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Broken Open

By Thea Iberall

A friend of mine told me she had been meditating for years with a teacher, a channeled master named Wan Lo Sensei. When Wan Lo Sensei was offering an open session, I jumped at the chance to experience and to learn. I was a bit nervous. What would he think of me? I decided to try to look spiritual. I wore soft cotton clothes I bought at the Whole Life Expo. I blow-dried my hair. I was ready. This was not your normal, contemplative meditating that I had been used to. Through the psychic medium, Wan Lo Sensei taught his students to go with the forces in their bodies—to move or sigh or cry or yell or squirm—everything was welcomed. After we meditated, he walked around the room revealing things about people, sometimes being evasive and making the person guess at what he meant. He encouraged his long-time students to read other people’s energy fields. They complained they couldn't, but then they did it quite accurately. Wan Lo Sensei came up to me and said, “Looking good.” The medium's eyes were closed but Wan Lo Sensei was seeing right through me. He knew of my preparations. Then he asked me why my kitchen was such a mess. I knew it wasn’t. I said maybe it’s because I’ve been cooking. He said everyone cooks and their kitchens aren’t messy. Then I got it. He was playing with me. He knew I had a deep chaotic mess in my life. But it wasn’t the kitchen, it was my closets, all filled with stuff that I had to get rid of but couldn’t. I’m trying to remember exactly what happened next. He asked people to bow down but I didn’t want to. He motioned to me to come to the front of the room. He told me to close my eyes and put my hands in a praying position. The next thing I knew my knees had buckled under me and I was bowing. And in that moment, he broke my will. I stood in the parking lot afterwards, surrounded by friends holding me up while I sobbed. I had hoped to be recognized as a spiritual person by a channeled disembodied master. Not only was I recognized, I was seen as the fake that I was. But this meeting didn't happen in a vacuum. For 7 years prior, I had been practicing living by the phrase 'acceptance is the key to all my problems'. And also by the phrase 'Thy will, not mine, be done.' My day with Wan Lo Sensei was putting this practice to the test. In the Conference of the Birds, the Sufi master Farid ud-Din Attar says to become enlightened you must die to your old life. Everything that does not belong to the core has to be expelled. It takes fearlessness to take a step towards being one’s true self. A fearlessness that embraces life and doesn’t shy away from it. In a previous meditation, I shared a story about the homesteader's life, how taking care of a pack of dogs could be more spiritual than sitting on a mountaintop praying. Because it’s not about just looking spiritual; it’s about being spiritual. That day, I think Wan Lo Sensei saw that in me. And maybe he didn't break me. Maybe it was more of a course correction. He was breaking my attachment to my ego. I was striving to be spiritual, wanting approval for my work. But what I was reminded that day was that it's an inside job. I had old baggage I needed cleaning out. I needed to find a way to practice 'thy will not mine be done’ that didn’t involve my ego or my being a doormat. And most of all, I had to really get it that acceptance is the key. It's not about saying I'm in acceptance, it's about my being in acceptance.

Go slow

if you can.


More slowly still.

Friendly dark

or fearsome,

this is no place

to break your neck

by rushing,

by running,

by crashing into

what you cannot see.

Then again,

it is true:

different darks

have different tasks,

and if you

have arrived here unawares,

if you have come

in peril

or in pain,

this might be no place

you should dawdle.

I do not know

what these shadows

ask of you,

what they might hold

that means you good

or ill.

It is not for me

to reckon

whether you should linger

or you should leave.

But this is what

I can ask for you:

That in the darkness

there be a blessing.

That in the shadows

there be a welcome.

That in the night

you be encompassed

by the Love that knows

your name.

Participants Reflections

  • That was transcendent. Your honesty was incredible. Also, the lessons learned and the insights. Thank you so much. I really appreciated it.

  • I was so angry during your reading. My brother was a gentle, kind but very insecure young man who came under the influence of Master Pi who presumed in a similar way to tell my brother what he should be doing and what he thought. I’m not comparing them, but it brought back memories of this man, taking a 20-something-year-old man and separating him from his family. He wasn’t able to get money from my parents to help Master Pi with his work. My brother needed someone to help him come to the realizations that you came to, to help him be introspective without forcing him to put his hands together and bend to this man’s will. He needed the kind of therapists I’ve had who ask you how you are feeling about things and helping you to meditate, rather than presuming to say this is what’s wrong with you. I know there are good spiritual leaders out there. This brought up a lot of pain and anger at those who, in whatever capacity, decide to direct others in their thinking who are vulnerable to follow them. My brother died at 58 from alcoholism. He needed mental help. Thank you for letting me think about this.

  • Thank you. That brings up a lot. I was worried my story showed this master in a harsh light. There is a danger of leaders getting caught in their own ego. Shirley worked for a cult specialist and she is very sensitive to the idea of cults and getting involved in any kind of groups that demonstrate that. She’s very careful in how she works with everyone here so that she does not become a cult leader.

  • I was thinking how the ego is such a challenging companion. We need to have it to function in this world and yet, it is such a dangerous thing, particularly for people who find themselves in leadership. The phrase that popped out for me was it’s an inside job. On the introvert/extrovert scale, I am more extroverted than introverted. I tend to ask everyone else what they think. It’s kind of a mantra or refrain to go inside which is why I value being here. Whether I was here or not, I would have a daily sit to check in with me. I absolutely love the power and strength of this group. We can share the hard stuff. Thank you.

  • Thank you so much. Your reading spoke to me from beginning to end. Often, I am left with one nugget, but this was the whole story. It sent me on a journey. It reminded me of how important clothing has been over the years. When I lived in Hawaii, I didn’t wear clothes very much. I was naked a lot, or I wore see-through clothes or bikinis. When I moved to New England, I learned quickly that this is a different culture. It wasn’t accepted. My two-year-old son was rejected from a playgroup because I let him be naked in a wading pool. It was a harsh shift. I went through a white period where I only wore white. After my spouse died, I spent way too much money on fancy clothes to cover myself up. It’s been a long journey with clothing to cover myself up. At the end of the meditation, I realized how many gifts come along the way for me that I miss because I am covered. There was a moment of appreciating and noticing and I hope I can continue to notice the gifts that come my way. This group is a gift. Thank you.

  • Thank you. There’s a certain envy for finding the ‘one’. All of you, I feel lucky to find you all. I’m going to be taking a class on transferring images to cloth. During the meditation, I was remembering how I could dress in Africa, how I could wear colors. I was going through my clothes, thinking about what I could wear and not wear here. Not that it covers up who I am, but the clothing can reveal who I am. The markings, the colors. I miss how people dress in Guinea. Clothes have always been a way for me to express my artistic side.

  • Thank you. Thank you for being so honest. I had a thought when you said the sensei brought you in front of everyone. Many years ago, I went to a retreat. I remember a nun talking about shaming when someone has to do things in front of people. When you talked about the messy kitchen, I thought of my own. I grew up in a disheveled overwhelmed household and I have tried for years to get out of that. As hard as I try, I can’t. If I get it neat, it doesn’t stay neat. Part of that is time, of where I’m living, and my four cats, plus things going on in my brain. Thank you.

  • Shirley suggested the idea that teachers come in many forms. It’s true.

  • I think a teacher can also be when we have a realization. That’s a teacher as well.

  • The key is to be open and receptive to whatever comes our way. Wherever it comes from.

  • I think the red flag in teachers is if they encourage dependency on them. If they are encouraging us out of the nest or saying I’ll do this for you.

  • It’s one of the things I appreciate about Shirley is that there is none of that going on. Plus on the theme of shaming, I remember a young man with chronic diseases. He had gone to a spiritual leader who had basically told him it’s his own fault he’s still sick. He’s not thinking positive enough. The poor kid killed himself. As opposed to showing compassion and affirming this young man’s journey and having a willingness to help if they can.

  • Thank you for joining us today. This was a powerful morning. Thank you for being willing to give yourself 15 minutes to focus on yourself and think about what it means, that it’s an inside job, and thinking about the teachers in your life wherever they come from. I hope you have a gentle, blessed day.


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