The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Wounded Child

I 100% agree with what this article says: that behavioral dysfunctions are a form of PTSD, often related to childhood trauma.   This is one reason that the “Morning Ritual” concept incorporates both the “Ancient Child”, heartbeat meditation,   physical motion, and focus.   Why I believe so strongly in dealing with the fear that lies at the base of all negative emotion.  Sigh.
I can tell you the first time I realized how bad it was, and how I needed to trust instinct rather than the surface or presenting stories.   I was a GOH at a convention in Texas, and teaching a morning Tai Chi workshop.  There was a lady on the periphery of the workshop, trying to do the movements.   She was extremely obese, and more, her teeth were rotted out.   My first impression was that she was like one overweight person pushed into the middle of a second one, a very sweet small face and bright eyes in the middle of a puffy cocoon of fatty tissue.   Over 300 pounds.
I am always very connected to the people in those workshops.   All kinds of odd subliminal information pops into my head about them, their emotions, sex lives, all sorts of stuff.   It isn’t esp.   It is that our bodies reflect our histories.They store our emotions.
I worked with her a bit, and in adjusting her body, something horrible happened, horrible because I didn’t know how to handle it.  Suddenly, I saw the sweet face as a trapped child within the massive protective cocoon. The bright eyes calling out to me from within a prison of flesh: HELP.   A fear of being seen sexually, combined with a deep, desperate hope that someone could see her, and love her, and help her free itself.    
And I knew.    The teeth.  The body.  This woman had been terribly, horribly, serially abused as a child.  And her brain had done what a brain is supposed to do: do everything in its power to prevent her from ever being seen as a sexual being again, to obscure the secondary sexual characteristics.  Yes, I know it is illogical.   But that’s what I saw.

Too damned clearly.
After the work shop I went to my room and cried.  Just...sobbed.    Something had opened inside me, and I felt like I was watching personal histories, not just physical bodies, in that convention hotel.   Millions of individual behavioral choices arising from values and beliefs connected to emotional and physical pains and pleasures.   If I respected them, I had to believe that they were doing the best they could.  There was no laziness, no lack of wish to be healthy and strong and happy.
This was something very different.  Post-industrial society has unteathered calories or immediate survival from physical performance for the first time in our evolutionary history, and we are seeing something extraordinary.    In a few generations we will have figured it out, but right now...dear God.
I wanted to leave that convention, and if I hadn’t been GOH I would have.  So I put on my face and went back down.
And...she followed me.   Showed up at panels and signings.   Always on the periphery.  Smiling shyly at me.   And finally, on the last day, she asked me if we could talk.
We had coffee.  She said that she didn’t know why she was talking to me.  Just...that there was something about me.   She felt that I had seen HER, not just her body.  And was driven to speak to me.
And there, while I sipped my latte, she changed my life.   With only a tiny bit of reassurance and coaxing she described a history of abuse that precisely matched what I had seen.  Her stepfather.  Her stepuncles.    A mother who pretended it wasn’t happening.
Abusive relationships.  And a near-suicidal threshold that led to a solution: to become invisible in plain sight.  Years of being unseen.  And now a heart-wrenching urge to find a way out of the prison she had built for herself.  Was it too late?  She wanted to know.
And I remembered something that Leo and Diane Dillon, the great, great artists had once said to me when I asked if I had lost my way as an artist: “if you can even ask the question, it’s not too late.”
That was twenty-five years ago.  I had nothing specific to offer this lady except hope, and love, holding her hands as we both cried.
But I changed that day.  I knew that I saw things that were contrary to social narrative, and needed to trust my instincts more than the popular wisdom.   And I knew that I had to find a way to understand what we are as human beings that we can be smart, and good and decent and still hurt each other and ourselves so badly, and remain in denial about it.
That was, in many ways, the beginning of my awakening.    
I don’t remember her name.  I don’t know where she is or even if she is alive.   All I can say is that I hope I touched her as deeply as she touched me.
Whereever you are, my love, I see you.  That perfect little girl who deserved to be loved, and held, and cherished, is still within you.  And I pray you found a way to both keep her safe, and let her free.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

It's Never Too Late

In the last 24 hours, I’ve dealt with four different students or clients where the core issue is one of self-love.  Deservement.  The following things were triggers:
1) Childhood abuse, both sexual and psychological.   Being touched inappropriately, told they are worthless, used as “things” rather than people before the full development of ego walls.
2) Perceived betrayal of childhood ambitions.   Either giving them up, or doing things to achieve them that were in violation of core values.
3) Abusive adult relationships.   “Crazymakers” who bond to you powerfully economically, emotionally, or sexually.  And then...gaslight you.  If you don’t know the term, see the movie.  Basically these are people who are either emotionally imbalanced or have some drive to unbalance you, keep you from leveraging your intelligence and emotions, with an end to domination.  To do this, they either criticize or terrorize you, until you have twisted yourself into a knot to please them, and no longer know where “north” is on your personal compass.  At that point, you are infantalized, willing to do whatever it takes to keep them happy so that you can escape the pain.  Brutal.
4) Physical injury or dysfunction.    A serious injury or disease, or your body “not working as it is supposed to”--inability to perform in some expected fashion.  Inability to sustain a pregnancy, sensory or motor issues, chronic pain, sexual non-performance, etc.
5) Making terrible relationship choices.    Our relationships are mirrors--they were the best we believed we could do, at that time.   When our partners turn out to be crazies, monsters, abusers, habitual liars, druggies or alcoholics, rage-beasts and gaslighters we fear our own judgement.  How could we have..?  What does it mean about us..?  Will we ever find happiness..?   Are we too broken for anyone to really love us..?
There are more, of course.  But this will get you started.
For two years now, I’ve worked on a “Morning Ritual” with Jason.   A year ago I decided the results were so impressive that I decided to create one for myself.  It was a matter of creating a complete daily practice that touches on every aspect of raising, directing, clarifying and refining our emotional, mental, and physical selves.  And it had to be healing and generative--had to deal with issues you don’t even know that you have.  But in addition, it had to be capable of focusing in on a specific problem once you have detected it.
The above problems can be addressed with the “Ancient Child” technique, your “set up” behavior done the moment you wake up in the morning.    It is a way of “wiring around” whatever damage has happened to you in life.  The theory is simple: there is a part of you that is still untouched by the pain of existence, whatever it has been.  Make contact with it, and you are connecting to the best and healthiest part, and can receive its “aliveness”.   But also, by making contact with the symbol of this “inner child” you can affect a healing process just by imagining holding, hugging, playing, and soothing, as you would with a “real” child.   Simply saying “I love you.  You are beautiful, and wonderful, and as perfect as any star in the heavens” again and again, will have a cumulative positive effect in the same way that saying the opposite (or hearing it said to you, especially in an emotionalized context) has a negative effect.  The feedback loop goes both ways.
If you see a parent screaming curses at a child, you KNOW this is damaging.  Why, then, do we resist the notion that positive words and deliberate positive thoughts and images can have a POSITIVE effect?  Why?
This morning, I started by connecting with my heartbeat, and then gathered the light within me to create my usual 8-year old boy.  We sat on the edge of a pier, fishing together (oddly, one of the few memories I have of good times with my Dad was fishing.  Hmmm) and while we did, I asked his opinion of my current activities and progress.
He was happy.  Felt I needed to put more time into the book I’m finishing, and that I needed to be sure to tell Jason how proud of him I am.   “I’m happy to be home”, he said, and leaned his head on my shoulder.   We watched the sunrise together.    “Another day, daddy.   I love you.”
The sun melded into my heartbeat.  The light contracted and then diffused.  I was ready for my day.
Decades ago I ruptured my relationship with that little kid inside me.  It took me a year of constant, daily work to rebuild the connection, and it was the best invested effort of my life.    If I’d had the technology I have today, I suspect it would have taken about a month.
Whatever happened to you in your past, whoever hurt you, however you may have sold out your dreams, I invite you to spend thirty days, just one month, to see if this approach works for you.
1) Wake up.  Sit up.   Listen to/feel your heartbeat.  Find the light inside you and dwell within it for a few minutes.  
2) Form the light into the largest human form composed of solid lumination.   Be very quiet, and see if it has words for you.
3) At the crown of your head, imagine the “older” you on your deathbed.   Listen quietly to see if he or she has something to say.
4) Draw a line of light from the “Child” to your heart.  Then, down from your “elder” to your heart.  Sit quietly and listen if they have a conversation.  When they are done you may ask questions.  Thank them
5) Take five deep breaths and get up.  All of this can take less than three minutes!
6) Perform your Daily Ritual.  While moving dynamically (walking, sun salutations, tai chi, Flow Fit, calisthenics, running, etc) speak four incantations, each for 2-5 minutes:
a) “Every Day in Every Way I’m getting better and better”
b) “I’m so grateful for--” (past and present blessings)
c) “I’m so grateful for--” (future goals)
d) “All I need is within me now.”

Be  sure that you are covering all elements of the “Secret Formula”:  Goals X Faith X Action X Gratitude = Results.
You have done two steps of your “Five minute miracle” practice.   Three more times during the day become aware of your breathing for sixty seconds. Quickly visualize/emotionalize your goals and actions.  Just “check in”.
Total daily practice: about 10-30 minutes.  If you believe you don’t have the time, start with just the “Five Minute Miracle” of five sixty second “breathing breaks”.  Chance are very very good that you won’t be able to discipline yourself to do this without heroic effort.  You have found your ego resistance.
You can’t control what happened to you in your past, but as they’s never too late to have a happy childhood.


Monday, July 07, 2014

Stress and the 30-day

In life, they pay you for how much stress you can take without cracking.  One of the participants in the Challenge mentioned that stress is increasing in his life as he hits his 14th Day.  Some thoughts:

1) 100% predictable that you will hit stress points.  Moving from one level to the next in your life requires energy, and piercing any veil of illusion frees it...and some of that energy will spin you.  The better balanced you are, the easier it is to “roll with it” and in fact you can actually measure your balance or lack thereof by the amount of dizziness or stress you feel.

2) It isn’t stress that hurts you, its “strain”.   Stress is just the amount of pressure you’re under, while “strain” is the degree to which that stress warps you out of true.

3) Psychological stress causes physical effects.  The good news is that physical motion controls psychological stress as well.  The Triad of “Breath, Movement, and Structure” is one way to look at this: if you breathe as if powerful, move as if relaxed and hold your posture as if confident, you will begin to feel that way.   There’s more: your facial expression, your self-talk and the things you say aloud, the things you focus on, ALL influence stress level. How you use your body, what you focus on.  

4) Your “Morning Ritual” branches into the “Ancient Child” (connection with core aliveness and deep values, self-healing) and the “Five Minute Miracle” (five sixty-second `breathing breaks’ during the day).  That means that, ideally, you begin your day by getting in touch with your instincts and values, then take that energy into your day.  You move your body, connect with your belief that today can be better than tomorrow (Heck, sing “Tomorrow” from “Annie” if that works for you!), fill yourself with gratitude, seek that same feeling in connection to your daily and future goals, then reinforce your confidence that you can and should do these things, and have all the ability you need.  Then at least three more times during the day (the ‘Ancient Child’ can be 5MM #1, the “Morning Ritual” #2) you check your breathing.   IF YOU BREATHE AS IF YOU ARE CONFIDENT, YOU BEGIN TO FEEL THAT WAY.

5) Infusing all of this is the Secret Formula: Goals (did you connect with your childhood dreams and deathbed values?) X Faith (do you see that you’ve already accomplished wonderful things?  And have the internal resources to accomplish more?) X Action (do you see what you need to do TODAY to take another step toward your goals?) X Gratitude (are you happy for another day to seek, to strive, to live, to love?).

Can you see how all these things are wrapped together?

6) Have you chosen physical motion that is nurturing, invigorating, and will take you to your destination?  Yoga, Tai Chi, a good calisthenic program, Sun Salutations, Five Tibetans, Joint recovery, FlowFit...the possibilities are almost endless.  TWENTY MINUTES OUT OF EVERY DAY BELONGS TO YOU. If you think not, check to be sure you are taking your Five Minute Miracle.  If you aren’t, and think it is because you lack time, YOU ARE LYING TO YOURSELF.

7) Separate what you “need” from what you “want.”  OMG, is this important.  Our “wants” are endless.  Our “needs” are relatively simple and sane.  The inability to do this relates to an imbalance of the Child and Adult personalities, and can be addressed with the “Ancient Child”.

Which takes us back to the beginning.   Are you grasping the shape of this?  The way the different pieces fit together?  The redundancy built in?  The infinite uses and applications?  I hope so...this is your life, and you deserve to create one filled with passion and joy, contribution and growth.

Life is not a dress rehearsal.  And you’ll be taking a bow all too soon.


Saturday, July 05, 2014

Pay Yourself First

Taking another look at what we’re doing with the “Morning Ritual.”   A question: why the physical motion?  Isn’t it enough to sit quietly, meditate and visualize the results you want?   A few thoughts:

1) The “Secret Formula” idea (Goals X Faith X Action X Gratitude = Results) arose from studying one of the core source materials for “The Secret.”   I had friends who loved “The Secret” but I found that while it seemed to work for some of them, for most people it didn’t.  And what was missing was dynamism.   Action.  If you aren’t sufficiently emotionalized to get your own butt off the couch, what in the WORLD makes you think “the universe” is going to respond to you?  That seemed to violate basic laws and principles that control everything I’ve ever experienced.  On the other hand, people who are already dynamic, already taking MASSIVE action, can seem to just “want” something, and it is like someone driving a Mercedes down the freeway--a slight “twitch” of their finger and the magnificent vehicle responds, and you change lanes and destinations.  To an observer, you did almost nothing, because they didn’t notice the twitch of the finger.  DO SOMETHING. And for most people, the addition of 10-20 minutes of physical motion is a huge change over their usual patterns.   You are literally moving in the direction of your goal, even if only a finger twitch.  And once  initial inertia is overcome, things get easier.

2) There are a few things that affect obesity most: habit patterns, knowledge of efficient/effective movement/intake patterns, and emotional baggage/protection mechanisms.     There’s been no massive genetic shift in America in the last century. But the post-industrial world has severed the connection between input and output that has governed human behavior for 250k years.  This is  a MAJOR shift, and will take another generation or two to sort out.  It isn’t at all surprising that we’re having problems.  The Hawaiian Huna idea that our bodies are “black bags” where we store our unprocessed emotion applies here, as does the Sufic idea of “Nafs”, our emotional/spiritual issues putting “chinks” in our wiring.   Unkink the wiring and you release energy.  Balance the energy you’ve released, and it changes character and becomes potentially tranformative.    And that of course challenges the ego, which explains why it is so damned difficult to raise and channel such energies, and why anything that genuinely leads to this will be HELLA hard to first.   I could speak on this, and its implications, for a month, but the proof is in the pudding: do this practice for 30 days running.   If (or more likely WHEN!) you fall off the wagon, note the weapon your ego used to stop you.  Give it a label. Start again.  The next time, your ego will use a different technique (guilt, blame, and shame are GREAT for this!)  Usually, it will use a different technique each time.

3) Physical motion changes mood.  You can’t feel depressed while expressing a dynamic physiology.   Want to change your emotions? Change what you focus on, or change the way you use your body.  If you can consciously force yourself to move, you are stepping out of your “normal” state.  You’ve already started shifting the mind/body connection for the better.

4) Raising energy allows you the chance to ANCHOR that energy to the desired state.    Physical energy becomes emotional energy (fake it til you make it!)  ACT AS IF you feel positive as you chant “Every Day In Every Way I’m Getting Better And Better.”  FIND something you feel genuinely grateful for in your past and present.  I promise you that no matter what your circumstances there is something in your life that OTHER people have prayed for, have thanked God for, dreamed of, and cried with gratitude for...or cried with sorrow and grief when they lost.   Find that thing.    Move your body while you imagine it.  

5) Bringing body, mind, and emotions into alignment is like training your stagecoach horses to pull in the same direction.  Most of us have our physical hungers going in one direction, our emotional needs in another, our intellects in a third.  As they fight, you get friction, value conflicts, cross-wiring “burn outs” (nafs!  Engrams!), and fantastic amounts of wasted energy.  In fact, depression can result from major value conflicts: security versus freedom.    Self-expression versus financial abundance.   If the house is burning, and you can SEE the way out, and BELIEVE you CAN and SHOULD, you will move.  Period.  If you do not see a route out, many of us will simply crouch in the corner and hope for rescue.

But no matter what, you CAN take 10-20 minutes out of your daily life, move, visualize, and chant.  And that creates a moment, just a moment, when YOU are in control.  When your body, mind, and emotions are ALL working together just a little better.  Just a hair.  A single glowing moment when you become more aware of your process than you may ever have experienced previously.  For ten-twenty minutes you feel what it feels like to commit to balance, to coherence (as in “a laser is coherent light”).   You may not have the energy you had twenty years ago.  But most of us are like light bulps, throwing energy in all directions.   Some few of us are like magnifying glasses, able to focus the sunlight to burn a hole in paper.

But if you ALIGN your aspects instead of just “focus” your energy, that same energy can punch a hole in diamond.  I would guess that 99% of people want all of the following. And those who don’t will understand why I assume that they do, and grasp that I’m using a blunt instrument because I don’t have the individual experience of each reader’s life.

Body: have enough energy to work hard all week, and party on the weekend.  A body that would be attractive to YOU, in alignment with your values.  And no matter where you are in life, this is possible if you change either your habit patterns, knowledge base, emotional health, or value hierarchy.

Mind:  to find a career that is in alignment with your values and dreams, or supports them.  To do what you love, or love what you do.  The capacity to embrace every aspect of your existence is ultimately up to you (and by the way, anyone who says you should embrace your suffering as a way of avoiding responsibility to help others, or avoiding their responsibility to be humane and compassionate  is twisting this principle. There is no such thing as a simple statement that can’t be twisted by someone looking for a way to justify their fear and greed and ego).  To create goods and services of sufficient value to your community that they are willing to exchange their energy (in monetary form) for yours.  To have the self-respect and courage to demand to be paid what you are worth.  

Emotions: to love yourself such that you don’t need the attentions or approval of others...however much fun it can be to get them.  To banish fear enough to expand your ego-identity to include a Soul Mate...a family...your community...perhaps ultimately all of life and all of creation.  Expanding out from that center.  Get this wrong and co-dependence becomes a real threat.

Finances: Protect the money you have earned.  The “child” aspect of you can MAKE the money, but it takes a ruthless “adult” self to protect it.    The simplest, easiest “truth” connected with this that I’ve seen (and my own Achille’s Heel, one I’m now working on) is: Pay Yourself First.  Ten% of what you earn should go into a stable investment that you are saving for retirement, or to pass to the next generation.    Just learning to live on 90% of what you earn is PRECISELY the same as allowing yourself to be a little hungry when you get up from the table, or “paying yourself first” by meditating every morning rather than jumping into other people’s needs.

The “Morning Ritual” is “paying yourself first.” Body, Mind, Spirit, Finances: moving, visualizing, chanting, feeling.  My theory: you CANNOT do this for 30 days straight without experiencing at least one day when you experience a different quality of life.  And once you experience it, you have to use real energy to pretend it’s not true.  It will “crack” your ego shell in a way that opens the door to a more authentic self.

I would estimate that most people will experience it between 10-15 days in.   I look forward to hearing about your experiences. yourself first today, and for the next 30 days.  

Then...if I’m wrong, for God’s sake tell me!


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

30-Day Challenge

So...what are people experiencing with the 30-Day Challenge?    Some of you would be around 10 days in.  Others just starting.

Most essential parts:

1) Daily exercise: walking, running, calisthenics, Tai Chi, joint mobility, etc. for 10-20 minutes.

2) First 25% of time chant: “Every Day In Every Way I’m Getting Better and Better.”

3) Second 25% of time chant: “I am SO grateful for X” (past accomplishments or present states)

4) Third 25% of time chant:  “I am SO grateful for Y” (future goals)

5) Fourth and final 25% chant: “All I need is within me now.”

Once you have this integrated, you can integrate the “Secret Formula”:  Goals X Faith X Action X Gratitude = Results.

And Once you have this, you can integrate the “Ancient Child” meditation: visualize your child self.  And then your “elder” self.   Align your adult actions to be in synche with your childhood dreams and deathbed values.

The overall effect will be as simple or complex as you can handle.   At full complexity you’ll feel a little like a Paramecium, with various “organelles” floating around you if you choose to focus on them, representing various aspects of your emotions, intents, actions, resources, and so forth.  But...only if you stop and concentrate.  Most of the time, you simply move toward what feels “good” and “right” and will find, at the end of the day, you have accomplished everything you needed to do...and had fun in the process.

EXPECT to “crash” out of this a few days in. That is normal and natural, despite what the voices in your head try to tell you.  

So...what has your experience been, so far?

Steven Barnes