What do Michael Jackson and Neda Agha-Soltan, the beautiful young Iranian girl shot through the heart in Tehran earlier this week, have in common? They are mirrors—or what I like to call “perception-givers.” Their lives and deaths reflect to us the tragic effects of our commonly accepted ways of seeing, being, and engaging.
My father, Ben Barrett, was in the music business and recorded a great deal of Michael Jackson’s music—from the early days with the Jackson Five right up to the “Dirty Diana” album (one of the last albums he recorded before his death in 1992). My brother Roman and I spent a lot of time in the studios when our dad was recording; he would even take us with him on the nightshifts. So the two of us spent time with Michael playing video games and consuming “studio snacks” (sugar cubes, Hershey’s Kisses, Melba Toast, and Coffee-mate). Michael was always kind and engaging—never once inappropriate with us, just for the record.
I imagine that just about everyone born prior to 1980 feels an emotional tug in response to the news of Michael’s death. He was, after all, probably the most famous person after Jesus and Elvis. I’m certainly not immune. But what I feel is a tremendous relief for him. I can’t help but feel like Grace released him from the torment of his existence.
For many years, Michael lived with his parents and siblings down the road from us in Encino, California, on a street called Havenhurst just off the main road of Ventura Blvd (famously referenced in Tom Petty’s hit “Free Fallin’” for you music trivia buffs). When he was a kid, Michael and his brothers would ride their bikes up to our house and visit my dad. Just take a moment to imagine Michael as a ten-year-old—that gorgeous little boy singing “My Cherie Amour”—riding his bike around his neighborhood like any ordinary, innocent kid. He was beautiful and, by anyone’s standards, uncommonly talented.
His father, as it is famously documented by his sister Latoya’s memoirs, was a hideous character. He was dominating, violent, and abusive. Young Michael’s truth was usurped by his father’s soul-annihilating abuse. From his father’s behavior and words came the stories and lies (reinforced by those who neither challenged them nor taught Michael to challenge them) that would imprison Michael for the rest of his life. To varying degrees, we have all accepted the stories and lies imposed upon us as children.
Yet, despite this, young Michael’s light shone so brightly. The brighter a light shines in the presence of a bully stuck in darkness, the more desperate that bully becomes to snuff out that light for fear of exposure. Many of us, in our defenseless innocence, have been at the mercy of such abuse. (Of course, these bullies, who have likely been abused themselves, need love more than most. But that is a separate issue.)
Young Michael was natural, innocent, exploding with creativity, and in enough possession of his own soul power to radiate his personal essence—making him and his music positively irresistible. Let’s all take a moment and acknowledge that what he expressed in 1970 in his recordings of “ABC” and “The Love You Save” was his true, irrepressible essence—inspiring, enchanting, and downright magical! That was the real Michael. That was before the world of UNTRUTH had at him. This, I believe, is what his spirit and soul are returning to as he sheds the cage of his physical body and the false stories it absorbed over the course of his life on earth.
Michael and Neda (whose name means “voice” in Farsi) are two innocent, pure souls who demonstrated the lies of our world and what we communally deem acceptable. The painful unfolding of Michael’s public life and the tragic, rapid-fire death of Neda in Iran have showed us the EFFECTS of the CAUSES supported by such a world. What happened to Michael and Neda could happen to any innocent, and indeed does—every second of every day. Dramatic displays of suffering and wasted life can sometimes jolt humans out of our programmed, blinkered ways of seeing so that we can begin to discern the truth. But then most of us get distracted again and fall back into our old ways.
To varying degrees, we are all PERCEPTION-GIVERS: those who reflect through personal experience the truths and untruths of our humanity. We must also pay attention and be PERCEPTION-GETTERS. This is the way of the Peaceful Warrior, who does not draw a machine gun or send out a drone against injustice. The Peaceful Warrior knows there is more power in simply holding a mental posture of attentiveness and knows exactly what to watch for. An effective Peaceful Warrior is fluent in the language of Life—able to discern between that which is life-generating and that which is life-deteriorating—and from there is able to make swift life-generating choices.
How perceptive are you? How adept a Peaceful Warrior? How many of the lies, stories, and life-deteriorating but commonly accepted ideas can you see though? What do you do with what you see? Do you passively pray that the world will change or do you change yourself based on what you discover?
Our world can change only if individuals truly perceive and understand the EFFECTS of every CAUSE, and can discern between life and death. How the term “life” is misused! That which is truly living is harmonious and beautiful. Can we stop going around saying “Well, that’s life!” when something undesirable happens? It would be more accurate to say, “Well, that’s death!”
If Michael was taking substances to ease his inner pain and these substances played a role in his passing, this would bear closer examination. Whether it’s pharmaceutical or recreational drugs, alcohol, overeating, or other perverse forms of consumption like excessive shopping and sex addiction, these numbing behaviors indicate a world of PAIN and UNTRUTH. We must acknowledge that the personal and communal pain is real, neither a minor blip on the screen nor an acceptable part of normal life. Perception-getters know that pain is the alarm bell sounding off against the error of life-destroying causes and actions. Furthermore, error begets error, growing exponentially and multiplying human pain.
Instead of trading one numbing behavior for another—say, drinking for smoking, or smoking for overeating, we must determine what is motivating this behavior. The fact is, like Michael, many people don’t want see the truth and go through the shedding process. But for those of us who do, perception can lead to freedom.
To get really personal, for the first time in a long time I was so overcome with emotion today that I just wept. I didn’t resist the urge; I was grateful no one around to say, “Please don’t cry.” It felt so good to shed my tears. The flood of tears came through me like a summer storm after a long, hot day—it drenched my face, neck and T-shirt. I was not lost in the emotion. Rather, I was able to observe it. I was delighted that what I was feeling (and for whatever length of time I had been holding onto it) was finding a release—an exit from my body.
As I cried, all I could think of were the lies and the suffering those lies were causing. I wept for the beautiful boy, Michael, whose experience is a mirror for humanity. I wept in joy for all of our journeys, for despite how daunting it can be to truly perceive, it is a gift. It enables us to shed our old skins of untruth and renew ourselves. I wept for the gorgeous, young Neda and thanked her for her sacrifice, which has opened our eyes in invaluable ways.
One of my favorite songs is “The Nightshift” by the Commodores. It reminds me of my dad making music-magic in the studios on the nightshift—when most of the biggest R&B hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s were recorded. The Commodores recorded this song as a tribute to two of their friends who both passed in 1984: one was the legendary perception-giver, Marvin Gaye; and the other, the great Jackie Wilson.
I’ve posted the lyrics below as a tribute to Michael’s legacy and the mirror he offered mankind. I suppose this gives new meaning to his 1988 hit, “Man in the Mirror.” His fifty years on this planet were not easy for him. This is for you, Michael, may your pain not be in vain, and may your harmonies bring about greater harmony here on earth.
The “Nightshift” by The Commodores
Marvin, he was a friend of mine
And he could sing a song
His heart in every line.
Marvin sang of the joy and pain
He opened up our minds
And I still can hear him say:
Talk to me
So you can see
What’s goin’ on.
Say you will sing your songs
Gonna be some sweet sounds comin’ down on the nightshift
I bet you’re singin’ proud
Oh, I bet you pull a crowd.
Gonna be a long night
It’s gonna be all right on the nightshift.
You found another home
I know you’re not alone on the nightshift.
You found another home
I know you’re not alone on the nightshift.
Jackie, hey what you’re doin’ now? It seems like yesterday
When we were workin’ out.
Jackie, you set the world on fire
You came and gifted us
Your love, it lifted us higher and higher.
Keep it up and we’ll be there at your side.
Say you will sing your songs forever more
Gonna be some sweet sounds comin’ down on the nightshift…
Aw—just download it and have a listen. It’s one of the greats!
My Top 10 List for an outstanding life experience
1. Keep your center clear. When your intestine is clear, you’ll feel the bliss of free-flowing energy coursing through you. By contrast, a dense, weighted digestive system and impacted colon is a recipe for depression and sluggishness. To clear your intestine, eat quick-exit foods in quick-exit combos and spotlight bowel cleansing. Maintain this and enjoy the constant high!
2. Follow your dietary intuition—not the food police. Be your own highest authority. Don’t blindly follow the government’s food pyramid, the raw-vegan dogma, or the newest diet craze. Focus on the truths of the human body—of your body specifically, and your optimal level of transition. Outside of your truth, everyone has an agenda, a vested interest in making you follow their belief system. Don’t make your kids drink milk just because everyone else says it’s essential. Enjoy that occasional piece of fish, even after you’ve committed to being vegan, because it just feels right and it will make you happy. There is no dogma, only the truth of your body. Follow your truth and enjoy the power to decide for yourself!
3. Boost your Life Force Energy by keeping your mornings sacred. Just by resting your system with a period of fasting in the morning, you will boost the life force that animates your whole body and spirit. Stop cluttering up your center with food all day long. Enjoy the lightness of the morning before you take in anything. You will grow to love this time of day as you come to recognize the Life Force Energy within you.
4. Juice until dinner—one, two, or three days a week. Juicing will really help to open up your center and increase your Life Force Energy. At first, work your way up to this by juicing until lunch. This will really get the energy flowing and help your body catch up on the backlog of dense substances that are blocking your bliss, physically and energetically.
5. Make every day a “salad day.” Make yourself the juiciest salads with lots of cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon juice, and summer herbs like basil and cilantro. Remember what raw food is all about and make the most desirable, mouth-watering salad imaginable! Add some raw goat cheese or avocado to make it a totally satisfying meal!
6. Stretch your body. Get down on the floor and gently stretch your body—not to practice yoga per se, but just to open yourself up and relieve your body of the energetic stagnation and gas pressure between the muscle tissues and joints. Enjoy the easy bliss that comes from just a few moments of stretching throughout the day.
7. Discard the old programming, and embrace new stories that serve your truth. You are your own storyteller. Direct your own life by choosing what to accept and what to discard. Make way for all the love and joy you want to bring into your life by discarding the lies and misguided programs. Love yourself so much that there is only room for the beautiful truths in your heart. Watch what develops.
8. Pay attention to the people and places that are no longer part of your truth. Gauge your physical reactions. Do your palms get sweaty or does your heartbeat increase when you when you go to certain places? Are you really having a good time when you go out with certain people or is it a routine obligation? When you pay attention to such things you discover other parts of your life that are ready to evolve. It took me a while to recognize the many uncomfortable signals my body gave when I would walk into department stores. I finally understood that these places greatly repulsed my whole being. Now, unless it is absolutely necessary, I stay out. Another time, I realized that I could not open a tabloid/celebrity magazine without getting a little sick inside, so I stopped reading them—and now they look as foreign to me as a bag of Twizzlers! Recently, I had a strong reaction to a certain crowd. Now I have complete confirmation that there is no joy in that environment for me anymore, so I no longer engage with it. Don’t swim blindly and let the waves and rapids knock you around. Open your eyes and see that you have options!
9. Be impeccable with your word—your word is you! Don’t say things that are not true just to make other people happy or to keep yourself safe from their judgment. Be true to yourself. Of course, this starts with being honest with yourself. Have honest conversations with yourself as you address what you embrace and what no longer serves you. Be as courageous as you can be today and expand your courage every day as it opens you up more and more to your true self. When you are free to be your true self you will love yourself more and your life experience will be so much more fulfilling.
10. Find something you love more than food. Discover a passion, something that gets you out of your mind-chatter. It could be anything from painting to meditating to a particular subject that captivates your imagination, or just the pleasure of a walk with a good friend. Too many people lean on eating as an outlet for their mental reprieve. That should not be the role of a meal or a snack. Remember how great it was to be a kid lost at play for hours—not thinking, just creating and playing with the innocence of a clear mind? My passion is pursuing truth and eliminating illusions in all areas of life and then creating naturally from that incredible, ever-expanding perception. When I am creating, I am in my joy. What is your joy?
Here’s to an ever more outstanding life experience for us all!
With the release of the new Karate Kid, I suspect there is going to be a resurgence of interest in all things related to kung fu. I was nine years old when the original Karate Kid came out, and I got a life-size poster of Ralph Macchio for my bedroom wall. While I was a die-hard fan of the original version and soundtrack, and generally do not like remakes of films, I believe that this new version is going to strike a deeper chord with viewers than the original did.
In this version of Karate Kid, there is a depiction of ancient Taoist power in the monastery scene in the mountains. I go to my authority on Taoist chi practices, Kostos Danaos, author of Nei Kung: The Secret Teachings of Warrior Sages (both of which I highly recommend for those of you who are interested), for the definition of kung fu. Danaos writes:
…the first term, kung, is written as a combination of the characters kung and li. Kung means “to build, to construct.” Li means “power or strength.” The second term, fu, is made up of the single character fu, which is a complex ideogram to interpret. Fu is derived from the character for man, with added widespread arms and an adult man’s hatpin through the character (in medieval China each adult male wore a hatpin through his hat and hair). The implication is of a mature, large, responsible adult man or father figure; the character is also used in other contexts to denote someone’s husband. In other worlds, the term kung fu actually means: “the construction and development of one’s energy over time, through daily effort, such that in the end one obtains mature power and the spiritual development of a Master.”
Kung fu, in other words, is a path of continual discipline and training, of nonstop growth over your entire life.
I feel this movie is going to strike right to the hearts of filmgoers because it arouses an ancient knowledge that has lay buried deep in the unconscious mind—knowledge about essential human power—chi, or life force energy. We are a culture that has taken active, living things and rendered them dead in exchange for materials that we think we want, that we think drive our world forward. But the attraction to kung fu betrays a far more magnetic attraction: our innate desire for life force energy.
We have grown lazy and calcified in our patterns, but in kung fu we are reminded of the beauty of physical, mental, and spiritual discipline—the ingredients for progressing cooperatively with life and the living power within us. This is what is deeply fulfilling for us, not the Ferris wheel of plasticity that we culturally subscribe to through the regular purchase and consumption of industrial foods, products, and blueprints for socially accepted living.
The power we are instinctually attracted to is living power, in all its fullness and abundance, in all its beauty and health-generating inspiration. But we cannot attain that kind of power through laziness and the herd mentality. Where does the herd’s uncultivated energy go? To the cattle driver, of course!
We can cultivate our power through the disciplines that shape it, or we can relinquish our power by stepping into line with the social norms that routinely destroy our greatest resources. The choice is ours.
Traditional Taoists are among the few remaining keepers of an ancient wisdom—a knowledge of energy so powerful that it can be lethal in immature hands. It tells us something about the power we carry within, and what happens when we relinquish rather than cultivate that power. With this power we can shape what indigenous peoples call “the dream,” “maya,” or “illusionary reality.” With this power we can also change the dream, as the remaining keepers of this ancient wisdom have long been urging us to do.
You, as a living being, are brimming with tremendous potential power. It is yours to cultivate and craft, to create and direct toward the life you want. By the same token, it is also yours to relinquish, whittle away, squander, or ignore.
Our culture has raised the last few generations to give their life force away—in exchange for a prepackaged life—in the form of packaged foods, relationships, careers, indulgences, entertainment systems, and so on. We now live in a world of devitalized adults and children who know nothing of their inner power, only of where to go for their next purchase.
Yet, even in our devitalized world, a young person will sometimes catch a glimpse of kung fu or feel a surge of chi. When that happens, what do we tell them? That it is the stuff of fantasies? Try telling that to the Shaolin monks, for whom telekinesis, the absorption of enormous amounts of momentum, displacement of matter, and electrogeneration are not supernatural events, but entirely natural and normal for a mature human being.
When our chi falls away from us like sand through our fingers, simply because we cannot see it with our modern-day eyes, so too do our forces of intuition, instinct, and connection—all those things that keep us alive and progressing.
As Danaos explains in his books, in order for there to be life, there must be a balance of yin and yang, the dance of the energies of life – the yin personified by the female (the inner negative pole, representing night, etc.) and yang personified by the male (the phallic positive pole, representing day, etc.). Within us we find the yin and yang energies running concurrently, parallel, side by side, propelling life in all its electromagnetic power. These energies can combine powerfully when we learn how to cultivate and harness their flow.
Eastern energy practices are a great place to begin appreciating the value of life force. Whenever you are vigilant of your inner power, where it resides and where it is going, and whenever you make the life choices that honor it, you are practicing kung fu, you are cultivating and maturing your physical and spiritual power. This is true wealth. Don’t let anyone take it from you!
Summer is here and it truly is the season of power. The sun is the great generator. For the next three months, solar energy is at its peak in this part of the world, which means that we have access to more energy now than at any other time of the year. It means that we can greatly benefit from this power if only we know how to connect with it. In summer, we can get charged up by this solar power and feel deeply infused with energy.
If you open yourself up to this solar power, you’ll feel it in your blood stream, in your muscle tissue and bones, in your womb if you’re a woman (this is a great time to boost fertility), in the creative centers of your mind and body, and last but not least, in your heart. Summer is not the time to melt and become lethargic, but a time of great opportunity for every living being.
There is nothing like the electric feeling of waking up to the summer sun in a clean body, with electromagnetic life force, chi, solar fire running though your blood, with your heart beating strong and your mind brimming with creative thoughts, propelled with a desire to capitalize on this power. This feeling is among the greatest gifts life has to offer. So let me give you a few tips to get you there.
In order to receive this solar energy, you need to be clean internally and externally, and connected to the earth and to nature at large. While it helps to live in the country, you can tap into nature’s energy almost anywhere. As I write this, I am fully linked up with enormous solar energy right here in the middle of New York City. The flow is intense, not because I’m tanning to a crisp in the noonday sun, but because I’ve consciously opened myself up to great web of energy all around me.
Unity consciousness—the perspective that life is an interconnected whole, ever pulsating with life-generating energy—keeps me connected. Separation consciousness, the typical perspective in our culture, keeps most people disconnected from the web of life and thus choked off from all the power it carries. Most people believe they get their energy from calories alone (usually unnatural substances completely devoid of life force) and seek security merely in following the social norms—such as maintaining steady jobs, signing up for health insurance plans, accumulating credit, investing capital, and so on.
The problem is that these things can be stripped away at any moment. Banks can close, jobs come and go, health insurance plans offer no insurance of health, emergencies strike, governments fail—the list of social insecurities is endless. But rooting your energy, your power, your raison d’être in nature’s great web of life is the best investment decision you could ever make. If your job, your health insurance, your stocks, and good credit were stripped away, if society were crumbling around you, you would still have your breath, your energy, your health, your passion, your inspiration.
This is not to suggest that we should ignore the workings of society and reject the world. You can certainly hold down a job (hopefully, one that you are passionate about), live in a beautifully appointed home, pay taxes, and so on. The difference is where you get your energy, where your consciousness is. Real energy and power do not unravel based on day-to-day events, news cycles, and financial markets—all the whims and vicissitudes of the social order. Real power, the energy that propels the life cycle at large, is never-ending, continually fortifying, evergreen.
We human beings are part of a great network designed to receive the electromagnetic power of the sun. That power is the life force that flows in such abundance through every atom in the natural world, in every unseen wave particle that charges the air. It is in the sun’s rays and in the earth’s electromagnetic field. The energetic field is all around us, but in this culture of separation consciousness we all too often cut ourselves off from it.
We are made up of layers of energy and energetic pathways, from our very subatomic structures—the electrons that carry the electromagnetic energy from one atom to another, from cell to cell—through our neurological pathways, bloodstreams, lymph systems, brain waves, muscles, organs, reproductive systems, spinal fluids, skeletal systems, and the unseen nadis and meridians of our energy body.
Our culture is all about separation, wielding one power over another, taking power at the expense of another. Our culture is hierarchical; we understand life only mechanistically, in parts, not holistically. Thousands of years of separation consciousness have cemented this disconnect in the minds of its citizens. Separation consciousness manifests in every single thought and practice in modern society. No wonder so many tramp off to work each day, only to come home deeply exhausted, laden with waste and disappointment. We are seeking energy and life in all the wrong places, in all the wrong ways, when there is more than enough healing, invigorating, creative energy to go around!
To perceive the great web of life, to connect with its energy, takes an enormous leap in consciousness. To step into it requires the heart and passion of a hero. You are invited every single moment of your life to link up with this great force. A powerful, pulsating sea of energy is always ready to fill your pathways and revitalize every cell of your being. Think of summer as the season of high vitality. Unblock yourself, open up your pathways, step into the light, fuel your creativity and all that is closest to your heart.
Here’s to your Summer of Power!