I was in the lobby at around 7:45. Not many attendees had congregated yet and there was no wait time at all to get my badge for the weekend. Strike that, there was a wait as the lady who searched for my badge was looking under Dickson, not Dixon.
I next went to the gift shop where I bought some cough drops. Priced 33% more that what they'd cost at the supermarket, I had no choice but to purchase them if I wanted to keep my mouth moist. I then staked out my spot near the door to the conference room as I waited to be seated. Three women were in front of me, which would mean I'd most likely get to sit in the front row.
The weekend was going to be kicked off with an all-day workshop with my favorite author, Neale Donald Walsch (he wrote the late 90's classic "Conversations With God"). This would be the fifth event that I'd be seeing him at.
A woman of Hispanic descent came in line behind me. I asked how she'd come to know Neale's work. She said she was very new to it and like me, had signed up to see him every day that weekend. A couple of older ladies, twins, came up to the redhead who was first in line and hugged her. They'd obviously met at previous events. I didn't think it fair when they both took spots up front with her, but didn't think it was worth saying anything.
We were led into the room relatively late as Neale likes to greet people before they come in. When his wife arrived, she recognized me, smiled, and extended her hand to me. I wound up sitting in front, on one side by a lady who attended the all-day last year and on the other by a woman who'd attended the year before. I was embraced by the one from 2009; not surprisingly, she told me a short time later that giving hugs to people regularly had become a part of her spiritual practice. As I left to go to the bathroom, Neale spotted me and said with a smile on his face, "You again?" I said, "Great to see you, good to see you" as I touched his shoulder.
He was scheduled to talk about soul contracts which are arrangements made before we are born in which we decide what souls we'll be working with in life and in what ways. It took him a while to get to this topic, however, as he wanted to give those present some background on his life.
Like the previous year, he didn't want to give a morning break as that chews up 20 minutes that we could be learning or as he would say, remembering. I knew I wouldn't make it to lunch without hitting the head, so just like a movie, timed my departure to when a boring part came up. I chose to go when he started talking about the parable of The Little Soul and the Sun.
You can read it in full here. I'd heard it a number of times before, so knew I wasn't missing much by leaving at that time. As I exited the room, I heard him say, "He's heard this one before!"
Throughout the morning, I took a number of cough drops and my throat gradually got better. I wasn't out of the woods, however, as my neck had started hurting. I chalked it up to driving more than six hours the day before. If I kept my neck positioned a certain way, I was alright, but decided that I'd sign up to get a 10-minute massage that afternoon with the organization that was relieving physical pain for those that needed it that weekend.
One of the nuggets that Neale shared with us was to smile five times a day for no good reason. I'm doing that very thing as I'm writing this. Would you do the same as you read this sentence, dear reader?
Since it's been two years since his last book, I was glad to hear that his new one comes out this fall, cleverly titled "The Storm Before the Calm".
We broke for lunch at 12:30. I dined with the Latino lady as we discussed each other's lives. Lunch consisted of a salad that one put together while in a buffet line. To make sure I wouldn't get hungry that afternoon, I ate something I'd not had in many, many months: a dinner roll. After she cleaned her plate, she said that she wanted to do some shopping; they have a number of vendors there, not to mention books by all the authors speaking that weekend.
I went to where the massages were given out and was pleased that I only had to wait a couple minutes. I'd never had a chair massage before; I always have ones in which I lay down. Beggars can't be choosy, however, so I sat in the chair as I told the young woman that my neck was bothering me.
It may be apparent by now that I wasn't really encountering any males at the conference. This is a happy by-product of being on a spiritual path. Only about one out of every ten attendees is male and we are frequently complimented on having the balls to do so.
The massage didn't completely alleviate the discomfort, but I was so pleased at getting some relief that I gave the masseuse five dollars as a "donation".
As I returned to the conference room, I had no idea that Neale would wind up calling me to the front of the room before the day was out to give a real-life example of a powerful spiritual truth.