The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Are You A Hero?

Are You A Hero?
What is a hero? I mean, if we use the “Hero’s Journey” mythic structure to create fiction, control the process of writing, AND to design our lives, it behooves us to explore the question. To define the term.
Every single one of these emails either deals with the direct application of this pattern, or the practical experience of living according to this age-old wisdom. Examples from my own life, or the lives of my friends, family, business associates, or historical personages.
And this Saturday, we’re going to have an extraordinary opportunity to talk to a man who is not only one of MY heros (and teachers, and coaching client) but a man who would have been celebrated in any culture, through all of time—we love our warriors. Even more, we love warriors who are intellectual, family men, and deeply spiritual. And my guest on Saturday’s Diamond Hour meets this challenging standard brilliantly.
Here’s my definition: a hero is someone willing to put it on the line for their own happiness and health, her family, his community, her spiritual beliefs. They risk life and limb and ego to find truth, to disclose lies and cruelty, to bring love and security into the world.
Heroes can be warriors, healers, teachers, parents, craftsmen, artists, guardians, or those who maintain the walls. And no matter how you slice it, Scott Sonnon qualifies. Teacher, author, family man, spiritual aspirant, athlete, trainer of warriors, and four-time gold medal winner at the World Martial Arts Games (most athletes don’t win four gold medals in their entire careers!). I’ve had the honor of knowing Scott for almost ten years, known him to be a man of honor, integrity and courage, with a beautiful family and lethal martial arts skills. He is a genius, a synthesist who was the first American martial artist to be invited to train in the former Soviet Union, and learn secrets unknown to all but the privileged elite. And over the last few years I’ve watched him become a man of deep spiritual conviction, following the guru Amma, who, in my personal opinion, is one of the few genuine transhuman souls walking this planet.
This is a man who entered the World Games the oldest, and one of the smallest, men on the mat—and triumphed. I agreed to be his coach because he was NOT doing this out of ego, but because he wanted to provide an example to America—and the world—of what free, courageous people can accomplish when they give it everything they have, and dedicate their results to a purpose larger than themselves.
If you are a writer, businessperson, a Diamond Hour aspirant, a parent, or just someone dedicated to being the best you can be, you MUST listen in, ask questions, and learn from this remarkable man of simple faith and International-level skills. This is a “can’t miss” no-brainer, totally free, and 100% real.
Sat., October 2, 2010, 1:00 PM Pacific Daylight time

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Giant Step Forward For Jasonkind...

Jason took the Gold!
My six year old son Jason took a Gold Medal this last weekend, at his first “real” Judo tournament on Sunday. On Saturday he couldn’t get to sleep—too excited, too hyped…too scared.
“Were you ever scared?” He asked me, curled up in his blankets at bed time. “When you did tournaments, were you ever scared.”
“All the time,” I said. “Fear is just your body and mind getting ready for action. The problem is being afraid of your fear. Ashamed of your fear,” I said. “It’s like fire. Understand it, and you can use it to cook your food. Don’t understand it, and it can burn down your house.”
I snuggled up next to him, holding him in my arms. “Jason, this is why I have you in Judo. So that you can learn about your emotions. Fear is like an ocean of lava. You have to learn to surf on it. Let it power you. Carry you. It will make you stronger, more focused…but you need to be clear on what you fear, and what you love.” I paused. He was looking up at me, his eyes shining, and I prayed I could be strong and clear enough to convey what was in my heart.
“Jason, you said you wanted a black belt. Do you want it?”
“Well, a black belt isn’t about being able to do throw and holds…although that is a part of it. It is about learning about dealing with fear, loss, pain, disappointment…and victory. It is about becoming a Man, Jason. I swore to God that I would help you become a man, and this is one of the tools I’m using.” I kissed the cool, smooth skin on his forehead. His little hands gripped at me for dear life.
“This is what I want. You think of a single technique. Your best technique. And you just try to get that. You can fake another technique to set him up, make him move, but just concentrate on one, all right?”
He nodded, mutely.
“And aside from that, I want you to pay attention. I want you to be a good sportsman. Win or lose, if you will do the best you can, then we’re going for ice cream. As far as I’m concerned, you’re a winner. That’s all I want: be focused, fight hard, fight fair, be a good sport. Can you do that?”
He nodded. And kissed me good night. “I love you, Daddy,” he said.
Meaning: I trust you, Daddy.
So Sunday morning, we got up and dressed. Jason said to me: “I’m going to be like a scorpion. I’ll be still until I pounce.”
Sounded good to me.
We arrived at the gymnasium at 9:25, five minutes before the tournament began. In a crowded lot, we found a parking space near the door, and walked in. The gym was packed wall-to-wall. We barely entered before his name was called, and he went to sit at Mat #1 with the other kids in his age group. I repeated to him: “good sportsmanship. Choose one technique. Do your best.”
He nodded. They called his name, and he walked to his side of the mat. His opponent faced him. The judge called “Hajime! (Begin)”
With his face perfectly calm, Jason walked across the mat, closed with his opponent, drove him back with a perfect Kuzushi (unbalancing) and took his leg with a perfect Osotogari. Boom. Full point. Match over.
Ten minutes later, he had his second match. He did EXACTLY the same thing. Boom. Match over. First place.
I’d never seen him with such focus. For the rest of the day, he was just a kid, running, playing with his buddies, whining…my Jason. But for those minutes, he had it. He got it. For just those moments, I saw the man he will one day be. I was beyond pride. It wasn’t about me.
Jason doesn’t belong to me. But it is my job to deliver him safely to his future. And on Sunday, he took one giant step.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Heartbeat Meditation

Over the last twenty years, my most consistent practice has been Sri Chinmoy’s “Heartbeat Meditation.” While I loved it and considered it central to my spiritual development, part of this was pure trust—Chinmoy was the first human being whose aura I could perceive (believe as much of that as you wish), so I simply put faith in him, as we often must in our gurus.
It was later that I began to understand why simply sitting and listening to my heartbeat was so powerful. I thought I’d touch on it just a bit.
1) Love and Fear compete for the same place in our hearts. Consider them to be different forms of the same primal energy. Survival. Evolution. But each has its strengths and weaknesses. So long as we believe in the false ego, love is a safer medium for growth.
2) Sitting quietly. Relaxing until you can feel your pulse, or taking your pulse if necessary. Listening to the rush of blood in your veins, knowing that the most essential part of our being is automatic and given to us before birth. We were loved and cared for before ever we entered the world. Connect with that peace and centeredness.
3) Anger is a mask over fear. Find the fear beneath the rage, and the rage dissipates. This is so incredibly useful I CANNOT recommend it highly enough.
4) The following are often symptoms of fear: writer’s block, obesity, unhealthy relationships, political rigidity, depression, rage, paranoia, racism, sexism. Belief that the universe is going out of its way to hold you back. That people are talking about you behind your back, or conspiring to control your behavior.
5) The bad news is that the world doesn’t care about whether or not you succeed. The good news is that the world doesn’t care about whether or not you succeed. On the material level, it is up to you.
Start with loving yourself, deeply and without limit. If you can do this, and it raises your love and respect for others…you are on the right road. Take another step.

Friday, September 24, 2010

When an elder Buddhist Master asked a group of meditators, "What survives when an enlightened being dies?" a man in the group replied, "When an enlightened being dies, nothing remains."
The master smiled and replied to the surprise of the assembled: "no. The truth remains."

Self love

Several times over the last month, the concept of Self Love has surfaced—on my blogs, on Twitter, on the entire social networking “thing” and I wanted to address it directly. And we’ll look at how it relates to writing, relationships, success, health, and fitness.
This is HUGE, and we have to address it to create a foundation for our other efforts. There are only two core emotional issues: Love and Fear. It is time to speak of love.

Let’s look at Self-Love from the perspective of relationships first. If you’re a writer, apply this to your characters, and your own life. For the rest of you, the applications should be obvious.
I was working with a client during the last month who wants to prepare himself to find love. This is a smart, attractive, good guy with addiction patterns around sex, alcohol, and food. He had a nightmare relationship with his mother, and currently has serious panic attacks and night terrors.
He has no foundation to stand on. When he thinks of a relationship, it is: “what kind of woman could love me?” Or “will they all turn into Mom?” Good Lord, can you see where this leads?
1) Self-fulfilling prophesies: seeking out doomed relationships to reinforce a pre-existing belief pattern.
2) Deliberately trashing good relationships—“testing” love partners to destruction. After all, if a relationship worked out, that would destroy the toxic self image…and your self image will fight for its life like you won’t believe.
3) Seeking out unavailable relationships. Only opening to intimacy if the person is unavailable: married, living in another town, emotionally distant, etc.
The answer to all of these is to find the love you seek WITHIN you first, to connect with your own heart space to the point that you overflow with affection for the entire world. People who genuinely love themselves are not egotistical. They do not place themselves above others. In learning to forgive their own failures and weaknesses, they gain great compassion for the rest of the world.
The core, the first step, is loving yourself. You will NEVER get the feeling of acceptance and healing you want from outside yourself until you have prepared the soil of your heart.
For all of you, I urge you to spend 15-20 minutes a day just listening to the miracle of your heartbeat. Journal about the emotions that arise. This path will take you all the way home, I promise you.
Do the Work!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Current training program

I haven’t spoken a lot about my physical training recently, but for the last eight months, I’ve been concentrating on Scott Sonnon’s “TacFit Commando” program. It is whole-body, six-directions and no-equipment. There are probably a dozen other specific good things about the program, and I was totally happy with it.
Then a few months back I had trouble pulling myself out of the water onto a three-foot platform after a short swim. True, the sides were rounded, and I couldn’t get a good grip, but it still suggested some serious weaknesses in my training, weaknesses that could have cost me dearly in the wrong situation.
Now, Scott had another program based on TacFit called “R.O.P.E.” (“Rapid Onset Pullup Employment) and I had looked at it but not tried it, wanting to go deeply into TacFit. But after this event, I decided that I needed more pulling strength, something that I’ve never really worked. I wonder why..?
Anyway, I pulled out ROPE and tried it, using a Jungle Gym portable pullup system. Worked pretty well (I have a little work to do to get it perfect). The upshot is that the system works great, but is a little less “perfectly” balanced than TacFit. In other words, one of the things I LOVE about TacFit is that you hardly need to stretch afterwords, it is so well designed. You DEFINITELY need to stretch after R.O.P.E. What I’m using is the seven-day rotation (Sunday: joint recovery. Monday: yoga. Tuesday: moderate TacFit or ROPE. Wednesday joint recovery. Thursday yoga. Friday moderate TacFit or ROPE. Saturday INTENSE TacFit or ROPE) alternating TacFit and Rope. This seems to work very well…and my task is to keep myself sufficiently recovered. I can use muscle soreness and sleeplessness as a measure of this.
The nice thing is that this covers every single aspect of fitness I choose to cover, with the possible exception of one-rep limit strength. I can add five minutes of jumping rope (twenty seconds work, ten seconds rest) and get a more intense aerobic effect, but don’t actually need it. This is a beautiful program, and I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Our buddy Blair is "Mr. President" on the premiere episode of THE EVENT! 9, Eastern,
8 Central on NBC! WHAT- IS-THE-EVENT!!!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Body, Mind, Spirit, and Writing
1:00 PM PST today
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Body, Mind, Spirit, and Writing
Sat., September 18, 2010, 1:00 PM PST
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Call ID: 77111

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sat., September 18, 2010, 1:00 PM Pacific
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Body, Mind, Spirit, and Writing

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A student posted this:

Yesterday a friend shared with me his work through the "Feeling Good Handbook" by Dr. David Burns. First chapter starts with a list of "twisted thoughts" to watch out for.
Ten types of Twisted Thinking

1 - All or Nothing
"If I didn't get ALL I wanted, I've got nothing." "If it isn't perfect, it's worthless."
2 - Overgeneralization
"This ALWAYS happens to me." "You NEVER do things right." "I just can't keep nice things."
3 - Mental Filter
Why listen to what people are actually saying when you can just put your own thoughts into their mouths?
4 - Discounting the Positive
The good part was a fluke, or easy, or unimportant-- like getting back a score of 99 out of a 100 and spending all day wondering, what did I miss?
5 - Jumping to Conclusions
You didn't smile when I came home-- you've fallen out of love with and are going to leave me.
6 - Magnification
My ice cream has hit the sidewalk and my life is ruined.
7 - Emotional Reasoning
"I wouldn't hit you if you didn't make me mad." "I feel hurt-- you are abusing me."
8 - Should Statements
Coulda, woulda, shoulda, must, ought, have to-- anything but what can be done now. (Also known as "musterbation".
9 - Labeling
"She's a Total Loser." When past mistakes define present identity and eliminate future potential.
10 - Personalization/Blame
"He wouldn't hit me if I didn't make him mad." "It's all my fault."

This list had such an impact that I did it up as a restaurant take-out menu-- I can be heard murmuring, "and that's a number ten" as I catch myself or someone in my household twisting."

Through the creative process of making the menu, I spotted the commonality-- that these are all different ways of re-playing favorite patterns instead of being present in reality and dealing with the discomfort of real-life, real-time constant reassessment.

Monday, September 13, 2010

If you would be attracted to yourself, it is easy to find someone to love. If you don't like what you see in the mirror...get to work.

Success requires:
1) Written goals, and plans expressed in continuous action.
2) The ability to take action despite the voices in your head.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A beautiful song/poem on aging...

Rust by Lynn Miles

Every line in your face is a road you've been down
It's a freight train you hopped
It's a night in a strange town
...It's a joke that you told, it's a tear that rolled on
a sad story you heard, or a lover who's gone.

It's the scars on your hands
the hard work that you've done
It's the skin that you touched
all the wars that you've won.
It's the baby you cradled, it's the letters you wrote.
It's the time you held on, it's the time you let go.

And the footprints you leave are perfect and deep
And your soul is a place that is tough but it's sweet
And the shadow you cast is straight and it's true
But the lines and the scars are what I love about you.

The rust in your voice, that's the dust and the rain
It's the choices defended again, and again, and again
It's the life that you've led
It's the friends come and gone
It's the highways and the truck stops
And the cold grey dawns

And the footprints you leave, they are perfect and deep.
And your soul is a place that is tough but it's sweet
And the shadow you cast is straight and it's true
But the lines and the scars and the rust are what I love about you.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Anyone who holds their political opposition to be all fools and/or knaves has proven themselves to be both.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Size Isn't Everything

Size Isn’t Everything!

Almost every day, I get email from a writer who wants advice on the writing of a novel…but has never sold a short story. Invariably, they:
1) Have conceptual and philosophical flaws in their game plan that would have been fixed had they written short stories until they had published at least ten.
2) Claim that they’re “just not short story writers”, that they “just think in novel length”

Here’s why:
1) The basic structures of fiction are consistent. Whether a 100,000 word novel or a 1000 word story, the same interactions of character and plot obtain.
2) In a year you might write a 100,000 word novel…or 50 two-thousand word short stories. You will learn VASTLY more by writing the short stories.
3) A novel is like running a marathon. Would you run a marathon if you’d never successfully run around the block? I doubt it seriously.
4) There is no such thing as an idea with an intrinsic length. Only the expression of an idea has an intrinsic length. You can write a library about a grain of sand, or a short-short about the history of the universe. It is up to you.
5) The ego gets deeply involved in the process of art. And if you’ve spent a year on a book, you are FAR more involved than if you spent a week on a story. This gives you much more emotional wiggle-room for experimentation.
6) You must practice sending your work out, and accepting rejection. The more often you hear “no” the sooner you will get to “yes.”
7) You learn more by writing a new piece than re-writing an old one. With less ego involvement, it is easier to “let a piece go” out into the world.

Honestly, the “I don’t write short fiction” line is the most consistent excuse I hear. Every amateur says that. If that’s what you’ve been saying, change your position…and stop being an amateur!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Finished recovery of DEVIL'S WAKE. Tomorrow I print, and start reading/correcting the printed copy.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering
his attitudes of mind.
William James

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Writing is like an iceberg; for every foot that shows above water there are eight below. RAYMOND CHANDLER

Monday, September 06, 2010

“Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself” - Miles Davis

If we become what we think about, today I am a barbecued cheeseburger.

Near Disaster, and Fear

Last Tuesday I narrowly averted disaster. It was my fault, the result was my lesson, and ultimately, it was a cheap price to pay. I’ve been working hard on the new zombie novel, DEVIL’S WAKE, and am within a few weeks of completion. This is a collaboration with Tananarive, although I’ve had to take lead on it because SHE is finishing up the fourth African Immortals novel, BLOOD PROPHESY. So I work on it on my desktop iMac, my laptop, my Ipad, and from time to time T can work on it on her Windows laptop. In order to backup the files, protect them and also make them available for use across multiple platforms, I use both Dropbox and Carbonite.

And I felt very, very safe. I mean, what could go wrong? I had multiple copies on multiple computers…but what I didn’t think about was that I was also opening and closing that file using multiple word processors, which were “compatible” but not exactly the same.

Well, the tiny errors committed by different word processors translating each others’ work back and forth finally caught up with me. I saved the file, closed the word processor, and went out in the living room to watch television and do a little light editing, kind of an evening ritual with Tananarive. It’s so romantic, editing side by side…

And I got the message that my laptop version of MS Work didn’t recognize the file. Hmmm. Annoyed, I tried to open it on my desktop…and got the same message. I tried opening it with Textedit, and…nothing. Oh, crap. I tried everything I could think of, and no result. Now, this file represented ½ of the entire book. Visions of trying to reconstruct forty thousand words of text danced through my head. I was tired, and it was getting late, but I knew that unless I could resolve this I’d have a terrible time trying to sleep.

So deep on the inside, I was fighting panic, but Tananarive told me that she saw nothing in my face, or manner. I was just working in my office quietly, and she never had a clue. I had T try to open the file, and then she realized what was going on. No, she wasn’t able to open it.

Arrgh. I began an internet search for programs to deal with corrupted Word files for Mac, and was coming up short. Finally found one, and then couldn’t install it on my computer. Bizarrely, it wouldn’t accept my administrative password. Everything was going wrong—my miscalculation was that my backup strategy was designed for LOST files. My CORRUPTED file had simply propogated across Dropbox and Carbonite, duplicating the errors. I was semi-screwed. I knew that come Wednesday I would be able to reach out for some of my computer-savvy friends, and get more help, but felt a kind of emotional tunnel-vision closing in. I HAD to do this, or I wouldn’t be able to sleep. Usually, I turn in at about 11pm. It was now 1am.

Finally, I found a Windows-based Word anti-corruption software, had T install it on her computer (yeah, she was still up) and try to open the file…and it worked.

I saved the text, but lost formatting and some punctuation. It takes me about 2 minutes to correct a page, but heck, I needed to work on the material anyway, and it was, as I said, a cheap lesson at the price. Things might have been far, far worse.

The most important lesson was one of maintaining emotional balance, not getting frustrated, and not letting those panic gremlins in. To be able to see the options I had rather than regretting those I didn’t. And seeing, clearly, how to prevent such damage in the future. I have to go back to saving multiple versions. Thought that wasn’t necessary any more.

I was wrong.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

"Until you make peace with who you are you will never be content with what you have." - Doris Mortman

Saturday, September 04, 2010

On gay marriage: anything that increases the net amount of love in the world is fine with me.

Lifewriting Talk NOW! Body, mind, spirit, and writing. Today's topic; Fear and Loss. I almost lost 40K of the new novel...

Do Not Think Dishonestly--Musashi Miyamoto

Stephen Hawking, Science And God: Author Rodrigues dos Santos Asks Did Science Find God?

People have been trying to create "proofs" of God's existence for thousands of years. This would seem to be the logical mind trying to believe it can "understand" and deconstruct everything. The presence of a divine order isn't something to be logically "proven" although there are tantalizing suggestions of a currently inexplicable order to the universe. This is where the concept of "faith" is critical. The spiritual realm can be danced around with the conscious mind, but not approached directly. In this sense, our egos are Moses, and cannot enter the promised land. That's the bad news. The good news is that that conscious mind is the smallest, weakest, most fearful part of us.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Lifewriting Talk: Fear and Loss
Today, 1:00 PM Pacific Daylight time
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Sat., September 4, 2010, 1:00 PM Pacific Daylight time
Connect via phone or VoIP (Skype, etc.)
(724) 444-7444
Call ID: 77111
Detailed connection directions are here:

Friday, September 03, 2010

Ranch rule: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing with love. Got to put yourself into it. It’s your signature. It’s what you do.

The honest struggle to balance career, fitness, and love will teach you everything you need to know about life.

Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example. Mark Twain

If you don't have clarity on your goals...then your first goal must be to find clarity.

Lifewriting Talk: Fear and Loss.
Sat., September 4, 2010, 1:00 PM pst
(724) 444-7444
Call ID: 77111

Thursday, September 02, 2010

We acquire the strength we have overcome.

Wifie just confessed that she doesn't outline books on index cards because it's too scary to see how much work remains!

Love isn't two people looking at each other. It is two people looking in the same direction.

Excess fat carried on American tummy hips & butt would sustain caloric needs of Afghanistan people for a year

I've published three million words--but almost losing 40K of 'em yesterday was grueling. Back up, people!

DeepakChopra: Be kind to yourself and others. Come from love every moment you can.

A little of the fear (of losing half my book) is starting to creep out. I clamped down HARD last night...but a few minutes ago, I wanted to cry.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

If I am what I have and if I lose what I have who then am I?~ Erich Fromm

Intermittent Fasting (eating every other day) comes as close to a "magic bullet" for health as anyone has ever found.

Five times a day, stop for sixty seconds and breathe. Do this every three hours, and stress becomes energy.

And in the end, The love you take is equal to the love you make - The Beatles

If you can own just one hour out of every day, you can change your life...forever.
Or at least read a decent comic book.

Make the choice to succeed. And then act as if you have no other choice.