Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Soulful Trip to Chicago - Part VII

The next three lectures represented the heart of my Saturday, all given by men that I'd seen before. It started off with a visit with Michael Traub, a man whose talent is to allow himself to be possessed by a man with an Irish accent who passed many moons ago. I'd found the spirit extremely amusing, probably funnier than most stand-ups the previous year, so was looking for more laughter as morning wound down.

I found a good seat in the second row between two younger women. I told them a bit about what to expect and to have a question in mind right away so that the mic runner could make sure to get to them early on before the whole room had their hands raised. The college-age lady to my right had a great deal of excitement on her face as she eagerly awaited hearing the wisdom that was to come forth for her that day. I was somewhat envious of the joy she displayed, but happy that I was able to share it in some small way.

She asked if she would be happy in the profession she'd gone to school for. O'Brien, the spirit, said, "There is no right or wrong way to go. But will you be happy there? No". She was given direction on a path to pursue that would give her more fulfillment and she quickly wrote it down once O'Brien moved on to the next person.

The lady to my left also had questions about what path to pursue career-wise. O'Brien asked if she was drawn to music as she had been a composer in past lives. A bit to her chagrin, he also stated that she and a friend liked to steal from villagers during medievel times. I didn't laugh as much as I had the year before, but seeing people get suggestions on ways to live more happily was enjoyable in its own right.

By this time, the neck ache that had bothered me the day before had crept back. Since the massage gals were located just a few feet from where Traub's conference was letting out, I hurried to the check-in and said I needed a massage. Wondering if they'd let me be seen a second time, I was glad that the lady in charge wasn't the same one as the day before.

I was directed to where a young lady was giving a massage to an older woman. I was only too happy to wait 10 minutes before she worked on my upper body. After telling her about the discomfort I was experiencing, she really went to town. She'd done something I'd not experienced before; going deep into my armpit to help alleviate the pain. What she was doing hurt, but I wasn't going to complain. She said to let her know if it did, but like the most stubborn man, my lips were sealed. I thanked her as I headed to the banquet room to have lunch.

Like prior years, it consisted of a turkey wrap, a soda, potato chips, an apple, and chocolate chip cookies. I found a table that wasn't completely filled and began by taking all the cheese off the turkey wrap. Silly dairy industry, wanting us to ingest things that come from the tits of another species. I conversated a bit with two ladies sitting to my left, one was from the Houston area, the other from nearby.

One of the main questions that attendees would ask each other is what speakers they'd seen and which ones they were scheduled to see. To do this quickly, all one had to do was look closely at the badge that the other person was wearing; it listed their complete itinerary. In some ways, this was like looking into their future. You could see the laughter they would experience if they were seeing Michael Tamura later that day, which I was scheduled for, or the talk about 2012 if you had plans to see the man whose charisma drove many of the women there crazy: Gregg Braden.

I noticed that the lady two seats over was scheduled to see Neale like me, so I asked if she wanted me to save a seat for her. She said she'd liked that, so I headed to the bathroom before waiting in line for the big guy. Coming in behind me was a young mixed-racial woman who'd brought a yoga mat with her. She said the yoga class offered that morning was fantastic.

We were let in about 15 minutes later. I got front row, center and saved the two seats to my right for the lady from lunch as well as the Latino who'd I'd had lunch with the day before. The jaw on the lady from that day's lunch dropped a bit when she walked in and saw that she was going to be sitting so close. She was like, "Damn...".

As Neale greeted people, the Latino asked if I'd take her picture with Neale. I said, "Sure" and got in close for a good shot. I said, "OK, ready, 1....2....3" and pressed down on the digital camera button. It hadn't take the pic for some reason, however. They said to try it again, which I did, but the same thing happened. The lady's face showed a bit of strain now, afraid that she wasn't going to be pictured next to her new favorite author. Neale asked that the lady take a picture of me to be sure the camera was working properly. She did and it did. It turned out that I wasn't holding down on the button like I should have been. No harm, no foul, however, as the third time wound up being the charm.

The lady from that day's lunch then asked if I could take her pic with Neale which I did. This was followed by another lady doing the same. I started to feel like I was the go-between for Neale and his many fans. Neale began his 90-minute discussion a minute or two later.

The subject was one I'd heard him speak of numerous times before. It involved having a conversation with God. He talked of how many religions don't believe that this is possible for Joe Schmo. I mean, they believe it's possible for God to communicate with man as they have books that were obviously written by men, but for the most part, these religions feel that that stopped at some point. The point that it stopped would depend on what religion one belonged to: depending on your disposition, it could be John the Revelator, Joseph Smith, or Ronald Reagan.

For those wondering, the exercise done as the seminar wound done was one in which a person asked a question they'd like the answer to. Notebooks were then put down as Neale led the group in a 8 to 10 minute meditation. As we came out of the meditation, we were told to write the answer that came to mind. The replies that many got sounded like they came from a very high place, as if God had actually spoken to them. This makes the point that all the answers we need lie within us.

I had two books for Neale to sign, so hung around afterward as he headed to a table where he would be affixing his John Hancock. What a laugh, I thought, if he signed his books by writing, "God". While he was signing my books, I said, "That purple shirt looks great on you". Neale responded with, "My wife said the same thing". Once he was finished, I said, "See you tomorrow" and headed to my next workshop.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Soulful Trip to Chicago - Part VI

I'd all but written off going to see Iyanla Vanzant on Saturday morning. Not being familiar with her work and having the time that she would begin speaking changed from 9am to 8:30, I figured with the dry throat I'd exhibited on Friday, it'd be a good idea to sleep a couple extra hours and be ready for the breakouts that began at 11:30.

I woke up earlier than expected, however (at about 7:30) and decided to start getting ready, still not planning to go see her. I did something while on the trip that I very rarely do at home: shave every day. I wanted to feel ultra clean and pure each morning that I attended the workshops and was greatly helped in this endeavor by removing the hair from my face.

I heard people leaving and heading to Vanzant's talk as I brushed my teeth and so on. I started thinking about going, but knew I'd have to sit in the back side of the room if I did so. I was all ready at about 8:15 and figured, "What the hell, let's check this one out".

Surprisingly, I was able to get a seat in about the 10th row; it's easier to find seats if you're just a group of one as opposed to two or more, definitely a perk of going solo. As I waited for the show to get underway, a lady walked up front who had a shirt that said, "Love is my religion".

A young man who'd I'd seen at Neale's all-day the day before sat next to me. He told me he was originally from Denmark, but now lived in the States. I asked, "Where are you living?" and he said, "Where I am". Damn, he was good.

Iyanla came out to much applause a few minutes later. Most appeared to be quite familiar with her due to the fact that she appeared on Oprah more than a dozen times.

I'd heard of the book "One Day My Soul Just Opened Up", but didn't know any of the specifics of her life. She came out dressed all in white and wound up being a hoot. There were some aspects that I didn't particularly care for such as sometimes having an attitude when not being respected by others, but I can't say I've not done the same thing in similar circumstances.

Throughout the weekend, I noticed that certain words spoken by the speaker would queue up songs in my mind having to do with the words said. Whenever someone said, "Joy" which was frequent, I would think of "General Joy" by Tori Amos. When someone said, "Benefit", I thought of the Beatles' "Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite". When I heard "Make Me Better", I thought of the rap song of the same name. I wondered if others had the same experience or didn't know enough songs for this to happen to them all the time.

One of her discussions really hit the mark. She told us to frequently ask ourselves, "How many strangers can you make smile today?" One of the greatest joys in my life is making people laugh, even if it's at my own expense. Something I need to work on is smiling more at people.

She took a number of questions after she concluded the regular portion of her talk. A man from Maryland said he'd been married for 40 years to the same woman, a woman who sleeps with one of Iyanla's books under her pillow. He said that though they have separate bedrooms, they have a great sex life. This got a number of laughs as you might expect and I did a little whistle looking back at him. Vanzant kept the laughter coming by saying, "I wanna see the woman you're having sex with". The wife, embarassed beyond belief, rose a few inches, but didn't have the nerve to stand fully.

Another great quote she gave was, "Live your life with some pizazz and excitement! You're gonna die. Get over it. You might even be going to hell!". A great sense of humor and one I really resonated with. As people came up to her to sign books, there would be a number who had tears in their eyes. Iyanla responded by saying, "People look at me and start crying! What does that mean?"

As I left the ballroom, I was extremely pleased that my body had gotten me up when it did. Seeing this beautiful black woman had gotten my day off to a great start.

Monday, July 04, 2011

A Soulful Trip to Chicago - Part V

I wasn't particularly looking forward to any of the four keynotes that were taking place that weekend. I was either not very familiar with their work or they would be discussing subjects that held no interest for me (Marianne Williamson talking about weight loss, in particular). But there is great energy sitting in a room with hundreds of other people, so I got in line at a resonable time on Friday evening so that I might get a decent seat.

I wound up sitting in the aisle in the ninth row next to a couple of ladies from Iowa. It was their first time at the conference and I was happy to fill them in on some of the things that would be taking place. Sitting on the aisle is really a great place to be as you pretty much have a straight- on view of the lecturer. The speaker's name was Doreen Virtue.

I asked the lady next to me if she believed that was her real last name. Seemed a lot to live up to, if you ask me. Doreen's specialty was angels, a subject that I just don't particularly care about. Maybe I have guardian angels, but so what? I believe that everything that happens in our life is for our highest good. One of the first things she said is that people have emotional issues to work through. Just then, I thought, "Not me". Well, not really, anyway.

In the morning, she says she meditates before reading email which seemed a good idea. This allowed her to not get worked up by having a negative reaction to some correspondence that she received. She said that most all of us have some type of block, be it finance-related, having to do with sex, family, or one's job. We were to ask ourselves what our particular block was and then, "What blessing is this block bringing me?", a nice way, I thought, of seeing that there is some good in every thing that one would consider bad.

As the lecture continued, I noticed a guy kneeling on the floor and then getting up again around the periphery of Virtue. He was taking pics documenting this momentous occasion. I smiled as he was using one of those old-fashioned cameras that you can hear the shutter go off on. He was also wearing a neck band that said Canon on it. To top it off, he had one of those beanie-type hats on his heads. Admiring his style, I thought, "God, I wish I could pull off that look".

After the two hours were up, I was glad to have seen Doreen, but certainly had no plans to buy any of her books. One of the things that bothered me is that most of the angels she talked of were male. Why angels needed to have genitals bothered me to no end.

I headed for the parking ramp where a White Castle was waiting just a few miles away. I listened to Lady Gaga's new one as I drove there. Like the summer before, I ordered four sliders and some fries. The other patrons were total cliches' of the type of clientele one would expect to see there on a Saturday night. A couple booths away were some 20-something Indian males and a chubby stoner-type was chowing down at one of the high-tops.

I felt a tinge of loneliness as I returned to the hotel room. Turning the light on and having no one there was not something I was used to. The good thing about the full scheduling of the conference is that it doesn't allow one much time to be homesick. It was much easier to get to sleep that night than it had been the day before.

I looked forward to seeing two of my favorites from last year the next day and was so underwhelmed at the thought of seeing an Oprah fave (Iyanla Vanzant) first thing in the morning that I set my alarm for when she would be through speaking. Getting a little more shut-eye would be more valuable in the long run, I thought, than seeing the "One Day My Soul Opened Up" author speak.