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Wednesday, March 18, 2015


I’m going to tackle everybody’s favorite topic today, death and dying!  What could be more fun than that?  The fact is, I consider myself rather a death expert.  As painful as it is to lose loved ones (I’ve got a PhD in the field) I have never shied away from the understanding that death is inevitable, not something to be fought at all costs (obviously, this has to be decided by individuals on a case by case basis).

For in fact, we all get to die someday!  Not our consciousness, which goes on forever (energy can neither be created nor destroyed), as it existed before you were born, and will continue after you release your mortal coil.  But all bodies do.  They transmute. Transform.  Transcend.  Ascend. Depending on your style.

The body morphs daily.  From the day you’re born the clock starts ticking.  We consider the first 40 years or so of aging to be acceptable and cute (you’re coming into your own, growing to maturity, coming into your power) and the last 40 (or 60) years of evolving to be “not so cute” despite the accretion of wisdom and experience. We are no different from flowers that bloom then wither.  What's so bad about that?  Consider that while no one likes the idea of dying, that death itself may really not be so bad.  

I recently referred to one of my gym teachers as middle-aged, “You know, she’s 50 or 60.”

My friend’s husband said, “60 is not middle aged.”

“Well, people die at 70, right?  So, middle aged is what, 35?” You wanna be middle aged at 50 and a senior at 60, go ahead!  Not me, sucker.  I’m just me.  The numbers change.  I don’t.  Though I do get cuter, wiser, more playful and fun.  Time has served me well.  Are you allowing it to serve you?  That’s what it’s here for.  Time and space are psychological constructs, and the aging body is a reminder that we are not here forever.  A body comes with built in planned obsolescence.  Human existence is a limited time offer.  So make hay (or wine) while the sun shines.

By me, middle-age is a vague, useless and insulting term.  It’s neither here nor there, neither up nor down.  There are only two kinds of ages as far as I’m concerned.  You’re younger or older, alive or dead, how’s that?  And from what I hear, you’re more alive in many ways when you’re dead than when you’re in a physical body.  I read that dying is like taking off a tight pair of shoes or sinking into a hot bath.  It’s relief.  Think of how heavy you feel after you come out of the water.  You’re leaden.  That’s physical life.  Leaving your body makes you leaven, so you can go to heaven!  (sue me). 

Read The Afterlife of Billy Fingers by Annie Kagan for an uplifting and totally unique view of the after life.  It’s surreal and psychedelic.  And for those who are intrigued with this field, try Saved by the Light by Dannion Brinkley.  Having physically died and come back (in a hospital where it was medically verified) he’s now a huge Advocate of the After World in hospices.  He works as a cheerleader of sorts, a Lobbyist for Life Everlasting, reassuring those that are close to transitioning that a wild and wonderful ride awaits them.  

The constantly transforming body is an invitation to remember that you are not the body.  You are having an experience of life through the body, like a tourist on a cruise boat, from which you disembark when you’re done with the ride.  It’s that simple. Just bounce off the boat. You’re still you.  You never were the boat, but it allowed you to have unique experiences by offering new vistas through its portholes.  The body cycles through seasons just like everything else does on this planet.  Spring, summer, fall and winter.  But out of death and winter life springs again.  That’s how we roll here on Planet Earth.  And Easter is just around the corner.  Jesus is the God of Resurrection, and so are we. 

We die a little every day.  We leave bits of our bodies behind when we go to the bathroom, releasing undigested food, toxins, and dead cells so we can renew, rebuild and refresh in the now.  The subtle bodily changes that happen daily are a continuous process we pay no attention to.  They are little deaths. Little births.  We are constantly regenerating, revitalizing and rebooting.

We don’t make monuments to our offal.   So why do we do so with our ultimate “b.m.” the “body movement” of releasing spirit from matter, and allow the body to go to the recycling plant, like we do with old cars?  Why don’t we “flush”? Because we over identify with the body, the ego and personality, but these are merely aspects of our physical life, not our True Self. People get attached to their cars and homes too, but if you want the new (or even if you don’t) you have to release the old eventually.  Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional.  Allow yourself to be upcycled.

I watched the one-hour documentary A Will For The Woods about the green burial movement. The film made me a bit maudlin (my mother died of cancer when I was 22, and I was intimately involved in her day-to-day care until the end, working with a hospice.  I also shopped around for her cremation while she was dying, a bitter task if ever there was one) and nauseous (I’m not big on corpses).  But when I shared my movie recommendation with friends, it struck a real chord with many. There’s something grievously wrong with our current funeral practices. 

This is an important issue for people to ponder. Our funeral industry is incredibly toxic to the environment. The concept of "preserving the remains" is something people really have to think about, too. The soul has left. The body disintegrates and becomes new life, if we let it do so naturally. "Preserves" are for fruit, not people. A Will for the Woods shows how we can nourish the land with green burial practices, instead of filling it with casket parking lots.  In the course of the film a forest is saved from being clear-cut when someone opens a green burial ground.

A Family Undertaking is also a fine documentary about families performing natural home rituals for their dead the way many do with home births.  There are even certified death “midwives”.

Funerals, like weddings, are big business.  And they are not unrelated.  There’s often something to prove in both cases, keeping up with the Joneses, trying to impress, trying to prove how much you loved your dead (maybe you did, maybe you didn’t, but you can certainly put on a good show).  And show it is.  My uncle was laid out with a rosary, and while he could hardly be called a regular churchgoer, don’t you think the funeral home could have at least gotten the religion of the dead guy right?  He was Greek Orthodox, not Catholic (though my cousin said the rosary was appropriate, I don’t understand why).  No disrespect to my uncle, but there are other symbols more representative of his life than a rosary, like a remote control.  We need to invest in life, not death, and in marriage, not weddings.  (I like a nice party, but you know what I mean).

I’m particularly perplexed by the way Christians clutch at the corpse.  Seems rather hypocritical since they believe the soul is eternal.  Why do they cling to the cast off shell?  It’s false idolatry.  Worshipping the corpse is illogical.  And yes, I get it, more than logic is involved here, but the “dead look” alone should clue them in to the fact that the person they loved is no longer there.  The house they knew is barely standing, it’s propped up by stilts, and no one is home.  Anyone who’s ever seen the corpse of their loved one knows the vacated body is a poor facsimile of the live version.  No better than a statue in a wax museum.

The time to throw money at the dead is when they’re ALIVE.  You think their spirit is really gonna care about all the cash you throw at their corpse?  How about indulging and embracing your loved ones soundly while they’re still ambulatory? 

The time to respect the body is when it is alive. The body is merely a means of transportation. Is your car squeaky clean or a hot mess?  A car says a lot about its owner, and so does a body.  Do you feed yours well?  Give it exercise?  Do you nourish it emotionally, love it, give it rest, care, offer it peace and well-being, or do you run it off the road in an attempt to reach “perfection” or to escape life altogether?  I’m talking about those who can’t sit still, who can’t “be” in their bodies, who must “do, do, do” all the time.  They are trying to get out of their bodies, running endlessly, exercising forever, punishing, pushing, denying and depriving.  There is tremendous discomfort in this world, and much of it originates with our uneasiness with the human vehicle, our home while we’re physically alive. 

We either worship or abhor the flesh.  The Church declared the world dirty and sinful (and women in particular since we generate life here, which, in fact, makes us God), and we’ve been punishing our physical selves ever since.  Since it’s been already condemned, we relegate it to its sinful purposes, sex, degeneracy, and death.  Hence our obsession with pornography, fetishes, pedophilia, bestiality, violence, terror, blood, cruelty, and more blood.  If we’re in a sinful world, we might as well dance with the devil, right?  What the hell is going on?  Fear and contempt of the physical is what, and the Church is responsible for this disgraceful trend.  The ecclesiastical premise is absurd, for God created this world, and if it’s bad then blame the manufacturer.  Those who understand that Spirit is Everything understand the world’s Divine, if ephemeral, nature.  The world is illusory.  Transitory.  Magical.  Mysterious.  And magnificent. 

Though the Church may have started this ugly trend of bodily and worldly hatred, we’ve been keeping it alive by not questioning it.  As a result, we have poisoned the physical world by showing it no respect whatsoever.

We don’t like decay, do we?  We want everything squeaky clean, germ free and brand spanking new in our culture, including corpses and our women, who are pressured to douche, diet, pluck, weave, braid, extend, sanitize, bleach, reduce, enhance, remove, wax, deodorize, dye and paint their natural born selves.  Most of these chemical cosmetic processes, we are now learning, are quite carcinogenic. 

While I’m opposed to worshipping the flesh and embalming it while its alive (Botox, Restylane, tanning, fake tanning, surgery, fad diets), am I against honoring its beauty via athletics, dance and yoga?  Of course not.  It’s all a matter of balance.  It’s also a matter of intentionality.  Are you running toward something?  (health, excellence, beauty, experience, adventure, creation) or are you running away from something (I don’t want to be fat, old, ugly, yada yada).  Therein lies the difference.  That, and moderation.  You can’t run full marathons three days in a row.  You must know how to modulate your levels, when to push your car into fifth gear, when to coast, and when to park it in the garage. 

As testament to what the human soul can do with an “imperfect” body, watch this incredible short story of a remarkable young man.

And a remarkable older one.

I was shocked to learn that the “women” I admired on the cover of Vogue and other magazines when I was growing up were not, in fact, women at all.  They were girls.  Children.  Brooke Shields is a perfect example of this pedophilic idolatry.  To dress our daughters up like sexually active women is unfair to them (let them be children!) and to women (already considered too old at 25 when the gold standard is 12).  But that is what we do.  We worship at the altar of youth.  It’s why pedophilia is rampant and companies like American Apparel have such appalling ad campaigns. We reject the full, mature female body.  We want skinny, pubescent and firm.  Women’s bodies are watery, and, as such, they ripple and flow.  We are ruled by the moon and connected to the stars.

This burden applies increasingly now to young men who must feel grossly inadequate if they don’t look like Hollister or Abercrombie models.  This is what the American Dream has become, not to be educated, free, happy, creative, unencumbered, inventive, productive and bold, but to have abs, asses and boobs.  We have allowed ourselves to be dumbed down by Madison Ave.  And who rules it?  The Media.  And who rules that?  The Corporations who run our Corporatocracy.  Who are the men behind the curtain?  We may never find out, but we have to connect the dots and use our noggins.  It is Time to Wake Up.

We have been led away from our true power as human beings, and reduced to our body parts, no better than inventory at an auto body shop.  Silicone lips, boob jobs, liposuction, butt implants.  Is this our legacy when we die?  Vain attempts to keep the car looking brand new, even though it’s got 100,000 miles on it?  I like Georgia O’ Keefe in part because she painted bones and artistically embraced her womanly self as she aged. If you haven’t seen the flick Death Becomes Her (a very black comedy with Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep) do yourself a favor and rent it.

I watched a belly dancing documentary recently.  As with most women and girls, I’ve struggled life long with body image.  To watch these gals celebrate their curves and love handles is a wonder to me.  One of the best troupes in this video was called “Fat Chance Belly Dance”.  Some of the women were smaller, but two at least were larger, what we might term “fat” in our culture.  They were terrific dancers and animated their bodies, jiggle and all, with gusto.

“This is the wrong century to be a woman. The best time to have been a woman was when Rubens was a painter, The Fat Century.  In that period, if you weighed 300 pounds you could be a model. Christie Brinkley would’ve been a hatcheck girl. Roseanne - Miss Milan, 1537. In that century you could really have an attitude: ‘What d’ya mean, no dessert?  I’ve got a sitting with Caravaggio. If that man doesn’t see some cellulite, I’m history.  Now hand me that cannoli!”  Joy Behar.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled burial program.  Frankly, the thought of rotting in the ground gives me the heebie jeebies.  Even though I know that my body won’t be me when I’ve left it, it will still sort of look like I did, but in a really, really bad way.  It’s your Zombie clone, unless you’ve been embalmed and gussied up by some undertaker.  I cannot comprehend that creepy business at all, or doctors who perform autopsies.  Frankly, I can’t fathom fishing around in the body medically while someone’s alive.  Yes, I am somewhat squeamish.  I have my own discomforts with the body.  Magnificent?  Yes.  Squishy and weird?  Yes. 

Who are we kidding with the face paint?  That corpse ain’t blushing and you and I both know it.  That rosy glow is anything but natural or “healthy” (how can you be both healthy and dead?).  I’m all for disposing of the deceased in a nice timely fashion when they’re gone.  I was raised a Theosophist with the understanding that it takes a full 24 hours for all the various energy systems of the soul and consciousness to depart the body, so it’s best not to disturb it before then (this would include embalming and cremation). So, let your corpse rest for a day, take a little nap if you will (death is a breeze, but dying can be exhausting!) then take care of business.  Out with the trash.  Better yet, compost!  A green burial allows the natural cycles of life and death to create new life out of the old.  People are getting inventive with their burial ideas.  Although planting a tree on top of a corpse would work just as well as this:

I do have my limits, however, with the green thing. The folk in these natural burial films want to hang out with their dead for a couple of days, and they’re on their own there.  I did it once or twice with a cat, I sat (okay, slept) comfortably with their bodies in my home for one night, but that’s because they looked nice and peaceful, like they were sleeping.  In the morning blood had started oozing out of one cat’s nose (where, from her brain?!) and I was like, “That’s it! You’re in the bag!”  I laid her to rest in the woods, as I did with my dog and other cat.  They become part of the natural process of decay and reabsorption into new life forms.  A little cat composting.

The corpses in the home burial films looked lousy, frankly.  Yellow, bloated, and well, um, dead.  You think I want people seeing me like that?  I barely want folk to see me while I’m alive.  Bloated, cold, jaundiced, and well, DEAD, is not how I want to be remembered.  No, sirree.  Fire me up.

Now A Will For the Woods asserted that cremation in the U.S. is also environmentally unsound, as it involves heavy fuel usage to produce high heat over long periods of time.  Well, can’t we improve on that?  What do they do in India?  They roll their dead in flour and a little cheesecloth, pour on some sesame oil and toss a lit clove cigarette on the pile.  With just a little kindling, lighter fluid, and a “Duraflame For The Dead”, the perfect bonfire can be yours.  That’s the ultimate “release party”, isn’t it?

Costco may even come up with a cremation starter kit.  Hell, they already sell caskets by the checkout area. “Did you want a casket with those fries?” 

Green people get very granola with this stuff, as with natural childbirth (I’m not a placenta eater, myself) and that’s their prerogative. I am not hanging out with a corpse, embalmed or not.  I like the idea of a nice blaze.   Fire is purifying.  Surely we can legitimize a greener way of burning our dead.  Didn’t Salem, Massachusetts specialize in this for a while?

The closest I’ve come to a home cremation was the time I roasted marshmallow Peeps over my stovetop burner because they’re so flavorless otherwise.  It felt a little murderous blackening the sugary bodies of tiny yellow chicks and pink bunnies.  But they did taste better.   

All that being said, I rather love cemeteries, particularly old ones.  There is a great peace there, and a sense that the “game” is over, but that life itself is not.  No more rushing around, worrying or competing.  As Lily Tomlin said in her brilliant book and Broadway show, The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe,  “The thing about the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”

Slash and burn is an agricultural method to clear forest for farming.  Mother Nature uses this technique too.  From death comes life.  From fire, fertility.  Obliteration of the old makes way for the new.  Don’t be clingy and constipated.  Be willing to let go of who you are to become who you could be.  Let go.  Fly.

Valerie Gilbert ©2015 All Rights Reserved

I will be at NAMASTE HEALING CENTER in NYC on Thursday night, April 23rd for a talk, reading, hour long workshop (guided meditation, psychic and spiritual development) and book signing.  Come join us! 

RAVING VIOLET, MEMORIES, DREAMS & DEFLECTIONS: My Odyssey Through Emotional Indigestion and SWAMI SOUP are available in print, e-book, and audio book,  narrated by me!  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Lights are On and the Motor is Running Part Two

(from Part One)

Now, on to the meat and potatoes of this piece.  My weekend workshop with Panache Desai.  Having worked like a dog 7 days a week up to 18 hours (on and off) a day for a good 18 months straight, and having sweated financial bullets for years prior to that, I finally earned the time and ability to take a three day break.  I bounded off for Port Authority and bonded with others waiting in line for our bus up north, which was late.  Finally, the lady standing in front of me checked outside and said, “Well, the lights are on and the motor’s running.”  While our driver was still missing in action, this was nonetheless a very promising sign.  I was in great spirits when I arrived at my destination.

I wasn’t sure who Panache really was, other than a smiley, young, New Age guy.  Same as every other personal growth leader with an over-bright grin.  What was he selling?  It was impossible to determine from class literature, sounding as vague as the “messages” of his smiling, soulful competitors.  New Age catalogues are full of classes taught by smiling teachers with loving messages.  Why should I give any of them my shekels?  I can smile in the mirror and love myself without their tutelage. I based my decision to study with him on a very short Internet interview I watched with him and past life regressionist Brian Weiss in which he seemed appealing, positive and open-minded. 

I thought, “Ah, now I know who he is.”  When I found he was offering a class near me, I decided to go.  I trusted my intuition and fully expected to like this fellow and benefit from his workshop.

End of Part One.

Part Two:

Getting into Gear

Before class even began I saw Panache Desai in the center’s bookshop.  I was pleased and almost blurted out to him as he walked by me, “You’re my teacher!”  But something in me held back.  I remained silent and watched him as he strolled past, hypnotically drawn to his own book, CD and DVD display in the shop.  While the room was empty and he was inches away from me he did not even glance my way.   This surprised me for in my mind, being an open and loving person means being able to make eye contact and comfortably, if not warmly, acknowledge the people around you.  At least some of the time.  And certainly at a New Age joint where you’re considered a leader. I reach out with my eyes and energy much of the time in New York City, choosing to expand into the population rather than contract into myself as most people do, hiding behind their sunglasses, eyes trained on their smart phones. But I found this not to be the case with Panache. 

Interestingly, I kept bumping into him all weekend, or perhaps he kept bumping into me.  This was a large joint I was visiting.  Bumping into someone repeatedly was not the norm.  He spoke to me in passing in the dining hall about the food, later he walked by where I was sitting at the cafĂ©.  He asked me what time I had and commented with his English accent.  “You’re a bit ahead”.  He was referring to the fact that my watch was 5 minutes fast, but his observation was also prescient.

Despite being happy to be away and excited for class to start Friday night, I was turned off almost immediately by the very energy he claims (or so I found out) is supposed to heal you just by being in its vicinity.  He also affirms that he is enlightened.  Oh dear. 

While I couldn’t argue with about ninety percent of what Panache said, it was stuff that I already knew, having either heard it, read it, thought it, or written it.  He did not take me anywhere new.  It became clear as he spoke that he's all Panache and no substance, a glib, informal speaker whose words were replete with inconsistencies and contradictions.  We did no exercises, nor did we interact with each other, except for some hugging at the very end on Sunday morning.  He said we would dance.  We never did.  He told us we would have fun (that's a big assumption).  I did not.

Panache tried to be funny, jocular, and cool (as evidenced by the loud “popular” music he played at length).  He set himself up as a healer who would "fix us" and "change our lives forever".  A true master would never claim this power over others.  He contended one of his special skills as an enlightened man was his ability to match his (purple) socks with his (purple) sweater.  Ha ha ha.  Some people snickered at his attempt at humor.  The room was filled with his converts. When he continued to drop Oprah’s name, this Pudgy Punjabi (I don’t know where exactly his family’s from beyond India, London and Florida, but the moniker’s got a ring to it) further rubbed me the wrong way.

Did Jesus blow his own horn? If he did I like to think that he did so in a healthy manner. You can be confident and comfortable at the same time.  You can know your worth. Like a math genius simply stating the fact that he is a math genius, as Alan Turing does in The Imitation Game.

Panache asserted that everything about us is divine and perfect including our moods (no matter how miserable), our pain, foibles, and inconsistencies (he should know about that one).  “If you’re feeling rage or despair just sit with it”, he advised. “Stop thinking and simply be in the heart”.  He assured us that doing this was all very simple. Without explaining the nature of the simplicity.    

I agree that every bit of us is divine, but not with his directive to simply sit with your pain and neither express nor analyze it.

Personal problems are not simply released.  You have to determine what is wrong, and why. When you don’t deal with toxic emotions they fester and multiply.  In order to heal something has to shift into a new gear.  Something has to move. He provided us with no tools with which to help ourselves, but presented himself as the tool that would uplift us, just by being in his "vibration”. He was the drug his followers would continue to need.  No better than Big Pharma.

Pain is a signal that something is wrong, either in what is happening, or in our reaction to it.  If I’m furious I alleviate my distress either by changing the situation I’m pissed about or adjusting my response to it.  If I’m sad, I work to mitigate that mood.  I seek relief.  There are reasons for everything we feel and do. Our feelings are the result of our beliefs about an event.  We have the ability to analyze our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors and to make changes in our lives so that we feel better.  We can stop stepping in land mines and we can also avoid creating them. You don’t stand in quicksand and simply wait to be sucked down.

While people don’t necessarily need years of therapy for everything, a certain amount of processing is required to move through stuff. You can use tools like books, friends, therapists, and you can meditate and journal.  Once you start to trust yourself, you master and utilize your own inner resources.  After strides have been made in the loving and accepting of yourself, sure, then you can make quicker, easier switches out of despair into relief, a swift right turn down the road to release instead of a hard left toward resentment. 

But when we first learn a skill it requires effort, and that can frustrate us impatient modern-day types. Toddlers don’t get upset when learning to walk because they don’t have judgments about not doing it perfectly, or have fears of failure. They just pick themselves up and try again.  We adults, however, trip ourselves up.  We can learn how to get out of our way over time by consciously changing behavior, including mental habits. You don’t get in a car and take a pro spin your very first try.

And while we in the West may think too much and get stuck in our heads, God didn’t give us a brain and logic for nothing.  The head and the heart are designed to work in concert, just as the body and the spirit are.  They are a team. 

Panache’s suggestion that we “let it be” is akin to acknowledging poop as a normal, healthy bodily function.  While this is true, it is not advisable that one sit in it. 

You could perhaps blame some of my irritability in class on the fact that I did not sleep terribly well in my bunk bed near the bathroom (convenient for a nocturnal pee-er like myself, but noisy) and right by the (glaringly bright) red EXIT sign, and also due to the fact that someone in our large dorm room saw fit to rearrange her entire velcro, bubble wrap, tin foil and zipper collection at 5am.  Breakfast was not for another two hours, and I was now decidedly awake, agitated and starving.  I hate being hungry.  I might as well have scheduled surgery and put the starvation to good use. 

Something had also awakened me after midnight, and after I rearranged my bedding and my thoughts I took in my surroundings.  I twisted around to stare out the cold window at a sight I’m not privy to in Manhattan, a November sky brimming with stars.  While much of my gratitude and joy at being away was now out the window, a little bit seeped back in with the starry vista.

At dawn, of all things, I wet my bed.  No, I didn’t pee.  As I dressed, the contents of my water bottle seeped onto the mattress.  I’d been so assiduous about not committing noise crimes like Velcro the Ripper and the other noise philistines in the room that I refrained from creating excess noise by not screwing my bottle completely shut. Fortunately, the room was sauna-like enough to dehydrate my mattress by nightfall.

I raced to the dining hall and nibbled ravenously (is this possible?) on a “healthy” pumpkin muffin with a mystery ingredient I finally concluded was sand.  However, all this was not the true source of my ultimate crankiness.  My “class” was. 

"Panache has an ability to help people to move through their sadness, anger, or fear to once again come back to their infinite potential. No matter your life experience, your spiritual background, or role, Panache can help you.” (from his website)

Contrary to his claim of being able to offer relief, I saw many people bottled up with frustration as they tried to express their concerns only to have him shut them down mid-sentence so that he could talk.

Also to my shock and dismay, Panache casually admitted to being full of shit and then accused us all of being the same. I don’t appreciate being insulted by teachers, be they tap or happiness coaches.  Had the course description divulged that he was an “enlightened” guru who was full of shit, I could have saved some money.   Panache complained that being enlightened was both boring and bland.  Then he jokingly challenged us to join him, “If I have to do it then you do, too!”  Where do I sign up?  Was Jesus bored?  The Buddha?  They never mentioned it.

At the Q&A after the screening I attended of The Imitation Game the cast was asked “How do you deal with poorly written roles?”  Sophisticated Charles Dance apologetically offered,  “There’s just so much you can do.” Also with a delightful English accent (the lot of them had, the movie takes place in England) handsome Matthew Goode piped up, “You can’t polish a turd”.  Okay, not so sophisticated.  However, ever the brilliant wordsmiths, the Irish, Allen Leech (of Downton Abbey fame, the chauffeur turned widower) chimed in with his brogue,  “No, but you can roll it in glitter.”


When I’m confronted with such substances, I don’t polish or dress them up.  I don’t wade, wallow in or play with them. I flush. 

I sat by myself at lunch, but sought out two nearby classmates and joined them.  “Are you enjoying yourselves in class?”  They both nodded, then one came back with, “Are you?” Pause. “I’m not.”  The older gal seemed miffed.  “Well, you’re not supposed to enjoy yourself!” she returned.  The younger one was pretty, blonde, and Russian.  She remained mostly mute during the following exchange.  “I’m not?” I replied, genuinely shocked. “No, you’re not. It’s not about that.”  “Oh? What is it about?” “He’s changing us on an energetic level.”  He is?  What’s he doing?  I didn’t sign up for any mystery modifications.  “How does he do that?”  I queried.  She practically rolled her eyes at me. “Just by being with him.”  Oh, he’s that special.  Doesn’t even have to touch you. Doesn’t even look at his followers, like Braco does.  We have to look at him.  I’m paying the money and I have to do all the damn work?

“Well, I came here to have a good time. “ I persisted. “I like to enjoy my classes, and I certainly like to like my teachers.”  She pounced on me again. “He’s not even a teacher!”  This lady was contrary, plain and simple.  Clearly he hadn’t cleared her cranky ass energy field, and she’d been to his seminars numerous times.  There’s no guru powerful enough to clean up a sour personality that refuses to work on itself.  Inspiring people is one thing.  Overhauls are for car mechanics. 

“He just vibrates!”  As if that explained everything.  “So do you.” I replied.  She was even angrier now, her vibrations approaching the ferocity of a space shuttle launch. My insides were gripping.  So much for a healthy lunch.  There’s not enough kale in the world to override a WWF match in your stomach. 

“You don’t understand. He just is. He fixes us with his vibration,” she continued, to which I replied, “Well, I didn’t come here to be fixed.  I came here to have a good time, and I’ll appreciate your not telling me how I should experience my weekend or my class.” 

She breathed out with heavy exasperation, “Ugh! This is not supposed to be fun!” “You just don’t get it!” she deposited into the thick air, then got up to leave, her Siberian sycophant in tow.

People in class yearned for relief, you could hear it in their quavering voices, in their questions, but he cut them off after a sentence or two with a facile response.  One lady complained about being hit up for money by a friend.  “Just say no!” he blurted.  While in fact that is a terrific response, the fact that, by her own admission, it was a recurring issue in her life, that she felt used, unappreciated for who she was but only what she could offer financially, just saying no was a glib suggestion.   When someone asked about karma he dropped, "karma is a mind fuck" without explaining his bomb.  

He advised folk to "just let it go", "sit with the rage",  "it's all because your father didn't pay attention to you" (which the speaker never referenced).  You could see the hurt, disappointment and frustration in people's faces when he interrupted them while they were sharing.  They needed, at the very least, to be heard, if not understood or helped. It takes courage for most people to stand up in a large group of strangers and share personal problems, but their bravery went unrewarded.  He even encouraged one woman who was afraid of sinking into a depressive state again to consciously seek depression out.  This is not professional advice.  Facing your problems is different from running toward them. Like heroin is the solution when you're trying to quit.  He invited questions, but as soon as someone started sharing a sensitive issue he silenced them with a facile response or, "Come here.  I'm going to hug you."  As if his hug was a cure-all.  His groupies went up doe-eyed for their blessing. The class catered to his ego, not to the participants who sought relief from this perfunctory "master".  I sat in the front row every day, arms crossed, and refused even to look at him.  I said nothing.  I wasn’t there to teach him, or challenge him.  It was his “class”.  Or “energy event”.  Or whatever the hell it was.

He also came up with the brilliant, "the more love you feel, the more fear you'll feel". How does that work?   And why would anyone want to become more loving if they’re going to become more fearful? This is contradictory to every spiritual tenet not to mention my own personal experience. The more love you feel, the LESS fear you feel. They cannot exist in the same space.
He ended class with a big hug-in.  First by offering his own to individuals, as a healing modality, of course.  A big pacifier.  “I’m having feelings of deep unresolved guilt involving my father, who recently passed away.  I want to…” someone started to confess before he cut her off with, “Come here. I’m going to give you a hug.”  Wow, one hug and everything gets washed away?  I was edging toward the back of the room by now, determined to escape early and participate in a Skype session with my friend Nicole, the channeler (   He had already hugged about five people at the front of the room, when he encouraged mass huggings among the participants. 

I noticed a man in the back, glasses on, with an urban, artistic air to him, who didn’t quite look as if he belonged in the granola-ish group.  When a woman approached to hug him, he briskly backed away.  “I’m not a hugger,” he declared, then abruptly walked out.  I followed him minutes later, an hour before class officially ended.  

When I finally got Nicole’s two cents on the situation, via her guides, I was yet again bowled over by the unexpected nature of Spirit’s observations.  Nicole said,  “You’re gonna laugh your pants off and want money from this man, but you’re there to help him, that’s the reason you’re there.  You’re helping him energetically.  He’s not going to acknowledge you or compensate you for it, but you have something he needed to get to his next level.  He called to you energetically, and you answered the call.  You worked with him in another lifetime.  He rubbed you the wrong way now just like he frustrated you in the past.   But he needs your consciousness for his growth.  This is a teacher student relationship and you’re the teacher. There is greater purpose beyond what you can see, a real reason you’re there this weekend.  Your consciousness is going to help him to grow.  On a higher level he thanks you, for he needed your help.” 

Son of a gun.  I guess that “being in the presence of someone’s energy” stuff that he claims to do works, cause that’s apparently what I did for him for three days.  Gratis.

Nicole’s guides continued, “You’re looking for something to delight you, but it’s not in these classes.  It’s time for you to do the inner work, and stop seeking answers outside.”   Shit.  They told me to meditate and write, and that I need to energetically feel my way through life, and vibrate higher.  They challenged me, “If you are the Master, then what do you know?   You need to be hell bent on developing your own class, curriculum, books and channeling, and stop seeking out others.  Be like Madonna, and follow the beat of your own drum.  Madonna listens to Madonna and nobody else. It’s time for you to do that, too.  You have her potential if you want it, but you can’t achieve it if you think others know more than you do.  You’re an amazing coach.  It’s time to coach yourself.”

I was not there to seek acclaim, or tenure.  I was simply someone who wanted to have a pleasant weekend, and ended up as the gal grumbling in the back.

This was a rather heavy charge they were saddling me with. You mean I can’t just sit in class anymore?  I gotta take the stage?  Yup.  While daunting, their message makes sense.  I’m smart, funny, comfortable speaking, teaching, entertaining, and I’ve been a “student” of enlightenment, happiness and personal growth my whole life.  It’s time for me to step up to the plate.  Gulp.

They continued, “Start working with your Guides one on one.  Stop looking outside of yourself.  Masters consult with other Masters.  Work within, there’s no need to go to Tibet.  You are determined to believe that “they” all have something you want.  Just because someone has a following or fancy ad does not mean that they know more than you or can help you.  

If you like what they do, then start your own course.  Your own spiritual class, your own channeling.  Write your next book, your next play, audition people to be on staff for your next project.  Go within!  Your former students are coming to you for instruction.  What does this tell you?  Where are you?  Who are you?  You are, in fact, the Master.  Start to believe it, and gain more confidence in this area.  Meditate.  Write what you receive.  You will channel your own prose. Not with your logical mind, but you will feel your way to the higher energies.” 

Shut off the mind?  Try telling that to a fast-paced smarty pants New Yorker.

They concluded, “Stop being a spiritual groupie.  They are few and far between that have something to teach you.  Meditate.  Meditate.  Meditate.  Listen to your own Inner Voice. “

This unsettled me.   I have to go back to school.  Rather, I have to start one. 

As a final insult on my last day away I got a huge piece of the driest, cheapest, stringiest dental floss stuck in my teeth.  And who provided me with this flimsiest of floss?  My freaking dentist.  Someone offered me a toothpick and advised me never to use waxed floss, only unwaxed.  “It was unwaxed, that’s why it got stuck!”  That and the fact that it was thinner than optical fiber.  While ephemeral enough to disintegrate on the job, when lodged in my mouth for hours it felt like a mile of nautical rope.

Before I left I said goodbye to my bunkmate and asked her to pray for me.  “For your mate to appear?”  “No, for the floss to dislodge.”  It took pliers and a piece of waxed floss to get the rope out of my mouth when I got home.

Despite my disappointment with the “class”, I rallied my mood.  It was, after all, my weekend.  So I put my “tools” to use, adjusted my attitude and had a good time anyway.

My quest for inspiration and fun landed me squarely back at my own door, just like Dorothy with her ruby slippers.

I don’t need to be hugged, stared at, or energetically knocked down by someone else.  Neither do you.

My motor’s running.

My lights are on.

© 2015 Valerie Gilbert, All Rights Reserved. 

My third book, SWAMI SOUP, is now available in print, e-book, and audio book,  narrated by me!  RAVING VIOLET and MEMORIES, DREAMS & DEFLECTIONS: My Odyssey Through Emotional Indigestion are both available in print, e-book and audio, also narrated by me.