Category Archives: the unexplained

The Blue Lady and Marian Apparitions

Photo of the sky over Conyers, GA in 1990, attributed to someone named Ferdinando. My Blue Lady looked a lot like this.

Last time, I told you about my vision of an entity I thought of as the Blue Lady. While looking for images that might convey something of what I saw, I came across this:

http://www.zeitun-eg.org/zeitoun1.htm

“For more than a year, starting on the eve of Tuesday, April 2, 1968, the Blessed Holy Virgin Saint Mary, Mother of God, appeared in different forms over the domes of the Coptic Orthodox Church named after Her at Zeitoun, Cairo, Egypt.”

That is, for more than a year, something or someone appeared over St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church. The something was a glowing form resembling a woman in long robes, with rays of light around her head. This apparition was often accompanied by others, including forms like white doves that came and went suddenly and flew without visibly flapping their wings. Sometimes the strange sights went on for over two hours. A great many people saw them, and quite a few striking photos and even movies exist. No matter how skeptical we may be or how uncomfortable religious imagery may be for a lot of us, this evidence is there to confront us.

Please take a moment to boggle at the pictures at the link above.  Here is an example.


And here are some more: http://jesusphotos.altervista.org/Apparition_at_Zeitoun.htm

Even for those of us who are accustomed to Seeing Things and knowing that others see even more, this is a freaky event to contemplate, especially since it involved so many observers at once. Blessed Mother sightings are not uncommon, though, and have been well documented over many decades.

I am curious as to whether the Blue Lady I saw had anything to do with this phenomenon. I’m also wondering whether the apparitions are related to the being described by Clark Strand in his book Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age, which I reported on here: https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/review-waking-up-to-the-dark/

Recounting Strand’s experiences, I wrote: “As he progressed with his exploration of the depths of night, at some point the darkness itself, the Yin principle one might say, began to visit him in the form of a beautiful young woman, three-dimensional, visible, audible, and solid to the touch. When he first saw her, her lips were sealed by a creepily evocative X of black electrical tape, which she wordlessly pleaded with him to remove. Sometimes her appearance would change. He recognized her as Mary, Isis, Sophia, Diana, the Shekinah, the Queen of Heaven, and especially the Black Madonna. In all cases, She is the personification of Earth and Nature, the Mother we all come from and who we ignore at our peril, the feminine essence that so many human societies have suppressed with desperate force.”

I would like to know whether people in completely different cultures, not exposed to the Mary mythos, have similar visions. Certainly Mary has become conflated and entwined with the goddesses of other cultures, as we see in Our Lady of Guadalupe:

“Following the Conquest in 1519–21, the Spanish destroyed a temple of the mother goddess Tonantzin at Tepeyac outside Mexico City, and built a chapel dedicated to the Virgin on the same site. Tonantzin (the beloved mother of the gods) was celebrated around each winter solstice which occurred on different dates, the winter solstice of 1531 occurred on December 12, 1531 according to the UNAM. Even many of the newly converted to Catholicism natives then continued to come from afar to worship there, often addressing the renamed native image, as if she were the Virgin Mary, which they had known as their Tonantzin.” [December 12, 1531 was the climactic day of the visions seen by the peasant Juan Diego.]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Guadalupe

It would be no surprise if various peoples saw the image of the Mother in a guise familiar to them. As one of the Zeitoun website pages put it, “She sometimes made Her apparition with the Babe Jesus Christ in Her arms. It is not strange to see the Child Jesus Christ in an apparition; heavenly apparitions may take forms known to us, so that we can understand them.” The image of a powerful, all-loving, nurturing Mother is as fundamental to the human psyche as anything can possibly be, and She is real in at least a psychological and emotional sense. Perhaps seeing Her in so many times and places is to be expected.

That’s about as much as I can say about the visions themselves at this point. Your thoughts are welcome. I would especially like to know if you have experienced anything along these lines yourself.

I do want to add something about Her names. Often these apparitions are referred to by the acronym “BVM”— Blessed Virgin Mary. I have always been bugged by the Blessed Virgin concept. Virgin and Mother are incompatible archetypes! The story of the mother of Jesus being a virgin was added well after his death, and is based in Greek and Roman, not Jewish, mythology. The reason it bugs me so much is not only because it’s just plain not historically true, but because it seems to me to insult and repudiate women, and all of nature along with us. It is a perfect expression of a patriarchal culture that could not deal well with sexuality or human bodies. It’s as if God built the world a certain way, then decided that he had messed it up when He invented mammals and their means of reproduction.

Adyashanti’s interpretation made me feel a little better about this. He said the story means that the divine principle came directly into the world without requiring the duality of male and female, remaining one purely divine reality. Whatever. I prefer to contemplate the ancient image of the Mother without painting the unnecessary Virgin layer over her.

It would be wonderful to believe that Someone is watching over us with loving attention, and like any mom, will comfort us when we inevitably fall and get bruised. But perhaps, like any mom, she will set limits on our nonsense, and apply consequences. If only she could make us stop fighting with our brothers and sisters….


Still more photos of apparitions or purported apparitions:

Apparitions at another place in Egypt in 2009, still photos and video
http://jesusphotos.altervista.org/Apparition_at_Warraq.htm

“Photographs of the Virgin Mary in the clouds”
http://jesusphotos.altervista.org/Virgin%20Mary%20in%20the%20clouds.htm

 

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What Is This Qi Stuff, Anyway?

(Written for my colleagues on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day, 10/24/18, and posted on the website of the New Mexico Society for Acupuncture and Asian Medicine.)

The field is the sole governing agency of the particle. — Einstein


There is a school of thought that seems to be gaining currency in our profession lately, which says that the concept of Qi is nothing more than a quaint misunderstanding of what the ancient sages were really writing about, and that our medicine is really all about the nervous system and other purely physical aspects of the body.

This is simply not true.  In an apparent effort to align their work with biomedical science, these authors are actually ignoring a great deal of that same science, not to mention the experiences of myriad practitioners and patients. 

Let me start with typical human perceptions of the energetic field surrounding the body, the manifestation of Qi we think of most often.  While Qi can be complicated to pin down in terms of exactly what types of energy and what frequency ranges are involved, close to the body it’s very simple to perceive and to demonstrate. 

When I am scanning for active points or disturbances in patients’ bodies, the person on the table often says, with surprise, “I can feel exactly where your hand is!”  Of course they can, as this is a normal human ability.  When patients ask me what Qi is, or what is meant by Qi Gong, I have them try a very simple exercise: Hold your palms near each other, about a half inch apart.  Notice what you feel. A kind of pressure, a bit like the feeling of trying to bring two magnets together with the same poles facing?  Warmth?  Tingling?

Nearly everyone can perceive this immediately.  I’ve tried this exercise with hundreds of people when I’ve given presentations to groups, and only a couple have ever said that they didn’t feel anything. 

When I used to teach Reiki, I introduced the concept of the human biofield with another simple exercise.  One person would stand facing a wall, eyes closed.  Another person would walk up to them from the back.  The first person would raise her hand when she felt the presence of the other one.  This would happen consistently when the two were about four feet apart.

But although those effects are consistent and reliable, science likes objective, numerical measurements with instruments.  There are plenty of those to be had as well, and many of them have been done by researchers right here in the US.  That’s been going on for decades.

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to meet the biophysicist Beverly Rubik, who has spent 40 years studying the human biofield, and was part of the group that coined that term.  Her current work is largely in the area of biophotons, the weak but important light emitted from the body in the ultraviolet range.  Among other things, she has studied the changes in biophoton emissions involved with healers and healees, showing that more light is emitted from the hands of healers when they are doing their work.  One instrument she uses to detect biophotons is the Bio-Well gas discharge visualization camera, which is available commercially and has clinical applications that could be useful in an acupuncture office.

She stated at the conference that as a child she could feel energy, but that “it was educated out of her.”  The biofield, she said, is proposed to be “a high-speed wireless communication system, a bridge between the mind and body.”

I had already encountered Dr. Rubik’s work in a 2016 online course, “The Science of Energy Medicine,” given by the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology.  Here are some quotes from her presentation there:

‘… I see the biofield as a complex dynamic standing wave within and around the body. Let me tell you more. You’re already familiar with the concept of standing waves from musical instruments, for example a wood instrument, a clarinet. There’s a standing wave when it’s being sounded, or the plucking of a string in a violin or a guitar. Once again, a standing wave is vibrating and rendering sound. Not only sound standing waves are possible. There are also electromagnetic standing waves, too.’

‘There was one main prediction from the biofield hypothesis, and that is that if we can shift the biofield, we can change the physiology and chemistry and move the body, the body mind, to a new steady state….’

Experiments have consistently shown that intention is of great importance in causing measurable energetic effects: ‘I come back to that old principle of Oriental medicine. Where mind goes, chi, or energy, flows, and the blood and flesh follow.  This is the bottom line when it comes to how we can heal ourselves. We must change our minds. Then there are shifts in the biofield, and then the flesh and blood is the slowest to change overall.’

You might wonder why, after four decades of work like this, the science of the biofield is not more familiar, even to those of us who deal with it every day. Dr. Rubik gave some reasons why it is not: ‘We have certain challenges in biofield science. We are dealing with complex dynamical fields that are actually very low-level that become difficult to measure and we have to use a variety of tools. There is no one singular tool that you can grab off the shelf that’s ready-made to look at the biofield, but rather a collection of different tools to understand and probe the biofield through different windows.

‘There’s also very little funding and no concerted effort. Unfortunately, the NIH has dropped the ball and it is not a lead agency. We have no leading organization that’s making a concerted effort to forward biofield science or its understanding in the frontiers of medicine, and I’ve long been an advocate of something I call a Human Energy Project [along the lines of the Human Genome Project].’

Here is an article in which Dr. Rubik gives a lucid overview of methods of measuring the biofield:
https://www.faim.org/measurement-of-the-human-biofield-and-other-energetic-instruments

Another researcher who started measuring the biofield, even earlier, was Valerie Hunt, who began as a scientist with no knowledge of or interest in esoteric or energetic matters.  She eventually developed new instrumentation that could detect immensely higher frequencies than had been measured around the body previously, in the range of hundreds of thousands of cycles per second.

‘My academic background is as a neurophysiologist, and I was also a registered physical therapist. I was working in electromyography and electrocardiography, and I was interested in the patterns of electromyographic energy in the body that were related to emotions. Eventually, I established a pattern of emotions connected with neurological energy. In the process, I was the first researcher to have a telemetry, electromyography instrument. This was when the first astronauts went into space. They had to have monitors of their basic health — the heart rate, the blood pressure, and the galvanic skin response — sent from space. They did this using telemetry, which is a radio frequency instrument system. It would send a signal on an FM frequency down to the earth, where NASA would record the FM frequencies and know what was happening to the astronauts.

‘When I heard about this, I got in touch with NASA and the young scientist who had first made that telemetry instrumentation, and I had him build for me the first telemetry electromyography instrument. This meant I could test a person using an FM frequency, a radio frequency, process the data through my instrumentation and record it. And when I did this I found the electromagnetic energy field.

‘This was in early 60’s, and I thought, “Oh my God, what have I got here?” So I brought in researchers from the university’s chemistry, physics, and engineering departments. I said, “What have I got, an artifact?” And they kept saying I didn’t, that my equipment was working fine. They tested everything, and finally I realized I was dealing with a new kind of energy in the body.’

https://healthontheedge.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/the-human-energy-field-an-interview-with-valerie-v-hunt-ph-d/

Dr. Hunt famously worked with the healer Rosalyn Bruyere, and was able to correlate her perceptions of the human aura with the readings made by her instruments.  In addition to making measurements of the biofield, she was able to create practical applications for healing.  She was still going strong on a number of projects when she died in 2014.

All of these electromagnetic emanations from the body are relatively weak.  How do we explain the much more extreme effects that can be produced by well-trained Qi Gong masters and some others?  That’s not at all clear, but the effects are incontrovertibly there.  For example, a fascinating series of trials by Mikio Yamamoto in Japan was reported by Lynn McTaggart in her seminal book The Intention Experiment, involving a master doing tohate, in which the master could push another person back several yards through sheer force of will and Qi, while the other was trying to resist.  The master was isolated in an electromagnetically shielded room on the fourth floor of a building, while his student was placed in a similar room on the first floor.  Neither the distance nor the shielding prevented the effect; in nearly a third of 49 trials, the master was able to knock the student back.  (p. 53)

A nonexistent energy could not visibly, objectively move a body. 

Probably quite a few of us have felt a more mundane version of this kind of effect, being pushed back from the treatment table when a blockage in a patient suddenly released, maybe even feeling that we were “knocked across the room” by a considerable force.  How can the biofield, which seems so feeble when measured, create a force like that?  I don’t know of anyone who has answered that question in terms of biophysics, and it is urgently begging for an answer.  There has to be something more to Qi than the types of electromagnetism we have detected in and around the body so far.

At the conference where I met Dr. Rubik, I had an unusually dramatic experience of being strongly tapped between the eyes by someone who was not physically present.  It didn’t hurt, but it knocked me back a little, and everyone in the room saw that.  Some years ago, such a person pushed my whole body a few inches sideways on my chair.  You can’t help but be impressed when an invisible force moves you against (or at least without) your will.

The other issue with explaining Qi solely as a matter of electromagnetic fields is that electromagnetic effects rapidly diminish with distance, but Qi has no trouble at all being transmitted across any given amount of space.  The tohate experiments are a particularly vivid example of that, but many of us do remote treatments that are effective in a quieter way.  What, precisely, is being transmitted?  Or is that the wrong question?

Here, from the ACEP course, is Gary Schwartz attempting to deal with this issue:
‘Now, how do we explain effects that are taking place across 3000 miles or in London, which is what, 6000 miles from Tucson [where he is based]? Or Sydney, Australia, which is even further. Electromagnetic field effects are insufficient to explain that kind of data because the intensity of electromagnetic fields decreases with the square of the distance, and they are modified by all kinds of objects in the environment. That’s one reason why you need to consider higher level or more sophisticated theories of physics to be able to explain this.’

‘To say that a quantum field is involved in distance, which it may very well be, for example, does not mean that the electromagnetics are not involved in proximal things. You can have multiple layers of mechanism being operative at the same time. That’s why I use a staircase for the explanations so people can see this. The problem with skeptics and probably most of us is that we don’t look at the whole picture.’

So at this point, we are very clear about many aspects of the human biofield— which we can call a manifestation of Qi— but there are large and crucial holes in our understanding.

To be continued….

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It Couldn’t Have Happened

When I was a kid I had what appeared to be a persistent memory of something that happened when I was very small. A meteorite fell in my Aunt Betty’s back yard and met its fiery doom one evening while we were having a cookout or something. I can still see the image of a large sphere, at least a foot or so across, burning in patches and dark elsewhere, with a crater around it, not too much bigger than the sphere itself. The image is vivid.

But that could never have happened. A fraction of a second’s thought will tell you that meteorites just don’t work that way. And if a substantial one had fallen anywhere in Girard, Ohio in the early 1960’s, and pieces had reached the ground still being 12” or more in diameter, the destruction would have been epic and everyone would have known about it.

At some point while I was still a kid, I happened to mention to my mother, “that time the meteorite fell in Aunt Betty’s back yard.” Of course she told me that no meteorite had ever fallen there during my lifetime. I was shocked to realize that my memory wasn’t real. I’ve never been able to explain what the image means or what could have happened to leave a memory trace like that.

So many impossible things have been happening lately, and I’ve wondered about this one again. What can it mean? I wonder if perhaps there was a typical, far smaller stone that did fall from the sky in front of my eyes, and my little brain turned the memory into something more dramatic. But surely my mother would have remembered even that. Did I see it in a movie? Did I dream it? Being so young, was I unable to distinguish dream from reality? Something happened, even if only in my mind, something significant enough that it is still with me. What did it mean?

A week ago something else happened to me that seemed like it couldn’t have happened, something that was even more improbable than the burning rock in the grass and that strangely feels less real in my memory. The only person who can corroborate it is the one who caused it, and perhaps that person experienced something completely different from what I did. A couple of friends who were also in the building could tell you that I described it to them right afterward and that I was visibly shaken, but they didn’t see the actual event. Did I misinterpret it? Did my mind turn it into a more devastating missile from the heavens than it really was? All week I have asked, What does it mean?

And meanwhile, and before, other unthinkable occurrences took place. Entire cities burned to the ground, houses disintegrating in literally seconds. Far away, we destroyed another city “to save it.” People there who were just going about their business were obliterated by explosions from the sky, and their homes turned to dust as fine as the typical meteor. Others, here, were going about their business when an unprecedented rain of death poured down on them from high in a hotel window. Many are still struggling to find even the most basic necessities for survival after having their homes drowned or pummeled flat by the storms weeks ago.

More and more, every morning I turn to some source of news with dread in my heart, bracing for whatever new horror has taken place while I slept. Maybe you are this way too, waiting for the next shockwave, the next stone to fall. I know that whatever I complain of personally has no comparison to the immensity of tragedy that has befallen myriad human beings during this incredibly difficult year. I know, just as surely, that I am affected by all of it and so is each one of us, and the whole of us.

And I know that my perspective right now is skewed, especially since I’m recovering from a procedure during which the doctor did his best to terrify me about my future health— another unexpected blast from above. I haven’t yet been able to dig out from under the rubble. Yet, what feels like such dark, heavy boulders may be no more substantial than the meteorite of my childhood.

 

This is what it wasn’t:
http://www.grindtv.com/random/man-claims-found-burning-meteorite-yard-real-video/

I searched for the origin of the photo used at the top of this post, but could not find anything clear, so cannot give credit for the image.

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The Face in the Shroud

I intended to put this out on Easter, but as with so many things during this overwhelmed period of my life, I’m way behind. I did spend a good deal of Sunday reviewing research on this subject, finding that there was a lot more available than there had been the last time I looked.

Among the surprisingly many religious articles in my mother’s room, I found one that I’d given her myself. I bought it at the gift shop of the Santuario de Chimayó in northern New Mexico. It’s a small card with the kind of double picture that changes when you hold it at different angles. One view is the familiar face found in the negative shot of the Shroud of Turin:

And the other is a reconstruction of the living face as imagined by an artist, whose name is not given:

I was so struck by the beauty and power of the artist’s conception portrait that I wanted a copy to bring home.

There is not much I can say about the Shroud of Turin that hasn’t been said already. I’m writing about it here because it is a source of continual fascination for me, as for so many others. It is one of the anomalous objects in the world that reminds us that reality is not at all what we’ve been told it is, and that we have far less understanding of what is “really” going on than we might like. No matter how one interprets the phenomenon, there is an irreducible amount of mystery. Something beyond the ordinary happened here. What exactly was it?

Here is a summary of the facts and questions about the Shroud, as my small knowledge of them permits:

We don’t know, no one can say for sure, who the Man in the Shroud really was. We can be sure of the meaning of some aspects of his image, though. What we see is a gruesome record, in literally excruciating detail, of the torture and murder of a man by the Roman state, in a way that myriad others were also tortured and murdered. This is what holds my attention above all. The terrifying injuries— the thorns piercing the scalp, the hundreds of tears made by the lash, the abrasions and bruises, the slash of the lance, and all that beyond the horror of the nails themselves— bear witness to the cruelty of human beings to their fellows. It would be difficult to believe if we did not see it right in front of us, right down to the still-obvious blood and body fluid stains. When I was a child, the nuns told us that Jesus being nailed to the cross was unusual, that most of those who were crucified were only tied to the wood. That was not true. What happened to this one whose sufferings we see so clearly in the Shroud happened to thousands.

We do know that the blood is type AB. It turns out that the Sudarium of Oviedo, the cloth said to have been used to wrap the face of Jesus when he was prepared for burial, is saturated with the same type of blood. Records of the Sudarium’s whereabouts over time go back about seven centuries further than those of the Shroud, lending weight to the contention that the Shroud is at least that old as well. Similarities in the placement of the stains as well as the blood itself point to the same origin as the Shroud. The shapes and contents of the stains indicate that the person whose head it covered died in an upright position, consistent with crucifixion. It must be the most historically important dirty rag on the planet.

We don’t know the age of the Shroud through testing of the cloth itself. Carbon dating done decades ago placed it in the medieval period, meaning that it had to be a fake, but since the cloth was much handled over the centuries, in addition to surviving fire and water damage, there is now agreement that it was too contaminated for carbon dating to be accurate. There is also a question about the part of the cloth that was tested, which appears to be a repair added later.

We know that pollen grains found in the cloth of the Shroud place its origin in the area of Jerusalem, and are consistent with the species of plants that would be used with a burial.

We know that the color forming the image is not paint or dye. There are simply no molecules of such things present. If the image was faked during medieval or any other times, it is very challenging to give an explanation of how the faking could have been accomplished. The contention that the Shroud is simply a fake just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The situation is more complex than that.

One theory is that a Maillard reaction, similar to the browning of bread in the oven, could have formed the brownish-yellowish image. This does not explain the holographic and X-ray like properties of the image, in which some structures that would have been behind others can be seen.

Similarly, the theory that the Shroud is an example of a medieval photograph is intriguing and more or less plausible, but it does not explain how details other than those on the surface of the body can be seen. (Although all the materials needed for photography were indeed available in the 14th century, there is no evidence that photographs were actually made anywhere at that time.) It also fails to explain the details of the wounds and patterns of bodily secretions. Neither a live body nor the corpse of a person who had died other than through this specific series of tortures would display these particular details when photographed.

So what do I think happened? I am agnostic. The most likely explanation, it appears to me, is one that raises still more questions. Some form of radiation emanated from this body and caused changes in the surface of the cloth, by a mechanism we don’t understand but may at some point be able to reproduce. I mentioned, when I described the events around my mother’s death, that a huge amount of heat was present around her body before she left it. Could a much more powerful burst of energy of some kind be released from a human body under certain circumstances? Could this perhaps have happened many times, but to bodies that were left peacefully in their graves so that we never saw the evidence? Have images like this one been imprinted upon many other burial cloths but crumbled away unnoticed in the earth?

And in this case, what happened to the body? Why was the Shroud not left in place with it? Was the body simply disinterred and moved— the obvious hypothesis— then wrapped in a fresh length of linen and buried elsewhere, with the original cloth kept as an object of veneration? Did it reanimate and walk away, as the stories say? Did it go poof and disappear in a burst of light, which formed the image?

It seems that there have been recorded cases of people who survived crucifixion, unlikely as that sounds. Could the Man in the Shroud have been one of these, and if he was Jesus, could that explain his apparent resurrection? The evidence in the cloth is against this, as the patterns of bleeding and fluid leakage look like what would be expected to occur postmortem. As far as anyone can tell, the man was dead when he was wound in the Shroud.

Is the Shroud a supernatural phenomenon, a miracle? To me, “supernatural” only means something that is natural but not yet understood. There has got to be a way of expanding our scientific understanding to encompass this phenomenon. Even if that might mean understanding how a physical body could suddenly transform into pure energy, which is one conceivable interpretation of the evidence. The physically-measurable electromagnetic signals in and around a human body, photons included, are fairly small. It’s hard to imagine how there could be enough light or other energy emitted to produce an image on a physical surface, but equally odd things have happened, and I don’t want to rule it out.

The one thing we know for sure, from studying the Shroud, is that we are creatures who have a gigantic ability to torment other members of our species. The only comfort I can find about this is that nowadays we at least give lip service to the idea that doing this is wrong, even as we keep doing it every day, all around the world.

But what I hope we’ve learned from this strange artifact is that we are also far less limited beings than we believe, and that possibilities exist that we’ve barely begun to grasp.

Article on the mysteries of the Shroud
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/150417-shroud-turin-relics-jesus-catholic-church-religion-science/

A website giving an overview of what is known about the Shroud

https://www.shroud.com/menu.htm
The Sudarium

https://www.shroud.com/guscin.htm

A reply to Nicholas Allen’s “medieval photograph” theory
http://www.shroud.com/pdfs/orvieto.pdf

The evidence of plants wrapped with the shroud, through pollen samples and images
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/08/990803073154.htm

Holographic studies of the image
http://shroud3d.com/home-page/introduction-holographic-observations-in-the-shroud-image-holographic-theory
‘While photography has the advantage of fixing an image in time and of concentrating it so that whichever angle you look at it from, it will remain the same, with the Shroud that is not the case. Moving around that table (lighting under an angle from one side only!), from a certain angle I saw this image so faded as if to practically disappear, while from others it seemed as if the figure WAS ALMOST OUTSIDE THE SHEET: it was, I repeat, an incredible emotion. At that moment I knew that this image was unique. I approached the face placing my camera at a distance of about 20-30 cm, aimed the camera at the face and saw…………………nothing in my viewfinder.” “And yet,” I said “I know it by heart.” I had to beg my friend to point to the position of the eye, because from a distance of 30 cm I could not see it. I could only see it as I moved away from it.’

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Here Be Dragons

Told ya there were dragons in my office.

James’ eyes were wide. “It was all around you!” he told me, in an awed tone. He’d just finished doing a set of adjustments for me, and I was unnerved to think he might have discovered some unsavory entity around me– as you know, I’ve had my share of those.

What was all around me?”

“It was so beautiful,” he continued, explaining that “it” was wrapped around my entire body in a spiral, protecting me– a large, gold with red, Chinese-style Dragon. The exact image of the wonderful Dragon friend I already knew and loved, but had never once mentioned to James. He had seen it in a way I never had.

If more than one person sees the same thing independently, without preconceived notions, I tend to think that what they see is real. But what kind of “real” is this Dragon? Does it have its own existence in some other plane of All That Is, as individual and self-aware as any other creature? Does it reside within the collective human unconscious, as an archetype? Is it a denizen of my own psyche, that somehow I can project outward so that it can be seen by others? Does it perhaps have aspects of all these possibilities?

When my first mentor in shamanic studies introduced me to the concept of power animals, I remember telling her, quite sincerely, that mine was probably a Dragon. She looked dubious, and seemed to consider telling me what a silly idea that was, but she was kind enough to keep her mouth shut. Later I was embarrassed to realize how ridiculous I had sounded. No one had mythological beasts for power animals; according to the teachers of shamanic arts, they were supposed to be the spirit representations of our normal Earth-based species, perhaps even the collective unconsciousnesses of those species. But then later still I discovered that I was in fact associated with a Dragon after all, so there!

My Dragon was as vivid as anything I’d ever experienced in the spiritual world, and he certainly functioned as a power animal on my behalf, but I always thought that was odd, since dragons are not real animals on our planet. That is what I told Christine one day in July of 2006.

“Dragons are real,” she replied, with conviction. She explained that she sees them all the time, but that they seem to exist in a different plane or dimension from ours, so that we aren’t usually aware of them. She had toured the stone circles and sacred spots of England not long before, and Stonehenge, she reported, was particularly filled with dragons.

We were at the end of the time available for visiting that day, and I didn’t get a chance to ask for the rest of this tantalizing story. At the next opportunity, I asked how exactly she perceives the dragons. She said that she sees vague outlines, enough to recognize them, but she doesn’t see them in detail. She couldn’t tell me, for example, whether they looked like Chinese dragons or Western ones. Sometimes there is just a “knowing,” she said, nothing visual. She said that other mythological beasts appear to have the same frequency and to exist in the same dimension; I took that to mean that they have the same sort of feel to her.  Her idea is that humans have a subconscious awareness of all these beings, which is why they show up in our art, literature, and religion.

Soon after, I had the opportunity to find out directly what Christine was talking about. She came to my office to check out the place and explore whether she would like to move in with me there. Looking into the treatment room that could become hers, she told me that there was a dragon right there and then. I couldn’t see a thing. She suggested that perhaps she could “put me on her frequency,” and then I might be able to see what she saw.

I had no idea how this could be accomplished. Christine explained that she does treatments mainly by putting herself on the appropriate frequency to interface with the patient’s distressed body parts, and that she can switch frequencies with no trouble at all. She put her hand on my shoulder and led me toward the room.

I still didn’t exactly see anything. I scanned the room from right to left, and as my eyes swept across the center of the room, toward the far wall, suddenly they seemed to “stick.” My gaze was drawn to a particular area about two feet across and four feet tall, directly in front of me. The air seemed thicker there. I kept looking away and scanning again, and each time my eyes were pulled toward the same spot. This, of course, was where Christine was seeing the dragon. It was almost as if something reached out and grabbed my vision, as if I were required to look right there whether I cared to or not. I had a definite sense that the creature was purple, definite enough that I could show you the exact shade.  A purple, living something, hovering in the center of the room.

We went back into the waiting room and continued to chat. Every so often I looked back at the treatment room and tried to tell if the beast was still there. For a long time it was. Eventually my eyes no longer felt that pull or the sensation of density in the atmosphere of the room. I assumed the dragon was gone.

The spot where the something was is now the location of my treatment table. I’ve never run into any unexpected beings there, though as I’ve told you in other posts, sometimes patients do bring guests of various sorts into the room. Last Christmas, Christine gave me a papier-maché ornament in the shape of a small, winsome purple dragon, to commemorate our sighting.

 

When my daughter was a child, she had a great deal of trouble with her health. At one point, desperate to help her, I journeyed to ask for a power animal to come to her aid. I encountered a noble but unsurprising beast, a Bison cow, motherly and comforting. I told Lenore about this animal and suggested that she could ask her for support whenever she felt she needed it. Lenore soon reported back to me that she had tried to get in touch, but that the Bison had refused to speak with her. Instead, she had been put in contact with a completely different creature, something that seemed much like a snake, but with some sort of long feathers or other streaming appendages.

I was nonplussed by the Bison’s lack of response, and went to see if I could find out anything about the snakelike being. I had a strong impression of it, but like Lenore, couldn’t get a really thorough view of it, only bits and pieces. When we compared notes, it seemed that we were talking about the same creature, whatever it was. Long and sinuous, sailing through the air, streaming feathers or something similar, and mainly lime green in color. It had a certain resemblance to a Chinese dragon, but only in its overall shape; it was distinctly different from any dragon images we knew of. We unceremoniously dubbed it The Snaky Thing– no disrespect intended, only description.

Long and snaky, feathered, and flying. That’s Quetzalcoatl, right? Or Kukulkan if you prefer. One early type of representation of this deity depicts him as twining in a spiral about the body of some noble personage as a Vision Serpent– not so different from what James saw when he was treating me. It’s unclear from the descriptions I’ve found whether the Flying Serpent is supposed to have actual wings or not; most representations don’t seem to include them. I don’t think I had an impression of wings with our Snaky Thing, but I couldn’t see it clearly enough to be sure. Perhaps I can get in touch with it again and find out more.

“The Snaky Thing”?
Quetzalcoatl by Dan Staten
(Thanks to ImageShack)

 

Dragon-like creatures seem to abound in the human psyche around the world, sometimes as sources of wisdom and power, sometimes threatening or even standing in for pure evil, as when they are used to symbolize Satan. I wonder at times if there may be some kind of ancient mammal memory of flying reptiles– and at least some dinosaurs are known to have had feathers. The huge model of a pterosaur hanging in the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, in fact, is meant to be a Quetzalcoatlus. Go figure. This flying creature, though, is mostly wings, with a long narrow beak, and looks nothing like Lenore’s friend, nor like a Mayan stone relief. But perhaps it did have its own colorful and impressive feathers.

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Land, Sea, and Air: Power Animals in Healing

Butterfly Pavilion, Albuquerque Biopark, 2008

A couple of examples of using the cooperation of power animals in healing.  The first comes from a patient, Patrice, and was written after a treatment she had with me.  The second is a description of a shamanic practice, a body part retrieval, done by Pam Harris on my behalf.  Thanks to both Patrice and Pam for permission to use these stories.

Patrice and her friends, in her words:

I don’t remember where or when this occurred but I think it was in NYC. I also realize from what you described it was a pseudo-Michael Harner type process and not as he actually outlined but I had a shamanic journey to find my power animal. My power animal was a butterfly. I was so disappointed. I’d wanted a bear, eagle, wolf etc. It wasn’t until years later that I picked up Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and read about what the butterfly signified—transformation—that I really appreciated the power animal that had come to me. I read more, loved and appreciated the butterfly more and at times my wings are flitting off to all sorts of new adventures that make me a better person. I’m not a big collector so I don’t have a room of butterfly stuff but I do have a butterfly pin and key chain, and I recently saw a pair of pants (in my size and my favorite color) with butterflies on them, so I wear and use these things a lot to honor my power animal.

10/02
I’d just broken up with someone I thought I truly cared for (he was a lie of his own creation) and was truly heartbroken.  I asked the universe for a power animal to help me through this and if it would come to me in my dreams.

I had a dream about snakes coiled up on the jewelry cases in a jewelry store I had friends in and used to visit quite often.  I didn’t remember I had dreamt it (several times) until my last dream.  I was in the jewelry store, but this time one of the snakes started to slither off of the jewelry case and chase me and it bit me on my big toe hard enough to wake me up.  I realized this was what I’d asked for, and recalled my other dreams and apologized to the snake for forgetting my previous dreams and thanked it for coming.  I looked up the meaning for snake, and in short it refers to death, rebirth, resurrection, initiation and wisdom.  Not too long after this I found a book on Aztec healing and in a chapter for “Acupuncture for the Back” it said:

Come Now
Green Snake
Yellow Snake
White Snake

Soon will come
the White Eagle puncturer

She will be everywhere—
inside the rocks
inside the trees

Whatever she finds
she will eat
she will destroy

So I put my snake in my spine where I really needed it. When you were telling me there was still stagnation in my stomach I got an image of my snake all curled up in my stomach. My mouth had a totally different thing to say. (Which shocked me more than you.) But, on my way home I realized I needed to find out why the snake was there and I came up with snakes don’t eat often and when they do, they take forever to digest what they’ve eaten. In one way that would be a good thing for me but I’m human, too and need to eat more often than a snake. I had a talk with my snake about this and we’ve come to an agreement and the snake did all sorts of happy snake dances in my stomach.

At the same time I’d asked for a power animal and was given the snake I had a dream about bats a few nights later. I was dreaming about bats flying a little above my head—not low enough to get caught in my hair—and I was enjoying the experience and one bat crawled under my hair on my back enough to wake my up to remember the dream (must have had a talk with snake). It didn’t hurt but was enough of a stimulus to make me aware the bat was there and enough to wake me up. My reaction was, “Cool.” Well, the bat’s wisdom includes death and rebirth, transition, initiation, reviewing past lives, understanding grief, and pollination of new ideas.

I got very sick soon after these dreams and found out I had fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. I found a natural way to get well and did after 4 months. I also moved, then moved to Albuquerque, became a Buddhist, and for the first time in my life actually wanted to be alive and see what the future brings. I want to be fully me and be a contribution and heal things that my brother didn’t get to heal before he died. (We are the same soul.)

On the table [during the treatment] I got to understand a past life I’d only had a glimpse of and I got in touch with the grief of it. So, the bat is still with me, still working with me 3 years after the dream. So is my snake and butterfly and I’m glad I got a chance to write this out and appreciate them even more. Today we all get to celebrate, really I’m going to have a party with my power animals.

P.S. I asked my snake what his name was and he said “Herman.” I said that was a silly name for a snake. Herman said that his name was very highly regarded in the snake kingdom. Her-man!! I get it!! She-he wo-man etc.

Body Part Retrieval 6/10/05 (mine), mediated by Pamela Harris:
I had a revelation that my chronic problems with my right foot symbolized a feeling that part of my body had been torn away with the loss of an important relationship.  I asked my friend Pam Harris, an experienced shamanic practitioner, to try a body part retrieval for me.  I had never experienced that procedure, nor had I ever attempted it myself

In preparation, Pam did a journey for diagnostic purposes.  She found that there was a large intrusion in my foot, knee, hip, throat, and stomach area.  It looked to her like a conglomeration of dark, spiderlike beings.  She knew she would have to remove those and fill the area back up with light before she could go after the foot itself

Pam began by drumming for a while in my room.  She had me lie down on the floor, and she shook a rattle over my whole body.  Then she lay down next to me, touching at the shoulder, hip, and ankle, and turned on a drum tape.

I felt something tubelike projecting out the top of my head and searching the space around my body. It seemed like I was doing that myself. Then I felt something similar in the opposite direction, diving in through the top of my head and searching through the inside of my body. From what she said later, that part was Pam. I wasn’t sure if I should be trying to assist in any way or to observe what she was doing, and I had neglected to ask for her opinion about that. I decided to remain as neutral and quiet as possible.

I’ve heard of clients following along with such journeys and experiencing everything the practitioner experiences.  Not me, I’m afraid. I had only a few physical sensations while Pam did her work, and those only in relation to the extraction of the “spiders.”  I couldn’t have told you anything about what was going on with the journeys themselves, and I certainly didn’t perceive any of the power animals that got involved.

After a while, Pam got up and started pulling at the field around various parts of me, starting at my throat.  It took quite a while; she seemed to be struggling a bit.  She spent a lot of time around my knee and foot, and a fair amount around my abdomen and hip as well, but I felt the pulling most strongly at my throat.  Pam lay down and communed with her power animal again for a while, then continued the extraction.  When she felt that she had cleared everything, she began to pour light into the areas she had worked on.  I could feel quite a bit of energy.

Pam took a break and described what she had seen.  She had found the spider things rather frightening; they seemed to be threatening to bite her.  Her (unspecified) power animal came through, though, and batted them away with its paws, then carried them off and released them into the light.  She said the biggest one, the “mother,” was hard to dislodge, but then the others came along with it.  She found tendrils of these creatures all through my right leg, foot, and hip, as well as in my throat.  My feeling was that the spiders were not actual beings, separate from me, but more just manifestations of my own junk.  As I explained to Pam, I had had a small entity attached to that foot before, and the experience had been quite different then.  That entity, which appeared to me rather like a starfish, seemed to be simply an animal of some kind that had found a food source, not a malevolent being.

As if we didn’t have enough entities involved, Fryderyk stuck his nose in.  I guess I should not have been surprised at that, since we were calling upon helpful spirits.  However, I had been trying and trying to find him for a couple of weeks at that point, almost entirely without success, and then there he was, unbidden, at a time and place where he wasn’t needed and wasn’t really wanted either.  I was a tiny bit miffed, though for no good reason.

Oh, well.  Pam lay down on my right side again, which was a bit strange since Fryderyk was occupying the same space.  I suggested to him that he should move, because perceiving both of them at once was just too weird for me.  He obligingly moved around to my left side, where he appeared to sit down on the floor a few inches away from me.  It felt like he took my hand and held it gently and steadily.  I had to admit that his presence was comforting.  I tried to explain what Pam was attempting to accomplish, and told him that I was just lying there quietly and trying not to interfere, and that he probably shouldn’t interfere either.  I don’t know what he may have perceived of the procedure, or whether he had anything in mind to accomplish himself, but as far as I could tell he did nothing but sit there with his hand on mine.

The actual body part retrieval was brief by comparison to the extraction, but much more enjoyable for Pam.  She told me afterward that Horse, Seal, and Condor had appeared to help.  Very convenient, since they could search by land, sea, and air!  At first Pam rode the Condor and Seal the Horse, but Pam didn’t feel comfortable that way and they switched.  I was amused by the thought of the seal wrapping its flippers around the huge bird, trying to hold on, as they all flew through the air together.  This part was a lot of fun from Pam’s point of view.  She described covering a great distance over mountains and all sorts of terrain, only to find that their quarry had been close by all along.  The whole trip seemed almost instantaneous.

Pam said that it wasn’t usual to talk to a body part under these circumstances; usually one just grabs it and brings it back.  In this case, however, she felt that the foot was reluctant to return, and so she reassured it that I would take good care of it.  She said that it let her know it would like lots of attention, including chanting, stroking, and being flooded with light as much as possible.  Apparently the foot felt all right about its future at that point, and Pam was able to bring it along.

Seal took the foot into the ocean to cleanse it, and then it was ready to be reattached to the rest of me.  Pam blew it back into my physical foot.  I didn’t feel anything especially dramatic, although I did have a sense of greater solidity in that area.

Fryderyk stuck around throughout our post-journey discussion.  I wondered aloud what a 19th-century Parisian gentleman would make of shamanic practice—though he had been exposed to such things before, of course.  Pam looked toward him and said he seemed to be amused.  After a while he faded out.

I had some hope of a definite physical improvement after this procedure, but unfortunately I can’t say that my symptoms really changed.  I did have a change in my attitude toward my foot, though.  I was able to accept and nurture it rather than being angry at it and simply wanting it to go away.  So I felt that the procedure had been a success overall.

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How I Met Fryderyk

Clésinger's marble bust of Chopin, after the death mask

Written in 2005, planned as Chapter 1 of that book I haven’t written yet, but have been giving you bits and pieces of here:

During my freshman year of high school, I had a peculiar experience.  It made me pretty peculiar, too, I think.  It’s a little embarrassing to remember now, but I suppose one has the right to be a bit silly at the age of 14.

We had an innovative interdisciplinary course of study that linked developments in history, art, music, and literature.  Somewhere in the middle of the year we got up to the early 19th century, and there was an emphasis on nationalism and Romanticism.  Our music teacher showed us a 1945 movie about Chopin, A Song to Remember, starring Cornel Wilde and Merle Oberon.  (This movie gave Liberace the idea for his candelabra thing; I wasn’t the only one affected!)  It was rather frightful in its WW II era way, but my reaction to it had little to do with the actual quality of the movie itself.  I was absolutely incensed by it.  I was sure that everything in the story was wrong, and that was what I told everybody, including the music teacher, who did not take kindly to this.

I was so bothered that I started reading everything I could find about Chopin, his friends, and his time.  While I didn’t find specific facts about him surfacing as I read, I did feel that a lot of it was more like remembering than like learning something for the first time.  And yes, it turned out that I was right; that movie was inaccurate at best.

I became obsessive about this subject, and I suppose people thought I was a little tetched or something.  It was good timing, though, because this was the mid-1970s, and there was a spike of interest in George Sand as part of the women’s movement.  In fact, PBS’s Masterpiece Theater put yet another film production in front of me, a Sand biography called Notorious Woman (if I remember correctly).  It covered Mme Sand’s life overall, not just her time with Chopin.  Rosemary Harris made an excellent Sand, and George Chakiris a delicately beautiful Chopin, though with the wrong coloring.  There was a lot more truth to that film.  At any rate, my friends, who unsurprisingly were writers and musicians, also developed some interest in the people and events that were holding my attention, and Mme Sand became a sort of spiritual grandmother for some of us young female literary types.  So I felt that I was just a little bit less strange.

I have to make it clear that until I saw that first movie, I had absolutely no interest in Chopin and almost no awareness of his existence, despite the fact that I had been studying piano for a year or so.  My mother had a fairly extensive collection of classical recordings, but Chopin was conspicuously absent, which is hard to explain since she loves his work.  I was listening largely to Mozart at the time.  If anyone had asked me what Chopin had written, I couldn’t have thought of anything other than the so-called “Minute” Waltz.

There was one little piece of hard evidence, or at least a physical object, tying me with Chopin and his time.  I took a lot of art classes in high school, and the people associated with him were recurring subjects in my work.  I tried to draw them as they would have appeared going about their daily activities, in whole scenes.  That seems now like an odd thing for a teenage girl to be doing; I suppose I was trying to clarify my memories, or whatever they were.  One painting, which I never finished, was intended to be a scene at Nohant, George Sand’s estate, although I didn’t know what her home had actually looked like.  Later I found a photo of her salon, and a piece of furniture I had painted was right there in the picture.  It was the piano stool, and it was sufficiently unusual in design that I felt my painting it could not be a coincidence.  In fact, it looked like my painting, but even more like the image I had had in my mind; I had seen a mauve paisley fabric, which showed clearly in the photo, but in the painting I had represented the paisley pattern with simple little crescent lines.  I have no idea whether this stool was in the house during the time that Chopin lived there—and it was not there when I visited Nohant in 2002—but I felt that I must have made a real connection of some kind.

There was little else to go on.  Sometimes I felt that a revelation was just beyond my grasp, and I would do my best to reach for it.  I even sat in the dark at times with my hands on the piano keyboard, feeling that something ought to come through, but unsurprisingly, nothing ever did.  I sometimes stared at pictures and willed myself to remember.  I gave up, went on to other things, figured that if I was meant to understand, the knowledge would eventually come to me.

I was a classical guitar major in music school, and although I did keep up playing the piano to some extent, Chopin faded somewhat into the background of my life.  I concentrated on early music, Renaissance lute repertoire in particular, and disdained Romanticism, as was the fashion in that field.

Nevertheless, I found myself mostly teaching piano, not guitar, for a living (not much of a living, I’m afraid).  Through the years I often felt that I must have once been a much better pianist than I was able to be in this life.  It seemed like I was blocking myself from playing as well as my training and experience should have allowed.  I remember a breakthrough at a lesson in 1989, which seemed to confirm this theory.  The week before, I had been playing one of the mazurkas, or rather totally failing to play it.  My teacher, Jane, agreed with me that there was nothing in this piece that I couldn’t handle, that I must be stopping myself for some reason from playing the way we both knew I could.  To my great surprise, I found myself pouring out the story about the movie and the piano stool and all.  Jane, God love her, took me seriously, and I felt much better.  At my next lesson, I sat down at her Steinway and became a different person, just for a few minutes.  For the first time in my life I knew what it actually felt like to be a pianist.  Where I had stumbled, I flew.  Jane and I stared at each other and asked, “What happened?”  It was obviously something big.  “Maybe I was one of his students,” I joked—a reasonable guess, as it turned out.  Unfortunately, those magical few minutes were not to be repeated.

I thought that might be a good thing, in a way.  If I were to let myself loose at the piano, I thought, I wouldn’t have much interest in anything else, and I wouldn’t do whatever it was that I was supposed to accomplish in my present life.  If I had been a keyboard player before, well, I had been there and done that.  Still, the suggestion that I could become something far greater as a musician rather haunted me.

I should point out that, despite my strong interest in Chopin, I never felt that I loved him during those years.  I didn’t see him as a great human being.  I bought into the view of him as an eternal victim, not really able or willing to take care of himself or make his own decisions.  I wasn’t crazy about the conservatism and social prejudices that were attributed to him (which I now know were not so true).  I did have a certain fondness for him, and identified somewhat with him because of our mutual hypersensitivity, tendency to work in small forms, concern with detail, that sort of thing.  I saw him as a sort of cousin or uncle, related to me but a bit distant, whereas it was George Sand for whom I felt actual love.

In February 1993, everything changed.  Everything.

It happened quite suddenly and in a most unexpected way.  I hate to say this, but it was triggered by another movie.  Our local PBS station ran the 1991 film Impromptu, which concerned Chopin, George Sand, Liszt, and various of their friends and lovers, concentrating on Sand’s courtship of Chopin.  I hadn’t really planned to watch it.  I’d been on very much a left-brain sort of path the past couple of years, and I wasn’t particularly interested in neurotic artists anymore.  I felt I was above that sort of thing.  However, one of my guitar students, who had gone through a Sand phase in college (and even married a pianist), strongly recommended the movie, and curiosity got the better of me.  I taped it and watched it late at night by myself.

The movie was silly—intentionally so – and not at all factual, but true of those people in much the way that Amadeus might be said to be true of Mozart (yes, I know that is arguable).  So I was sitting there chuckling at the movie, when all of a sudden I found myself curled in a ball on the couch, screaming uncontrollably (or rather, quite controllably, because I managed to be extremely quiet—I just couldn’t stop).

The thing that set off the screaming was George saying to Fryderyk, “Who has taught you to be afraid?  No wonder you’re choking to death!  Someone’s got to show you how to breathe!”

This actually made a certain kind of sense, but I’ll have to back up a bit to show why that’s so.  The short version of the story, though, is that the next day I was able to play the piano at a completely different level from the day before.  This continued, and there were a number of other more or less bizarre effects.  I wasn’t playing really well, but I seemed no longer to stop myself from using what ability I had.  And suddenly I was having a lot more fun.

While the movie apparently acted as a trigger, it seems that I had been leading up to this change without realizing it.  For one thing, I was quite literally trying to stop choking and learn to breathe.  I was doing that as a project for my anatomy and physiology class.  I conducted a little study of the effect of playing a wind instrument on respiratory health, knowing that music lessons are often prescribed for people with asthma.  Partly I took this up because the teacher required a project, partly to try to clear up the case of bronchitis I had developed over Christmas break and couldn’t seem to shake off.  I had been coughing for weeks, and knew from experience that playing the flute would help me to clear out the goo that was still clogging my chest.

As I practiced each day on the flute, I found that I had to consciously force myself to open my chest and really breathe deeply.  There seemed to be a tremendous amount of anxiety and fear clutching at the muscles of my chest wall, and I had to constantly fight myself to push my way through it.  It soon became easier, though, and through the month of my study I cleared out a lot of phlegm and much of the emotional blockage.  My lung capacity increased by almost 50% (as measured in the school lab), and I felt more energetic and relaxed.  My teacher loved the project, too, and gave me an A.  It was near the beginning of this period of flute practice that, as I said, everything changed, and breathing was a major theme at the time.

Meanwhile, I was working with physical therapy and yoga to loosen up my body, while stretching and contorting my brain with the science classes.  I was practicing Reiki and opening up my perceptions.

Back to the main thread of the story.  After my episode of screaming, I felt a bit shell-shocked, but finally was able to go to sleep.  The next day, when I went to the piano, there were little flashes, just a few seconds at a time, of a level of playing far beyond what I could normally produce.  If I held a certain sort of concentration, it would come through more easily, but I couldn’t sustain it.  At the same time, I felt like I was picking up little suggestions, rather like getting a lesson from an attentive and caring teacher.  And I felt like he was around, just out of reach.  It was an intriguing sensation.  Nothing very definite, just a sense of presence.

I buzzed with this for a day or two.  My thoughts ran to physics, which had been part of my recent studies.  Bell’s theorem in particular, the one that shows in a mathematically rigorous way that reality must be non-local, in other words, that everything affects everything and that action at a distance is not only possible, but is necessary to any coherent model of the universe.  “If he can affect me,” I mused, “can I affect him?”  After all, for the past 19 or so years I had felt some connection there, gotten some tantalizing little bits of information now and then, and always hoped that something would someday break through, but I had never had any power to make that happen.  I came to the conclusion that, reality being non-local and time being non-linear, I had to be able to reach him.  And I was determined to try.

Although I had never had the slightest success with experiments in astral projection, and had shown little talent for telepathy, I had some hope of accomplishing my goal.  I had a new tool to work with, the Reiki technique for treatment at a distance, which allows one to reach across both space and time.  I had a hard time even believing this could be done, even though I had received such a treatment myself a couple of months earlier, and it had worked beautifully.  I began with the thought that it couldn’t hurt to try, and with the intention simply to communicate in whatever way might be possible.  I aimed mentally for Paris, 1838, and went through the prescribed procedure.  I was planning to look for him in his Earth life; it didn’t occur to me to try to find him in present time.  The image in my mind was of walking up to him, putting my hands on the back of his head.

The first thing I noticed was a strong pull on my left palm, whereas I was used to feeling the right hand working harder during a distance treatment.  Then it seemed that the Qi was flowing three or four inches out from my hands and disappearing suddenly, as if into a black hole.  That was new.  I suddenly thought that I ought to be trying to say something, but I had no idea what.  We didn’t even have a language in common, as far as I knew—did it matter?  Feeling a bit awkward, I tried to convey general pleasantries like, “We appreciate you, we love your work, we’re so glad you exist.  Take heart, because your efforts will not go to waste.”  Silly me, I was thinking in terms of treating him, helping him, maybe somehow saving him, as if he needed saving and needed me to do it for him.

I remember a sense of him bounding toward me, delighted, bowling me over like a huge puppy.  I assumed that he was pleased and relieved that I had finally figured out how to get in touch after so many years.

I drifted off to sleep without breaking the contact.  The next morning, I awoke feeling absolutely wonderful—and realized that, as far as I could remember, I had never felt that way before.  “Well,” I said to myself, “I may not have done anything for him, but I sure did something for me.”  The only thing that felt other than perfect was a sense that my body just wasn’t right somehow; I felt like I should be taller and much thinner, and my pelvic bones felt all wrong.

I spent the next few days in a kind of Zen flow state.  Everything to which I turned my hand came out exactly as intended, without effort.  The bright moments in my piano practice lasted longer.  My daughter, age five, hung around in the doorway and applauded, or went off to dance while I played.

I coughed horrendously for about two days, cleared out a lot of gunk, and then seemed to be finished with that.

I suddenly felt that my wardrobe was all wrong and went shopping for pastel florals.

I noticed that I was showing all the classic symptoms of being in love.

It was tough to study for that week’s anatomy and physiology exam; I was mooning about like a sixteen-year-old, listening to music, reading poetry, drifting toward Paris.  I had a strong sense of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Sometimes it was a peculiar sort of stretched feeling, as if one arm were reaching into some other dimension, with the rest of me here.  It was not especially uncomfortable, but it certainly was distracting.  It was the week before Valentine’s Day, and I was feeling hearts-and-flowery as never before.  Probably everyone appreciated the extra affection.  They just wondered why I was so cheery all of a sudden.  People started to tell me things like, “I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something so different about you.”

Things took a negative turn on the night of February 13.  One way to reach a person who is far away is to concentrate on a photograph, and I decided to look up a copy of the only extant photo of Chopin, the one taken not long before his death.  I had no thought of actually trying to contact him right then; in fact, I was in medical mode, wondering exactly what had caused the severe facial edema and trying to remember details about right-sided heart failure.  I wondered what he was feeling like at the time.  Suddenly, without warning, I fell headlong into the picture—at least that is the best way I can describe it.  There was no time to get my shields up.  It was like drowning.  I could hardly get a breath past the crushing pain in my chest.  My stomach twisted with nausea.  The worst, though, was a feeling of absolute, unending despair, and I sank to the floor of my music studio, sobbing, under the weight of it.

I remember offering to give any healing that might be available, but that part is vague.  Mostly I remember trying to break the contact and failing repeatedly.  None of the ways I had learned to protect myself worked.  I ended up beating my hands into the carpet as hard as I could, and gradually the sensations faded away.

I felt ill through the next day and was in an altered state in which everything seemed dark and sinister.  Nothing like this has ever happened again, thank God, and I still have no explanation for it.  It was not a communication from Chopin or anyone else, just a species of direct experience.  I learned one thing with certainty: never ask a question unless you are ready to accept the answer.

It was an interesting time, those first few weeks, trying to stay in balance through all the changes.  Most of the time I felt a warmth at my sacrum, sometimes running up my spine; that, along with the extra energy and general good spirits, made me feel wildly sexual.  My husband was nonplussed but didn’t seem to mind.  What neither of us knew till months later was that I was developing cervical cancer.  My assumption now is that all that energy pouring into my root chakra was meant at least in part to help with that situation.  However, there was definitely an erotic aspect to it as well.

In the midst of one of these warm, pleasant experiences, I thought with all the force I could muster, “I wish I could see your face.”  I never did get a visual image, but my own face suddenly seemed to be changing.  It felt as if someone were molding my bones like clay.  This scared me too much, and I broke away.  But that effect began to stay with me most of the time, a feeling of having someone else’s face, but only on the right side.  It was just as if a perfectly straight line had been drawn smack down the center of my face, and completely different things would happen on each side.  If a particularly strong contact was taking place, this was even visible.  The muscles realigned themselves so that the shape of my face actually changed subtly on the right side and I wore two different expressions.  There was a certain amount of discomfort at first, because that shape didn’t fit my bone structure too well.  For example, my jaw thrust forward too much and started to ache. My nose sometimes felt twisted under the opposing forces—in addition to feeling overly large.  It was amazing.  I could touch my face with my fingers and convince myself that the structure was exactly what it had always been, but my internal perception was totally at odds with what my fingers told me.

This was severely weird but very useful.  It provided me with a means of communication, because the affected side of my face could change expression without my having anything to do with it.  I particularly remember one time that I asked him a question about something that upset him terribly, and the right side of my face twisted in a grimace of absolute agony, while the left side remained absolutely relaxed.   There was no way I could have done that on purpose, no matter how hard I tried.  Most of the time (fortunately) it was much less dramatic, like a smile with only half of my mouth.  Eventually I concluded that this form of communication was not good for me, and I was able to put a stop to it.

So what was it like, this face that I lived with but never saw with my eyes?  A broad, high, rather flat forehead; flat cheekbones; very prominent, narrow, aquiline nose, with a tight, “nose in the air” feeling; pointed chin with the jaw pushed forward.  A tense face overall, pulled back strongly at the temples, with a tightness around the pursed mouth that verged on a constant expression of disapproval.  Yet a face that smiled easily.  A face that was entirely consistent with that of my favorite Romantic-period composer.

I made no official statements at that time, or in fact for years after, putting a name to that face.  Although my family and friends understood that I was in contact with someone who appeared to be Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, I did not speak of him that way.  I referred to him coyly as “my invisible friend,” “my guy,” “my spirit guide,” that sort of thing.  I had no proof and was not ready to commit to being quite that crazy.

(Of course, with a five-year-old in the house, there was nothing especially odd about invisible friends.  We were inundated with assorted little girls, bears, puppies, kittens, parrots, other animals that I couldn’t keep track of, even a Vulcan.  You couldn’t walk through our house without tripping over “somebody.”  My daughter didn’t notice my own somebody, which was fine with me.)

I might have expected that this masculine influence would bring out my own masculine side, but just the opposite happened.  I started feeling hyper-feminine, and went in for floral prints, flowing skirts, and hair bows.  It was as if I had become another person.  It was only much later that I found out who it might be.

While I did not find myself suddenly writing in fluent Polish or playing amazing new original melodies, there were some events that lent weight to the idea that I was indeed hearing from Chopin.  Early on, there was the Mozart episode.  My husband made his debut as a symphonic percussionist with the largely-amateur Albuquerque Philharmonic, which needed an extra pair of hands for Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Capriccio Espagnol.”  The concert began with the overture to Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, a piece which (I admit sheepishly) was entirely unfamiliar to me at that time.  The strings were frightfully out of tune, and I wasn’t a great fan of Mozart then anyway, so I was wincing at the first few measures and wishing I could go home early.  But at the same time, there were shivers of pleasure going up my spine, as if someone was awfully happy to hear that piece.  “Oh, come on,” I thought, “it’s so out of tune!”  “Yes, but it’s Mozart!” seemed to be the reply.  It felt as if he were actually jumping up and down with joy and excitement.  “Oh, yeah, you love Mozart.  Okay, so tell me what’s so good about it.”  There was a rush of sensations in my chest, like a computer file downloaded too fast to be read.

It was the first time that I was absolutely sure someone else’s thoughts were in my head, someone with entirely different opinions and reactions.  Later I read that Chopin considered Don Giovanni to be the pinnacle of musical achievement.  Frankly, I still disagree, but my opinion cannot carry nearly so much weight as his; he was a rabid opera fan and immersed in Mozart’s work throughout his life.  I have taken every opportunity to attend performances of Mozart operas, though, in an attempt to fill in this gap in my education and to get a better understanding of something that was (and is) so important to Fryderyk.

The identity of my friend was less important to me than the relationship itself—though I often thought that if I were to find out that I was wrong about him, I would feel unutterably stupid and wouldn’t know how to go on.  Something absolutely central to my life, a support I relied upon, would have been pulled out from under me if had I found out I was being deceived.  Now, as I write about this 15 years later, I can say with confidence that I have never been deceived, and I have gained more and more evidence that my friend is who and what he appears to be.

Near the beginning of these experiences, Jane told me, “What you are really trying to find out with all this is who you are.”

Around the same time, I heard from my friend Maggie in Ohio.  “There’s a lot that I’m not sure of,” she wrote.  Amen to that, I thought.  Maggie had been in and out of the local mental hospital a number of times in the past couple of years.  She was living in her own reality, like the rest of us, but her reality was a bit farther removed from the average than most people’s.  There was a certain celebrity she had been in love with for much of her life, and from time to time she became convinced that he was actually with her and even that they were married.  She had all sorts of strategies to make her delusions fit in with the inescapable facts of her daily life.  “David isn’t here because he’s filming in L.A.,” she might say.  So was there a provable difference between Maggie and me, I wondered?  Sure there was.  I hadn’t landed in a hospital.

I couldn’t entirely blame Maggie for attempting to make something better out of her genuinely dismal life.  I think what made her escape so much further into fantasy at that time was the fact of her biological clock inexorably running down, with no hope of getting what she wanted most, a husband and children.  But her maladaptive behavior made the things she wanted that much more remote.  Seeing her situation, I tried to analyze my own needs and motives to see if I might be inventing some sort of similar wish-fulfillment for myself.  When I first encountered Fryderyk, I was coming off a severe blow to my self-esteem and my plans for the future.  However, I had already made other plans.  Certainly I felt a need to be loved and cared for, a need to be needed, a need to feel that I was special to someone.  But my marriage was in excellent condition, my daughter was doing well, I had close friends, and I was finding opportunities to serve others.  I didn’t think that these experiences found me at a point of unusual weakness or vulnerability.  I remained open to the idea that I might possibly be delusional, but I was pretty sure that it was all for real, and I longed for clearer understanding.

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