Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Remember to Look at Your Hands

“A lucid dream is a dream during which the dreamer is aware of dreaming. During lucid dreaming, the dreamer may be able to exert some degree of control over the dream characters, narrative, and environment.” __________________________________________________

Look at your hands. This is such a simple sentence. Its simplicity might be why it works as a way to intentionally shift an ordinary dream into a lucid dream.

A few days ago, I started re-reading a book by Carlos Castaneda called “The Art of Dreaming.” My good friend, Lloyd, gave me the book for Christmas. It was published in 1993 and I remember first reading it around that time. In the book the author describes a number of techniques to alter awareness through intentional dreaming. One of the techniques is to give yourself a simple instruction while awake to carry out in a dream. The recommended instruction is as simple as it gets. Look at your hands.

 Since I first read this instruction in 1993 I have been able to remember to do it only three times. On the first two occasions when I looked at my hands while dreaming I was exhilarated by the experience. I became aware that the dream was mine and that I could do anything I wanted within it. I experienced a spectacular sense of well-being and empowerment. Both times, I spontaneously began to fly.

Two nights ago, after reading a chapter of the Castaneda book, I did it again. In my dream, I remembered to look at my hands. This time I did not fly but I experienced an indescribable physical sensation. I became intensely aware of the details within the space I was occupying in the dream. I was aware that I had infinite choice about how to experience the dream. Then the moment passed and I woke up.

I continue to think about that dream. I wonder how often I let infinite choice pass me by during my ordinary waking state without making a decision.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

It's the Journey, Not the Destination

Carol and I spent the last week helping our son, Patrick, his fiancĂ©, Lisa, and their dog, Bramble, move to Denver, Colorado from Raleigh, NC. We helped them drive their two cars and a 15-foot panel truck 1700 miles in three days. We stopped overnight in Louisville and then in Kansas City and then… just kept driving. The outside temperature was near zero for about half of the trip. The wind gusts in Kansas made it difficult to keep the panel truck upright and in the correct lane. Lisa had a bad cold and needed rest. By the end of the second day, Patrick was exhausted and feeling the stress of being the group leader and primary truck driver. Bramble and I were both disoriented and constipated. By Day Three Carol was absorbing some of the stress, too.

Yet, if Patrick asked me to take the entire trip again, I would do it in a heartbeat. It actually was a privilege to witness Patrick and Lisa as they took a big risk and moved West.


There also was something magical about driving along with Carol and watching Patrick and Lisa zooming out ahead of us. It felt like a metaphor for something much bigger.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

An Unlikely Christmas Sermon I Might Have Listened To...

Have you ever daydreamed through a Christmas church service? I have daydreamed through many. Sometimes I daydream the sermon that I would like to be hearing instead of the one that is going on. The following fictional Christmas sermon is the result of one of those daydreams. This does not necessarily reflect what I believe. It is, however, a fictional perspective on Christmas that I would understand and respect.


Good morning and Merry Christmas brothers and sisters. Here we are again. Right now... on this beautiful morning where we have gathered to celebrate together the birth of Jesus Christ.

Let’s begin today by taking a deep breath… and then releasing it very slowly. Let’s pause and notice the space we are sharing with each other right now…in this sacred moment.

Before our Christmas celebration begins I want to share with you some unusual questions I am asking myself this year. This year I am asking myself,

What if Jesus never really existed?

What if the entire story of Jesus is just a story?

What if the skeptics have been right all along and Jesus is just a myth?

I don’t know the answer for you but for me the answer to these questions is …

It would not make any difference.

I would experience the same joy that people have celebrated for centuries. I would celebrate because the significance of Jesus for me is not His physical presence 2000 years ago. The significance for me is the message that is communicated by God through the story of Jesus. I believe that the message is timeless and that it transcends human form. That message remains relevant because it exists within each of us in this room right now. That message is about the power… the energy…the life force that is the essence of Jesus. It is the message of universal Love.

You see, I believe that the good news, the Gospel told through the story of Jesus, is that it is possible to know God by sharing love with each other. The good news is that deep within each of us is the universal longing and the potential to connect with each other through the force of love.

I believe that all we have to do to save ourselves from ignorance and suffering is to recognize and release the love energy, inspired by Jesus, that is waiting to manifest in our lives right now and in every other moment. When we recognize and release that love we are then connected to each other on a physical plane and connected to all others who have come before us or will come after us on a spiritual plane that some have called Heaven.

So, this Christmas I am observing that if Jesus never really existed it would not make any difference to me. I would still celebrate the message of Jesus that God has shared with us through the story of Jesus Christ. So let the party begin.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Dying to Know - Now

I recently watched a movie on Netflix called, Dying to Know. It is a documentary film narrated by Robert Redford about the lives of Timothy Leary and Ram Dass, aka, Richard Alpert. Much of the film is footage of a conversation between the two men that occurred a few months prior to Timothy Leary’s death.

I think the movie does a great job of telling the story of how these two men influenced the culture in obvious and in subtle ways.

I cannot describe how I felt watching the film.

I first heard the story of Timothy Leary and Ram Dass, in 1971. Someone gave me a reel-to-reel audiotape and just said, “You will want to listen to this.” I listened to it and then listened to it again…and again. It was a three hour talk by Ram Dass describing his experience with Timothy Leary and psychedelic drugs that lead to his eventual pilgrimage to India. The audiotape preceded the soon-to-be released book, Be Here Now.

While watching the movie, Dying to Know, I was swept with my own Be Here Now moment. I noticed that I was listening to Ram Dass telling me the same story with the same message he shared in 1971. The only difference was the passage of 45 years. The similarity of then and now reminded me again.

Be Here Now.

I think Ram Dass and my late my father-in-law, Bob Parr, looked similar. I shared the Ram Dass article called Dying is Perfectly Safe with Bob a couple of years before his death. I hope it was helpful.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Kickstarter

When my son, Wes, was about 12 years old he decided to learn karate. This decision was a little surprising because Wes was not really interested in sports as a kid. In those days Wes was more interested in sulking around and listening to loud music in his bedroom. His favorite sport was shooting stuff, mostly tin cans, with a .22 rifle or a BB gun.

I worried about Wes in those days because he seemed quietly angry. I assumed his quiet anger was related to the turmoil that his mother and I had created in his life. When he was six years old he watched us co-facilitate an extremely nasty divorce. As part of “the process” we paid lawyers to create a clumsy joint custody agreement and a chaotic back-and-forth schedule that had less to do with Wes’s needs for structure and stability and more to do with his parents’ mutual resentment and distrust. In those turbulent days Wes put up with us and tried not to rock the boat any more than necessary. But I think our foolishness made him angry.

So when Wes decided to learn karate I thought it was probably a good thing. I thought karate lessons might provide a physical way for Wes to express some of the feelings that he was reluctant to verbalize. I signed him up for lessons at the local YMCA and bought a karate uniform for him. He attended karate class two or three evenings a week and appeared to enjoy it. He liked his karate uniform and sometimes wore it around the house. Over a period of a few months Wes earned a yellow belt, then a green one, and then a purple one. 

Sometimes I would watch part of Wes’s karate lesson. The class included about twelve students. They practiced various exercises and drills, and then took turns sparing with each other. The instructor was careful to match sparing partners of similar size and ability and to make sure nobody got hurt. The kids all wore some padding and protective head gear so I was not worried about Wes’s safety until his karate teacher started encouraging the students to enter a tournament.

The karate teacher believed that competing in tournaments was necessary for students to make progress. The tournaments required students to fight with strangers from other karate schools. Wes was ambivalent and resisted for a while but eventually agreed to enter a weekend tournament in Butner, a weird little town about a 30-minute drive from Chapel Hill.

The tournament was on a Saturday morning. On the drive to Butner I could tell that Wes was very nervous. So was I.  I remember thinking, “I wonder why I am paying money to have some other kid kick my kid’s ass.” When we got there and saw the other contestants in his age group warming up our anxiety grew. I hoped that Wes, nor I, would chicken out. 

Wes did not chicken out. In fact, he won his first round match. He won by constantly moving around and playing defense well enough to avoid getting hit with solid punches. A solid punch was worth one point.  A solid kick to the head was worth three points because it was a more difficult move and seldom attempted at this level of competition. So I think everyone in the room was a little surprised when Wes stunned his opponent with a sudden kick to the head toward the end of the match. Three quick points and Wes had won Round 1.

In the second round Wes seemed more confident. He continued to employ his defensive strategy of movement and avoidance while patiently waiting for an opportunity to kick the other kid’s head.  He waited, waited, then bam. He landed another solid kick to the head. Ultimately, he scored six points off of two surprising head kicks and won Round 2 of the tournament. Wes had clearly exceeded his expectations and surprised the hell out of me. I would have been happy to leave immediately and enjoy the moment but there was one more round of competition.

The winner of Round 3 would win the age group and take home an impressive trophy. Wes’s opponent in this round would later win the state championship and have an article written about him in our local newspaper. I had watched him earlier in the tournament. He was quick, coordinated, and talented. Wes did not have a chance.

In the third round Wes’s opponent looked in command from the start but he appeared wary of Wes’s dangerous right foot. The other kid knew he was the better fighter and he was predictably over confident.  When Wes kicked him in the head he appeared even more stunned than the previous two opponents. Wes seemed to realize that kicking head was his only chance so he became more aggressive.  He managed to kick the other guy’s head four times and pull off the upset victory. I could not have been more stunned if someone had suddenly kicked me in the head.

Wes was having a peak experience and I was lucky enough to watch. He could not remain on the floor when he received his trophy. He was literally jumping for joy. The vanquished Round 3 opponent was a good sport. He walked over to shake Wes’s hand. He walked away still shaking his battered head.

On the car trip home Wes did not even try to contain his excitement. He kept repeating, “I won the tournament!” I did not have to say too much because I knew that Wes could sense my pride and respect for what he had accomplished.

The karate tournament was twenty five years ago. Wes is now a highly competent professional, a caring and respectful husband, and an overall good guy. He has become the type of adult that any karate teacher or any parent would be proud of.  I doubt that the karate tournament had much of a role in his character development but I bet he can still kick unsuspecting opponents in the head if necessary.

UPDATE: I wrote this story several years ago. Wes read it and called me to tell me he did not like it so I deleted it. Actually, he said he did not care whether I posted it or not.

Wes told me that he did not like the story because his memory of the karate tournament (and his childhood) is different than mine. He reminded me that the divorce episode was mostly my problem, not his. He suggested that I really needed to give up that ancient bad dream. Wes is a wise person.