Orienting to space

Not too long ago, I posted Orienting to stillness, orienting to motion, providing some options for people who are interested in exploring awareness. Today I want to share some experiences with orienting to space.

First, a little backtracking. Starting in 2010, I wrote here about the 12 states of attention (and also here), which I learned from Nelson Zink on his website Navaching (which also included instructions for night walking), which sadly he has taken down. Reading his book of stories The Structure of Delight is an experience I highly recommend. It’s like no other book you’ve encountered, and if you’re interested in acquiring wisdom from a bunch of interesting characters, you’ll enjoy it.

(If you don’t want to click the links about the 12 states, here’s a summary: We primarily use our visual, auditory, and kinesthetic senses. Our experience can be subdivided into narrow and broad. For instance, a broad auditory state would be listening to the whole orchestra playing, while a narrow auditory state would be singling out the oboe in the orchestra. These states can be further divided into external and internal. An external visual state is seeing your environment with your eyes, while an internal one is imagining or remembering something. The image below shows the 12 states.) Continue reading

Developing attentional flexibility: the 12 states of attention

I just took four more days of training in biodynamic craniosacral therapy, and what I learned about practicing it has made me want to revisit the 12 states of attention.

Attentional flexibility is a skill that has many uses. Here’s an example: Someone has a chronic pain in their left leg, sciatica. Let’s say the person is seeking professional help in the field of alternative medicine and doesn’t want to take painkillers or see surgery as a solution, but meanwhile, there’s the pain, which can be wearisome, frustrating, and debilitating.

What if the person could transform the pain felt specifically in the left leg by diffusing it all over their body, so there was less pain spread more widely?

What if the person could then move the pain out to the skin, and then outside of their body?

What if the person could find a place on their body that was not feeling any pain and focus their attention fully on that place? What would happen to the pain?

What if the pain had a color or sound, and it changed to a healing color or sound?

These are examples of attentional flexibility, which can be a useful skill not only in managing pain, but also for dealing with any kind of state that we’d rather not be experiencing – depressive thoughts, negative self-talk, any kind of “stuckness”.

Attentional flexibility may not be a “permanent” solution to some problems, but it can create a sense of spaciousness around problems, provide options, and allow one to have a broader experience of life.

In biodynamic craniosacral therapy, a practitioner can use attentional flexibility to bring attention to his/her own body and specific sensations of biological and energetic processes, to his/her connection with the client, to the client’s processes, to the unit of client/practitioner, to the space inside the room, out to the horizon and beyond, to intuitive thoughts that arise, and more.

Attentional flexibility can be learned by practicing the 12 states of attention. For more, read my original post on the 12 states from October 2010.

What to do when you think you’re getting sick

When I first think I might be getting sick, it’s because I’ve noticed a sudden drop in my energy level. I feel fatigued when I normally don’t. Fatigue usually precedes any other symptoms.

The best thing I can do is to stop activity right away and rest. Get still. If I’m at work, I go home. If I’m driving, I head toward home. Then I get in bed and lie still.

Once in bed, I bring my attention to my whole body. I feel my weight. I feel my skin, my breathing, my energy. I feel gratitude for my body for all the amazing, complex, behind-the-scenes work it is constantly doing that I take for granted. I appreciate my immune system.

Then I usually read and take a nap.

My rationale is that by not placing energetic demands on my body and giving it appreciation, respect, and love, I am giving my immune system all the resources it needs to do its job and nip the virus in the bud.

Often I am back on my feet in a few hours, half a day, or a day. I don’t push myself into activity until my energy feels fully restored. I keep checking in with my body.

Sometimes I want to ignore the warning signs because it isn’t convenient to stop everything and rest.

That’s when I actually get sick.

Then I consume lots of Vitamin C. I love grapefruit juice (not too sweet, loaded with Vitamin C), and Emergen-C is a product handy to keep on hand for just those times.

I drink extra water to flush toxins out of my body and avoid sugar, which weakens my immune system.

I still make mistakes, though. Several weeks ago, I started having sneezing fits. I now realize that’s the first sign that my body is reacting to pollen in the air. This usually only happens in fall and spring when it’s windy and dry.

If I had decided to stay indoors after the second sneezing fit and take Histaminum hydrochloricum, I probably would have been okay. I’m noting that for next time I have sneezing fits. Also, I will use my neti pot (with water that’s been boiled first, of course).

Instead, I got full-blown allergy symptoms a few hours after the first sneezing fit: super-sensitive nasal passages, sinus drainage, and sore throat, with a feeling of inflammation in my nose and throat.

Even though acupuncture helped relieve the allergy symptoms, every time I went outside, I was re-exposed to the allergens, and it overwhelmed my immune system. I got a sinus infection.

More acupuncture and lots of Vitamin C helped me get over that without resorting to antibiotics. I feel very grateful for that.

Public speaking: how to get over your fears with warmth and ease

I used to have terrible stage fright. Having to give my first speech in the required junior high speech class was something to be endured, and when I finished, I didn’t care how well I did, I was so glad I had gotten through it and would never have to do it again.

If I recall correctly, I read it aloud and (this is embarrassing) stood with my legs crossed, as if I was holding it in. I’m pretty sure my voice shook. Afterwards, I slunk back to my seat. The topic may have been “seashells.”

I did not fail, to my surprise. The teacher gave me a C. The content was good, but my presentation needed work. (I am a writer.)

I watched the kids who presented well. I remember a girl who showed us how to make “hors d’oeuvres” (including how she “about died” when told how to spell it).

Then she passed them around. She’s probably a politician now.

That was a long time ago. Over many years, classes, jobs, and activities, I got more used to speaking to groups and felt more confident that I had something worthwhile to contribute. Sometimes it even happened on the spur of the moment, and afterwards I realized I’d been so absorbed, I’d forgotten to be afraid.

Several years back, I participated in “the Alan Steinborn experience” back when Alan lived in Austin. I cannot remember now what he called these gatherings, but he hosted people in his home where part of the experience was standing in silence in front of people (most of whom were strangers), not doing or saying anything, just standing there with all eyes on you for several minutes. People applauded before and after, and in between, whatever happened happened. Some were visibly petrified and gradually relaxed. Some were comfortable the whole time. Most were in between.

It was wonderful to get up there, breathe, relax, and experience connecting with others. It became a sort of communion where fear fell away. I became curious, looking into the eyes of each member of the audience.

Also in recent years, I’ve taken a two-day class in public speaking through Austin Community College, for work. The class had a lot of lecture and required three brief presentations…and the main thing I recall now is the professor exclaiming (after my first presentation, in front of everyone) about my “charisma”.

I still don’t know exactly what charisma is and whether to be pleased or embarrassed about it. But perhaps my experience with Alan’s gatherings had something to do with that.

After all, if you can be comfortable standing silently in front of an audience, you’ll probably be okay speaking.

Recently I’ve been considering developing my public speaking skills. I could talk about health practices to counteract sedentary jobs, the benefits of massage and bodywork, self-care for massage therapists, trauma and recovery, meditation — you know, the topics that I’ve blogged about that are so close to my heart.

It’s not that I’m bad at public speaking any more. I deliver good material, include some fun stuff, and connect with the audience.

But I could be even more at ease.

A few weekends ago, I attended a workshop called “Authentic Public Speaking” from NLP Resources Austin. The presenter, Keith Fail, is a friend and teacher of mine. I’ve studied and later coached/assisted at NLP training that he co-taught, taken advanced NLP classes that he taught, and heard him speak at the NLP meetup multiple times (indeed, when I served as program chair and a speaker didn’t show up, he was able to wing it with ease, he’s that good). I’ve hung out with him and his wife, Katie Raver, a lot. We’ve traveled in Maui together. They are ohana to me: family of choice.

Keith is a warm, friendly, lovable, perceptive, smart man. He is familiar with Alan’s work and includes it, adding his own substantial and unique stamp to offer a public speaking class like no other.

He’s also an accomplished public speaker. Keith shared a story that illustrated his aplomb with public speaking even while in high school. It involved walking in just as he was being introduced and needing to pull up his zipper, with all eyes on him. Ask him about it! The man just knows how to tell a good story!

This class is not an NLP class. You don’t need any NLP training to attend, although a few of my fellow students and I had training in it. If it’s new to you, you will come away knowing more about NLP as it applies to public speaking. You may then be drawn to take NLP training — who knows?

The 11 students met in a comfortable North Austin home. (One student couldn’t make it; class size is limited to 12, and it usually fills up.) My fellow students came from a variety of backgrounds — software engineer, entrepreneur, new board member, several in real estate, insurance adjuster, academic adviser, musician/hypnotist/coach — all with an interest in improving their public speaking skills.

Our time was spent on a good mixture of Keith sharing information and stories, exercises with partners, feedback and discussion, a worksheet, a little homework, several very useful handouts, and, of course, getting up in front of everyone several times.

Yes, everyone does get up in the front of the room and stand in silence, and Keith will share how to make this easy. One woman (who said her business partners made her attend) balked at doing it, but she decided to do it anyway and was glad she did. By the end of the class, she was giving good presentations with apparent ease.

We did extemporaneous speaking illustrating one of our values. Whoa. That makes it sound very formal. Let me rephrase that: We got up and told a story about something important to us, and after everyone had spoken, we discussed what worked.

On the second day, Keith talked about the different energies that speakers experience and utilize. Keith led us through some experiential work developing and drawing on these energies. This was delightful and new to me in this context, and very useful.

Toward the end of the class, Keith pointed out that rather than being just a class about public speaking, it was actually training in perception and attention.

Keith videotapes your last presentation and afterwards, he emails it to you. Then does a follow-up call with you.

All I know is that by the end of the class, we students all felt much more at ease with each other and in the front of the room, thanks to Keith’s personal warmth and well-developed teaching skills.

It might even have felt like love, acceptance, and compassion for ourselves and for each other.

Just imagine. I will have that to draw on the next time I give a presentation. I can hardly wait!

If you are interested, Keith offers this class several times a year. You can get the details at NLP Resources Austin.

Self-care for massage therapists, part 2 (what works for me)

In part 1, I listed various self-care methods that massage therapists use for their own aches and pains from giving massage. In part 2, I want to share what I’ve tried (so far) that works.

First, I want to say that my strength and endurance have increased with practice. I used to be in pain after giving 3 hour-long massages in a row several days in a row. Now I can do 4 hours 5 days a week with just a few twinges and aches afterwards. For several weeks, though, I was hurting and feeling some despair about having upended my life to get trained and start working in this new profession and the possibility of not being physically able to do it.

Key learnings from a newbie:

  • I no longer attempt deep tissue work, sticking to Swedish and reflexology. My Swedish massages are good and getting better. I incorporate some of David Lauterstein’s deep massage strokes into every Swedish massage, and I use pressure points, stretching, techniques from sports massage, body mobilization techniques, and reflexology, depending on the client’s issues and the amount of time I have. I cannot deliver the pressure that some clients (well-informed or not about what “deep tissue” means) seem to want. If I work within my limitations, it’s win-win for everyone.
  • I trained in Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy so that I can deliver deeper pressure using my feet and body weight, controlled by holding onto overhead bars. It’s so much easier on my body and a lot of fun, too.
  • I rock with my feet and leverage my body weight strategically as I deliver Swedish massage so my arms and shoulders do less work.
  • Hydrotherapy totally rocks after a long shift. I fill my double kitchen sinks with hot water (my water heater is set to 130 degrees F. for sanitizing laundry) and cold water that I dump a quart or two of ice into. I immerse my aching forearms and hands in the water, alternating cold-hot-cold-hot-cold, for one minute each. I can barely stand it, and yet it makes a huge difference in just 5 minutes. Seems to flush toxins and swelling and pain right out.
  • I stretch my fingers and wrists, holding each stretch for 15 seconds. Good to do when driving, at red lights.
  • I press into the trigger points for the elbow and wrist (see part 1 for links).
  • I apply magnesium gel with seaweed extract topically. According to Wikipedia, symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle cramps, weakness, and fatigue, and fifty-seven percent of the US population does not get enough magnesium from food.
  • I love epsom salts in a bath. (Guess what? They contain magnesium!) When I was feeling a lot of pain all over, I would dump a cup or two of epsom salts into a fairly hot bath and add a few drops of lavender oil, then soak for 15-20 minutes. I felt like a new woman when I came out! I learned this years ago from dancers.
  • I use Young Living’s OrthoEase oil on clients’ painful muscles, and I use it on mine as well. Contains wintergreen, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and more that are analgesic and anti-inflammatory.
  • I keep hydrated and have been avoiding nightshades lately. I’m already gluten-free and eat fairly healthily. I’m interested in following an anti-inflammatory diet but haven’t done the research yet.
  • I take at least a couple of days off per week, not always together, though. I’m still finding my ideal schedule.
  • I do 10-15 minutes of yoga every morning. Sun salutations stretch and strengthen my body. Plus, it’s a great check-in to do something that starts the same every day. I start slowly and really let my hamstrings lengthen in forward bend before I move on to the next pose. I add standing poses, balance poses, and pigeon as I feel the need and to keep it interesting.
  • I get at least a chair massage every week. I’m interested in setting up a weekly trade for a full-body massage with someone, too.
  • I use a foam roller on back when needed, and a tennis ball to my gluteus.
  • I have two tennis balls tied into a sock that I use when driving to massage my back. I’ve also learned to “pop” my own back while giving massage!

Here’s something that just doesn’t fit into any of the categories I’ve seen so far about self-care for MTs. It’s about how you use your attention. I’ve learned to keep some of my attention on my body most of the time.

When I focused exclusively on the client’s body, delivering what I thought they wanted, I hurt and fatigued myself. I listen more to my body now and check in verbally with the client if I am not noticing nonverbal feedback.

If I notice that I feel rigid anywhere in my body, I say to myself, “Soften,” and my body softens.

Sometimes I put my attention on the soles of my feet and their connection to the floor/earth (I massage with bare feet always for Ashiatsu and as much as possible for Swedish), making the movements of giving massage into a soft, fluid dance.

Sometimes I attend to my breath, letting it become easy and relaxing (and audible to the client, as a nonverbal suggestion that they relax too).

All of these techniques activate the inner body, subtle body, energy body, whatever you want to call it. It feels better to give massage with this “soft present alive expanded body” than not. There is definitely an aspect of being “in the flow” that seems somehow related to doing Reiki, but I don’t know how to put it into words (yet).

Another bonus: the sensations of pain and fatigue become distant as peace and love fill my awareness.

I don’t know if clients perceive the difference, but I don’t think it could hurt. I do it for me because I “in-joy” it!

It’s been four months since I got licensed and began working. I look forward to learning even more new things about self-care and sharing them here.

Self-care for massage therapists, part 1

I’ve been doing 16-20 hours of massage per week lately, mostly Swedish but also a little deep tissue work. (I’m still getting up to speed on ashiatsu.)

The up side? I burn a lot of calories so I can really dig in at the table (one of life’s sweet pleasures), and I sleep well, being physically fatigued, another sweet by-product. And of course I’m the richer for it, in money, skill, connections, and making a difference.

The down side is that such physical work can take a toll on my body. I understand why a lot of massage therapists get burned out and leave the profession. From my fingers to my spine, I have felt achiness, inflammation, swelling, tenderness, stiffness.

Luckily, I belong to a group on LinkedIn, the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP). I joined to keep up with discussions about the profession. One person not long ago asked the following question:

What do you do for your hands when they ache after giving a series of massages? I am using proper body mechanics. My hands ache. I appreciate your feedback.

There were 55 responses that I’m going to summarize, because I feel so grateful to have this resource. Thanks to all the MTs who responded.

Please note that many of these are new to me; I am just summarizing what people posted. Later I will post what’s worked for me (that I’ve tried so far) along with a few of my own discoveries.

Recovery time

  • scheduling days off to recover
  • taking a 30 minute break after 3 hours (or however long works for you)
  • taking adequate time between clients to recover
  • not scheduling deep tissue sessions back to back

Body mechanics, stretching, strengthening, and recovery

  • paying attention to how you use your hands on your days off
  • doing hand stretching and strengthening exercises
  • resting in semi-supine position to open the brachial plexus (on your back, knees up, feet flat, book under head for 15-20 minutes)
  • paying even more attention to body mechanics as you work
  • getting a colleague to observe you work and give feedback
  • stretching after each client
  • lifting weights to strengthen arms and hands
  • punching a punching bag (with training)

Therapeutic devices

Heat and cold

  • dipping hands into hot wax/paraffin bath
  • applying hot and cold hydrotherapy
  • dipping hands into ice water

Self-massage

  • getting regular massage yourself
  • stripping your own forearm muscles
  • getting Reflexology on your hands or doing it yourself
  • learning Trager self-care movements for the hands
  • getting myofascial release work done on your arms
  • this page describes how to release wrist trigger points
  • this page describes how to release tennis elbow
  • cupping with suction cups

Delivering massage

  • working within your limitations (i.e., telling clients you don’t do full body deep tissue work)
  • reading the book Save Your Hands!
  • switching to Trager
  • learning Reiki so the energy goes only one way
  • learning Bamboossage, Ashiatsu Oriental bar therapy, or floor Ashiatsu to deliver deep tissue work
  • use alternating areas of the hand/forearm/elbow in moderation
  • having a box of tools available (balls, bamboo sticks, knobbers) to use on clients’  tough spots
  • using Art Riggs’ techniques for deep tissue work
  • using your forearms instead of hands whenever possible
  • using cupping
  • applying hot towels to client
  • holding thumbs tight against hand and using body to push for static pressure point work
  • using the edge of your hand or base of palm area instead of thumbs for sweeping or kneading motions

Oils, herbs, creams, gels, minerals

  • applying essential oil of rosemary for warming or peppermint for cooling (add to jojoba oil)
  • applying oils that are anti-inflammatory: helichrysum, frankincense, German chamomile, Cape chamomile, katrafay, and ginger
  • applying oils that are analgesic: lemongrass, clove, litsea cubeba, peppermint, wintergreen, and eucalyptus citriodora
  • combining anti-inflammatory and analgesic oils; applying them to neck, shoulders, forearms, hands, and feet to relieve hands
  • applying St. John’s wort oil, white willow tincture, fresh turmeric tincture, comfrey fomentation, raw apple cider vinegar fomentation
  • using arnica cream
  • applying Biofreeze
  • applying magnesium oil or gel
  • soaking in an Epsom salt bath
  • soaking your hand in lukewarm or cold water with a minimum amount of salt

Diet, teas, supplements

  • staying hydrated
  • changing your diet to lower inflammation (no details given)
  • drinking coconut water
  • drinking a blueberry smoothie
  • eating cucumbers with sea salt
  • avoiding eating sugars, nightshades, baked products with flour and corn
  • avoiding caffeine
  • taking turmeric internally
  • drinking comfrey tea
  • taking supplements for joint health (no details provided)
  • taking MSM with glucosamine

Lessons from the 21-day Byron Katie challenge

The challenge to focus on The Work of Byron Katie for 21 days was worthwhile. I examined a painful thought that has been a thread running through my life, that my father didn’t care about me.

I subjected that belief to inquiry, and it did not hold up. My father did care about me. I know that deeply now. The way he chose to express it — nonverbally, without physical, verbal, or visual signs of affection, without playfulness, and pretty much without much eye contact or much facial expression at all — was not a way I understood or valued when I was young and first had this thought.

I realize now that he showed his caring by simply being there with his family and not somewhere else, supporting me from infancy through adulthood, reading aloud to his children, helping with homework, and creating order through daily rituals (dinner time, bath time, bed time). He wasn’t really that different from many men who were fathers in the 1950s and 1960s — who had been through sobering times (the Great Depression and World War II). He was not frivolous, not expressive, and a man who had lost his own father at age 9.

I took him for granted.

I did this challenge a bit differently than I initially envisioned doing it. I had thought that I would do one worksheet a day, answering the four questions and doing the turnarounds for 21 days.

That would have been extremely time-consuming. My blog posts would have been quite lengthy, and I fear you, dear readers, might have completely lost patience and interest.

So instead, I worked on one issue, my relationship with my dad, which even though he’s been dead for years, I still felt some tender sensitivity and pain about. I liked doing it slowly and deeply like this. Sometimes at Katie’s workshops, there just isn’t time to really go deep with my own stuff. This was satisfying and memorable. I feel like I got the process in my bones and now find myself asking, “Is that true?” and “What happens when I believe that thought?” Just noticing…

I have turned over that rock and examined the ground under it, the creepy-crawlies, the shadow, took a good thorough look, and then put the rock back and moved on.

Of course there are more rocks to investigate, but I can see that each time I do inquiry, the remaining rocks are perhaps fewer, lighter, and smaller.

And wow. Would I ever like to get to the bottom of how I create my own suffering with my thinking! That would require a lot of discernment. Speaking of which, this great quote on that topic came up today on Tricycle Daily Dharma:

The fundamental aim of Buddhist practice is not belief; it’s enlightenment, the awakening that takes place when illusion has been overcome. It may sound simple, but it’s probably the most difficult thing of all to achieve. It isn’t some kind of magical reward that someone can give you or that a strong belief will enable you to acquire. The true path to awakening is genuine discernment; it’s the very opposite of belief. ~ Trinlay Tulku Rinpoche, “The Seeds of Life”

So yeah. Enlightenment comes through examining illusion, that is, using inquiry and discerning the truth. This is how it works in real life.

In filling out the worksheet, I went back to the last years I lived at home, when I was in high school, and how it was then between my father and me. I remembered yearning for his positive personal attention, and it never even crossing my mind to just ask him for it! Because “we didn’t do that in our family,” it wasn’t even in my realm of possibilities back then.

I am so grateful to have busted out of that prison. I’m not sure when that happened.  At some point, I gained the quality of brashness. It usually works, too.

I think it’s a great idea for people to ask for attention when you need it. If the person who is asked can give it, fine, and if not, fine. There are always others, and of course, there’s the self. Doing The Work is a fine way to relate to the self. Quality time.

My relationship with my father, which transcends his death, has expanded. It’s become lighter and broader. I can consider other possibilities for his behavior than the narrow, joyless ones I laid on him.

This opens me up too. My hurting self, the wounded child, has healed (at least about this topic). It’s a memory now, in the past.

After having done the work, it doesn’t matter whether my father did or didn’t have Asperger’s Syndrome. That’s only a concept, just a theory to explain his behavior.

When I ask, “How do I react, what happens, when I think that thought?” I realize that it just doesn’t matter that much to me. I wonder more how he would have reacted had he known, fully aware that whatever I think is idle speculation, just opinion. It was his business, not mine.

I like to think that if he wanted help with it, which he never asked for, I would have gladly been willing to give it.

Just like he would have been glad to give me more attention, if I had asked for it.

People are like that, aren’t we.

Thich Nhat Hanh on mindful walking and being grounded

I came across this excerpt from Shambhala Sun magazine from Thich Nhat Hanh on mindful walking. It is a way of being grounded, and since that is an essential energy of well-being, I want to link to it so you can read it all (one screenful on my laptop) and include an excerpt describing a basic element of the practice, in case you’re interested but pressed for time.

One way to practice walking meditation is to breathe in and take one step, and focus all your attention on the sole of your foot. If you have not arrived fully, 100 percent in the here and the now, don’t take the next step.

Here is his Walking Meditation Poem:

I take refuge in Mother Earth.
Every breath, every step
manifests our love.
Every breath brings happiness.
Every step brings happiness.
I see the whole cosmos in the earth.

May your day include grounded energy!

When the teacher is the teaching: Tom Best.

I figure I spent a thousand hours with Tom Best between 2007 and April 21, 2012, three days before his death.

I took NLP practitioner training as a student in Austin. Then evolutionary NLP in Dallas. Nightwalking in Wimberley. NLP master practitioner as a student, Austin. evolutionary NLP in Maui. NLP practitioner as a training assistant, Austin. Nightwalking at Buescher State Park, Smithville. NLP master practitioner as a training assistant, Austin. The Tom Best and Steve Daniel workshop using sound, Austin.

Several times I attended the first weekend and last day of practitioner trainings when I wasn’t a student or training assistant, to see him and Bobbi and my friends who also assisted, and to meet the new students and lend my support, and to re-experience “beginner’s mind” with NLP.

On April 21, I took a day of evolutionary NLP at Alma de Mujer, and he died three days later.

He was my teacher, and he was the teaching, my heart realizes now, after he left.


He was not really my friend, in the sense that we didn’t hang out in our off time and let our hair down together. Outside of teaching, he was a private man, a little shy and reserved, already giving a great deal of himself, a world-traveling teacher seriously devoted to spending his non-teaching time at home with his wife Bobbi and their dogs and cats.

But he was friendly from the start, and I felt love for him and from him.

Who knows how he saw me? I don’t think I can even begin to see myself as he saw me in 2007 or how he saw me on April 21. I can tell you that I changed, that his teachings transformed me, and others witnessed that. Among my long-time friends, I am known for having changed.

I have had many teachers in this lifetime. Many were teachers who did not even know they were my teacher because I read their books or watched them on video. Many many many more didn’t know they were teachers — they said or did something I learned from, sometimes what to move away from, and sometimes what to move toward.

I signed up for in-person lessons and cracked myself wide open to take in Tom Best along with his teachings more than I have to any other teacher, besides my parents, in this lifetime. I poured myself into the NLP pot, and he cooked me.

He was at the front of the room, talking, waving his long fingers around, drawing the VAKOG face, telling the Lake Conchas story and so many more, demonstrating a technique, explaining concepts, giving instructions, telling us to take an 11 minute and 17 second break, then ringing a bell to bring us back together…

When I started pract training, I quickly figured out that the academic learning style (dissociated, conceptual) that I had experienced so much of in school and college (and done well with) was not going to work. This NLP required experiential learning, and the only way to do it was to learn with my whole self — to take it in as much as I could, ask for help when I needed it, and then just do it. And then do it again, better. And again and again and again. And to later, to offer my help.

I can hear Tom’s voice right now, explaining the journey from unconscious incompetence, to conscious incompetence, to conscious competence, to unconscious competence.

I can hear him saying, “There’s no such thing as failure, only feedback.”

He gave us permission and encouragement to put ourselves out there, on the line, and do the techniques imperfectly. Just do it. I learned to accept doing something imperfectly, to forgive myself for being less than perfect, and to recognize that repetition creates mastery (along with tape editing).

I now see that that’s what made him such a great teacher, putting himself out there, on the line, over and over again, for years, around the world. He just got better at it, so that on Saturday, April 21, he almost seemed to consist more of pure energy (the energies of his intent, presence, attention, clarity, and love) than of matter or ego.

Some of my notes from that day:

Intention is of the tonal. It’s about your desired outcome.

Intent requires no thought. It is gratitude, alignment, participation, connection. (It is of the nagual.)

“Intend to align with realization,” I wrote.

That is so him! He was that teaching. See what I mean about him being the teaching?

Learning NLP the NLP way was exhausting. I went home from each day of practitioner training drained, needing to do something that didn’t require thinking, like watch a funny movie or just veg out.

When I assisted, some other students experienced that too.

I realize now that NLP training required my focused attention for hours at a time in a way that not much else had required. In school, I had learned quickly and then stared out the window, lost in my own private thoughts, while others struggled.

In the NLP pract classroom, I was not an A student. I struggled and was lost sometimes, which challenged me to become a training assistant so I could take it again.

Little did I know that I was building attentive stamina. 

Energy flows where attention goes. — Huna wisdom taught by Tom Best

I was also practicing intent, aligning with realization. Gratitude, alignment, participation, connection.

I’m very grateful that I served as a training assistant so I could take pract training again. It was much lighter and less exhausting, and I got even more out of it the second time around. I integrated the concepts and experiences more deeply. I was both student and training assistant for master practitioner too.

I had wanted to assist at each level one more time.

So for a thousand hours, my attention was on him, watching him speak and move, hearing his voice, taking him in with my whole self. His skinny, graceful, long-fingered, elegant, story-telling, teaching, sly, aligned, humble, gracious, personable, receptive, gently challenging, channeling, funny, quirky, fluid, congruent, trance-inducing, masterful, realizing self.

Wisdom is knowing where to put your attention. — Tom Best

I put my attention on you, Tom, over and over again, and it’s like in the grief process where you bring the person into your heart, instead of feeling their absence. You are in here, man. You are so present in my mind and in my heart as I absorb your life and teachings even more and make meaning of it all.

And then you did something a bit surprising and very human. You died. You lived your life well and fully, and then you slipped away, in your sleep, painlessly, quickly, easily.

So I just need to say this one more time, or a thousand more times:

You modeled love, love, love. Mahalo for showing the way.

Thanks to the Facebook group The Grace of Tom Best for all of the photos except the small blue one where he’s seated (that’s mine from April 21).

I went to high school naked and people danced because I watched

Tonight at my book group, we read about the relationship between the Absolute and Creation, and it triggered the memory of a dream I had a few years back, maybe eight years ago, that I haven’t thought of for a long time.

I still think this was one of the most remarkable dreams I’ve had, and I want to share it. If you’ve ever had a dream like this, I would love to hear about it in the comments or via email. The dream just reeks of clarity.

In part 1 of the dream, I am back in high school. I am older and a high school student at the same time. I live off-campus in my own apartment. I go to class when I want to, and I actually do go to school because I want to learn.

In the dream, I don’t give a damn about the rules. Remember how many rules there were in high school? If I’m tardy, I miss out. If you want to penalize me further, that’s your stuff, not mine. I’m there to learn.

There is some problem with my schedule that I try to resolve with administrators, to no avail. I get very clear in my thinking that if people make something too difficult, that is, they let their power run away with them, I don’t have to get upset. I can just opt out or set my own course. And if people enjoy making things complicated for others, as administrators sometimes do, fuck them. (Pardon my language, but it was that kind of dream.)

I decide to blow off a class I’m supposed to be taking because somehow, taking it has gotten incredibly complicated, and I’m just not going to suffer about it. I feel confident that I’ll pick up what I need to know when I need to know it.

Also, I’m naked. I arrive at school naked, walk down the halls naked, sit in class naked, and I don’t care what anyone thinks. I don’t seem to have any clothes, and it’s not a problem. To me, anyway.

I do have long hair that keeps growing in the dream, brushing down my back as I walk. It feels pleasant, sensual.

I notice that most of the students have clothes on, and they are pretending not to notice naked me. They don’t talk to me. I probably scare them. A few other students are naked too. We see each other, recognize each other, feel a kinship, but don’t talk. I’m there for class.

Then a shift in scene occurs. I am standing outside the school looking toward a covered walkway on which a group of students are standing. They begin to move in unison, beautifully, silently. I am transfixed, watching them.

I realize that they are dancing because I’m watching, and that I’m watching because they’re dancing. The dancers and I feed each other in this way, joined into a holy union through mutual acts of attention and respect.

And that’s when the dream fades.

The first part of this dream showed me how I had changed over the course of my adult life. It showed me that I could live with a healthy attitude about learning and being myself and making decisions. Although I do wear clothes!

The second part of the dream I now understand as an invitation to explore how I use my attention and how I relate, and I have actually done that since I had this dream!

This part of the dream is like a koan. It’s about presence and awareness, and it’s not linear. This is the part of the dream that I first remembered from our reading about the Absolute and Creation and their relationship to each other.

Interestingly, dancing in unison is part of Gurdjieff’s legacy, and my book group is studying The Work too. I occasionally do ecstatic dance myself, and it is a great pleasure.

My naked self in the dream may very well represent my essential self. Or perhaps be my essential self.

Anyway, it’s totally worth sharing this dream, which still delights me years later. And now, I’m going to put my clothes back on.