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Coyote Tricks for Fun and Profit

Chapter One: Principles of coyote tricks:

The first law of coyote is: don't treat crazy people like they're sane. Don't explain yourself to an abuser. Don't reason with irrational people. Don't be drawn into an argument.

The second law of coyote is the same as the first law of martial arts: no attack is personal. So don't take it personally. Don't be defensive. Instead, defend yourself effectively and non-violently and with humor.

Another guiding principle is: do something unexpected. Surprise your abuser with something out of left field. Anything will do. Something whimsical and spontaneous and intuitive is the best. Stand on your head. Burst into song.

Another principle is: exaggerate what you're given, and hand it back. Sing it back in opera style...

Another principle is: coyote tricks often sting a little. If, every time someone attacks me, it hurts just a little bit, they'll stop attacking me. Just a little. Enough mosquitoes can stop an elephant.

One of coyote's most effective tools is the innocent-sounding question. It's amazing how often the right dumb question can stop a predator in his tracks. Because it reveals what they're up to. And because it siphons the attack away from the questioner and onto the question.

Another effective tool is laughter. Abusers don't know what to do when you find their attack amusing. For one thing, it means you're fearless.

And perhaps the most effective tool is fearlessness. Coyotes have nothing to fear because they can't be hurt, since they've mastered self defense. The world is safe for them.

The art of coyote is that she always comes up smelling like a rose. And she does it in ways that are mysterious and intriguing to those around her. Somehow, without violence or control, she gets her way with the violent and controlling. Without effort she gets predators to happily do her work for her. With a giggle and a laugh she gets the battle stopped and turns it into a party. And nobody but another coyote knows how she did it.

Chapter Two: Examples of coyote tricks:

If you'd like to see a great coyote trick, you can go to YouTube and search "Cellphone Smashing". A guy sits down next to someone talking on their cellphone, holds his own cellphone to his ear, and starts answering their questions. "What do you want for dinner tonight?" "Oh, I think fish and chips would be nice." Inevitably they ask him if he's talking to them, and he says, "Oh no, I'm just talking on my phone." And he goes right on responding to them. "Well, I guess I'll sign off now." "OK, I gotta go too." "Love you." "Love you too." "Bye." "Bye."

Chu-ko Liang was occupying Yang-p'ing. When he was about to be attacked by Ssu-ma I, he suddenly struck his colors, stopped the beating of the drums, and flung open the city gates. All that could be seen were a few old men sweeping and sprinkling the ground. This unexpected proceeding had the intended effect, for Ssu-ma I suspected an ambush, and he actually drew off his army and retreated. (Excerpt from Sun Tsu, the Art of War)

When I was seven my dad got our family a pet monkey. We were living in Afghanistan at the time, and the Afghan nomads would catch wild rock monkeys in the north and then sell them on their way through Kabul. Bobo had a dog collar and a chain, and he was untamed. He liked to scare us kids.
One day Dad put him on a chain about five feet long and gave me a stick about three feet long. "Hit the monkey," he said. I spent 20 minutes trying, and I failed to hit him even once. But after that, Bobo and I were friends. He liked to lounge in my lap while going through my pockets. He had a thing about pockets.

Milton Erickson would travel around, and when he visited an asylum the staff would give him their hardest cases. One place told him of a patient who'd been there for ten years, and they couldn't get him to give up his delusion that he was in the FBI.
So Milton sneaked into his room, and said, "Hi. I'm your controller. I'm here to give you your next mission. It's a difficult one. Are you ready for it?"
The man was excited. "Yes."
"Your mission is to get out of here and assume a normal-appearing life out there in the world. You're going to be in deep cover. It may be years before you get your next mission. Can you do this?"
"Yes, I can," said the patient.
Milton went sneaking out his room. The patient got out of the asylum, and he lived a normal life the rest of his life.

I had a client named Evelyn, who once had a job at an Italian restaurant. Her boss was an Italian woman, and she was loud and dramatic and mean to everyone. So Evelyn started reacting in a strange way. Whenever her boss was mean to her, she would sing back exactly whatever her boss had just said, in grand opera style.
Her boss not only stopped being mean to her, she started telling everyone they were friends.

I had a client named Betty whose mother was a worry-wart. Her mom would call her most days and go on and on with a list of worries. For example, Betty's brother was driving to the coast, so her mom called up and talked about everything she could imagine going wrong on the trip. Betty had asked her not to do this behavior, to no effect. So we asked ouselves the Great Question and came up with a plan.
The next time her mom called, Betty listened to her litany of complaints all the way through. And then she said, "Oh, Mom, it's much worse than you think." And she gave her three more reasons to worry that she hadn't mentioned.
Within a week her mom had entirely dropped the behavior. There was no discussion, there was no confrontation, it just disappeared.

I had a client named Adelle who was a single mother with four kids, and all of them were acting out. Her oldest at fifteen was climbing out her window at night to go party with her boyfriend, and the other three were acting like little hooligans.
So we made a plan.
She instituted Holding Time. The last thing before going to bed was that she held each child, in a room alone, for ten minutes. She focused all her attention on each one. Within a few days the order had become very important. The kids negotiated all day for who got to go first, who second. And in less than a week all the misbehavior had disappeared. Instead, the kids were trying to please her.

Ruth went back to dating after a long time off the playing field. She got a flood of responses, and she could tell that one of them was a fraud. She did some investigation online, and found out he'd taken one woman in the area for $25,000.
She had reached the point where she was on her way to meet him for coffee, so she texted him, "Oh, I just found out there's this guy in the area with the same name as you who preys on women. But I'm sure that's not you, right?"
"Hell, no!" he texted back. And she never heard from him again.

Rose took her 6-year-old god-sons and some of the neighbor boys on an outing in a van. In the course of the outing she overheard a boy refer to his mother as a "fucking whore." She deliberately ignored it and quietly waited for something organic to emerge.
When they were walking back to the van to go home, she told one boy he'd be dropped off first, and she told another boy he'd be dropped off second. And then in a calm tone of voice she said to the boy who'd cursed, "And then we'll be dropping you off at your fucking-whore mother's house."
He kept walking for a few steps, and then he looked up at her and said, "Good one, Rose."

It's amazingly difficult for smart to outsmart stupid. Once I actually managed to outsmart my cat.
I have a playful kitty, and I have a toy that's composed of a stick, a string and a tuft of feathers. She loves to play with it, but sometimes she'll nail the tuft of feathers to the carpet and sink her claws in and just wait. I can't get her to let go, and I'm bored.
So I went back to the pet store and bought another toy. I keep it behind my back. If she nails the first one to the carpet, I let the string go slack, and I bring out the second one. When she springs for the second one, I put the first one behind my back.

A client of mine named Sue was flirting with a guy at work, and about to ask him on a date when an insecure co-worker named Katie came up and rudely started flirting with him too.
Sue stepped in between them, facing Katie, and gave Katie a big hug. She stroked her hair and talked to her in a baby-talk voice about what a nice person she is. As she hugged Katie, Sue turned her around till she was facing away from the man. She ended the hug with a pat and a little push in the right direction, and Katie wandered off. Sue went back to flirting.

A therapist named Frank Farrelly in California who worked with mandated clients invented Provocative Therapy. A client walked into his office one day and announced he'd decided to commite suicide. "Nothing you can say," he said, "will talk me out of it."
"I wouldn't try," the therapist said, "but I can just see how your father will react." And he proceeded to do an imitation of the client's father, pompously announcing the client a loser and a bum. "And your mother," the therapist said, "oh, you can just imagine what she'll say." And the therapist pretended to be the client's mother, snivelling weakly for her poor failure of a patheric son.
In a few minutes the client went storming out the door, announcing loudly that he wasn't about to give them the satisfaction. And the therapist got back to his paperwork.

I have a client named Emilia who is a natural listener. Her boss at work comes to her and tells her sad stories from his childhood, sort of to explain why he's always depressed, and sort of to maintain his gloomy attitude.
So when he comes to her, she puts a gloomy expression on her face and quietly wrings her hands while he tells her a story. Then she picks it up halfway through and tells it back to him, still with a sad expression, only she changes it so there's a positive outcome. I'm waiting to hear what his reaction is.

I have a client in London. She's had to buy a really good bike lock cuz bikes are stolen so often there. So in addition she's decided to paint rust spots on her bike, and dirt, and old paint jobs showing through. City camoflage.

I talk with my client in Oakland. He's come up with a great coyote trick with his 15-year-old daughter. When she misbehaves, he doesn't say, "Don't do that. I've told you a thousand times not to do that." Which only makes her mad. Instead he says, "If you do that again, I'm going to declare random screaming."
"Oh no," she says, half titillated.
And if she does it again, he says,"Now I'm declaring random screaming."
Then he waits a couple minutes, or even up to an hour, till he catches her off guard. And he screams, which startles her.
She reacts as though this were a game, but it works. It changes her behavior.

From a client's email to me: "So, I didn't mail the letter, I thought it was too mean spirited.. but instead, I went all out coyote on him.. I wasn't expecting anything, it was just for fun.. so I started out with "so, did the "everlasting consecuences" start already? if I promise to turn over all arsenal of chemical weapons under international control by the end of the week?"... coyote is innocent and well intentioned.. that's what did it.. so I kept on badgering him I offered "ok, twist my arm, Ill turn over all 700lbs of mustard gas hidden in a turkey farm, and if you act now I'll throw in some yellow cake from Niger".. by the time I got to the hypothetical WMD's he revealed to me that he couldn't plan our life together because he's got business to attend in Panama and he hates it there too, he doesn't think I can have a life there, I hate it there. Yay!! treat a crazy person like they're crazy and they'll get real with you! Amazing!"

Somewhere in Carlos Castaneda's books is a story Don Juan told him to illustrate the principle of not pushing oneself to the front.
The Federales sent a squad of policemen into the hills to arrest a sorcerer. They got to his house, and there were a number of people there: an old man sweeping the verandah, and some men and women who said they were apprentices. The policemen asked for the sorcerer, and a robust young man stepped forward and said it was him. The Federales took him to town and put him in jail.
Later they let him go when it became obvious that he wasn't actually the sorcerer. The real sorcerer was the old man sweeping the porch.

Years ago a young man and his girlfriend went up into the Sierra Mountains in the middle of winter and took acid. They built a big fire out in the middle of a snowfield, and they got so high that they took off all their clothes and were jumping through the flames without getting burned.
A police car showed up, and the policeman tried to get them to put on their clothes and get in the car. When they wouldn't, the policeman released his police dog. The dog was barking and growling as it charged the young man, who ran away through the snow in a panic.
After a bit of a chase, the young man suddenly thought, "What am I doing?" He stopped and turned around and threw his arms wide. In a voice of delight he called, "Puppy!"
The dog stopped, looking confused. And then the young man and the dog started romping and playing together.
Eventually the policeman talked the couple into getting dressed. And he managed to talk his dog back into his car. He drove off, and left the young man and his girlfriend to enjoy the rest of a beautiful day.

Here's another story by Carlos Castaneda. (1987). The Power of Silence. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, pp. 92-98

Don Juan told me to drive into Nogales, Mexico. He asked me to stop in front of a one-story, light-beige house in a well to do neighborhood. To all appearances it was a typical suburban dwelling.

We got out of the car. Don Juan led the way. He didn't knock or open the door with a key, but when we go to it, the door opened silently on oiled hinges-- all by itself, as far as I could detect.

Don Juan quickly entered. He didn't invite me in. I just followed him. I was curious to see who had opened the door from inside, but there was no one there.

We were in a narrow hall that opened into a spacious living room. Half the room was empty, but next to the fireplace was a semicircle of expensive furniture.

Two men, perhaps in their mid-fifties, stood when we entered. One of them was Indian, the other Latin American. Don Juan introduced me first to the Indian.

'This is Silvio Manuel,' don Juan said to me. 'He's the most powerful and dangerous sorcerer of my party, and the most mysterious too.'

I smiled and extended my hand to Silvio Manuel, but he didn't take it. He nodded perfunctorily.

'And this is Vicente Madrano,' don Juan said, turning to the other man. 'He is the most knowledgeable and the oldest of my companions.' Vicente nodded just as perfunctorily as Silvio Manuel had, and also didn't say a word.

'I think that you already know that Carlos is the biggest indulger that I have ever met,' don Juan told them with a serious expression. 'Bigger even than our benefactor. I assure you that if there is someone who takes indulging seriously, this is the man.'

I laughed, but no one else did. The two men observed me with a strange glint in their eyes. Then Vicente broke the silence.

'I don't know why you brought him inside the house,' he said in a dry, cutting tone. 'He's of little use to us. Put him out in the backyard.'

'And tie him,' Silvio Manuel added.

Don Juan turned to me. 'Come on,' he said in a soft voice, and pointed with a quick sideways movement of the head to the back of the house.

We walked into the back yard. Don Juan casually picked up a leather rope and twirled it around my neck with tremendous speed. His movements were so fast and so nimble that an instant later, before I could realize what was happening, I was tied at the neck, like a dog, to one of the two cinder-block columns supporting the heavy roof over the back porch.

Don Juan shook his head from side to side in a gesture of resignation or disbelief and went back into the house as I began to yell at him to untie me. The rope was so tight around me neck it prevented me from screaming as loud as I would have liked.

I could not believe what was taking place. Containing my anger, I tried to undo the knot at my neck. It was so compact that the leather strands seemed glued together. I hurt my nails trying to pull them apart.

I had an attack of uncontrollable wrath and growled like an impotent animal. Then I grabbed the rope, twisted it around my forearms, and bracing my feet against the cinder-block column, pulled. But the leather was too tough for the strength of my muscles. I felt humiliated and scared. Fear brought me a moment of sobriety. I knew I had let don Juan's false aura of reasonableness deceive me.

I assessed my situation as objectively as I could and saw no way to escape except by cutting the leather rope. I frantically began to rub it against the sharp corner of the cinder-block column. I thought that if I could rip the rope before any of the men came to the back, I had a chance to run to my car and take off, never to return.

I puffed and sweated and rubbed the rope until I had nearly worn it through. Then I braced one foot against the column, wrapped the rope around my forearms again, and pulled it desperately until it snapped, throwing me back into the house.

As I crashed backward through the open door, don Juan, Vicente and Silvio Manuel were standing in the middle of the room, applauding.

'What a dramatic re-entry,' Vicente said, helping me up. 'You fooled me. I didn't think you were capable of such explosions.'

Don Juan came to me and snapped the know open, freeing my neck from the piece of rope around it.

I was shaking with fear, exertion and anger. In a faltering voice, I asked don Juan why he was tormenting me like this. The three of them laughed and at that moment seemed the farthest thing from threatening.

'We wanted to test you and find out what sort of man you really are,' don Juan said.

He led me to one of the couches and politely offered me a seat. Vicente and Silvio Manuel sat in the armchairs, and don Juan sat on the other couch.

I laughed nervously but was no longer apprehensive about my situation, nor about don Juan and his friends. All three regarded me with frank curiosity. Vicente could not stop smiling, although he seemed to be trying desperately to appear serious. Silvio Manuel shook his head rhythmically as he stared at me. His eyes were unfocused, but fixed on me.

'We tied you down,' don Juan went on, 'because we wanted to know whether you are sweet or patient or ruthless or cunning. We found out you are none of those things. Rather you're a king-sized indulger, just as I had said.

'If you hadn't indulged in being violent, you would certainly have noticed that the formidable know in the rope around your neck was false. It snaps. Vicente designed that knot to fool his friends.'

'You tore the rope violently,' said Silvio Manuel. 'You're certainly not sweet.'

They were all quiet for a moment, and then began to laugh.

'You're neither ruthless nor cunning,' don Juan went on. 'If you were, you would have easily snapped open both knots and run away with a valuable leather rope. You're not patient either. If you were, you would have whined and cried until you realized that there was a pair of clippers by the wall with which you could have cut the rope in two seconds and saved yourself all the agony and exertion.

'You can't be taught, then, to be violent or obtuse. You already are that. But you can learn to be ruthless, cunning, patient and sweet.'

If you'd like to see more coyote stories, you can go to "Teaching Stories" in the Table of Contents, or you can Click here.