What the Hell Happened to Hip Hop?

death certificate

Soundtrack: KRS ONE “Ova Here”

Let me start this by saying that I am writing a book on this subject. This writing is a super-condensed and probably oversimplified version of what the book will look like.

I am Hip Hop. Hip Hop is my life. I am very, very emotionally invested in the state of Hip Hop music, culture, and politics (word to the Source Magazine).

I am not the only person in the world who feels that something went wrong somewhere along the road in Hip Hop’s journey. It was really good, then it became something else. What the hell happened?

When Hip Hop started in the early to mid 1970’s, it had a few major themes driving its development. Afrika Bambaataa was a street gang leader. Once he became one of the first Hip Hop DJ’s, he saw an opportunity to use these Hip Hop parties as a way to bring peace to the streets. So members of rival gangs would cross turf boundaries and be able to stand in one another’s presence because of their shared love for the music and the energy of these parties.

Also, the art forms of Hip Hop appealed to the sense of competition of these Black and Latino youth in inner city New York. Their competition based on neighborhoods came to be channeled into new competitions based on who could dance the best, deejay the best, emcee the best, and do the best graffiti art. The competition was fierce, almost violent in its intensity. These young men and women were frighteningly determined to gain bragging rights for being the best at their crafts. But the important part was that actual physical violence declined dramatically.

These things pushed Hip Hop through its first decade of existence. From the late 70’s through the mid 80’s, the music industry brass paid very little attention to this budding art form. That opened the door for small, independent record labels to step in and cash in on what the older traditional industry execs thought was a passing fad. Sugar Hill, Tommy Boy, Def Jam, Profile, and Jive were some of the small record labels that released the vast majority of the Hip Hop records in the early 80’s. Most of these labels happened to be owned and/or managed by young Jewish guys who desired to buck the trends of the music industry. As such, they let these young unseasoned rappers do pretty much whatever they wanted to do. And it worked.

Once these labels and their Hip Hop releases started making millions of dollars, predictably, the major labels started rushing to sign their own Hip Hop artists. At that time in the 80’s there were six major record labels who controlled almost all of the music released in the United States: Warner Music Group, EMI, Sony, BMG, Universal Music Group, and Polygram (now that six is down to three). Because these labels initially didn’t know what to do with Hip Hop, they also allowed the artists almost complete creative control. That is, until 1989.

On October 24, 1989 Minister Louis Farrakhan gave a press conference at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington D.C. He said these words on that day:

“I am here to announce today that President Bush has met with his joint Chiefs of Staff, under the direction of General Colin Powell, to plan a war against the Black people of America, the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan, with particular emphasis on our Black youth, under the guise of a war against drugs, drug sellers, drug users, gangs and violence — all under the heading of extremely urgent national security.”  

I can imagine how these words sounded to most people who heard them at the time. I was in elementary school. I didn’t know any of this was going on. But there was a lot going on.

In an article, “Street Gangs: Future Paramilitary Groups?” by Robert J. Bunker, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, National Securities Studies Program, California State University, San Bernardino, published in the June 1996 edition of the Police Chief we read:

“Military scholars recognize that a new form of soldier, with no allegiance to the nation-state, is developing in much of the non-Western world. Major Ralph Peters, U.S. Army, who is responsible for evaluating emerging threats for the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, terms this threat, The New Warrior Class. It is being taken seriously enough by the U.S. Army to be included in its perceptions of early 21st-century Army operations.

“This type of soldier, which has developed as an outcome of a breakdown in social organization in many failed nation-states, operates in subnational groups such as armed bands, private armies, crime networks and terrorist organizations. Debate in professional U.S. military and affiliated journals over the past two years has dealt with concerns that this new form of soldier may be developing within the United States.

“Street gangs would be one logical source from which this new form of soldier could emerge in this country. These gangs have developed in failed inner cities, where poverty and crime run rampant and family social structures have been severely eroded.

“Drawing parallels between a city such as Beirut and some U.S. inner-city cores, where many gang members grew up, is not overly difficult. The threat of death or physical harm is significant for a young male growing up in both surroundings, and both fail to provide educational opportunities that can allow for the transformation of this segment of the population into productive and responsible citizens. Today’s pre-teenage inner-city children, termed the ‘super-predators’ by Dr. John J. Dilulio, Jr. of Princeton University, bear a striking resemblance to the child soldiers found in numerous private armies throughout the non-Western world.”

Consider these words from Cedric Muhammad:

“Under the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), in an August 25, 1967 memo it is written that no political activist or individual with an ideology that was perceived as a threat to the establishment should have access to a ‘mass communication media.’

“What is Hip-Hop, if not ‘mass communication media’?

“One of the highest concerns of today’s national security apparatus is the role the rapper serves, in their view, as the spokesperson for the gang.

“Why else has intelligence been gathered and compiled on rappers by agencies like the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and even the White House through the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)? The letterhead on many of the documents of the infamous, “rap binder” maintained by the New York Police Department (NYPD) and shared with others like the Miami and Miami Beach Police departments, including the portion pertaining to Jay-Z, is that of The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program (http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/hidta/).

“If you look at the surveillance of rap artists from the perspective of COINTELPRO and the current thinking in gang intelligence and military think tanks the words of Miami police Sgt. Rafael Tapanes, in a March 9, 2004 Miami Herald article that ‘A lot if not most rappers belong to some sort of gang,’ is more significant than one might initially think.

“The amount of resources the federal government and some outside of it are devoting to depict Hip-Hop artists and their relationship to crime and street organizations as a threat to the establishment national security is staggering.

“The best example I could give is the joint task force effort against Scarface, James Prince, and Rap-A-Lot Records last decade.

“Had I not personally attended the Congressional hearings regarding them, I would not have believed the extent of the effort myself. One of the most striking things revealed in the hearings was the extent to which the federal government had placed federal informants in not just Rap-A-Lot Records but throughout Houston’s 5th Ward section.”

In the year prior to that Louis Farrakhan press conference there were two parallel rap songs released that really caught the government’s attention. Both of these songs had titles with the initials F-T-P: “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy and “Fuck The Police” by NWA. These groups were the biggest rap acts in the world by the summer of 1989. Their collective message was to fight back against the system, even if it means physical retaliation against the rampant police brutality being experienced by their target audience.

That 1967 FBI memorandum also stated:

“The purpose of this new counterintelligence endeavor is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist hate-type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership, and supporters, and to counter their propensity for violence and civil disorder.

“Prevent the COALITION of militant black nationalist groups.

“Prevent the RISE OF A “MESSIAH” who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement.

“Prevent VIOLENCE on the part of black nationalist groups.

“A final goal should be to prevent the long-range GROWTH of militant black organizations, especially among youth.”

Black youth being spurred to unite around their Blackness and being willing to use violence in retaliation against the State, and having a national voice who could speak to and inspire all of these Black youth at the same time, that was the government’s worst nightmare. Hip Hop showed them what they were most afraid of. So once things turned in the direction they did by 1989, it makes perfect sense that the highest levels of the government’s national security apparatus would be used to either steer Hip Hop in a different direction, or stop it altogether.

This fear of the government is what led to a partnership between the criminal justice system and the giants of media in this country. The early 80’s saw the Reagan Administration formally declare the War on Drugs. This was already being used to imprison Black youth in record numbers before Hip Hop exploded the way it did later in that decade. It was simple social engineering for them to take the framework they had from the criminal justice system and the War on Drugs and use it to turn Hip Hop against itself.

A few years ago there was an open letter floating around the internet which was claimed to have been written by someone who was a “decision maker” in the music industry in the early 90’s. The authenticity of this letter has never been proven or disproven. However, there is strong circumstantial evidence to believe that it is at least partially true. The letter describes a meeting that allegedly happened in 1991, in a private residence, with representatives from the major record labels.

[T]he speaker went on to tell us that the respective companies we represented had invested in a very profitable industry which could become even more rewarding with our active involvement. He explained that the companies we work for had invested millions into the building of privately owned prisons and that our positions of influence in the music industry would actually impact the profitability of these investments. I remember many of us in the group immediately looking at each other in confusion. At the time, I didn’t know what a private prison was but I wasn’t the only one. Sure enough, someone asked what these prisons were and what any of this had to do with us. We were told that these prisons were built by privately owned companies who received funding from the government based on the number of inmates. The more inmates, the more money the government would pay these prisons. It was also made clear to us that since these prisons are privately owned, as they become publicly traded, we’d be able to buy shares. Most of us were taken back by this. Again, a couple of people asked what this had to do with us. At this point, my industry colleague who had first opened the meeting took the floor again and answered our questions. He told us that since our employers had become silent investors in this prison business, it was now in their interest to make sure that these prisons remained filled. Our job would be to help make this happen by marketing music which promotes criminal behavior, rap being the music of choice. He assured us that this would be a great situation for us because rap music was becoming an increasingly profitable market for our companies, and as employee, we’d also be able to buy personal stocks in these prisons.” 

Again, this meeting may or may not have ever actually happened. But the information presented is real. The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails — a 500% increase over the past thirty years. While the United States represents about 4.4 percent of the world’s population, it houses around 22 percent of the world’s prisoners. The U.S. imprisons its citizens at a rate of about 716 per 100,000 of its national population. Compare that 716 figure with 117 in Canada, 154 in England, 133 in Australia, 159 in Spain, 59 in Japan, 178 in Saudi Arabia, 577, in Russia, and 400 in Kazakhstan. These last two countries brag about having a zero tolerance policy for drugs and crime and how many people they lock up. They still can’t compare with the United States.

It costs a lot of money to lock up this many people. State and federal budgets for prisons can’t handle these rapidly increasing numbers. So that opens the door for privately owned companies to build and manage all the new prisons that the United States needs. Who owns these private prisons?

According to public analysis from Bloomberg, the largest holder in Corrections Corporation of America is Vanguard Group Incorporated. Vanguard also holds considerable stake in some of the media giants. In fact, Vanguard is the third largest holder in both Viacom (owner of VH1, BET, and MTV) and Time Warner (owner of Warner Music Group). Vanguard is also the third largest holder in the GEO Group, whose correctional, detention and community reentry services boast 101 facilities, approximately 73,000 beds and 18,000 employees. Second nationally only to Corrections Corporation of America, GEO’s facilities are located not only in the United States but in the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa.

Adding on to that, the number-one holder of both Viacom and Time Warner is a company called Blackrock. Blackrock is the second largest holder in Corrections Corporation of America, second only to Vanguard, and the sixth largest holder in the GEO Group. You get the picture.

The people making money from the huge number of privately owned prisons are the exact same people making money off Hip Hop. When the Powers That Be saw that Hip Hop was becoming a voice for inner city angst and rage, they used their influence to change Hip Hop from a constructive force to a destructive force.

“For every song that’s recorded we ask for copies of the lyrics from the artist,” Paul Atkinson, former Zombies guitarist and then head of A&R at MCA told the New York Times in 1990. “The recording then gets listened to not only by the A&R department buy by someone in business affairs.”

In a mid-April 2007 interview of Young Buck by Angie Martinez on New York’s Hot 97, Buck told Martinez that Interscope had refused to allow him to include the track “Fuck tha Police” on his new Buck the World album. Buck said “they blamed it on the lyric committee, so I researched to see if it was a real lyric committee. The lyric committee is in Interscope’s building.”

An elaborate plan to dictate the content of rap music was enacted in 1990. I’ve made this too long already so I’ll state this very quickly. By the end of 1992, the witch-hunt for politically provocative rappers and rap lyrics had affected dozens of major-label rappers. Kool G Rap and DJ Polo’s Live and Let Die album was withheld. Tragedy was forced to drop a song called “Bullet,” about a revenge hit on a killer cop. Almighty RSO saw their single “One in the Chamba” lose its promotion budget after protests from the Boston Police Patrolman’s Association. The centerpiece of a Boo-Yaa Tribe EP, a song called “Shoot ‘Em Down” that condemned the acquittal of a Compton policeman who had killed two Samoan brothers with nineteen shots, was shelved.

You wanna know why every rap single these days is about drugs and strip clubs? This is why. Those are the subjects that the music industry (and government) Powers That Be are comfortable with hearing from their rappers. There is a lot more that needs to be said on this subject including the rise of Death Row Records, the government assassination of Tupac Shakur, the boring aftermath of Hip Hop’s Golden Era, and the recent resurgence of good music precipitated by the music industry losing its power.

This is a real deal conspiracy. Think about that the next time you sing about how you’re in love with the Coco.

Why Are Black People So Afraid of Homosexuality?

gay men

Soundtrack: Macklemore “Same Love”

The other day marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. Rightfully so, this day sparked a lot of discussion of the man and his legacy. In the land of Facebook, I made a post that ruffled a few feathers. I resurrected the ghost of Professor Manning Marable and I asked a question based on a portion of his 2011 biography “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention”.
“Why is the possibility of Malcolm X having sex with a man at some point in his early life so reprehensible to people?”

I asked the question because I saw the subject mentioned somewhere on social media and I was reminded of the whirlwind of arguments and denials surrounding the subject when Marable’s book first came out. It took a full day for me to get around to actually going back and reading the excerpt from the book that speaks about this subject. Marable never actually claimed that Malcolm engaged in homosexual intercourse. Here is what he said:

“…[Malcolm] first returned to New York City and subsequently to Boston, desperately trying to survive through a variety of hustles. It was during this time that Malcolm encountered a man named William Paul Lennon, and the uncertain particulars of their intimate relationship would generate much controversy and speculation in the years following Malcolm’s death. …The ‘Autobiography’ describes sexual contacts with Lennon, except that Malcolm falsely attributed them to a character named Rudy:

“[Rudy] had a side deal going, a hustle that took me right back to the old steering days in Harlem. Once a week, Rudy went to the home of this old, rich Boston blueblood, pillar-of-society aristocrat. He paid Rudy to undress them both, then pick up the old man like a baby, lay him on his bed, then stand over him and sprinkle him all over with talcum powder. Rudy said the old man would actually reach his climax from that.

“Based on circumstantial but strong evidence, Malcolm was probably describing his own homosexual encounters with Paul Lennon. The revelation of his involvement with Lennon produced much speculation about Malcolm’s sexual orientation, but the experience appears to have been limited. There is no evidence from his prison record in Massachusetts or from his personal life after 1952 that he was actively homosexual. … In his Detroit Red life, he participated in prostitution, marijuana sales, cocaine sessions, numbers running, the occasional robbery, and, apparently paid homosexual encounters.”

I have very little interest in trying to prove or disprove Marable’s conclusion. Although I do think it is entirely possible that Malcolm attributed this story to “Rudy” because he couldn’t bring himself to admit that he was really the one doing these things with Mr. Lennon. However, I am very interested in the community’s reaction to even the possibility of this being true.

The great Langston Hughes was a gay man. The great James Baldwin was a gay man. The great Richard Pryor admitted in his stand-up comedy to having had sex a with a transgender man. All of these men accomplished feats of artistic genius and showed examples of Black dignity that most of us can only dream of. Homosexual leanings or homosexual endeavors had no impact on their work or their greatness. Yet, the sexuality of these men doesn’t generally get talked about when their names come up. Why is that? Why am I told by my peers that I should be ashamed of myself for even mentioning the possibility of Malcolm having had a homosexual encounter at one time in his life?

The actor Tyler James Williams portrayed the character, Lionel Higgins, last year in the movie “Dear White People”. Tyler spoke to the folks at HuffPost Live about his character. “I feel like the new stereotypical character[s] are gay characters, where you can’t just have a regular everyday guy who just happens to be gay, just like many people that I know,” he said. “You don’t automatically need to see and know that [the character is] gay just by his mannerisms. That’s not everybody.” Tyler also added that “whether we like to address it or not, the African American community is notoriously homophobic. We have been coming up on this rough side of the mountain, as far as civil rights issues go, but we haven’t necessarily addressed the fact that there is a whole other side to that civil rights coin, which are gay rights.”

When I got involved with the Hands Up United crew based in Ferguson, there was a lot of internal discussion about making sure that the LGBT members of the movement don’t get ignored or marginalized. Initially, I was taken aback by this because I didn’t see why anyone’s sexual orientation needs to get mentioned at all. But they were so adamant about it that it caused me to step back and reflect on my attitudes toward the subject.

I realized that I was doing to my LGBT brothers and sisters what many white liberals do to Black people. When you are in the majority population, you don’t have to think about your status. Being in the mainstream gives you blinders. It causes you to think that everyone is having the same experience you are. It allows white people to say things like “there is no more racism in America.” Because they don’t see it, then it doesn’t exist. Many Black LGBT people feel like they are marginalized in this way, within the Black community. We act like they, and their unique experience, don’t exist. I have been guilty of this.

People like the good folks at Millennial Activists United (MAU) have opened my eyes to this situation. It is past time for the Black community to take a long, hard look in the mirror regarding this subject. Because, it is killing us.

  • African Americans accounted for an estimated 44% of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents (aged 13 years or older) in 2010, despite representing only 12% of the US population; considering the smaller size of the African American population in the United States, this represents a population rate that is 8 times that of whites overall.
  • In 2010, men accounted for 70% (14,700) of the estimated 20,900 new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for African American men (103.6/100,000 population) was 7 times that of white men, twice that of Latino men, and nearly 3 times that of African American women.
  • In 2010, African American gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men represented an estimated 72% (10,600) of new infections among all African American men and 36% of an estimated 29,800 new HIV infections among all gay and bisexual men. More new HIV infections (4,800) occurred among young African American gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24) than any other subgroup of gay and bisexual men.
  • In 2010, African American women accounted for 6,100 (29%) of the estimated new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans. This number represents a decrease of 21% since 2008. Most new HIV infections among African American women (87%; 5,300) are attributed to heterosexual contact. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for African American women (38.1/100,000 population) was 20 times that of white women and almost 5 times that of Hispanic/Latino women.

hiv chart

What can we learn from these numbers? Homosexual men are the driving force behind the spread of HIV in the United States. 7 out of 10 new HIV infections are men and the vast, vast majority of those are men who have sex with men. No demographic is catching HIV nearly as much as Black men are. And no group of women is catching HIV nearly as much as Black heterosexual women.

So gay/bisexual Black men are catching HIV at alarming rates, and they are having sex with unsuspecting Black women. What is driving this behavior?

The reaction to the possibility of Malcolm X having a homosexual encounter explains why gay Black men are doing so much high risk behavior with such unhealthy consequences. In the Black community’s imagination, it is impossible to be powerful and masculine and gay, all at the same time.

Cyrus Beene, the fictional Chief of Staff to the President of the United States on the television show Scandal, could never be a Black man. A man who is shrewd and domineering and takes charge and brokers power as well as anyone in the world and just so happens to be gay…Black people couldn’t fathom something like that. Again, that is an impossibility in the collective Black imagination. That is what Tyler James Williams was speaking on.

During the period of physical slavery in these United States, Blacks held in captivity had very little to be proud of. However there were a couple of positions that slaves could attain that gave them a sense of worth. One of these positions was the House Slave, those who got to live in the master’s house and wear fine clothes and be the master’s personal servant. Another position was the Stud, the biggest and strongest man who was chosen to mate with the women in order to make big and strong slave children. Over time, this characteristic of being virile enough to attract and please many women became an integral part of the collective Black imagination’s heroes. This shows up constantly in the first Black films produced in the 60s and 70s. Superfly, The Mack, Truck Turner, Black Caesar all had this same dynamic. Many women. Beautiful women. Helpless in the face of their virile masculinity. There is no room in this picture for a powerful Black man to be sexually interested in men.

Combined with that is the fact that most of the Black community’s sense of morals and ethics comes directly from Christianity, and Islam to a lesser extent. And Black people believe in these religions much more fervently than the people who gave them these religions. So, the end result is that homosexuality is the ultimate sin for Black men. You cannot be a man and be gay at the same time.

So Black men who find themselves having homosexual leanings have to hide that fact at all costs. In order to protect their position in the community, they have to appear to be heterosexual as much as possible. Often that means having a woman just to keep up appearances. The unfortunate flipside of those arrangements is that these men act out their homosexual compulsions in ways that are not thought out very well. They can’t bring themselves to seek out healthy relationships with other men, complete with communication and trust and respect. They have to have quick and meaningless sex that allows them to deny the act, even to themselves. They have to find places to go to in their own mind that allows them to tell themselves that they’re not gay. I only let men give me oral. I only have sex with men who look like women. I only penetrate other men, I don’t let them penetrate me. Whatever the case may be. The end result is a group of people engaging in secretive and risky behaviors that are driving the spread of HIV infections.

As we said in our blog about polyamory, cognitive dissonance is solved by either changing our behavior or justifying our behavior by changing our beliefs. The existence of homosexual activity in the Black community is not going to change. It is time for the Black community to accept this fact and start to change our attitudes toward homosexuality. It is possible for a man to be homosexual and still be masculine, be a leader, be rational, and be powerful. Our LGBT brothers and sisters are full fledged members of our family and they deserve to be treated as such. If a person engages in gay sex, it doesn’t make them less of a human being and it doesn’t mean that they can’t contribute great things to the world. It feels ridiculous to even have to say this in 2015 but it is what it is. We have a long road to travel on this topic. But we have to do better.


Why Polyamory? (Why Monogamy Is Stupid)


Soundtrack: Mtume “You, Me, and He”

Cognitive Dissonance: This is the feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time.

Dissonance increases with:

  • The importance of the subject to us.
  • How strongly the dissonant thoughts conflict.
  • Our inability to rationalize and explain away the conflict.

Dissonance is often strong when we believe something about ourselves and then do something against that belief. If I believe I am good but do something bad, then the discomfort I feel as a result is cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is a very powerful motivator which will often lead us to change one or other of the conflicting belief or action. The discomfort often feels like a tension between the two opposing thoughts. To release the tension we can take one of three actions:

  • Change our behavior.
  • Justify our behavior by changing the conflicting cognition.
  • Justify our behavior by adding new cognitions.

Monogamy is a major source of cognitive dissonance for most people. You are told from birth through various sources that you are supposed to grow up and fall in love and spend the rest of your life with one person, forsaking all others. Society spreads the idea that one man mating for life with one woman is the “natural” way. That our nature is designed to connect with this soul mate and if you can’t live up to this standard then you are less than a real man or woman and you are morally depraved. The vast majority of us either fail a little bit or we fail horribly at this. Is everybody morally bankrupt or is there something wrong with the standard? Maybe we need to grade our monogamous abilities on a curve.

As with all things, this belief has an origin. What is it? Agriculture. Around 12,000 years ago, human beings started practicing agriculture, planting crops and staying in that place long enough to harvest those crops. Prior to that time, all human beings were hunter-gatherers. They constantly moved as nomads, from place to place, foraging for whatever food they could find. Agriculture involves intensive cultivation of large tracts of land, often requiring ploughing, irrigation, fertilization and other soil improvements. As agriculture spread, arable land became more scarce – and more valuable. I’ll return to this in a second.

Scientists conservatively estimate that modern humans evolved around 200,000 years ago. Assuming that that number is true, those humans didn’t just pop up out of thin air at that time. Even those earliest humans inherited some cultural traits from their ancestors. So we can confidently say that human ancestors have been developing some kind of cultural habits for as long as we have used tools which is around 2.5 million years ago. That’s millions of years of hunter-gatherer life followed up by the past 10,000 years of agriculture.

In those early hunter-gatherer days, one of the habits that we developed was the habit of sharing everything. Human beings are not as physically strong as a lot of other animals in nature. If humans live in an environment where they don’t have the technology to bulldoze forests and kick all the animals out of their habitat, then the humans are in a vulnerable position. In that less technological state, it is also advantageous to take advantage of all the food that naturally sprouts up out of the earth. And when the food in your immediate vicinity is gone, you move onto another spot. Also, it is a natural tendency of all living beings to self-preserve, to keep yourself alive and to see to the survival of your offspring. Early humans determined that the best way for them to stay alive was to move in groups and share resources to make sure everyone had what they needed.

The way that our bodies and brains have evolved since the beginning of our history is a direct result of the environments we have had to adapt to. We have perfectly fashioned ourselves to handle the particular conditions that we have found ourselves in. This is how evolution works. It becomes very difficult to get any living being to live in a way that contradicts its millions of years of evolution. It’s possible, but it’s very difficult. It’s difficult to get lions and bears and elephants to perform tricks in the circus. That behavior is not what they have been evolved to do. And even if you successfully circus train a lion, you never know when its nature is going to come out and the circus gets a rude awakening.

Our early human habit of sharing, which I like to call fierce egalitarianism, included sharing sex. Sexual pleasure was a resource to be shared among the people just like food, clothing, and shelter. There weren’t yet any rules about who sex should happen with and for what reason or how often. They were able to use it much like how modern western people use pills. Need to relax? Have sex. Need to perk up? Have sex. Need to mourn? Have sex. Need to celebrate? Have sex.

Human beings are evolutionarily accustomed to being polyamorous. Monogamy goes against our nature. Polyamory means “many loves”, it denotes the practice of forming sexual and romantic relationships with multiple people. This is how we have conducted ourselves for most of our existence. The practice of one woman and one man forsaking all others is a very recent development.

It is important to point out that our Ancestors weren’t going around sleeping with a bunch of people they didn’t know or didn’t love. It wasn’t like that at all. They lived in small, close-knit groups of 100-150 people. Their sexual partners couldn’t have possibly been strangers or one night stands. Everyone they came in contact with was someone who they were around all the time.

Our closest relatives in nature are chimpanzees and bonobos, even more close than gorillas, gibbons, and orangutans. The behavior of our cousins provides clues of what comes natural for us. Ovulating female chimps have sex with all males who are willing. Bonobos, our closest relative of all primates, enjoy group sex as a way to appease conflict between members of the clan and promote social bonding.

The human body itself shows us that we are evolved for polyamory and sexual promiscuity. Body-size dimorphism (the difference in body size between males and females) is about 10-20% for humans. That is a very small number when compared with many other members of the animal kingdom. Body-size dimorphism reflects male competition for females, so that if the males are significantly larger than the females, this indicates that the males of that species have evolved to have fierce competition for females. They need to be big in order to compete. The 10-20% body-size dimorphism of humans is the same figure as that of chimps and bonobos, who are promiscuous. Moderate body-size dimorphism is therefore an indicator that our ancestors weren’t fighting for attention. They were sharing

Small testes, which gorillas, orangutans and gibbons have, are a sign of limited sexual activity. Larger testes are associated with more promiscuous behavior, since species that copulate more will need larger testes in order to house more sperm for ejaculations. Chimps and bonobos have the largest testes, which is unsurprising considering how much they get it on, while humans have moderately sized testes, although not anywhere near as small as a gorilla’s. Our sperm volume is still far beyond what is needed for monogamous mating.

Within the adult testicle, there is 700 feet of tubing, termed seminiferous tubules, within which sperm is made. Sperm is made from precursor cells termed germ cells that give rise to approximately 120 million sperm daily in a process termed spermatogenesis that takes approximately 64 days in humans. This is equivalent to making about 1200 sperm per heartbeat. That’s a lot.

Even the shape of the human penis has evolved in response to the fact that females will have multiple sexual partners. The glans of the penis (the head) are shaped as they are to remove any previously deposited sperm. It functions like a scoop. During ejaculation the man’s glans will then shrink to ensure that his own sperm are not removed by the same process. Sperm also contains chemicals that defend against and attack sperm from other males. Semen has built-in spermicide, the same stuff they put on condoms. Also, the large ejaculate that men have (the largest of all the Great Apes) is a sign of sperm competition. When we skeet skeet, we skeet a whole lot. All of this sperm competition evolved as a way for males to do the natural job of trying to keep themselves and their lineage alive. They were evolutionarily trying to increase their chances of paternity certainty (being the father of the child which is eventually born).

Another thing to consider is the fact that women are capable of having multiple orgasms with little to no refractory period (the recovery phase after orgasm before being able to go back at it) whereas men lose interest in sex after ejaculation. There is also the fact that men generally cum quicker than women unless they have some tantric training on how to make it last forever like Keith Sweat. Naturally, women who haven’t developed social taboos about having multiple partners aren’t gonna stay sexually frustrated after their partner rolls over and goes to sleep. She’s gonna kick that first dude out the bed and call another one over. Which leads to my next point.

What also runs counter to the standard narrative of human sexuality is the fact of female copulatory vocalization (FCV), which basically means that females vocalize (make loud noises) during sex. If humans were meant to be monogamous, then why would females draw attention to themselves by making these vocalizations? The answer is that the groans and moans are invitations for other males to come along. This is exactly the same evolutionary phenomenon as what female cats and dogs do when they are in heat. They make all kinds of noise so all the males in the area know that it’s time to come handle business. Our less promiscuous primate relatives don’t have any FCV going on. FCV is therefore associated with promiscuous mating, not monogamy.

It is helpful to observe societies that live today much like how our pre-agriculture ancestors lived. So-called primitive societies are the best example we have of how things used to be. There are societies all over the world who still have value systems based on fierce egalitarianism which includes the sharing of their sexual resources. Among the Siriono of the Amazon, jealousy tends to arise not because one’s spouse has lovers, but because he or she is spending so much time with other lovers that the home becomes neglected. Among the Canela people of Brazil, husbands encourage their wives to participate in rituals that involve having sex with twenty or more men in front of the whole community. Among the Mosuo people of China, children are raised by their mothers’ and the mothers’ family because no one can be sure who the fathers are. Women choose men for the night and those men go back home in the morning. Men take more responsibility for their nieces and nephews than any children they might have sired.

Agriculture changed all of this because it led to the development of the idea of private property. When no one individually owns anything, there is no motivation to develop ways to pass things on after you die. With the advent of people staying in one place, claiming ownership to tracts of land and homes and animals, the question of paternity became very important. Mama’s maybe-Daddy’s maybe is not something that can be tolerated when a man wants his possessions to somehow stay in his possession after he dies. That happens by him passing on his genetics to his offspring.

This interesting turn in the course of human history had a huge impact on our sexuality. A woman has no question about who her children are. A father can always question until and unless he gets a DNA test. It became advantageous for men to use their physical dominance to regulate female sexuality. If a man can ensure that his woman is having sex with no one but him then he can be sure that her children are his and he can confidently allow those children to inherit his cows and his crops. This was the origin of monogamy as well as slut shaming.

Women and men had to be told that women are not supposed to want sex, not supposed to think about sex, definitely not supposed to have sex with anyone other than her husband. The extreme power of female sexuality with her ability to choose any man she wants as a sexual partner and her ability to have sex all day long without stopping had to be shut down by the force of muscle and false teachings.

The language that we speak reflects the deep-seated negative attitudes about sex arising from this need to control female sexuality. Sexual jokes are “dirty” jokes. An older man who is interested in sex is a “dirty” old man. A woman or girl who has sex for the first time has “lost” her virginity, she is “deflowered”. We insult people by calling them a “pussy” or telling them to “fuck off”. Nearly always, where sex is concerned, the language used is the language of loss, dirtiness, pollution, or destruction.

The greatest thing that we can do to restore the equality of the sexes is to let go of our ridiculous demands for sexual fidelity. Women who are set free from the horrors of sexual taboos find themselves developing sexual cravings in ways that many of them never thought possible. It’s amazing what your body will ask for once your mind believes that it’s ok to ask.

Why polyamory? Because monogamy is in violation of our entire history as a species. Because sharing sexual pleasure bonds human beings on a level that not many other things can compare to. Because there are other ways to pass things on from generation to generation besides artificially shutting down female sexuality. Because countless lives and careers are ruined everyday by trying and failing to live up to the monogamous standard. We can choose to just stop it with the cognitive dissonance. We can choose to change the conflicting cognition. The truth is, that monogamy doesn’t work because monogamy doesn’t work. We can choose polyamory because monogamy is stupid.

Why Tantra?


Soundtrack: R. Kelly “Sex Me”

As promised, the second episode of SOL System Radio is on the subject, “Why Tantra?” What is Tantra and why is it something that people should be studying and practicing?

Tantra is a Sanskrit (Indian) word that literally means “system or doctrine” and comes from the root words tanoti “stretch, extend, expand” and trayati “liberation”. The originators of the Indian system of Tantra saw it as a systematic way of expanding the consciousness toward liberation. The primary tool that Tantra uses toward that aim is sexual energy. There have been many cultures all over the world and since the beginning of human existence that have recognized that the power of sexual energy can be used toward the goal of enlightenment or liberation or salvation.

I believe that even though Tantra is an ancient practice, it is more important in today’s world than it has ever been before. Tantra can potentially restore balance to a world that has become increasingly off balance over the past few millennia. Let me explain what I mean from the beginning.

There is something in Mathematics called the Transitive Property of Equality. It states that if A equals B, and B equals C, then A equals C. Some time ago I thought about this in terms of sexuality and it has stuck with me. We are told that we all come from God. Anyone who believes in the concept of God in any form believes that God is the source of all existence. We know for sure that we all come from an act of sex. If we all come from God, and we also all come from sex, then the transitive property tells us that God = Sex. In some way, God is synonymous with sexuality and the actual act of sex.

The major religions of the world don’t want us to believe this at all. That is why I say that the world has become increasingly off balance. Religion would have us believe that God either has nothing to do with sex or that God and sex are diametrically opposed to each other. For many religious people, sex is of the Devil and it should only be tolerated as a way to propagate the species but not promoted at all. The effect of this teaching is that people get further and further away from God and from the Source of their lives.

The process of conceiving new life is an energetic process. The woman’s life force combines with the man’s life force and the two together create a new life force. Our life force is encapsulated-crystallized-manifested-embodied-incarnated (I couldn’t think of the right word) in the sperm/ovaries. The body puts a tremendous amount of effort into producing sperm and ovum (eggs). That’s why the act of releasing sperm or ovum by ejaculation or menstruation takes so much out of you. Outside of the bodily functions involved with homeostasis of your own body (keeping things working the same), the body’s other main concern is with making sure that you are ready to produce more life if given the chance.

It is sexual energy that creates life in the beginning and it is sexual energy that sustains life at all times. That energy stays present and it is what animates us, makes us alive, it is the core of our existence. The name that we give to this particular aspect of our energy is Kundalini.

follow me…There is a network of channels/pathways inside the body that start forming immediately after conception with sperm and ovum. These pathways are called Bonghan Channels or primo vessels (the primo vascular system). These primo vessels are what transport the information used to control the perfect formation of the embryo. The perfect symmetry of the body with matching arms and legs and kidneys and lungs and such requires an inconceivable amount of information being passed around to get all of these moving parts to work perfectly together. In the adult body, these primo vessels are the body’s storehouse of stem cells. Stem cells are capable of developing into any tissue in the body. They can make any part of the body over from scratch.

Kundalini is the spark that activates the primo vascular system, which is the CPU that drives the whole computer of the body. This is true at conception, and it remains true throughout life. To be clear, your kundalini is your sexual energy. The act of sex which creates you is accompanied by energy which drives the process of your creation and holds the potential of your re-creation at any time in your life. Kundalini is the fountain of youth. Kundalini is sexual energy. Sunyata Saraswati said that “God is sexual pleasure, used rightly”. To lose your connection with your kundalini is to lose your connection with the source of your existence.

We have not been taught to view sex properly. We have not been taught to hold sex in the high regard that it deserves. Sex is the ultimate sacred ritual. More than communion or religious pilgrimage or baptism, sex brings us closer to God. To further quote Sunyata Saraswati from his book Jewel In The Lotus:

“The basis of sexual desire and its fleeting fulfillment is the ecstasy of sexual orgasm, the most intense experience anyone can have. In that moment one experiences union with the beloved. There is no separation, no ‘I’ as apart from ‘you.’ In that moment we transcend into the state of Samadhi, blissful union between the individual consciousness and the Cosmic. Wave after wave of love and peace infuse waking consciousness. The anxious, striving, separated individual self becomes merged with the total flow of cosmic energy, bathed in its unchanging quality of intense joy.

“The orgasmic experience is available to all, and for many it is the only mystical experience they will ever have. This momentary glimpse leaves us with a deep yearning to repeat it, not just for the sexual release, but for the truth it reveals. Because in that moment we remember who we really are.

“In Tantra you can extend the climax to many minutes. Tantra provides a system of techniques for prolonging orgasm in order to experience Unity Consciousness. The state of enlightenment has been described as perpetual orgasm. Once you learn to attain this state in meditation, sex is no longer such a driving need.”

“In orgasm you are at one with yourself, with your lover, with all creation, with God. There is no time, no past or future, only total presence in the eternal now. The breath stops and the mind is empty. And from this void comes profound love, divine joy and illuminating bliss.”

Monks and nuns and other deeply committed religious people spend whole lifetimes seeking the experience of feeling oneness with God. With having tantric sex from the proper awareness, you can have this experience in a single week of dedicated practice. Tantra has the potential to be a shortcut to enlightenment and salvation. Sexual energy is the most powerful energy that we have access to and it is in our best interests to learn how to use it properly.

There is more to Tantra than just the act of having sex. However, it is all about the goal of cultivating the sexual energy and using it to expand one’s consciousness. The different parts of Tantra vary depending on which school or system you’re in and who your teacher is. Some Tantric techniques include yogic postures to purify the physical body, breathing techniques to stimulate consciousness, meditation to attune yourself to the flow of the Divine, chanting mantras to affect the vibration of the body, looking at visual representations of the mantra frequencies, contracting or locking certain parts of the body to direct energy flow, as well as sexual union.

Most of a regular Tantra practice can be done without a partner. You don’t have to wait on anyone to join you in practicing Tantra. There is plenty that you can do every day to cultivate your Kundalini on your own. And there is much that you can do with a partner or partners that is far outside of the realm of what we see on tv or in porn.

The purpose of this particular writing isn’t to get into specifics of Tantra practice. I just want to help us look at the fact that 99% of us are doing sex and sexuality completely wrong. Our experience is equivalent to having every single cable tv channel in existence and only watching one channel everyday. We are seriously missing out. Why Tantra? Because it is the most effective and most fun way possible to become the highest and best version of yourself. Because it is a shame to have these amazing tools sitting at our disposal and to not take advantage of them. Because awakening kundalini is the primary purpose of human life. Let’s do better.

Why Black Power?

February 9th marks the inaugural episode of SOL System Radio on the Living Aligned network at http://www.blogtalkradio.com. We are starting something new with the blog in that (hopefully) every weekly episode of the radio show will be preceded by a related blog post. Readers will get a chance to hear some of our thoughts on the upcoming show topic and have questions and comments ready to go when the show airs Monday nights at 8pm EST.

Our first three episodes of SOL System Radio will be on the topics: “Why Black Power?”, “Why Tantra?”, and “Why Polyamory?”…In this blog post we’re dealing with the first topic of Black Power. Many people look at this term and the idea behind it as some old outdated wanna be Black Panther ass foolishness. Why are we still talking about this in 2015? Don’t you know we got a Black president?

Yeah, I know. (sigh) The election of Barack Obama was supposed to mark the beginning of a post-racial era in which everyone can truly be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. But, apparently not everyone got the memo on that. The news has repeatedly shown us that Black people, especially young Black males, are viewed as dangers to society. At first glance. Across the board. Whether it’s a slender 17 year old in Florida or a big 18 year old in Missouri or a little 12 year old in Ohio, Black skin in Obama’s America means you are a threat to be neutralized. Fuck your character.

And the Black community is powerless to do anything about this. That’s what I wanna talk about in this writing. Why are Black people not able to make this unfair treatment stop? What tools give a group of people that kind of ability to control their reality? Why don’t Black people have those tools? How do Black people get those tools?

We define “power” as the ability to determine one’s own reality, and/or the reality of others. An alternative definition of “power” that we like is “Organized People + Organized Money”. Cash Rules Everything Around Me. When we look at how much money Black people are able to organize relative to their peers from other communities, it quickly becomes clear why the Black community is not commanding the highest level of respect.

White people have a whole lot more money than Black people do. There are questions about what exactly the numbers are depending on who is gathering the statistics, but it is clear that the wealth of White households was between 13 and 18 times the median wealth of Black households in 2013. According to one source, the median wealth of White households in 2013 was $141,900 compared to $11,000 for Blacks. That figure for Blacks is quite generous compared to some other estimates.

And, to add insult to injury, this wealth gap is growing under the first Black president. According to the Pew Research Center’s tabulations, White wealth was 8 times that of Blacks in 2010, shortly after Obama got in office, and 13 times that of Blacks in 2013. However, these numbers have little to do with Obama’s performance in office and more to do with the situation he inherited.

The Great Recession between 2007 and 2010 hit Black people especially hard. This is mainly true because housing constituted such a large percentage of our wealth, leaving us deeply exposed when the market crashed. Higher unemployment rates and lower incomes among Blacks left us less able to keep paying our mortgages and more likely to lose our homes. Before the recession, housing wealth accounted for 49% of Black household assets, compared with 28% for the average White household. But the average home value was far lower for Black households: $75,040 versus $217,150.

Discriminatory lending practices were also a factor. “We know that communities of color, their rate of subprime or predatory loans was twice what it is in the overall population,” said Tom Shapiro, the director of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University.

Black families also suffered bigger hits to our retirement savings, the Urban Institute found. On aggregate, the value of Black families’ retirement accounts shrank 35 percent between 2007 and 2010, while White families’ accounts actually gained 9 percent over the same period. With lower earnings and higher unemployment rates leaving us with a thinner safety net to begin with, Black families were more likely to take funds out of the market when it was depressed, leaving us out in the cold as the market recovered.

“That reservoir of what you can dig into for emergencies and contingencies is a lot shallower in communities of color,” Professor Shapiro said. “That pushes black families to sling off assets, like I.R.A.’s or stocks, that you might have had another goal in mind for.”

Something similar may be happening as the housing recovery takes hold. “Some people talk about it in terms of a land grab,” said Professor Hamilton of the New School, as mainly white investors are buying foreclosed homes from disproportionately minority owners. “As the housing market starts to appreciate, some of those minority buyers might not be back.”

Let me pause here and reiterate that money makes the world go round. Black people make up about 12% of the U.S. population. In 1860, at the climax of slavery, all the free Black people in this country collectively owned about ½ of 1% of the country’s wealth. As of 2014 that percentage increased to 1.75%. Black people control about $1.4 trillion of the total $80 trillion of U.S. household net worth. 12% of the population, with 1.75% of the wealth, is a perfect formula for powerlessness. Just that stat alone tells the whole story of why Black people are disrespected in this country. Why should anyone respect us? We haven’t demonstrated the ability to make anyone pay for not showing us respect. With over a trillion dollars in annual income and in collective wealth, the most we can do when we are violated is do a march or some other “nonviolent direct action”.

I could spend a lot of time detailing the history of how we got in this position. I could bring up some historical facts that I’m sure most people aren’t aware of. But I think that most people have some basic understanding of the fact that our history in this country has produced our present. That we were held as slaves from the moment the first White people stepped foot on this land in the 1500’s until slavery was finally abolished in 1865, except for when it isn’t…that after slavery the vital period of reconstruction was stopped prematurely and replaced with the Jim Crow system of disenfranchisement and the introduction of the Ku Klux Klan…and the story goes on and on.

I want to bring light to what I consider to be the three divisions of the Black community in the 21st century. There are three separate socioeconomic groupings within the Black community with each having a very different experience from what the other two are having. There are 14 million Black households in the U.S. The median household net worth is between $6,500 and $11,000, depending on who you ask. If we take the average of those and put it at $8,750 then that means there are 7 million households with less than $8,750 and 7 million households with more than $8,750. We can fairly accurately divide these 14 million households up into thirds.

The bottom 1/3 or 33% have Negative or No Net Worth. They have absolutely nothing that they control, no savings, no safety net; if they lose a job or have a sudden illness then they’re scrambling to find some help to avoid becoming homeless. The middle 1/3 are those who have just a little bit of wealth; slightly more assets than liabilities. Some of them own a house that they’re barely affording, some don’t own. They are middle class people who are one bad break away from being lower class. The upper 1/3 are people who are doing fairly well for themselves. They are the ones responsible for the average Black household wealth of around $100,000 as opposed to the median which is $8,750.

Blacks saw our overall median net worth decrease by $3,746 (or 37.2%) between 2000 and 2011. However these decreases were concentrated among the bottom two thirds. That group saw its median net worth decline by about 50% while the top one third saw its median net worth increase by about 50% over the same period (2000-2011). For Blacks in the highest 20% of their community, relative increases in median net worth exceeded those of Whites and Hispanics in the same socioeconomic group over this period. This top one third group is a silver lining in an otherwise bleak picture of where the Black community currently stands economically.

So what can we take away from all these numbers and percentages? Two thirds of the Black community either doesn’t have shit, or is a lay-off away from not having shit. What can be done about this? Let’s consider these words from Dr. Claud Anderson.

We have to learn that economics and politics are like offense and defense in a sport, you have to do both well in order to win, and this is a team sport. Our primary issue is that we have never developed the cultural habits that would allow us to work well as a collective, for our collective benefit. We vote as individuals, we save money as individuals, we open businesses as individuals. If we want to win in life, we have to learn how to operate as a team.

Jewish people make up 2.2% of the U.S. population. The median net worth for Jewish households is $150,890. Only 1 percent of Jewish Americans live in poverty. 24% of billionaires in the U.S. are Jewish. 35% of the 400 richest Americans are Jewish. 18% of Jewish households in the U.S. have a net worth of $1 million or more. For a group that was openly discriminated against in recent history, they’re doing pretty good. There is a lot that the Black community can learn from them. One thing that I want to bring up in this context is that there is one group that speaks for the entire Jewish community in dealing with the President and Executive branch of the government (Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations); and there is one group that speaks for the entire Jewish community in dealing with the legislative branch (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). Because of this wealth, unity, and grassroots organizing, their community is able to get pretty much anything they want from the U.S. government.

There is a fundamental shift that would have to occur in order for the Black community to begin operating in that way. The community must first have a desire to control its own economics, politics, education, emergency services, and so on. When you don’t have a desire for such control then it is no wonder that you don’t have control. When you don’t control the basics in your own community then someone else will control them for you. Controlling these basic aspects of community life is the only way to truly get members of your own community and people outside of your community to believe that #BlackLivesMatter.

Seeking this control is synonymous with seeking power. If and when the Black community decides to collectively seek control over its own community then another word for that is power, Black Power. Black Power is not an anti-anybody philosophy. It is simply for people who have lacked control in the past gaining control over their own lives, not control over anyone else. Black Power doesn’t seek to deny rights or liberties to any other people. Black Power is simply about freedom, justice, and equality for Black people.

Integration into the larger society will not and cannot lead to Black people gaining greater control over their own communities. Voting for the Democratic Party in greater numbers will not and cannot lead to Black people gaining greater control over their own communities. Pursuing higher education at the expense of forming a solid economic base first will not and cannot lead to Black people gaining greater control over their own communities. As Dr. Claud Anderson stated in the above video, business and economics is the foundation of any meaningful advancement for Black people.

Black Power is not a thing of the past. It is the only possible way forward for Black people if we desire to see an end to Mike Browns and Eric Garners and poverty and the various things that we know we don’t like. Reactionary protests are not in our best interests. We must turn with laser beam focus on making long term investments in our collective future. A group of 40 million who earns a trillion dollars every year and owns a trillion dollars in wealth can easily come together with $1 billion to start an economic development fund. We could pool $1 billion overnight. We just have to develop a sense of dignity that makes us believe we deserve to control our own destiny. I close with these words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


10 Days of Silence: Part 2


Soundtrack: Queen “I Want It All”

As promised, this is part 2 of my testimonial about my experience at a 10-day vipassana meditation retreat. I want to get into the theory behind the meditation technique and share my thoughts on it.

To quote the folks who oversee these meditation retreats:

“Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills, i.e., an Art Of Living. This non-sectarian technique aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation.

“Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.

“The scientific laws that operate one’s thoughts, feelings, judgements and sensations become clear. Through direct experience, the nature of how one grows or regresses, how one produces suffering or frees oneself from suffering is understood. Life becomes characterized by increased awareness, non-delusion, self-control and peace.”

This technique and tradition is rooted in the teachings of Gautama, the Buddha. In the discourses that are part of the retreat, there is a lot of discussion about the idea of the cycle of re-birth. In a nutshell, this theory is based on the belief that life is a thing of misery. That for most people, life is a constant stream of disappointments from desires not being fulfilled, or craving more and more of things that are pleasant, or running away from things which are unpleasant. Their belief is that every person who dies with any desires for anything is eventually born again in a different physical form with those same basic desires driving their behavior and thinking in the next life.

According to this tradition, the ultimate goal of life is to be freed from this cycle of re-birth and misery by achieving total enlightenment and therefore being able to stay in The Void. The Four Noble Truths according to the Buddha are:

  1. There is suffering.
  2. There is cause for suffering.
  3. There is cessation of suffering.
  4. There is path leading to the cessation of suffering.

I can’t agree with a philosophy of life that focuses on suffering as the primary quality of being alive. I acknowledge that suffering plays a significant role in human existence, however my focus is elsewhere. My craving for things that I don’t yet have or that I may never get, and my aversion to things I’ve experienced that I don’t like, is far outweighed by my pure Joy over being able to experience the beauty of Creation.

Any time I get to hear a beautiful melody or smell a flower or taste a wonderful dessert (especially bean pie) or look at a sunset or touch a beautiful woman — ALL of my suffering and disappointment is totally worth it. If you told me right now that I would never achieve my main goals in life but I get to listen to Michael Jackson and have sex everyday for the rest of my life, I will gladly take that deal! Sign me up for that shit. The beauty of being alive is indescribably wonderful and joyous.

I have absolutely no desire to be delivered from this cycle of rebirth. If the ultimate salvation is to exist in the spirit or non-material plane forever then I’ll pass. I’m cool with riding out this life of difficulty and striving for forever, forever ever, forever ever.

One of my favorite quotes from the great Napoleon Hill is “There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.” This explains one of my biggest philosophical differences with the ideology underlying the sect(s) of Buddhist thought which supports vipassana meditation. Their belief is that craving and aversion are the root causes of suffering, that these things multiply themselves and create more craving and suffering.

I agree that aversion is to be avoided. When one focuses on how much one doesn’t like something, it only feeds the existence of the thing which one doesn’t like. One great illustration of this is discovered by most people during the 10-day retreat. Most everyone experiences various aches and pains during the hour-long sitting meditations. And most everyone eventually came to learn that simply observing the pain without reacting to it causes the pain to eventually dull or go away completely. Only a small part of the pain is about what is actually happening inside the body. The vast majority of the torment that one experiences from the pain is really coming from the attention that one is showing to the physical sensation. If you can observe the sensation with equanimity, simply noticing that it is there and keeping in mind that it is not permanent, then it soon goes away. This same principle applies to anything we encounter in life that we don’t like.

However, desire for things that we want is a different story. It is true that a certain kind of craving can be harmful. If you focus on the idea of “wanting” a thing then you reinforce the message to the Universe that you “want” it, making it more and more difficult for you to actually “have” it. However, as Napoleon Hill points out, strong desire is the engine of achievement and evolution. Every “thing” that we enjoy was once an object of someone’s desire, from the car to the airplane to the shoe to the cell phone to the television. Someone had to first see that thing in their mind, desire for it to be real, and then believe in it so strongly that it became real for them. And eventually their physical reality came to match their mental picture.

Some people are ok with the idea of living in a world that never changes. That is the product of people not having desires. Things stay exactly the same from year to year and from generation to generation. Monasteries are like that. I choose not to live that way. I am very comfortable with having a burning desire for things and working hard to achieve them. I have no desire to be liberated from that situation.

The vipassana meditation technique, and meditation in general, are universally applicable. One doesn’t have to accept the underlying theory in order to enjoy the benefits of the technique. Increasing mindfulness and awareness is always a good thing, no matter what one’s motivation for doing it is. My personal reasons for increasing my mindfulness and practicing meditation are included in the entries of this blog and will be fully explained in my upcoming book, The Bliss Booklet. Stay tuned.


10 Days Of Silence: My First Vipassana Meditation Retreat


Soundtrack: Common “Be”

A week ago I walked out of a 10-day vipassana meditation retreat. Early in 2014 my wife informed me that she was going on one of these retreats at the end of the semester in May. At that time, I couldn’t fathom myself doing something like that because 10-12 days seemed like way too much time for me to take out of my very busy schedule. However, things change.

In the months of September and October I felt a major shift happening internally for me. I felt myself changing. And when the opportunity came for me to do one of these 10-day retreats the last week of December 23 – January 2, it resonated with me as the right thing to do (and the retreats are free, that had something to do with it).

In the week after Thanksgiving, my father got very sick, ultimately succumbing to interstitial lung disease caused by rheumatoid arthritis. There is so much that I could say about the impact this had on my relationships with my family members but what I will say is that it contributed to me feeling like I had reached the end of an era in my life. My life can be divided into pre-2014 and post-2014. Everything is starting anew for me right now. Everything has changed.

Vipassana meditation is a meditation technique primarily promoted within Buddhism but practiced by people from all different backgrounds and belief systems. Vipassana means to see things as they really are. That is the goal of the meditation technique. I won’t get into the specifics of how the technique works, but I will say what impact the technique had and is having on me.

Upon arriving at one of these 10-day retreats, all students are required to take a vow of Noble Silence. You are not to speak or communicate in any way with your fellow students or with anyone besides the assistant teachers and the managers of the retreat. 10 days of not talking to anyone other than yourself is bound to have an impact on you, even if you’re not following a meditation regimen.

By the end of Day 3 I felt like I could’ve left then and the drive from Houston to Northern Cali and the whole process would’ve been worth it. I felt great. I hadn’t been so relaxed in quite some time. Enjoying the quiet and the fresh air and the woods and the bird watching and the colors of the leaves and the taste of the food; I was in sensory heaven, fully appreciating the experience of being alive. However, on Day 4, the meditation work became more strenuous, and the experience became less pleasant.

My body started expelling wastes like I was sick, but I felt fine. I wouldn’t have thought it possible for me to release that much mucus and bowels without having the flu or some kind of infection. This continued from about Day 4 until Day 10.

On Day 5, I got flooded with ideas. It was like I was swept over by a wave of creativity and all of a sudden I knew exactly what I wanted to do and achieve for the next two years. I was receiving song lyrics and new ideas on how to arrange my thoughts in my book and talking points for lectures and people I wanted to do business with and much more. It was slightly aggravating to not be able to write any of this down but because I didn’t have anything to do other than think, I was able to replay this information in my head over and over until it was burned into my memory.

On Day 6, my face started peeling. Badly. In a way that couldn’t really be explained by the moderately cold temperatures and my skin getting dry. I’ve never experienced anything like it before and I still can’t really explain the WHY or HOW. My face shed its skin like a snake. I left the retreat 8 days ago and my face just got back to normal a day or two ago.

On Day 7, I started getting sick. Normally I can be around sick people with their coughing and sneezing and such and I am completely unaffected. I haven’t caught a cold from someone since probably 2011, before I started studying and practicing Tantra. However, I got sick at this retreat. There was quite a bit of coughing and sneezing in the meditation hall where all the students practiced. I don’t know if that’s the cause, some airborne germs. Whatever the reason, I felt like crap. For all of Day 7 and Day 8 I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. It took all of my will power to go to the meditation hall at the mandatory times.

I believe it was Day 8 when I started feeling some really stupendous results from the meditation. As I said before, vipassana is about seeing things as they really are. Part of that includes really paying attention to what is going on on the skin and inside the body. As my mind became more and more calm and focused, I started feeling the sensations going on inside of my body. In the last few days of the retreat, I felt my lungs moving, I felt my heart beat, I felt the organs in my abdomen doing their thing, I felt the pull of my tendons where my hips and knees bent as I was sitting on the floor, I felt the twitching of my muscle fibers in my legs from walking up and down the hills. All of this was extremely fascinating to me.

One thing that I noticed during this period was that my lungs were hurting. With my stuffy nose making it hard for me to breathe, my lungs had to work overtime to get oxygen to all my cells and throughout my body. And I felt it. They were not happy. And on Day 9 or 10 when I was no longer feeling sick, I could feel the difference in my lungs. The sensation of their inhaling and exhaling was so pleasant. It made me think of all the smoking I’ve done in my life. I’m sure my lungs have done this silent protest on thousands of days in my lifetime and I was never aware enough to notice. I will never put my lungs through that torment again.

By Day 10, I was restless and “rets ta go”. The cumulative effect of 10 days of sitting on my butt on the floor was taking a toll on me. I could no longer get comfortable on the floor no matter what I did. I felt like I wasn’t getting anything else constructive out of the meditations and I was just biding my time until we were able to leave the following day. But the benefits that I got were something that I know I couldn’t have duplicated in any other way.

Ten days (plus the orientation day before and the dismissal day after- 12 days total) is a long time for most people to take off work or set aside in their life to devote to something like this. Which is why I can’t really promote this as something that everyone should do. However, it definitely lends credence to the idea that everyone should have some type of meditation practice in their daily life. You don’t know what you don’t know. And full awareness of who you are and why you do what you do can only come when you get still enough to hear the answers. Meditation is mandatory if you want to maximize the Bliss in your life.

For more information on Vipassana meditation, go here. I will be sharing much more about meditation in the upcoming book “The Bliss Booklet” and in my lectures at SOL System University. Stay tuned.

P.S. There will be a part 2 to this blog post in which I go into the theory behind Vipassana and my critique of that theory.

Why Being Fat Keeps You From Being All the Man You Can Be

5fat reduction

Soundtrack: Dead Prez “Way Of Life”

Our latest entry at COMPLETE CONSTRUCTIVE CHANGE was about women, fat, and fibroids. As a follow-up to that, I want to specifically discuss men and body fat. The dangers of fat, especially belly fat, are not just limited to women. There are some very serious complications that men can develop from having a spare tire around the waist.

One interesting fact about fat is that once you get fat, even if you lose the weight, it becomes easier to get fat again. When you consume more calories than you burn off, fat cells in the body swell to as much as six times their minimum size, and they begin to multiply — from 40 billion in an average adult up to 100 billion. This is why muscle takes up less space than fat, a 190 pound muscular person will be smaller than a 190 pound fat person. The fat is swollen, fluffy.

The good news is that you can still lose weight after your fat cells swell and multiply; in fact, when you lose weight, your fat cells shrink. Although their total number only decreases slightly (if at all), the cells become less metabolically active and remain in your body, waiting for you to pick up a bag of pork rinds so they can expand again. This means that it’s better to try to maintain a normal weight than to gain and lose weight on fast, “quick fix” types of diets. Someone who has maintained a normal weight (i.e. has been relatively thin) all their life will have an easier time staying at that weight than someone whose fat cells have swelled and multiplied.

Another unique problem that comes from excess fat is that fat tissue attracts immune system cells called mircrophages that promote inflammation. So, if you are carrying any extra fat, your body begins to produce an immune response similar to the reaction your body exhibits when you develop the flu or have an injury. Inflammation’s intended purpose in the body is to fight infection. Therefore, your body sees the extra fat calories that you consume from fried calamari and greasy pizza as an invasion in the body. Not cool.

One of the main issues with fat is that it behaves differently in different parts of the body. Men typically carry excess weight in the midsection; thus, if you gain weight (whether you drink beer or not), most of it will go directly to your gut first. Belly fat increases the likelihood of bad cholesterol (LDL), triggers extra fat in the bloodstream, and raises blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Furthermore, abdominal fat tends to be deeper inside the body, as opposed to hip or thigh fat, which is stored directly under the skin.

Fat cells within the abdomen are metabolically more active than fat cells located in other areas of the body. They release more fatty acids, which can lead to diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, and certain cancers. Abdominal fat cells may also affect the healthy functioning of the liver..

Another huge issue for men with excess body fat is that fat cells secrete extra estrogen. Estrogen is the hormone that makes the female body feminine. It is natural for women to have have more body fat than men, on average, because fat cells produce estrogen. Men naturally produce some estrogen from the testes and that estrogen plays an important role in regulating a healthy libido, improving brain function (especially memory) and protecting the heart.

When estrogen levels are too high in men, testosterone levels are reduced, and many men experience fatigue, muscle tone loss, decreased sexual function, and in some cases, enlarged prostates. Excess estrogen can also lead to man boobs. It signals the body to trigger the growth of breasts. Again, not cool.

What might be the worst side-effect of all for men with too much belly fat is a shrinkage of the penis. As fat accumulates on the lower abdomen, the apparent size of the penis changes. A large pad of fat on the pubic mound makes the shaft of the penis look shorter. Most men are not aware that half the length of the penis is inside the body. The penis actually starts deep inside the body at the pubic bone. Adding more padding onto this area of the body serves to cover up more of the penis. In some cases, abdominal fat all but buries the penis. Bringing the front of the body backward allows for more of the internal penis to be visible to the eye. Doctors estimate that for every 35 pounds of body fat that a man loses, another inch of penis becomes visible.

In addition to this apparent shrinkage, belly fat can also cause an actual reduction in the size of the penis and the quality of erections. The reduction — in both length and thickness — typically isn’t dramatic but may be noticeable. A man can lose up to an inch of length because of the effects of fat.

There are a couple of mechanisms involved in reducing penis size. The main one as it relates to body fat is the slow deposit of fatty substances (plaques) inside tiny arteries in the penis, which impairs blood flow to the organ. This process, known as atherosclerosis, is the same one that contributes to blockages inside the coronary arteries — a leading cause of heart attack. Erections occur when blood fills the penile tissue, causing it to expand. Reduced blood flow means reduced erections. Not. Cool.

The moral of the story is, the gut affects a whole lot more than just how your clothes fit. Your MANHOOD literally and figuratively depends on you keeping your midsection free of excess fat. Your body needs its testosterone production to be at optimum levels in order for you to be the man that you are supposed to be. Excess fat is a sure way to reduce that testosterone production. We all know how to lose fat. Eat food that comes from the ground e.g. fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes. Exercise. Like your life depends on it. Because it does.


Fat and Fibroids

belly fat fibroids

Soundtrack: Olivia Newton-John “Physical”

Kanye West “The New Workout Plan”

An expanding waistline is sometimes considered the price of getting older. For women, this can be especially true after menopause, when body fat tends to shift to the abdomen. Yet belly fat is about much more than just how you fit into your clothes. Research shows that belly fat also carries serious health risks. In my work with women across the United States I have seen the causes and the effects of belly fat. I am compelled to address this topic head-on.

The trouble with belly fat is that it’s not limited to the extra layer of padding located just below the skin (subcutaneous fat). It also includes visceral fat — which lies deep inside your abdomen, surrounding your internal organs. Although subcutaneous fat poses cosmetic concerns, visceral fat is linked with far more dangerous health problems, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Colorectal cancer

Research also has associated belly fat with an increased risk of premature death — regardless of overall weight. In fact, some studies have found that even when women were considered a normal weight based on standard body mass index (BMI) measurements, a large waistline increased the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease.

Belly fat doesn’t just lay idle at your beltline. Researchers describe it as an active “organ” in your body — one that churns out hormones and inflammatory substances.

“Abdominal fat is thought to break down easily into fatty acids, which flow directly into the liver and into muscle,” says Lewis Kuller, MD, DPH, professor and past chair of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health.

When these excess fatty acids drain into the liver, they trigger a chain reaction of changes — increasing the production of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and triglycerides. During this time insulin can also become less effective in controlling blood sugar, so insulin resistance sets in, he explains.

Blood sugars start to get out of balance. Fats and clots get into the bloodstream, and that sets the stage for diabetes, heart disease, and more.

And research shows that abdominal fat triggers a change in angiotensin, a hormone that controls blood vessel constriction — increasing the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack, Kuller explains.

Indeed, belly fat is a key indicator of “metabolic syndrome,” a cluster of abnormalities that include high levels of blood sugar, blood pressure, and triglycerides, as well as low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. This combination of risks has an impact on mortality from heart disease. In addition to all of this, there is another very common effect of belly fat that uniquely impacts women.


Uterine Fibroids are benign tumors of muscle and connective tissue that grow in and/or around the wall of a woman’s uterus. There is one major cause for the development and growth of fibroids and that is estrogen dominance, the state of having too much estrogen in one’s system relative to progesterone.

From the onset of puberty to menopause, a woman’s body is designed to have estrogen and progesterone work together to fuel and regulate her monthly cycle.

The bulk of estrogen is released into a woman’s blood circulation during the first half of her monthly cycle. Estrogen works to build the lining of a woman’s uterus to prepare it for implantation of a fertilized egg should fertilization occur.

The bulk of progesterone is released into a woman’s blood stream during the second half of a healthy monthly cycle. During this time, progesterone acts to maintain the rich lining of the uterus that estrogen helped to build up during the first two weeks of her cycle.

If a fertilized egg successfully implants into the uterine wall i.e. if a woman becomes pregnant, her body must continue to produce a large amount of progesterone on a continuous basis to maintain a thick and well vascularized uterine wall throughout the course of pregnancy. This job of continuous progesterone production is handled nicely by a healthy placenta.

If there is no implantation/pregnancy, a woman’s body stops producing large amounts of progesterone, which results in sloughing off and elimination of the thickened uterine lining, also known as a woman’s monthly flow.

This cycle repeats itself about once every month until a woman experiences menopause, with estrogen dominating the first half of each cycle, and progesterone dominating the second half.

Sadly, many women and even teenage girls in industrialized countries have too much estrogen and/or too little progesterone in their systems.

There are many reasons why estrogen dominance is a problem, but the relevant answer for this post is that having estrogen dominance causes a woman’s uterine lining to thicken far more than is healthy during her monthly cycles. This repeated, excessive thickening can result in localized growths in the muscle and connective tissue that line the uterus. We call these growths uterine fibroids.

All of these physiological facts have convinced me that addressing estrogen dominance is essential to shrinking and preventing uterine fibroids.

What causes estrogen dominance?

Exposure to Xenoestrogens is one significant factor in estrogen dominance. Xenoestrogens are estrogens that are produced outside of the body. Here is a list of significant sources of xenoestrogens:

  • birth control pills
  • hormone replacement drugs
  • condom spermicides
  • conventional personal care products, particularly cosmetics
  • Plastic cookware
  • Growth hormones found in factory-farmed animal products
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Foaming agents in soaps and detergents

Estrogen is produced in three different areas of the body: ovaries (testicles in men), adrenal glands, and fat cells. That’s right. Estrogen is produced by fat cells. The more fat cells a woman has, the greater chance she has of experiencing estrogen dominance.

It is estimated that three in every four American women have fibroids, with one in four women seeking medical care for the condition. African American women are three to nine times more likely to develop fibroids. Uterine fibroids can be hard to combat given the fact that women are diagnosed with the disease at various stages and when they are in various physical conditions. While the fibroids may develop slowly in some women, others may develop more aggressively. Right now, hysterectomy is the most common treatment for uterine fibroids, accounting for 200,000, or 30 percent, of all hysterectomies in the United States.

I believe that a woman having her uterus is a good thing. Fibroids and the hysterectomies that are resulting from them are a silent epidemic in this country, especially among Black women. When we look at the three areas of the body where estrogen is produced, there is something that jumps out. Fat cells and overly active adrenal glands can both be addressed with the same prescription: EXERCISE.

Adrenal glands are activated by stress. When we feel unsafe in any way then the body’s “fight or flight” response kicks in and the adrenal glands produce adrenaline to make it easier to fight or flee. When we exercise, in addition to improving the way our body looks, we also get some direct sress-relieving benefits:

  • It pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity helps to bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling.
  • It’s meditation in motion. After a fast-paced game of racquetball or several laps in the pool, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements. As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything that you do.
  • It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise also can improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All this can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.

If you’re experiencing extreme symptoms from fibroids then there is a very good chance that you’re also experiencing a high level of stress as well as carrying too much belly fat, in addition to exposure to Xenoestrogens. Everyone can immediately address a large part of what is causing their fibroids by exercising. And I don’t mean just walking around the block, even though every little bit helps. I mean exercise like your life depends on it, because it does. Swim, run, do yoga, lift weights, dance, whatever works for you. Just get moving.

Belly fat is the enemy.