The Man with No Face

The Anatomy of Death: Notes from a Healer’s Casebook

So I like to read all sorts of paranormal type discussion groups and forums.  Sometimes it’s difficult to weed out whether it’s a flight of fancy or if it really happened.  You can get into some interesting discussions, without someone interjecting that it was merely a hypnogogic experience or some trick of the mind.  Often there is an explanation that is more mundane, but sometimes that does nothing more than truncate the discussion about what it possibly may have been, outside of accepted mainstream convention.  That’s when it gets fun.

Several of these discussion sites are on Reddit, such as Glitch_In_The_Matrix or The Truth is Here, always interesting, because the mods purportedly only allow true stories to be posted in them.  Of course, there’s no way of confirming this, sometimes you just have to take the poster’s word for it, always risky on the Internet.

So recently there was a post from a young woman who had seen a man with no face walking down the road, in the middle of the lane.  This was unnerving, to say the least, everything looked normal, arms, torso, even a head, just no face or lower legs.  Almost at the same time, she saw an ambulance roar by on the way to a call and stop where she saw the man.  She ran screaming to her friends, by the time they got to back to the window, the man was gone.  What what tipped me off was the ambulance–death was nearby.IMG_0621

I found it interesting that he had manifested with no face. Our intention drives us, even in death.  Many spirits I have found wandering around, still left on this plane, were fairly shocked to realize that they had died, and didn’t have to stay here.  I suspect that something like this happened to our faceless man, it was moments after death, and he was momentarily lost. That’s my interpretation, anyway.

I have attached another story, this one about lost spirits on this plane, and how that might happen.  As you can imagine, hospitals, particularly old hospitals, are absolutely full of these things. I don’t hold much with the ghost hunting TV shows, as too much can be faked, but there does seem to be something that can remain, if jolted out too quickly.

The juncture between the observed, the unknown and the rational, evidence-driven perspective seems wide sometimes. The attached story belies that–sometimes they can intersect, even to the scientific mind, as long as you’re willing to observe.

Death–The Next Great Adventure

The Anatomy of Death: Notes from a Healer’s Casebook

So I have written a book about my experiences with the dying as a psychic-shamanic practitioner. I call it shamanic practitioner, as although I am part Native American, I cannot say that I learned of my calling and how to do it from a Native American Shaman, so I am not a shaman. I would call my mentor one, but she would not. She calls herself a student, as I do of myself.

What is this book about?  Who is Sarah? As Dumbledore might say, “To the well-ordered mind, death is but the next great adventure.” In conducting NIH-funded research in Reiki for chronic pain and in my own private practice as an energy healer, I found that some people who came for Reiki immediately got better, some did slowly over time, and some did not.  Others met with that final door we call death progressing through a distinct set of steps common to all of them, but in a relaxed and joyous way.  How and why was this?  In the course of their dying process, what had we done that was different?5031814-lg

The Buddhists have studied these processes over time and possess a finely tuned understanding of the function and meaning of death within their culture. For them, death is merely a punctuation mark, a single brushstroke in a much larger picture that goes on forever.   It’s all well and good that the Eastern perspective has come to such resolution about this process, but in a culture that worships youth and believes science has the answer to everything, how can death be looked at as anything other than a defeat?

I am primarily a storyteller; after a lifetime in the hard sciences, I now believe it is our stories that hold the ultimate power to transform. Though I have been given permission both by the patients and their families to tell these stories, their names and even some of the extraneous facts have been changed to protect their privacy. So attached to this post is Sarah’s story, which is about her journey through that final door.

The book will be published shortly on Amazon, The Anatomy of Death: Notes from a Healer’s Casebook. Feel free to print it, hand it around in its entirety.  Take it as allegory, if you like, or as an interesting, What If?

Photo: beckycockrumphoto.com

Laugh at Last, Robin

While clinical depression was a topic that I never intended to talk about here, it’s already come up once, and with the passing of Robin Williams yesterday by his own hand, I feel compelled to speak again. Those of us that have been there are members of a secret cadre that speak of it almost never in public, it can impact your relationships, your employment, your health insurance, everything, with devastating effect. A few of us have recovered, and it can still be a day-to-day thing, you’re always watchful for changes in eating or sleeping habits, and if you had a good therapist, their phone number is still in your contact list.

Robin Williams was one of my favorites, as he was for so many. He could render you speechless with laughter, yet to me, he ultimately appeared as terribly fragile. The incandescent ones–their midnights can be deep indeed. And where there is despair, there is no god and no tomorrow. Those who have not been beaten down by its mighty fist cannot imagine what this is like.

There are still many mysteries involved with this illness, why it happens, how to treat it, if it can be treated effectively over the long term at all. Since I know little of the circumstances, I can’t say anything as to the cause of his illness, although I do know from personal experience that alcohol exacerbates its effects.

Robin-WilliamsCertainly it’s a matter of a neurotransmitter imbalance, but recent research is suggesting that it may be a bit more complicated than that. If it were that simple, then just prescribing the correct antidepressant (that’s a battle in itself) would correct the issue.  But the most recent research is indicating that the causes are multifactorial, with everything from family dynamics to baseline interactional skills playing into the mix.

“A nut is a suicide whose rope broke.” Most of us who have been caught in this trap have either strongly considered ending it, or have tried to kill ourselves.  Some of us, the lucky ones, got stopped by someone near to us, a professional or a friend or family member, or even by fate. The really unlucky ones tried and half-way succeeded, those are the truly horrifying cases.  They are trapped in a twilight that lasts for decades until their deaths from medical complications.  The brain-injured, the anoxic-damaged and the crippled. Robin Williams finally turned away at last, looking to escape the unrelenting hammer, and there was no one present to stop him. A friend of mine who works in mental health told me this once long ago, “We have few tools, most of the time it’s just a waiting game of keeping them safe from themselves, and hoping they find some ray of light to grab onto, despite all of our drugs and locked-door institutions.”

When I worked as an EMT long ago, attending a suicide was always a dismal affair.  Even if it wasn’t a mess from a gunshot wound, say like a drug overdose or a carbon monoxide poisoning, a heavy pall of despair always accompanied the scene.  Someone had turned away and walked through that door, seeing no hope.  Many of us are just feet away from that door.

Despite my aspirations of spiritual evolution and cultural maturation for all of us, I’m not so foolish to think we’re all going to get there by a straight-line, ascending horizon of understanding, as Gadamer might say. It’s still a perilous trip, all sweetness and light all the time is a myth, and only true in advertising.

I hope that the “stink” of mental illness can be lessened by better awareness, but it’s going to be a long, slow climb.  Getting thrown under the bus here, particularly when you look basically unscathed, is a hard hole to climb out of.  Some never make it.

I like to think that Christopher Reeves was waiting for him when he crossed the threshold, and that God is now enjoying an impromptu improv show.

Godspeed, Robin, Laugh at Last.

The Dissertation Defense Boogie(man)

OK, so I’m done, done, done.  I defended my dissertation and walked in graduation the next day.  It’s PhD now.  It’s kind of like childbirth–later you don’t remember much.  My committee said I did fine, I don’t know, I wasn’t there.  As in, I was there physically, answered their questions to their satisfaction, and don’t remember anything else.

I have to say, I had a great committee, brilliant, committed, compassionate people who would have made the Marquis de Sade proud (just kidding).  I got pushed right into the corner, and then driven right over the wall.  Revisions were intense, times when your brain rebels about thinking of anything harder than where the bed, fridge and bathroom are, and yet forced to think creatively in that moment in spite of your exhaustion.

Here’s the thing about these gigs–medical school internships are based on the same principle–can you think responsibly, creatively and with insight when you are so tired you can hardly stand up and your mind metaphorically pukes at the thought of producing one more word, or making one more decision? Yes, yes, you can.

So, onward and upward.  The book that the dissertation is based on will come soon and will be available on Amazon; The Anatomy of Death: Notes from a Healer’s Casebook, ebook and hard copy.  It is a collection of stories of people I worked with as a medical intuitive as they were dying, and the things that I learned from them.  It is a place we will all be at the end of our lives here.

The Dissertation Blues

So I’ve been absent from here for a good reason, I’ve been working on my dissertation in Human Development. When people ask me what that is, I just tell them, “Research psychology.” It’s not clinical psych, but its basis is a bit broader than “hard” psychology–you know, the area where they used a lot of rat data on cognition, genetics and anatomy plus a whole bunch of other objective measures. The degree I’m pursuing incorporates a lot of sociology and philosophy, history and a good basis in epistemology. Certainly I received a good foundation in Personality and the basic science behind Piaget, etc., but I also looked at the transpersonal, integral basis for personality, cognition and spirituality. I also studied Systems, which involved an historical overview of how we think about our interface with reality. I had a small cadre of teachers who understand me, but even in the wider perspective of the school I attended, not all of them felt comfortable with me. But they have all been extremely rigorous thinkers.

My dissertation is a comparison of case studies of work I have done with the dying that includes mediumship and shamanic practice. These cases appear to demonstrate similar foundational energetic changes to those practiced by mediums and shamanic practitioners within their respective cultures with the dying. I have also brought the Bardos of Tibetan Buddhism into the mix, as their stages also show similarities. My premise is that there is an physiologic process that occurs across cultures during the dying process, unless it has been distorted by the culture in which the person is embedded.

But I am still embroiled in the process of writing right at the moment. I had reached the point of not wanting to write at all, I was so tired of it. Dissertation writing is more of a hazing process. As many of my colleagues have told me, “You’ll never have to do something like this again–ever.” But when you’re in the middle of it, that doesn’t seem to matter much. We’ve all been there.

Desk

But things are looking up. I have turned in my first draft, and my committee chair “loved it.” I’m not sure I believe her yet, there is still some major clean-up and exposition to complete. But I’m on my way.

All I can say to you who are on this journey is 1) Pick a program you actually like (and can pay your school loans in the long run!) and 2) Pick a committee chair and committee members whom you like and they like you. Sounds simple, and perhaps naive, but it will save you a lot of suffering in the long run. And for pity’s sake, if you can afford it, hire an editor. They can turn into your best friend.

A Dirty Secret

So I must tell you, I’m working on my dissertation in Human Development, the thing is bloody hard work.  Our media and culture do not encourage deep, vertical thinking, everything is done on the fly and vast subjects encapsulated into a Lede followed by a few paragraphs.  Most people never get to the end of an article, much less invest years of study on a small group of interrelated subjects.  Academia is an interesting animal, like all areas of earnest endeavor, you have to really love it, because in-between all of the earnest endeavor, there is a lot of bullshit.  But I do love it.

But that’s not the dirty secret; within all of that has been the study of hands-on healing, clairvoyance and shamanic practice to invoke change.  I didn’t attend any one of a thousand “schools” that give  a “certificate” for a million dollars at the end of 12 weeks work with instructors whose experience is questionable at best.  I studied with an old woman–and she is old now–who has been doing this work for more than 50 years.  Like most people of this type, she would hesitate to even call herself a teacher or shaman, much less one of the most intuitive, gifted souls I have ever known.  Within her own realm, she is a genius.  It’s kind of funny–while others represent, or take on avatars of tremendous power–the eagle, or the leopard, for example–hers would be the teddy bear.  With pink fur.  Who could kick your ass into next week if she chose to do so.  But she wouldn’t need to, because by the time you’d gotten to know her, there wouldn’t be a thing on this earth you wouldn’t do for her, out of pure love.  Love is her weapon, no, it is her, no one can withstand her.

So that’s the secret.  Because I live in the world of academia, even most psychologists I know–and I know a lot–would be vastly uncomfortable if they knew this about me.  And it is a shame that it has to be this way, that even the work of Jung makes them uncomfortable.  Yet it was his work, and the work of Maslow that opened the door to the transpersonal, the perspective that the world had been working with for millennia, long before dualism forced our “either-or” view.

Interestingly, it was not a “cognitive” event that forced this change in me.  And it was forced, I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into this new horizon, this epoché, as Husserl would say, a suspension of disbelief.  And that tale will be told forthwith.

So what is a farther axis?

This name just came to me out of the blue, and often that’s where the best ideas come from.  This one evolved from Ken Wilber, whose main contribution is the concept of AQAL to humanistic psychology.  AQAL stands for All quadrants, all levelsreferring to the interconnection between the interior and exterior of the human mind and heart, and between the individual and the group.

4Q

4Q (Photo credit: ~C4Chaos)

Where we are as a group is debatable, and frequently is, but as you can see, a diagram of AQAL makes up the classical positive and negative 2-D object that we are familiar with to visualize multidimensional concepts.  It’s not a new idea, the ancient Hindus were working with the interrelationship between man and his environment since ancient times.  But he is one of the first to propose the idea in an integral way in the Western psychological literature.  Hence the name, more or less begun by him, of Integral Psychology; the integration of Man and Woman, the spirit, mind and heart, into the group and our environment as one working whole.

I have since come to find out–perhaps as the result of age–that working on the advancement of the evolution of the group is the work of the young, and after much development of perspective, have also realized that the only thing one can effectively change is oneself.  A Farther Axis, a place farther down Wilber’s line, is where we are headed.  At least on my better days, I would like to think so.