Friday, August 27, 2010

My 2010 Vacation: Day 5

I made sure to get up plenty early on Monday morning, the last day of the conference. For Neale's all-day, I wanted to be as close as possible. As I prepared to take my luggage to the car, I took a look at the TV and marveled at how I hadn't watched it on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Since I hadn't been on the internet, either, I was under a media blackout of sorts. If a speaker talked about something that had recently happened in the world, I was totally clueless and liked it that way. I also hadn't really had any time to be outside or to be among those of a non-spiritual bent (though the hotel employees could be considered such, they blended in so well that it was easy to forget).

I was in line for Neale's seminar at about 8:10am, 50 minutes before it was to begin. A lady walked past and said, "Are you holding up the line for Neale?" I said, "Yes" and added, in a nod to "Misery", "I'm his number one fan". We were let in around 8:35. I walked quickly up front where I got a front row seat just a few feet from where he would be speaking. In the pic below, you can see Neale to the right of the whiteboard (just to the right of the bald man) and me (wearing a blue shirt) close by:

He had lots of new stuff. Doncha hate it when you go to see a comedian and he just regurgitates the same old shtick? Like last summer, Neale went over the ins and outs of the Mechanics of the Mind and the System of the Soul, but there was plenty of time to go into other areas. Early on, a younger man asked what reality is. I smiled as Neale said that there was no such thing as objective reality. He mentioned that spending 6 hours with him might seem like a lot, especially compared to the 90-minute sessions he'd given earlier in the weekend, but that we would only be exposed to about 6% of the totality of what he'd like to share.

He said that he can afford to not give workshops, but that after a few weeks at home, he gets the craving to share what he's learned (remembered) with as many people as possible. He discussed the figure 8 from his When Everything Changes book; this showed how it is that we go from ultimate reality to the physical reality we now inhabit. Many belief systems, he said, profess that it is possible to go from one realm to another, but not that we get to go back and forth as many times as we want.

At one point, Neale thought it'd be good to have the whiteboard raised from the floor to the platform so that all could see it. He asked that me and another man come up so that the board could be moved. We lifted it up and as the other guy moved a table from the platform to the floor and I was getting ready to sit down, Neale said, "Tom, move that chair out of the way. Snap to it!" I quickly did as I was told. Pretty cool, I thought, to be taking orders from a best-selling author.

Later, he talked of ways to get in touch with the divine, one being taking 10 seconds when you're in the middle of doing something and just stopping. He illustrated this by stopping talking in the middle of a sentence and not speaking again until 10 seconds later. I've tried this one myself and it is quite potent. Not sure how good it would go over when one is having sex.

Later in the morning, while writing on the board, he said, "Those who were thinking we were going to be having a morning break, NA NA NA NA NA NA!!" A little after noon, we were given 90 minutes for lunch. A salad buffet was served and unlike Friday's lunch, this time it was Caesar salad which is much more my cup of tea.

The dessert chocolate was much too rich, however; speaking to how we experience reality differently, the women I was with said it was heavenly. Shortly before returning to the conference room, I stopped in the bathroom where I saw Michael Tamura. Wouldn't you know it, while he was trying to go, someone started talking to him and began peppering him with questions. Tamura took it in stride.

Neale had lots of really cool asides, such as when he talked about how nothing is ever deleted on a computer. It can be put into a recycle bin and the recycle bin can be emptied, but it's all still there. He said the soul is the same way. Plenty of laughs were generated when he said that FEAR stands for Fuck Everything And Run. He talked about how our brains had evolved over time, from the reptillian one, which simply reacts, to the mammalian one. In some way, he said, it would be less complicated if we still had just the mammalian one. A lions roars, for example, but it doesn't second-guess itself afterward, thinking, "Maybe I shouldn't have roared at those lions. Perhaps I was out of line".

He also spoke to those who believe that they are unworthy of God; "The sun is a part of God, the trees are a part of God, the flowers are all a part of God, but God ends at your body", he said facetiously. He had some great words on the value of having things in this world that we don't agree with, on how it is necessary for there to be the opposite of what you think you are in order for you to decide and declare who you wish to be. This made me see the good in having someone like Sarah Palin around.

As our time started winding down, he said that forgiveness is not necessary if there is understanding. That is, if you can understand why someone might do the thing that they did that makes you think they need to be forgiven. He also said that all the things we believe in, we're making up. For many years, the Catholic Church required that no one eat meat on Fridays. How did this come to be? Someone made it up. It's professed by some in the Islam faith that martyrs will get 72 virgins in heaven. Where did that come from? Someone made it up. The Jehovah's Witnesses believe it is immoral to get a blood transfusion. Again, someone made it up and the sadness is that millions actually believe it. Of course, this means I'm also making up my own beliefs, but I feel it's better to err on the side of unconditional love over orthodoxy.

Neale concluded by saying that God doesn't make any mistakes, that all circumstances you encounter are for your highest growth and that the game never ends. His wife (Em Claire) ended with a beautiful poem. Here's a portion of it:

"Go Outside and play!" said God. "I have given you Universes as fields to run free in! And here - take this and wrap yourself in it - It's called: LOVE and It will always, always keep you warm. And stars! The sun and the moon and the stars! Look upon these often, for they will remind you of your own light! I have given you everything you need. Now go, go, go outside and play!"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Summer of 1996

It was 14 years ago this summer that I met my wife-to-be; let me take you back to those not-so-innocent days. The first time I went into her apartment, I saw her kitten sauntering out of the bedroom. Once she saw me, a stranger in her place, she turned around and high-tailed it back to the bedroom; she would've slammed the door behind her if she'd had the means.

In those days, my girl was on the notorious prescription drug(s), Phen-Fen. It had helped her lose a good deal of weight. She ate extremely healthily, much more than me. One evening, she made us some Boca (no meat) burgers. They were awful, but I didn't tell her that. She never wanted to accompany me to one of my favorite restaurants, Taco John's, because they didn't have any low-fat menu items. One evening, she said, "Screw it" and went to Burger King with me where she had a Whopper; Lord knows she wasn't getting that in the bedroom.

I knew I had her in the palm of my hand when she started stocking food items that were my favorites, in particular, a 2-liter of Sunkist that sat on top of the fridge. One of my favorite things to do at her place was play solitaire on the computer. Her bedroom had a twin on the floor and one up on a loft. I never asked, but they must've been a residue from her dorm days. On some evenings, when she was at work and I was bored as sin, I snooped around her things.

One thing that bothered me a bit in those days was that she wouldn't go to bed at the same time I did; she liked to stay up late. Her favorite song at the time was Robert Miles' electronic classic, "Children". We took turns in her car listening to our favorite radio stations; I preferred country, she, dance/pop.

The first movie we went to together was "Phenomenon" starring John Travolta, the second, "Jack" starring Robin Williams. Coincidentally, she watched a movie last week which starred both of them: "Old Dogs". We went to a matinee of "A Very Brady Sequel" a couple weeks later where we were the only ones in attendance.

On one late summer evening, we took a walk around the bike path at Lake Winona (we initially met very close by). About 10 minutes in, it started pouring, so we ran back to the car. It's the kind of scene you'd see in a formulaic romantic movie.

During this period, I was reading "When Bad Things Happen To Good People" by Harold Kushner. I don't specifically remember this; I saw the book on the floor in one of the pictures taken at the time.

That fall, she attended graduate school where she was assigned a report for Human Development, a psychology course. The instructor said that a video report would be great for those who had camcorders. She ran the idea by me and I was all too happy to help. Here are the first few moments:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Movie Facts

As a 10-year old, my dream job was to be a movie usher. I loved buying a ticket and being captive for two hours to a story that would transport me to another time and place. Ushering would put me as close as I could possibly get to celluloid, without moving to Hollywood, of course. I didn't let other people's availability affect my moviegoing habits. Since seeing "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on my own in 1981, I was more than accustomed to going to a show on my own.

I would typically go to Snyder Drug beforehand to get some candy to chew on during the movie; in most cases, it would be SweeTarts or Tart & Tinys. I made sure to get to the theatre a good half hour before showtime in order to ensure getting my favorite seat (located on the side in the back row). At the time, Winona's theatre consisted of 4 screens. To the right of the ticket counter, a poster for a movie that was yet to come was always posted. On many occasions, I would smile looking at it, usually a sequel that I wasn't aware was on its way.

I was never big on popcorn, so skipped the concession stand. Once in a great while, I would play Centipede. It never lasted long, though, as I wasn't very good at it. After going to the bathroom, I would pick up a brochure called Movie Facts, a publication still in existence; it was seeing it at the theatre last week that compelled this post.

Browsing it gave me something to do while waiting for the show to start. Reading the list of movies with short synopsis, I was apprised of what was on the horizon. Next, I looked at the celebrity profiles. Hopefully, by then, there were a number of people in the theatre. Back then, there was no before-show commercials, just silence which was gradually erased as more people arrived.

Sometimes I would be disappointed at the paucity of people who showed for an opening night presentation. On other evenings, the place was so crowded that I had to bear someone sitting next to me. Of course, when a relatively young woman sat at my side, I wasn't quite as bothered. I wouldn't start in on the candy until the movie started or, if I was itching for it, then the previews.

In the late 80's, two attractive girls in the class behind me worked at the ticket counter. One of the girls had sat in front of me in Algebra class. One afternoon, before class, sitting at my desk, she walked in and sang, "Hey Good Lookin, Whatcha got cookin, How about cooking something up for me...." I smiled, but always wondered if she'd been talking about me or some radical dude she'd met the night before.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Enter To Grow In Knowledge

The first library I remember going to was the one at my elementary school. It wasn't very big, but there were still plenty of tomes that interested me. The paperback rack had titles like "Toby Tyler" and "The Search for Planet X".

(I was captivated by the thought that there might be another planet beyond Pluto, which it turns out is not a planet after all).

One afternoon, a classmate named Jeff checked out an illustrated book about mythology. Noting the photographs of nude sculptures in it, a girl named Vicky said to him, "I know why you're getting that". A number of boys in my class were into the NFL, so liked to look at Football Digest. One of the books had two pictures of Johnny Carson in it. One showed what he looked like on TV, the other what he saw when he looked in the mirror.

I spent a great deal more time at the Senior High library. It's where I hung out while classmates were eating their lunch. I had a perfect spot in which to sit. It was at a table that had a bunch of reference books on its top shelf; the books perfectly obscured my face so that people generally couldn't see me. It was also much less distracting for me, not having to lift my head every time someone crossed my peripheral vision. One of my favorite things to look at were the World Almanac and the Information Please Almanac (I saw the latter at the public library recently and had to chuckle).

A guy who was one year ahead of me came through the library one afternoon, coughing loudly. He quickly left, but not before saying, "Smoker's cough..." I laughed for a number of seconds after hearing that one and it left such an impression that here I am describing it more than two decades later. A dude who apparently didn't like the look of my face once came up to me and asked if I'd heard the hit country song by Hank Williams Jr. called "Attitude Adjustment". He said that that's what I needed. In my last week there, I picked up the day's newspaper to read the review of "Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade". They panned it, but I just couldn't believe that Spielberg was gonna let me down. That evening, I went to it and was quite impressed.

During my early college days, I sought to find out what was up with the bloke that some refer to as God. I headed to the Winona Public Library and started with Raymond Moody's seminal 70's work, "Life After Life".

It dealt with a topic that hadn't been discussed much before then, the Near-Death Experience. Reading similar works by Moody afterward led me to believe that something was definitely going on.

The thing that really sold it, in my mind, were the profound changes that these people experienced after their NDE. How could they no longer be afraid of death? No longer concerned about having a job or money? Some probably wouldn't believe until they'd had the actual experience, but the thousands of reports persuaded me that when we die, we are opened up into new worlds. It was amusing reading reports of people who were atheists wondering how in the world they could still be existing, looking back on their still body.

After not going to the library for a number of years in the mid '00's because I didn't like the idea of having to return books, I started up again last winter and have been greatly enriched by it. My old friend, Tim, said awhile back that he was constantly reading books. I doubted that there were works out there that I'd be interested in reading. I've been pleasantly proven wrong, however.

Today, after getting a massage, I had one hour to find three good tomes at the public library. I went to the God section and after a couple minutes of browsing, found "Fingerprints of God". Happy that I'd found a compelling title, I headed for the music section, but not before glancing down at the bottom shelf of the new release table and seeing a book called "Thriller: The Musical Life of Michael Jackson". It deals with the making of one of the most influential recordings of all time, "Thriller", a disc I listen to to this day.

Finally, seeing a copy of it in the audiobook section and thinking it might be interesting to read, I checked out "Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream". This same author recently released a book called "Bright-Sided" whose subtitle is that Positive Thinking is Undermining America. That might be one to look at later this year.

Now, if I could just figure out a way to bring back the card catalog...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back Into the Way-Back Machine

Some have wondered how it is that I have such detailed access to events that have occurred in my life. I don't have a stack of journals in my basement; it comes almost exclusively from memory. The fastest way for me to access them is by seeing myself in a specific place.

For instance, if I project myself into my childhood bedroom, I can recall the time I played "Doctor" with a girl whose parents were friends with my parents. As she laid on the bed, I touched her bare chest. Suddenly I heard the door open, so quickly put my hand in my lap as if we had simply been conversing. Looking into my sister's bedroom, I see the diary she used to keep. It had a lock, but she didn't always put it to use. Curiosity compelled me to look at it a "couple" times.

Going into the dining room, I remember an evening in 1982 in which my cousin mentioned that the title of the upcoming Star Wars movie was going to be "Revenge of the Jedi", except he didn't pronounce Jedi correctly; he called it Jeedee. I enjoyed playing the children's version of the Jokers Wild game there.

One afternoon, as I read the novelization of "The Empire Strikes Back" at the dining room table, I came across a word I'd not heard before; "countenance" (it was referring to Princess Leia's face).

Heading upstairs to my parents' bedroom, I see the evening in which I, laying in a twin bed, dared my sister and brother, laying in a queen-size, to take their clothes off underneath the covers. They did so, but a moment later my father came into the room, saying that he heard what we'd been talking about through the vent; I suspect he was listening in standing next to the closed door. He gave a good little talk about how being naked is a sacred thing, something to be shared with another at a later time. Properly chided, I talked to my siblings about other topics.

Taking a look into the upstairs bathroom, I can see the time that my mom chewed me out because I'd left my underwear in there; we'd had a lady who was doing fix-up work for us and she must've had a gander. To this day, I wonder if they had skid marks.

Heading into my father's den, I see him doing some accounting work as the portable heater blows and a Gene Watson record plays. I visit for a few minutes before leaving him to his work.

Now, it's morning. I just woke up and am still in my pajamas. I bring the Saint Paul Pioneer Press in and browse it as I sit Indian-style next to the living room heater. Bill Diehl has a movie column that I read a couple times a week. After having pancakes for breakfast, I set off on my bike, eager for the next adventure.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Waiting For Godot

At this moment, I'm on top of the world and I don't mean that euphemistically (though I am happy to have today off). I am on the 18th floor of the Mayo Clinic; my love has a number of appointments here this afternoon. One side of this floor looks circa 1960's with old-fashioned chairs and only magazines to pass the time. There are a couple of Amish folks waiting to be seen. I did just observe something new, however. Instead of the nurse coming out and saying the patient's name when the time has come for their appointment, the patient is given a pager when she first checks in and it is then buzzed when magic time arrives.

The other side of the floor was built in the early '00's, so has lots of comfortable chairs, a number of widescreen TV's, and internet access. Despite this, everyone I'm looking at has their face stuck into a printed rag. From time to time, someone will gaze out the window at downtown Rochester. By rights, they should have exercise equipment here for people to utilize while waiting, but I suppose it's a liability issue. Sitting is not a very healthful thing to encourage, though. If people spent all their time in a chair reading, health would surely decline and that's not even including the lethargy that occurs.

An announcement was just made on the overhead speakers that a thunderstorm watch has been declared. I recognize the woman on the intercom; she's a friend on Facebook who I worked with from 2000-2004. I spent the first half hour of my time downtown walking to a number of places. I stopped by the library for a time, then strolled through the Civic Center where the Jehovah's Witnesses will be meeting this weekend. Next, I took a brief respite at Barnes & Noble where they have employees camped out at the entrance, eager to talk patrons into purchasing the Nook (an e-reader).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Myriads and Myriads of Songs

A number of weeks ago, as my wife and I waited at the car dealership for the paperwork to go through on her new car, I remembered that she had received an iPod nano earlier in the year as a 40th birthday present. She'd intended to use it when working out, but the car accident had made her trips to the gym become much less frequent.

Having nothing else to do (it was too hot out to walk), I dug into her purse and took a look at the tracks that had been downloaded by her brother-in-law. I chuckled as I saw that Lady Gaga's "Love Game", one of my favorites, was on there. I listened to it and then moved on to Kanye West's "Stronger". More than 1500 songs were on the device, mostly pop music that ranged from the 50's to present day.

A few days later, as I walked in a park while waiting for her to get through with a doctor's appointment, I found some great 80's gems on it: Simple Minds' "Alive and Kicking", Dwight Twilley's "Girls", and Mick Jagger's "Just Another Night", a song that was rolling through my head as I worked yesterday.

I started to see the value of utilizing such a contraption on a day-to-day basis. One thing I didn't like were the white put-em-in-your-ear buds. They didn't have the dynamic sound I was used to getting with my cover-the-entire-ear-itself phones. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my bigger headphones fit in the iPod's headphone port.

The last hurdle to truly enjoying it was adding some of my favorite tunes (I have more than 500 CD's). As I've noted a number of times in the past, I've never downloaded a song. This is no longer the case. I went to iTunes recently and, over the past few weeks, have put dozens of tracks from my personal collection onto the nano.

It's remarkable to me all the places in which I can use it. I listen to it when going out to play with the dog, when eating out on my own, at the movie theatre waiting for the show to start, doing grocery shopping, browsing for books at the library, taking a walk on my lunch break, posting to this site, and so on.

The only potential downside is the Nano's color:

But Lord knows it wouldn't be the first time that someone thought I was a Batty Boy.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Puppy Love

In the summer of 1983, my mom was no longer an active Jehovah's Witness; she said she no longer believed in it. It was during this time that my dad, along with his female Witness business partner, took us kids to the yearly convention in Wisconsin. We had the good fortune to be going with a couple girls who were my age. They would certainly make the trip much more interesting.

My dad's friend really knew how to drive in style; she had a blue Cadillac. On one occasion, in that huge back seat, we passed a city sign that said: Pop. 1532. I asked her what Pop. meant and she explained it to me. If I spent too much time in that car, I grew to feel quite nauseous. I don't recall ever barfing in it, however.

After several hours of driving that first day, we arrived at the hotel. The girl who was closest to my age, Melanie, had a conversation with me in the back of the Cadillac; my dad and the rest had headed to the office to check in. I was chewing on a large piece of gum. She mentioned that one of the reasons she was taking Spanish that fall was because she liked the idea of being able to swear at others in a different language.

At one moment, a huge piece of saliva (from the gum) came out of my mouth and fell onto her hand. I felt humiliated as she wiped the back of her hand on the underside of the car seat. We talked for another minute or two before heading into the hotel.

As day turned to night, my siblings and the two girls had great fun talking and watching TV. One of the movies that played as we visited was "Zapped" a cheese-tastic 80's flick which starred Scott Baio and Willie Aames. There'd be less time for fun the next day, but I was still looking forward to it.

We got up nice and early and headed to the center where the assembly for area Jehovah's Witnesses was taking place. We would be among hundreds of others who had the exact same views as us; one is not allowed to question the Witnesses' beliefs once baptized with them (even when the head honchos decide to change their minds about various issues; they call this "new light").

The real fun was had that evening as we looked for a place to eat. As we drew closer to the city's restaurant row, one of my favorite songs came on the radio: The Tubes' "She's A Beauty". To this day, listening to it takes me back to that summer evening.

We ended up eating at Showbiz Pizza, a choice I was ecstatic with as they had video games there. One of the newest games was Dragon's Lair. Instead of having typical video game graphics, it was animated like a cartoon. They also had MACH 3 which was a breakthrough game in that it used actual footage shot in a desert.

All this new technology made me happy that I was growing up when I was.

The next day, it was back to the assembly. Something interesting happened to me while there. I was sitting next to Melanie watching a drama; this is when Witnesses put on clothes from Biblical times and act out various things that occurred in the Bible.

At one point, I felt her foot on mine. I moved mine away, figuring she had accidentally moved hers there. A minute later, she again put her foot on mine. This time, I kept mine in place and quite enjoyed the sensation. I was now certain that she liked me (despite the saliva incident) and it felt great.

Later, we ate at Bobs' Big Boy where I had a juicy burger. Four of us kids had a booth to ourselves. As was typical in those days, there was a jukebox in which popular songs of the day could be played; Melanie played a popular country-pop song called "Snapshot".

As we headed home and I saw her resting on the other side of the car, my feelings were bittersweet. I was joyous that someone was taking an interest in me, but sad that we probably wouldn't be able to spend much time together in the months ahead; school would be starting soon.

As we drew closer to Winona, I saw a light coming from Sugar Loaf (it's the rock that's pictured on the cover of my book). I then remembered recently hearing that lights had been installed there; it was nice to see it all lit up. Melanie was woken up by our murmuring and though tired, also marveled at the sight. Though our trip was now over, I'd had a taste of love and looked forward to getting more of it in the future.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

My 2010 Vacation: Day 4

It took me a while to get to sleep on Saturday night, in no small part, I'm sure, because of the full day I had. Thus, when my alarm went off at around 7, I decided that I would miss the first speaker or two of the day. It wouldn't be a huge loss, I thought, after seeing five speakers the day before. Something made me get up and take a shower, however, and I'm glad I did. As I left the room, I again attached the "Tranquility" sign to the door. I felt no need for housekeeping to clean the sheets or switch out towels for the entire time I was there.

Debbie Ford, whose primary claim to fame is as a proponent of bringing forth our shadow self, that is, the parts of us that we don't want others to know about, came out just before 8:30am. I can be seen in the 2nd row of the picture below wearing my Buddhist-monk-wannabe orange long-sleeved shirt. Debbie is standing at the keyboard next to a redheaded musician.

There was an even smaller percentage of men in Ford's clinic than there was for the conference at-large. Nonetheless, I was quite interested in learning about the Dark (Shadow) Side. I wasn't as taken with her humor as others, but that's probably because her jokes favored a different sense of humor, the type that women typically get more out of.

One of her main points is that if we repress any part of ourselves, that aspect seeks to be expressed in some way. It's best, she said, to claim that part of yourself and to let it speak. Over the last 20 minutes, we did an exercise where we took a part of ourselves that we didn't like and told it that we loved it, that we understood why it did the things it did. I could hear tears being shed as the meditation continued.

The most cathartic was the ending when Ford told us to embrace the person next to us and say, "My love for you is unconditional". I melted into the young lady next to me and we held each other for at least 30 seconds. I didn't know that person, but I couldn't help but feel deep love for her. It was remarkable. Ford then told us to hug another, then still others. The room was healing before my very eyes and I could now see why so many felt that Ford was da bomb.

Afterward, I had her sign my copy of her first book, a book that I never finshed, but may complete now that I've seen what she's capable of. She asked what I thought of the exercise. I said, in a somewhat clinical tone, "It was very effective. Thank you".

The next big shot I was scheduled to see was Michael Traub, a guy who was said to be able to channel a spirit named O'Brien. I wanted, however, to see Michael Tamura again. He had given me so many laughs the day before that I wanted more. Walking to where people were letting him in, I saw that it wasn't just any old volunteer looking to see if the people coming in had Tamura's name on it. No, it was the lady in charge of the whole kit and kaboodle.

Not wanting to mess with her, I headed over to see the other Michael. I found a seat in the 3rd row and looked forward to seeing a real-life channeler. Traub described how he cultivated the ability to do this, to allow a spirit to take over and speak through him while he, Traub, was in, as he described it, some type of blissful netherworld.

We were warned that O'Brien had a very playful sense of humor which was more than fine with me. Traub said that people shouldn't ask him after it was over what he thought about the session as he would have no idea what they were talking about. When he opened his eyes, he said, it would be like if someone woke you up from a nap, but with dozens of people looking at you. The more he talked about the process, the more I wanted to experience O'Brien and let me tell you it was quite a treat.

At first, just a few hands went up, but when the audience realized that they might be able to get answers to spiritual questions they'd been having about their life and loved ones, more than half the room had their hands outstretched. I raised my hand not once the entire weekend. I had no questions at all. I was, as the kids like to say, "Good".

One thirty-something black man asked what he might do to have a more rewarding life. O'Brien said that he doesn't typically say this, but that the man would benefit most from a long-term relationship. A lady who came with her twin asked if they had been together in previous lifetimes. O'Brien said, "Yes", and that they would continue to do so, that having a twin was one of the closest relationships possible. An older lady was wondering if she'd ever find Mr. Right. O'Brien said, "Are you familiar with ----?" (the man who needed to get into a relationship pronto). Another asked if her family's business would be up and running by 2011. He said, "Yes, you will get the business off the ground before the world is destroyed" (alluding to the 2012 predictions). I laughed heartily at that one. He talked about going "on-line" as if he were only vaguely familiar with it, almost as if it were still a somewhat unknown thing in the spirit world.

Someone asked about a car accident and O'Brien said that sometimes "accidents" happen, that the person who died in the crash hadn't intended to. This was news to me as I'm of the belief that nothing happens without the soul's permission, if you will. Something happening that's not supposed to, would, in my mind, make it seem as if God had made a mistake, which I don't think is possible. But that's just me. I was all smiles as Traub came out of the trance to much applause. I was asked later if what Traub did appeared to be authentic. I said that it did.

After a light lunch, it was time for another 90 minutes with Neale. Again, he came out early to greet others. I was pleased that he had some stuff I hadn't heard before. He mentioned "The Secret", probably the biggest-selling "spiritual" book of the last few years. He felt that it relied too much on getting material things. It showed a guy manifesting a new car, a woman getting diamonds, and even a kid getting a shiny bike. I chuckled as he said these things as I'd had the same problem with the book. Neale asked where the wishes were for world peace, for loving everyone, for sharing with others as opposed to obtaining.

He concluded with three ways that the kingdom of God could be brought to the Earth: first, by looking into another's eyes for more than three seconds. Just then, I looked back at a woman for a few seconds. I didn't really do it the way Neale intended, though, as I also tilted my head a bit like Larry David does when he's looking into a person's eyes to see if they're lying to him. Guess I'll have to work on that. The second step is to smile at that person. "This is dangerous stuff", he said. Finally, if appropriate, touch that person. A simple touch on the shoulder can do wonders for the recipient, especially if they are having a rough day, or life, for that matter.

As he signed books a short time later, I asked if I could have a pic taken of he and me. His wife said, "Do you want the three of us or just the big guy?" I said the three of us would be great and so it was done.

As I waited in line, a short time later, for Deepak Chopra's keynote, I struck up a conversation with a young teacher. She said it was the first time she'd been at the event and was so glad that she came. The sweetness of the people I met over the weekend just cannot be overstated.

Deepak's speech would be the end of the road for most of the people there; only a few hundred would be staying for the post-conference workshops. I'd seen Chopra two summers before, but he brought some new stuff to the table.

In particular, he had a chart on what specific things made people happy. At one point, he asked, "What makes people more happy, shopping or sex?" I shouted out, "Chocolate". He also showed a twenty minute video of a brain scientist who had a stroke and was privy to what it's like to let go of the analytical mind while it was occuring. Her bliss was so great as her brain was hemorraging that she was tempted to not seek help. She said we can access this place of peace anytime and wrote a book about it called "My Stroke of Insight". Once his keynote ended, I had him sign a book of his called "The Way of the Wizard", a work that my mother had given me in 1995!

I headed back up to my room for a short time where I sought to relax before going out for a bite to eat. I looked out at the spectacular pre-sunset. Planes flew back and forth in the skies, Lombard being but a dozen or so miles from O'Hare airport. I felt a surge of bliss as I simply laid on my bed looking out from the fifth floor.

A half hour later, I set out for Popeye's. Having my first taste of it three days before, I wanted to experience it once more before leaving Illinois. I'm not sure if it was the food itself, the spiritual high I was on, or some combination of both, but that meal was one of the best I've ever had. I took at least 15 minutes to eat a breast, a wing, and a corn on the cob. I was in awe at just how good it all tasted, "Wow" being the word that was going through my mind most frequently.

I walked back into the hotel lobby a short time later and looked to see if anyone I knew was at the bar. On the way in, I noticed Neale sitting at a table in the hotel's restaurant with a number of other guests, having a jolly good time. I also noticed Michael Tamura and his wife near the entrance. You gotta love the accessibility that the conference offers. I was tempted to go up to Tamura and tell him how incredibly funny I found him, but felt an email would suffice.

I walked back toward the ballrooms to see where the following day's conference would be. While strolling there, I noticed a lady breast feeding her baby, but with her breast fully exposed. Not wanting to do a double take, I continued on my way. After reading some more of "Kick Me" while seated in the lobby, I headed up to bed for my last night of pleasure at Celebrate Your Life.