daily journal will be an invaluable source of information on how life is actually lived and experienced.  Dont slight this precious tool, and be able to look at the data in several different ways.  On any given day, you are experiencing multiple "Hero's Journey" steps in different aspects of your life.  Dig in and explore.



An interesting link regarding the recent Sci-fi channel film.   It impacts some recent discussions here. I'll let Ursula LeGuin speak for herself.

Race doesn't matter in science fiction.  As long as the characters are white.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

How long will this take?

In other words, how long will it take to get palpable results from the Lifewriting process?  About one week for every year the problem has existed.  If the problems are systemic, then one week for every year of age.  This requires
1) Goals in all three areas.
2) Taking complete responsibility for your results.
3) Journaling and dream-journaling--remaining aware of the results.
4) Meditating daily, with a "Triangle" visualization, (each side of the triangle being a different role model, each side representing breathing motion and alignment, etc.)
5) Processing your fears.
6) Five one-minute breathing breaks spaced through the day (The Five Minute  Miracle teaches this perfectly!)
7) Moving toward a goal of balanced health, success, and self-love at a rate of about 1% per week (subjectively determined, of course).
YOU WILL RUN INTO OBSTACLES, both internal and external.  This is absolutely normal.  Expect it.  Don't beat yourself up over it.  Observe it, roll with it, and move on. 

Heal your heart.  Strengthen your body.  Free your mind.
Master your destiny.

"Blade" letter

I just got the following letter from a good friend (and even better writer) Steve Perry:

So I tried to post to your blog and it wants to limit me to 1000
characters. Pah!

Here's what I tried to say, in re to your review of the latest Blade

I agree with most of what you have to say, Steve, we've had this
discussion before, and I still believe it's about green and not black.
Soon as they can see dollar signs, that will change, book it. Hollywood
producers are seldom known for their bravery.

Still, I'm not sure Blade and Wesley Snipes are the vehicles to carry
this (justifiable) lament. It's a comic book vampire movie, and while I
haven't seen the latest installment, pretty much nobody gets laid in
any of them -- them that do get dead, black, white, or other hue, as I

As I recall, pretty much everybody gets dead, save Blade, who is
already a vampire ...

Nobody pointed at gun at Wesley's head and made him do these -- he
wanted to show off his martial arts chops, and does -- and I'm guessing
that he probably cries all the way to the bank, vis a vis getting laid
in the movie or not.

I'd bet that he can get a job doing indie movies where he sleeps with
everything that has a pulse if he wants.

Hollywood movies are about money -- any of life's lessons learned are
purely coincidental ...

The Blade movies are aimed right at fourteen-year-old boys, and I'm
guessing the white ones identify with Blade as much as the black ones
do. Laid or not, Wesley as Blade is just flat cool. I probably would,
too, if his martial arts moves weren't such movie-fu ...

You gotta remember what Sam Goldwyn said about sending messages ... ?

I'd agree with you if the first Blade hadn't been so blatently sexual (I remember a vampire getting blown in the club, and another sleeping with Blade's mother.)  And I am pretty sure that Wesley signed on to do the third movie with the promise they were going to humanize the character, give him a love interest--and then they reneged. Once he's signed on, they can sue the hell out of him.  I also agree that it's about "green and not black" except that that dodges the question: why does it impact the green if the ass in question is dark?  Because (I think) of that factor of audience acceptance.  I don't blame Hollywood at all, really, and hope I made that clear.  I don't blame the audience, either.  People are what they are.  I merely point this out as (I consider it) evidence that this particular malaise is still deep-rooted,and manefests in some pretty ugly statistical warts in the crime, poverty, and health statistics.  I grant that this is kinda a personal obsession, something that I have to work out in myself.  On the other hand, if I want to write in Hollywood, I have to know what the rules ACTUALLY are, not what people say they are.  If I want to have a positive impact, I have to know the territory I am traversing--not just think I do.  BTW--we'll know if I'm right or not if they make a sequel.  My prediction is that as soon as the leads are white, they'll sex it up.  We'll see.

"Mother of the Matrix" 2

The following note was sent to me regarding my "Matrix" comments:
I don't know how the hollywood world works, but what convinced me was this

"According to court documentation, an FBI investigation discovered that more than thirty minutes had been edited from the original film, in attempt to avoid penalties for copyright infringement. The investigation also stated that "credible witnesses employed at Warner Brothers came forward, claiming that the executives and lawyers had full knowledge that the work in question did not belong to the Wachowski Brothers." These witnesses claimed to have seen Stewart's original work and that it had been "often used during preparation of the motion pictures."
The defendants tried, on several occasions, to have Stewart's case dismissed, without success."

That seemed somewhat convincing to me and from whats been reported she has already won the case. However, you would know much more about this thats why I asked you. Thanx for your take on the issue.

My answer:

Let's take a look at those statements:  "According to court documentation, an FBI investigation discovered that more than thirty minutes had been edited from the original film, in attempt to avoid penalties for copyright infringement."

The first, (editing) is an observable act.  The second (in attempt...) is an assignment of motivations.  This depends upon either hearsay, or mind-reading.
The investigation also stated that "credible witnesses employed at Warner Brothers came forward, claiming that the executives and lawyers had full knowledge that the work in question did not belong to the Wachowski Brothers."
Very interesting.  Again, we need to know PRECISELY what her screenplay contained.  The basic premise of the Matrix is thousands of years old: Tibetan Buddhism, the idea that we are asleep, that demons feed upon our ignorance of being asleep, and that by awakening we gain great power.  I saw it that way, but there were literally endless film and cultural references in the Matrix.  I'd really like to know what was in her script that was so unique, separate from the other cultural contributions.

The defendants tried, on several occasions, to have Stewart's case dismissed, without success."

Whether you were guilty or not, wouldn't you?

That having been said, Hollywood does steal ideas (note the "Coming to America" case) but the includion of Cameron's "Terminator" made me rather suspicious.  Also, Nothing I have seen suggests anything other than a judge has agreed to look at the case.  There has been no trial, no settlement, no decision, nothing. 


The Hero's Journal #3

Hero Accepts The Challenge.

Well, obviously, unless the hero accepts the challenge, there is no story, in the simple sense.  Of course, there are stories that deal with the process of decision ("Ordinary People"), and stories where the character is incapable of deciding.  These are generally delicate, small stories requiring more advanced skills.  What has to happen for a character to begin her journey?  There must be more pleasure associated with the process than pain.  There must be more motivation to move forward than to stay back.  These motivations are both external and internal: the ghosts of our childhood are with us forever.
Tad James' "Time Line Therapy" has an elegant model of the internal alignment which must exist in order to move toward our goals.  Combining this with the "Lifewriting approach, the following should be true (and this is slightly reduntant)

1) have a clearly visualized goal
2) Your value hierarchy must be congruent with the goal.
3) Your beliefs must allow accomplishment of the goal. (You must believe it is possible, and that it is good, and that there will be more pain than pleasure associated with the result)
4) Your positive and negative emotional "anchors" must permit the goal.
5) your view of your personal history must allow the goal.
6) Your current web of associations must support the goal, or at least not be threatened by it.
Characters will always trip themselves up on one or another of these levels.  And so will you, my friends.  This is where meditation comes in.  The first 15 minutes or so of meditation will be torture, as your ego tries like hell to stop you from going inward.  This is absolutely normal.  Just watch the thrashing, and record it in your journal.  In metaphorical form, this is all fodder for your writing--or the ay you learn the language of your subconscious.  Your dreams will also be filled with imagery related to your quest.  Write them down!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Again, Bikram yoga

Took Nicki for the 9:00am class.  Had done kettlebells yesterday, so I knew my body would be tired.  And indeed, it was.  Yow!  Tougher than the first time, in some ways, but I was more prepared for it.  Bikram style has one advantage over Ashtanga: the "internal heat" effect of Ujjai breathing creates cascades of sweat once you are moderately advanced.  That sweating produces an internal cleansing effect that is quite nice.  But with Bikram you get that whether you're advanced or not.  Also, because it's not as athletic, it functions quite nicely as a recuperative practise between grueling workouts.  This could be a lot worse!  Nicki did about twice as good as I thought she would.  Her focus and engagement was higher.  The girl is becoming a woman, and I like the woman I see, quite a bit.  Just love my kids to death, and hope they never doubt that.  It is such a joy to be able to share this space with her.  There were just three things I wanted to give my daughter:
1) A love of learning and working.
2) A healthy emotional life that expands out to include healthy relationships with others.
3) A love of her body as a toy, a tool, and a pet.
Because of my divorce from her mom, Toni, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to fully give her these things, but God is giving me another chance.  It is such a blessing to have her in my home, a chance for her and Jason to bond.  Wouldn't be possible without Tananarive's open-hearted cooperation.  I am so frigging lucky  I can hardly stand it.  Life is good!
Working on the script of Blood Brothers today.  Have broken down the entire thing via Syd Field's method.  And now the fun begins...

the Hero's Journal #2

Hero Rejects the Challenge.
Why?  Because a challenge great enough to really expand you, or move you to the next level, will threaten your ego. Such a change is interpreted as "death," and will trigger the same fear response.  I remember attending a sexual magic workshop once, and all I was being asked to do was go back to my cabin and make love to a beautiful woman. I freaked out, and had such an extreme fear response that it felt as if I was going to die in the morning.   If this seems rediculous, you have to grasp what sexual magic is.  If you've never experienced it, consider that there are countless discipllines that alter consciousness through control of breathing alone.  Modifying the body's orgasmic response is exponentially more powerful.  The intensity of an orgasm is in direct proportion to the amount of your ego you release at that moment.  In other words, the more YOU are there, the less the pleasure is.  There should be a momentary sense of dissolution of ego boundaries between you and the lover, or you're doin' it wrong, friend.  Now, in such a workshop, we were playing with this response in fascinating and direct ways.  In other words, we were creating a Pavlovian Stimulus-Response loop between an egoless state and the most powerful positive sensation your body is capable of experiencing.  The ego, knowing it cannot compete, strikes back with its strongest weapon: fear of death.  I asked Swift Deer, the workshop leader, what I should do.  He said I should go out and talk to a tree.
For those of you who don't know, the "Talk to the Tree" exercise  is done something like this.  Find a friendly-looking tree along a moderately-traveled road. Connect with it emotionally. Then wait until another human being walks by. Note the way your posture and carriage and facial expression shift as soon as there is another person.  This is the "mask", the ego weight you carry to conceal your true self from the world.  It is the cost you pay for being inauthentic.  One of the secrets to Mastery is to be the same way with people as you are with the tree.
Well, I leaned my head against that tree, and sobbed my eyes out.  And I found my self saying, (to the tree.  Believe me, I know how nutty this sounds): "how can you do it?  how can you jsut be the same, no matter what?  Whether it's hot or cold, whether it's snowy or rainy or the sun is shining, whether they love you or hate you, how can you just be the same?"  And in some odd tree way, it answered me.  "I'm just a tree, man," it said.  "My roots go down, my branches go up.  I'm just me.  I can't be anything else."  Implicitly: so why try to be?
I got it.  And went back up to finish the exercise, and finished the rest of the workshop.
But we do.  And the fear of dying, of shattering the ego walls, paralyzes us.  F.E.A.R.  We've all heard it: False Evidence that Appears Real.  And there's another acronym just as accurate but less appropriate for mixed audiences: F%$# Everything And Run.
But running brings us to another, and incredibly powerful exercise for dealing with fear.  It requires that you have a physical activity that will take you into second wind.  Walking, running, clubbells, kettlebells, jumping rope, swimming, all will work.  This exercise, taught to me by Coach Sonnon, is so powerful it is almost like magic. 
all right. 
1) Sit for 10 minutes and bring the emotion of fear into your body.  Powerfully directly.  Imagine worst-case scenarios, whatever you need, until you are shaking, crying out of your nose, sobbing.
Ten minutes.
2) Now begin your aerobic exercise.  Continue until you reach second wind, and for at least five minutes beyond that place.
This just flat works.  The reason is that the physiological profile of hormone dump during cardio-respiratory distress is very similar to the hormone dump during extreme fear.  Instead of calling it "Second wind," call it "Second gear"--a cortical response, a neurophysiological adjustment to increase efficiency so that the body can function under the specific stress.   CRD is more primal than any fear you are likely to have locked in your body.  When you take this physical road, you are hitting the "reset" button on your neurology, clearing out years or decades of fear response in minutes.  Bizarre as it sounds, you can get a 20% (approximate, subjective) reduction of fear IN YOUR FIRST SESSION.  Then, of course, practise this a couple of times a week as needed.
This is an example of a "mastery" technique.  This is not a game, and I am not b.S.-ing you.  You've just had a "hidden secret" placed right in front of you, for free.  All you have to do is try it.  Any aerobic activity that will trigger a "second wind" response will do it (second wind usually kicks in after 13-18 minutes of steady-state exercise).  This is why you MUST engage your body when you seek Master.  The mind will deceive you.  The body, subject to physical rule and laws, cannot.
The "Five Minute Miracle" will get you started integrating mind and body, the cheapest and most efficient method I know.  Check it out!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Mother of the Matrix

A reader asked me this:
What's your feeling about the Sophia Stewart Matrix thing. I am black and yet my programming allowed me to be surprised at this revalation regardless of my efforts to clean out the programming of my youth.
Chris | 12.13.04 - 1:40 pm |
I've seen the controversy, and visited a half-dozen sites talking about it.  Not one of them was specific about what her screenplay contained, only rejoicing that a judge has agreed to look at her case.  Wow.  Folks, this means nothing.  Note that she is suing both the "Matrix" folks and the "Terminator" folks.  Couple of thoughts on this:
1) the major thing in common between these two franchises is that they deal with a revolt of the machines, an idea at least a century old.
2) Cameron was forced to admit that elements of "Terminator" were "borrowed" from Harlan Ellison "Outer Limits" episodes shot in the 60's.'d get me to believe pigs could fly before I believed Harlan stole this lady's work.  Sorry.
There may be something to this case, but major Hollywood money machines often get sued, usually by people who never create anything else.  It makes me suspicious.  If someone produces a registered screenplay with elements unique and obviously ripped off, I'll be a believer.  Until then, it's just another Hollywood story.

The Hero's Journal #1

1) The Hero is confronted with a challenge

What is your character's steady-state existence?  What do they want?  What do they NEED?  (And only in a fairly evolved person will these two be the same.)  What is the gap between want and need?  Have they accepted responsitility for their existence?  If they are an adult, there is no more excuse for blaming society, parents, or anything else. These things may be problematic, but EVERYONE has a painful history.  Life doesn't care.  Either you use these things as motivations, or you are swept into the Vortex of diminished expectations and results and impact on those you love.   When you wear your dysfunction and pain like a badge of honor, people stop listening.

And this is where your journal comes in.  Truth be told?  I don't care if you're a writer.  That's an excuse to reach out to the world.  Keep a journal anyway.  Write in it every day, and quickly. After a few months, start reading back through it.  If you've written enough, the truth will begin to emerge: it is hard to sustain a lie, even an existential lie.  Note that this blog functions as my journal.  Note how close I come to blaming racial politics for disappointments in my life.  DAMNED close.  I manage to skirt it, most of the time, but it is clear I have damage there, and it's my responsibility to heal it.  Yes, there are cultural problems. No, it makes no difference.  Either I will parent my children, write my books, strengthen my body, and be an adult human being, or I will be a child blaming fate for my pain.  Someone has to be a grown-up, or the children are in grave danger.  I choose to be one of the adults, regardless of the price in honesty.
If you're a writer, your journal will be your best source of understanding the human condition.    As you go through it, think of the different steps of the Hero's Journey, and how it applies to your life on that particular day.
What have you failed to take ful responsibility for?  Are you still blaming parents/  Society?  Have you accepted responsibility for your physical body,  career, relationships?  Are they healthy? (And you can generally tell if they are healthy by asking yourself if you would want your own children to live that way)
the challenge is to master your life, to be a free, atonomous, fully alive and awakened adult male or female of the species.  Do you, or do you not accept the challenge? anyone who does, regardless of where they are on the path, is my brother or sister.  Period.
What do you need to move forward?  Begin to pay the price.  What does your character need to grow to the next level?  Your story will be this very challenge.

Sunday, December 12, 2004


I did a Bikram Yoga class at 8:00 this morning.  Despite a certain "McYoga" reputation, it is a solidly designed class, well taught (altough I prefer more hands-on) and practised by sincere, nice folks.  I'm looking for a class I can trust Nicki with, and I think I might give it a whirl.  There is less upper-body work than Ashtanga, for sure, which might be an advantage when it comes to recuperation from tough workouts.  The room was heated to 105 degrees, with 60% humidity.  I sweat more than I have in months.  Wow!  I am gonna sleep well tonight, I guarantee you.

Before we begin

All right, I've been talking around it, but now I'm about to lay out a path to using this process, and we're going to go step by step through the stages of the Hero's Journey, and then back for the Chakras.  I'll take side trips from time to time, but it's going to be here.  Before I begin, understand that this is not some kind of cookie-cutter pattern. 
The ten steps of the Hero's Journey are like the 88 keys of a piano. You don't play each of them every time with equal emphasis.  But by understanding what each step represents, it is easy to decide how and when to use them.


Keep a journal, in which you record the events and emotions of the day.  Ask yourself how the dominant patterns of the day relate to the stage of the Hero's Journey we are discussing.  Also, when watching movies and television, or reading, ask yourself where and when the characters engage with a given stage.

Let's get going!

Heartbeat Meditation

The simplest, most powerful and safest meditation I know.  Simply sit or stand quietly and listen to your heartbeat.  If you have SERIOUS emotional issues, you will tend to fall asleep or be deviled with horrifically compelling distractions.  Standing quietly with eyes closed will help.  Relax.  Find your heartbeat.  This can be done while practising Tai Chi or Yoga.  But you must slow, and find the heartbeat.  The Triangle of breathing, motion, and alignment must be maintained in order to go inward.  This should be done for at least 20 minutes at a time...the first 15 minutes are filled with ego-mind chatter and distraction.  Your ego-mind, striving to keep you from your true self, will try to do anything to keep you from going this deeply: falling asleep, causing pains, making you think of trivial tasks, belittling your efforts, and on and on.  This is completely normal.  Heartbeat meditation is fantastic, and should be used until or unless you find a meditation teacher to work with you personally.  It works.  Use it.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Heal your Heart, Strengthen your body, Free your mind

That is the road to mastery, and that is what we're talking about here.  Not survival, not success in some limited sense.  Mastery.  It is a lifetime's endeavor, and is a road, a process, not just a place.  True, there will be evidences along the way--signs that you have achieved excellence. But the goal is to walk your talk, to speak your mind, and for mind and heart and body to be aligned.  You can start this process in one of two ways: through the heart or the body.  But NOT through the mind.  The mind will create its own reality, and warp all information to fit it.  There is nothing sadder than talking to someone who is clearly dysfunctional in body or emotion, and hear their self-justification, their eyes pleading with you to buy into their bull*&%%.  So sad.  Within, they are the same damaged children they have been for years, surrounding themselves with other damaged people so that they don't have to deal with the pain.  That is not what this blog is about.  I believe that every single person reading this can have a healthier, happier, more successful life, but it takes work and clarity and courage.
So...start with the heart.  Heartbeat meditation is a great way to begin the healing process.  Or the body.  The five Minute Miracle cuts through a lot of bull.  EVERYONE has five minutes a day.  If you say you don't, you are just lying to yourself.  AFTER you have nailed down heart and body (begun the I say, it is a path, not a place.  Once truely begun, you are ready to complete the triangle), create the goal triangle, and begin working and writing.  Journaling dreams and thoughts.  Blogging or creating stories.  What I call "running the aquarium filter on the fish tank of your soul."
Get working!