The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Musashi #6: Intuition

"Develop intuitive judgement and understanding of everything." There are many different ways of addressing "intuition." At the edge of esoteric martial experience, we may be speaking of a proprioceptive sense, some kind of sensing of electromagnetic fields or subtle body language cues that offer information too swift or subtle for the conscious mind to absorb. Certainly too swift for language: by the time you've labeled something with a word, you're usually hit, cut, or thrown.

Intuition on this level might be the capacity to respond to information without labeling it or justifying it logically. That doesn't mean it's "supernatural," just that the logical, labeling mind is only a fraction (however large) of our total perceptual/cognitive apparatus.

On a practical level, I suggest a technique called "Mind Reading" when dealing with other human beings. It involves several steps.

1) Start with assuming that everyone wants love, health, and success. True, the definitions for these things differ, but experience suggests that about 99% of people want all three, although at least 10% of people will lie their asses off about it. "I don't want a relationship", "I don't care about my weight" and "I don't care about money" are said one hell of a lot more often than they are actually felt.

2) "Every tree grows as tall as it can." If you see a burned, stunted tree in the forest, trunk splintered and twisted, one might assume a lightning strike. If you assume that in an optimal growth environment a child could grow to be loving (and self-loving), successful and healthy (human beings have astonishing athletic capacity, in some ways surpassing any animal on earth), when you see people who are less than magnificent (about 99% of us) in all three arenas, it is reasonable to assume that they did not have an optimal environment. Develop your own theories about what causes various problems, remain aware that you're probably wrong, adn let your deeper experience of people fill in the blanks. Adjust your guesses. You'll start figuring it out.

3) Look at the "gap" between where people are, and the stories they try to sell about WHY they are in poor health, lonely, or broke/unhappy in their careers. That gap will tell you a lot about their self-image. Most story-telling is about collapsing this gap, forcing people to confront the reality of their lives. Plots are just the manipulation of events to cause this collapse in a particular human being.

4) Wisdom, to a degree, is recognition of cycles, and metapattern recognition. The way to learn #1 and #2 and #3 is to apply them to yourself. Go deep. Be honest at a level that is painful. Take responsibility for where you are in your life, and what has gone wrong. It isn't that we really have 100% responsibility for what happens in our lives, but most people don't see the connections between their short-term actions, attitudes, and values and their long-term results. I'm not talking about guilt, blame, or shame. Responsibility means "the ability to respond." Without it, you are helpless, and childlike. If you would own your life, step up and claim your power. If you leave it on the table, trust me...someone else will grab it.

5) As you develop greater intuition about people, you'll start seeing their truth before they open their mouths. "What you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you say." I person who is honest about their own failings is hard to lie to. But...and this is critical ...KEEP IT TO YOURSELF. Everyone has the right to privacy. Everyone has wounds they conceal. To learn to intuitively understand people is one thing. But nothing will destroy a relationship faster than using this information against them, to make points or win arguments. Be kind, if you wish kindness in return.

But tell yourself the truth, and learn to see it in others.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

If all the world's a stage, where is the audience sitting?

Friday, May 20, 2011

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Body, Mind, Spirit, and Writing

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How do you want to look and feel in 20 years? Start working on it NOW. Don't look in the mirror one day and ask: "how did this happen?"

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Water in the Mouth

In my second novel in the "Streetlethal" series,

"Gorgon Child" I have a sequence where my

hero Aubry Knight undergoes a manhood

ritual that involves running across a desert

while holding a mouthful of water. I was

asked to comment on this, and that gives

me an opportunity to take a break from

talking about Musashi (don't worry, I'll

get back) but also to discuss a couple of

health and consciousness things, and also

to use this as an example of integrating

your specialized knowledge into your

writing work.

1) The "holding water" technique was

something I came across decades ago

as an Apache ritual, if memory serves.

The technique forces concentration,

and more importantly--breathing

through the nose.

2) When you force someone to breathe

through their nose during exercise, you

limit the amount of oxygen they intake.

This forces them to keep the exertion level

below the anaerobic threshold. You

can't gasp open-mouthed, gulping air.

You must pace yourself, and remain

below the level where the Kreb cycle

begins to break down and you cannot

re-convert fatigue toxins to produce

ATP. This means becoming smoother

and more efficient, rather than just

pushing yourself, multiplying

biomechanical errors.

3) Once you become aware of the flow

of breath, it opens the doorway to a

vast world of internal states. Because

breathing is the only process that is both

voluntary and autonomic, it is the

doorway to control of the CNS as well

as the sympathetic and parasympathetic

nervous systems, controlling the fight

or flight response. Fabulous for stress

control, health, concentration, energy,

even pain management.

4) By placing my lead character into a

situation where he had to evolve or

die, I had the chance to create a

"teaching" moment, where real

physiological science met Eastern

"mysticism" to create an entertaining

sequence with a touch of reality.

Anchoring a spiritual practice in

hard science is one of my favorite

things in the world.



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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

If you learn something important, it should change your actions. If it doesn't, either it wasn't important, or you didn't really learn it.

Friday, May 06, 2011

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Regret no honorable choice. There are always roads not taken, and most of them are bumpier than the one you're on.

"A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault." ~John Henry Newman

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Money cannot buy happiness. It can, however, remove some serious motivations for misery.

The Date

The Date

After 21 years of marriage, my wife wanted me to take another woman out to dinner and a movie. She said, “I love you, but I know this other woman loves you and would love to spend some time with you.”

The other woman that my wife wanted me to visit was my mother, who has been a widow for 19 years, but the demands of my work and my three children had made it possible to visit her only occasionally. That night I called to invite her to go out for dinner and a movie. “What’s wrong, are you well?” she asked.

My mother is the type of woman who suspects that a late night call or a surprise invitation is a sign of bad news. “I thought that it would be pleasant to spend some time with you,” I responded. “Just the two of us.” She thought about it for a moment, and then said, “I would like that very much.”

That Friday after work, as I drove over to pick her up I was a bit nervous. When I arrived at her house, I noticed that she, too, seemed to be nervous about our date. She waited in the door with her coat on. She had curled her hair and was wearing the dress that she had worn to celebrate her last wedding anniversary. She smiled from a face that was as radiant as an angel’s. “I told my friends that I was going to go out with my son, and they were impressed, “she said, as she got into the car. “They can’t wait to hear about our meeting.”

We went to a restaurant that, although not elegant, was very nice and cozy. My mother took my arm as if she were the First Lady. After we sat down, I had to read the menu. Her eyes could only read large print. Half way through the entries, I lifted my eyes and saw Mom sitting there staring at me. A nostalgic smile was on her lips. “It was I who used to have to read the menu when you were small,” she said. “Then it’s time that you relax and let me return the favor,” I responded. During the dinner, we had an agreeable conversation – nothing extraordinary but catching up on recent events of each other’s life. We talked so much that we missed the movie. As we arrived at her house later, she said, “I’ll go out with you again, but only if you let me invite you.” I agreed.

“How was your dinner date?” asked my wife when I got home. “Very nice. Much more so than I could have imagined,” I answered.

A few days later, my mother died of a massive heart attack. It happened so suddenly that I didn’t have a chance to do anything for her. Some time later, I received an envelope with a copy of a restaurant receipt from the same place mother and I had dined. An attached note said: “I paid this bill in advance. I wasn’t sure that I could be there; but nevertheless, I paid for two plates – one for you and the other for your wife. You will never know what that night meant for me. I love you, son.”

At that moment, I understood the importance of saying in time: “I LOVE YOU”.

~ Author Unknown

Monday, May 02, 2011

This just in from Fox News: "African Immigrant in Washington D.C. confesses to murder of elderly man."

I refuse to believe Bin Laden is dead until Obama releases his long-form death certificate.