Unhappy in your own way?

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” ― Leo Tolstoy


A number of people commenting on depression mentioned that they doubt anyone who has not been depressed can understand. And yet, there was WITHIN the group of people suffering (past or present) depression wide disagreement on what it feels like, what triggers it, and so forth.


So I have a theory.  “Existential individuation” is the essential reality that we are all alone, the fear that no one understands us or really “sees” us.    When we are happy, we may wish to share that happiness but we don’t NEED to.  So we don’t really compare notes, try to explain, seek understanding for our happiness.  If we did, we’d notice that no two people are happy in the same way, are triggered by the same things, behave the same when happy.


But when we are in pain we seek comfort, allies, support. The sense that we are separate from the rest of the world, that no one understands us is killing, because we have no sense that we can get out of this by ourselves.




Remember that?  And wow, even “ordinary” depression screws up that equation (little faith, nothing to feel grateful for).   So clinical depression has to be a disaster.  In the Hero’s Journey, “faith” is always faith in one of three things:


  1. Faith in yourself
  2. Faith in your companions
  3. Faith in a higher power (or cause)


When this is savaged so as to create a “zero” in this category, everything else “zeroes out.”   Nothing can be accomplished.   Drag yourself up to a “one” and you can manage to get things done.   It is fascinating to note that what most often gets people going in such a state is their love of someone or something else: children, dependent clients, even pets.  Your belief in your SELF is damaged, but you still see value in others, and the sense of obligation mobilizes you.  It is a human truth that we can do for our tribe things we cannot do for ourselves.


Use that.   Embrace the connection.  Extend your heart to good people (and pets!).  


I assume that clinical depression requires medical intervention. I don’t know what the dividing line is, or to what degree any personal actions have an effect, and know that the very conversation can trigger guilt and fear and feelings of worthlessness. So let’s just consider that to be like a broken leg.


But the other range of negative emotions can be affected by the Triad of:


  1. How you move your body
  2. How you focus your mind
  3. How you use language


This is why the “Daily Ritual” focuses on all three.    I personally use Tai Chi as my movement, and it works well in the “Perfect Template” sense. That is, the best exercise is one which makes you feel “If I could move like that, I’d be happy, healthy, and graceful.   Wow that would be great!”


Then, you simply acquire that movement.  It should cover not just how you look but how you feel. There are plenty of very “fit” people who are not healthy, and healthy people who are not particularly “fit.”


What are the qualities of “healthy motion” in this sense?


  1. Proper breathing. Learned correctly, this bullet proofs you against stress.
  2. Proper alignment.   Learned correctly, this saves massive amounts of energy which can then be re-invested in other areas of your life…or sheer happiness.  Also, it protects your back and abdominal girdle.
  3. Proper motion.  Learned correctly, this protects your joints and affects your mood and mental/emotional performance.


There are many “profound movement” systems, body/mind treasures that are not “merely” fitness (the ability to perform in thus and such a manner) but the radically more important “health” (how you actually feel, when you wake up in the morning, all day, and falling asleep at night.  Sex drive.   Frame of mind).  If I had to choose between one or the other, I’d take “health” in a heartbeat.   Not even close.


“Firedance Tai Chi” cheats.   It uses techniques from yoga, NLP, Transcultural Shamanism, and other modalities to accelerate the effect, so that in hours you can achieve results similar to what others require years to attain.  I developed it after teaching thousands of people at SF and other conventions and gatherings, realizing I had only a few hours to interact with them, and wanting desperately to convey some of the positive effects I’ve gained from my own lifetime of practice.


Watching pain held in body and heart, and seeking some way to help people out of their prisons.  Of course, it is also great fun to work with people who are already balanced, and seek to deepen that understanding and accelerate their progress.


And sometimes I get experts, and those are REALLY fun to play with.  Heck, I wish I could play hands for an hour a day, every day, with people who have some real mastery.  That would be a dream…


But now, I’m experimenting with the question: how much good can be achieved in a day?  A weekend?  We’ll see.  The April 17th FIREDANCE TAI CHI workshop in Bothell Washington is part of this continuing commitment, to give people tools that work, as efficiently and effectively (and affordably!) as possible.   We’re hoping that folks respond to this, and that it leads to conducting such workshops across the country.  But only you can decide this: it’s not for me to say how valuable my insights, experiences, and techniques are.


So…join us on the 17th.  I promise you’ll have an experience to remember!






Unhappy in your own way?

Message from the Masters


herbie hancock wayne shorter

Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock have been friends for over forty years. In the pursuit of their art, they’ve shattered boundaries previously believed unbreakable, they’ve revolutionized the concept of innovation, and have chosen to make the endeavor of living compassionately and courageously the center of their lives.

From their early days composing and playing together with Miles Davis in Davis’ Second Great Quintet, to branching out and flourishing in their individual endeavors, Wayne and Herbie’s contributions to the world of music have been nothing short of extraordinary. Together, they’ve won a combined total of twenty-five Grammys. Despite their countless accolades, they’ll both insist that their greatest achievements lie in their roles as husbands, fathers, and humans of this earth.

After the recent rash of tragedies around the globe in the past year from Paris to San Bernardino, we had the opportunity to ask Wayne and Herbie how the next generation of artists can respond. Below is an open letter with their thoughts.


To the Next Generation of Artists,

We find ourselves in turbulent and unpredictable times.

From the horror at the Bataclan, to the upheaval in Syria and the senseless bloodshed in San Bernardino, we live in a time of great confusion and pain. As an artist, creator and dreamer of this world, we ask you not to be discouraged by what you see but to use your own lives, and by extension your art, as vehicles for the construction of peace.

While it’s true that the issues facing the world are complex, the answer to peace is simple; it begins with you. You don’t have to be living in a third world country or working for an NGO to make a difference. Each of us has a unique mission. We are all pieces in a giant, fluid puzzle, where the smallest of actions by one puzzle piece profoundly affects each of the others. You matter, your actions matter, your art matters.

We’d like to be clear that while this letter is written with an artistic audience in mind, these thoughts transcend professional boundaries and apply to all people, regardless of profession.


We are not alone. We do not exist alone and we cannot create alone. What this world needs is a humanistic awakening of the desire to raise one’s life condition to a place where our actions are rooted in altruism and compassion. You cannot hide behind a profession or instrument; you have to be human. Focus your energy on becoming the best human you can be. Focus on developing empathy and compassion. Through the process you’ll tap into a wealth of inspiration rooted in the complexity and curiosity of what it means to simply exist on this planet. Music is but a drop in the ocean of life.


The world needs new pathways. Don’t allow yourself to be hijacked by common rhetoric, or false beliefs and illusions about how life should be lived. It’s up to you to be the pioneers. Whether through the exploration of new sounds, rhythms, and harmonies or unexpected collaborations, processes and experiences, we encourage you to dispel repetition in all of its negative forms and consequences. Strive to create new actions both musically and with the pathway of your life. Never conform.


The unknown necessitates a moment-to-moment improvisation or creative process that is unparalleled in potential and fulfillment. There is no dress rehearsal for life because life, itself, is the real rehearsal. Every relationship, obstacle, interaction, etc. is a rehearsal for the next adventure in life. Everything is connected. Everything builds. Nothing is ever wasted. This type of thinking requires courage. Be courageous and do not lose your sense of exhilaration and reverence for this wonderful world around you.


We have this idea of failure, but it’s not real; it’s an illusion. There is no such thing as failure. What you perceive as failure is really a new opportunity, a new hand of cards, or a new canvas to create upon. In life there are unlimited opportunities. The words, “success” and “failure”, themselves, are nothing more than labels. Every moment is an opportunity. You, as a human being, have no limits; therefore infinite possibilities exist in any circumstance.


The world needs more one-on-one interaction among people of diverse origins with a greater emphasis on art, culture and education. Our differences are what we have in common. We can work to create an open and continuous plane where all types of people can exchange ideas, resources, thoughtfulness and kindness. We need to be connecting with one another, learning about one another, and experiencing life with one another. We can never have peace if we cannot understand the pain in each other’s hearts. The more we interact, the more we will come to realize that our humanity transcends all differences.


Art in any form is a medium for dialogue, which is a powerful tool. It is time for the music world to produce sound stories that ignite dialogue about the mystery of us. When we say the mystery of us, we’re talking about reflecting and challenging the fears, which prevent us from discovering our unlimited access to the courage inherent in us all. Yes, you are enough. Yes, you matter. Yes, you should keep going.


Arrogance can develop within artists, either from artists who believe that their status makes them more important, or those whose association with a creative field entitles them to some sort of superiority. Beware of ego; creativity cannot flow when only the ego is served.


The medical field has an organization called Doctors Without Borders. This lofty effort can serve as a model for transcending the limitations and strategies of old business formulas which are designed to perpetuate old systems in the guise of new ones. We’re speaking directly to a system that’s in place, a system that conditions consumers to purchase only the products that are dictated to be deemed marketable, a system where money is only the means to an end. The music business is a fraction of the business of life. Living with creative integrity can bring forth benefits never imagined.


Your elders can help you. They are a source of wealth in the form of wisdom. They have weathered storms and endured the same heartbreaks; let their struggles be the light that shines the way in the darkness. Don’t waste time repeating their mistakes. Instead, take what they’ve done and catapult you towards building a progressively better world for the progeny to come.


As we accumulate years, parts of our imagination tend to dull. Whether from sadness, prolonged struggle, or social conditioning, somewhere along the way people forget how to tap into the inherent magic that exists within our minds. Don’t let that part of your imagination fade away. Look up at the stars and imagine what it would be like to be an astronaut or a pilot. Imagine exploring the pyramids or Machu Picchu. Imagine flying like a bird or crashing through a wall like Superman. Imagine running with dinosaurs or swimming like mer-creatures. All that exists is a product of someone’s imagination; treasure and nurture yours and you’ll always find yourself on the precipice of discovery.

How does any of this lend to the creation of a peaceful society you ask? It begins with a cause. Your causes create the effects that shape your future and the future of all those around you. Be the leaders in the movie of your life. You are the director, producer, and actor. Be bold and tirelessly compassionate as you dance through the voyage that is this lifetime.

Message from the Masters