Want Magic? Do Something!

A quick stomp to remind everyone that magic, hope and dreams only come to those who seek actively seek them!

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Are They Conning You?

To make any kind of successful change in your life you must:

A: Have a mentor who knows the terrain you wish to travel.  Following a mentor who doesn’t know the terrain is like the blind following the blind.

 B: Understand the value of the change to be made.  Unless you truly understand the value that making a change will bring to your life you won’t have any motivation to see the change through.

 C: Be dedicated to making that change.  Without dedication you’ll simply go with what’s easy and never attain the full benefits that a real change can bring you.

Those of you who have college degrees think back to your time in school.  Go through your professors in your mind.  Then ask yourself the following three questions:

1. How SUCCESSFUL were your professors in the industry they claimed to be educating you in

If they weren’t extremely successful in the industry you wished to be in they didn’t know the terrain you wished to travel and it was simply the blind leading the blind. 

A friend of mine who’s a practicing lawyer, who also teaches law and ethics at a college, hates his job and no matter how hard he tries he simply cannot advance in his law career the way he wishes to.  He’s currently teaching students how to be successful lawyers.  How successful do you think they’ll be if they’re being led by a guide who can’t thrive in the terrain through which he’s guiding them?

2. How many of your professors understood the value of change?  Think for a minute about this one.  Were the professors you had effectively growing the scope of their own experience, or were they teaching you about things that other people had done or discovered – or what they had done 20 years ago? 

Teachers who reference experiences they see on TV, in a movies or in books do not themselves understand the value of change.  Their experience is second hand.  And when they teach it to you, it becomes third hand experience.  What kind of events make a greater impact on you: ones that someone else tells you about third hand?  Or ones that you experience yourself first hand?
3. Did your professors help you to become successful and actualized in the industry you wanted to thrive in? 

Unless you are fully actualized in the area you wanted to become educated in—providing you actually recognized the value of the change you needed to make, and were willing to make that change—your degrees failed you. 

Before you decide it’s time to go back to college or send your kids to college ask yourself: Did school make you successful and actualized the first time? 

If your answer is yes, then why do you need to go back again? 

If your answer is no, then why would you continue to sink your precious time and other resources into a system that already failed you once?  If you bought a smart phone and found out that it wouldn’t connect to the web, didn’t text and you couldn’t make any calls on it, would you go just go back to the mobile store and buy another one?

The alternative to college

 1. Is there a way you can find a mentor who has already thrived or is thriving in the terrain  you wish to cross to act as a guide for you? 

 

Student loans are a liability.  They pick your pockets before you ever get a chance to fill them for yourself. Working with a successful mentor who is willing to guide you in exchange for equal value compensation is a way to avoid this trap.  So ask yourself: What can you do to bring value to a mentor’s life that is an equal exchange for his acting as your Sherpa? 

2. Until you truly understand the value that such changes will make in your life you’re likely to lack real motivation. 

This means understanding that you really can become the person you always wished to be: first hand.  That means you have to give up vicarious living.  It’s a lot more work and comes with greater responsibility.  The value: you will become the real deal, empowered, actualized, authentic and able to act as guide to others.  It’s much harder to be a real boy than a wooden one: just ask Pinocchio.  Still he knew it was worth it in the end.

3. College means very little effort and work.  You read a few books, sit in a lecture, take some tests.  But the price is enormous.  It means hungering for the approval of teachers and the constant need for reassurance and grades.  That need for approval and acceptance will spill over into your relationships and effect them.  It also means selling off thousands of hours of your precious time to pay for a degree that comes with no guarantees and is more like a rigged card game than a path to living a full and prosperous life.

Living life first hand demands constant effort and growth. It demands dedicating to yourself, the well being of your family and friends.  It means keeping your oaths and contracts the way the old knights did.  But the fruit that bears in independence, true acceptance and self satisfaction outweigh anything that you could ever get from a grade-point average.

Now, before you think that college is a measure of excellence consider this: if a college flunks you, they lose your money.  If they lose your money, they can’t stay in business.  So, it’s in their best interest to make sure you pass.  No matter what you learn or don’t learn; who you are or want to be. It doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that your tuition keeps coming in.  For as long as they can get it, and during as many times in of your life as they can manage it.

How Reality Challenged Are You?

Recently, I met a single mother who had no money, no means and was, unfortunately, never really taught her own worth or how to spot opportunities.  She was afraid of people because she was never really given any tools to effectively handle her interactions with them in a way that allowed her to get her needs fulfilled. 

The result: a real lack of confidence.  That lack of confidence left her, sadly, unable to even know where to begin to put her life in balance.  It’s a common and devastating occurrence that no one should have to suffer.  Still, it happens.  And when it does, different people cope in different ways.

To cope she told herself that she was chosen to inspire the world through poetry and her keen spiritual insight. Instead of cultivating the skills she needed to turn her real talents—the ones no one had ever really noticed or encouraged—into something that could provide real value for herself and her daughter, she spent her days writing poetry. Why? It was easy and she didn’t have to rely on anyone else for it.  Plus, she’d convinced herself it was the “divine” thing to do. 

She justified her ‘life’s purpose’ of writing down her feelings in a journal (a method of confession, guilt relief and, in fact, a strategy to nullify some of the very real fear and pain she was grappling with) by telling herself that she’d been called to a higher purpose of “uplifting the human soul and giving people hope.”

But in reality no one really noticed what she was doing because she had no audience.  She and her child fell further into poverty and struggle.  That drove her further inside and she spent her days writing about how alone she was.  That made people avoid her more because she brought them down. But none of that changed her view: inside, she believed this was her divine calling and that she was a raging success inspiring people to greatness.  Even when she couldn’t feed her daughter.

I’ve been watching this sort of thing happen a lot lately.  On social media and with people I meet through the day and in my coaching work.  Some people make statements that show an alarming difference between who they believe they are, how they act and what’s really going on in their lives.

Now, in the last two articles on lying I told you guys all about the primal motivations that people need to have fulfilled before they can feel success, happiness and fulfillment. If you haven’t read those articles I encourage you to read them now.  Up to this point I’ve only told you that humans need these things fulfilled if they’re ever going to feel content and satisfied; and if they can’t get them fulfilled, they lie.  But in this article I’m going to show you just how serious it can get if those motivations are not fulfilled.  It can get really crazy. 

From a mind control perspective there are several what we call “interrogation types”.  Really the ‘types’ are coping strategies.  As I mentioned above, different people cope in different ways.  There are, in fact, all people fall into one or more of these observable coping strategies.  But I guarantee you that there are a lot less of them than you might think.  People are really not as varied as they think they are.  There are actually only nine types or “strategies” that all people fall into. These strategies develop early in life along with such things as the Briggs-Meyers profile. Two of these types are responsible for the sort of discrepancies I spoke of earlier.  They are referred to in mind control circles as: “Self-Centered” and “Reality Challenged”.

Now, before we go on, ask yourself:

  • Have you ever convinced yourself and others that your life was fantastic even though it wasn’t? 
  • Or concocted some incredible story about yourself that was false just to avoid facing what was really going on?
  • Ever project your shortcomings onto someone else so that you could remain blameless and appear to have it all together even though you didn’t?
  • If your life was slipping out of control and your friends, out of concern, came to you and told you what was happening, would you believe them or dismiss them for questioning you?

 

As I outlined in the last two articles people lie for two reasons: 1. We lie when we’re hungry and we can’t get our primal motivations satisfied. 2. We lie when the fact that we can’t feed ourselves is exposed to others.  (See “What Makes You a Liar?” https://gravestomper.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/what-makes-you-a-liar/ and “Are You Lying To Yourself” https://gravestomper.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/what-makes-you-a-liar-part-2/ below.)  But some of us do it so habitually that it degenerates into complete delusion, ie the “self-centered” and “reality challenged” coping strategies. 

The reality challenged type tend to be introverted.  Not all introverts are reality challenged but the reality challenged coping strategy is introverted.  They can be thinking or feeling if you’re looking at their Briggs Meyers profile.  But somewhere in their childhood, for whatever reason, they didn’t think or feel they were significant enough in their outside world and it drove them inside to create a fantasy world where they were more relevant.   The difference between who they are in this inner world and who they are in the outer world is staggeringly different.  Even frightening.

They have a really difficult time maintaining lasting relationships because real relationships make them feel less relevant then they do in their inner fantasy world.  They’re rarely, if ever, aware that their lives are built on lies, because they have no idea that their primal motivations aren’t being met.  In fact, they wouldn’t believe that the sixteen primal motivations have been observed repeatedly for thousands of years and are used to move people all the time by those who know mind control.  To them, things like mind control is a joke, something for kooky conspiracy theorists. Impossible. 

In his world: the reality challenged individual is untouchable.  A master who defies categories.  Unique and  limitless. Even though all outward evidence proves otherwise.  Even though he is a definite and observable type.  Even though he is being moved every day by those who took the time to observe how to move him.

This type has an interesting strategy for dealing with people who question them.  Anyone who questions their fantasy is dubbed an ‘inferior’. They hate it when ‘inferiors’ question them.  The problem is, that ‘inferior’ status is based on the fantasy of who they think/feel they are. So, it sort of dissolves into a simple self-defense reflex: “if you question my greatness you must be inferior.”  And their fantasy is reinforced.

The reality challenged person usually has a “cause”, that is, whatever fantasy she’s running at the moment is the means to an end, whatever end that may be.  Usually it’s something that justifies her fantasies. 

There’s a similar set of strategies that come with those we call the ‘self-centered’ type.  These guys are also introverted too but are driven for outside approval.  They were likely bullied in their lives.  Because others didn’t accept them they went inside to feel love and comfort.  The outside is full of pain and unclean experiences for them so they avoid it and experience everything directly inside. 

They’re really sensitive to criticism and they, like the reality challenged, are also lacking the tools they need to satisfy their primal drivers.  (See “What Kind of a Liar Are You?” below.) To hide this they brag about themselves rather than taking action.   They tell everyone all of the great things they’re going to do or greatly exaggerate the value of what they have done. In the end they do very little but brag.

They are also full of fear and lacking self confidence, but these guys are constantly looking at their environment and ‘editing’ it to cast them in the best possible light.  Again they are not getting those primal motivations fulfilled and so they’re filtering their experiences internally to convince themselves they are.  The result?  They are living a  sort of zombified half-life.  Seeking approval and constantly bragging.  But inside there’s nothing but guilt and shame and fear.

If you asked either type, the reality challenged, or the self-centered if they were happy, they would concoct all sorts of stories about how successful and fulfilled they are even though their actions, their word choice, their body posture and their general state of living will always show you otherwise.

I have a friend who’s father is reality challenged. I’ve watched him ever since I was in my teens. When he was younger it wasn’t as pronounced or noticeable as it is now. When we were kids he held himself up as a successful authority, a physical therapist and effective parent.  We used to see him sit in his living room chair and drink to go inside and feed his fantasy place. 

As he’s gotten older he’s revealed to us what he really believes.  In his inner world he is an inspiration to his children.  A world class physical therapist.  He believes his wife loves him unconditionally and that his mistress would be nothing without him.  He, in fact, wanted to have a child with his mistress because he felt he was such an inspiration to the three adult children he already has.

In reality, he’s a timid man who’s afraid of social interaction.  None of his children live anywhere near him because they don’t particularly like him much. He’s so-so at his work. His wife is happy for the first time in a couple of decades because she just told him to get out of her house: she’s divorcing him.  His mistress has told him she’s really not interested in him anymore. 

My friend has really given up on him because he refuses to accept any facts.  And still,  he feels that he’s the lynch pin of everyone and every life around him; that they all admire and love him very much because he’s such a remarkable example of success. But all you have to do is shake hands with him and immediately you know from his weak grip and how his eyes look downward how much he’s ruled by fear and how much he’s settled in his life.

So, why am I telling you all of this?

First, to further emphasize how important the 16 primal motivations I referred to in the last two articles really are. If you haven’t read those articles yet you should now.

And second, to let you know that there are people out there like this.  Who will lie and deny no matter what evidence you give them that their lives just aren’t working. Who will get angry with you for questioning them.  Who will expect you to conform to their reality even though it is impossible to do so.  Because no matter how unsuccessful, angry, unfulfilled they are…dude, they’re convinced…they got it all figured out!

And whether they know it or not, they’re vulnerable to their lives and minds being hijacked by anyone who wishes to, simply because they’re not managing themselves.

Are You Lying To Yourself?

In the last article I spoke to you guys about why people lie.  Now Let’s take a look at what keeps people lying even though they know it’s doing them and the people around them incredible damage.

I know, it’s a big subject.  And it might be making some of you uncomfortable.  But no one’s judging you…certainly not the Gravestomper, who’s dedicated his life to helping people live happy, secure and fulfilled lives.   So, stick with me. I got your hand…

Lying is sort of an insidious snare.  And it’s true that it may seem impossible to tackle.  You may say, “Corin, everyone lies and it’s such a big problem that there’s just no way to stop it.”  

But if you fall into this group you have to realize: the “everybody” you’re talking about are only unsuccessful people. People who are really safe and secure and those who feel a true sense of love and belonging don’t need to lie because their primal motivators, the ones I spoke about in the last article, are satisfied. They simply don’t need to.

So, let’s think about this for a second.  Wouldn’t you rather be one of those people who’s satisfied and successful rather than one of those who’s hungry and making excuses to cover it up?

Still, there are those of you too who’d like to say, “But I disagree with you, Corin.  A habit like lying can’t be broken.” 

But we all know from news articles and blogs and social media, and from magazines and books and TV that millions of people every year break damaging habits, leave their excuses behind and become part of that group known as “The Successful People”. 

Don’t you think being a member of their group would feel more safe and fulfilling than being part of the ‘excuses’ crowd?  Wouldn’t it be cooler to be part of the family of winners than to always be like that kid with the broken toys who’s got to defend his lousy family, the one that’s always bringing him down, to all his friends?

Look—it’s OK. People in families always emulate the others in their family.  They model what is going on in their environment.  It’s how we learn.  There’s nothing shameful about realizing that your actions are causing you pain. What is shameful is when you learn things like the stuff you’re learning here but choose to ignore them or make excuses for them.  Because then you are choosing to consciously continue to do damage. 

It’s the difference between ignorance and stupidity.  When one is ignorant, he just doesn’t know any better.  But stupidity, is when you have knowledge of something like how to better yourself, but choose NOT to use it.  It’s a side effect of lying.

Let me tell you about a friend of mine who was starting a business.  She’d worked in education for a long time and wanted independence, security and freedom but knew she wasn’t going to find it teaching. 

Three friends of hers wanted to start up a business.  They promised her it would be fun and the money would be rolling in.  All she had to do was make an initial investment and they would do the rest.  She wanted to be part of their group and have the security and status they promised their business would bring her.  It sounded easy and she wanted easy really bad. Bad enough to lie to herself about who she really was and what she really wanted.

When she told me about it I offered to help her with some motivational coaching as a favor. I even offered to bring in a business coach friend of mine who agreed to help her at a major discount in his fee just to make sure she had a solid foundation to start from. 

I sat down with her and showed her what the sixteen primal motivational drivers were and how to discover what her special combination of these motivators was.  I also showed her some other exercises that would help her to really discover what her core values were, so she’d be able to start a business that was based on who she really was and what really ‘moved’ her.

When it became obvious that she’d been ignorant about how these tools are actually used by really successful people, she became intensely uncomfortable and irritable.  When she saw that the tools would really help her but that it might take a bit of time to really work through the process, she started making excuses and finally dismissed the whole concept.  She said her business partners had everything taken care of. That they were geniuses at business and that her interests were covered. 

When I asked her a little more about what her business partners’ backgrounds were she began to lie about what the business really was, who was involved and what the terms of the arrangement would be.  She lied about how much money she’d already put up, about who’d be responsible for the debts and even what her position in the company would be.

So, why did she lie?   Why didn’t she just figure out what her primal motivations were so that she could really start to build a secure life that would make her confidence grow and really fulfill her? Why did she choose, instead, to be dishonest with herself and with everyone around her?

OK, this is big.  REALLY big.  It is so big that I’ve debated long and hard about whether I even want to tell you this.  Because telling you what I’m about to tell you may in fact trigger the very mistake I’m hoping to help you recognize.  Most of you will dismiss it.  Why? You’ll be unable to recognize that you, in fact, are making this very mistake, because this mistake is self-reinforcing.  Its very nature prevents people from recognizing that they are making it.  And most people are so threatened by it that they immediately start making excuses, dismiss it, get angry about it, or run away. 

The fact is this: When my friend learned what the primal motivators were, she couldn’t deny that there was some combination of them she needed to satisfy before she could ever be successful and happy.  And it threatened her trivial pride, preferences and prejudices.  It is one of THEE biggest mistake people make.  They believe they know it all that no one can help them because they’ve got it covered.  And as I said in the last article: we lie for two reasons.  1. We lie when we’re hungry and we can’t get our primal motivations satisfied. 2. We lie when the fact that we can’t feed ourselves is exposed to others.

My friend said she didn’t need any coaching help from me or my successful business coach friend. She stated rather firmly that she had it all figured out.  “My partners know everything about business,” she said.  Then she disappeared from my life for months.

When I finally saw her again she was mortified to admit that it had all blown up on her. That her partners got controlling interest of the business even though she’d put up all the money. That they had asked her to leave the partnership.  That she’d lost thousands and still owed more.  And that they continued to do business irresponsibly while she was still legally responsible for most of their debts. 

She now works an hourly job while she waits for all of this to go through the courts.  She still has no freedom, no security, and she’s wracked with shame.  Still, she won’t even agree to acknowledge there could be any primal motivators that she needs satisfied, and she’s gearing up to do business with some new partners who’ve promise her that a business proposition they have is going to make her very wealthy.

Know anyone who does this?  Who lies to themselves and everyone else over and over again because their petty pride, preferences and biases keep them from ever admitting they aren’t making it no matter how badly they’re faking it?

Here’s the good news.  You don’t have to live this way.  In fact, you owe it to yourself and everyone in your life to NOT live this way.  Lying is much more damaging than the  traditional argument of good versus evil would have you understand.  Because that cause for lying, lack of satisfied primal motivators is a constant, never ending destroyer of your self confidence. (see the first article)

If you want  to learn more about the primal motivators and what they are, go ahead and enter your name and email below.  And I’ll send you a secret link to a video I’ve done that will teach you a little bit about them.  Don’t worry—it won’t cost you anything and you’ll be able to watch it whenever and wherever you want to.  But I’m only going to post the video for a very short time, because I have other projects in the works that really need my attention.  So, if you want to see it, go ahead and get the link now:





The Bike Path of Life

Many of you have written me and asked me: “What do you mean when you talk about living in the moment?  And what do you mean when you say that people are avoiding living by losing themselves in a fantasy?”  I’ve decided to use an analogy here to illustrate my point. 

Graveyards aren’t the only places I like to stomp. I bike ride.  A lot.  Five times a week you can find me on my mountain bike on a nearby trail  in the woods.  The path is beautiful, hilly, expansive.  It has a lot to offer—a lot of secrets.  And lot to teach.  It’s an incredible place to go and hike, jog or bike and just be in the moment.  And all moments have something to teach us if we’re present in them.  When you’re paying attention, you start to notice patterns on the bike path: types of people and their habits.  The path is like life—see?  And the hikers show you the types of people who are just letting their lives slip past them… Maybe you’ve seen these people in other areas of life.  On the road.  In the grocery store.  At work.  It’s true that these characters populate all our lives.  Which do you think you are?

The zombies:

This is by far the largest group on the path.  They stumble along, alone or in couples, completely unaware of where they are or their surroundings.  Lost in some fantasy.  They zig zag on the path in front of you and you never know what they’re going to do, because they never know what they’re going to do.  There is no purpose to their being there—they’re just there, victims of “fate” hoping something will amuse them, bless them or curse them. 

When you’re a rider you MUST announce your presence to these people otherwise they will step in front of you and get mowed down.  It’s astonishing how many are startled when you slowly ride up—you have to approach them slowly, if you clip past they will throw themselves in front of you—and gently call; “Passing on your left, please!” 

Some of them jump.  Some gasp.  Other’s grip the person next to them in fear.  On several occasions—and this is the truth I swear it—I’ve seen women, run in circles not knowing what  to do.  I’ve had to stop my bike and wait for them to decide where they wanted to go.  In one case a rather hefty woman dove for the side of the trail and fell on her face.  I have to admit, I wish I had video of that one.  It would surely take the Gravestomper blog viral.

These people are a bit of a menace to those who are out riding.  In this case their lack of being in the moment is a danger to themselves and others.  Note too that this group—like every other group on this list, will blame YOU for their lack of awareness.  And they are by far the largest group out there.

The tech-addicts:

The first in this group is just amusing.  They are the phone users.  These are the hikers who are on the path, surrounded by green, wildlife, blue skies and scented breezes but who aren’t really experiencing any of it because they have a phone stuck to their heads. They chatter loudly with friends who are also somewhere else not experiencing their surroundings.  You can pass them three or four times on the loop of the trail and they’ll still be on the phone each time.  It’s true, sometimes you’ll see them still on the phone when they hop into their cars and drive away from the forest preserve, splitting their focus in traffic for the ride home. When you see them you can’t help but wonder if they’re terrified to be alone, or if they ever enjoy any moment because they’re so conditioned to want to be somewhere else with someone else at all times.

I’ll throw the smokers in here too—inhaling deeply on their cigarettes so they don’t have to breathe in the experiences around them. No fresh air for them!  The one’s who smoke while riding bikes are the funniest.  With every pump of the pedals they decrease their breathing capacity and their ability to ride.  Sometimes they’re blue in the face and hacking up phlegm: mmmmm… sexy!

The texters fall into this category too.  And they are the most dangerous of this group.  A few weeks back. I encountered a man and his two daughters riding on the path.  The eldest of his daughters, about twelve, was texting while on her bike.  She was swooping in wild arcs across the entire width of the path, unable to control her steering because she was so focused on her phone.  Her father was unconcerned, but then, he fell into the first category: zombie.  Guess his daughter was well on her way to that category too, as I had to shout for her to wake up to keep her from crashing into me, and she was so startled when I did that she almost fell off her bike.

You do have to be careful  with all of these people because they will wander in front of you while you’re riding and, unfortunately, they’re not concerned whether or not they take you down with them.

The clan mentality:

By far the most exasperating on the path.  Families who come into the woods.  Mother.  Father.  Three or more children.  They all walk abreast of each other, completely blocking the path.  They never hear when a bike is approaching because they are too wrapped up their family drama and dynamic.  For them no one else exists.  For them there is only their clan.  For them—you are an intrusion into their space that they feel entitled to  because they are a family.  Most often you will get a dirty look from one or more member who finds your presence in the woods an imposition on their experience.

In this case: I advocate bowling.  It’s really the only way they’ll learn the world is bigger than their tiny clan.

The pet lovers:

These guys are fun and friendly, interactive and usually they are aware that you’re coming because they want to keep their pets safe.  Unfortunately some of them walk in couples or trios while use those extending leashes and set up a road block across the whole trail, in which case they are no longer pet lovers, they are clan mentality (see above).

Joggers:

They’re out every day. Even with their headphones on they know you’re coming.  They stay to the right and allow you to pass.  They never hoard the trail because they know that there are OTHER PEOPLE who are using it for MANY PURPOSES.  These guys are usually in the moment have a purpose and goals.  They are, in fact, a delight to share the trail with.

The dedicated bikers:

Like the joggers these are the ones who are out there doing.  Practicing every day or so.  Present in the moment.   We are the smallest group in the woods and the ones who have to negotiate all the others.  But we’re also the ones who get the furthest, go the fastest, and who experience the most.  We also have the firmest asses.  But that’s another blog entirely.

Law of Attraction or Law of Decay?

Back in the late 80’s I worked in a book store. At the time there was a deluge of new ’self help’ titles that were preaching the beginning of what has come to be known today as the “law of attraction“. The authors of these books swore emphatically and passionately that if you just followed your heart and did what you loved for a living, happiness would quickly follow and money would flood in afterwards like a tidal wave.
 
Now, I got my first job when I was twelve years old. I worked as a bar back in the bar where my father used to go and get drunk. To say that I had a Dickensian upbringing is a bit of an understatement. I grew up in a blue collar Chicago neighborhood where everyone hated their jobs and were miserable from 9-5 every day, and then came home at night and got drunk. By the time they were forty their bodies were shot, their mobility was limited: they were overweight and stuck and unhappy. So, when I read what these authors were saying about doing what you love, I desperately wanted to believe them. After all, I thought, they’d published books, so there had to be something to what they were saying…right?
 
I majored in creative writing and minored in dance as those were the things I loved most at the time. When I graduated I was ready for the happiness and wealth these self-help gurus had promised but ended up, instead, working in a factory that made dance clothing. I was the only one there with any kind of college degree and I was far from the highest paid individual in the joint.
 
Depressed at this outcome following five years of college, I decided what I needed was more education to make my dreams come true. So I went to graduate school and got an MFA in creative writing. During that time I sold some stories to national magazines, did some freelance writing for corporations, wrote a kids book for a New York publisher, tutored writing students and then, finally, ended up a writing teacher at three different Chicago Colleges/Universities. I thought my problems would be over but in all that time I never made more money than I did working in the factory, nor did I see any of the success that was promised by those new age gurus who told me that if I just followed my passion I would succeed and succeed big.
 
Once, when I was teaching at Loyola University, one of the top Universities in Chicago, I asked the English department chair if I had any future as a teacher at Loyola. His blunt response to me was: “What else do you know how to do?” I was devastated that I had spent ten years of my life educating myself to wind up at a dead end.
 
After eight years of teaching college, I finally decided I didn’t want to be poor, underappreciated or overworked any longer and I quit teaching to pursue other interests. It took me a few years to begin to get my life on track again because I was still clinging to the belief that if I just did what I was passionate about I would be successful.
 
In the middle of this I learned about sales, entrepreneurialism and about a Tibetan doctrine about kingdom building that the ancient BÖn used to build the silk road. Studying these things confirmed something that direct experience had taught me years before. The Law of Attraction is merely an advocation of self indulgence. The truth of the matter is: If you wish to be successful you must first conceive of a vision that is bigger than yourself and your own desires. It must be big enough to include other people. Big enough for them to find a place in it. Otherwise you will never find success no matter how passionate you are, no matter how badly you need to express yourself, or how much talent you have. Desire alone never brings success. In fact, the more desire you invest in a thing, the more likely that thing will elude you.
I always think of this LOA movement as a four hour long sex session that your partner skips out on before you orgasm. When it’s over you’re left chafed and frustrated and alone–wondering why you wasted all the energy to begin with when with a little effort you could have just taken care of yourself.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Birth of a Gravestomper

Maybe it all started that afternoon when I was wandering through the St Francis Borgia grammar school library looking for something to read. Those days reading bored the hell outta me. I preferred being outside: running, biking, lying under the hundred-year-old silver maples in my front yard making up adventures. There was life outside in the open air and things were so stagnant in that Catholic school. There was little of interest to me within it’s beige walls and filthy asbestos ceilings. So much so that in second grade I asked one of the nuns to let me go to the bathroom and I simply walked out of the school and ran away. It took my father throwing me to the ground, beating me and kicking me to make me agree not to leave it again.

 

But anyway: back to the library. I was looking for something that would excite me. I’d already read the only book the school had on Greek mythology about fifty times. I loved the stories of the Gods. They were so much more interesting than the battered crucified curse we had to face above the chalkboards every day. That was a constant reminder that there was no way to win. If the Catholics didn’t lobotomize me with their our fathers and hail mary’s, then someone else would sling me up on a tree and nail me in. Their philosophy sucked. A point I reiterated years later in Catholic high school to a gym teacher who then dragged me into his office and beat me up. Another curse. They were all about curses, these people. But the old Greeks knew the Gods weren’t infallible. They were like us only bigger and more powerful. This seemed important to me. But there was only one book about them in that Catholic library. Looking back now, I admit, I’m surprised there was even the one; but there was, and I’d read it; and I was looking for something else; and that’s when I saw it.

 

It was the cover that caught my eye. It was black. On it was was a black and green winged figure pointing at a couple of tombstones. Behind the figure a purple sky was split by a lightning bolt and above this was the title, Here Lies the Body by Scott Corbett.

 

I checked it out and immediately started reading it. It was about a New England boy and his little brother, who was may age, who got a summer job cutting grass in ‘Hemlock Hill Burial Ground’. The elder brother wanted to be a writer and spent his time making up poems about the names on the tombstones. Turns out there was a mystery surrounding the two old men who owned the cemetery. It was a great read that left an indelible mark on my imagination. I read the book maybe a dozen times after that.

 

As it happed, my house in Chicago was walking and biking distance from at least six cemeteries. I decided to have some adventures like my heroes from the book and started spending my days—and when I was older, some nights—in Acacia, Westlawn, Mount Olive, St Joesph’s and Elmwood Cemetery in River Grove where John Belushi was originally buried before they moved his body to Massachusetts. In my teens I discovered Graceland and Rosehill on the North side where the first communal mausoleum was built. I fully explored the famous Mount Carmel: notorious for all of the gangsters like Al Capone who are buried there and where all of my Irish/Italian family is buried. I was looking for something. I didn’t know what.

 

When my mother found out I spent so much time in cemeteries she was horrified and said: “How can you do that?”

 

Why” I said to her. “It’s not the dead I’m worried about. It’s the living.” Which tells me now that even then I understood one of the principles central to the Tibetan Bon process: a realization that this life is characterized by suffering. But what no one seemed to be able to tell me was: How to we go beyond that suffering?

 

My time in cemeteries instilled a habit in me. One that lead me to search through the dark of this city for something even though I didn’t know what I was looking for. I know now I was looking for the way to go beyond death. I knew there had to be a way and it wasn’t through the crucified curse. I’d read about Easterners who meditated in cemeteries and I was intrigued. Where did the practice come from? I wanted to know. Later I would find out: Tibet.

 

In my late teens I began to explore dark Chicago nights, clubs, smoky bars and glistening city streets the way I’d searched those cemeteries in my youth. Still looking for the answer to what was behind that dark. On the way home I’d drive into Acacia cemetery, which was open all night back then, and I’d sit on the gravestones and stare up at the stars. One those nights I always knew: the answer would eventually come.

 

One night in the late 80’s I was in club Berlin, staring at a New Order video on the screen. I set my glass down hard on the bar and said aloud to no one: “I’m not coming back! This is it for me.”

Evidently I’d made a decision, but about what I didn’t know. By the time I hit 30 I’d fully explored the ‘New Age’ and found it to be to be no different from the religion I’d been raised on. There was no answer to what I’d been looking for in those cemeteries, or on those dark streets. Just an endless string of opinions.

 

By the time I was in my mid thirties I was researching Tibet. I uncovered a reference to these incredible Tibetans who were called Bön. They were in Tibet before the Buddhists got there and indeed the Buddhists had learned from them. I couldn’t believe some of the legends about these incredible people. Could they be true? According to the book they were all but extinct.

 

“Now, where the hell am I going to find one of these Bön?” I said to myself.

 

But I didn’t have to find one. Two weeks later one found me. I was up in Wisconsin doing palm readings at a Spring festival. He was a Bönku or “seed of Bön”. That is, a Bön master. He gave me a meditation to try and I did it. When I’d master it he gave me another exercise. Unlike all the religions I’d grown up around he never asked me to trust him or believe him or follow him. He simply gave me these experiments and said, “Try them. See what happens.”  See, now, if I was a New-Ager, this is the part of the story where I’d tell you that this Bönku told me I had a special gift, great spiritual power and that I was chosen to lead people. That sort of thing is pure bullshit. He didn’t tell me I was ‘special’ or that I was ‘chosen’. In fact he basically showed me how ignorant I was, and I how I was a prisoner of my own life and habits the way all of us humans are. If anyone had told me I was very powerful I would have known it was bullshit because I felt totally powerless back then. Power was the one thing I wanted because I was tired of having any and all power taken from me by others. I’m astonished so few are willing to admit the fact that they want power. They’re so afraid of it. But just because they pretend not to want it, doesn’t mean they’re fooling anyone. It could lead them to great things if they’d just admit it. But he did tell me that if I worked my ass off I could have great power and reach enlightenment: the way all humans can. It’s just that most humans already think they are already enlightened and so they can’t even be bothered to try and grow further. 

 

By midsummer that year I had taken vows of refuge. Meaning, I committed 11 years of my life to Bön training. That first year I learned all about the famous “cemetery work” of the Bön. (Some of it is chronicled in Alexandra David-Neel’s wonderful book, Magic and Mystery in Tibet.) And I realized why I had always been drawn to cemeteries. Lets just say that cemetery practices and all of the practices we Bön do are aimed at ending suffering: our own and the suffering of others. And we’ve dedicated our time here to manging our minds and ending suffering.

 

Now, cemeteries hold a great deal of magic for me. And I, as a Bön “Gomchen” as we are called, spend my time stomping the grounds with a great deal of appreciation and respect not only for the energies present in those places, but in the power of those places to relieve us of suffering, fears and limitations. For me, every trip to a cemetery is another adventure; it reminds me that we are more than mere dust and bones. We are energy.

 

But as my Bönku said to me the first day I met him: “If you’re not managing your energy, who is?”

 

And that my grave stomping friends, is the key to it all…

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