Best Slowly: Fifty-Six

Best Slowly:  Field of Dreams


On this day last year, I started to craft my letter of resignation and retirement.  I was still in the raw materials phase.

If Jung was right when he said cause is in the future, this was the place I’d been dreaming about. CTA had been a good place to take off, this was the place where I wanted to land.

Everything I loved about CTA, I carried with me to the Counseling Center at Fort Lewis.  It was truly my field of dreams.

A good story needs a good beginning and mine was classic. The VP back then wouldn’t sign my contract.  Ed hadn’t liked me from the moment he saw me.  He wasn’t my type, either.

I had been sitting with Pat, one of his accounting students, and he asked Dan who the hippie was. Dan told him, “He’s the new counselor.”  Ed said, “Not any longer.”

In “Field of Dreams”, the Costner character cuts a baseball field in the middle of his field of corn.  It looks much worse than useless, even worse than crazy.  It’s financially reckless.  That’s the true measure.

The movie is all about fields, which is what relationships look like.  It’s also about the way dreams come true.

If the two big questions in life are love and work, I wanted to answer both as best I could.   How we learn how to learn is another big one.

When we started the training program, we had no idea if we could provide enough students.  But the voice said, “If you build it they will come.”

I called the group room the cooking pot.   It was like home plate in the field of dreams.  We were all in the soup together.   And the stories we told over the fire became soul food.

The cooking was the process, and it took both heat and a solid container.  Not only was the group a container, but so was the sanctity of the room and the center.

The sacred and the profane are defined by the temple and the market area outside.   We were the keepers of the temple, and we did our best to keep the money people out.   We served a different master.

Our gold wasn’t the common gold, and most people hearing the word, counseling, avoided the place.   The temple was coated with the mud called problems.

I remember learning that the first cognitive error is the belief we can avoid problems. The second error is the belief life’s a problem to be solved.

Why the sudden digression?  We live a larger story and problems carry not just plot, but character development and meaning.   It’s why when my time to die comes, I’ll see this room.

Because I’m doing this in stages, I could feel the time had come to serve the stew.  I felt cooked to the bones.

That’s when I told the team, “Did you know I’m going to be a grandfather?”










Best Slowly: Fifty-Five

Best Slowly:   Wilson


“Powers of the Mind” was a large class by CTA standards; it had maybe ten students and I was co-teaching with Duane.  I was still very new to the school.

There’s only one day from that five week class I really remember.   I agreed to do a hypnosis demonstration and picked two highly suggestible students.

I was extremely fond of Wilson.  She might have been fifteen at the time, but had a deep soulful quality to her dark eyes and hair.  She would soon develop into a beautiful woman.

I’m reminded of an idea: If people spent half as much time thinking about how they were going to listen, as to what they were going to say, it would be a very different world.

Wilson was extremely attentive and listened in a way I could feel.  I carefully explained the process to her, made sure she felt safe, and practiced doing an induction.  There was an almost immediate hypnotic rapport.

The next day in class, I took her under.   After some deepening techniques and demonstrations, asked, “Did you dream last night?”

She nodded yes and I said, very directly, “Tell me the dream.” Speaking was difficult, and she seemed to be reliving the experience.

I am in a car and headed down Florida Road towards town. There’s some very loud noise that makes it hard for me to stay on the road.

She stopped talking and I asked her, “Where is the noise coming from?”

It’s coming from the top of a mountain.

I tell her to go there, and can almost see her in my own mind’s eye.

She says there’s a large speaker broadcasting from the top of the mountain, but it’s too loud and distorts the sound. The words are hard to make out.

As usual, I have no idea whatsoever about the dream.  So I suggest, “This dream reminds you of what you know and need to remember.  On the count of three, something will come to you.”

I wish I had recorded this, but memory will have to serve.   She spoke with the voice of a medium.

The road is my path in life. I am having trouble staying on it because of the voices in my head.  It’s my parents.  They are telling me what I need to do and how to do it.

I ask, “Wilson, what do you need to do?”

I need to turn down the speaker, so I can hear them clearly, but also listen to my own directions.

I can still remember the atmosphere and feeling to the class. Rarely did those kids shut up, and this time it was the proverbial pin drop.

They were all looking at me, and waiting for me to talk. The look in their faces was, “What was that?”

It’s hard for me to believe I didn’t write about this in my journal.  Like the speaker in her dream, there was just too much going on at the time.

Best Slowly: Fifty-Four

Best Slowly: Hypnosis


I’d been aware of hypnosis for some time, when I bought a paperback yoga book. It was my senior year in high school.

Jesse Stearn, who later wrote a biography on Edgar Cayce, had written the book. He was obviously impressed, even hypnotized, by Cayce’s story.   And, of course, Cayce could interpret dreams like the prophets in the Bible.

When hypnotized, he had access to all kinds of knowledge and experience.   He somehow connected with the same deep source in others, and would speak in trance.   Thousands of recordings exist.

The implications fascinated me, and I went looking for ways to reach those regions in the psyche. I bought a book on hypnosis and experimented on myself.

When I began to keep a journal, one of the first dreams I recorded was this one:

Freud is telling me about hypnosis.  I say I am very tired.  He gets into my face and in a very commanding voice begins to count.  The intensity is almost unbearable.

The next thing I know I’m waking and feel wonderful.   I even say out loud, “Strange the way you can feel so hopeless at night, and then wake up feeling completely regenerated.”

That’s when I remembered the dream and decided to write it down. I needed to learn about this.

I told both Joe and Kandy, and it turned out Joe had learned hypnosis on his own.   He was like my father and a dark magician.   I loved him.

I asked him to hypnotize me, and he said, “I’m going to do something first.”  I could tell it might involve something crazy or dangerous.   I never did repeat it.

He told me I would take a journey, and was to pay close attention.   He suggested I would experience something important to me.

He lit a joint. First he had me take a few deep breaths.  Then he told me to take a hit, stand up, and hold.   When I did, he squeezed me hard from behind.  It was like falling into a dream.

I was in a forest that was vastly familiar. It was like I had been there before, many times, and was just beginning to wake.   I could hear voices and went towards them.   Now we were all holding hands, dancing in a circle, we whirled faster and faster.   Looking into each other’s eyes, we merged.   And then the spinning stopped and I heard, “You have to return.”   I didn’t want to.  They said, “It’s okay, we’ll always be here.”  Then I was looking into the sun and could see another world.

Joe was trying to wake me. I was staring at a light bulb above his head, no longer the sun.

He wanted to know what happened. I had been out a little too long and he was visibly concerned.  I think he knew he had meddled.

A few years later, I would meddle with the students at CTA.   I had them interpret their dreams, like Cayce.



Best Slowly: Fifty-Three

Best Slowly:  The Devil’s Golf Course


I had a dream last night I need to write about.  I don’t often think about Chris.

After I quit CTA the first time, I spent four years where I mostly wandered and sojourned. But I would periodically return to Durango to visit.

When I stopped by in the fall, a couple of friends took me aside and said they were worried.  Chris had been giving away his possessions.

The two of us took a walk up the old highway to Shalona Lake.   It was the last time I talked with him in the flesh.

Chris was 16 when he came to CTA and we immediately connected.  He had been heavily into psychedelics and read books a kid his age should not even know about.  He had twice attempted suicide.

Now he was 21 and looked horrible.  There was blood in his urine, and he was abusing drugs and alcohol worse than ever.   His love life had just crashed.   In fact, it was his girlfriend who first warned me.

Since I often lived in the wilderness during those years, I told him if he wanted to get clean and change his life, he could live with me.  I was about to leave for California and a stay in Death Valley.

There’s a campground at Furnace Creek by a golf course.  I told him I’d leave a note there and he could find me.

He never did come, and I slowly made my way towards Oregon.   I wanted to see my sister and her kids.   She had just divorced.

Not long after I arrived, I got a call from Durango.   Chris had killed himself.

I forget who told me, but she said he’d gone to Las Vegas and then out into the desert.   I needed to ask, “Do you know where he shot himself?”

“I’m not sure,” she said. “But I think it’s called the Devil’s Golf Course.”  I knew the area.  It’s not a golf course, and it had happened only a few days after I left.

I was surprised I hadn’t had an intuition or dream, and started the grief and guilt review. I quickly went to the “if only” stage.

A few years later, I was in Boulder, getting ready to go back to CTA.  This time as the counselor.  That’s when I finally dreamed about him.

He was by the lodge. I immediately confronted him and said, “What are you doing here?  You should have crossed over.”  His addictions were holding him here.  I told him, “No wonder this place is having so much trouble.”  He smiled mischievously.   And then I took his hand and together we headed for these opalescent clouds.  I could hear the music and Chris was now in a hurry to cross.  I turned back for fear I wouldn’t be able to return.

Last night, Chris looked good.  He handed me a manuscript.   It was incomplete and the typing rough.  But then I started to read.






Best Slowly: Fifty-Two

Best Slowly:  Death and Dreams


Death and dreams have always been closely related.  I wrote my master’s research paper on dream groups as preparation for death.   At the time, I was doing a group for newly diagnosed cancer patients.

There’s an ancient Chinese saying about death: The death cry of an animal is pitiful, but the words of a human are fine.   I learned this time and again working with these most human people.

My experience with death got a jumpstart in first grade.  A good friend was hit by a car and killed.  Since Stanley had moved away, the last time I saw him we were saying good-bye.  It’s a frozen image.

My teacher also died that year.  Mrs. Teazy had yellow jaundice.   It was all we were told.  The sound of the disease was fire for my imagination.

I had a number of early dreams about death, but there was one that got my attention.  I was killed in the dream by a car, but didn’t wake up.  I stayed conscious.

As usual, no one could help me. The idea that death as a symbol could be differentiated from how death itself symbolized, just wasn’t taught or talked about.

Here’s an example from von Franz.  It’s the last dream of a dying woman.   She died soon after telling it to the nurse.

I am anxiously watching a feeble candle on the window sill.  When it goes out, I’m terrified of the darkness.  And then, excitedly, I see the candle once again and it’s brightly burning.   Except this time, it’s on the outer side of the window.

This dream hardly needs clarification, it’s that clear.  Not all death dreams are.

When the dream uses death as a symbol, you often wake right on the verge of dying.  It’s one of the most common nightmares.

The difference between the two dreams is illustrated by the ancient saying:  “When a young man dreams of dying, he’s about to marry.   And when an old man dreams of marriage, he’s about to die.”

I ran into a death dream story this morning in my journal.  A student had told it to me last year.  It’s classic.

He described the dream to his parents on the way to his grandmother’s funeral.   He’d had it the night before.

I’m down in Purgatory Flats looking up at Engineer, which is the very image of an earth mother mountain.  Suddenly it swells and becomes a volcano.  Rocks are raining down all around us, but there is a large gazebo we can shelter under.  One volcanic stone lands besides the shelter and I watch it turn crystalline.

After the funeral, his aunt approached him and said she had a gift.   She handed him a bag and said, “Your grandmother wanted you to have this.”

When he opened it, a stone exactly like the one he’d just described in his dream fell out.

He said, “You wouldn’t believe the look on my mother’s face.  She was absolutely stunned.”


Best Slowly: Fifty-One

Best Slowly:  Geologic Time


There’s a reason economics is called the dismal science.  Anyone who has ever pondered the implications of a compounding growth curve knows why.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, Malthus reasoned that if population and resource consumption continued to grow, and he could find no reason to believe it wouldn’t, we would crowd and consume our way into catastrophe.

I suppose I had caught a bad case of what we call sociology syndrome at Fort Lewis.  I don’t know what the economists are teaching these days, but it’s not the end of oil.

When Kurt Vonnegut spoke at the college, Reagan was still in office.   Everyone thought he’d talk about writing.   But that’s not what Vonnegut cared about.

He began by saying that his mother did not get the chance to be a writer.  She sacrificed so he could.   This is what every parent wants for their child, a better life.

And then he paused.  I had actually thought he was drunk, when he first started to lecture, from the way he stumbled to the podium.  But I was rapidly changing my mind.

He said, very pointedly, “This is why I find Reagan so disturbing: he’s telling us to have a few more years of obscene growth.   We can let our grandchildren deal with it.   What’s wrong with him?”

I had come to the same conclusion on my own, about ten years before that, and it’s one of the reasons I quit academia.  I needed a vision quest, and not another course in economic theory.

You never know when and where the lightning will strike.   But if you climb mountains and stand out in storms, you increase the odds of being struck.

I had gone to Utah in January of 1977.  It wasn’t the best time to camp and I hadn’t intended to stay for long.   It’s just that I woke up one morning and the van wouldn’t start.  It was too cold.

The nights were unbelievably long and I must have had dozens of dreams each night.  I couldn’t record them because the ink wouldn’t flow.  I even melted the tip of a pen trying to warm it.

I was thinking about the wilderness, which I loved and cherished, and I was depressed about the cancerous growth I could see devouring it.

And then I had this dream.

I am watching the woods being clear-cut, the land strip-mined and paved.  The asphalt looks like industrial poison.   Mountains are torn down, and rivers dammed and polluted.  There seems to be no hope.   I feel like the Earth is dying.

What happened next is hard to describe.  I heard the Earth laughing.  It was a laugh unlike any I have ever heard.  I can hear it now, deep and rolling.   A divine voice told me, “You have little faith.  The roots of life are deep.   Don’t despair.”

And I watched in geologic time as the concrete cracked, the seeds sprouted, and a new world evolved.














Best Slowly: Fifty

Best Slowly:  Axe Handles


My brother had originally intended to be a doctor and worked for the Boulder ambulance company. He lived in an old house with a group of other attendants.  I often visited.

One time, I brought a friend, Tom, and we tried to get him to buy us alcohol.  It was a strange night.   We’d been cruising in his VW convertible and hit a puddle that was a broken sewer line; the sludge had splashed into the car.   We reeked.

For years, whenever I dreamed about Tom, I knew I was getting in trouble.

Garon must have sensed I was at a vulnerable stage, a turning point, and he did something that helped formed my imago, the image of the person I wanted to be.

He wouldn’t buy the booze, but he said if I wanted to drink, I could drink with him on the weekends.   I had an amaretto sour the next time I visited.

He also gave me books to read that expressed his idealized philosophy.  Two of them, which he gave to me on my birthday, Gibran’s The Prophet and On the Loose by Terry and Renny Russel, were like psychological roadmaps for me to follow.

The crew at the ambulance center became mentors and models for me.   They were five years older than I, and far more interesting and developed than any of my friends.

I stopped hanging out with Tom and spent more and more time with them.   Inside the chrysalis, a new body was slowly beginning to take form.

This was also the late sixties, and Boulder was becoming a gathering place for hippies.   My step-father hated the long-haired men and liberated women, but I found them beautiful and mysterious.   The more he tried to protect me, the more I longed to experience their world.

I saw my brother and his friends as hippies, too.  They were the screens I was using to project my next stage of growth upon.  They were smart, artistic, openly affectionate and loving, wild and free, and very counter-culture.

We need models to mirror the kind of person we are meant to become.  But we don’t always find them and they aren’t always there.  I was lucky.

Years later, I took a group of CTA kids to hear the poet Gary Snyder.  He had just published his book Axe Handles.

I had met him once before at CSU.  The story I told the students in the van on the way there was synchronistic, since he started out the reading with the same idea.

I had seen a portion of myself in him.

I’m tempted to copy the poem, but this is the image:  “In making the handle of an axe, by cutting wood with an axe, the model is near at hand.”

He studied his teachers to craft his own being, and he knew his son studied him in the same way.   We are handles, and these people we love are the axes we use.