It was about 3am early to middle 2007. Dr. Young’s protocol was bringing me improvement but my sleep had continued to deteriorate. In desperation, I got out of bed and onto the internet where I discovered “Say Good Night to Insomnia: A Drug-Free Program Developed at Harvard Medical School”.
The data from the first week of tracking my sleep was shocking. Three hours a night? This was no way to heal! As I followed the program in the book, I hit a bump with the step where I was supposed to listen to a “Relaxation Response” recording. The phone number in the appendix was no longer Dr. Jacobs’.
After asking around, I found out about Full Circle Books in Belmont, California where I discovered Kelly Howell’s “Brain Sync” CDs. Listening to “Deep Sleep” by plugging headphones into my old boom box placed against my bed, turned out to be a terrible idea – I woke up with a sore neck! It was finally time to buy an iPod.
I imported my new CDs into iTunes and discovered Kelly Howell’s podcasts in the process. By now, I had improved my sleep to a grand total of four or five hours. Having decided that stressing wasn’t going to help, I got in the habit of listening to Ms. Howell’s podcast interviews whenever I was lying awake at night. And that’s how I came to hear Alexander Shaia talk about his new book in 2008.
At first, it was just another interesting interview. Suddenly I got goosebumps. It felt like Dr. Shaia was talking in detail about my life, except he had never met me! In his book, he was putting forth the idea that most spiritual, cultural and religious traditions – including Hinduism, Judaism, indigenous cultures and modern psychology – referred to the same four steps of transformation or responding to change. He had been describing the characteristics of the second step when I recognized myself: “This experience is going to be like in a desert without water or in a stormy sea where the boat is just rocking violently and your ego mind … feels it’s about to drown … thinks, I can’t do this much longer. We’re going to grasp at solutions too quickly … There is a natural process in the second path of trying this and trying that … It’s all good … But we also need to realize that the real, deep resolution doesn’t usually appear for a while.”
Joseph Campbell, of ‘follow your bliss’ fame, described four main steps in the hero’s journey: Hearing the summons, enduring the trials, receiving the boon and returning to community. Dr. Shaia, who once studied with Campbell, is essentially extending this concept to include Christianity in “Beyond the Biography of Jesus” Books I & II.
I am a complete sucker for unifying themes be it spirituality or physics. This was giving me the same feeling as when I discovered a dusty old copy of Einstein’s “Special Theory of Relativity” in the library of my English boarding school.
Back to 2008. The following morning, I couldn’t wait to find out more about Dr. Shaia. My excitement quickly turned to anger when I saw that he had given a guest sermon at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.
“If I weren’t sick, I would have been there”, I wailed. Anger then turned to solution. How about downloading his sermon from gracecathedral.org?
Solution turned to disbelief as I listened to the recording. I had been there. How? Frantically searching my memory, disbelief turned to awe. There had been one Sunday morning many months beforehand, when I had dragged myself to my favorite Anglican watering hole. I gave up after that because it didn’t seem smart to push that hard and risk hurting myself.
But that one morning, the only morning in the prior twelve-month period, and the last morning to date that I have attended a service at Grace Cathedral, that morning was the morning of Alexander Shaia’s sermon.