I'm more than a little ashamed to admit that in the early morning hours on Sunday, I had my arms around the body pillow that the Westin had provided for its guests. It's hard to deny the appeal of having one's arms around something. It's what they're for, after all; my Bible tells me so.
I woke up nice and early for my last day at Celebrate Your Life. While brushing my teeth, I felt a loose particle on the upper right side, so spit it out. It hit the sink and went straight down the drain; kinda like Obama these days. Once I finished brushing, I felt something missing from that same area and shuddered as I realized that what I'd spit out was actually a filling. I wasn't going to be the man today that I was just a few hours before.
Knowing there was nothing I could do about it that day and feeling no pain, I headed downstairs to see Neale for the last time that weekend. I was happy to see no one waiting yet, so was assured a good seat. A forty-something who came up behind me was in the mood to chat, so I told her how I came upon Neale and asked how she did the same.
As it grew closer to Go Time, the Wisconsin native wondered why we hadn't been seated yet. I told her that the room had to be specially prepared as Neale liked to open each workshop by doing five minutes of stand-up. She totally bought it as I laughed.
I got my usual front aisle seat and readied myself for more wisdom from on high. Below is a pic of Neale gesticulating for all to see (I can be seen in front wearing an orange shirt. Wearing orange means one's serious about their spirituality and is, in most cases, on the right path. Monks are a prime example of this):
The subject that morning was on the Mechanics of the Mind and the System of the Soul. At one point, he pointed in my direction and said, "This guy's probably thinking, 'I didn't know this was going to be a college psychology course'". He talked of how, many times, we assume something is true when it really isn't. For example, there were a couple girls from the year before who I felt were blowing me off, but it turned out that they weren't; I was able to catch up with them later that day. It was a bit humbling to know that I was just as likely to fall victim to the "apparent truth" conundrum as those of a less spiritual bent.
Being in the front allows for much more interaction with Neale. He talked of how various behaviors don't work as well in different contexts. Being sensuous at home is a fine thing (unless the mother-in-law is visiting, of course), but doing it in a restaurant might lead to a slapped face. Neale demonstrated this by leaning forward and acting as if he was going to strike me. I playfully backed up a bit as he did so.
It's much easier to really listen when one is sitting close as well. In one instance, Neale asked the group what the mind helps us to do. Remembering the definition he'd given us an hour before, I didn't hesitate to say, "It helps us to survive". Neale replied with, "Somebody's paying attention!" I gave a thumbs-up. I admit, it's great being a teacher's pet.
As the seminar ended, I headed off to see Michael Tamura again. I took one last look at Neale signing books before continuing down the hall. One of the biggest laughs I got was when one of the older ladies who'd cut to the front of the line at Neale's all-day two days before, went outside to have a smoke. The wind was strong as her every effort to light a cigarette failed. I physically stopped to see how things turned out. This exact same scenario happened there a few years before; it may have even been the same lady. She wound up going behind a column and getting it lit there. The show being over, I continued on.
There weren't many seats open in the first few rows of Tamura's 'shop, so I opted for the sixth or seventh row next to a nice-looking lady from Minneapolis. She asked where my significant other was. I said that she'd been to this conference in '08 and that it saved money if, while I went to this, she saw her sister who lives just a few miles down the road and who she rarely sees. This answer didn't completely satisfy her. She was surprised to hear that I planned to drive the six hours home that night. I said that I'd done it thrice before and that it was cheaper than flying. I did understand the appeal, however, of taking a plane from Bloomington straight on through to Chi-Town.
Tamura was introduced a few minutes later and got to work on educating us. Below is a pic of the three of us:
He had the lady next to me laughing, not least when he said, "Do you know how you become an advanced student of mine? By attending more than one of my workshops".
As he looked across the room, he said that all of us have had multiple lives, both as women and men. A number of traits I have make me all but certain that I've experienced womanhood. He described a "platoon" of souls waiting to be incarnated, excited at the opportunity to experience physical life. Many cry that they didn't pick their parents when, in actuality, according to Tamura, they did.
Typically, parents are chosen that will most help the soul in experiencing spiritual growth, so if you have difficult parents, ultimately, it was to your highest benefit. What value is there, after all, in having a mom and dad who are perfect? Tamura said that he sometimes helps these souls find parents. When questioned about possibilities, he'll say, "I know a couple suckers". He was joking, of course, but can you imagine giving birth to a soul who was once, say, Genghis Khan's brother?
One of the best points made is that saints weren't always saints. They all had to go through trials and tribulations in which they hurt others. Even Jesus wasn't without sin. The audience was rapt as Tamura said that he was Mongolian in a prior lifetime. He had a lot of power and misused it by causing people that weren't in his tribe to be hurt. At that time, he believed in separation, that his people were superior to others. It took awhile, but he was eventually able to see that none of us is more deserving of life and love than any other.
Once the workshop ended, I headed to the large room where a small boxed lunch was served. As I headed to a table to eat with the 'Sconnie native, I touched the shoulder of one of the ladies I'd been sitting with in the evenings.
One of the reasons people seem to like to talk to me is because of how readily I can bring up pop cultural references that pertain to the period of time that the other is talking about. For example, the lady at lunch said she read some spiritual works as a teen in the 70's. The first thing I asked was if she'd read Jonathan Livingston Seagull. A minute later, I brought up the Seth material. I asked what kind of music she liked back then, giving examples like the Eagles, James Taylor, and Fleetwood Mac.
The last time I got a haircut, from a woman who'd I worked with at another job, she said that my memory of details is amazing, that I'm like an encyclopedia. With the advent of Google, I suppose this is less compelling than it once was, but it still makes me a curiosity at dinner parties.
Once I finished lunch, I headed to the lobby for a few minutes' walk before the next seminar. I saw Tamura walking my way and said hi to him. He replied in kind as I was now just minutes from what would be the most memorable workshop I'd experience that weekend, certainly the most adrenaline-inducing.