I value my role as a communications professional because I have the ability to be a gatekeeper around the words, information, ideas, and stories that enter the world. I think it’s awesome to experience a narrative space as it opens up! Right now, I am helping to facilitate the narrative space around psi (psychic) experiences. That’s one of the reasons I write for the Parapsychological Association (PA). I was especially excited for the PA’s conference at The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONs; and together, PAIONs) in Petaluma, California, which happened this summer in August.
The PA exists as a professional organization to further the study of psi experiences. IONs exists as a place where science and the direct experience of the interconnectedness occurs. It was a smart match—PAIONs was itself an opportunity, an experiment to look at science and spirituality together. This conference was my journey into a place aka language-scape where science and spiritual ideas meet. I imagined my idol Freya Stark, a woman travel writer who in the early 1900s went to Middle East and brought back stories of being the first Westerner in some of the places; the conference was my place to enter the intellectual valley.
The IONs campus exists as a solitary space high up on the hills. A gated, windy road upheld a boundary to the rest of the world. I used this to my advantage; a perceived isolation allowed me to go deep into the experience and focus on language-ing the experience of psi phenomena. Listen to what people were saying. How they were saying things. What was happening as I listened. Words creating reactions in me.
And there’s a lot of messy-ness there because of the relativity through which the world can be perceived, the language that conveys the perception, the ways that things can be languaged and not be languaged. Psi experiences don’t follow the dominant idea of timelines being linear, so I am super aware of grounding abstract experiences in words and time. I believe that finding ways to do this—even if the narrative doesn’t always follow an arc, even if sometimes the poetics of the experience precede it, even if no one reads what I write—is crucial. If I can figure it out in me, then I can help other people figure it out. It’s all part of the word experiment and opening up this narrative space.
The main presentation hall plus the accommodations were grouped at the bottom of a steep hill at the IONs campus. There were a few small chalets and barrack-style dorms, whereby most of the conference attendees stayed in the dorms. I found an equanimity through this arrangement, knowing that researchers, academics, scientists, healers, and the curious who had arrived to discuss psi phenomena were all sharing close quarters. It felt like an organic language incubator. It felt like a nouveau summer camp for post-modern geeks and thinkers who tinkered with spiritual-mechanical stuff and the ones who did psychology and philosophy. It was direct experience with the folks shaping the sources of narrative and information exchange.
One afternoon, as I was leaving my room, I bumped into Everton de Oliveira Maraldi, a Brazilian psychologist as well as the conference chair and a person whose work explores cultural interpretations of extraordinary phenomena. He bridges social sciences, anthropology, psychology, and parapsychology. We shared a brief conversation on cultural relativity, and something that he mentioned echoes for me: psychology has an assumption that phenomena are experienced in a universal way. This might not be true.
The conversation was the point at which the forging of a new thing out of two separate things, science (those words in their container) and spirituality (those words their container) happened in me. A “Eureka!” moment.
Here is how the exchange opened up in me: I thought—felt like I went back to two days before (that moment), when I had arrived to the conference, and my first impression of the grounds was that, “California was on fire”—and then I saw smoke from the hills of IONs’ campus. The grass on campus was yellow and dry, and the strong winds provided a constant buffing of wind against my ears. The dryness mirrored a perceived fire and dryness in me, an exciting beginning time: something being birthed in the heat and being ushered into existence.
I felt lightness.
And so standing there hanging on the conversation, I picked up on the land again during the moment of our conversation, the diligent, objective observer—The wind hovering at the edge of my ear: a fleeting moment of being when the boundaries between me and the Earth dissolved; between my mind (shaped by culture) and the collective mind (that was being shaped by the new narrative space opening up); between my role as a gatekeeper and the larger community who would benefit from more conversations like this.
And then there was a pause in the conversation.
And the transcendent moment left.
We finished the short walk to the dining hall, and I was left to consider what I wanted to write about his words and my experience and the way that this fleeting moment moved me—I felt the internal response happening to the external setting. Experiential conversation? That the words stimulated a moment of my conscious attention? That the setting supported this dialogue? Holistic thinking systems emphasize the awareness of context and qualities. This was a direct experience of the saying “As above, so below” except “As outside, so inside.” But there was so much to explore, too, as I wondered what these experiences are like for other people.
Do many people experience that? And then I remembered my job as a communications consultant and why it’s important to open up this narrative space and facilitate the sharing of the multidimensional human experience.
I imagine, too, Freya riding a camel through the desert. I wonder if she might have felt something similar, a sense of excitement, responsibility, curiosity, as I consider how to shape and convey this direct experience, or, the lack of boundary between the land, the ideas, and me.
I only have more questions: How will this narrative space continue to open up and how will this (my) relative experience inform a universal, extraordinary human opportunity—the ability to transcend with/through/in words?