AMAZING: Kreskin & Other Wonder Walkers

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Back in the late 1990’s, I was writing a column for the now defunct, iCE Magazine; a pull out section of the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Newspaper. It was edgy and cool and followed a Village Voice meets Rolling Stone kind of format. My column was called Karmic Soup: Mental Floss, and I got to write about metaphysical topics, one of my favorite areas of inquiry. I reviewed movies, books, alternative healing methods and I also had a chance to meet and interview several authors, experts and celebrities during my tenure.

One summer night, I had the surreal experience of having my phone ring at 9 p.m. and after assuring the caller that it was me, he announced that it was Edgar Mitchell. The astronaut. I’m pretty sure some maniacal sounding laugh was ringing in my head but I played it cool and we had a very interesting chat about his experiences aboard Apollo 14. We talked about how his world view shifted dramatically. It was not when he stepped out of the capsule to become the 6th human to walk the lunar surface, but when they turned back towards Earth and looked at our home from that spectacular viewpoint. His life, since then, has been an inquiry into wonder.

I still have a handwritten note from Richard Bach, author of the world wide best seller, Jonathon Livingston Seagull; his apology for cancelling our interview when a personal matter had arisen. Richard braves the depths of human thought and returns to hand us a map and a compass to find our way.

After one of his conferences in Miami, I got to interview Dr. Brian Weiss; a Yale and Columbia trained psychiatrist. Years into his practice, Weiss came across a patient. In the course of her treatment, he then came to not only believe that we have past lives, but to dedicate the remainder of his time in this one to the demystification and education regarding this phenomenon that almost 44% of the world’s population believes is real. See you next time around, Brian.

My favorite interview for Karmic Soup was with The Amazing Kreskin. His manager had given me a fifteen minute slot to ask my questions and I sweated over how to frame each one for maximum return. When I got to the suite at the Palm Beach hotel, Kreskin’s manager waved me in and made introductions and then excused himself to run an errand, promising to be back at the end of the allotted time. I wasn’t sure, exactly, what this interview would be like. I mean, it’s Kreskin, right? Vegas, mind reading, parlor tricks, and all things side-show at a carnival, right? What I found was a relaxed and delightful man with an easy laugh and an encyclopedic knowledge of a wide array of topics.

When the door opened and said manager walked back into the room to help George (he was born George Kresge), shoo away the annoying woman from the press, he found us bent in laughter over something and he gave us an eyebrow lift and head shake. Kreskin told him we were going to need some coffee and waved him away, cancelling whatever mysterious thing was next on his calendar that day.

At some point, after he had clarified that he was a “mentalist” and not a “mind reader”, we got onto the topic of the ramifications of actually “reading minds.” For thirty minutes we were rattling off situations that would forever be changed if some of us had the ability to tune in completely to other people’s thoughts at will. Relationships would work or they wouldn’t, right from the starting gun. Business deals would always be above-board, all the cards on the table as the buyer would hear that evil chuckle embracing the ticking time-bomb in the fine print of a contract. Imagine a United Nations session with its staff of Mentalists present at all de-briefings. Criminal interrogations would be two-minute scans of the suspect’s thoughts and what if there were people monitoring crowds for those lunatics planning a violent disruption? Yes, we could avert man-made disasters, but would this be the new frontier of civil liberty violations?

Finally, I asked him if he would want a world where everyone could read each other’s minds. Wouldn’t that herald a peaceful planet if we really were in charge of monitoring our own thoughts the same way we are in charge of dressing with some modicum of modesty when out in public?

He thought for a moment and said that it might be a helpful thing when it comes to deviants and policing the world, but it would take the wonder and mystery out of real and emotional human encounters. It would circumvent the thousand random thoughts that would float through a man’s head before he screwed up the courage to hand the object of his affection a single red rose.

I love that thought, and I still treasure the hours I got to spend in conversation with this fascinating man. Some of my favorite Sci-Fi stories pivot on that balance between the beauty of our spontaneous and emotional humanity and the clinical accuracy of the cyber/cyborg world of technology. Now there is some food for thought today.

Mr. Kreskin, you really are…amazing.

http://www.amazingkreskin.com/

Wild Hope

I’m nearing the final pages of my manuscript and there’s a small war going on inside me. Where is this one going to land and what happens if it ends up some place that wasn’t my first choice? Pouring my morning coffee into what I affectionately call “the bucket”, an oversize mug I made for my son that he left here “to use when he’s home”, I was running through scenarios of editors with machetes. That, naturally, made me envision scathing reviews on Amazon balanced precariously with a reader base that comes to your aide with pens flaming and me standing, like a mother, pleading with both sides to just get along.

Before I needed a case of Tums to face my laptop, I stopped and did what my friend, Nancy, tells us all to do when we forget that stress is a choice; just breathe. Books, like the children we bear and raise, reach a point when they naturally move out into the wide world and cut their own path, whatever that might look like. Stories, books, music, poetry, art; anything we give creative birth to is going to come out of us kicking and screaming and when it hits the air outside of us, it then belongs to the world. It will be treasured or abused. It will be scrutinized or ignored all together. It will touch some people deeply and it will bore others who were looking for something bloodier, sexier, harder, softer, shorter or longer or slightly more beige.

While we are pushing our creations out of the tiny orifice that only artists can locate, we can hold onto the wild hope that it emerges with all fingers and toes. We can hope that it becomes the fully formed, three dimensional, memorable, moving vision that was planted in our mind by a passing horny muse that put its mouth to our ear and in a deep voice, whispered it to us one night as we were falling asleep.

Wild Hope. The phrase reminded me of the album that former pop princess, Mandy Moore, birthed into the world back in 2007. Prior to that, I only knew of her from the snips of music I caught on car radios or from an adolescent’s playlists pre-9/11. One day though, I heard a piece of her music that made me follow it to its source and bring it home with me so I could hear it again. The words were luscious, the orchestration and production nearly flawless. Her voice on that independent album embodied that moment, somewhere in your late 20’s, when shit gets real. The curtain falls down exposing the powerless little wizard you assumed had control over your emotional life and you found out it was just you, making some stupid choices and some surprisingly good ones as well. Beauty.

The title song is perfect and there were many other gems on the collection. I found a YouTube video an hour ago; Mandy Moore-Wild Hope-In The Studio; a diary of the making of the album. At the 5:20 mark, she says, “There is nothing like the freedom of having the absolute control to make the record that I want to make.” She had won a hard fight to break free from her recording contract that was forcing her to barf up mainstream elevator music and this would be her solo flight.

Inspired to hear it start to finish, I went searching my CD stacks. No luck. Someone “borrowed it” (read: stole it and it’s never coming back). Fine, this is the age of instant gratification. I’ve got Spotify. I’ve got iTunes. I’ve got those other weird programs on my Windows laptop that I’ve never used before. I’ll find it, download it and be listening before my bucket of coffee gets cold. Guess what? It’s not on any of those sites. In fact, I had to order a new copy of the CD, from the U.S. outlets though, because the European version is usd$51.oo. Seriously.

Well, that sent me into panic number two this morning and I still haven’t opened my manuscript file to begin my climb to the last pages of the book. Why have they taken the downloadable files away from us? Has someone kidnapped Mandy and the ransom is forcing her to return to a candy filled Willy Wonka factory to turn out teeth and ear rotting junk food music? Is there a telethon for this where I can send a donation? Am I avoiding ending my book by obsessing over the missing Mandy Moore Music? Hell, yes.

Fine. My coffee is cold anyway. My book will go out and some people will love it and some will use it to line their guinea pig cage; though if you’re going to trash it, I would prefer it be kindling for a beach bonfire. So much more romantic, you know?

So, here’s the song. At least you can hear this one. I’ll just have to wait for delivery of the CD that I found online at a record place in Chicago. I’ll get back to writing and while I wrap this manuscript up, I’ll hold onto my own Wild Hope that everything will be all right.

Clarissa, Inner Wolves and Digging for the Roots

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This morning, I am in search of rich language, like loamy, nutrient laden, black and vibrant soil where I can dig my hands down deep and find the root of the story. Like a dear friend who needs no invitation; moving easily to my cupboards for cup and spoon and pouring from my coffee pot; at home in my home, I found Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I should say that I found her again. In 1995, she came into my life because I couldn’t resist her book titled, Women Who Run With The Wolves.

I have a thing for wolves. Who doesn’t? Well, apparently people with guns in Michigan, and Montana, and people who see wolves as some kind of competition in their testosterone laden quest to piss on every tree and own every inch of soil for miles around. I believe they are jealous of wolves and their easy mastery of life in the wild and so they encroach on wolf territory, hunting them down like rabid vermin instead of learning to co-exist with such magnificent creatures and examples of family loyalty.

The draw to Clarissa’s words, for me, was how they cut through the dance around what women should be and put a spotlight on what we truly are. She wrote of women’s native magnificence and our family nature.

She wrote of the nature of our cravings, our need for creating; be it in a kitchen, a science laboratory, an art studio, a bedroom or the creation of a home nest where our brood is safe and nurtured. I don’t read her words everyday though they do seem to find me again whenever I need them most. Her words are like the person you see, after years of absence, and an unexpected smile breaks across your face. They are like long awaited warm sun heating your cold arms, heralding a hard earned spring.

She moves me. She inspires me. She fucks my head up something fierce with side hikes down forest pathways that I have never dared to walk before. It’s time to read that book again. Somewhere in its pages, are the roots I started digging for on this particular morning. I just know it.

 


 

“Be wild; that is how to clear the river. The river does not flow in polluted, we manage that. The river does not dry up, we block it. If we want to allow it its freedom, we have to allow our ideational lives to be let loose, to stream, letting anything come, initially censoring nothing. That is creative life. It is made up of divine paradox. To create one must be willing to be stone stupid, to sit upon a throne on top of a jackass and spill rubies from one’s mouth. Then the river will flow, then we can stand in the stream of it raining down.”

― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With The Wolves: Contacting the Power of the Wild Woman

http://www.clarissapinkolaestes.com/works.htm

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

From her website: Clarissa Pinkola Estés, PhD, is an internationally recognized scholar, award-winning poet, Diplomate senior Jungian psychoanalyst, and cantadora (keeper of the old stories in the Latina tradition.). Dr. Estés is  managing editor and columnist writing on politics, spirituality and culture at the newsblog TheModerateVoice.comand a columnist at The National Catholic Reporter online.

Marvin Gaye Schools the Writer…

Last night, I stumbled onto this video of Marvin Gaye singing the vocal track for “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”. I’ve been madly in love with this song since it first hit the radio in the autumn of my freshman year in high school. Now that I’ve heard it this particular way, I’m not sure if I want to hear it orchestrated, harmonized and produced ever again. It is perfect, exactly like this.

Hearing a song this way is like reading a short poem that rips away the protective rib cage of logical thinking and puts its burning hand right onto your exposed and fragile heart. Single singer A cappella is to perfectly written Haiku poetry, as a symphony is to a great novel.

We hear the original pain and the hard truth of the writer’s drunken 3:00 A.M. confession in each carefully chosen word and musical note. If the singer has embraced the zeitgeist of the creation of the piece, they can breathe life into the song. They can take us with them on our own Ghost of Christmas Past journey to the moments in our  lives when the words hit home with a vengeance.

This should be my goal in every poem and every story that I write; that whatever comes out of my pen will be better than the silence of the blank page.

I have my work cut out for me.

Entering NapLand: Using Short Slumber As a Power Tool

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Stumbling over to the soft landing place, phone silenced and blessed quiet descends on this small island made of pillows and for thirty precious minutes, the nothingness is mine. I am a connoisseur of napping.  I wasn’t always as appreciative of this life renewal process, but a few years back I learned how to do this with reckless abandon. Now it is a feast of bliss for me.

Sure, I’ve napped on planes over the Pacific and stretched out in the sun with my body cozied into the indentation it made in hot sand beneath my towel. I’ve crashed on couches, hammock’s swinging in an afternoon breeze and countless other settings, but I only started consciously using naps as power tools a few years back.

Like a cell phone, Kindle, laptop or any piece of equipment that moves data through its core to make it useful, the human body must recharge in order to function at maximum efficiency. Proper sleep at night addresses deeper REM issues, but who hasn’t woken up after eight hours of shut eye and still felt tired? Like my cell phone, my body’s battery life seems to change willy-nilly leaving me dragging my rear end at a time when I could really use a full charge.

My own mastering of the nap happened just over five years ago when undergoing radiation treatments for my breast cancer. The tech told me when we started that in a week or so, I would start to feel the effects and I might feel more tired. He downplayed it. I was driving myself to treatments and facing this like a to-do task on my list. Ten days in, arriving home from a session, I face planted in the sofa and slept like Princess Buttercup’s, Wesley after his encounter with the machine; not all dead, just mostly dead. When I got up, pushed my hair back into place and wiped the drool away, I felt like a million bucks. OK, half a million. The point is that my body said “SLEEP. NOW.” And I listened. Where we go wrong is not listening to our body when it’s talking to us.

Twenty to thirty minutes of surrender to what your body needs can snap you out of a creative rut, it can clear the mental debris clouding the solution to a big problem and it can make you a person other people want to be around instead of that whiny, bitchy person you are when you’re tired.

Famous serial nappers included John Kennedy, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Salvatore Dali, who slept with a metal key in his hand and a tin plate on the floor so when he fell deeply asleep the key would fall into the plate and wake him, perfectly refreshed. There are studies galore on the Internet to support this theory. Here’s a quote from just one.  “Sleep not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness, but, at a neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before you took a nap.” Dr. Matthew P. Walker, of the UCB Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory. BBC News (2-21-10) 

I have a hypnotherapy background so I make my nap times productive. When I surrender to my nap space, I go there with one issue in mind and I hold the thought as I put my body in the most comfortable position it can find. Already familiar with my own self induction ritual, now I simply have to think, “Deeper and deeper, down into complete relaxation.” It takes about two minutes for me to fall into a restful slumber. Short of my Great Dane deciding this is an excellent moment to press her nose into my eye, I will awaken twenty minutes later feeling like I’ve had hours of good sleep.

New parents would trade a pile of gold for enough rest to face their day. My favorite quote when I was a new mother was this: “My parenting skills are in direct proportion with the amount of rest that I have had.” Whoever said it was a freaking genius.

Instructions for the beginning of a new life of creativity, productive work and sane parenting:

  1. Find your nap nest.
  2. Have the things you’ll need close at hand; a great pillow, a blanket of the perfect material to balance your body temperature, an alarm on a phone or an old fashioned alarm.
  3. Shut off ringers, put signs on doors for quiet.
  4. Remove pets from the space unless they are your nap buddy and let you sleep uninterrupted.
  5. Make an agreement with others in your space that they will allow and assist you to be uninterrupted during this nap time. Agree to do the same for them.
  6. The last and most important thing is to actually take the nap. The laundry will wait. The telemarketers and political pollsters will call you back. The world will be just fine for twenty to thirty minutes and you will return from NapLand a supercharged working, writing, creating dynamo and an infinitely better companion.

Sleep. Now. Do it.

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My son and the pup, napping when she was little…