“I’m in Another Body!

” (1962-1966 and later)
When I’m thirteen my mother introduces me to the work of J. D. Salinger: Catcher in the Rye and Nine Stories. The humor in Catcher is lost on me--it’s serious; the ruminations of an older teen. But the last story in Nine Stories is of great magnetic interest. The nondual Vedantists of Hinduism and the doctrine of reincarnation are mentioned there. I’m most grateful to my mother for bringing Salinger to my attention. Shortly thereafter she shows me a newspaper article about the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society of Kansas City, and I begin to attend their meetings. Considering Mom’s complete lack of attraction to anything religious, I’m especially touched by her support and sensitivity to my emerging interests. Past life proclivities? Possibly. Anyway, an inchoate yearning for spiritual experience arises after I read “Teddy,” that ninth Salinger story. I sit on my bedroom floor and try to meditate, then get in bed and am startled when I fall into a cataleptic state, body buzzing with energy; energy locked in moveless limbs. I’m frightened yet deeply intrigued by this sudden surge which can’t be easily accommodated or assimilated. Not yet. Years pass. We move to a new house. I occupy a corner room with a nice view of old elm and maple trees. Over those growing years I find my way to more fulfilling friendships and self-expressions (musicmaking, poetry, a Unitarian youth group). I continue to be ambushed at the edge of sleep by this odd and unnerving cataleptic state from time to time. At age fifteen, I meet the Kansas landscape artist Robert Sudlow, my wise and supportive friend from that time on. Bob introduces me to J.R.R.Tolkien, to Odilon Redon and Morris Graves’ artwork, to Ralph Vaughn Williams’ music, and so many other wonderful artistic depthmarkers of the heart. He also acquaints me with Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion (1727).” I have an old turntable across from my bed, a vital focus in so many teenage bedrooms, “my music” being absolutely key at that age. I discover that lying down and listening to the five-record set of the giant orchestral-choral layer cake of Bach’s ecstatic “Passion” can predictably elicit the compelling yet unsettling energetic rush I experienced at age thirteen after my first attempted meditation. At seventeen, the game changes for me. I meet a soulful, peachesand-creamy girl at Kansas City's All Souls Unitarian Church. From 0 on the “sexometer,” I accelerate up the sexuality scale to 60. This sweet,

sensitive girl inaugurates a new era of unexpected sensual tenderness in my life. Along with this new sexual dispensation comes electric sensation. I lie in bed and stream with energy. The cataleptic episodes come more often, with torrential force. Energies ascend my spine like mercury zooming up a thermometer on a summer day. I’m completely ignorant of writings about kundalini, auras, and the like, though not completely in the dark about trance states, due to reading an early biography of Edgar Cayce, entitled There Is a River . Each day after school for four days, I cloister myself in my room, determined to move through the now-familiar, paralyzing fear and to break through to whatever state beckons from beyond it. I drop the blinds, and listen to “St. Matthew Passion” while supine. For the first three of these days, I ride the rapturous voices into that charged hypnagogic state of half-sleep-and-half-awakeness where my energy surges, but won’t fully release and flow. I end up in catalepsy, sensing a great potential for as yet undiscovered depths. How to proceed? On the fourth afternoon, toward early evening, I listen for awhile, plunge into that electrified medium yet again, but this time to my startled delight, I rise from the bed, feeling amazingly weightless, and walk toward the door, all a-sparkle with energy. Upon reaching the door, I simply walk right through it. I stand by the stairway in wonder, feeling my body, ignited at all its infinitesimal points, and realize (logic prevails here) that I’ve just walked through a solid door and that therefore “I’m in another body!” This recognition jolts me back into my bedroom, where I instantly re-enter my resting form. I come back most enlivened, having at last passed beyond the cataleptic barrier, the previously impassable portal to greater depth and new freedom of movement in a subtle, imaginal dimension. So begins a period of what one might call training: I learn to navigate in a plane of energetic counterparts to physical reality, through fluid, changing landscapes; some identical to the street and tree scenes around our home, some very foreign to me. I visit green meadows where flowers bloom in colors never seen by physical eyes. There are sudden flights into cloudy, tumbling skyscapes, or plummets into deep sea waters. These experiences are alternately and sometimes simultaneously terrifying and ecstatic.

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