I am on my way to Ralphs to get some no-salt roasted chicken for me and my health conscious partner. I’m driving my Toyota Rav-4 and have an audiobook, Caves and Cosmos by Dr. Michael Harner, cued up on the radio. I turn left onto PCH, hit the on-button and begin listening. As I drive I listen to Dr. Harners adventures in what he calls Non-Ordinary Reality. He began his career as an Anthropology Professor experimenting with ayahuasca, LSD and other hallucinogenic substances back in the 1960’s. He soon discovered the same kind of altered states of consciousness could be attained by intention coupled with steady drumming of 220 beats a minute.
I drive into the far back of the parking lot at Ralph’s. Parked back here my car does not get dented and I get some extra steps for my fitbit. I park the car, start to open the door and then stop and listen to the book.
I am listening and reminiscing at the same time. I have done a lot of LSD and other hallucinogenics in my younger days. And for 30 years I have drummed with a Men’s Group called the Wide Sky Men’s Council one Saturday a month. We drum on djembe African drums sometimes meditatively and sometimes rousing and loud for 30 minutes to an hour or more. We then have a designated story teller who tells a story from some very old fairy tale like tradition. No reading allowed, story telling only. Then we pass the talking stick and each share how the drumming, visualizations and/or story telling touched our lives. There are no hallucinogenics, drugs or alcohol permitted, and occasionally some of us enter into shamanic dream states of Non Ordinary Reality.
As I watch the other Ralph Shoppers leave their cars and walk to the store I imagine each of them touching on this Non Ordinary Reality in some way. I know from the Men’s Group that everyone is capable of this kind of “shamanic dreaming” or “out of body flying” or “hallucinating” or “spiritual questing” or whatever it is called. Really bizarre experiences are available to us all and the strangeness of the shamanic dreaming metaphorically relates to our personal lives. The flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz are a good example of this kind of Non Ordinary Reality. And the flying monkeys could easily be likened to getting audited by the IRS on our mundane level of Ordinary Reality. The real juice of this entire experience is hearing the men share how they are affected by the drums and story. Wandering through Ralphs could easily be likened to getting lost in a forest with dangerous animals.
It’s 3:00 in the afternoon, 81 degrees, traffic noise from PCH filters through the windows to mix with the audiobook narration, I am in Levi’s, T-Shirt from an old Led Zeppelin concert, barefoot, the way I like to drive and my bright red Marine Corps hat. The front windows are down an inch or two to keep some breeze flying through. I can see the 4 shopping carts left in the parking spaces, there is an empty grande Starbucks cup on the pavement. An airplane, big jet can be heard flying into Long Beach airport. I have recently taken the personalized license plates off of my car. I will be driving into Mexico soon and do not want to advertise that I am a doctor.
In the 1960’s, when Professor Harner was doing his hallucinogenic studies Carlos Casteneda was in Mexico chronicling the life of Shaman Don Juan…..Casteneda’s books were filled with these outrageous, spiritual realms of Non Ordinary Reality. Now I am dancing with my history, with Shamanic Reality in Ralphs Grocery store. In my world a giant flying wolf is carrying me through the forest of Ralph’s to a mountain top to speak with a Bighorn Sheep spiritual guide. As we maneuver to land on the mountain peak someone in the parking recognizes me, or my car, even without my personalized license plates.
The lady in the parking lot says, “Hi Dr Dohn, how ya doing today?”
I am immediately brought back to Ordinary Reality, bingo, bam, just like that. I reach over, turn the radio off, lower the window and say,
“Hi Elizabeth, I’m doing some shopping as usual. How’s the family?”