The Back To Your Center weekend conference has ended.   We have returned back to West Chester to our empty house. Finally, I understand why people take vacations. I have never understood “getting away”.  I love my family.  I like my house. I like my neighborhood. I like having my own stuff at my disposal.  Getting away to a different place has never appealed to me. I would count down the days until I could get back home, especially if I was away from Tywana and the girls.

It’s different now.  Flying into Cincinnati last night, I was not excited, like I use to be, about getting back here.  I knew Kayla would be in Toledo.  Shayna is in heaven. And, we couldn’t even pick up the dogs.  The house is quiet now. Silent at times.

I overslept my Fitbit alarm and didn’t wake up until after 7.  It was dark and I could hear the sound of rain on the roof.  I haven’t been able to do my walk in almost a week now.  I was looking forward to getting back into the routine. But, when I checked my app it said rain and thunderstorms for the next two hours. So, my routine was broken. I decided to meditate instead.

As I went though my guided yoga nidra meditation and asked the questions of myself that I was instructed to ask, I felt the answer come back that I am where I am supposed to be right now.  Then, something Suzanne said this weekend came back to me. She said that life is not about being happy all the time.  In fact, the expectation of being happy is one of the greatest sources of suffering. She got a life lesson while on a mountain bike trail.  She had had an energy draining experience and wanted to get out and relax. She was expecting a smooth bike riding experience, but the trail was rough (it was a mountain bike trail).  As she was getting bumped around and annoyed with the whole thing, a voice in her head said “It’s a mountain bike trail, for God’s sake. What did you expect?”  Here on Earth, life is not supposed to be smooth. As human beings we want safe, comfortable, happy. We work for it.  When we get it, we do all we can to hang on to it. But, it’s Earth school, for God’s sake.  This is the school of hard knocks.  No one gets out unscathed and it’s by design.  And, when we get knocked down, we are human.  We’ll get back up, eventually. But, not right away.  Sometimes we are going to be depressed. Sometimes we are going to be sad. Sometimes we are going to be in the valleys. When we are, we are right where are supposed to be.

The thunder and rain continue.  My mediation is over.  Now, to face the reality that awaits me.  Ugh.

Back To The Center Conference-

I’m going to try to write about the Back To the Center conference that Tywana and I attended this weekend. I cannot capture the emotion. I don’t have the time to write about all of the details.  We had the privilege of sitting in a room for several hours with one of the most educated afterlife experts on the planet, Mark Pitstick and with one of the best mediums on the planet, Suzanne Giesemann. Both are the authors of several books. Suzanne, in addition to being an astounding medium, is a wisdom teacher. She channels a group of light beings that go by the collective name of Sanaya.

When it comes to mediums, channeling and wisdom teachers, I am still very much a skeptic. Not that I don’t believe they don’t exist, but they can be faked and some are better than others. Some are in it for the money. Some are in it for the adoration. And some are just not that good. Tywana and I have been following Suzanne’s blog, listening to her interviews and reading her books for over a year. Her book “Mesaages of Hope” is one of my favorites. Getting the chance to observe her in person was something I really looked forward to.

I wrote earlier about my first encounter with Suzanne. Unfortunately, that post got back to her. I didn’t intend for that to happen. I am not an intuitive person myself, but I’m extremely empathetic. I can pick up on people’s emotions, particularly ones I often have. When people are anxious I feel it. I can sense a performer’s nerves. Suzanne was in a room full of people who were here to see her this weekend. She was going “ on” in a few minutes. She was focused on that. And a bunch of us were grieving parents who were, of course, hoping against hope to hear something from our kids. I fantasized about Shayna bogarting her way into Suzanne’s mind and giving a message to us, but it was not a reasonable expectation. It was a fantasy. Anyway, I do want to say this. When Suzanne saw my post, she contacted us and offered an explanation. That was totally unnecessary. I completely understand. I can’t share any more of her communication. I know it seems I tell everything. But, I will say that it was way more than she needed to do and reinforces my belief that she is the real deal, motivated by Love and a desire to serve. She has my gratitude.

I won’t go over each of the sessions or modules. Some things I have tried before. One, the Facilitated After Death Communication, where we are each supposed to connect with our loved ones in spirit worked a bit better for me than it had when I tried it before. Many people said they got amazing results. Frankly though, when talking with them privately, some of them seemed to have the same experience I had. The encounters are in our heads. So, without evidence, we don’t know if we are dsydreaming or they are “real”. However, I got messages from Shayna, Pop and Felton that were welcome. It was worthwhile. I will do it again. The breathing meditation we did was like the Ananda meditation on one of my meditation CDs. I’ve done that meditation twice. I do not like it. It’s like the anti-meditation for me. Instead of leaving my bodily sensations in the background, I get all in my head. I get light headed. My palms were sweating. My hands and feet were tingling. People around me were crying and alternately laughing. It was very uncomfortable for me. Lesson, not every modality is for everyone.

I wrote extensively about one of the highlights of the session, the Angel Wash. If you can ever do it, do it. I have never in my life felt waves of love washing over me. As I was participating, it reminded me of what I want my job in heaven to be, greeting new soils and helping people transition in. I’ve never had an NDE, but I think I felt a little bit of what it’s like.

On Saturday evening I got to see Suzanne channel Sanaya. I’ve seen it on video one or twice and we listened to a session on Wednesday night. I’ve heard some see her face change, some see auras, some see spirits around her, the room gets warm when they are speaking and cold when they are finished. I didn’t experience any of that except maybe the room temperature change. I was seated a few feet from her and there was a white screen behind her. I still haven’t seen an aura. But, the most important thing about Sanaya is the wisdom that comes through and there is no doubt that is real. Whether Suzanne is tapped into light beings of her higher self or whatever is not the important thing. It’s what comes through. What came through all weekend was a message of who we really are, what this life is about, and how we can make the best of our time here. That is why people follow Suzanne around to hear the message again and again. It’s interesting that she has no religious background. The message is universal and doesn’t require any faith other than the faith that the universe is a benevolent place and we are part of a greater whole conspiring for the greatest good for every one of us.

Mark Pitstick made several presentations on the nature of reality and led us in the meditations I mentioned and the Angel Walk. Mark and Suzanne bring great credibility to their message as Mark is a doctor and Suzanne is a retired Navy Officer. This is just not just woo woo out there sruff. There is science to back it up.

If you can ever get to see Suzanne or Mark, or both. I recommend it. If you can’t, look them up online. Mark’s book and film SoulProof are also great for people starting to explore the true nature of yourself and the reality around you.

I just had what was one of the most powerful emotional experiences of my life. In many ways, it was the most powerful. There, of course, are the births of my daughters and my wedding that are the most important events. But, I just experienced unconditional love, which is something I have never experienced.

Unconditional love is love you haven’t earned. It is yours by birthright. It is largely unknown on this planet. We love people who have done for us, who have made us happy, with whom we have history and familiarity. With strangers, we keep a safe, appropriate distance, showing respect perhaps, but not love.

The last exercise of our workshop was this thing called The Angel Wash. As Mark described what we were going to be doing, my eyes turned toward the door. “How can I get out of this?” is what came to my mind. The 65 or so people in the conference were to form two lines, with each of us standing across from another, creating a tunnel. In turn, walkers were to slowly walk between the two lines, down the tunnel, eyes closed, slowly, while music played. The instructions were for the people in the lines to reach out to the person walking by, touching them, hugging them, speaking words of encouragement, stroking their hair, whatever came through us to encourage that person and show them love.

There are several problems with this scenario. First of all, I don’t touch strangers. As a man, as a black man, as a large black man, I give people their space.  It’s what I’ve been taught. Touching strange white people and telling them I love them is major taboo.  Second, it was clear there was going to be a lot of crying involved. Most people don’t know this about me, but I am sympathetic cryer.  Watching someone crying always makes me tear up. I have to turn away to avoid crying, if not with my physical eyes, at least I would have to tune somewhere else emorionally. Last, I had gone all weekend without crying in front of the group, only breaking down once when this older lady and I had to share our stories during an exercise and after hearing her story another her 38 year marriage that had just ended with the passing of her husband, I had to talk about Shayna. I’m not sure if anyone else even saw it. Crying in a room full of people is not my thing. And, as a man, I’ve been taught not to cry in front of others.  Very few people have witnessed this. It ain’t gonna happen here.

I planned my strategy to keep it together when it was my turn to walk. I’d just keep the emotions tamped down and power through it.  The problem was I couldn’t walk fast as there were people in front of me. And, my eyes were closed, which intensified the experience more than I realized it would.  Before I walked, I was in the line as people walked by.  As the people began making their way down the line I would just touch their shoulders. That’s safe enough.  Then, I realized that, since their eyes were closed, people were having a tough time navigating down the middle of the tunnel and staying paced behind the person in front of them. So, I would take their hand and hold it while placing the other hand on their shoulder, pacing and guiding them. Other people were saying things like “You are a beautiful light.”, “I love you.”, “You are deeply loved.”, etc. I didn’t feel comfortable saying anything. I just tried to pass energy to people through my intentions and my hands. Of course, those saying “You are a beautiful light.” had no idea they were saying Shayna’s name which began to get to me

When my turn came to go down the line, I steeled myself and stepped into the tunnel. I had no expectations of how people would greet me as I went by. Since my eyes were closed, I’d have no idea who was saying whatever to me. Not a lot of people here knew my story. So, I was overwhelmed with emotion as people put their hands on me, hugged me and I heard time and time again how much I am loved, by unknown beings. I have read many Near Death Experiences, enough to have an anticipation of what it will be like to pass over and be greeted by my loved ones. However, the anonymous nature of this experience may be what made it so powerful. It was blissful. Just surrounded by, enveloped in, and washed over by Love.  Waves and waves.  It was palpable.   I was holding it together pretty well until someone said “She is always with you.”. Someone else said “You are a great Dad.”. The thing is I don’t know who said what or what they know about me or Shayna.  And to hear that I am a great Dad is the highest compliment anyone can pay me.  I burst into ugly tears. If possible, I would have fallen to my knees or left the room, but there was no escape. I was barely halfway down the line.

A guy, I don’t know which guy, I had hardly talked to any besides Mark, hugged me and gave me a deeply felt affirmation. I got to the end of the line and tried to regain my composure.

When you get to the end, you join the line again and greet the people coming behind you. I went back into my routine with a couple of exceptions. There is a relatively large woman I got to know during lunch yesterday. She told fascinating stories which I greatly enjoyed. She, like everyone here, is a beautiful soul. I hadn’t hugged anyone, even though we had all given our permission to be hugged. I wondered how many people would have hugged her or would have been capable of giving her a big bear hug to really wrap her up. It seemed right to give her one.  Spirit told me to step out and hug her. I figured she would know it was me because I was the tallest person in the conference. Normally, I would have said no to Spiritual, but this time I said yes. We embraced for quite a while. Then, a few people later came the woman who last night asked a question about getting a hug from God when she gets to heaven. She’s been hearing from these woo woo people that God doesn’t have arms to hug her with. I stepped in and told her that God would hug her when she gets there and I gave her a big hug. Later, the woman I gave the big bear hug thanked me for the great hug.

After it was over a woman approached me and said it inspired her to see how Tywana and I are walking this pain together. She had been standing across from me when Tywana came by and I hugged her and kissed her forehead. Her husband isn’t ready to share his pain with her yet. A couple of other women said they were surprised to see my display of emotion. One said that it was surprising to see a man cry. The other added “Especially a black man.” I explained to them we are all the same on the inside. It’s society that doesn’t give us permission to be ourselves.

I have never seen so many tears from so many people. It was a cathartic experience and I believe a glimpse of heaven.

This is a ritual every church should add. Baptism is cool. Foot washing is cool. But Angel Washing is where it’s at.

Today is the start of the Back To Your Center weekend. We are going to meet Suzanne Giesemann, Tywana’s idol since we started this journey. Suzanne is one of the premiere mediums in the country. I have this fantasy that when we meet her she is going to say “Oh! You’re the ones whose daughter has been around me telling me to give a message to you.”. But, real life rarely goes like the fantasies. We’re in a lobby full of people all buzzing with energy about this weekend. I can onky imagine what that must be like for an intuitive. Suzanne asks if we have lost a son. We tell her no, we did lose a daughter. She’s pulled away by someone else and that is that.

Suzanne and Mark each give a talk on night one to set the stage for the weekend. There are several people here from Helping Parents Heal and Tywana meets two friends from. Facebook group that she is in. We break at 9:30 and head to bed early. Tomorrow starts at 7:30.

While we were shopping in Clearwater we ran into a rude guy who might have been racist. I wrote about him and many of my friends replied. Maybe he was a rude racist, maybe he was just rude. There are a lot of rude people in Florida, some people told me.

Here’s the thing though. Most people are nice. Not only just polite, but friendly. From the Uber driver who picked us up at the airport and summarized his life for us in the 20 minute drive, to the guy I chatted with at the Nepalese store where I bought some clothes and he gave me a 10% discount, just because, people are amazingly friendly.

An example, we were thinking about going to the Dale Chihuli Museum while we were here. I’ve know Chihuli’s work for a few decades and I have one of his pieces of glass. I’ve seen his work in several places. We were killing time and thought we’d drop in if the price was right. Well, the museum admission was $20. Nope. Not worth $40. So, cheap me starts walking away complaining about the price and saying they should change their pricing model to get more people in where they would spend money in the gift shop. A lady behind us, who I had not noticed, interrupted me. She said she had a ticket (stub) because she had just left the museum. She offered to give it to us so that we could only have to buy one ticket.

The gesture was so kind. She didn’t have to say anything. She didn’t know us. We hadn’t asked her for anything. We politely declined. I explained to her my familiarity with Chihuli. We talked for about three or four minutes as we walked down the street together. We thanked her for her offer again and we said goodbye.

When the rude guy cut in front of in line, we wondered if it was because of our race. That is the downside of being black in America. But on the other hand, I have several more stories from that same day where people were extreme friendly to us, in spite of our race, or maybe even because of it. I know people who go out of their way to be more kind to those they perceive as marginalized.

It’s really uplifting when someone you don’t know does something nice for you. The kindness of strangers is a heartwarming thing.

Tywana and I are in Florida for a few days. We stopped by Publix to pick up two items. As we were standing in line to check out, this guy (white guy) pushes past us and hands a sausage to the cashier. I assumed he was with the other guy who was in front of us checking out. He didn’t say a word. No “Excuse me.”, nothing. He didn’t even acknowledge our presence. It turns out he was not with the other guy. He had just gone back to get the sausage and returned to line where his items were on the belt and handed it to the cashier. She checked him out and we moved up to take our turn.

As soon as he left, the cashier, a young white girl, immediately said “I’m sorry.” Tywana asked why she was apologizing. She said “That guy was so rude. He didn’t say ‘Excuse me’ or anything to you. He could have just waited. You only had two items. I can’t believe how he acted. What are you gonna do about people like that.” We agreed he had been rude, but what impressed me was that this young lady not only noticed his behavior, she acknowledged it and she apologized on his behalf.

Now, the question. Was his behavior racist or just rude? Would he have done that had we been white? We will never know. This is just one of those incidents in life that leaves you wondering about the rude behavior of some people when it’s directed to you, as a minority. Are they racist or just ill-mannered? What we do know is this young lady handled it fantastically. And that gives me hope for the future.

Today we fly to Tampa for the Back To Your Center conference. Travelling has never been my favorite thing. I hated to leave home, hated to fly, hated leaving the people I love. Now that Kayla and Shayna don’t live there anymore and Tywana is with me, leaving the people I love is not an issue. Now that Kayla and Shayna don’t live there, it’s not really home anymore. I’ll miss Stevie and Zoe, but I will see them in a few days. I’m good to go.

The flight is uneventful. I meditate for a good portion of the flight. It’s like I’m not even on the plane. The time flies by. I don’t have the nerves I used to have when flying when I felt it was literally my anxiety keeping the plane in the air. If I let down my guard, the plane would plummet to the Earth. Now, I don’t care so much. Whatever happens happens. I realize that since Shayna passed I have lived between two worlds not fully in either, not wanting to be fully in either. I’m not ready to die, but I’m tired of living. Janis sang “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” In that sense, anyway I’m more free than ever.

As Tywana and I get ready to go to sleep we listen to a video of Suzanne Giesemann, one of our hosts for the weekend, channeling her guides and offering some advice that feels like she is speaking directly to our situation. She speaks about those suffering from dementia. We are dealing with that. She speaks about parents who have had children transition and how we planned this. I’m looking forward to seeing what the conference brings and how it helps me deal with this living between worlds.

Last night we watched the television program “This Is Us”.  If you haven’t seen the show, it’s must see TV.  If you haven’t seen the episode from February 22, 2017, spoiler alert. Stop reading now.

In last night’s episode, Randall takes William on a road trip back to his home town of Memphis.  William is Randall’s father who abandoned Randall as an infant.  Randall makes contact with William after being adopted and raised by another family.  Randall is a highly successful professional.  William is a recovering drug addict.  William has terminal cancer and the two of them are getting to know each other as William is dying and has moved into Randall’s home.

The episode does a great job of encapsulating William’s life from the time he is born during World War II. In just an hour, we get a feel for his ups and downs. His father dies in the war. So, he never even met him. William’s single mother raises him and we see the full arc of his life from infant being loved on by his mother, to old man, getting to know his now grown son.

Normally during a television program or movie I will find one primary character to identify with.  In This is Us, I have been torn between Randall, the son with two daughters and a wife, and William, the old man.  Randall is several years younger than I am and William is a few years older than I am.  When William is on his death bed and says he’s a little afraid of dying, I could relate.  As much as I’m looking forward to death, dying is still a little scary.  I’m not ready to go yet.

Last night as I slept, I dreamt of my sister, Bridget. For some reason, I was trying to figure out how old she was. Was she born in 1974 or 1972?   It was ‘72.  Once I figured that out, I was trying to figure out how old that made her.  I knew (in my dream) that it was 2016, but i could not do the math. The last age I remembered was her being 16 (that’s how old she was when we got married).  But, that didn’t seem right.  Finally, the math clicked. She is 42.  Wow. I thought.  How old does that make me. Then, I did that math.  Suddenly, I felt ancient.  I have never in my life thought I would live this long. I’m 55.  I began to feel what I think it feels like to die.  It was kind of scary. I didn’t like the feeling, so I woke up.

As time for getting up rolled around this morning, I thought of Shayna.  It’s been 20 months since I last saw her.  Unbelievable. Today, we leave for the Back to Your Center weekend retreat where we hope to find a reset on life.  We’re leaving out of the Cincinnati airport which brought back memories of picking her and Tywana up from there after the volleyball tournament in Florida.  That was on a Saturday, she passed the following Wednesday.  So, picking her up is still etched in my memory.

The arc of a life.  So many ups and downs.  Good times.  Bad times. We endure. We enjoy.  And, eventually, we go Home. There was a quick shot in the show last night when William had passed and he walks into his mother’s arms.  She had grown old before she passed, but there she was, young and vibrant looking the way he remembered her, waiting to be with her boy again. The remembrance of that scene brought me to tears this morning.

Today is Sunday.  Last night we had some friends over.  They stayed pretty late and I had pretty much whiskey. I wake up an hour and a half later than I normally do.  But, I get up and barely get my five miles in before running through the shower and getting ready for church.

The lesson at church today is “Are you a vacuum or a sprinkler?”  Great question. I think in many areas of my life, I am a sprinkler, giving more than I get.  Maybe too much. But, when it comes to finances, I am definitely a vacuum. There’s a practice a guy did to break that where he gave away a dollar a day.  Unity of Garden Park has primed the pump by providing everyone who came today with a dollar to give away.  I need to consider this practice.

Today, as I do my meditation I realize it’s 50 consecutive days of meditation. That’s my longest streak to date.  The Christian holiday of Pentecost (Ancient Greek: Πεντηκοστή [ἡμέρα], Pentēkostē [hēmera], “the fiftieth [day]”) is celebrated 50 days from Easter Sunday, counting inclusive of Easter Sunday itself, i. e. 49 days or 7 weeks after Easter Sunday.[1][2] Therefore it always occurs on a Sunday.

Someone recently asked me where I go when I meditate. I wish I had out of body experiences or visions or heard voices, but I get none of that. I have learned to slow my mind, to sit and non-judgemtally observe my thoughts.  I do find that when I close my eyes and take that first deep breath, I immediately go to a state of mind that is peaceful and rested. The 20-30 minutes that used to seem forever now often seems to fly by.  Instead of impatiently checking the timer to see how much time i have left before I can get up and “do something”, I relish the time on the cushion.

50 days.  That’s a pretty good accomplishment.

I’m going to change the numbering convention of my posts.  My intent when I started was to write a post a day. I had a lot to say back then- over a year and a half ago.  I numbered each post the next successive day because that’s how often I was writing.  I felt inspired to write something every day, sometimes multiple times a day.  The inspiration is not coming as often now and I find myself stretching to find something to put down.  I just calculated the actual days and it’s been 602.  I’ve written most days, but not every day. So, today I’m doing a reset and I will post the actual days it’s been. Today is day 602.

I don’t even know why I started writing this. Was it for me?  Was it for Shayna, to commemorate her? Was it for others who had been on this journey or would follow me on this journey?  Was it for Kayla?  When you sit down to write, the first thing you should know is your audience.  602 days in and I don’t know mine, yet I write anyway.

Yesterday I woke up in despair.  Every day I wake up in despair. Despair, desperation, depression, anger, frustration, hopelessness- all of these words flooded through my mind. Every day, multiple times a day I pray two things- I ask for help, which never seems to come, and I ask to go Home.  But, I guess help does come because it’s day 602 and I’m still here. I didn’t think I’d be here on day 2.  When I ask for help, I want a vision.  I want to see Shayna.  I want to see one of my guides.  I want Jesus to visit me.  I just finished re-reading The Shack a few days ago.  Mack, got to go spend a weekend with God. Mack got to meet Jesus.  Mack got to see Missy, at play in Heaven. Then, The Great Sadness was lifted. Mack was refreshed and renewed and ready to go back to live the rest of his life with his wife and his other kids.  My prayers don’t get answered like that. I get Podcasts and books.  I get sermons.  I get Unity church. I get people coming into my life to invite me to go for walks.  I get Tywana and Kayla inspiring me to keep going.

I also pray to go Home, but I know I don’t really mean that prayer.  Not now.  I know there is work for me to do here yet.  I guess what I’m really looking for is the fast forward button. The mundane, humdrum of life doesn’t interest me anymore. The daily grind to make my daily bread, the uncertainty of this world were challenges that I suppose I thought would be cool when this mission was in the planning stages. I’m ready to be rid of it now.

In less than a week, Tywana and I head to Florida for a conference on re-centering your life.  The conference is being led by Mark Pitstick, one of the board members of Helping Parents Heal and Suzanne Giesseman, a world famous medium. I keep referring to it as an afterlife conference because of the way I know Mark and Suzanne.  But, it’s titled Back To Your Center and is billed as being for people who are dealing with:

  • The Death of a Loved One
  • Relationship Changes
  • Illness or Disability
  • Lack of Purpose
  • Broken Dreams
  • Financial Loss
  • A Loved One with Addictions or Other Difficult Issues

I’m trying to go into the conference with an open mind. I don’t expect any miracles.  A reset on life would be nice.  I have a difficult time seeing myself as re-centered in this lifetime.

While I had all of those negative thoughts/emotions running through my head when I woke up yesterday, paradoxically, this song from Unity was also stuck in my head “I am free.  I am unlimited. There are no chains that bind me. I am free. I am unlimited. Right now.”  And this quote also came to mind.  “All will be well in the end. If all is not well, it’s not the end.” .  Certainly, all is far from well. So, it’s not the end.  I soldier on.