|Play my welcome message|
|FREE TIPS ON "DIAMOND HOUR" MASTERY, PLUS A FREE COPY OF THE WORLD'S BESTSELLING SELF-HELP BOOK!
"Steven Barnes (is) uniquely powerful
(in helping others balance) their physical
and emotional arenas along a spiritual pathway
to abiding self love and unifying purpose."
--Gerald M. Levin,
Former CEO, Time/Warner
“Thank you, brother. I took the psychological grace
you helped me foster into the cauldron….and came out with the gold. You’re the best!”
--Scott Sonnon, four-time Gold Medal Winner, 2010 World Martial Arts Game
"(I thought) this program would
be helpful. I was wrong. It wasn't helpful. It
changed my life. It SAVED my life."
--LaVeda Mason, writer
I'm Off To Be The Wizard!
Tomorrow, we take off for Albany to create our first short film. The goal is to use DANGER WORD to leverage ourselves into a full feature (on the theory that you can move up one order of magnitude per project, max) that first feature being a feature-length version of this story, and/or a feature-length version of T’s book “My Soul To Keep.” We hold the rights. We have the experience, and the circle of allies. We have powerful motivations that go WAY beyond our personal careers—so it has been gratifyingly possible to enroll others in this dream.
Regardless of what happens next, I’d like to thank everyone who has supported us, in every way that they have. I don’t really think there are “pivotal moments” in life so much as “clusters” of pivotal moments, actions, and decisions that create change. But what winners do it assume they have some agency in their fates, sufficient to make it worth while to push the edges, to get up early and stay up late. To totally invest themselves emotionally and move beyond their comfort zones. Using the model of the Hero’s Journey, I wanted to once again diagram the process of moving from one level to another
in life, whether that be a model of integration, success, or satisfaction.
1) Confronted with challenge. You have to recognize a problem or opportunity.
2) Reject the challenge. If the challenge is large enough to change your life, YOU WILL FEEL FEAR. It is how we’re wired up. People without enthusiasm are people who have had the hope crushed out of them. They have been slapped down so many times that it is safer to be blase. Or they have experienced the pain of accomplishment, and found that success equaled pain: the pain of losing friends, of attracting predators, of losing a sense of self.
3) Accept the challenge. You must see a way through the minefield. Deal with the emotions. DECIDE. Or nothing happens.
4) Road of Trials. You have to realistically assess where you are currently, and develop a crystal-clear vision of where you intend to go. Subtract where you are from where you need to be, and divide the gap into bite-size pieces you can address at the rate of about 1% per week for a 2-year goal. To do this, you may have to steal a beat from step #5…
5) Allies and Powers.
a) Find a peer group who will support your vision, if you don't they will drag you down. Friends with less ambition or ability are fine, AS LONG AS THEY SUPPORT YOU, AND DON'T SABOTAGE YOUR EFFORTS. We've all experienced this: people who bring over cake when you try to diet. "Pity parties" about how all men are X or all women are Y or this or that group will stop you, or your history confines you, or...or...
and what they're really doing is talking to themselves. Because if YOU succeed, it means they have to look at their own excuses, and feel the pain of not changing their own lives.
b) role models who have already accomplished your goal. Find three. Learn what they did in common to accomplish their dreams. See what they do that you don’t do, AND START DOING IT. Take action. Study their belief systems, mental syntax, and use of physiology. What they do, what they feel, what they think. And start programming yourself with these things. Seek out the technologies of implanting beliefs, raising energy, clarifying goals, gathering a mastermind…focus, flow, enthusiasm, sales…whatever. And especially learn to deal with fear and failure, because you WILL…
6) Confront Evil—and fail. This could be an internal or external opponent. “The voices in your head.” The fact that you are not internally aligned to succeed. Don’t have permission to “break through.” And in any arena where you have “beat your head against the wall” I can pretty much promise you that you’re dealing with mixed internal messages. Negative beliefs about money, or sales. Negative beliefs about relationships (or unrealistic expectations. Just recently I met a wealthy, famous gentleman who has never been married. His beliefs about relationships: a woman would have to be his perfect partner, share all his values, be able to read his mind and feel what he feels and think what he thinks about any entertainment or activity. With a standard like that, he will go through life alone!), conflicting values about body image (boy is there a lot of that right now. A major movement to accept your body “where it is.” That’s fine…as long as you can be satisfied and simultaneously maintain massive motivation to change. Difficult balancing act.)
7) The Dark Night of the Soul. You WILL crash and burn on any project that could change your life. There WILL be a point where it seems all is lost. That’s just the way it is. But if you know AHEAD of time, before you ever begin, that you will fall on your face at some point, why do we forget the lesson? Why don’t we remember that, and lay the plans in advance? Get your allies together (or be your own ally. One of my favorite tricks is to wait until a student is “up” and have them write a letter to their future self, to be opened only when you are “down.” Works like a charm.
8) Leap of Faith. This is ALWAYS faith in one of three things: yourself, your companions, or a Higher Power. Optimally, all three. This is what gets you through when you’ve come to the end of yourself.
9) Confront Evil—and succeed. IF you have taken the previous steps: clarified your goal, studied the behaviors of those who have succeeded, learned as much as they can teach, taken massive and constant action, maintained a positive attitude and kept the faith, THEN you have optimized your chances of success. If you have chosen your goal properly, then external success will be secondary to the person you are becoming along the way. You become internally focussed, and at some point, you are simply “becoming” who you are committed to being. Do this by finding the way that you goal is answering the twin questions: “who am I?” and “what is true?” You have reached this point when you are simply doing what you do…and the external results are happening “like magic.” Even for these evolved beings, it is sometimes necessary to drop back and punt. To go back to basics, and re-build a faulty bridge to your future.
10) The Student Becomes the Teacher. When you have learned a way to do something, share it with others. Help others. The best way to know that you know something is being able to transmit it to others. Note that this is not the “those who cannot do, teach” attitude. It is “those who can do, and teach others to do, are in harmony with the universe.” They are the ones responsible for every good thing we have as human beings. As individuals, we’re not that much smarter than chimps. It is in passing information from one generation to the next that we SHINE. We are the only animals with more information in our brains than in our genes. This sacred progression is a deep current of what we are as a species. When you swim WITH the current, you’ve found another level of integration. You have also taken a step toward Awakened Adulthood.
There you have it, again. I’ve said these things before, and will again. But tomorrow I take another step toward my future. What will happen? I don’t know. I simultaneously care passionately and don’t care. Because the ride itself is so much fun. Because I’m becoming a better version of who I am. Because whatever I learn, I will turn around and teach others.
That’s called being the Hero in the adventure of my lifetime.
Completing the "Writing Machine" parts 8-10
Once upon a time, I created a work-flow model based on conversations with, and study of, hundreds of writers. A “critical path” of what seemed to be the most important characteristics. Most excellent writers have these skills in some form or other, often at the level of “unconscious competence” but it is possible to extract and refine them separately.
In communicating them to students, I gave this process the name “The Machine” or sometimes “The Garden”, depending on the preference of the student. Over the last weeks I’ve parceled them out, but as I’m taking off for Keycon SF convention today, and will be in crash mode for our movie next week, I wanted to encapsulate the first seven steps, and then complete the entire structure.
There are undoubtedly equally good, or better, ways to look at this, and I invite established writers to make their own suggestions, and all writers to modify to their own needs.
1) Create an output goal (a story a week, or a story every other week. Or a
2) Read 10 X what you write. Read one level “up” from your writing
3) Write stories that reflect the values, beliefs, and concerns of your own life, in indirect form.
4) Keep your stories circulating in the mail until they sell
5) Don’t try a novel until you’ve sold ten short stories.
6) Model the healthy attitudes, actions and beliefs of the writers you admire.
7) Once you’ve finished your first draft, ask “what is the meaning of my story” and
re-write from the beginning to sharpen this. There are two things to write about: what are human beings, and what is the world they see? “Who am I” and “what is true?”
8) Follow structure (plotting and consciously planning) until you have mastered it (selling at least 10 short stories), then try freestyle. If you have problems, revert to
structure until it is internalized.
My own structure concentrates on two things: plot and character. I see them as being two halves of the same coin. “Plot” is what a given character does in a given situation. “Character” is best revealed 1) by action and 2) by the character’s internal monologues and self-image, as well as the “stories” they try to sell about who they are. The GAP between observed behavior (concentrate on their career, their physical fitness and their relationship history) and this “story” reveals an entirely new and fascinating level to their personality. To deepen your understanding of this, one painful thing is necessary: applying the exact same standard RUTHLESSLY to yourself. By the way—you won’t be able to do this if you do not love yourself deeply. In a way, it is like performing exploratory surgery on your own child. Yuck. But critical if you wish to move forward in life.
9) Separate the “Flow” state from the “editing” state. Learn to enter “flow” state at will. This means constantly refining “left” and “right” brain modes of operation (not neurophysiologically elegant models, but hopefully the distinctions communicate.) I would suggest meditation and the study of the most logical and intelligent human beings you can groove with. Daily. Logic and Intuition, shaking hands across the Corpus Callosum.
10) Develop a circle of writers and readers to evaluate your work. Choose
the smartest, toughest critics you can find, and learn to take the discomfort. There are, of course, examples of writers who work in solitude, but even these have an “internal community” of role models and great artists in their minds, coaxing them toward greater skill, production, and honesty. The most fortunate people have both.
Remember: your “editing/reading” brain has far more experience AND ALWAYS WILL than your “flow/writing” brain. It will ALWAYS be better at criticizing what you’ve created than creating new text. The only exceptions are those unfortunate individuals who really haven’t read very much, but believe they have a calling to write. Every writing class or workshop instructor encounters these unfortunates with stories to tell but no skill with which to relate them…sometimes with few foundational skills such as spelling and grammar! But most of us have read hundreds of books for every book we write.
Don’t you get the joke? You must read to improve, but that means your “editor” will always be vastly more experienced than your “creator”, leading to insecurity, lack of confidence, and even disgust at the huge “gap” between your first drafts and the finished work of the masters.
“The Machine” is designed to strengthen, polish and bring to conscious awareness every basic link in the chain that leads from initial idea to published work: generating ideas, selecting ideas, researching, rough draft, polished draft, rewrite and integrating feedback, submission and repetition of the process throughout a career of ups and downs.
ANYTHING that disrupts this process is “writer’s block.” Not reading/researching, not writing, not finishing, not polishing, not submitting, not beginning your next project and continuing the cycle.
Not enjoying the process, even if it is the savage satisfaction of facing the Gorgon of our own doubt day after day. Caring enough about criticism to learn anything useful, to feel the pain without it decisively impacting our capacity for joy in process.
No one can promise you a financially successful career. But you CAN guarantee yourself a lifelong immersion in the fantastic world of creation. You CAN get better and better from year to year, and have more pleasure and satisfaction than most people believe is possible or reasonable.
You CAN fulfill a childhood dream of self-expression and communication. All these things are available to you, if you embrace the Machine…or cultivate your Garden.
Writer’s choice. As always, the choice of metaphor is up to you.
Write with Passion!
NOTE: If you have enjoyed these notes, please support our movie, DANGER WORD, at www.dangerwordfilm.com. All donations, however small, are appreciated. And for the next week, a portion of any purchases of products at www.diamondhour.com will go directly toward the creation of our first short film. Thank you!
The perfect "Diamond Hour"--Steps 8-10
Because of Saturday’s Diamond Hour show, I was forced to sit down and work out the rest of the “Perfect Diamond Hour” sequence, and I want to put this out as fast as possible, so BOOM, here it goes today!
We cannot control external events. What we CAN control is what they mean to us. And if you have been hurt in the past by aiming at a goal and failing, it is natural that you will associate pain with focus, hope and dreams. This is just your nervous system trying to protect you, and one of the “dragons at the gate” of your performance. Totally natural, and totally healthy.
That dragon is not your enemy. It is actually a big friendly puppy which, once tamed, becomes not a monster or enemy, but one of your greatest ally. The way we’re organizing the “perfect Diamond Hour” is designed to help you tame your fear, doubt, and pain. Let’s take a look at the process so far (and btw—you are watching me formalize this in real time. There will be modifications now and later, but the basic framework is solid):
1) 5MM. Take a break every three hours and breathe (later, you will briefly visualize, doing a mini version of this process.
2) Re-write goals.
3) Heartbeat meditation. Self-love, centering, relaxation, focus…this and more, in a streamlined package.
4) Ancient Child. Visualizing your innocent, enthusiastic, loving self. Most of us can do more for our children than we can for ourselves. This allows you to harness this tendency. If you didn’t get the love you needed from your parents…give it to yourself.
5) Morning ritual. Begin to create a morning ritual of thought, motion, and emotion. This begins the alignment of body mind and spirit, which is the highest level of efficiency you are capable of. Sun salutations, Five Tibetans, joint rotations…start MOVING!
6) Raise energy. Move with more power, jack your emotions higher. Associate these powerful positive emotions with your goals and daily actions. If you have to do it—find a way to ENJOY doing it. As Merry Poppins said: “in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun and POOF! The job’s a game!” Smart lady.
7)Gratitude for past and current blessings. Find gratitude for what you have already accomplished in your life. If you think you haven’t accomplished anything, you are either lying to yourself, or you have standards that are so unreasonably high they cause you pain. Start with the things for which you would praise your own child: learning to walk, and talk, and read. Having a strong healthy body, heart, and/or mind. Friendships. Family. FIND THINGS TO BE GRATEFUL FOR. If you can read these words, you should be grateful. If you lost your sight or reason, you would mourn them. If your child lost those things, you would be shattered. BE GRATEFUL for another day of life!
8) Gratitude for future blessings (goals). This is critical. Take the SAME
emotional energy you have raised about the things you have now…and begin to give thanks for the
goals you have in the future, as if you have already accomplished them. Say it out loud. If you
can’t say it, you can’t have it! “I’m SO grateful for the new love in my life! I’m SO grateful I
take the time to meditate every day! I’m SO grateful for my five new customers! I’m SO
grateful I look great in my size X pants! I’m SO grateful my children graduated college!”
Use total physiology, emphasis, enthusiasm, body language. The message of “The Science of
Getting Rich” is that gratitude for what we have now is the foundation for our future accomplishment.
9) Incantation (About three minutes) chanting, aloud, with enthusiasm, the belief that you already possess the resources and power necessary to create your dreams.
Success expert Tony Robbins suggests a statement like “All I need is within me now. All the STRENGTH I need is within me now. All the CONFIDENCE I need is within me now. All the LOVE I need is within me now…”
Again, WHILE MOVING, WALKING EXERCISING. Generate the emotions. FEEL it. If you don’t believe it, move your body as if you do. ACT the part. Put on the facial expression of confidence, throw your shoulders back. Smile. Move with authority, power, unstoppable energy. SEE your goals “As if now.”
And we’re back to the 30-day challenge. Do this, every day for 30 days. I promise that at times you will feel silly. You will have huge resistance on some days. JOURNAL THE EMOTIONS that come up. But I also promise that you will increase your output, and begin to see truly strange “coincidence” and instances of “synchronicity” occurring in your life.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” Goethe, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
10) TAKE AN ACTION. You’ve clarified goals, raised energy, visualized your internal world and
the external steps you will take today and this week to create your future. NOW…take an action!
Exercise, write 1000 words of your novel, write an email you’ve put off. DO SOMETHING.
ACT ON A DECISION. Never leave the site of a decision without taking an action, however small, moving you in that direction. Mind: form a goal. Emotions: generate the positive feelings you WANT to have…and experience them NOW. Body: take an action. DO something. Make a phone call. Check your goal list. Read an article. Perform a sun salutation. Push away from the place.
TAKE AN ACTION. Nearing the end of his life, actor Michael Landon said that it is a tragedy that we don’t understand from birth that we are going to die. That that knowledge would lend both urgency and sweetness to our existence. “Whatever you want to do, do it now.” He said. “There are only so many tomorrows.”
If you will follow this advice for 30 days, you’ll understand something I’ve been trying to say all along. You will have taken responsibility for your existence, and will be acting with greatly enhanced clarity. These actions in the material world are the path to being what I refer to as an “awakened adult.” It is the doorway to an extraordinary life. I wish nothing less for each and every one of you.
The Perfect Diamond Hour Part 7: Gratitude
Gratitude—past and present. (About three minutes) Imagine all of the things in your life for
which you ALREADY feel gratitude: life, love, health, family, a roof over your head, etc. As you do,
chant out loud something like “I’m SO grateful for my loving children! I’m SO grateful for
a strong, healthy body! I’m SO grateful for a healthy mind and happy heart!” and so on.
The core message of “As A Man Thinketh” and countless other self-help books is that our minds
and emotions create our worlds.
My very favorite goal-setting technique, the “Time Line” process created by Tad James, suggests that you need to visualize (or “mentalize”) your goal, its position on your time line (visualized as a string of actions and incidents stretching off into your future), the intermediate actions necessary to support that goal. Then you have to check the degree to which your internal ecology supports your goal: your beliefs, value hierarchy, and positive and negative emotional anchors or associations.
But the “carrier tone” of the entire thing is emotion. Enthusiasm. In the terms of Aikido master Koichi Tohei, does your “Ki” extend out into the world, or does the world’s negative energy “back up” into you? Imagine it like a stream running into a poisoned pond. So long as the water flows outwards, the poisoned water doesn’t enter the stream.
That is the power of enthusiasm. And it is impossible to feel enthusiastic and positive if all you see in your life right now is the negative. OUR EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCES DO NOT CONTROL OUR EMOTIONS. What we focus upon, our beliefs and perceptual filters control our emotions…big time. For 27 years, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, convicted of sabotage against the system of apartheid.
But instead of becoming embittered, he used that time to benefit his people, clarify his values, and deepen his spiritual nature. He focused on what could be done.
Remember the success equation? GOALS X FAITH X ACTION X GRATITUDE = SUCCESS. Because this equation is multiplicative rather than additive, a zero in any category will KILL your dreams. So no matter how hard it may be, it is critical that every day you find something to be grateful for, right here, rght now.
“No, dammit!” I can hear some of you howl. “I don’t have anything to be grateful for! I refuse to feel positive about my life!” Like Captain Kirk in The Final Fronteir: “I don't want my pain taken away! I need my pain!”
Says a fictional character. Mistaking this for anything other than childish ego would be a huge mistake. If you learn the lesson, you don’t need the pain. Only if you insist on remaining ignorant do you need to hold onto the negative emotions. Dig deep. Learn the lesson. Then let the negative emotions go, trusting that you won’t make the same mistakes again.
You can afford to be grateful. Afford to embrace the small miracles of life, and find joy in any circumstance, no matter how difficult. In fact, the hard fact is that the only way to maximize your chances of moving to a BETTER circumstance is by finding joy right where you are. If this seems a contradiction, you have my sympathy. I can only say that you need to wrestle with this one until you “get it.”
Be grateful right now. And then…create an even better future.
The Writing "Machine" part 7: Re-write, reinforcing values and themes
Once you’ve finished your first draft, ask “what is the meaning of my story” and re-write from the beginning to sharpen this. There are two things to write about: what are human beings, and what is the world they see? “Who am I” and “what is true?” These ideas link together powerfully. Everything you have a character say and do is your comment on what human beings are. Every plot twist is a statement about the ethical structure of the universe: how the world responds to us, whether it is benign, indifferent, or malevolent.
Here’s a note: classical science fiction tends to be much more “what is true” than “who am I?” It deals more with the physical structure of the universe, what is true, how it fits together. Most literary fiction deals more with the first question: “who am I” and the question of deep psychological and philosophical structure. In reality, all fiction has examples that move between these, but another thing to remember is that they are inseparable, really.
Go deeply enough into either question, and you emerge at the other position. So my suggestion is that you need to have a philosophy of humanity. What are we? Why are we? What motivates us, what is love and what is fear?
Go deep. Ultimately, the question is connected to your sense of self.
And then…what is the world? How do you understand the flow of history? The actions of human beings? Not “predict,” but in retrospect understand, and perhaps learn enough to make more positive choices in the future.
Meaning, values, beliefs…all of these things affect our world view. And working through it in your own life will teach you vast amounts about the world.
Then…develop a sense of the flow of history, human and cosmic. How did we become what we are as a species? It took me years of research to devise and refine the theories of social and human evolution in my novels LION’S BLOOD and GREAT SKY WOMAN. The concepts about race, gender, consciousness and social structure are at the core drive the books and define the characters, their worlds, their choices, thoughts and more. All in the service of an emotional charge.
So…what is your story about? Can you define it clearly?
And if you can, what is the opposite of that value? That position? Is there a character or situation that expresses that opposite? Can you set the two values in story opposition to each other? Sharpen them? Force them to clash?
Now, I DON’T suggest that you do this in your first draft. In the first draft, just write and have fun. But during re-write, it is quite valuable to (as I believe Paddy Cheyefski said) extract the meaning from your piece, write it on a 3 X 5 card, and post that card above your computer. Then be certain that every scene in some way explores your theme or counter theme. Do that, and you can create a core of power and emotion that will carry your readers along without them ever consciously realizing how and why they are responding so intensely.
It’s almost cheating.
Write with passion!
DIAMOND HOUR #6: RAISING YOUR ENERGY
First, a recap:
1) Five Minute Miracle. Take five sixty-second “breathing breaks”, one every 2-3 hours.
2) Re-write your top 3-5 goals once every day. Be certain to have a tangible, photographable
goal in each of your top three arenas (body, finances, relationships). And Journal your emotions and
3) Begin to expand out the “5MM” breaks. For instance, spend extra time during session #1 by doing
it first thing in the morning on awakening, listen to your heartbeat.
4) Begin to implement the “Ancient Child” technique to contact your intuition and passion, clarify
your goals for the year and your actions for the day that relate to them.
5) Create a 15-minute (minimum) “morning ritual” of motion and emotion to center and begin to move
your goals and intentions from concept to motion. This means things like Joint Recovery, Five Tibetans, Sun Salutations…something basic and powerful that requires no equipment.
Something you do every day to anchor yourself into your physical body, your vehicle for this world.
6) Raise emotions MORE. Yep, we talked about emotion in Step #5 but we’re going deeper. We have focused our intentions, begun to move our bodies, and now we’re going to begin the magical alchemy of combining body, mind, and emotions so that everything we are is going in the same direction.
Charles Darwin believed that emotions were heuristics, simplified instructions for life that help us sort between numerous choices swiftly. Without emotion, it is difficult to clarify values, and without values, how do you know which of life’s countless options to take?
Now, the evolutionary emotional “flash” is best for short-term decisions (“should I walk down that ally? Ask that person out, or accept an invitation? Watch that movie?”) but long-term decisions require BOTH emotion and logic (buying a house, marrying a partner, designing a career). People who are not in touch with their emotions can have a difficult time making rapid decisions. People who are not in touch with their logical centers can make disastrous decisions about their bodies, their careers, and/or their relationships if they don’t hook both together at the same time.
So learning to deliberately raise and channel your emotions not only enables you to overcome inertia, but also make short-term decisions. Your ultimate destiny is shaped by your capacity to make daily decisions that lead to massive action, those actions in alignment with your long-term goals. The massive action allows you to “fail forward fast” and gain more data about your environment. While other people are trying to make a decision a week, you’re making ten decisions a day, and you’re going to blow their results away, if you just pay attention to the results you get.
ANYTHING that interferes with the process of action, interpreting results, and adjusting action must be eliminated. And changing beliefs or re-aligning values requires…wait for it…emotion.
You must learn to master your emotions. Part of this is learning to “ride” them like a surfer. Another is learning how to “tack” into them like a sailor. Part is learning to “direct” them by controlling your focus. Part is learning to find the “center” of your existence so that the emotions can rage and storm around you, while you remain calm. And part of it is simply being able to “Observe” your emotions without being attached to them.
In my own life, fear was a major concern in my martial arts training. This is precisely why it took me SEVENTEEN YEARS to earn my first black belt. I had a morbid fear of sparring. I was good at it. I’d never been hurt. Hell, I’d taken second place at the 1972 National Korean Karate competitions, and been congratulated on my technique by Joon Rhee himself, the “Father of American Tae Kwon Do.” But I had only wrapped technique around my fear like a candy shell around a Tootsie Pop’s chewy center.
Under stress, the whole structure collapsed. And friends, if you are trying to move forward in any hierarchical activity, you will be stress-tested to ego destruction. No matter how you twist and turn, eventually life lays you bare. And I couldn’t face the Gorgon.
It took me years of searching to finally find my answer, in the shape of a Shorei Chito Ryu instructor named Terry Letteau, and HIS instructor, Harley Reagan. These men opened the door to real understanding, that my fear was just…a feeling. It didn’t mean that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, or mustn’t, or that I was small and weak, or that I was a coward. It was just there, and the labels I added to it were what was draining my strength away.
That’s another subject. The point is that every day, you need to directly engage with your emotions. You both use them as fuel, and study them as a source of conflict. If you say “Ever day in every way I’m getting better and better” what voices come up in your head? Whose voices are they?
If you say “I’m grateful for my life” do you believe it? If you seek things in your past and present that you can be proud of, do you lie to yourself and say “there is nothing. I’ve never done anything” and disempower yourself?
If you are going to direct your life, to have your dreams, you have to use all your tools. And that means keeping them in the very best condition. And that means to inspect them, under controlled conditions, like a pilot inspecting his plane and going through his check list BEFORE he is in the air…every damned day.
Raise your emotions. Think of what you love, what you are proud of, what you hope for. All the things you have to be grateful for. Look for “tiny” miracles if you want: the fact that you can read, walk, talk. That you live in a world where you can share knowledge you didn’t have to shed blood and skin to learn…just by opening a book. That you didn’t have to hunt your own meat, grow your own fruit, pave your own roads. That you are part of a web of association, billions of individuals working together to increase the possibility for all. Be grateful for your children, parents, friends. For health, for love, for your past accomplishments and future potential.
Yes, there will ALWAYS be storm clouds. Everyone has them. But the way you get through them is by shrinking your ego until you can fit into whatever specks of blue sky you can find. And when you do that…the storm clouds shrink, and you’ll find the room to do your dance.
So…raise your emotions. Every day. And then…surf the wave!
The Writing “Machine” Part 6: Model the healthy attitudes, actions and beliefs of the writers you admire.
The “naturals” in any field can learn their craft, sport, or discipline simply by observing other people’s finished product, and working their butts off. But the truth is that anyone can learn anything more efficiently and effectively if you make a specific study of learning techniques. I will leave most of this homework for the student, but here is your basic assignment:
1) Identify three writers you admire who have achieved the kind of quality and success you desire, and have also written or spoken (in some accessible manner) of their career.
2) One at a time, study them. Seek most specifically how they use body, mind and emotions. NLP refers to this as “Belief Systems, Mental Syntax and use of Physiology”. In writing, here are some possibilities
A) BELIEF: What do they believe about the role of art and the artist in life? What do they believe are the most important aspects of writing and art?
B) MENTAL SYNTAX: What is the specific pattern they work in? How and when do they research, outline, write first-draft, rewrite, submit, revise, promote? Each of these arenas ALSO has sub-belief and syntaxes. Study them.
C) PHYSIOLOGY: How do they actually position themselves in their work? What physical environment creates their work? What time of day? What healthy stimulants or relaxants do they use?
3) Look at what all three writers say in common. Concentrate on this.
4) Filter out unhealthy activities. Writers are just human beings. They make the mistake of using drugs or alcohol to relax, they engage in self-destructive behavior, they have ugly relationships and do stupid things. But what you seek is the “critical path”—the actions which are most generative. The actions that professional, successful writers practice that unsuccessful writers neglect.
Then…begin to implant these attitudes in your own life. And watch your results soar! Remember: success leaves clues. Footprints. Recipes. Practice them today, and share them tomorrow!
Write with passion!
NOW--with a mind to following the above advice, here are some words from master writer David Mamet...
CBS's drama The Unit, about the lives of the highly trained members of a top-secret military division, was canceled last year, but a memo to its writing staff from its executive producer David Mamet has just surfaced online. (The source appears to be the online writing collective Ink Canada.) If you think you know where this is heading, you might be wrong:
Besides the fact that it's written in all-caps, there's nothing particularly ranty, pejorative or potty-mouthed about it. Rather, Mamet lays down an extremely sensible case for what makes good television, imploring them to avoid expository writing for what he characterizes as authentic "drama." Along the way, he refers repeatedly to the "blue-suited penguins" (probably the copious-note-givers at the network), while passing along some very useful advice ("any time two characters are talking about a third, the scene is a crock of shit") and helpful writing exercises ("pretend the characters can't speak and write a silent movie"). Screenwriters, take note: You may think you knew this already, but there's nothing like Mamet for a good kick-in-the-ass reminder.
"TO THE WRITERS OF THE UNIT
AS WE LEARN HOW TO WRITE THIS SHOW, A RECURRING PROBLEM BECOMES CLEAR.
THE PROBLEM IS THIS: TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN DRAMA AND NON-DRAMA. LET ME BREAK-IT-DOWN-NOW.
EVERYONE IN CREATION IS SCREAMING AT US TO MAKE THE SHOW CLEAR. WE ARE TASKED WITH, IT SEEMS, CRAMMING A SHITLOAD OF INFORMATION INTO A LITTLE BIT OF TIME.
OUR FRIENDS. THE PENGUINS, THINK THAT WE, THEREFORE, ARE EMPLOYED TO COMMUNICATE INFORMATION -- AND, SO, AT TIMES, IT SEEMS TO US.
BUT NOTE:THE AUDIENCE WILL NOT TUNE IN TO WATCH INFORMATION. YOU WOULDN'T, I WOULDN'T. NO ONE WOULD OR WILL. THE AUDIENCE WILL ONLY TUNE IN AND STAY TUNED TO WATCH DRAMA.
QUESTION:WHAT IS DRAMA? DRAMA, AGAIN, IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, ACUTE GOAL.
SO: WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES OF EVERY SCENE THESE THREE QUESTIONS.
1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF HER DON'T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?
THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS ARE LITMUS PAPER. APPLY THEM, AND THEIR ANSWER WILL TELL YOU IF THE SCENE IS DRAMATIC OR NOT.
IF THE SCENE IS NOT DRAMATICALLY WRITTEN, IT WILL NOT BE DRAMATICALLY ACTED.
THERE IS NO MAGIC FAIRY DUST WHICH WILL MAKE A BORING, USELESS, REDUNDANT, OR MERELY INFORMATIVE SCENE AFTER IT LEAVES YOUR TYPEWRITER. YOU THE WRITERS, ARE IN CHARGE OF MAKING SURE EVERY SCENE IS DRAMATIC.
THIS MEANS ALL THE "LITTLE" EXPOSITIONAL SCENES OF TWO PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD. THIS BUSHWAH (AND WE ALL TEND TO WRITE IT ON THE FIRST DRAFT) IS LESS THAN USELESS, SHOULD IT FINALLY, GOD FORBID, GET FILMED.
IF THE SCENE BORES YOU WHEN YOU READ IT, REST ASSURED IT WILL BORE THE ACTORS, AND WILL, THEN, BORE THE AUDIENCE, AND WE'RE ALL GOING TO BE BACK IN THE BREADLINE.
SOMEONE HAS TO MAKE THE SCENE DRAMATIC. IT IS NOT THE ACTORS JOB (THE ACTORS JOB IS TO BE TRUTHFUL). IT IS NOT THE DIRECTORS JOB. HIS OR HER JOB IS TO FILM IT STRAIGHTFORWARDLY AND REMIND THE ACTORS TO TALK FAST. IT IS YOUR JOB.
EVERY SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. THAT MEANS: THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST HAVE A SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, PRESSING NEED WHICH IMPELS HIM OR HER TO SHOW UP IN THE SCENE.
THIS NEED IS WHY THEY CAME. IT IS WHAT THE SCENE IS ABOUT. THEIR ATTEMPT TO GET THIS NEED MET WILL LEAD, AT THE END OF THE SCENE,TO FAILURE - THIS IS HOW THE SCENE IS OVER. IT, THIS FAILURE, WILL, THEN, OF NECESSITY, PROPEL US INTO THE NEXT SCENE.
ALL THESE ATTEMPTS, TAKEN TOGETHER, WILL, OVER THE COURSE OF THE EPISODE, CONSTITUTE THE PLOT.
ANY SCENE, THUS, WHICH DOES NOT BOTH ADVANCE THE PLOT, AND STANDALONE (THAT IS, DRAMATICALLY, BY ITSELF, ON ITS OWN MERITS) IS EITHER SUPERFLUOUS, OR INCORRECTLY WRITTEN.
YES BUT YES BUT YES BUT, YOU SAY: WHAT ABOUT THE NECESSITY OF WRITING IN ALL THAT "INFORMATION?"
AND I RESPOND "FIGURE IT OUT" ANY DICKHEAD WITH A BLUESUIT CAN BE (AND IS) TAUGHT TO SAY "MAKE IT CLEARER", AND "I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HIM".
WHEN YOU'VE MADE IT SO CLEAR THAT EVEN THIS BLUESUITED PENGUIN IS HAPPY, BOTH YOU AND HE OR SHE WILL BE OUT OF A JOB.
THE JOB OF THE DRAMATIST IS TO MAKE THE AUDIENCE WONDER WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. NOT TO EXPLAIN TO THEM WHAT JUST HAPPENED, OR TO*SUGGEST* TO THEM WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.
ANY DICKHEAD, AS ABOVE, CAN WRITE, "BUT, JIM, IF WE DON'T ASSASSINATE THE PRIME MINISTER IN THE NEXT SCENE, ALL EUROPE WILL BE ENGULFED IN FLAME"
WE ARE NOT GETTING PAID TO REALIZE THAT THE AUDIENCE NEEDS THIS INFORMATION TO UNDERSTAND THE NEXT SCENE, BUT TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO WRITE THE SCENE BEFORE US SUCH THAT THE AUDIENCE WILL BE INTERESTED IN WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.
YES BUT, YES BUT YES BUT YOU REITERATE.
AND I RESPOND FIGURE IT OUT.
HOW DOES ONE STRIKE THE BALANCE BETWEEN WITHHOLDING AND VOUCHSAFING INFORMATION? THAT IS THE ESSENTIAL TASK OF THE DRAMATIST. AND THE ABILITY TO DO THAT IS WHAT SEPARATES YOU FROM THE LESSER SPECIES IN THEIR BLUE SUITS.
FIGURE IT OUT.
START, EVERY TIME, WITH THIS INVIOLABLE RULE: THE SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. it must start because the hero HAS A PROBLEM, AND IT MUST CULMINATE WITH THE HERO FINDING HIM OR HERSELF EITHER THWARTED OR EDUCATED THAT ANOTHER WAY EXISTS.
LOOK AT YOUR LOG LINES. ANY LOGLINE READING "BOB AND SUE DISCUSS..." IS NOT DESCRIBING A DRAMATIC SCENE.
PLEASE NOTE THAT OUR OUTLINES ARE, GENERALLY, SPECTACULAR. THE DRAMA FLOWS OUT BETWEEN THE OUTLINE AND THE FIRST DRAFT.
THINK LIKE A FILMMAKER RATHER THAN A FUNCTIONARY, BECAUSE, IN TRUTH, YOU ARE MAKING THE FILM. WHAT YOU WRITE, THEY WILL SHOOT.
HERE ARE THE DANGER SIGNALS. ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.
ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER "AS YOU KNOW", THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.
DO NOT WRITE A CROCK OF SHIT. WRITE A RIPPING THREE, FOUR, SEVEN MINUTE SCENE WHICH MOVES THE STORY ALONG, AND YOU CAN, VERY SOON, BUY A HOUSE IN BEL AIR AND HIRE SOMEONE TO LIVE THERE FOR YOU.
REMEMBER YOU ARE WRITING FOR A VISUAL MEDIUM. MOST TELEVISION WRITING, OURS INCLUDED, SOUNDS LIKE RADIO. THE CAMERA CAN DO THE EXPLAINING FOR YOU. LET IT. WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERS DOING -*LITERALLY*. WHAT ARE THEY HANDLING, WHAT ARE THEY READING. WHAT ARE THEY WATCHING ON TELEVISION, WHAT ARE THEY SEEING.
IF YOU PRETEND THE CHARACTERS CANT SPEAK, AND WRITE A SILENT MOVIE, YOU WILL BE WRITING GREAT DRAMA.
IF YOU DEPRIVE YOURSELF OF THE CRUTCH OF NARRATION, EXPOSITION,INDEED, OF SPEECH. YOU WILL BE FORGED TO WORK IN A NEW MEDIUM - TELLING THE STORY IN PICTURES (ALSO KNOWN AS SCREENWRITING)
THIS IS A NEW SKILL. NO ONE DOES IT NATURALLY. YOU CAN TRAIN YOURSELVES TO DO IT, BUT YOU NEED TO START.
I CLOSE WITH THE ONE THOUGHT: LOOK AT THE SCENE AND ASK YOURSELF "IS IT DRAMATIC? IS IT ESSENTIAL? DOES IT ADVANCE THE PLOT?
IF THE ANSWER IS "NO" WRITE IT AGAIN OR THROW IT OUT. IF YOU'VE GOT ANY QUESTIONS, CALL ME UP.
LOVE, DAVE MAMET
SANTA MONICA 19 OCTO 05
(IT IS NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW THE ANSWERS, BUT IT IS YOUR, AND MY, RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW AND TO ASK THE RIGHT Questions OVER AND OVER. UNTIL IT BECOMES SECOND NATURE. I BELIEVE THEY ARE LISTED ABOVE.)"
Creating the perfect “Diamond Hour” Part 5: Create a morning ritual.
The “Diamond Hour” concept says that one hour out of every day belongs to YOU. Not your job, your kids, your spouse, or anything else. You. Period. And the absolute best time to take that hour is the first hour of the day.
If you can’t work that out at first, take the morning to do your first sixty-second ‘breathing break.” Then…leverage that up to influence and control the first 15 minutes a day. Consider this your time to control your input, and designed to put the rest of your day in high gear.
Here are the basic things you need to do in this time, ideally:
1) Wake up mind and body.
2) Raise energy and enthusiasm.
3) Imprint your long-term goals on your unconscious.
4) Clarify the steps you must take TODAY to move toward them.
The idea is to create a 15-minute session that combines mind, body, and emotions, and moves them all in the same direction.
1) For instance, Five minutes of Sun Salutations, joint rotations, or Tai Chi can be combined with incantations (like “every day in every way, I’m getting better and better”) said WITH EMOTION. Yes, your demons will sneer at you. But if you are actually moving with power and purpose, and speaking with emotion, you will drown them out. Cynical about this? Imagine what would happen if you spent fifteen minutes every day frowning into a mirror criticizing yourself and calling yourself an idiot. Think that might influence your performance? By what logic doe the opposite case not make sense as well?
2) Next five minutes: Continue moving, increasing intensity and focus. Remember the formula? GOALS X FAITH X CONSTANT ACTION X GRATITUDE = RESULTS. What you do now is remember things already in your life that you are grateful for. Health. Friends. Life itself. Generate the emotions powerfully, as you walk or exercise. MOVE, damn it! Don’t just sit there. Actually move your body as if you are happy to be in it! Then…once you are filled with a sense of gratitude, TAKE THAT SAME FEELING and flow it out into your day, your week, your year. Visualize the goals you have, the actions you have to take, and feel AS IF THEY HAVE ALREADY HAPPENED. Give thanks for your success, visualize your actions, take a bow for the “win.”
3) Next Five Minutes is Faith. Prayers, affirmations, sacred songs and such exist in all cultures for a good reason—they imprint faith on the unconscious and conscious mind, and FAITH is what keeps you moving forward when you have lost confidence in your own ability. In the Hero’s Journey, Faith is faith in one of three things: faith in self, faith in your companions, and faith in a higher power. Any one, or preferably all three of these varieties should be in your arsenal. “Incantation” is the process of chanting a powerful statement, with emotion, WHILE YOU ARE MOVING with authority and energy. Congruence is the key: your facial expression, body movement, vocal tonalities…everything you can consciously control should be engaged. A popular incantation is: “All I need is within me now!” a statement that you already have everything you need. All the strength, power, intelligence, passion, love, creativity, courage, resilience, sensuality, potential…whatever you need to learn, grow, sell, create, persuade, evolve, or whatever else you need to fulfill your destiny.
Imagine taking the first fifteen minutes of every day for 30 days to raise and focus your energy and clarify your dreams. Increase gratitude. Wake up your body. Start your day like a tiger. Anyone want to take a 30-day challenge with me? Try this for just 30 days? It takes no money…but it does take a willingness to win, to wake up from your dream and start shaping reality. I dare you.
The Perfect "Diamond Hour" part 4: The Ancient Child
1) Five Minute Miracle. Take five sixty-second “breathing breaks”, one every 2-3 hours.
2) Re-write your top 3-5 goals once every day.
3) Begin to expand out the “5MM” breaks. “Heartbeat” meditation.
4) Begin to implement the “Ancient Child” technique to contact your intuition and passion, clarify
your goals for the year and your actions for the day that relate to them. This is where things start to get fun. Step #1 will break the cycle of stress that creates fatigue, fear and tunnel-vision. Step #2 begins to focus your energy in the direction of your passions and values. Step #3 starts the process of deepening your practice, opening the door to self-knowledge and true healing.
Now Step #4 begins a process that can last a lifetime, anchoring this new awareness to your intuition and sense of “aliveness” and creativity. Anyone who has been a parent will recognize the fact that people can do things for their children that they cannot do for themselves. I remember working with a life coach once who discovered that any time he mentioned my daughter Nicki my energy jumped. Most of us know that we would live, and die, for our children.
Friends…that is a sliver of what you’ll get when you connect with your “inner child.” Now, note that this is a mental-emotional construct, but it works just fine. The idea is to connect with the oldest part of yourself that pre-dates the damage, disappointment, aversive conditioning and limiting beliefs that impact our psyches as we move through life. All of the creativity and aliveness anyone could ever want is still there, waiting within you.
The basic process is to, while meditating, visualize yourself sitting in front of a mirror. See the light inside your body. Concentrate it into a human form, the largest you can make composed primarily of light. For a normal, average person, that will probably be a kid about 9 years old. Sometimes older, sometime younger. Or an embryo. Or a single cell. The point is to find something that predates the damage, and align with it.
There are multiple ways to access the instinct, creativity and wisdom of this part of your psyche. Writing with your non-dominant hand works fine. Simply sitting quietly and asking your I.C. For input works nicely.
It may take time to make contact. I made a serious error back a couple of decades ago, and violated my own values. As a result, that “kid” inside me stopped communicating, and for the first time in my life, my creativity dried up. I began a process of visualizing myself at a place that was a favorite as a child (the beach) and bringing toys for that child to play with. It took weeks, maybe months for me to see any sign of that child on the beach: footprints and disturbed toys. More weeks before he approached me. And when we finally embraced, he sobbed that he’d missed me horribly, and I swore I’d never betray him again.
And I never have. The “Ancient Child” meditation, available FREE at www.diamondhour.com, is a phenomenal gateway to your inner world. But the synopsis given above will keep you going for months, if you just begin to apply yourself for 15-20 minutes a day.
Don't write a novel!!
One of the most common problems I run across is that people try to write novels before they’ve published anything at all. They ask questions about plotting, characterization, sales, editing, agents, finances and more…questions that they often would have answered themselves if they had written short work first.
There are a whole raft of things that cannot really be taught…but they can be learned, if you place yourself in the arena of conflict. Things that cannot be put into language, things that cannot be planned in advance, things that are too individual. Things tht are too dependent upon the time and place in which you begin your struggles. And such things are best learned in small lessons, without huge things at stake.
If it takes an average of a year to write a novel, it is reasonable to consider that a “huge” expenditure, capable of straining even a healthy ego. Rejection or failure on that level has crushed many a writer.
On the other hand, a short story is, or should be, the expenditure of a week’s effort, or a month at most. But 100,000 words of short stories will teach you FAR more than writing a 100k novel. Novels are just larger more complex expressions of the same patterns that exist in stories, and therefore short work is the perfect practice for the larger. What other reasons are there?
1) The most common response to this idea is that “my ideas come out novel sized.” Nonsense. Core ideas have no length. EXPRESSIONS of an idea have a length.
2) Novels can spin out of control easily, becoming longer and longer until they become trilogies and worse—before they are ever submitted. I watched one person work on an idea for DECADES, before finally realizing the whole thing didn’t work. It would have been better to find that out in a month, don’t you think? That’s when you can adjust and decide to do something else with your life. Or try another tactic. Your demons are tricky. There are many ways to be “blocked” and some of them involve keeping you too busy to notice you aren’t accomplishing anything.
3) You don’t need an agent to sell a short story. But selling short stories will definitely impress a potential agent more than a blank slate.
4) Editors know agents. Sell a few short stories, and you will have made connection with the “other side” of the game. Editors and agents in New York have lunch together, run into each other at parties and conventions. An editor who likes your work can be a powerful ally in getting yourself hooked up with good representation.
5) Short stories allow you to explore new and different stories and approaches, styles, genres and so forth. You can literally try out a whole new personae, and if it doesn’t work…you’ve only invested a week or so.
6) Short stories are how you develop your skills. Novels are how you get paid.
7) Asking a pro to read one of your short stories is asking a LOT less than asking them to read an entire novel.
8) Reading one of your short stories gives an experienced writer or editor a MUCH better sense of your skills than reading a comparable chunk of a novel.
When someone asks me to read their novel, I decline. I might be willing to hear a pitch or read an outline (and usually can detect problems in such a fashion). But reading a short story is an EXCELLENT diagnostic of their skills.
9) Writing stories teaches you to complete your projects. How to create an ending and work toward it. The most common error people have is not knowing how to end what they have begun. Might as well apply your greatest efforts to what has the biggest bang for your buck.
10) Short stories are fun. You can literally write the whole thing in a single burst of passion. Re-writing is “work.” When I say “write with passion” I promise you that nothing exemplifies this more than the joy of creating a complete project in a single sitting, you haven’t touched one of the purest experiences in all of art. It is wonderful, often taking you into a flow deeper than anything you’ve ever experienced.
11) And what if you’re a screenwriter? Writing short films like little Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes is a great way to practice the same things.
No matter what your excuses are…I’m standing firm on the same advice I’ve given people for twenty-five years.
For these, and many many other reasons…if you haven’t published short stories, PLEASE don’t try to write a book. I’ve seen too many people crash and burn going that route. On the other hand, I’ve never seen anyone who tries the story route fail to publish, if they just don’t quit, do the work, and continue to model the success of professionals.
Write with Passion!
Just got a note from a student I thought I’d share:
I bought your Life Writing course about three years ago after attending your lecture at a Creative Screenwriting Expo. Your ' s is the best writing course ever. A true life-changer (I've been meaning to tell you that for a while now though I'm sure you already know). I was the " computer guy " at the expo, helping Bill keep it together behind the scenes. Anyway, since I got your course, I've written a pilot for a Sci-Fi series and a full series bible. I will be pitching it later this year. I'm now living in Portland, OR and hoping to do the show here as a web series. I'm so looking forward to your forthcoming info on writing, producing and distributing ! Again, congratulations and thanks for all the great, life-changing work you do.
I love hearing things like that. The “Lifewriting For Writers” course is just spectacularly good, and I don’t say that because I created it. I say that because I get notes like this all the time, every week, sometimes every day. It is unique, unlike any other writing course in the world…and if you don’t have it, you’re cheating yourself.
Order your copy today…and you’ll be helping us make DANGER WORD…and the experience from DANGER WORD will feed right back into the education process, helping me be a better instructor for all of you. And that’s something we all want!
Seven Dollars or FREE!
The "Ancient Child" meditation is the latest in my "Seven Dollars or FREE" program. I get 250.00 an hour for coaching (500.00 a month) but PLEASE don't ask me about this unless you have a critical short-term need. I'm really too busy on my own projects. But simultaneously, I love helping people. What to do? Well...I'm starting to create more programs, and setting them up so that the download infrastructure supports sending them all around the world to anyone with the need. If you can afford the 7.00 price...great. That supports the infrastructure. But NO ONE is refused if you cannot afford this. Please, if you want stress reduction, emotional healing, goal setting, creativity, and a deep sense of fullfillment and aliveness...do this for yourself. Tell your friends, please. NO ONE WILL BE REFUSED.
I deeply appreciate who and what you are. I support your dreams. Just...kinda busy right now living my own.
What it takes to get Everything...
Almost fifty years ago, a bully (backed up by his brother and two friends) were beating the hell out of me on Washington Boulevard near Crenshaw in Los Angeles, and I hit threshold, realized that I simply couldn't allow myself to be shamed and humiliated in such a way. I was being destroyed psychologically, one piece at a time. And knew I would rather die than continue being crushed in this way. And I walked out into the middle of the street, standing on the double yellow lines with trucks whizzing past me on both sides, looked at my tormentor and said "come out here and do that."
He looked at me, and I looked at him, and I thought to myself that if he came out, I was going to push him in front of a car. I was going to try my level best to kill him. He saw his death in my eyes.
And in case you didn't know, one of the real, basic secrets of the martial arts is the attitude: "I'm ready to die, and I'm ready to take you with me." You simply can't get stronger, more feral, more dangerous than such an attitude. This is one of the reasons that most martial arts systems have rule and laws about when the art is to be used: under what circumstances, what provocations, what people. This isn't just about being "a good person." It is about unleashing the most basic core of your survival energy. The person willing to die is a martyr. The person ready to die killing his enemy is a warrior.
This emotional "burning of the bridges" removes all the b.s. All the illusions. All the excuses. It is the most powerful position you can come from, and should only be accessed when defending your sacred honor, or the lives of loved ones.
Or...your dreams. The "Ancient Child" asks you to get in touch with your heart, and the love within you. Then to create an internal representation of the different levels in your life ("chakras") in which our unconscious mind can provide visual representations of your clarity and health (represented by light) on each of these levels. Then to create a representation of your "inner child"--the child you were before striving in the external world wore down your uniqueness. You take the love you've found in your Heartbeat Meditation, and pour it into this child symbol. You vow to protect that precious essence at ALL costs. There is NOTHING worth betraying this essential self. Nothing. Everything you do has to be in alignment with your dreams and core values, in one way or another. It is up to you as an adult to figure out how to do this--either adjust your attitude toward what you are doing, or you change what you do. But one way or another, if you want to live with the greatest passion, the greatest pleasure, the greatest success, every step you take in life needs to acknowledge who and what you are at the deepest level. Everything you do has to be a way of answering the two most important questions in life: "who am I?" and "what is true?"
Fifty years ago, the answer was: "someone willing to die before I will be broken." At that moment I found the bed-rock of my life. When I wanted to become a writer, I knew I had to want it so badly I was willing to die trying. When I wanted to create a healthy, thriving, passionate relationship I knew I had to be willing to sacrifice all my illusions about myself in favor of a glorious but sometimes frightening reality. Parenthood? If you aren't willing to do everything, EVERYTHING essential for your child, don't have them.
I get two hundred and fifty bucks an hour for coaching, but I really don't want your money--I'd rather give you the technology for free or as close to free as I can afford without stealing from my family. I searched the world for answers, was willing to travel a thousand miles to spend ten minutes with someone who could give me a straight answer about how to deal with fear, doubt, lack of clarity or motivation, dishonesty, or any aspect of performance. And...found answers.
And my best, simplest way of conveying what I found is the Ancient Child technique. Master that, and you can bring your dreams into reality.
All it takes to get everything you need...is everything you've got.
#14 What resources can you align NOW to meet you along the road?
Remember--these questions take on their true significance not when you ask them of your ordinary, conscious mind, but when you ask them of different aspects of your "internal community." Unless you effortlessly achieve your goals almost "zenning" your way through life, there are competing intentions, values, beliefs, and/or goals, and you are going to need to get internally aligned. The symbolic images of (say) child, adult, elder, chakras, light, etc. just give you "complex equivalents" of different ways of experiencing the infinitely varied reality of the restless ocean of consciousness.
And when you tap more deeply into your intuition, you will tend not to set goals that you cannot reach. When you are aligned with your deepest goals, every action is suffused with energy and meaning throughout the day.
The greatest gift of the Hero's Journey is the implication of a syntax for future action. It is the combined wisdom of the world's storytelling elders, teaching the younger generation what they can expect in life. And one critical lesson is that, if you seek any transformative goal, you must take responsibility for your situation, deal with the fear, take constant action, seek out role models to educe new skills and behaviors...and prepare for the inevitability of failure. INEVITABILITY. Not "maybe". Not "sometimes". But inevitable. In the process of learning to walk, we fall down. Period. The unfortunate thing is that we forget this, and every time we try something new, the same sneaky voices pop into our heads, trying to convince us that failure means that we cannot do it.
Optimists tend to remember their pasts as being better than they really were. Pessimists tend to remember their pasts as being worse. I had a teacher challenge me on this: "not everyone can build on success. Some people have no successes to build on."
I said to her that if she could understand what I was saying, converse with me...or if you, my friend, can read these words, then you do indeed have success to build on. You've learned to speak, to understand language, to read.
Ah! (You say) that's no success! Everyone does that...
So then, you've defined a "success" as doing something others cannot do, or that is unusual to do.
Let me know how that works for you, because mastery is a matter of doing small, simple things more often, more regularly, and with more attention than others do. In other words, there is nothing "special" about the building blocks of mastery in any field. It is the mundane opening the door to the extraordinary. And it is in the most basic lessons of life: walking, talking, dressing ourselves, feeding ourselves, reading and writing--that we first encounter the "basics" of the advancing life.
So...as we progress, we will meet every shadow-self we contain along the road. Every pain and disappointment, every negative belief and self doubt. Every limit and bad habit. And hey! Just to make things more interesting, the environment will also respond to us in entertaining ways. Unless you have accidentally chosen a perfect goal, at the perfect moment, with the perfect allies just waiting to help you...you're gonna fall on your snoot. That's just the way it is. And if you've ever seen this recipe for success: "fall down 99. Get up 100" then you know that the most consistent quality of "masters" in any field is that they simply do what they do every darned day. Day in, day out. That's the recipe.
So...what stands between you and your dreams is whatever stands between you and a daily ritual of success. There are no accidents here. And you KNOW before you begin that both internal sabotage and external resistance will push against you. You know this by watching any kid learn to walk or read or ride a bicycle: the frustration and doubt and anger and fear, prior to breakthrough. You may not remember your own process: one trick of the ego is to deny us the internal resources we need to thrive. So we don't remember the fact that we go through this cycle again and again and again...
But watch children. They are an enormous gift. They remind us of what we were, and how we became who we are.
So, once again...if you KNOW that you are going to hit a wall, then you can, before you ever begin your process, put in place the resources you need when you fall into the pit of depression. What has worked in the past? Hugs? A letter from your past self? A trip to the zoo? Getting up and dancing? Ginger snaps? A yoga class? A talk with your best friend?
Part of the price of adulthood is learning to push your own buttons, figuring out how you're wired up and taking the controls away from your parents and teachers. Putting your own hands on your steering wheel.
You know what's coming: doubt, fear, fatigue, discouragement. You've been this way before. What resources can you place in advance, what allies will you need, what can you do NOW to prepare yourself for the moment in which those who never achieve their dreams turn back?
THAT is the question to ask your conscious mind. Your "inner child". And your "inner Elder" or death-bed self. The differences, and similarities, in their perspectives are enlightening.
Twenty Questions #10
"How Many Times Are You Willing To Hear "No"?"
Here's a big one if you choose to create a life of satisfaction and evolution. "No" is a word , a look, a closed door, a rejection slip. It is a failed diet, a training injury or loss. It is a broken contract, a writer's block, a weakness of the body or mind, a lost relationship.
On the way to love, to success, to stability, to increase or healing of any kind, we meet failure. And it is important that you ask yourself (and the different "aspects" of yourself, if clarity eludes...)
1) How many times are you willing to hear no?
2) What exactly does failure mean in this particular arena?
3) How many times did your role models fail before they achieved success?
4) What is the observed difference in what failure means to successful people in this arena, and UNSUCCESSFUL people in this arena. I promise--there is a huge one.
5) What have you succeeded in in the past, after multiple failures?
6) How did you convince yourself to keep trying?
7) What does your "inner child" say about the meaning of failure?
8) What does the deepest, wisest being within you, your "inner elder" think of failure?
9)Is there any difference between what the male and female aspects of your personality think about failure?
10) What would be the most empowering belief you could have, or action you could take, in relationship to a "no"?
Salesmen know that it is simply a numbers game: if you knock on enough doors, you'll eventually find someone who wants your product. If you ask enough girls to dance, one will say "yes." If you paper your walls with rejection slips, you are on your way to being a real writer.
In my own life, my mother tore up or burned my early stories. My teachers and career counselors told me my dreams of being a writer were fantasies that would destroy my life. I was told that people of my ethnicity "did not write". Told I wasn't smart enough, lucky enough, talented enough. Had story after story after story rejected, until I asked myself the critical question: how many more times am I willing to hear "no" before I quit? And what I decided was that I would write, polish, and submit 100 stories and have them ALL circulating, before I even began to judge whether I was on the right track. And you know what happened? I got to about story twenty-two before I started selling, and have never looked back.
That was my commitment to myself. It wasn't that I didn't cry, feel cheated, hear the negative voices, doubt myself, or anything else. It was that I loved my dream of being a writer so much that I was willing to walk through the emotional fire, willing to push myself through pain, doubt, and fear...drawn by my dream of being an artist. The little boy inside me adores my "adult" self for demanding that of myself. And he rewards me with the energy and creativity I need to get up every day and hit is HARD and just love the entire process, even when it's hard.
And my "elder"? He tells me life is both terribly short and achingly long. Too short to live without getting that daily "juice" of becoming your truest self. Too long to live with the regret of abandoning your dream.
The choices are yours. How many times are YOU willing to hear "no"?
Be the Hero in the adventure of your lifetime!
LIVING THE "ANCIENT CHILD"
I've finished basic recording for the
Ancient Child meditation, and it
will be available the minute I have
the chance to edit. But meanwhile,
I wanted to give away as much of
it as I possibly can. After laying
down the basic structure, I decided
to use a non-linear approach to
unifying the inner and outer worlds.
To align your goals, actions, emotions,
values, beliefs, resources and emotions
creates a kind of power most people
have never experienced, and I
want that very attainable reality
to be available to each and every
one of you.
So...the purpose of the Ancient
Child is to specifically concentrate
on aligning your passion and your
deepest values and core principles.
When you measure your day-to-day
actions as if you are walking a
path between birth and death,
with BOTH your childhood
dreams and death-bed values
alive in every action, every word...
we begin to align that internal
world. It is key to the "I.D.E.A."
concept, becoming a "human
laser" in the sense that your
brakes are off, you can go full
steam ahead, running "downhill"
with no fear of tripping and falling.
So to do this, you begin by playing
a game of "Twenty Questions."
There is nothing special about
any single question, but they
have been chosen quite carefully
and deliberately, and together
they link together your inner
world in a unique way.
So...here we go. The "Twenty
Questions" are to be used this way:
1) Select a goal that will transform
your life for the better.
2) Use a journal, and write your
answer to the question(s).
3) Then...visualize your child
self. Ask HIM (or her) the
same question concerning your intent.
Note: is there a difference between
what you say, and what your "child" says?
4) Then...visualize your Elder
self, beyond ego and ambition,
clear on the meaning of your
life whether YOU understand
it currently or not. Ask HIM
the same question. Note: is
there a difference between
what you say, and what your
"Elder" said? How about
between "child" and "elder"?
5) Get out of the way, and
allow "Child" and "Elder"
to speak together of these
things. Stay out of the
discussion as much as
possible. Write down as
much as you can.
6) BONUS: Bring an appropriate
role model into the discussion,
implanting at the appropriate
Chakra (for instance: if your goal
is to find a Soul Mate, find a role
model who has been happily
married long enough to enjoy
their grandchildren together.
Visualize this person in your
heart-space) and let them take
part in the discussion. Record
7) ADVANCED BONUS: Visualize
yourself in your inner mirror.
Transform your gender--flow from
male to female, or female to male.
See yourself as you would have
been, if born into the different
gender energy. Ask your questions.
Repeat with your child self. Repeat
with your elder self
Now...here's your first question:
1) a) If you go full-tilt boogie
toward your goal, what is the
worst that could happen?
b) Exactly how do you know
what you think you know
about this situation?
c) How do you know you are
correct? What is your
error-checking procedure here?
Oops. Is that four questions?
Maybe. But they all relate to a
single issue. Ask them of your
intention, and get commentary
from your conscious mind,
your child and elder selves.
If necessary, write their answers
with your non-dominant hand.
Get ready for a bit of magic.
BUILDING THE PERFECT LIFE
There is a child within us, just as there is an ancient who understands the meaning of life and death. The child holds your passion and creativity, but it also seeks approval. Choose those people whose approval gives you pain and pleasure VERY carefully. Those choices will determine the quality of your life.
Three things to pay attention to, with infinite depth once you understand the implications: your "child self" in the past, your "inner elder" in your future, and the YOU who exists now. Everything you want can be found in the interactions of these three. Everything you could ever want to learn about success and consciousness can be found here. A beautiful visualization.
Here's a brief exercise to demonstrate how this works. Say you have a job opportunity coming up, and want to be your best. Ask yourself a few questions.
1) Is there an element of fun connected with this job? Something you would have enjoyed as a child?
2) Is there an aspect of this work that makes the world a safer, better place for children?
1) Is this job providing goods and services that make the world a better place, according to your values?
2) Can you find a way to make a personal contribution, or find self-expression, through this work?
1) Will this job enable you to care for your obligations in a moral and ethical fashion?
2) Will this job or career enable you to afford time and energy to do something that you DO love?
3) Will this job or career help you "play for position" by giving you skills, contacts, or experience you can parlay into a more suitable position in the future?
See how this works? Any of these reasons will motivate you to shine at your interview. But when you can align your childhood enthusiasms, adult responsibilities and mature understanding of the critical importance of dancing without fear, and living for the larger context...Something special happens.
And when you can set it up so that body, mind, and relationships all support each other, and all relate to what your child, adult, and elder "aspects" need and understand, you have taken your brakes off. Can act spontaneously and still perform at your highest levels. That is a miracle each of us can actually experience in life, one I wish for each and every one of you.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
After spending time in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano ("Bradly Cooper) moves back in with his parents (Robert Di Niro and Jackie Weaver) and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) , a mysterious girl with problems of her own.
The coming attractions told me nothing useful about this movie, almost as if the studio was worried about it finding an audience. I knew Chris Tucker had decided to do something other than collect "Rush Hour" residuals, and that Di Niro actually seemed to be acting, but other than that...not much.
When I finally sat down and watched it, I was reminded of Lawrence Olivier's "Love Among The Ruins" in the sense that it is a story about two damaged human beings doing the porcupine mating dance--backing together very very carefully. Cooper was destroyed by his wife's cheating, is a twitchy, dysfunctional mess who believes he can hold himself together and hopefully reunite with his wife if he can seek out life's "silver linings." A dose of reality comes his way in the person of Jennifer Lawrence, a young woman just as damaged...but with her wounds in different parts of her personality.
She promises to help him reconnect with his wife (there is a restraining order) if he helps her compete in a dance contest. In and around this slender plot thread is Di Niro's obsession with football betting, and Chris Tucker's refusal to allow the mental institution to define him. The acting is wonderful across the board, and ultimately, by being specific enough about a particular difficult and fragile relationship, Silver Linings Playbook becomes about all of us, in our wounds and hopes and self delusion. And...astonishing capacity to stand up and reach out, again and again, despite the endless blows we suffer. To have faith that dawn will come, even in the midst of the darkest night. I was asked if I could recommend a "chick flick" for a reader, and if that term denotes a film held together more by dialog and emotions than plot twists and explosions, SLP over-qualifies. And it is enjoyable top to bottom. And yes, Di Niro is better than I've seen him in years. A "B+".
Hero's Journey analysis:
1) Hero Confronted with challenge: Released from a mental institution, Pat Solitano attempts to re-integrate his life.
2) Rejection of challenge: but he cannot do this without resolving his relationship with the wife who betrayed him. But little does he know that
3) Accepts Challenge: Tiffany, a young woman as damaged as he, is determined to drag him kicking and screaming back into life, by fair means or foul.
4) Road of Trials: he tries to get his job back. To heal his relationship with his family. To contact his wife. To lose weight and balance himself with exercise.
5) Allies and Powers: his family, nutballs though they are. His friend Danny (Chris Tucker), Tiffany, even his image of his wife. He has intelligence, passion, hope, resilience, a sense of humor...and finally, not a bad set of dancing skills.
6) Confront Evil-Defeat. That would be telling.
7) Dark Night of the Soul. His failure will mean devastation for his family. He has to take a certain very uncomfortable set of actions, for all the marbles.
8) Leap of Faith. In his own capacities, but more than that, in Tiffany.
9) Confront Evil--victory. He definitely has his moment, in which his choices determine the future path of his life.
10) The Student Becomes the Teacher--he is able to finally reach back honestly to someone who has emptied herself out trying to help him, touch him. Love him.
I saw myself a dozen times in this film. And if that isn't a measure of quality, I don't know what is.
Submitted for your approval...
Who, Why, How, When, Where?
Everyone who ever took a journalism class (or saw a movie about journalism) has heard these: the basic information necessary to write a story. Since the "Lifewriting" method asks us to write our own Future History in advance, it is valuable to ask: do you know these five questions about each goal in your life?
1) WHAT: Have at least one goal in each of your four major life areas: body, mind, relationships and finances. Specificity has power. The goal should be photographable, tangible. In other words, if you say "improve my relationship" that is mushy. Say "have a second honeymoon in Maui" and suddenly you have specificity. But in brainstorming, prepare to be flexible: "you can have anything you want if you let go of how it's supposed to look." No, you can't flap your wings and fly off the edge of a building...unless you have a hang-glider.
2) WHY: You need reasons. Whenever people fail to reach a goal, or are lost in a position of poor fitness or sloppy finances, invariably their reasons for achievement are weak. They may have one or two thin motivations, but nothing to keep them going through the Dark Night of the Soul. And there WILL be a dark night of the soul, absolutely. It is idiocy not to anticipate the @#$$ hitting the fan, when you've seen it countless times in your own personal history. If you have 2 or three reasons, you'll fail. If you have 20 or 30 reasons, so powerful that when you read them you feel your juices rising, NOW you have leverage.
3) WHERE: Where do you have to go to get the resources you will need to bridge the gap between where you are and where you need to be?
4) WHO: Who are the allies and role models you need to achieve your goal? The safest bet is that IF YOU HAVEN'T DONE IT, YOU CAN'T DO IT WITH YOUR CURRENT RESOURCES. You will need to grow, and change. Change believes and re-organize values to reflect your current life and vision of the future. You will need help. The "Mastermind" technique is the ONLY known way to compensate for lack of talent or even intelligence. It demands that you bond yourself to people with the skills you don't have. How? Here's a hint: smart people need friends too. Offer genuine loyalty, honesty, open-hearted support in exchange for advice and support. Offer value in exchange for value. And keep asking until you find someone to say "yes."
5) WHEN: A goal without a deadline is just a pipe dream. You need to know when this seismic shift in your existence will take place. A date. And by studying role models who have accomplished similar goals you will gain the perspective needed to Time-bind your intentions. "There are no unreasonable goals, only unreasonable time frames." People who want to lose five pounds a week are probably going to fail, or get sick. One pound a week is perfectly doable.
Who, what, where, why, when. Write the story of YOUR life. Be the Hero in the Adventure of your lifetime!
Submitted for your approval...
FAKE IT 'TIL YOU MAKE IT
"Another thing you can do is to think o fa time when you had a most sublime meditation and consciously dive deep into that experience. Think of its essence--how you were thrilled, how you were jumping with delight. At first you will just be imagining the experience, because you are not actually having that meditation. But if you enter into that world of imagination and stay there for ten or fifteen minutes, power will automatically enter into your meditation and it will bear fruit. Then it will not be imagination at all; you will actually be deep in the world of meditation."
--Sri Chinmoy, MEDITATION
I was actually surprised to come across this passage, even though I've re-read this particular book so often it is falling apart. Strange...I can only attribute this to the fact that our minds have an easier time absorbing different informations at different times, and now, this moment, was the first time I was prepared to actually hear it.
"Fake it 'til you make it" is a well known philosophy. ACT as if you have confidence, and you will. Do the things a courageous person does, and you will be what people consider courageous. Then, of course, you will discover what courageous people have known forever: that the internal state people call "courage" is often one of confusion and fear...but if the external aspects of calm voice and face and direct action dominate, guess what? It doesn't matter how you feel inside.
The same is true in many ways. Bravado, egotism, macho...there are many different terms that describe the adolescent forms of mature emotional states concerning "courage."
And in the realm of the spirit, "confidence" can be "faked" as well. In fact, "faith" as defined as "evidence of things unseen" is all about this. A sense that different aspects of the universe connect in a way the conscious, intellectual mind cannot quite data-crunch. That it makes most sense to you if you expand your definitions of "life" or "consciousness" so that the planet or the universe is a dynamic pattern that seems to behave as if it had what we consider will and ethical structure.
Or to take a further step, and believe (without evidence) that there actually is a living force, a being, that can be described in quasi-human terms, watching over us.
Or that the flows of nature best reveal their currents if we surrender the ego of individual identity and seek to feel the pull of existential wind and tide.
There are so many approaches. All seek to answer the question "how shall we live?" together and singly. All seek to align us with nature, with other human beings, with our own drives, both animal, child and adult.
All concern the journey between birth and death. The idea of clarifying who and what you wish to be, being certain that the idealized form of this is pleasing to every aspect of your existence, and then dedicating yourself to this process, is a wise one. It is a very rare individual who can just "zen" his way from one event to another and not feel rootless and without purpose. For most of us, the creation of a meaningful life demands purpose. But attempting to "become" something we seem not to be quite reasonably triggers fear.
Anyone who knew me in my college days can tell you that any true confidence I had in my ability to be a professional writer was covered up in ego and bravado. That shell was critical to buffer myself against a nearly universal opinion that my goals and dreams were impossible.
Anyone who knew me in the early days of my martial training could tell you the way I struggled to find a part of myself strong enough to stand up to the warrior-energy surrounding me. My false identity couldn't handle it, and surrendering to my true self, capable of flowing into any natural role, felt like dying.
Anyone who knew me in my early dating days would know how astonished I was to discover a woman was attracted to me, and how pitifully grateful when she accepted me into her heart or bed.
The answer in all of these cases was...I pretended to be comfortable with the circumstance. Regardless of the inner storm, I maintained the best exterior I could, and soldiered on until, at some point, I was astonished to discover that the pretense had become the reality.
The same is true in the spiritual arena. The surrender of our false self can feel like dying. When meditating, often EVERYTHING else seems more urgent and important. The moments of peace and power can seem far and few between. Still...it is those moments, however few, that point the way.
If you can force yourself to meditate day after day, you will almost accidentally find a moment when everything "flows." Remember those moments, seek to replicate them without obsessing about it (just have fun!) and you will find them starting to multiply.
Remember--your ego identity is a construct. It is "fake" to begin with. It is no greater fiction to imagine your self both great, deep, and insignificant in the face of universal truth. Nothing greater than you. Nothing less than you. No "you" at all...and yet you are in the center of it all.
Resolving that apparent conundrum is one of the major tasks on the path. If it seems impossible, welll...
Yeah. You know.
TO COMMENT, OR FOR THE ARCHIVE OF MY ARTICLES, GO TO: http://darkush.blogspot.com/