Chicago had sent me a very warm invitation. It is a measure of the love and high regard I have for IANDS that I was willing to leave sunny 70º San Diego in FEBRUARY, where hibiscus, jasmine and bird of paradise flowers were blooming, and fly out to snowy midwest! I packed SHEN cradle, pads, folding stool, FIR pad, E-power, laptop, gloves, layers of warm clothing and a hostess gift of Chinese crystallized ginger honey.
I arrived in Chicago at 5pm after a smooth flight, and was met at the plane by a smiling Diane Willis, pictured at right, the founder and heart of Chicago IANDS. She is a flutist (both classical & native American), pianist, music teacher, multi-tasker, organizer, gourmet cook and hostess extraordinare. Diane's first CD, Improvisations From the Other Side: Healing Music for Meditation and Relaxation, is available at http://dianewillis.com and plays often in my waiting room, and at my home. Diane's husband Tom, who has passed on, was the Chicago Tribune music reviewer & critic for many years.
Diane swiftly whisked us through the snow to a glorious Greek dinner complete with flaming cheese doused with lemon (oopa!). She then opened her home, her office and her massage table to me and I cannot thank her enough, nor praise enough the astonishingly large, enthusiastic, intelligent, and warm group that she has attracted through her diligent hard work.
New folk and many repeaters come regularly to the monthly Chicago IANDS she began, and meetings of a hundred people and up are the usual each time! Diane wrote such a very compelling description of me, I would go to see me if I read it! She cooked me a healthy and delicious breakfast each morning, modestly demonstrating her exquisite culinary skills. For example, one breakfast delight she made was a wheat free crepe with organic applesauce and sheep cheese! Sounds weird but was completely yum. Lunches and dinners we went out to the most fabulous restaurants. In fact, looking back on the experience, nourishment is very prominent in my mind: not just the amazingly tasty gourmet meals, but the even more nourishing feast of receptivity and sincerity that all the people I met thru Chicago IANDS offered. I was also careful to keep up my energy, knowing I had so many clients to facilitate. So I made sure to mediate every day, practice Nui Gung (the older term for Chi Gong which encompasses also SHEN Gong), make healthy food choices, and I slept on the E-power on medium for 5 hours each night.
The following day, Saturday morning was THE TALK. I'd scribbled a few points to say, but the morning of the event, I still didn't have a cohesive talk put together. In meditation, all I would get is "Just Love them." Great, I thought, groaning to myself. Two hours of me beaming beatifically at the audience - that'll sure go over well!
I began Saturday by having a delicious breakfast with the Board of Directors of Chicago IANDS, and like everyone else I met in Chicago, they were intelligent, warm, and welcoming. "Just tell your story," "just speak from your heart," "Be yourself" they encouraged me, after I confessed I was still wondering what I was going to talk about.
Over 100 people came to the talk, which was held in an auditorium in a large hospital. Diane opened the meeting with a meditation, inviting us all to breathe and center in our body. Then she began to play her Native American wooden flute. I breathed into my heart and kath, and by the end of the exercise I was in a calm and centered place and knew if I spoke from there, the talk would go well, and so it did. First, Diane invited each of the audience to say a few words about themselves and afterwards there was an intermission. Many tables had been set up just outside the auditorium, with food, desserts, Valentine's day treats, tea & soft drinks and coffee, all included in the attendance fee ($20 suggested, but no one is turned away). Books, DVDs, CDs, and other items were available for sale.
After intermission, I stepped into the spotlight. I spoke a little of my history, some of the mystical experiences I'd had, about SHEN, about the reflexsive response all life has to pain (ACPR). How we respond to emotional pain the same we respond to physical pain, that our bodies don't differentiate between the two. And that while most who think of near-death returnees usually think of physical traumas such as dying on an operating table and coming back, I had worked with several survivors who had disassociated during emotional abuse and/or incest and my observations are that there are parallels of recovering Self and peace that survivors of physical and emotional trauma have in common. Several of the people who approached me after my talk quietly shared that they had suffered emotional and/or sexual abuse, and they agreed it was similar to a near-death experience.
After my speech concluded, I was mobbed with people who wanted to talk and ask questions. I was quite flattered, especially because I didn't have a famous book or a CD to sign. They didn't want to leave (the venue had to turn off the lights to get them out)! Those who lingered were invited to join Diane, the Chicago IANDS volunteers and I as we went to Ruby's, a most fantastic Thai restaurant. I was startled to see an IANDS leaflet (or flyer as we say here in the US) detailing place and time of my talk and with a life sized picture of my head featured prominently in the restaurant!
There was a long list of scheduled sessions with me, and a waiting list if anyone cancelled. Diane had filled my schedule: 7 people for the first two days and 8 on the third; some had come to my talk, about half hadn't. All were amazing people, veterans of feeling and mindfulness: authors, a television journalist, a New Thought minister, a lawyer, a nurse, a Buddhist meditator, media people, one radiant deaf man, an elder advocate-abuse investigator, a married couple in their 80s (sessions gifted by their daughter), an extreme sports enthusiast who had just completed a 100 mile run in 28 hours (!) a few days earlier, a wheel chair bound woman with MS with extreme trauma preceding her symptoms, several mothers and fathers whose children or spouses had passed and adult children whose parents had passed recently or were in hospice, etc. I knew each one had a strong support system available in IANDS but I also had concern should there be follow up needed post session, and made sure each had my contact information.
It was an extraordinary time of focus for me, given each person was scheduled for just a single 1 hour session! I began by sitting quietly with them for a minute, as I asked each to write their name, e-mail and phone numbers on a blank page in my notebook. That gave me time to observe so many things: their breathing, posture, lines of tension, the way they organized themselves while engaging in eye-hand-memory coordination, etc. I did ask each client if there was anything physical that they might like to improve, but no other questions were formula, each interaction was different and personalized. Many of their sessions had some therapeutic dialogue, but the majority of each session was the lovely quiet experiential SHEN space those who have had SHEN all know and love.
Each recipient was radiant after their session, and I was quite humbled by their gratitude and what they shared afterwards of their experiences during their table time.
One of the receivers of a private session wrote me the next day (and gave permission to share her note):
It was truly a great pleasure meeting you at Diane Willis' home yesterday. Thank you so much for your reply. From the time I spent with you life is beautiful and calm, I can see and feel the change.
My cold is almost gone, my knees are not bothering me and I am being me. You truly made a difference in my life and I thank you for my experience. When we spoke yesterday, you mentioned that your mother will be here in June and that she has CD's for sale. I'm really interested in purchasing her CD, please let me know if I can order it from your site. Thank you and I look forward to our next session over the phone.
Life is beautiful and I wish you a beautiful sun shining day.
“No matter what the outcome is, it always works out.”
CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR NEAR-DEATH STUDIES (IANDS) support and study group:
Chicago IANDS meets on the second Saturday of each month from 2-5 p.m at the Frank Auditorium in Evanston Hospital, 2650 Ridge Ave. (& Central), Evanston, IL All are welcome. Suggested Donation - $20. No one is turned away. For more info: 847-251-5758 or www.chicagoiands.org.
You can order the DVD:
one DVD $10. US
shipping $ 3.00 US
Order online http://chicagoiands.org/meetings/128
DVDs are available for most of the marvelous guests Chicago IANDS has since 2000 including Ayleyaell's Mom, then 83 years young: http://chicagoiands.org/meetings/132
For more info call: (847) 251-5758
Send check to:
PO Box 732
Wilmette, IL, 60091
The theme of the conference, “Transformed in the Light: Helping Humanity with Balanced Abilities,” reflected the psychic, healing, and artistic abilities many near-death survivors discover and the changes they made in their lives’ directions following their near-death experience. Another focus of the conference was how higher consciousness can be put to good social purposes.
I agreed to be a healer at the IANDS pre-conference after I was double-teamed by two clients, members of IANDS. who had visions of me participating. Well, triple-teamed, if you count my internal prompting that participating was a “right action” to do!
Registration began at 9:00 a.m. for the participants for the pre-conference Healing/Arts Day, though the healers arrived earlier and set up our spaces. The Healing Room was held in the Ballroom of the Mission Vally Resort, and doors opened to the attendees promptly at 10:00 a.m. IANDS put up a registration table on the patio outside the Healing Room which was personned by friendly, helpful people who took reservations for the healers. Each healer had an individual sign up sheet with their available blocks of time. The staff provided registrants with a Healers Directory, showing the healers' modalities, contact information and our pictures. They also reminded us healers to block some time for lunch and for breaks for themselves!
Registrants paid $25 and could sign up for a maximum of 3 healing sessions - receiving sessions from up to 3 different healers during the day. The healers volunteered their services without charge, but we were invited to put out a “tips” jar. In other parts of the hotel, IANDS set up an Arts room where participants could view and purchase books, art, and music, a Video room to view NDE documentary videos during the day, and social nooks for gathering. Besides registration for the healers, the area on the patio outside the Healing Room also had 2 tables with a wide mix of refreshments for those waiting for their healing sessions, and a pavilion selling handcrafts, t-shirts, jewelry, etc. IANDS promised in their e-mails it would be a magical time for all of us.
And they delivered on that promise! Over 200 people participated in the pre-conference day. IANDS had organized a cheerful army of local volunteers to help. Several quickly assisted me in unloading and ferrying two massage tables, SOQi equipment, SHEN cradle, cushions, and linens from my little Toyota and a friend's SUV to the Ballroom and back at the end of the day. One registrant in a wheel chair had terrible pain and spasms in his shoulders and arms, which alleviated when I did some hands-on work while he was in his chair. He wanted to try the SOQi, too, and so a lovely (and strong) volunteer helped me move him from his wheel chair onto the SOQi bed, and then back into his chair again after his session.
My first 2 clients had wonderful experiences on the table, and when I went to check my sign up sheet after the second session, my book for the day was filled with a waiting list! Apparently word got out fast that good stuff happened at the Ayleyaell space! I ended up facilitating 12 people by the end of the day –7 registrants, 3 staff members and two “emergencies.” Most of the time, I had one client under the SOQi equipment, and another on the SHEN table!
I jokingly described the healing day as “speed dating!” I had just 20 minutes to connect with each person's essence, invite expansion, midwife change and facilitate integration! What was interesting to me was that each participant from the conference that I worked with had chi with a similar “soft” quality to it, and each “experiencer” quietly demonstrated their ability to stay present to their internal experience on the table. Some just had a SOQi treatment, but most received table time plus some SOQi. A soft gong was sounded at the beginning of the 20 minutes, at half time, and at the end of the session. It was quite beautiful and the IANDS healing day definitely lived up to its pre-conference promise of a magical time for all of us!
I know the sessions I give have been called “big medicine” because SHEN will come quietly in and powerfully reach and precipitate healing very old, buried wounds. I think that a person's soul recognizes what SHEN provides, and uses the opportunity to ‘seize the moment’ and release as much material that has been affecting you from way back, forgotten by all but the subconscious. I know that the client's chi moves when they receive SHEN, and that momentum continues for some hours off the table after the session, often bringing further experience, insight and release. It seems to me something internal in the psyche wants to continue to release more, acquire more freedom, more well-being. Especially if trauma was part of their history, more than one session is usually indicated.
So knowing that, I freed my schedule, and let the participants know I was making myself available for the duration of the conference plus one more day if anyone wanted a follow-up, and that my healing center was close by (less than a mile away as the crow flies, but a bit more as the architect designing road access builds). Sure enough, I ended up with a full schedule, working until 9 pm some nights. Some wonderful folks come back for what was next for them, and a few people who had been 'closed out' during the Healing Day came to see what was possible. Lovely healings and much insight ensued, but that is for each individual to tell as Beverly Brodsky, San Diego's local IANDS coordinator does, sharing her experience on the clients' Testimonials page. (Third appreciation listed). I had expected that releasing a lot of terror and fear from dying and nearly dying would be part of the IANDS folks table experience, and I was a bit surprised that wasn't so. ALL of them were fine at the root. Zero, zilch, nada mortal terror. Instead what came up a lot was heart work, some had grief to release, some worked on feeling ok about expressing themselves (throat and kath), and a few had variations on “how do I relate to others?” and “how do I fit in?” (solar plexus and kath). Now, after working with about 40 experiencers, it is obvious that they are relaxed and at peace with (from) their near death experiences and their bodies validate their descriptions and stories.
Between their individual sessions, I would pause and gather for rich discussion and Q & A time with the group who had been SHENned or were waiting for their turn. The IANDS conference-SHEN participants shared their joy and some of their discoveries of their own healing and expansions that happened in their sessions and we all got to know each other better. At the end of the day, we went on a field trip to Soltan Banoo, San Diego's terrific local family run Persian restaurant, and savored the sublime bliss of pomegranate soup, supper, and sampler dessert plate.
One of the IANDS people closed out from the Healing day who came for a SHEN session mid-conference was “Improvisations from the Other Side” played in my office's waiting room throughout the weekend, inspiring and uplifting all who heard it. Diane was impressed enough with her SHEN session to invite speak at Chicago IANDS, resulting in the DVD above and more experiences with this much loved group!
Speakers included authors Charles Tart, PhD, internationally known transpersonal
psychologist; Jeffery Mishlove, PhD, parapsychologist and President of the
Intuition Network; PMH Atwater, LHD, near-death experiencer and researcher;
and Melvin Morse, MD, pediatrician and pioneering researcher of children’s
NDEs. Research and experiencer presentations and panels round out the program.
The conference was held at Mission Valley Resort, 875 Hotel Circle South, 92108
Articles about the conference in local San Diegan publications:
The Light Connection http://www.lightconnection.us/article3.html
and Vision Magazine: http://www.visionmagazine.com/archives/0910/InnerHealing_mishlove.html