STEPS / Main Page / Index / Previous / Next



I swept
as the dust began to collect
faster and faster it settled
swifter and swifter I swept
huge clouds of dust descended
frantically I swept
retreating down the hall
it rose over me, all round
no room now for sweeping
it filled my nose, my mouth
in vain my eyelashes
batted at the still descending dust
then, covered over completely
I slept

5/16/78 - In a vivid dream last night it was revealed that I'm of American Indian ancestry. Either I was a shaman in an earlier life or a close blood relation to one.

5/17/78 - I think we do not really change, but allow ourselves to change. Genuine growth flows, is never imposed. A direction in which I'd like to let myself move now is into more intimate encounter, with myself, other people, the physical environment, and the divinity that both pervades and supercedes all.

I announced to my Transactional Analysis (TA) group tonight that May 31st will be my last session with them. I admitted I have mixed feelings about this, that if I were still going to be working I'd not leave for awhile. However, I explained, I plan to get into a therapy group at the university. This will be free while I'm a student. Though I've gained a great deal from the TA group, I know I'll still need some support. Afterward, Dr. Carl Paulus, one of our leaders, said it sounded fine, showing good awareness, and that he thinks I'll be a fine therapist. The other leader, Becky, was polite and encouraging, saying she was sorry I was leaving but excited for me. She asked that I keep in touch.

As I left I was still feeling rather nervous. One of the women said she'll really miss me. I surely will miss them!

5/29/78 - Following a quite beautiful weekend in NC, in close contact with LW followers there, I am this evening feeling once more inspired with this path. Nonetheless, I'm going to simply to maintain a "B average" discipleship, not trying for perfection or "straight A's." I'll endeavor not to impose any aspect of the path but to follow it simply as comes naturally.

5/30/78 - These last two weeks as a safety specialist at Fort Jackson have been among the most interesting, productive, and rewarding I've spent in this position. I hope my death may come in the same way, taking me from the midst of an active life, vigorous and vital to the last.

5/31/78 - Went to my final meeting with the Columbia Institute of Therapeutic Awareness (my TA group) tonight.

6/2/78 - This was my last day of work at Fort Jackson and my first day of registration for full-time graduate studies.

There's a yawning chasm in front of me. It's all ridiculous. I'm so scared! Yet I can't seem to take it terribly seriously. This seems like a joke I'm hearing somebody tell. I feel a huge body-shaking laugh rumbling about, ready to explode. I'll be thirty-five in October. The number of things I wanted to do and haven't stretches on and on. There's no way to maintain the illusion that I still have time enough for all or even most of my priorities. Many must therefore be let go. I need to hold nothing too tightly lest the laughter become painful convulsions and turn my mirth to gall. For the rest of my life, I want to become, merely become, and go on becoming and becoming and becoming, till my consciousness, in a twinkling, winks out of this world, whether or not it wakes to another. I want to laugh, love, and live. And I must be real!

(Read Emergency, by Virginia Spear.)

I seek to be a mystic, a saint. But more than that I want to be a poet, not by written words, but through my way of living. If I must choose between the saint and the poet in me, I'll be the poet, for I do not want to set my foot upon any part of myself and call it evil, banishing it from grace. I would celebrate the whole of life, of experience, of me! I intend to integrate the separate parts and "selves" into a unified vision of meaning, into a seamless garment, a wholeness of being.

(Read All My Friends are Going to Be Strangers, by Larry McMurtry.)

6/3/78 - Feeling down today, alternately anxious, sad, and angry. I want to lash out and attack, but I'm the only one around. This is the first time in a long while I've longed for a drink. It is a whole new ballgame. But today it seems I don't want to play. None of the more viable options have appeal. I just feel like smashing things up! Ironically, I also feel an almost desperate longing for sex. I want to fuck and fuck and fuck and fuck. It is as though I could go on fucking forever and never exorcise this demon within me.

Tonight, I'm beginning in earnest the reorganization of my rooms for this new phase of my life.

A lot of nonsense is written and told about spirituality. All this didactic discourse doesn't change the true nature of reality, of course. Yet people may thereby feel complacent and smug about their particular beliefs.

(Read Death Comes for the Arch Bishop by Willa Cather.)

I write though knowing the words, like drawings in sand, will be soon blown away on time's wind.

If bored, ask yourself what you're avoiding by this means. Boredom implies resistance, a blocking of unpleasant truths or emotions.

It occurs to me that true saints or mystics transcend the belief systems within which they attain their sainthood or enlightenment. They grow out of them like fresh green seedlings sprout up above the soil in which they're rooted. It doesn't matter much what that soil is like so long as it is an adequate medium for growth.

A risk in following any belief system is that one may mistake hypotheses for truths and so turn them into dogma. It is a hazard, I think, to which even saints are susceptible. At least, when saints or mystics try to express their vision in terms the rest of us can understand, it often comes across like a mixture of truth and ideology. At their best they are free of all hint of arbitrariness and rigidity. Yet always there is danger of succumbing to parochialism. Even if they themselves do not fall into such traps, their followers all too often are eager to do so.

6/5/78 - Had a dream last night in which a beautiful sorceress tempts me to sex with her, seeking a merging not merely of our bodies but also of our minds. Given her special powers, there is a threat that this will put me under her control. At the last moment I remember to repeat my mantra (and awaken). Lying in bed, still half in the dream, I perceived that I was partially out of my body for some minutes after I woke up, and experienced apparently dual loci of consciousness before fully "returning" into my physical form.

I am surprised to realize that the primary concern of my intellectual vitality five to eight years ago, breaking through into a new realm of consciousness and discovery, is not the burning concern for me now. In fact, I am not clear about what, if anything, is my primary concern today, but certainly metanoia is not it. If it happens anyway, as a result of my general lifestyle, I shall be very glad. But it is definitely not one of my chief issues today.

"God's mercy is known through the fruits thereof
 But who save God knows His essence?
 No one knows the very essence of God's attributes
 But only in their effect and by similitudes."
- The Masnavi of Maulana Rumi

In 1966, when I had several "trips" using Ritalin and a mixture of oxygen with carbon dioxide, I experienced a vision that included: the Third World War; a journey through a world of words; a monetary fortune; time lapse flashbacks through previous ages; witnessing the rises and falls of countless civilizations; wandering through Europe in medieval and renaissance times; a lifeline, from start to finish, as if in a computer program, entitled "The Life and Death of Phil Wagner;" and transcendental experiences of unity and understanding that seemed to encompass all knowledge, experience, space, and time, their collective entirety at last simply present as a single whole, a poetic vision, paradox-free, excluding nothing, dynamic, utterly alive, utterly aware, utterly meaningful, endless, and infinitely becoming. My real life is similar to the vision in its themes yet far less dramatic. And if those drug-induced journeys were precognitive, my just ended four years of daily interactions with the personnel and hardware of the military perhaps having been the basis for what in the past I would interpret as a "Third World War," foreseen, in this view, in much exaggerated form, then the first part of the vision is over. What next?

6/10/78 - If there is restraint in humankind's nature, we must demonstrate it now. Otherwise, these decades of the current generations are the final days.

Up at 9 AM. I ate cheese crackers, heated water for instant coffee, and fixed myself a cup. I listened to "toothpaste" music ("just beautiful music, twenty-four hours a day") on the radio. I read In and Out the Garbage Pail by Dr. Frederick (Fritz) Perls, the genius of gestalt therapy. I tipped the coffee cup, bottom up, and the hot brown liquid flowed obligingly into my mouth. My lips closed over and captured it. How strange!

I went to see the movie version of "Catch 22" last night for the second time. I saw it alone, as I had the first time, several years ago. It is a good film, by no means a great one, and rather disturbing. Yet I left more preoccupied with having no lover than with the depressing movie message.

(Read the works of Dr. Charles W. Russell - a blind poet.)

"What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it." Antoine de Saint Exupéry, Wind, Sand, and Stars.

(Read Illness as Metaphor by Susan Sontag.)

Without a sense of the ridiculous, the ability to laugh, at yourself most of all, despair seems the most reasonable attitude toward life. With a sense of humor, nothing is certain anymore! The most wretched situation may yet inspire a bit of clowning and lyrical wit. And no man is truly in chains who still can laugh and mean it. The stoic approach is so dreary and heavy. And the capacity for love of the divine in all things seems out of our hands. Either we feel it or we don't, God's grace, and all that. But laughter! There's just a chance we can cultivate a capacity for this special way of seeing the world and ourselves, that soon brings smiles, then titters, and finally great joyous belly-laughs. Most children have it. And there's a bit of kid left in each of us. So be an imp! Fool around. Have a laugh. Dispel the frowns!

"Truth is not that which can be demonstrated by the aid of logic. If orange trees are hardy and rich in fruit in this bit of soil and not that, then this bit of soil is what is truth for orange trees. If a particular religion, or culture, or scale of values, if one form of activity rather than another, brings self-fulfillment to a man, releases the prince asleep within him unknown to himself, then that scale of values, that culture, that form of activity, constitute his truth. Logic, you say? Let logic wangle its own explanation of life."
Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint Exupéry
(trans. Lewis Galantière. Harbrace. 1967 ed.)

6/24/78 - Today I meditated for an hour and twenty minutes, jogged farther than I have in the past two months, and made progress on a paper/presentation on rehab services for the blind. Also washed my car, bought some books, picked up the cleaning, and saw an exciting movie. A good day! This evening I watched TV, called two women, left a message for one who was out, and had a nice chat with the other for several minutes. Gave myself a shampoo, picked up extra money at my bank, and started a short conversation with two strangers.

6/25/78 - I went to Association with Mr. Sondhi this morning, chatted with him for awhile afterward, jogged again (a little more than yesterday), spoke to two strangers briefly, did my laundry, tried a new restaurant, and completed some coursework.

6/26/78 - I slept late today, attended sign language class (after review of the signs learned to date), stopped at a new restaurant for a snack breakfast and at yet another new one for lunch, went on a field trip to the Beckman Vocational Rehabilitation Center, typed over half of my term paper for one course, meditated over an hour, read for awhile, went jogging, and watched TV. Also did my mantra repetition several times. At the eateries I avoided reading and writing, instead just hanging out and getting into the experiences of the food, people, or surroundings.

6/27/78 - Awoke this morning remembering a brief, exciting dream fragment in which a tall, chocolate complexioned, beautiful young woman, who's known me for a few days at the home where I am a guest, is nervous, so I ask her why, and she at first couldn't say and just became more agitated, but then, tears in her eyes, she rushed over to the couch where I was reclining, straddled me, facing my head, pressed herself close to me, wearing only a lovely, printed, colorful cotton dress, and said: "I don't know how to let a man know he doesn't have to kiss my vulva!" I awoke, very turned on, full of fantasies not only of oral sex with the dream girl but also of playful good sex, oral and regular, with an actual Black woman in one of my graduate courses. (The dream tickled my funny bone and I find myself very amused as I write this.)

Today I went, as usual, to my classes and then to a couple restaurants, where, again, I avoided reading or writing but rather attended to the people around me. I completed typing my term paper on rehab services for the visually impaired, meditated for over an hour, went jogging, called someone and chatted for a few minutes, initiated some conversations, voted in a run-off election, and did some interesting reading. I also visited Mrs. Cleary, my secretary in the Fort Jackson safety office, where I'd worked the past two years. (She was alone, our boss being on vacation and the other safety specialist in the hospital for irregular heartbeat.) I gave myself a shampoo too.

6/28/78 - Today I struck up a conversation with a woman who was a complete stranger. We talked for about a half hour. Also did a drawing for my art class.

6/30/78 - Yesterday I went jogging (on the way back getting bitten by a dog!) and meditated, went to my classes, and attended my gestalt therapy group, where I got into some strong feelings, especially anger, and was more assertive than usual.

Today I calmed down easily from the confusion and anger of yesterday evening, went jogging and to classes, meditated, bought some knit summer shirts plus a few other necessities, and began studying for a final exam.

7/4/78 - Today I drove home from Raleigh, NC, where I'd spent the past 2½ days visiting the Maples. During most of the trip I kept my attention in following my breath or my mantra, or returning it to the one or the other. After unpacking, I prepared for tomorrow's oral presentation on the blind. Also read quite a bit further in Journey to Awakening, by Ram Dass, and meditated for over an hour.

7/5/78 - Today I gave the presentation, about which I had been rather nervous. I didn't do an excellent job, but alright. I meditated over an hour and jogged my usual amount. Studied for next week's final exam. This evening I relaxed with television rather than going to the non-credit community art class (in which I'm no longer interested).

7/6/78 - Had my stipend interview this afternoon. I gave it my best. But there are not many stipends to go around, and they're often based on who you know, on "need," and on other too subjective factors.

(Read Chekhov, Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O'neill, and George Bernard Shaw.)

Today I continued my studies for an exam next week, got into some "good stuff" during a group therapy session this evening, and signed up for a counseling workshop for later this month. Also went jogging, meditated nearly an hour and a half, and repeated the mantra often through the day.

7/7/78 - Today I called a colleague from work in my safety job and chatted for awhile, jogged, meditated, continued my studies for the upcoming exam, registered for an assertiveness training group beginning in ten days, struck up a conversation with a new acquaintance met at a vegetarian restaurant, and repeated my mantra frequently.

(Read Marilyn French's brilliant new novel: The Women's Room.)

7/11/78 - I took the final exam today. Wrote a letter to my folks. Prepared a reservation for a big Association weekend in High Point, NC, the 21st - 23rd of this month. Initiated a couple conversations. And I relaxed with a movie, some general reading, and television. Also jogged, meditated, and did some conditioning exercises.

7/14/78 - Today I adjusted my carburetor and checked out what is wrong with the car's running. I started up conversations with two people, including a pretty woman. I also meditated for thirty-six minutes, bowled five games, got started on readings for my psychopathology course, went to my group counseling course, typed another page of "My Steps," from 1972, went to a movie, bought a spy thriller, and called a friend (talked for two and a half hours!).

7/15/78 - From my experience of the last few days, when you begin to get OK, doing what you want to do, feeling good about yourself, relaxing a little, and really taking care of yourself, you'll find a lot of energy available to you. You may discover you're more powerful than you'd imagined. You may notice that a new, higher level balance has been established.

Art is a searching. To be an artist, keep searching. Never stop that searching!

Today is my fifth anniversary of initiation onto the LW path.

(Read Larry McMurtry's All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers.)

Today I called several people, either just to talk or to ask for a date. Most were not home but I did reach one woman. We enjoyed a half-hour of chit-chat. I read some for my psychopathology course, did shopping, wrote and mailed a couple letters, went jogging, and meditated for almost two and a half hours.

(Read Enemies (in translation from Yiddish) and other works by its author, Isaac Bashevis Singer.)

If you would keep your brain alive and active (despite the statistics about year by year loss of mental function through age) then do daily meditation, regular jogging, a shoulder stand each morning for at least one minute, stay a vegetarian, consume plenty of lecithin, and do things with your time that you enjoy.

When asked why I am a vegetarian, I would reply, copying Mr. Isaac B. Singer, that it is for health reasons. "Oh, do you feel it will make you less susceptible to disease?" I may be asked. "Yes," I shall reply, "but, even more than that, I feel it vital to the health of the animals I would be eating were I not a vegetarian."

(Read Billion Year Spree. Also Women of Wonder. Also Pilgrimage.)

7/18/78 - Today I volunteered to co-lead our first group therapy lab. for my group counseling course. It was my first experience helping to lead a group. I felt very nervous but, what-the-Hell, I did it. You've got to start somewhere! I also went to classes, jogged, meditated, wrote letters to Ramona, Ralph, and Mary, continued reading for my psychopathology course, got acquainted with a pretty woman in one of my classes, and made an announcement in another class, about an upcoming couples therapy workshop.

7/19/78 - Initiated light, chit-chat conversations, exposed some vulnerability (and got into real feelings) in my group counseling class, practiced assertiveness, continued my course readings, and enjoyed some TV.

(Read The Real America by Ben Wattenburg.)

7/23/78 - Today is Sunday, and I had my weekly Association meeting with Mr. Sondhi, continued studies for my psychopathology mid-term, and read for my group counseling course.

Have been feeling very lonely and isolated over the last few days. Tonight it occurred to me I'd really like to just die. I've felt this weekend as though it is hopeless, futile, that I'll never be really happy, spontaneous, and outgoing. All my efforts to try to change have come to nothing. Only the loneliness, isolation, seclusion, shyness, self-consciousness, anger, anxiety, and depression have been consistent in my adult life. I no longer ever seem to really enjoy life for more than an hour or so, and then only on rare occasions. Am I doomed never again to even share my bed with a pretty lady? I feel washed up, as if my story is over. All that's left now, it seems, is waiting for the body to oblige by giving up the ghost I have become.

Well, to hell with it! No more special programs! No more projects! No more trying to be different! No more group therapy. No, I won't impose these restrictions on what will be either. We shall see.

7/24/78 - Had a snack lunch with a classmate, called a couple women from the TA group I was in, continued course readings, and arranged an appointment for a graduate assistantship interview. It seems there will be no stipend.

7/27/78 - Today I took my psychopathology midterm, did the jogging, meditated, went to a movie (a reward for preparing well for the midterm), and did some good work in my group counseling class lab. From now on in there I'll feel freer to express real emotions each time (and less need to try to control the group dynamics, to avoid exposing them). I also called Mr. Sondhi to see how he's doing and to tell him I will be in a couples therapy workshop the next two days and so won't be able to go with him to the Association weekend in High Point this coming weekend. He was naturally disappointed. I regret that, but, on the one hand, I must look after my own priorities, and, on the other, I've been rather generous toward him with my time on many occasions before. Gave myself a shampoo. Did some studying before the exam with a couple fellow classmates who happened along over at Russell House, the student union.

7/29/78 - Feeling down. Obsessed with loneliness, my apparent inability to break out of isolation. I sometimes wonder if I ought to be permanently on an antidepressant medication.

Today I attended the second day of a couples therapy workshop.

8/1/78 - An optimistic experimental hypothesis: the more humane you show yourself to be, the more fondness people will have for you. The energy you put out is the energy you'll receive.

(Read Families.)

8/17/78 - During a brief visit here a few days ago, in route to Canada and then Vermont (for my sister's French master's degree graduation from Middlebury College), mother informed me of a circumstance of which I should perhaps take note: when I was a toddler, about eighteen months old, I was given a series of x-ray treatments for an enlarged thymus gland. She said that she'd recently seen on a television program that it's been found that people who had such treatments had a higher than normal incidence of cancer of the thyroid gland. They are advised, then, to go to their doctors, explain the history, and have themselves checked. Evidently the gland, if affected, will have some kind of nodules, which, presumably, can be easily detected, as by x-ray. If they are present then a biopsy can be performed to determine if they are benign or malignant. I intend to have this checked out this fall. As it happens, I had been experiencing a small dull pain in my throat on the right front for a few months. It seems to come and go. When I mentioned it to my doctor during my physical in May, Dr. Dillingham said it must just be a little infection, sinusitis causing slight swelling of a lymph gland, nothing to worry about.

(Read Modes of Being by Paul Weis.)

8/27/78 - I've returned within the past hour from Norfolk and a visit with three of my brothers, Ernie, Pete, and Ralph, and my sister-in-law, Mary. Had a good stay with them. It's clear to me, however, that I must now go my own way. While I can number these relatives among my friends, I cannot be dependent on them. I must find my own soil in which to put out roots and find nurture for genuine growth.

9/4/78 - It's Monday, Labor Day. I'm just back from a visit with friends in Raleigh and Durham, NC. Had a really good time!

There's a lot I want to be doing now. I'm sure going to be busy!

9/8/78 - At the end of this month I'm moving to an apartment a block from campus. My present landlord died last month, and they'll be selling this house soon.

My friend, Mr. Sondhi, the other initiate here in Columbia, has returned to India, apparently for good. Despite the differences in our interests and personalities, I find I really miss him.

(Read the writings of Eric Hoffer, such as The True Believer.)

10/15/78 - Continuing to get settled into my new apartment. Also with preparing for midterms.

10/26/78 - I'm thirty-five today and again feeling lonely and really depressed. What else is new? Took myself to a good movie, though.

I've always been a fan of the movies. I think life is like the movies, except you come in after the beginning and leave before it's over. All the time you're there, you're wondering how it all started and how it'll end, and you're trying to figure it out from just your slice out of the middle. Thus, real movies are better than life, for they give you a complete story. Indeed, sometimes the story is told rather well.

10/29/78 - Yesterday I was nearly killed, apparently due to some lapse or fault in my mental functioning. It was as if the two hemispheres of my brain failed to function together. I was approaching a red light at an intersection where my road crossed a busy street. I remember, from half a block back, telling myself "Oh, it's red. Good, I can go straight on through!" I did not question this for a moment and in fact picked up speed a little to complete the intended traffic maneuver. Seemingly at the last instant, I glanced to the left, apparently just out of habit, and saw at least six cars traveling at pretty good speed approaching the same intersection. At this point several things occurred simultaneously without my voluntary intervention. I immediately realized that I was about to crash and, at the same time apparently, my foot lifted from the accelerator and hit the foot brake as hard as it could while my other foot pushed in the clutch and my arms and hands tightened at the steering wheel. My upper body braced backward against the impact so that the force of my sudden stop only wrenched my left wrist a little, while loose articles in the car were flung forward onto the floor. Meanwhile, too late, the closest lead car began a long wail of honking. I heard, also simultaneously, a self-dialogue something like: "My gosh, why are they going through against the light!?" and "We're going to crash!" and "Oh God, I'm going through a red light!" Yet by the time I'd told myself these things, events had rendered them but historical commentary. My car had halted three feet into the intersection after a noisy screech of brakes. And the oncoming traffic, barely missing me, had cleared the intersection. The long, angry, frightened wail of the lead car's horn continued as its driver drove on past and down a hill. It was over. I sat there for a few minutes, less frightened than amazed, first, that I had told myself it was OK to go because I had the red light, and, second, that the "inevitable" crash had been avoided.

Esoteric, self-hypnotic, meditative, consciousness-raising, and/or spiritual ways I might try to awaken from such "sleep" as nearly killed me:

  • Just sitting. Just sitting. Just sitting. Just sitting. Inside. Outside. ("Just sitting" awareness.)
  • Inducing self-hypnosis, with eyes closed, relaxed, counting backwards slowly from 100 to zero, then zero to minus 100. At zero, visualize a mirror, round, and draw a letter "A" on it, and wipe it off till the mirror is perfectly clear again, then "B," the same way, then "C," "D," "E," "V," then "X." Next, mentally say "I am becoming clear," and mentally write it on the mirror, then wipe it off till the mirror is clear. Then resume the counting, zero to minus 100.
  • Eyes open, counting the breath, one to four, or simply noting "In," "Out," with eyes slightly lowered, out of focus.
  • Eyes closed, counting the breath.
  • Gazing at an object steadily while repeating "Just gazing," "Just gazing," "Just gazing," and bringing the attention back to the object each time you notice it has shifted. Remain sitting, motionless, for half hour to an hour or so.
  • Follow exercises from the book, Awareness, by Stevens.
  • Use my mantra or the mantra with Dhyan, while sitting with very little movement. Also use the mantra throughout the day, whenever otherwise mentally free.
  • Bhajan, some daily, regardless of other forms of meditation.
  • TM sitting and repetition of its mantra: "Sherim," for twenty minutes, twice a day, followed each time with relaxed sitting for another two to five minutes, before open eyes fully and get up.
  • Watching oneself, self-remembering.
  • "Hydro-hypno-therapy" sessions, in the dark, in a full tub of hot water.
  • Meditation on another person, with absorption in gestures, facial appearance, body language, the person's manner of speaking, dress, general appearance, mood, concentration, content of expression, etc. (especially useful in counseling situations).
  • Meditation on nature, in natural settings.
  • Work or activity meditation, with absorption in what one is doing, relaxed concentration on one's activity, awareness of each movement and thought, going with the rhythm, the flow of it, letting it do itself, nonresistance in the work.
  • Dreaming meditation. Self-remembering while dreaming (as in lucid dreaming, power dreaming, awareness dreaming, flying dreams, high dreams, spiritual dreams, archetypal dreams, intuition dreaming, ESP dreams, or astral dreaming. Other dream exercises: self-exploration through dreaming; going into dream images; gestalt self-discovery through use of dreams; following dreams; active shaping of dream images after the dream.
  • "Problem" analysis, brainstorming, selves dialogues, and resolutions, as a form of meditation.
  • Free associative, fantasy, and so on, "writing meditations."
  • Following your thoughts. Becoming more aware of what you're thinking about. Watching your thoughts, without judging.

(Read On Wolves and Man.)

11/10/78 - Had a dream last night in which I admitted to a couple of friends that I'm depressed and feel discouraged that, after all my activities and acquaintances, I still have no intimate physical companionship. The woman with whom I was talking suggested I was expecting too much of myself and others, trying too hard, not being simply relaxed and casual about it, not merely allowing these things to happen. It does take time and you can't be forcing it, controlling it, or demanding results, she said. You've just got to be receptive, show interest in others, be friendly in a casual way, and make yourself available for intimacy, she added. She counseled more patience.

I awoke thinking she'd been quite correct. But why such wisdom only in my dreams?

While our intellectual and physical faculties decline steadily after our prime, around age twenty, our spiritual and creative capacities may not merely continue but even increase into old age, indeed up to very near, or even through, the time of death.

11/27/78 - Had a dream last night in which I'm called upon in a professional capacity to go talk with a client/patient. I am initially concerned about my own competence but go down, out of the building, and to her friend's car (directed there by her friend, who'd sought my services, that is), and find her lying in the back. I get in and begin talking with her. It is immediately clear that she has a terminal illness and, indeed, seems to be near death. Her body is much atrophied throughout. Her hair is gone. Her face is full of great hollows, and her skin has an unnatural pallor. I can see that she once was a very attractive woman. Indeed, her beauty and intelligence shine through still. I'm convinced she has cancer and has been struggling with it for some time. She speaks to me softly but earnestly, in brief phrases between long pauses, and looks so deeply into my eyes I feel her sight like a probe going through me. I know I'll be totally honest with this woman. I see that she knows she's dying. She just wants to talk and perhaps have what reassurance can be gained from genuine human contact. She asked her friend to request I come down to give her an examination, and I had been prepared to do so, but now I realize she just wants to talk, even, perhaps, to talk with a doctor, or, with luck, with a man who will be real with her, for one last time. I take and hold her hands and lean down over her to hear her better and to be able to talk with her in the intimate way she seems to wish. She asks about progress in finding ways to combat the disease. I tell her research is making some headway and that any year now there is the possibility that either symptomatic treatments or an actual cure may be found. She expected no miracles and is content with my answer, simply my willingness to speak hopefully and yet honestly. We chat, then, quite simply, between her long pauses, and it seems the words don't matter so much as the touch and the love being exchanged in our eyes.

(Read The Education of Henry Adams.)

12/6/78 - While there is much evidence of vast untapped potential within ourselves, I find little if any convincing support for beliefs in anything of the divine outside of man, nor of other than a naturalistic interpretation and explanation for all that is, whether external to or inherent in us. Many mysteries remain, yet none seem sufficient to justify a belief in the direct intervention of a supernatural agency into the phenomenal world of man. Nonetheless, the possibility, if not the probability, persists that there exist profound inner experiences so transcendent and of such quality that to account for them we must take seriously one or another spiritual or mystic hypothesis.

It is even conceivable that normal consciousness is a very recent endowment of our species, that up until a few tens of thousands of years ago most of our functioning occurred in what we would regard now as at best low order trance states, lacking what Freud would call the "ego" or Berne the "adult."

(Read Children of Crisis by Robert Coles, M.D.)

12/10/78 - Just back from a great visit with the Maples in Raleigh. I got in some studying, too. Spent a lot of time this weekend thinking about my attitudes toward LW and other approaches to improved consciousness, possible attainment of spiritual realms, etc. I realized that I want to be associated with some spiritual group or philosophy, regardless of my intellectual concerns and conclusions. Further, that of all the spiritual approaches with which I am familiar I still feel closest to LW.

(Read On Human Nature by Edward O. Wilson.)

Green tempest-tossed dream sprites. Wrinkled flesh pasted on ancient skull, balanced askew atop a dangling old frame. Dung lumps turned by black beetles, legs waving. Spray of foam, churning waves washing over crags, jagged dark rock. Cold currents towing living tissues out to deadly deeps. Glittering sands shifting 'neath the rinse of receding waters, sparkling smooth pieces of shell. Old slat-fence, half in and out of the dunes, erosion eating into weed tufted soil. Cliffs of sand. Kites of low cloud gliding in. Radical mastectomy. Lass, you've seen the face of death and had a chat. Now you've come back, but we are afraid to laugh with you now. Pale blue sky. Wet little feathers on a chilled tiny bird, shivering under that leaning old board. I could cry. I could cry and cry and cry!

12/12/78 - Last Thursday I attended an interesting workshop on death and dying. Over the weekend I visited my Raleigh friends and, once again, had a really fine time. Called Ralph and Esther and the Whites Sunday night and finalized arrangements for my visit to Norfolk, starting the end of next week.

Tonight I called a girl met last summer, Mara Child, who works in the same building with me at the university's Counseling and Human Development Center. She's very pretty, has a pleasant personality, and is intelligent. And I've felt attracted by her since I first met her. So why wait till now to ask her out? I guess it's just lack of confidence. She seems so self-assured. She's about as tall as I am, and I think most women expect their men to be taller than they are. Also, she has been married and has two children, the youngest must be seven or eight. I think she must be very mature and experienced compared to me. I'm four years older than she, yet feel about eighteen years old around her! She told me on the phone tonight she'd had a sheltered childhood. I feel, however, that I have had a very sheltered adulthood! Anyway, she had to turn me down because of other plans and engagements over the next several days, leading to when both of us will be out of town for the holidays, but she was very encouraging of my calling her again later. Was she letting me down easily, or did I deduce correctly that we may have some good times so long as I keep it casual and do not expect either a serious or an exclusive relationship?

Tomorrow I have my first of three final examinations for the semester. I feel good about it.

The scope of reality is too vast by far to be made sense of within the narrow strictures of language and its descriptions or explanations. Reality is at once linear and nonlinear. It is both "common sense" and counterintuitive. Reality is multifaceted and only dimly imaginable. Yet we have the capacity for glimpses of it in poetic visions that transcend and encompass seeming paradoxes about the nature of that which is.

12/20/78 - Scholarship, despite my fairly good record before college and many years of at least part-time application to it, has never come easily for me. This past semester, certainly, was no exception. Yesterday I took my last examination of the year and left the classroom exhausted, drained emotionally and physically, perhaps even spiritually. In two or three hours, however, I had regained my composure, contentment, and energy and begun to think anew of the present and the future, to take stock and to plan.

In and out of class this past few months, I had joked a lot with fellow students about playing instead of knuckling down to serious studies and had tried to act cynical about the whole academic scene. But in fact I was deeply concerned with doing well. I sighed with relief and satisfaction on learning of "A's" made in the other courses. In one case, a course on counseling techniques, I was especially pleased to have finished in the top four (out of twenty-five). Now I await the result of this last final with anxiety alternating with resignation. I feel I did not do as well as I could wish on the test, but I still have a chance at an "A" for the course as a whole.

I realize too that, in the final analysis, an "A" or "B" in a single graduate course will not make that much difference! In any case, it's done now. And there are other things more valuable than scholastic achievement! My social life, recreation, and meditation have all taken a back seat to studies lately. Now it is time to balance my priorities!

"In its broadest sense, a fiction is any imaginative re-creation or reconstruction of life. In this sense, not only are your daydreams fiction, but also the myths you daily create about yourself and others to help you explain life. Indeed, the human brain might be best understood as a myth-making organ, one that devotes much of its energy to the creation of fictions about life. And it does so because we need fiction almost as surely as we need air to breathe." (Dietrich, R.F., and Roger H. Sundell, The Art of Fiction, 2nd ed., New York: Holt, 1974.) In this spirit, this "fictional" journal is being written.

12/22/78 - I got 101 on my last final exam! There was an extra credit question, and I nailed it. So my grade stayed an #A, and my straight-A average continues, halfway through the two-year counseling master's program.

Now I'm off, after work this afternoon, for a holidays' visit with friends, and with Ralph and Mary, in VA. I'm glad for the vacation!

12/23/78 - It's 3 AM. Have voyaged northward about 400 miles and find myself staying the night in the home of my old LW friend, Esther Dupchek, visiting her here for the first time in about two and a half years. I have, of course, seen her in the interim, chatting briefly at an Association meeting in Virginia Beach several months ago, but that time with her was very short. This is really our first chance to get properly reacquainted. It is also a reminiscent journey, these streets of Petersburg heavy laden with charged memories.

Esther and I had a special relationship. We grew to love and know each other so well that we could not help also feeling some of the nether-world of emotions that sometimes surge up and buffet the best craft of true friendships. I recall well the wish for release from this too close embrace, that made me for a time welcome even the isolation into which I was soon cast in Columbia, SC, a respite and haven, an insulation from the claustrophobic, irritating intimacy into which we had, willy-nilly, locked ourselves so securely and unexpectedly, before we realized. It became a conspiracy in which we partook together despite ourselves, like an old marriage in which the partners both desire and fear the next stages of truth involved in growing and being real together, and so engage instead in stupid bickering games until the fragile fabric is shredded, the common body battered bloody upon the rocks. I was terribly, terribly frightened of the lonely vigil to the south, yet grateful for it as well.

And now? It seems strange that only thirty-two months have passed. For I feel as though I am looking back from a very great distance, so that the vividness of the recollections is surprising. I feel much calmer now and, above all, unthreatened. It feels good to be back, if only for a visit, but also, I must admit, partly it is that, it being only for a brief while, which makes it safe. And no longer is Esther my sole source of close social nourishment, from which others are a vacation. Now she is the vacation, and I'm finding her a very pleasant one at that.

I am up, however, in these wee hours because I can't sleep. It is a combination of things. The strangeness of a new place to lay my head almost always keeps me more awake than not, the first night away from home. And the heat is on too high for my comfort, but of course just right for hers, the furnace driving great draughts of dry hot air that irritate my throat and sinuses and have me running every half-hour for water! A childish fantasy comes over me, that I'm about to relive an early experience. That trauma seems to stand in the wings waiting for just a nodded cue to stride in and take charge.

I was five, and my mother and I had flown from VA to TX to be on hand for her grandfather's funeral. (Her paternal grandfather and step-grandmother had raised her after her father disappeared when she was nine and then after they also learned she was being abused by her new step-father, the family meanwhile all but starving after he'd had a heart attack and lost his job and sharecropper shack then, during the Great Depression.)

We were staying in that old house with the surviving step-grandmother (my step-great-grandmother, that is, or, to me, simply "Great-Grandma"), a huge old woman, rolls of fat jostling and bouncing with every movement. She had diarrhea. The shit was flying out in great, smelly, steaming spurts and globs upon the cold wood floors as she fled, naked limbs flailing, for the last place she'd left her bedpan, there being no commode and the outhouse under the circumstances impossibly distant. Enormous piles of feces were scattered here and there, and she was shrieking and sobbing at once, hollering for help, all the while inconsolable still over the loss of her mate. At length, she seemed calm enough to retire and took to her bed, a few feet across from mine in the room where they'd put me for the night. She had first turned the heat way up, stiflingly hot, then stretched out upon the high creaking bed like a recumbent rhino settling to snooze upon a carnival balancing ball. But shortly afterward she had begun to cough. The coughing became louder and louder, deeper and deeper, and longer and longer. The heat was from Hades. The bed would shake, creak, and groan with every hacking heave of her mighty breast.

I lay in utter torment, hour after hour, and wished and cursed and prayed for her to shut up so I could sleep. At length she complied. I fell gratefully into a fitful slumber.

The next day there was an eerie stillness in the house, for so late in the morning, the sun high, the light streaming in. Why wasn't everyone up and about? Then I saw Great-Grandma and guessed at once that she would never cough again. Talk about the power of prayer. I saw my mother next, lying in the hall, so pale and still I thought she too had gone to be with Great-Grandpa, leaving me alone. But she'd only fainted, I later learned, and, by and by, she, and my world, began to move again. And again I dared to breathe.

"I do not know where to find in any literature, whether ancient or modern, any adequate account of that nature with which I am acquainted. Mythology comes nearest to it of any."
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal.

(Read Jung's Answer to Job, Rilke's Stories of God, and Fingarette's The Self in Transformation.)

12/28/78 - 10:30 PM. Have been sipping coffee and reading a paperback "super thriller." Went to Association tonight. Tomorrow, am off to Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg with my brother, Ralph, and sister-in-law, Mary, with whom I've been staying for the last few days. This vacation is proving to be an excellent diversion from the regular routine! (Ralph and I had a splendidly entertaining and silly time, for instance, duplicating and recording Bob and Ray skits on the Eve of Christmas.)

I plan to begin reading special works again on altered states of consciousness, heightened awareness, spirituality, mysticism, and meditation.

12/29/78 - I wish to take the opportunity of my master's program completion to move to a preferred location, perhaps the Norfolk - Virginia Beach, VA, area, perhaps TX, OR, or WA.

While visiting with Esther last week, she told me again that one day I would be "a great teacher" and added that it would be "very soon." She did not elaborate and I did not question her, remembering my mental disquiet over similar remarks by her about four years ago. Then she had said something like this would occur in five to seven years and that she'd seen it in visions. I have since thought these just the mental aberrations or fantasies of a charming but slightly senile old woman.

1/1/79 - In several experiences here the importance is being stressed for me of withholding judgments about things, situations, or, most commonly, about other's motivation. Assumptions early made are early proven wrong.

1/2/79 - I misunderstand, judge, and feel angry toward others, and they misunderstand, judge, and feel angry toward me. We defensively justify ourselves and assume the other persons to be at fault. Everyone is most unhappy. When we then try to be positive and pleasant, we do so with the feeling that we are "bending over backwards" to accommodate those whom we perceive as unreasonable, unfair, irrational, and unfriendly toward us. The resulting strain is not unlike what you might expect between people trying to get about while contorted into bent-over-backward positions. "Why are they so mean to me!?" I cry. "Why is he so mean to me!?" they each cry as well.

As you may deduce, my holiday with Ralph and Mary, while often most pleasant, during this stay is proving to be sometimes more challenging for us all. The only thing harder than getting along with others may be getting along with oneself.

It hurts, sometimes acutely, to realize that folks do not like us or do so only once we have fulfilled most or all of their expectations and conditions for us to receive their favor. It hurts to see their unguarded reactions to us of resentment, coldness, anger, and false, self-serving assumptions about us and our motives. But these are, simply, facts of life and do not change for all our hurt, anxiety, or anger in return. And we must, willy-nilly, just deal with our own feelings at such times and take theirs as new information to use in assessing and adapting our relation to the external world. For all my "wise words," though, I find myself deeply embittered by the negative or conditional responses of others and am not the accepting, philosophical person I would be!

1/3/79 - Am visiting with my old LW friends, the Whites, now. Rich did a short astrology reading for me last night. Very interesting! Everything seemed right on target. Thought provoking. Also somewhat disturbing, particularly to see that some of my most difficult stresses are apparently far from ready resolution and may, in fact, be irresolvable. There are, however, seemingly several avenues down which to go for at least some reduction of these tensions or for compensation and fulfillment from other than the most desired sources.

1/4/79 - I think now that one person's astrological reading of me should not be taken too seriously and certainly not as inevitable, anymore than should Esther's comments about my future. All such things ought to be considered simply as of interest, but not in an applied or predictive way.

1/5/79 - Face of clay, smoothed down in long strokes. Frustrated sexual fantasies. Stomach cramps. Ghost cats scamper across the attic floor. Time buzzes in the electric time machine.

Child terrors-screams! Disembodied voices, spirits. Angina. Night sounds. Denise touched the old plug, pulled, inquisitively wedged her tiny toddler finger between the plastic and the wall, touched across the metal prongs and jerked as the current flowed briefly through her hand, along her arm. Her shriek was followed instantly by her mother's, and, for a moment, fear paralyzed four persons. Then three ran to the girl and she was swept up, rushed away, comforted, and consoled. An hour later, all forgotten. Death walked by tonight, nodded, smiled, and walked on. I'm lying alone, awake, while others sleep. Night thoughts.

Rooms filled with the infirm, the aged, the mentally deficient, the insane, the dying. Rows and rows of beds. Thousands of rows. Millions of beds. Living. Dying. Each bed contains a form. Each living form, a separate, unique universe of experience. With each gone, a world of worlds winks out. A small cloud passes, obscuring a galaxy. Once it has passed, the sky is blank, the galaxy no more. Who can prove it had ever been?

1/6/79 - It's 7 AM. I'm still here with the Whites. Denise, following her shock last evening, woke several times during the night calling for her parents, crying, or being sick to her stomach. I awoke each time as well. Quite a night for all of us.

1/13/79 - There are no spiritual truths of any significance except those discoverable within ourselves. While others may by example or metaphor set us to wondering, it is, I believe, up to us to find our own meaning in the world, not to simply accept what another tells us is of value.

We ascribe to our spiritual guides specialness and so feel at liberty, then, to consider ourselves quite special also when we become their disciples, students, or followers. Yet in doing so our motives are in fact completely ordinary. And so are we. And so, in fact, may be the co-dependent tradition of the master and disciple relationship. Nonetheless, some good may yet come of it!

Being alone is a quite normal condition. We would do well, then, to find means of adapting to our isolation (whether it be occasional, frequent, or continuous), without succumbing to loneliness.

1/19/79 - I learned today that there's a meditation center here in Columbia! It offers free guidance in a Zen-like way of meditating and has group practice from 7-8 PM each evening, plus sessions all day Sunday. I'm delighted! I plan to begin participating soon.

Last night I had a date with Mara Child. It went great! Today we arranged to get together again next Friday. Nothing serious. She's going with other folks, and I plan to as well. But she's fun to be with and a stimulating, amusing lady.

STEPS / Main Page / Index / Previous / Next