Dannion Brinkley

 

This is a story I wrote years ago right after it happened and after I had published my first book, WindWalker: Journey into Science, Self, and Spirit (2000). It’s a great story, but didn’t fit into my Guru book either. I would like to get it out there for others and want to thank Dannion Brinkley for the experience. For those that don’t know, Dannion is a international motivational speaker and the best selling author of Saved by the Light: The True Story of a Man Who Died Twice and the Profound Revelations He Received, and several other books. Meeting him was a real adventure. Experiencing his Klini bed was a real honor–as well as quite of an experience. Read on…

The Chamber

I had asked Mel, Dannion Brinkley’s cousin and a friend of mine, if Dannion would let me try out his Klini “bed.”  Mel had told me about the bed, and I had subsequently read about it in one of Dannion’s books. It was some sort of bed that put people into an altered state of consciousness.  Among other things, Dannion used the bed in his hospice and advocacy work with veterans.

Mel helped Dannion organize and keep track of his busy appearance schedule. They grew up together in Aiken, SC. Mel talked to Dannion about my meeting him and experiencing his Klini bed. Dannion had sent word back to me through Mel that, yes, he would be at his old home place in Aiken, SC, and he would let me experience the chamber and the bed. Chamber? I thought it was a bed of some type? Nonetheless, I felt truly privileged that he had agreed. Mel later told me that Dannion only invited a few people to his house to use this special chamber. It was his family’s home and where he grew up. He stayed there when he was in Aiken from all his world travels, which were extensive. I felt greatly honored.

Dannion was a true Warrior, even though his work now is that of a healer, teacher, and advisor. If ever there was a Platonic copy that reflected the Ideal Warrior, Dannion was it. He stands about 6’3” and was striking with his red hair and goatee. Women’s heads turned when he passed. At age 56, he still looked in top shape and not someone with whom you would want to tangle. On top of all this, he was brilliant and talented. Among his many talents were his psychic abilities, which were substantial. To encounter Dannion was be a real head trip. Before his first near death experience (NDE), he was just your everyday black ops commando sort of guy.

He started this illustrious career as an angry boy in Aiken, getting in fights with anyone that would take him on and in general, raising hell. By the time he was in high school, he had to go out of town to find someone to fight him. Such was his reputation and abilities. As a young adult, the local police knew him well, and usually sent him home when they caught him out drinking and getting into his general mischievous activities. They did not want to tangle with him physically. He was likable even then.

Vietnam came and he joined the armed services. His talents and abilities being recognized, he was trained in special operations. He was a hit man. He would go out in the jungle alone, sitting for days to take out specific high ranking enemy targets. After Vietnam, he moved on to help out the CIA with similar activities in South America. A very talented guy. Then came his first NDE.

Dannion writes about his near death experiences in his book,  Saved by the Light: The True Story of a Man Who Died Twice and the Profound Revelations He Received. As his story goes, while talking to his mother on the phone one evening during a thunderstorm, he had just remarked that they really should get off the phone so that they would not get electrocuted. (Remember the days of telephone lines, before cordless versions or cell phones?) Lightening struck, and he was glued to the ceiling by the powerful electrical charge that came through the telephone line. If it had not been for his wife at the time, who was a nurse, he probably would have died. It took him years to recover from the neurological and physical damage from this near fatal accident. It ended his career as a hired killer, and turned him down the path of a peaceful warrior. He still suffered greatly from intense pain from those injuries.

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Desert Dogs Chasing Badger

This is one of the stories my editor had me leave out of my Guru book, expanded here for this telling. It’s a story worth telling though–and funny–but not funny at the time it was happening. Actually, a lot my adventures are like that: they are funny in retrospect. Here are the two main characters of this tale–

Back then I still had an active mental health practice and these were my therapy dogs, Morgan and Lacy. At the time of this trip, Morgan (left, black), a.k.a., Old Dog, was ten-years-old. He is a Retriever mix; Lacy (white) was a 14-month-old Great Pyrenees. There was still a lot of puppy in her then and still is now two years later. Morgan is Top Dog between the two of them. Lacy may be younger and outweigh him by some 2x pounds, he is nonetheless, the Boss Dog–and the leader in this case into mayhem.

This was our last Big Bend, Tx, trip in 2019. As I write this post revision (10/18/21), that was almost exactly two years ago. I’m also adding some additional stops we made headed out there. So, it’s a little expanded from the version that was in the book. It was a farewell trip. It was the only long-distance trip I took them on. I found trying to handle them both by myself was a little too much.

I was pretty sure this would be my last trip out here to the Big Bend area and even to Texas. For some 50 years I had been driving to Texas to visit my parents, both of whom now, recently had passed. Consequently, there were some special places I wanted to stop along the way and say goodbye. It was a trip of memories, of goodbyes, as well as a farewell trip to Big Bend itself.

However, the old saying, “Never say never” applies here, as I am now planning my 2022 epic bicycle adventure tour, which includes touring Big Bend and surrounding area on my bicycle. In truth the whole idea for my upcoming bicycle tour started here in Big Bend on this 2019 trip. Consequently, this story and trip is part of the background for my evolving 2022 tour for which preparation, planning, and training are now ongoing. (Anybody willing to assist me in this venture, there is a “Donate” button below, and thanks.) Back to our journey…

We had spent four long days driving out to Big Bend, making stops for lunch at Mary’s Cafe in Strawn, Tx., home of the best chicken fried steak in Texas, or for my money, anywhere, except, of course, the one I prepare from my own kitchen! Here I was at that “last meal.” Don’t worry, the dogs got a share as I couldn’t possibly eat the entire thing–and that was their small!

I hadn’t told anyone in Texas, family or friends, that I was making the trip. Just me and the dogs on a last trip West. It was a trip of closings, including my third (and final) marriage and my parents’ deaths. After Mary’s and just up the road about 20 miles, we stopped and visited my parents’ graves. Dad had died in 2016, Mom in 2017. It will probably be my last and only visit since there burials. In it reside many of my relatives: aunts, uncles, grandparents, and more. The graveyard sits on property donated by my grandparents and later my parents. It abuts the family farm. From it you can see the house my parents built and lived in for over 20+ years. They then later moved nearby to Ranger, Tx, just down the road.

Then there was an early evening dinner at the famous Johnny’s BBQ in my growing-up town of Odessa some 250 miles down the road from Strawn. Our destination for the night was Ft. Stockton. Johnny’s was one of my favorite places to eat BBQ as a teen growing up in Odessa. Still there and still making a great BBQ! Hadn’t changed much in 53 years. (Somewhere I have a photo of this and will update if/when I find it.) I wasn’t hungry from my big lunch, but got it to-go, and had it later that evening at our motel in Ft. Stockton. I put it in the back of the truck as the dogs, who mainly road in the back seat, would have gone crazy smelling it. Maybe me too.

Arriving at Big Bend the next day around noon, we were all three exhausted from the four days of driving and riding. However, we still had about two-and-half hours to go before we got to our camping site. Once past the entrance to the Big Bend NP, it is still about an hour’s drive to the ranger station to get a camping permit, another 20 minutes around to the turnoff to the back country on Old Ore Rd, to our camping site. An hour and ten-minute, four-wheel drive later on Old Ore Rd, we arrived mid-afternoon at our campsite. After an initial, cautious sniffing and exploring by the dogs, we all three just laid around, exhausted. Morgan liked the back seat of the truck and was sacked out there.

Lacy was lying out in the shade of the bear box, a heavy-duty metal box to put your food and trash in to keep it away from the bears, javelinas (peccaries), mountain lions, etc.

I need to point out at this point before we go further, both of these are “city dogs.” Neither has been to the desert, and the desert can be a very nasty place. Everything bites, stings, or has a nasty disposition, or chemical defenses. Survival in the desert is a very Darwinian “bloody tooth and nail.” I had been concerned about bringing them because of their unfamiliarity with and the many dangers of the desert. So far they were doing okay. I had brought some special first aid stuff to get thorns out, etc. But, Jesus, there were rattlesnakes, scorpions, cacti, thorny bushes, all kinds of nasties everywhere. I grew up in the desert and had spent time camping and hiking in it, so I knew it. It is my natural stomping ground.

I was napping/dozing in the front seat when I heard Morgan charge out of the truck. I sat up and went into panic mode: Lacy had spotted a badger and Morgan was tearing off after it! I didn’t even know badgers occurred out here! Morgan had no idea just how dangerous badgers were. He thought it was a funny looking cat probably. He loves chasing cats. Doesn’t know what to do when one doesn’t run or turns and faces him off. He just stands there wagging his tail, unsure what to do.

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Bike Camping Shakedown

Bike camping shakedown at Keeowee-Toxiway SP 2021

A lesson for aspiring aging athlete want-to-be’s–

Not only did it turn out to be a “shake down” for my gear but for me too! Monday (10/11/’21) after my annual eye checkup and a readjustment from my chiropractor, I headed out for my first bike camping trip, a shakedown adventure for both me and my gear. Let me just say, the gear shook down fine, me, not so fine. Before it was over, and with great chagrin and on my return trip, I ended up calling my daughter, Elian, to come rescue me, still 16 miles from home. How embarrassing!

As learning goes, it was a successful trip. I “learned” a lot! Nothing like the real experience to put things into perspective. The basic and most fundamental thing I learned was that I’m still a long way from where I need to be to do my planned epic, 2022, Sacred Canyon bicycle tour, much less the longer Southern Tier portion. Lord, help me. I’m going to need it. I need to be 20, 40 years younger, not 73. So, here’s the story–

It was beautiful weather as I pulled away from my home at 2:00pm: 70 degrees and sunny, with sunny weather and 77 degrees predicted for tomorrow. Humidity was a low, wonderful, with a dew point at about 60 degrees. It was just a single overnight camping trip to a park I had gone many times in years passed. Never mind, these earlier trips were always in a motorhome, not a bicycle and a tent. I was in near full gear on the bicycle. As this was a training run, I took my touring bike as opposed to my e-bike. A choice I would soon regret.

It was just for one night, so I was not carrying as much gear and food as I would be taking out West next year, which will mean even more weight. It was my first trip “geared-up”: trailer, panniers, tail bag, and handlebar bag. On my first uphill I was a little surprised that I could tell the weight difference with all the gear. It was only 20 miles to the park, Keeowee-Toxiway State Park. No problem, right? I mean I was routinely doing 18 – 20 mile training rides these days, with longer rides of 26-32 miles. This 32-miler, however, was on my e-bike as I had just done a 26-miler two days before and had not fully recovered from that. The e-bike turned out to be a wise choice on that ride as it would have been for this one.

So here I was on my way, pedaling happily and naively down the road. This time, however, going a different route, guided by Google Maps bicycle app. It was a great back roads route through hill and dale, pasturelands, farms, sparsely populated, and with low traffic. It didn’t take long for that scenic, idyllic illusion to start to crumble–on about the fifth hill climb. To make a long, hard ride/story short, let me say, it was a brutal ride! I could swear Google Maps must have plotted to take me on every hill in the area. Most of it was uphill it seemed. (But I also knew, it would seem like that going back too–i.e. uphill.

I was still not half-way there, around mile 7 of the 20, and I knew I had made a mistake in not bringing the e-bike. Before it was over, I had to get off and push the bike and trailer up three hilltops and take several rest stops. Three hours later, I arrived at my camp spot–exhausted, done in. A big average milage of 7 mph!! I had been averaging around 8.5mph on the bike in my trainings, 8.1 on bad days.

Here I am now at the park. Putting up tent time. It had been several years since I had used my solo tent. No problem, I had the instructions in the bag with the tent. I was so fatigued, however, I struggled to follow them, having to reread several sections multiple times to get them into my addled brain. What seemed hours, the tent was finally sat up, my sleeping bag thrown in, the air mattress and air pillow blown up, and the sun setting. I sat on the picnic table bench, sipping on water–hydrating after my long, sweaty ride. I had brought an easy-fix supper, but was too tired to eat it. The bottle of wine, decanted into a plastic water bottle to cut the weight, however, was calling. Before I indulged the wine, my left-brain kicked in and I ate some trail mix and the apple I’d brought. I still needed to finish setting up my camp. I knew from too many times experiences, the alcohol would render me worthless.

As I returned to setting up my camp, one of the fellows in the next campsite over approached me, apologising for bothering me, but he was very interested in what I was doing, where I had come from, where I was going, etc.? He said, I was the most interesting person around, pointing with his chin to the other campers in their cars or vans. /this was strictly a tent camping section. RV were up further on the hill.

I explained that this was a shakedown camping trip for a longer tour in 2022. He got called away, saying he would be right back. In his absence, the two women from the campsite across the road came over and started asking me the same questions, curious about what I was doing, going, coming from, etc. When I started telling them about the longer bicycle tour, the older lady, 63 she said, had always wanted to do a cross-continental tour on a bicycle. The previous gentleman returned saying he didn’t want to miss out on the conversation. The two ladies went back to their campsite after a while, and he and I continued talking. Turns out he was a bicycler too and knew about Adventure Cycling.org and even the Southern Tiers portion I would be on for much of my tour.

That night, after about 250 ml of wine, etc., I settled into my tent and sleeping bag, exhausted from the day’s activities. I knew I was in trouble for my return ride the next day. Sure enough, through the night, my left hamstring started cramping. Not bad, but still, not good. My right hamstring was giving me little notices that it was thinking about joining the party. I had hydrated up well before and after the ride, so I didn’t think it was a hydration issue. More like a potassium issue as I have chronic low electrolytes (potassium, sodium, and chloride) in my blood screens.

The next morning arrived. I had breakfast (coffee, oatmeal, and granola breakfast bar), packed up my camp, loaded up, and said goodbyes to my neighbors, giving the women one of my old business cards that I had found. Ten minutes down the road toward home on my second hill, I knew I wasn’t going to make it. My left hamstring started trying to cramp, and I just didn’t have it in me to get up the hill. Had to get off and walk up the hill. Next hill, same thing. At this point, I threw in my hat in, disappointmented and defeated, and called my daughter to come get me. We agreed to meet at the realtor’s office where the highway forked. I told her that, if I wasn’t there, to come down the road looking for me. As it turned out I was almost to our rendezvous point. I had made it four miles of the twenty back home. Sigh.

Now for some comments from my learnings for my fellow aspiring, older (read elderly) athlete want-to-be’s, thinking to do something crazy like this–you know, do a long bicycle tour, or other high physically demanding, distance thing…

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My Hózhó Bicycle Tour

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Climate Change—
It’s been a long time coming.
It’ll be a long time here.
If we don’t heed Mother Nature’s tears.

This morning the NY Times (9/29/21) was an article based on US officials reporting the extinction of 20 species and that, if Climate Change is not acted on soon, we are looking at losing another million in the near, on-rushing future!

Hózhó is a Diné (Navajo) concept/word often translated as “balance and beauty,” but it goes much deeper than that. Hózhó stands at the heart of the Navajo spiritual belief system and way of living, encompassing their cosmic view of life, Nature, and what is important in life. It also stands at the heart of my 2022 bicycle tour or, more humbly, what I am shooting for: beauty, balance, and harmony.

On a more complex, deeper level, Hózhó is a concept about harmony and wellness. Its “beauty” is not the surface stuff of our Western, W.E.I.R.D., culture. Its beauty encompasses all of life in its many dimensions as a way of living. Navajo art strives for hózhó: balance, harmony, beauty. It is a philosophy and way of living of wellness and wholeness.1 Among other things, Hózhó is about honoring Mother Nature’s tears, about Nature’s wellness.

My goal for my upcoming September 2022 tour, is for it to be a Hózhó journey: One of balance, harmony, beauty, and wellness. I will, I’m sure, have trouble remembering this as I bust my ass getting up the many mountains, through the strong headwinds, and bad weather. This tour for me is above all a spiritual adventure, and probably my last great adventure. This is especially true of the first third of the journey, some thousand miles, through sacred American Indian canyon country of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

I plan on spending a couple of days at least at each of the canyons, which include, Zion, Bryce, Glen, Valley of the Gods, Canyons of the Ancients, Canyon de Chelly, and Chaco; and numerous National and State parks and monuments. This is pretty much unseen territory for me and would make the tour just to complete this portion down to Silver City, NM. This is the ancient (and current) country of the Anasazi, Navajo, and Pueblo.

Geographically, my tour can be divided into three major sections, each of about one-thousand miles. Whew, and on a bicycle too! The first third, as mentioned above, will be through Sacred Canyon country of Utah, the four corners part of CO, New Mexico; the second, through my great native state of Texas beginning in El Paso and through the desert mountain of the . Texas is a BIG state. I’ve crossed it many times during my lifetime but that was in car, plane, or on my Harley, not on a fucking bicycle! (I’ve got to be going crazy in my old age, no? Possibly.) The last third leg is through LA, MS, AL, and FL. Again, driven the SC through Dallas, TX, portion many times, but on a bicycle? Yikes! I’m scaring myself here. Let’s move on.

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Westerners are WEIRD

How our culture affects human neuroanatomy, neural circuitry, and evolution

This post is for my readers interested in the interaction between our genes, culture, brains, and evolution. My comments are based on the recently published book (above, 2020) by Joseph Henrich, PhD, Professor and Chair of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. His research focuses on evolutionary approaches to culture, psychology, social status, religion, cooperation, and decision-making. I was clued into his book by Lawson Sachter-Roshi at Windhorse Zen Center. Roshi Lawson has given several teishos (teachings) from it at our Sunday services and during sesshins. The book is a great read: clear, well written, and full of summary data (mainly charts) to bolster his hypotheses. As an evolutionary geneticist in my academic/college professor/researcher career, I am interested in many of these topics. The book really rings my bells on several different level. It is going to take me months to get through it though. It is a 680pp treatise, and I’m a relatively slow, plodding reader. It doesn’t help that you have to stop and think a lot about the things he is saying.

Roshi got into the books’ topics coming from the standpoint of how to to better transmit Zen concepts, truths, and teachings to our Western mind. You have a philosophy/religion, honed and perfected in the East, on the opposite end of the spectrum. The way Eastern and Western minds view, interpret, perceive, the world, How best to translate and transmit something honed and wielded in Eastern minds to Western minds? Still working on this one.

WEIRD is an acronym that stands for–Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. Henrich’s book is an impressive opus on how the West became so psychologically peculiar and particularly prosperous, the book’s subtitle. Westerners appear unique to humankind’s past and all other non-western cultures and civilizations current and past. It is not because we have different genes, but because our culture’s emphasized reading since the time of Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation. It was Luther’s emphasis that each person find his/her own relationship with God/Jesus, and this was to be done by reading/studying Scripture, the Bible. This emphasis resulted in our schools, public education, universities, and a high rate of literacy–and rewired our brains in the process. These are epigenetic changes; ie. changes above the level of the gene that controls the expression of genes, resulting in neurogenesis (brain growth). Result: same genes, different brains. Before the Reformation, no more than 10% of the world’s populations could read it is estimated. And for many societies and populations, 10% is probably way high, probably more like 1%, I’m guessing. It was from these Reformation beginnings that Western culture has such high literacy rates. Tied into this later would come the Industrial Revolution.

Not to worry. The Catholic church got into the game-change plan too. It drove a package of social norms that dramatically altered marriage, families, inheritance, and ownership. Paving the way for cities, impersonal commerce, voluntary organizations, which laid the foundation for charter towns, universities, and transregional religious orders. These were increasingly governed by individualistic norms and laws based on principles and ideas instead of kin relationship. These changes and shifts ushered in the Industrial Revolution, which created a waves of globalization, the effects which still cascade around our world today. Staggering, no?

How did this literacy change with its emphasis of reading change our Western brains?

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My Last Great Adventure?!

I’m excited!! My old SEEKING emotional neural circuit is really humming. Pumping out that dopamine and adrenaline it is. What is it I am so excited, pumped about? Glad you asked. This is hot off the press, so to speak: My bucket-list desert Southwest bicycling tour is back on! It It has transmuted to a two-month, cross-country bicycle tour going from Tempe, AZ to St. Augustine, FL, some 2,168 miles, plus side trips. It crosses both the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts! Cool. (No, actually probably still pretty hot in September.) I’ve got it scheduled for starting September 17, 2022. More on this below.

I had the bike tour idea about two years ago, even got me a nice touring bike, an R.E.I. Adv 1.1. Covid-19 got in the way. I had been riding and training at first on my old road bike and then got the touring bike, even had a lower gear put on it for the hills around here. Lots of mountains (e.g. Rocky Mts) where I’ll be riding. COVID hit and I realized it would be very difficult for me to take an extended touring ride for a number of other reasons. There were a lot of things in the way back then. Even during this period I continued to train though. After over a year of self-training and in consultation with folks again at R.E.I., I decided to switch to an e-bike (e for electric), one that I could tour on, a Cannodale Synapse. It had an advertised range of 150 miles for the battery between charges. However, that depends on how much weight it is carrying and the terrain. Wind would also be a factor out where I am going. I figured though, I am only shooting to average 50 miles per day. So even fully loaded and going uphill, I should be good. Just have to make sure I have a place to recharge it when needed. Don’t want to get caught short of juice. I love the e-bike, but felt like a traitor or cheating for switching to an e-bike. I still have the Adv 1.1 at this point and am torn between taking it or the e-bike. The Adv 1.1. touring bike is a much more comfortable bike, but, oh those mountains!

Between COVID-19 and the other obstacles, it looked just too much. I got discouraged and gave up on my idea to do one final grand bicycle tour, cut back on my training regime. Besides the hills around here were tougher than I was. After a year of training, they had gotten easier but were still a challenge. Enters the e-bike. I had abandoned my tour idea. During the ensuing months, several things worked themselves out and I got the e-bike. But I still had abandoned the idea of the tour until a few days ago when a synchronistic (C.G.Jung) event occurred. I got an inquiry about the A1.1, “Was it still up for sale?” I said, “Yes,” with mixed emotions: I really liked that bike!

I really like riding the Adv 1.1. It is a well designed bike and rides smoother than the e-bike. The e-bike is classified as a road bike, and is just not as nice a ride. It also can’t carry the weight like the Adv 1.1 can. But, by gosh, it will do those hills/mountains! If the Adv 1.1 doesn’t sell, I may yet use it for the tour. But going up over the Rocky Mountains, that pedal assist would really be nice. As you can tell, I’m torn. As long as no one offers to by the Adv 1.1 for what I want to sell it, I have the option. Even if they offer to buy it, I still might turn them down.

The e-bike is what is called a “pedal assist”. I can determine how much “assist” I want. It has four levels. I mainly stay in the lowest “Eco” level around here. On hills, I’ll kick it up to the next level, “Tour.” Had it up to the third highest level for about five seconds once getting away from a dog. Never tried the highest level, but I understand it really scoots. Of course, the higher the pedal assist, the more power it draws from the battery, which means it is draining the battery faster, etc. I ride it around here a lot of time without the pedal assist even turned on, but on the hills around here, it is really nice. I have a nice Buel bicycle trailer for it. Right now, I mainly use the trailer for when I go grocery shopping. It can carry up to 100 lbs and a lot of camping gear for my tour. I already have the camping gear I need for the trip. So, I am good to go for touring.

How did I get back on track again for this great adventure? It is a combination as I said above of Jungian synchronicity colliding with recent and ongoing changes at this time in my life. Let’s talk about the synchronicity first. Then, I’ll get back to more about the tour.

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