Category Archives: Uncategorized

Mask Confusion, Mask Destruction?

This part at least is clear!


I’m just coming off a session of attempting to de-freakout someone about a misleading vaccine scare article. I’ve had it with the antivaxx disinformation crew, and then I’ve also had it with the “science-based” bunch who poo-poo everything that doesn’t fit their narrow field of vision, like the guy I was reading a few minutes ago who insists that chiropractors aren’t doctors. I’ve had it.

I bet you’ve had it too.

Let’s take a deep breath, get a cup of tea, and survey the current state of play in our pandemic reality.


Are you confused about where, when, and whether to wear a mask now, or whether they help at this point? Of course you are. The current guidance is about as confusing as anything in the past 15 months has been, though I don’t know how it could be stated much better under the circumstances. And some people are still getting vicious with each other over their decisions about masking and other precautions.

Emma Green wrote an article in The Atlantic that struck me as lacking in empathy at best, entitled “The Liberals Who Can’t Quit Lockdown.” She took jabs at people who, in her opinion, were refusing to follow science not by denying the need for precautions, but by keeping them in place too long. Yet, all too many times, loosening of restrictions has led to spikes in cases and restrictions being imposed again. Is it any wonder that a lot of people are taking their time in going back to “normal”?

Shayla Love responded to Green with “People Aren’t ‘Addicted’ to Wearing Masks, They’re Traumatized.” I found her thoughts compelling.

‘There are other reasons why people may be hanging onto COVID precautions. Some people have unvaccinated children who, though at low risk, don’t have zero risk. Others may be immunocompromised or worried about the uncertainty around variants. Individual risk tolerance varies, and since the pandemic is certainly not over, it’s understandable if people’s tolerances still rest at different levels.

‘But in general, there are two groups of people who are most likely to return to normal life more slowly — and their reasons have to do with mental health and trauma, said Steven Taylor, a psychiatrist at the University of British Columbia. They are people who had mental health concerns before the pandemic, like anxiety or OCD, and those who had highly stressful or traumatic experiences: people who had COVID themselves, have long COVID, or lost someone due to COVID. These groups deserve our compassion, and patience.’

She reminds us that much of the world is still in a far more precarious situation than we are, and a lot of us feel that acutely.
‘Frani also thinks it’s a bit obtuse to zero in on people being “overly cautious” when the pandemic is still causing so much loss around the world. “It’s obnoxious, the sort of glee and readiness of which we’re abandoning masks when we see what’s going on in India,” she said. “Of course we’re all happy that things are going well here. But it’s so cringey to me that in the same breath someone would have the audacity to say, ’You’re being too safe,’ when they [sic] are people praying for anything resembling this sort of safety that we have here in other parts of the world.”’
Frani speaks for me too.

Back at The Atlantic, the kind and gentle Ed Yong also took up the effects of our communal trauma in “What Happens When Americans Can Finally Exhale.”

‘But it is also reasonable for people to want to continue wearing masks, to feel anxious that others might now decide not to, or to be dubious that strangers will be honest about their vaccination status. People don’t make decisions about the present in a temporal vacuum. They integrate across their past experiences. They learn. Some have learned that the CDC can be slow in its assessment of evidence, or confusing in its proclamations. They watched their fellow citizens rail against steps that would protect one another from infections at a time when the U.S. had already weathered decades of eroding social trust. They internalized the lessons of a year in which they had to fend for themselves, absent support from a government that repeatedly downplayed a crisis that was evidently unfolding. “We had no other protections all year,” Gold said. “We had masks. No one else protected us. It’s understandable that people would be hesitant about taking them off.”’
‘The pandemic hasn’t been a one-off disaster but “a slow, recurrent onslaught of worsening things,” adds Tamar Rodney, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, who studies trauma. “We can’t expect people to go through that and for everyone to come out the other side being fine. People suffered in between, and those effects must be addressed, even if we’re walking around maskless.”’

So, with all that, when and where do we wear our masks now, as of early June 2021? The CDC still says we should wear them in health care settings, and virtually all my patients are still preferring to keep them on in my office, even though nearly all are vaccinated and only one of them is in the building at a time. I’m still wearing mine, too. At this point our group opinion is that they aren’t bothering us and we would rather be cautious.

And I am obligated to keep my patients safe in every way I can, so legally and ethically I have to err on the side of caution. I can’t help worrying that I will inadvertently endanger someone.

On the other hand, I recently attended my first “unmasked ball” of the pandemic era, in a large space with plenty of ventilation and a small group of dancers in which all but one person had been fully vaccinated. I felt almost entirely comfortable there. Then I attended a largely-outdoor, mostly-unmasked event that included a lot of people I didn’t know, and felt on the verge of panic and almost bugged out. The fact that we were eating and drinking meant that simply keeping a mask on wasn’t going to be an option.

All the currently available evidence suggests that I was safe in those situations and that others were safe with me as well, but it’s going to take time to get used to throwing caution relatively to the winds. And I’m not naturally reckless, far from it. So, probably just like you, I’m trying to find the sensible happy medium.

No one can say anymore that masks and distancing don’t help prevent infection, though. In addition to all the other evidence built up over the past year, I submit this: We had essentially no flu season last winter. That’s huge. We may even want to do the same to some degree next winter— at least, keep up the hand-washing, and maybe even use masks in some situations.

Some time soon, we’ll likely be able to fling off those masks and forget about them. But don’t throw them away, because with all the unknowns about the viral variants and how long our natural or vaccinated immunity is going to last, we may well have to pull them out again.

Want to have less need to worry about a particularly nasty variant coming to get us? Then keep up sensible precautions. That’s the best advice I can give right now, vague as it is. Everything about this pandemic has been a matter of muddling along, doing our best to figure things out, building the airplane while trying to fly it. I don’t think that will stop anytime soon.



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Encountering Electronic Voice Phenomena in Person, Part I

In the past couple of months, my boggle threshold* has been raised a few more notches. I’m getting more and more “whatever” as time goes on.

The annual conference of the Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies was held October 4-7 in Raleigh, NC. I had belonged to the organization for about a decade, but had never been to any of their events. This time I felt that I needed to be there, and the second day in, the reason became clear.

While waiting to register at the beginning of the conference, I found myself sitting next to and chatting with Terri Segal, who told me she was there to present about Electronic Voice Phenomena. This was the first synchronicity of a series. The next afternoon, I went to see what she and her cohort Vicki Talbott had going on. It turned out that they were giving not just a talk but a workshop in which we were able to actually try out the process.  Here’s a description of the session:

Electronic Voice Phenomena are a subset of Instrumental TransCommunication, a range of methods of recording images or sounds produced by discarnate beings by means of electronic devices. For those who hadn’t heard of EVP, it might be helpful to stop here and read these:

The conference had two tracks of presentations at the same time throughout, so it was sometimes hard to choose between them. Only a very few people attended the EVP session, which surprised me as well as the presenters, because this is usually such a popular subject. (Later, a number of people said they hadn’t been aware it was happening, although it was clearly indicated in the program— I had the feeling they might have been steered away!) I was fairly familiar with the idea of recording discarnate voices, but hadn’t heard many examples, and didn’t know a lot of details or much about the technology involved.

As we started the workshop, I became aware of Fryderyk being vividly present at my side.  He seemed to be practically jumping up and down with excitement. It was the only time he was around during the conference, in fact the only time he had contacted me during a period of a few weeks. I had no way of knowing that he had already made the acquaintance of this group!  We got brief recordings of him during the workshop, but there isn’t anything earthshaking– except, of course, the existence of the recordings in themselves.

The recording process went like this: Vicki had each of the attendees in turn ask a question of one of the discarnates, then let the recorder run for ten seconds so that they had time to answer. The equipment used was very simple, a small, rather old-fashioned hand-held Panasonic recorder. At the time, nothing at all out of the ordinary appeared to be happening. We spoke our questions, and then there was no sound but the slight whir of the instrument.

The fun began when the recording was played back, and voices that had not been present before showed up. I witnessed this in real time.  Even though I was already familiar with the concept, actually experiencing it was positively freaky.  I’m including links to a couple of clips so that you can share my freaked-outedness.

My question for Fryderyk was quite simple. I told the group that I was in touch with someone who very much wanted to speak, someone who I knew had a lot of experience with direct voice and other methods of spirit communication. “I know you’ve been wanting to say something. What would you like to say?” His reply is unclear, to my ears; the only part I can pick up for sure is “it’s helpful” at the end of the message, but that part is definite. The fact that there was any audible reply at all was enough to leave me pretty stunned.

In addition to Fryderyk, we called upon Vicki’s son, Braden, and someone close to one of the attendees, unknown to the rest of us, who was not named. All three replied immediately. I didn’t get to really hear what was said by that third person, only that a voice had come through, and since it was none of my business, I didn’t ask further.

I wanted to ask Braden something, and as I did so, I got to wondering if I could perceive him somewhere in the room.  I looked around, and my eyes stuck to a patch of air near the ceiling, about two feet wide, that looked somehow different from the rest.  As I was realizing that the odd patch was Braden, he suddenly reached out toward me with a considerable amount of energy, so that the effect was that he bopped me between the eyes!  It didn’t hurt, but I was knocked back a little in my chair, and everyone saw that.  I explained to the group what had happened.

Later, Vicki found that the discarnates were talking about Braden bopping me, just before I told her about it.  You can hear “he’s tapped her” near the beginning of the clip, and “I’m quite amused”; the rest is fuzzy to me.

Although Vicki is addressing Braden in this clip, I am reasonably certain that the voice saying “Very good. It’s me here” belongs to Fryderyk. That message is 100% audible and definite.

Let’s stop a minute and contemplate this. After 25 1/2 years of contact with Fryderyk, struggling to get verbal messages, his voice, physical vibrations of sound, captured in a form that I can not only store and listen to myself, but can send to you. His voice, so similar to the one I had heard in the Leslie Flint recordings, where I had never been absolutely, entirely sure it was him.

When I was next in touch with him after the workshop, the first thing he conveyed to me was immense relief at the ease of communicating directly instead of through layers of cumbersome instrumentation. It struck me, though, that the brief messages that come through by EVP are not so different from the almost aphoristic verbal messages I receive from him, when I can get any definite words at all. It seems to me that when he is able to convey words directly to me, he’s put thought into boiling the concept down into a short, pithy phrase. It must take a lot of energy to get even such small transmissions through my thick skull.

There is a significant difference, though, between getting advice from him inside my head, especially controversial advice— say, being told that it’s fine to experiment with styles of trills and have fun with them— and hearing it objectively in an .mp3 file. The physical recordings have a unique value.

You will notice, if you listen to even a few examples of EVP, that sometimes the voices sound pretty ordinary, sometimes they sound electronic or robotic, and sometimes there’s a lot of fuzz, rather like a phone call with a really bad connection. Sometimes individuals are easily recognizable, sometimes not. Researchers use a witness panel to rate the clarity of the messages and to make sure there really are words in the first place. Some “scientific” folk say that there is only noise and listeners convince themselves that they’re hearing words because they want to so much, but I think you can already tell, if you’ve listened to even the few clips I’ve linked here, that this is simply not the case. The phenomenon is quite real, and one must deal with it. Nonphysical beings can manipulate physical sounds to create verbal messages. We are way past arguing whether this is actually happening. Now we need to understand how it can be possible, what the physics of it is.

You’d think I would be over the moon with joy at receiving even a few electronic words from my old friend. Instead, I found myself near weeping and in a kind of shock. It was strangely hard to deal with this new evidence of his existence. Suddenly, despite all the overwhelmingly intense moments I’d experienced with him over the years, he was somehow more real than I could handle. And although I knew very well that he’d worked closely with other groups and had multiple intellectual and emotional connections, walking into this room and finding him engaged in a major project with people who were complete strangers to me was also a little more than I could take in at first.

(It was not the first time I’d observed Fryderyk messing with electronics; that had occurred back in 2009. You may recall the anomalous behavior of my printer when it spat out three portraits of Chopin, which were not on the document I was attempting to print. That constituted a form of ITC, I would think. The EVP was just another order of magnitude weirder for some reason.)

There is also the frustration of trying to understand the meaning of the messages. Sometimes the words sound perfectly obvious, yet the message is still obscure. One of the later clips of Fryderyk that Vicki sent me sounds to me for all the world like “I’ve made a cologne for her.” Here it is:  Can you make any better sense out of it than I can? And if I am hearing it right, exactly how am I supposed to obtain this otherworldly cologne? (I haven’t experienced any anomalous scents lately!) My husband jokingly suggested that he’d made me a clone— that would be great, I could get so much more done!

After the conference, Vicki and I began a correspondence, and I was interested to find that her impressions of Fryderyk, who she knew little about as a historical figure, were identical to mine— including his dry sense of humor. And I was amused at the idea of him joining forces with Braden, who is also a composer, but in what seems like a diametrically opposite genre, hip-hop. So Chopin is collaborating with a rap artist these days….

Like Fryderyk, Braden— as you might have guessed from the bopping incident— is a comedian as well as a musician. I mentioned to Vicki that Chopin used to do a Victor Borge-like act at the piano, something she hadn’t been aware of. She replied, bemusedly, “So that’s why they wanted me to watch that Victor Borge video on YouTube….” (Both of them left the planet before the existence of YouTube, but it seems that is irrelevant.)

*The boggle threshold is the level of weirdness at which one’s brain freezes up and can’t process what it perceives any more. Thanks to Michael Tymn for the concept.


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Vulcan Ancestry

In the little over a month since Leonard Nimoy died, I’ve been thinking a great deal about his influence on my life, and wondering what I can say about him that hasn’t already been said.

People told me, “I thought of you as soon as I heard.” I’m not sure how I became quite that thoroughly associated with him; I hadn’t been doing any obvious fan type stuff. I had even managed to miss his entire singing career. But he had been a kind of distant father figure for me. In one of his last roles, as the enigmatic William Bell in the Fringe series, he was an immensely comforting figure every time he appeared on the screen. I think many people of my generation must have felt that way. It was true even after the Bell character went completely off the rails and turned out to be trying to destroy the known universe.

Through the years, I always heard Nimoy spoken of as a person of great integrity. One of the coolest things I’ve read about him since his death was that during the Classic Trek years, he found out that Nichelle Nichols was being paid less than the rest of the cast, and he pushed successfully to get her better pay. (Imagine, a black woman was being paid less! Who would ever have thought?)

When Leonard Nimoy died, somebody quipped that the base temperature of the universe had risen noticeably.

When Leonard Nimoy died, somebody quipped that the base temperature of the universe had risen noticeably. (He had bought the Riviera when he started to make some serious money doing Star Trek.)

We are so accustomed these days to plastic celebrities who keep themselves in the public eye mainly by getting into trouble. It is refreshing to see a famous person who quietly does his work and is good to others. On the day that he died, February 27, there were a number of mentions of a kindness he did back in 1968. A young biracial girl had written to Spock via a teen fan magazine, saying that her situation was a lot like his. Nimoy wrote an extensive reply, explaining how Spock, also an outcast in his youth, had learned to accept himself and excel. Here’s the story:

Nimoy was a thoughtful artist in a variety of media. I expect that he would prefer it if I wrote about his books of poetry and philosophy, or his original stage work, or his photography project that celebrated the feminine aspect of God. He might want me to mention that he’d gone back to school for a master’s in Spanish. Maybe he’d like to be remembered as an exceptional director of films. He’d like me to write about anything but Spock, I’m sure. Everybody has been writing about Spock.

I’m going to write about Spock too. That is, I’m going to write about Spock’s effect on me and why that’s a good thing.

Zachary Quinto, the new Spock, said that his predecessor and dear friend brought some of his own best qualities to the character. Deep and absolute integrity, perhaps even more than intelligence, defines Spock. Another prominent characteristic of his is compassion, perhaps a little strange for someone who professes not to understand human emotion. Spock can always be trusted to do the right thing as he sees it, no matter how difficult it is or how great the personal cost. His work is always the highest quality he can produce. Although he does not express affection in a human way, his deep regard for his friends and colleagues is always apparent. In short, he’s real hero material.

Only one left now.

Only one left now.

I was six years old when classic Star Trek premiered. I remember an early elementary-school assignment in which we were supposed to draw our favorite foods, etc. For favorite TV show, I drew a little screen with Spock’s face on it. I have considered myself a Trekkie ever since, and proud of it. (Not a Trekker— sorry, Mr. Nimoy— in the ‘60s we were Trekkies and I’m sticking with that.)

In fact, I wasn’t just a Trekkie. I was a Spockie. Yup. I am naturally an intellectual, cerebral to a fault, often seen as quiet and reserved (?!), and the Vulcans felt like my spiritual relatives. A few years after the series ended, when it went into its rerun resurgence, I was going into adolescence, and I tried on a Vulcan identity. I experimented quite a bit with clearing out silly human emotionality. I didn’t realize how closely related my efforts were to, for example, Zen practices. I remember one day in particular, when I felt a complete inner emptiness and peace, no disturbances, no emotional reactions to anything, which brought a paradoxical sense of bliss. Of course this didn’t last. As I said, I was an adolescent.

All that now sounds like an incredibly naive effort. Of course emotions are not going to go away, and overall, they shouldn’t. But I developed a good deal of useful inner discipline, and came to some awareness that my immediate emotional reactions to events were not necessarily very important or real and should not necessarily be acted upon. My natural caution and thoughtfulness were enhanced. Unfortunately, my natural tendency to overthink was probably enhanced as well, but on balance it seems to me that this phase of my life was extremely helpful to the work I do today.

One thing I understand all too well about Spock is that his apparent aloofness is more than anything a result of his sensitivity. As a touch telepath*, he has little choice but to stay apart from others, because otherwise he will be painfully bombarded by their discordant emotions and muddled thoughts. This, to a greater or lesser extent, is a common issue in the regular human world, and people find various ways to deal with it. Me, I love connection and intimacy, but I have to be careful with it. Sometimes people think I am avoiding or resisting them when what I’m actually doing is unconsciously trying to keep our interactions at a manageable intensity for both of us.

Emotion is now in a way my stock in trade. In my work as a healer, I read patients’ emotions in their bodies, and that provides crucial information to use in dealing with their difficulties. I poke around inside them, asking questions, and see what feelings come up and what those can tell us— not quite a mind-meld, but going in that direction. I see emotion as critical data in this way, which must be taken into account and cannot be suppressed or bypassed if healing is to take place. Frequently I am buffeted by gale-force emotions that are released as we clear blockages.

At the same time, though, I realize that emotion is ephemeral, transitory, and not entirely real, that it can be based on fleeting biochemical flares or glitches rather than being a valid response to one’s experience. A couple of dramatic instances of sudden depression have been my best teachers on that issue. One case was part of a healing crisis triggered by a high-potency homeopathic remedy and instantly relieved by a lower potency of the same. The other had no known cause but disappeared progressively and totally over a period of a half hour or so during an acupuncture treatment, in a most interesting way. Both times, the sadness was baseless and meaningless. It was no more than passing weather in my system. If I had fallen into believing that it was significant, I could very likely have found good reasons to be sad and made myself much worse.

In the same way, I must observe those storms of emotion in my patients without becoming overwhelmed by them, perceiving them clearly without taking them on and bringing them home. Sometimes patients are suffering so intensely that I can barely hold up under the onslaught, and I need to separate myself a little from what they are feeling. If it appears that this may seem cold to them, I explain that I need to step back a little bit in order to be able to help. It’s critical to be able to modulate my own emotional response in this way.

Under stress, I tend to become all the more cerebral and analytical. In August 2013, I developed symptoms suggestive of a heart attack, and landed in the emergency room. While waiting to be seen by the doctor, I experimented with dialing my level of anxiety up and down to see if I could bring on the symptoms that way, in order to help diagnose whether stress was the cause. The ER nurse had already stuck electrodes on me and done a basic evaluation, and it was clear that I wasn’t in serious trouble, so I was calm as I tried to figure out what was going on. When the doctor arrived, I told him that I’d been doing this, and that increasing anxiety didn’t seem to increase the symptoms. He gazed quizzically at me and replied, “You can’t control emotions like that.”

You can’t??! Oh, yeah, this is Earth…. OK, I was not exactly normal right then. But it did seem normal to me to work with emotional states as data and to manipulate them experimentally.

I am describing all this not just as self-indulgence, but to say something larger about working in the world of healing and psychic activity. I’ve seen a couple of healers go seriously over the edge into irrationality and dysfunction. I honestly believe that my “Vulcan” training has helped to keep me safe in some semblance of sanity.

Mendy Lou says that my insistence on left-brained intellect has severely limited my psychic development, that I think too much and that prevents me from perceiving all that I could. She’s probably right. However, I have the advantage of seeming non-weird to my patients and others, even while dealing with the most way-out concepts. Quite a few times they have commented on this. I speak in plain language and do not add unnecessary drama. That seems to help patients feel more comfortable and confident when working with me. It helps me feel more comfortable, too, with the unpredictable courses healing can take— I never know when, for example, a patient’s dead relative or spirit guide is going to show up in the treatment room, and it’s best if I meet everything that happens with calm and equanimity. (I save panic attacks, sudden rages, and the like for home.)

My left-brainedness does not serve me particularly well in writing poetry, I’m afraid, though I have done a lot of that successfully, and I’m not sure if it’s more a help or a hindrance to me as a musician. Some of both, I suppose. It’s interesting that Spock is also a musician who plays at least two instruments (Vulcan harp and piano, which I suppose his mother taught him) and sings decently. Through the years we’ve seen other references to Vulcans appreciating and playing music, and perhaps we can imagine that music is one of their means of directing the passions that we know they have deep down. The creators of Vulcan culture didn’t see any conflict between logical thinking and the arts, as indeed there is none.

There are also quite a few references to Vulcan mysticism, and there again I can feel at home. Rigorous logic and mysticism, together?** Despite what some of our most popularized scientists would like us to think, there’s no conflict there either, and in fact physicists are often led deeply into the mystical by the very nature of their discoveries, or like Einstein, may have even begun there. Spock once was heard to say, “I prefer the concrete, the provable,” but that wasn’t necessarily what he got when he was called upon to interface telepathically with incomprehensibly alien beings or to make intuitive decisions that could affect the fate of worlds. Along with all that tight control and emotional suppression, there is a great openness about Spock. He is always willing to learn and to take in more of the universe. He has aged well. And somewhere out there in the space of the imagination, he lives.

A still from the 2009 movie.

A still from the 2009 movie.

* A silly idea, really. Touch is not necessary for telepathy in the least.

**A huge pet peeve of mine (wait, that’s an emotional response) is that so many people in the mystical, psychic and healing fields keep saying things like“quantum physics proves that” such and such, when they clearly have no concept whatsoever of what quantum physics is to begin with. Totally illogical! If you ask me, this area of endeavor could use a much larger dose of scientific literacy. Science really does have a great deal to say about the areas in which I work, and I would like to see the applicable science discussed rigorously and with clarity, not in fuzzy terms that only encourage scientific types to laugh and dismiss everything that we are doing. In fact, I would like to see more logical thinking, more focus on facts and on what works rather than on what people believe or wish, in the world at large. Oops, wrong planet again.


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WordPress Gives a Helpful 2014 Blog Summary

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,600 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 60 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Cool, WordPress does an end-of-year summary

This is pretty neat.  Thanks to everyone who came to visit!  I know 2400 views in a year is not much in the blogging world, but I still appreciate it.  WordPress’s summary follows:

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 40 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Someone has to clean up.

A few days ago I read a blog post by a guy who is a committed minimalist and writes about how others can and should rearrange their lives in the way he has, with as little material stuff and as little distraction as possible.  I’m not going to name and publicly diss this specific blogger because there are plenty of others like him.  And I don’t mean to argue with the basic tenets of minimalism, since it’s obvious that we cannot go on consuming at our present insanely unsustainable rate.  However, this post set my teeth on edge.  It was about how wonderful it is that he has no routine and does whatever he wants at whatever time he wants.  I’ve always thought the Zen concept of “eat when hungry, sleep when tired” made great sense, but since one does not live in a vacuum, nor usually in a cave,  for most of us it can only be followed to a point.

Our unscheduled friend quit his six-figure job (which he refers to constantly in exactly those words) early in 2011 because the routine he used to have was killing him.  Now he is living a “more meaningful” life.  Since he has been pursuing his new lifestyle for a few months now, he is experienced and well qualified to preach to the rest of us.

He has also now reached the wise old age of 30.  I’ve read that criticisms of the minimalist lifestyle tend to come from older people, and the criticisms seem to be dismissed on that basis.  These are mostly twentysomethings we’re talking about.  Of course they know far more than people like me who are twice their age.

I looked at more of his blog.  He’s countered some of the obvious comments I might make, like the fact that most people would love to have a job with a six-figure income in the first place, especially while still in their 20s.  But if you ask me, he still comes off as a bit smug and holier-than-thou.

A person who sleeps and eats at completely spontaneous times obviously does not have any children.  In fact, he can’t even have a dog or cat if he’s going to live like that.  He can’t have anyone depending on him to be available at regular intervals to feed or care for them.

In order for our friend to bop down the street for lunch and use the cafe’s WiFi, which he doesn’t have at home because it’s such a time-sucker, someone has got to produce the food, deliver it to the cafe, prepare it, and serve it to him.  Then someone has to clean up.  All that depends on other people following schedules and routines, too.  That’s if the blogger orders food at all, of course.  He described spending 2 or 3 hours at a local coffee shop in order to use the WiFi and publish his writing.  During that time he ordered a total of an herb tea.  Geez, that’s why our local Blue Dragon cafe went under!  If you can’t or don’t want to pay for your own internet access at home, I think you should give some support to businesses that are willing to provide it for you.  Being frugal is a great value.  Taking unfair advantage isn’t.  (I’m writing this at Annapurna’s 4th Street location, a great place to concentrate.  I have paid for lunch and tipped well.)

This particular minimalist owns a car, but many don’t.  If you are going to manage without a car and go anywhere beyond walking distance, you have to live someplace that has good public transportation, and better yet, Zipcars.  (Hint: Not most of New Mexico.)  If those buses, subways, and trains are going to be of use to you when you need them, they have to run on time, which means that someone has to be there at predictable hours to drive them, maintain them, and handle tasks like ticket selling and accounting.  Someone has to clean the stations.  It’s likely that many of these people are not exactly living their dreams, but in order for the privileged few to live theirs, they must show up for work every day.

Community service has been stated as a major value among minimalists.  Good for them.  I’m certainly not going to complain there, except that it does seem like, if you are going to be a volunteer, you’re expected to show up predictably, not at random times.  Our friend says he doesn’t own a watch, so I’m not sure how he organizes himself for volunteer work that involves other people.

Of course, in our present society it’s still necessary to bring in an income.  A lot of people are now managing to make a living online, so that their jobs are completely portable and don’t require major physical facilities.  Some seem to be doing useful things, while others remind me of the phone sanitizers and such who were sent on the ship to nowhere (the one that landed on Earth) in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Our friend is paying his minimal bills by writing literary fiction.  Yes, you read that right.  If he can actually sustain himself that way, I’ve gotta hand it to him, especially since his former business career seems to have given him no specific preparation for it.  The majority of people probably don’t have literary or artistic abilities that would open this career avenue to them, though.  I read that there were suggestions around for location-independent gigs for the less talented, but so far I haven’t been able to find any of them.

In our present society, and any conceivable one, we need to have individuals performing all sorts of different services and producing many kinds of goods, and since they need to coordinate their efforts, they need to have schedules.  The challenge posed by our blogger, I think, is not so much to jump ship from our regular jobs and responsibilities, but to bring a sense of freedom and fulfillment to the work we already have, which in many if not most cases contributes to the well-being of others and is therefore meaningful.  What can we do to find our true selves and our true priorities in our everyday, not-necessarily-exciting lives, as we chop wood, carry water, drive buses, and stock grocery store shelves?

In his concluding paragraph, our spontaneous friend writes, “The good news is my life is no different than yours, minus the routine.”  “Bourgeois bullshit,” said my daughter, after a 10-hour shift serving up drinks.  Although I respect his spirit of experimentation and simplicity, I have to agree.


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Don’t Confuse Me with the Facts

We interrupt this spiritually-oriented blog with a diatribe:

I’m mad.

I am ANGRY.  My wrath rivals that of the most rabid teabagger.  All these years I’ve been trying to act like a good Zen citizen, working at seeing the divine in everyone, believing that even the farthest-out loons among us are seeking what they believe is the highest good.  But at this point, I’m mad as hell and just not willing to take it any more.  I’ve had it with people who refuse to recognize reality and are bent on taking all of us over the cliff with them.

The other evening I attended a meeting with a Libertarian legislator from another part of the state.  Nice guy, incredibly hard-working, seems utterly sincere.  He explained to me that, being a Libertarian and in support of Republicans and their policies, he wants the private sector to take care of health care, and government to stay out of it.  But the private sector has had many decades of opportunity to do just that, and you know where it’s gotten us.  While this might be just fine in right-wing theory, it hasn’t worked so far and there is no reason to think it’s ever going to.  Why can’t we start looking at things as they are instead of things as our pet dogmas say they should be?  Why in heaven’s name does ideology trump facts every single time?

I do understand to a large extent where Libertarians are coming from, and I respect and empathize with the desire to be left alone to pursue one’s life as one sees fit.  However, the meta-message I got from this man was this:  Nothing is done in politics just because it makes sense or will help constituents, or because it is the will of the people.  Laws that make sense, even when there are no other reasonable options, may well never be passed.  Decisions are made on other bases entirely and may have little or nothing to do with reality.  Lawmakers are overwhelmed with information and can hardly even begin to think clearly about the bills that come before them, no matter how sincere and competent they may be.

So single-payer health coverage, widely recognized as the best and most practical choice, is never going to happen because legislators believe it is politically impossible.  The fact that this is a belief rather than a bedrock reality doesn’t make any difference.  We can’t find a way to do what is good or right on this or any other issue because, well, we just can’t.

Not that government has done a super job with health care either– leading to the scary conclusion that perhaps no one is in a position to manage it.  I am not one of the advocates of Medicare For All; I want Something Better Than Medicare, For All.  But the facts say that, despite the weaknesses that exist in every country’s medical systems, all the developed countries with single-payer systems have better health outcomes than the US does, and they spend far, far less than we do on our insanely complex patchwork system.

“But that’s socialism!” the right will scream.  So?  Full-bore, laissez-faire capitalism was tried early in the 20th century.  You’ve read The Jungle, right?  So much for that.  Some regulation, some centralization, is necessary.  Deal with it.  The diametric opposite, totalitarian, centrally planned communism, was also tried.  Visit the former Soviet Union to see how that worked out.  Most countries that are even a little bit functional have arrived at some mixture of socialism and capitalism, because pragmatism lies somewhere in between.  We have too.  It’s OK.  Economics is not religion, though sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.  Please, please let’s try to do what makes the most sense, whatever that may be, and leave our emotional reactions out of it.

I’ve read repeatedly that there is wide agreement in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, about how to fix immigration policy.  You’d never know that, would you?  As far as I can tell, that’s because loony fringers have been so loud on this issue, as with so many others, that they’re driving the debate and scaring legislators who feel vulnerable (and have good reason to feel that way).  Immigration is a vexatiously difficult problem, but there are practical, sensible ways to improve the situation, things we could try if we had the will.  Even George W. Bush offered a pragmatic plan– having been a border governor, he had some street cred on this– but his party’s wingnuts wouldn’t let him get anywhere.  Pragmatism wasn’t nearly as much fun, didn’t whip up the faithful nearly so well, as hysterical fear-mongering, and it didn’t make as good of a news story either.

It is also “impossible” to pass any kind of meaningful energy legislation, despite the increasing urgency of our collective situation.  An older friend of mine recently commented that the world is “slowly going downhill.”*  Slowly??  We are sliding down a slippery slope and steadily gaining speed.  Climate change is no joke, and it dwarfs (and includes within it) all our other issues.  Real, current measurements are outstripping the worst predictions of our computerized models.  And the real hell of it is that so many aspects of climate involve feedback loops that intensify the problems, e.g. melt the Arctic permafrost→ release more greenhouse gases→ melt the permafrost more.  Or melt sea ice→ darken the ocean surface→ absorb more sunlight and reflect less→ melt more sea ice till there’s none left.  Think limiting carbon emissions will hurt the economy?  Just wait till you see what swamped coastlines, drought-stricken farmland, and killer storms will cost us.

And no matter how you interpret the climate data, there is no getting around the fact that we will, sooner or later (probably sooner), run out of fossil fuels.  Even the oil companies know this.  Yet wind and other renewable energy projects are met by the usual NIMBY objections.  According to a recent Albuquerque Journal story, a currently-planned wind installation in New Mexico is being blocked by people who don’t like the fact that it may interfere with their solitude and the views from their homes.  They moved out there to get away from it all, they say.  But they’re still dependent on the electricity and other goodies they get from nearby civilization.

The climate deniers, and to a lesser-extent the NIMBY-ers, continue to mystify me.  Burying their– our– heads in the sand seems to be the most popular strategy.  My best theory is that it’s all a matter of fear, as is true of so many human troubles.  The truth of what we face is too horrible to contemplate.  Both the problems and the potential solutions seem impossibly, overwhelmingly huge.  It’s easier to deny than to act.

Me– I want to move to Vulcan at the earliest possible opportunity.  Hey, they already had to deal with climate change….

*I could do another whole post on this concept, and probably will, because the aspects of society my friend sees as “downhill” are not necessarily so in my view.  Anyway, the world has always been going to hell in a handbasket at one speed or another.  (Classic bumper sticker:  Where Are We Going and Why Am I In This Handbasket?)

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An Appointment with Jesus

The following article was originally published in The Searchlight in December 2007.  I referred to this experience in a post last Easter, and here I am again, still trying to process it.  I didn’t understand what had happened to me then, and I don’t understand it much better now.  Digesting more books about the early development of Christianity has convinced me further that things were not the way they taught us in Catholic school and that Jesus cannot be quite what they told us he was.  That has made my experience all the more confusing, I’m afraid.

Oddly enough, reading the Bhagavad Gita and getting its different perspective on the relationship of God to humanity has shed a little bit of light on these matters.  Krishna speaks to Arjuna in so much the same terms Jesus often uses with those who believe they are channeling him.

Yesterday evening, Easter Sunday, I spent a couple of hours with a video of Vassula Ryden, who receives messages from a source identified as Jesus through verbal communication and writes them down.  I’ve looked askance at Vassula’s messages because they have Jesus advocating specific sectarian practices such as reading the Bible and praying the rosary, even while saying that he wants to unite all the religions.  This seems odd to me, and it seems to contradict much of what has been said by Hania’s Jesus source, as well as a great deal of the spiritual literature in general.  And it just feels wrong to me!  But what do I know?  Perhaps for some people this is exactly the best message, the message that is most needed.  Or not.

A materialist/humanist friend of mine wrote, in apparent exasperation, “I don’t know how intelligent people like you and Hania can believe you are having experiences like this!”  Well, I told her, we are having the experiences.  It’s only the meaning of the experiences, the interpretation, that’s in question.  If someone is having a certain experience, Hania, Vassula, or whoever, I can’t say that she is not, and if a person receives certain messages, well, then, those are the messages she receives.   We have to go from there.  Simply saying it didn’t really happen is not going to get us anywhere.  And I think it’s of the greatest importance that we go much further in understanding these matters.

Faith and trust are still major challenges for me, but if I have faith in anything, just a bit, it’s direct experience.  I have been unable to get much in the way of direct experience to clarify or augment what I’ve said here.  I’ve probably blocked it somehow, though that was not my intention.  I’m still trying.

When I channel Jesus Christ, regardless whether my channeling is clear or poor, I am filled with unspeakable peace, light and wonderful fullness.  It is a spiritual practice for me, and that’s why I do it, the bottom line.

– Hania Stromberg

On Tuesday, September 11, 2007, at 7:00 pm Mountain Time, I had an appointment with Jesus.  Really.

I had been in touch with him before, or at least I thought so; that wasn’t a new concept.  I had experienced him mostly as a great golden light beaming down from above me.  Recently I had heard that my friend Hania Stromberg was channeling him and was welcoming people to have sessions with him by phone.

Readers of The Searchlight may remember Hania’s name in connection with her work on Induced After-Death Communication.  In the past few months, she has been studying with Betsy Morgan Coffman, who teaches channeling here in Albuquerque.  Hania has had a strong relationship with Jesus for many years, and when she opens herself to channel, it is Jesus who speaks; she says that other beings have offered to communicate through her, but she wants only Jesus Christ.  Since this has been going on, there has been a noticeable transformation in Hania.  She continues to suffer with severe health problems, but her color has gone from grey to pink, and she has taken on a distinct glow.  Seeing this change, it’s easy to believe that something wonderful is happening.

I signed up for a time, and promptly had something of a spiritual crisis.  Although Betsy has said that it isn’t unusual for people to receive messages from Jesus, I found the idea of calling up and asking him questions rather disconcerting and theologically uncomfortable.  I wondered if we were dealing with the “real” Jesus.  Hania had told me that when people asked the Big Questions, “Why do we have wars?” and that sort of thing, not a lot came through, but personal questions, on relationships or jobs or whatever, generally received clear answers.  I’m still having trouble conceiving of Jesus as a cosmic Dear Abby, and for a while I was seriously discombobulated by all of this.  At the time of the session, I was quite unnerved by the prospect of consulting Jesus by phone.

But while I have questions about what exactly is taking place, I do not for a moment think that Hania is faking or deluding herself.  That’s because within a few moments of beginning the phone call, as soon as she had said a prayer invoking Jesus’ presence, there was indeed a presence in the room with me, directly in front of where I was sitting on my ordinary sofa in my ordinary living room.  I had no doubt of this whatsoever.  I could even vaguely see him for a few moments, a faint vision of arms with stereotypical wide white sleeves.  I assume he was just as much in Hania’s house with her at the same time.  This presence was powerful, but soft and gentle.  The light was not too bright for my eyes, so to speak.  If it was not truly Jesus, the pretender was awfully convincing.

So I was hearing a soft female voice in my left ear, and at the same time I was perceiving this masculine figure nearby in my house.  It was kind of like having subtitles, or perhaps simultaneous translation like at the UN.  On my own, I wasn’t getting any of this audio portion, or any other manner of verbal transmission, so when I report that “he said” something, I mean that I heard Hania’s voice saying it.  I was getting mostly emotional and kinesthetic impressions, with moments of faint visual images.

As soon as we got started, I was invited to ask questions.  What I most longed to ask was who he is, what he is, and what he is doing, that is, what his nature and purpose may be.  I was nervous to ask these things directly, so I kept my mouth shut about them.  I thought that he might well read them inside me anyway.

What I did ask was my next most burning question: why I am not healing.  I asked if there were anything I should be doing, or anything I should stop doing, in order for healing to take place.  I told him that I believed he could heal me, and the funny thing is that I truly meant that.  Faith has always been the most difficult thing in the world for me, and yet I found that I honestly believed that Jesus could do anything necessary to make my body OK.  I believed that he had healed others (patients sometimes tell me this and mean it literally), and that he had great power to heal people, despite the fact that Hania herself had not experienced the slightest improvement in her physical problems.  I mean I believed.  I felt no doubt whatsoever.  That was a new and unique experience in itself.

He held my right hand in both of his as I spoke to him.  I asked about my stomach, which has been going through a flareup of chronic gastritis.  I also asked about my constantly unstable joints, which cause nerve impingement and chronic pain.  These felt like terribly insignificant questions to ask of such an august presence.

I am going to tell you the replies I received, not because I think you are interested in my digestive system, but because they illustrate the specificity, relevance, and practicality of the advice.  With regard to my stomach, he told me that there was a great deal of overactivity and agitation in that area.  As he pointed it out, I could feel it clearly; part of it was simply my nervousness at having this contact with him, but mostly it had already been there.  He said that it was agitation in my mind and heart that was affecting my stomach, not anything wrong with the stomach itself.  He embraced me, and I felt as if my head was resting against his shoulder.  Through all this there were tears running freely down my cheeks.  He said that I should take the peace that he can provide into my mind and body, and that if my stomach started to feel bad, I should visualize resting against him in that same way, leaning on him and letting him support me.

Hania had mentioned that sometimes Jesus communicates directly through her, though not by taking over her vocal chords, and sometimes instead she herself reports what she is receiving from him.  During the discussion of my joint and chronic pain problems, she described seeing me in a curled-up, crouched position, hugging my knees.  The interpretation of the picture seemed to come directly from the spiritual source, though.  He said that the problems came from pain in my heart, which I had held locked up in my body and had not “accepted” or “allowed to go into the earth.”  I wasn’t quite sure how to work with what I was told.

I tend to feel that if I am given healings or some other sort of spiritual goodies, I need to somehow pay for what I’ve been given.  I didn’t say anything about that out loud, but Jesus told me that I didn’t need to do anything, be anything, or try to deserve anything— I was loved and cared for just for myself, no matter what.  I have run into religious people who are extremely concerned that they are not pleasing God, and I wish they could hear this.

It was clear that this being could read my thoughts, feelings, and energetic patterns, and so it was not surprising that he perceived my ambiguity about him.  “I can feel you going back and forth as you are reaching out to me,” he said near the end of the session.  “Don’t give up.”

The whole experience lasted a little over half an hour.  The last thing Jesus said was that although the call was about to end, he would still be with me. Hania asked if I wanted to give any feedback, but I was too overwhelmed to speak right then.

Afterward, I had a huge emotional release, wailing and sobbing.  I was grateful that no one else was in the house.  Even the presence was gone.

I was not immediately and completely healed, but I did feel considerably better in my stomach the next day.  Unfortunately, the day after that was much worse again.  However, I did feel healed where it really counted.

Recently I read that Mother Theresa, in her youth, had visions of Christ, and then later in her life she lost touch with that direct perception of him.  She could not understand why she was no longer able to see him, and felt that perhaps God did not even exist.  Somehow she was able to continue with her demanding work despite feeling a lack of spiritual support.  I find this all difficult to understand.  First, Jesus seems to make himself so readily available that I can’t imagine what could have been blocking the contact for this very devout woman.  To stop having visions is perhaps not so strange, but to stop having any sense of his existence?  And then, how is it that I, who have nothing like a traditional Christian faith, have been given this gift, while others, true believers, who long for a connection with Christ and put great effort forth to find it cannot seem to get in touch with him?

I imagine that a mainline Christian like Mother Theresa would believe that Jesus was real, but that the divinities of other religions were just myths or fairy tales.  Yet, I’ve encountered other deities.  This is one of my sources of confusion—how there can be so many high-level divine beings floating about, all of them appearing “real,” and yet many of them representing belief systems that are incompatible with each other?  What should I make of a universe in which I find not only archangels and the Christ himself, but Kuan Yin, the goddess of compassion, as well?

The best I can do to interpret this extraordinary experience is to say that the universe is full of beings that care about us and want to help us.  I felt greatly loved by this wonderful person, and I loved him completely in return.  I did receive something of an answer to my questions about what he is and what he is doing, though not a verbal one.  Perhaps he put this directly into my mind, or perhaps it was only inspired by the experience of his presence.  My vision was that we humans cannot really relate to God in the largest sense, that we need to have a piece of God with a human face in order to communicate.  Jesus fulfills that role, and perhaps that is the point of our other divine beings as well.

Was there a historical Jesus, who walked the earth as a human male a couple of thousand years ago?  There is plenty of controversy over this point.  I think that most likely there was such a person, a great teacher and healer who carried tremendous light and affected many lives.  (We should probably be referring to this person by his original name, Yeshua.)  Then people with their own agendas ladled layers of mythology on top of his story.  I doubt that most of what passes for Christianity these days has a lot to do with the reality of what Jesus said and did; I agree with the proverb that says that Christianity would be a great idea if anyone ever actually tried it.  I am not able to believe most of what they taught us in Catholic school when I was six, or when I was sixteen—not that Christianity is the only way, and not that the Bible infallibly tells what really happened in a given time and place.  Certainly not that we are damned forever if we don’t do exactly as we are told or if we have been raised with a different belief system.

It does seem that most of the material that purports to come from Jesus emphasizes love and compassion, and deemphasizes churches, books, and dogma.  In one session with Hania, he was heard to say that he has only one church, and that is the human heart.  He added that reading holy books is only of value if it helps a person to find him in their heart.

What if Jesus was “only” a human being, albeit a very special one?  (I say “only” because even the most limited of human beings are far larger than we realize.)  Hearing from him is still not such a big surprise.  We know that humans who have died still live in some way, somewhere, and that they can communicate with those still on the Earth.  If Jesus ever lived as a human being, then he still lives, and even if he were no more than an ordinary person, he could potentially speak to us in the present.  But what if he never lived here with us, and the story we have been given is only legend and metaphor?  Sometimes I wonder if we ourselves create our deities, if our concentration on them and love for them brings them into existence out of nothing.  Then, I think, this is a moot point, because ALL of us are essentially invented out of nothing.  Where do our own personalities and individual identities come from, anyway?  It’s really the same question.  It’s all one thing, all mind, all God, showing myriad faces everywhere, contemplating itself and its works.

Hania told me later that she has been given some answers to these questions about the nature of Jesus.  The material has been either “in a uniquely childlike simplicity,” as she describes it, or more than her brain can handle:  “What I am able to take and project are rather hackneyed fragments of something so much more brilliant, but beyond the scope of my ability, as a channel, to receive.”  Perhaps this is also why only simple and limited answers come through on the larger questions about human existence, while everyday questions elicit clear replies.

Hania also wants readers to know that although when she channels “Jesus replaces her personality with himself,” and she experiences his peace and compassion, the rest of the time she still struggles with her own life issues, “although perhaps gradually less so.”  That is, she is still the same person she was before, and she makes no claims to be anything other than ordinary.

I spoke with Jesus again the next day, on my own.  It was simple.  I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I remember the love.  That’s all I can say for now.


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IADC and Chopin’s 195th Birthday

Originally posted March 1, 2010 at

Five years ago today:

Sometime after midnight, very early on March 1, 2005, Hania’s husband was looking through his collection of jazz CDs.  He came upon a CD of Chopin piano music, with the composer’s picture on the cover.  It had never been kept with the jazz CDs—he organizes his collection meticulously—and in fact he had never seen it before and was sure he had not been the one who bought it.  Hania was not the owner either, and was equally mystified.  It’s possible, probable, that one of their daughters had bought the CD, but both of them were away at college at the time, and were not around to misfile it in the jazz section.

It was, of course, Chopin’s birthday.  And that evening Hania and I were scheduled to try and have a visit with him again.

Hania had mentioned to me a couple of times that she was looking forward to seeing Chopin again, because she had come to think of him as a friend.  She said this again right before we began the session.  Always remember to be careful what you wish for….

This session was long, confusing, and beyond the scope of what I can write here.  Fryderyk did show up, but he appeared almost exclusively to Hania.  I was barely aware of him at all, but I could certainly see the overwhelming effect that he was having on her.  She described it as like “being choked by love.”  It wasn’t that the feeling was negative, just that it was so intense that she found it hard to handle.  (I don’t really mind that sort of thing myself, as long as I can trust the source.)  I’m not going to go into further detail, because the content of the session was so personal to Hania.

After long analysis, what seemed most important to me was that Fryderyk had clearly operated independently of me.  He was most decidedly not inside my head, nor did he appear to depend on me in order to manifest himself on the Earth plane.  He had his own agenda.  Just in case I, or anyone else, still questioned that.

One has to wonder what sort of effort it would take for a nonphysical being to move a CD from one place to another (if that is indeed what happened).  It sounds like heavy lifting to me.  But these things do happen quite commonly.

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Induced After-Death Communication

Originally posted February 28, 2010 at

My series about experiences relating to Chopin continues, with his 200th birthday coming up tomorrow.  This is an account of a session of IADC that took place on 1/30/05.  It was mediated by Hania Stromberg, who was using it in her psychotherapy practice.  Since then, Hania has retired and is no longer available for this work.  I wrote the following soon after the event, which was the session where “they have souls” came up, as I mentioned in a recent post.

EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a form of therapy most often used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems with traumatic memories.  It was developed in the late 1980s by Francine Shapiro.  More recently, Allan Botkin discovered that EMDR can be used to facilitate contact with deceased relatives and friends.  He calls this procedure Induced After-Death Communication, or IADC.  It so happens that Hania Stromberg, a psychotherapist here in Albuquerque, someone I’ve known for years, has been working with IADC, and was interested in aiding and abetting my research.  Hania says that so far the targeted spirits have responded 100% of the time, that is, she is aware of their presence on every attempt.  That does not mean that she sees or hears them every time, and unfortunately, there have been a few times when the client did not experience any contact at all.  However, the method itself seems to be extremely reliable.

It appears that the state of mind induced by EMDR is useful for expanding perception in other ways as well.  In sessions that did not involve IADC, I have found myself doing a kind of remote viewing.  At times I have been able to see into problems inside my body, far more clearly than I could do otherwise.  Most interestingly and usefully, I have fallen into a kind of mind-meld state, in which I could see situations from other people’s points of view and feel their emotions.  It seems to me that EMDR has tremendous potential, far beyond its use in treating trauma.

The nuts and bolts of the EMDR procedure are simple, though no one is quite certain why it works, what exactly it changes in the brain.  There is a repetitive stimulus, usually eye movement but possibly audible tones, tapping, or something else.  The stimulus moves from one side to the other, rhythmically, so that the client must cross the midline to follow it.  Originally the stimulus was the therapist’s finger moving back and forth with the client’s eyes following.  Hania uses a more high-tech method, a light bar with a number of small spring-green bulbs arranged in a row.  The bulbs light up in succession right to left and then left to right, and the client keeps her head still while turning her eyes to follow.  As the lights reach the end of the row, the client hears a “bong” in the ear on that side through a set of headphones.  So both the light and the sound alternate from one side to the other; the effect is rather like the Pong video game from the ‘70s.

There is a specific protocol for the treatment of trauma, which involves identifying the feelings the client has about the traumatic event and the feelings the client would like to have instead.  The client is supposed to come up with statements that sum up the “before” and “after” states.  While doing the eye movements, the client focuses on the negative statement and watches to see what comes up, without becoming particularly involved in the material, just letting it go by.  In this way the traumatic memory is reprocessed without causing still more trauma.  There are brief breaks in which the client reports what has come up, and then is instructed to follow the last thought, image, or feeling on the next run of the lights.  As the process continues, with repeated periods of eye movement, the client should experience a reduction in anxiety or other unpleasant emotions.  At the end of the session, the therapist asks whether the targeted “after” statement is now true for the client.  More sessions may be necessary to get the desired result.

For IADC, the protocol is somewhat simpler.  The client talks about the deceased person and any reasons for wanting to contact him or her.  The idea is to “call in” that person in whatever way is possible.  One may bring pictures or items that belonged to the deceased.  At some point, a presence is felt in the room, and the eye movement work is begun.  The client is supposed to relax and let the spirit do all the work of making contact.  After each period of eye movements, the client waits with eyes closed, and most of the time, something profound happens.  There may be visual or verbal messages, physical sensations, or just a feeling that someone is there.

I am very fortunate in that no one truly close to me has died, with the exception of two cats, so I didn’t have an obvious person to contact from this life.  (I would guess that Simba and Rico are not likely subjects for IADC, though that perhaps would be an area worth exploring.)  I thought about trying to talk with my grandmother, but I was not especially close with her and didn’t feel much of a pull in that direction.  Fryderyk, in contrast, seemed likely to be both accessible and interested in communicating with us, and besides I was dying to find out if I could get some visual or verbal impressions from him.  So we decided to start with him, even though a session with him would likely not be typical of the way IADC takes place for most people, since I was already in communication with him.

One is supposed to prepare by thinking about the deceased and if possible asking them to come to the session and manifest.  I was able to tell Fryderyk all about the procedure a day or two before and ask if he would like to show up; I felt certain the message had been received, and I was fairly confident of getting some kind of result.  Even so, I must admit that I was also seriously nervous, a little scared that we might get nothing at all, but even more afraid that somehow I would find out something I really didn’t want to know.

We began by talking about Fryderyk in order to focus on him, to conjure him.  I began at the beginning, and as usual, gave more detail than necessary.  Hania had to move me along a bit.  It wasn’t the history that mattered so much, but the emotion, the attraction, the reasons I wanted to contact him.  I remember, in particular, a wrenching desire for him to play through me again.

It wasn’t long before I began to feel some warmth at my right side.  Hania had told me that she could always perceive the entities that came to these sessions, but it was clear to me that she wasn’t aware of him yet, and I kept my mouth shut for the moment.  A little while later the warmth cleared away from me, and just as that occurred, Hania smiled and announced, “Someone is here.”  He had apparently moved toward her.

I sat in the chair that faced the EMDR light bar, and we got started.  I was supposed to do nothing except hold a question for him in my mind while I watched the lights.  He was supposed to do all the work.  I most wanted to know why he was involved with me, why he wanted to visit me in the first place.  Our apparent previous relationship has never really explained that to me; I’m just not the woman he knew a century and a half ago, so why should I be of such importance to him?

With each run of the lights, I was told to focus on one question.  I began with that need to know why, why me, why now.  At first the experience was frustratingly like his usual visits; there was a sense of presence, an emotional tone, and some physical effects, but no definite communication.  My hands moved a bit, and I could feel him snaking through my fingers, appearing to test them out.  I figured he had caught my longing to play with him again.  There was nothing at all visual, certainly nothing verbal, not much of any content at all.  I was glad he had shown up, since there was some confirmation in that alone, but I began to lose hope of anything greater happening.

As we continued, the job became more difficult.  I became rather lost in confused emotions. It’s difficult to put this part of the experience into words; it happened in a dreamlike state, hard to pin down, and as with a dream, I began to forget the moment it was over.  I know that I found myself asking, almost against my will, how he felt about me, wanting him to say that he loved me, as if the last twelve years had not been enough.  That is a dangerous question to ask of anyone, isn’t it?  It was rather startling to feel the depth of my need to be loved.  The feelings I contacted seemed negative, and they didn’t seem to be mine.  I began to ask if he would rather be rid of me, and while he didn’t answer with an affirmative, I didn’t feel that he was very enthusiastic about me, either.  I had experienced something like this eight or so years before, and had eventually decided that I had misinterpreted it all, but now my doubts and fears returned.

Hania tried to help me focus.  Somehow, with her asking the questions, the communication suddenly became clearer.  Perhaps it was a matter of her energy being added to mine, the way a group of sitters is needed for a séance.  She said that perhaps it was because he and I are so entangled that I can’t separate his feelings from mine very easily, and so having an outside party involved was helpful.  At any rate, I don’t remember the precise phrasing of the next question, but I received a feeling of tremendous longing and pain from him.  Hania suggested that I ask the reason for the pain, and finally, for the first time ever, there was a verbal response.

He said, or at least I heard, “Because I lost you.”  To the casual reader, I’m sure this will sound insane, and self-aggrandizing besides, but in terms of our relationship in his time, to the extent that I understand it, it makes perfect sense.

Hania next suggested that I should ask if there was anything I could do to ease the pain he was showing me.  I was surprised at the immediate reply: “Be happy.”  Through tears, I laughed and said that that would be the hardest thing of all and that I might not be able to manage it!

At some point, Hania heard a phrase in Polish:  “Dusze.  Dusze.  Mają dusze.”“Souls.  Souls.  They have souls.”  She said she was totally “in English mode” at the time, so she was surprised to hear Polish, and she perceived the words as coming from outside her own mind.  The message made no sense at all at the time, but later, Mary Montano (the author of Loving Mozart) came up with an interpretation.  Mary said that it was obvious—I had mentioned my deceased cats, and Fryderyk was telling us that cats have souls.  Perhaps; I can’t think of any better explanation.

With the use of Polish added to the fact that Fryderyk seemed to be answering Hania’s questions more readily than mine, I concluded that the two of them might as well go ahead and have a talk.  I could feel him pushing through my body toward Hania’s location at my left.  She and I asked if he had any message for her.  I heard, “Come back. We miss you.”  She wondered if she might have known him in the past, perhaps during her life as a violinist, but it appeared to both of us that they were just meeting for the first time right then.  [Later events changed this impression.]

Since Hania was having major health problems and had some issues that I felt Fryderyk would relate to, I had asked him if he would be willing to look in on her and see if he could help.  I thought that he might respond with his usual interest in healing, and it was looking like that was the case.  Not really having much idea of how to help them communicate, I decided to experiment, and moved my chair closer to Hania’s.  I could feel his field and hers bump up against each other; I pointed this out to her, and she agreed that the interface was where I said it was.  I told her that I was just going to get out of the way, and I pulled my own energy inward as best I could.  I tried to stay quiet and not even attempt to perceive what was going on between them.  We were silent for quite a while.  Eventually I couldn’t resist checking in, and I looked toward Hania for a few moments.  I had a strong sense of fear and upset, and I asked him if maybe he should back off a bit.  Interestingly, I found myself losing my moorings to English and speaking to him in French.

There was absolutely no doubt that Hania clearly experienced Fryderyk’s presence.  In fact, she actually saw him, just a little—I am trying not to be jealous!  She said that he had seemed to press his cheek against hers, and she had an impression of his hair, both its appearance and the way it felt.  “It was light brown,” she told me.  “Is that right?  I thought his hair was black.”  Of course Chopin’s hair was indeed light brown, but often in the reproductions of portraits one finds in books, everyone’s hair looks dark.  This was the closest thing to solid evidence we obtained, tenuous though it was.  Hania also had an impression of a navy blue cloak in some sort of shiny material.  Perhaps he was on his way to the opera?  [He has been seen in a dark blue or purple cloak by other people at other times as well.]

I am generally inclined to think that it’s a good sign when one perceives something other than what one expects; it shows we are seeing something other than the placebo of our preconceptions.  Hania’s overall impression of Fryderyk was as much a surprise to her as his hair color.  She said that it was “like being with a loving friend.”  She experienced great warmth and love, and noted, most of all, a feeling of tremendous compassion, which I see as his most fundamental trait.  The physical warmth was also intense, and her cheek burned for a while afterward.  He was not at all what she thought he would be, based on the view of him that had been popular in Poland early in her life.  Her description of him sounded absolutely familiar to me, however.  I felt immensely pleased with my dear friend and proud to know him.

Hania had not felt any fear or anything remotely like it during the session.  Since I am usually pretty accurate in picking up emotions, we were at a loss to understand why I had received this very definite impression of terror.  Our best guess was that I was seeing the upset in her physical body that I had already contacted while treating her in my office.  Or I could have simply been wrong.

As we were wrapping up, Hania asked if Fryderyk would like to come back and try the IADC process again sometime.  He was fading by that time, and I did not receive any answer, but I said that based on his previous habits and interests, he would probably like to do so.  Apparently he was still in the room, because Hania could still feel his presence, but I was no longer in touch with him.  I was thoroughly tired and ready to quit anyway.

A few days later, I met with Hania for what was supposed to be a regular EMDR session.  Of course we ended up doing a postmortem—no pun intended—on the IADC session.  Hania expressed some discomfort about having Fryderyk contact her so directly.

Hania then brought up another concern that hadn’t particularly occurred to me.  She said she was worried about Fryderyk.  One person after another has worried about me in relation to him, but this was the first time I was aware of someone being concerned for his welfare.  She thought that perhaps spending so much time with me was not very healthy for him.  It is indeed something to think about, although, at the age of nearly 200, surely he can take care of himself.  I explained that, really, he doesn’t spend all that much time with me, and that as far as I know, he is quite busy with other projects.

Hania would have been worrying about me as well, she said, except that I have “such a full life.”  Not too horribly unbalanced, I guess, not too dependent on a wisp of a ghost for my emotional needs.

With regard to my perception of his having negative feelings toward me, Hania said that she was sure this was only my own fears coming to the fore.  I don’t know. I am still confused and not going to state any conclusions about this matter right now.

Hania had some thoughts about the possible meaning of “They have souls,” but I am not concluding anything about that, either.  As for her “coming back,” I took that as a reference to her being split off from her Polish beginnings, but that didn’t sound right to her, and neither of us had a definite idea of how to interpret it.  I could only say that I was delighted to get any verbal impressions at all, after so many years of trying.  She told me that upon repeated attempts, the communication tends to get clearer.

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