I'd never seen her before or read her stuff. If there's one person whose seminar I wouldn't have minded missing, it would be hers. However, by the time her spiel ended at 10:30, I knew hers would be one of my absolute faves of the weekend.
The first thing I noted was that she looked and sounded like actress and wife to Ted Danson, Mary Steenbergen. I'd always found Steenbergen's voice kinda irritating, but coming from Sonia, I didn't mind as much. She had us do a few breathing exercises and then made us stand up and start dancing a bit as this skinny young guy in green who looked to be in his 20's came up to the stage and starting getting super-jiggy with it. His energy was very infectious. Check him out at 4:07 of this video from last year.
She told us to rub the shoulders of the person to our right, then give karate-type chops to their shoulders, then the same to the person on our left. But even more profound was an exercise called the breath of life in which, for 4 minutes, we raise our arms to the sky, utter a one-word syllable, lower the arms, then raise them again. She said two minutes into it, we would feel like we were dying because our arms would get so sore which was certainly the case for me, but seeing everybody else doing it, I followed along. I was NOT going to be the one who quit on it.
The four minutes ended and the feeling was incredible. I felt completely alive and most notably, completely in the present moment. It was an extremely blissful feeling and one she said could be achieved every day of our lives if we just took the four minutes to do it. I really don't recall much of what she said; I don't take notes during these things and Sonia actually had a requirement that no one else do so, either. Click on the above link for deets on the kinds of things she typically talks about.
Suitably pumped, the next speaker on my list was Neale Donald Walsch, the author of "Conversations with God". I'd last seen him speak last June at the same conference. I found a seat in the second row next to one of the ladies I'd met the night before. Ten minutes before the seminar was to start, Neale and his wife did something that none of the other speakers that I saw did during this time: they went up to people and warmly greeted them, had pictures taken, exchanged energy. It was during this time that Neale's wife looked in my direction with a look of recognition and a smile on her face and said, "Hi". I looked behind me, then pointed at myself and said, "Me?" I guess I was underestimating her ability to remember me from the 5-day retreat I'd spent with them in Oregon at the end of 2008. About twenty minutes into Neale's talk, he looked at me, stopped, and said, "Hi". I nodded my head and he said, "It's nice to see friends".
This would be the first of three consecutive days that I would be seeing Neale and it'd gotten off to a great start. One of the things he discussed was being told as a child that he was extremely fortunate to be in the situation he was in, that is, first of all, he was an American, which in the postwar era, was the place you'd wanna be. Not only that, but he was a Catholic, which was God's one true religion. In addition, he was white and a male! Talk about having the deck stacked in your favor. He spoke of how he eventually grew dissatisfied with the "I'm superior to you because of this" theory of life. When the 90 minutes were up, I lined up to get a couple of his books signed.
I mentioned that my wife wasn't able to attend this time, but gave her regards. I also said that I looked forward to Monday's all-day workshop. And with that, it was lunch time.
I met up with a couple of the girls from earlier and had a box lunch which consisted of a turkey wrap, a small bag of Lay's potato chips, an apple, and a Shasta. Just kidding about the Shasta. I remember being served that as a kid when I went to the Jehovah's Witnesses assemblies.
Before the next speaker began, a forty-something man with a guitar came out and regaled us with a song he wrote about love. He reminded me of Terry Jacks, the man who sang the 70's classic "Seasons in the Sun". I thought of a cool comment to give to the lady sitting next to me, but waited until he finished singing. The comment was all the more appropriate when he ended by saying, with complete sincerity and a smile on his face, "Have a great day!" As he left the stage, I turned and said "Why do I feel like we've time traveled to 1975?"
A moment later, Gary Zukav, a frequent visitor to Oprah, but a bit too undynamic for me, though he reminds me of Harrison Ford and has a kick-ass last name, came out. He talked mostly of spiritual partnerships, relationships that we have with others that cause us to grow spiritually. He said that all long-term relationships are challenging, but in most cases, worthwhile. He opined that the most profound relationship in our life is usually with our parents and/or kids. Tremendous growth can be found by working especially close on these relationships. One lady asked if all this talk of spiritual partnerships meant that he was against marriage. He replied that he wasn't, though, he saw no reason for people to live together if things started getting intolerable for one of the parties or if the woman gained 50 pounds.
As I left the ballroom to go to the next workshop, I noticed a young lady that had a sign next to her that said, "Free Hugs". She looked at me and said, "Would you like a hug?". I said, "Why not?" and embraced her. I wondered if she asked everyone if they'd like a hug or asked me because she was in the mood to get one from a guy; probably 20% of the participants there were men.
After a short break, the next speaker I was scheduled to see was a man named Michael Tamura.
He said that he has died twice and having done so, has no fear of passing on. He mentioned the healing he does for others in his dreams and was incredibly funny. He talked of a friend who said he wanted to kill himself. Tamura said that if that was his wish, he should do so. He even allegedly said to the person, "Here's a knife." Then he addressed the audience and said, "I like to be helpful". I was rolling in the aisle at that point.
More seriously, he told the man that if he did follow through, that he would just have to come back into the life again and live it without falling back on the "Poor me" schtick. When I was suicidal in 1993, one of the fears I had about killing myself was having to make up for the spiritual transgression. I wanted everything to go dark when I died, but feared this wouldn't be the case.
Near the latter part of the session, he did a meditation with us. I tried to focus, but he was just too funny. He had us visualize a rose and a moment later, told us to shoot at it and made this laser-like sound effect. Then he commented on how the sound effect really sells it. I started chuckling again and every time he made the sound, I started laughing, though not too loudly as I knew others were trying to concentrate. I kinda wished I'd been able to get something more out of the meditation, but laughter is a good thing as well. The lady next to me said she was going to be doing an all-day with Tamura on Monday. I began to toy with the idea of skipping out on Neale and seeing him as well.
For the dinner break, I ate at an on-site restaurant called Harry Carey's with two of the women I'd met. As we waited to get a table, I noticed the man in charge of reservations had a bunch of cuts on his face. I asked him if he was in a fight or if his wife had thrown him down the stairs. He said the marks weren't from a fight, but that he did look pretty beat up some time ago when he tried to stop his wife from falling down some stairs and wound up tumbling down them instead. One of the ladies asked how I knew that his wife had caused him to have such injuries, if I was an intuitive. I said that I didn't know that, that I always asked people that look like they'd been in a fight if their spouse had caused it. She said she admired how I said the things that she thought, but wouldn't typically think of actually saying.
The other lady we were with was still buzzing over having seen Gregg Braden who spoke of 2012. She elucidated on how the Mayan calendar was set up so that mighty big things would be happening on December 21, 2012. I don't really believe that malarkey, but found a good way to make a joke about it. I said, "Well, if Sarah Palin were to be elected President in November of 2012, then the world ending the following month wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing." She didn't laugh too heartily at that one. Perhaps I offended.
The last speaker of the night was James Van Praagh, a somewhat vertically-challenged psychic who referred to himself as a "small medium at large". He gave a quick run-down on how he became aware of his powers before spending most of the time giving readings for spirits he was seeing in the room. This was another guy who made me laugh a number of times not least when he was giving a reading and said, "Hold on a moment while I take a sip of this vod, uh, coffee". In most cases, he was dead-on with what he was relaying to those who'd lost loved ones.