Meeting Tom Robbins .......... you had me at circular breathing...or was it beets?

This is assuredly a strange story.
But I will tell it as it happened...

Some years ago, I attended a Reiki intensive on a small island
in Ontario, Canada.
This was a gathering of about a dozen gut-honest healers
willing to go as deep into their personal healing as they could
in order to become clear healers for others.

You never knew what to expect in these gatherings.
Deeply buried experiences, painful events, curious blockages
and all manner of strange things would bubble up from the basements
of our psyches for healing...

This is one such story...

Our Reiki master had introduced me to a middle-aged woman
who had been a Special Ed teacher for most of her career.
Though she seemed well-adjusted and very competent, something in her called for healing and so, she apprenticed under our teacher.
The two of them made great progress at the outset, but eventually they reached a strange impasse and could go no further.
Each time this woman would enter an altered state, she begn to mumble
and twist in pain while holding up suddenly palsied hands.

It was baffling. They never got to the root of that experience.
So he asked me to try...

She laid on a massage table, closed her eyes and began to relax.
I placed my hands lightly over her eyes and began the work.
In the silence, she took some deep breaths and let herself drift down.
I watched as her eyelids fluttered and she slipped into a deeper state.
I felt myself being pulled down slightly, as well.
I began to drift with her.

A few minutes passed like this and then I watched her as she began to moan.
Then her body began writhe and squirm in a strange kind of distress.
She seemed uncomprehending of the reason for her pain.
Her speech was now slurred, her fear was palpable and soon her body
seemed palsied.
Her cries, her pain and movements intensified and I felt helpless
as I watched her.
She was experiencing a different reality...
Then suddenly, as if jerked underwater, I found myself down there
with her in the same dimension.

We had been transported far back in time to what I sensed was a real event.
It felt like medieval times...old Europe...a tragic and hard life.
The place smelled of horses, pigs and hay.
I heard the excited voices of villagers gathered around us.
Now that I was experiencing this with her, I saw and understood everything.
She was young, barely a woman, handicapped in mind and body.
Someone had taken terrible advantage of her.
She was pregnant and she was about to give birth.
Her labor pains were coming at faster intervals now.
She panted, broke into a sweat and groaned.
It was clear that she didn't understand what was happening to her.
She understood only that she was in terrifying pain.
She felt like she was dying...a horrible death.

I was her midwife in the scenario.
I was trying to comfort her and see her through it.
The scene was so raw and real.
My heart was breaking for her anguish and I was enraged
at the man who had done this to her.
But mostly I felt her bewilderment and panic.
Her garbled cries rent the air around us.

As her body took over in the final stages of birth,
she began to writhe and came off the table and onto the floor.
I followed her down, holding her as best I could.
Following her body, I sat on my haunches, holding her under her arms
and between my legs.
She crouched there and went through the final stages of giving birth.

I remember how strange the position seemed, yet in that setting
it had a strange familiarity.

When we finally came to the end of the birthing experience,
she slumped in tearful relief and soon fell into an exhausted sleep.

Then the scene started to fade and I slowly came back
from that time and space and opened my eyes, amazed at what
had just taken place.
Soon after, she awoke, also in present time.

We had no words at first, but once we came back to ourselves we shared a bit.
She confirmed that we really had experienced the same event.
She had finally broken through...

Suddenly, it became clear to her that her lifelong dedication to helping handicapped children of a similar age was no accident.
It was all part of the long and amazing journey of her soul...
She emerged from that experience with a vastly expanded sense of herself
and her life/lives.
It was a deeply moving experience for both of us...

As a parting gift, she urged a book on me.
It was her personal copy of her most prized book...
"Jitterbug Perfume" by Tom Robbins.

In my lifetime of voracious reading, I had yet to encounter this author.
I opened her battered copy and took a quick glance.
"Hmm, not the kind of thing I read," I thought to myself.
I demurred and told her I would just find a copy back home in the states.
I didn't want to take her most cherished book and risk losing it.
But she said with a strange kind of emphasis,
"You need to read this NOW."
But for that and the experience we had shared, I would have squirmed
out of the assignment.
Heavens! I always have more books than time!
So as not to hurt her feelings, I thanked her, tucked the book away
in my suitcase and headed home.

When the book turned up a couple of weeks later,
I thought I would give it a try.
It looked like a quick and frivolous read.
Maybe I could speed read it and get on to my more serious reading.
I'd just knock it out quickly and get it back to her.
I opened the book at random and gave it a shot.

Oh my god!! What was she thinking?!
For the life of me, I couldn't connect her with that book,
nor could I understand her insistence that I read it.
No way was I going to read this!
I didn't have time for such things!
I clapped it shut and tossed it into a pile of laundry across the room.

Now, books are kind of sacred to me and never had I treated a book
with such disregard.
I was shocked at myself!
How could I have such a visceral response to something I couldn't relate to, much less even understand!?
I did my best to ignore my irrational behavior.
I remember slinking sideways past that pile of laundry and half-buried book for a few more weeks...

Guiltily, and for my new friend's sake, I had to try again.
That book had become a thorn in my side.
At my next approach, I steeled myself to just DO it!
To read that darn book from cover to cover
and ship it back from whence it came.
I even had the return envelope prepared.
But, even THAT didn't work!
I read a paragraph or two and then got exasperated all over again
I just couldn't do it!
I found myself wanting it pitch it with even more fervor for reasons
unknown to myself.

At the time, I was going through enough changes without having
my mind unbent any further.
I was already losing all my religions at a perilous pace.
I felt like I was careening down the side of a mountain on a bicycle
without brakes!
This guy with his peculiar ideas wasn't helping matters!
I shoved the book into its envelope, thinking I could fib my way
out of it, if necessary.
Yet...the envelope with its dangerous cargo languished for several
more weeks by my door.

It just wouldn't let go of me!

Finally I declared myself whupped,
and I began to read...
and read...

I was Electrified, Mesmerized, Seduced and Bewitched to a place
where all the strange and hidden bits of me lived...and fit!
Never before had a book landed in my life...much like that beet...
in such a timely and mysterious way.

You see...I had been a perfumer for many years and I had become oddly aware that food, with the exception of beets, was fairly unnecessary for some of us.
Scent alone was sufficient, from musky to ethereal...
This was long before I learned of the Persian faeries, known as peri...
creatures formed of the element of fire, existing on a diet of perfume
and other exquisite odors.

I had recently become devoted to long hot soaks and circular breathing
and had further surmised that death was optional...or at the very least,
something that could be toyed with on occasion.
That circular breathing could lead to transcendence...even of death.

I was briefly concerned when I queried you on that at a book signing
and found that our breathing was opposite...mine was side to side...
round and round, while yours was top to bottom (or was it bottom to top?)
But what of such matters in the end?

Over the years, your other books landed in my lap at just the right intervals.
They always accelerated my path into 'la mystere'.

As I ran out of paths and onto the trackless expanses, you were the only one who could cast a clue my way to show me that I was still on the 'path'.

Were it not for you, Tom Robbins, I would never have known that my
ever-stranger path in life was not some crazy delusion, but part of that
wildly jubilant masterpiece.

I have experienced so much synchronicity with your books
that I still laugh out loud and think 'How does this guy KNOW me?!'
It's like a great cosmic joke!
As if you were a grand puppet master interweaving and playing
with our dreams...beckoning us back to that much more playful realm...
one that I had all but forgotten...

I'll never forget the time when I put your book down again
just to marvel at that synchronicity.
It was eerie...over the top! It was coming at me too fast!

On that particular day, I mockingly said out loud
"Well!! I just wonder when Walla Walla is going to turn up!?!"
When I turned the very next page you introduced a character
who was from Walla Walla...
Not only was he from Walla Walla, but he landed there
in the same way my family had!
Who thinks of these things!?

Thank you for being that zany, brilliant guide for so many of us...
With a grateful tear in my eye, I have to say

It would have been such hard travelling without you...

A friend once said..."I know my sheep, and my sheep mostly know me..."

I remember the shock of hearing that "B is for Beer" would be your last book...
I know many of us were feeling a bit bereft...

But my sturdiest hope is that more of us will get our butts kicked into gear
and that we give back to the world a little of that shimmer and wonder...
and a few shimmies, too!
and that we honor you for being there for us...

So many blessings...

On a personal note: there came a time when I thought with a strange urgency that 'I just need to sit in the same room with this man!' (my short, but very select bucket list of life...but I'd been to Thailand bunches of times) and BTW, no one ever captured it as well as you!

I heard that you made rare public appearances, but that you would be
at the 'Prophets Conference' in Victoria B.C. (2001)
I leapt at the opportunity.
All was fine until I was told at the border that in order to attend
the conference, I would have to surrender my cherished Landed Immigrant
status in Canada. If I wanted to retain my status, I would have to turn back
and miss the conference.
Ultimately, I chose the better citizenry...
How wonderful it was to sit in the company of those amazing souls.

I couldn't wait to lay eyes on you...but you were nowhere to be found,
or so it seemed.
I finally spotted you in your slouchy monk's colors slipping around
fairly incognito, to judge by the crowd.

At the book signing I handed you a note and asked,
among other things, if we could share a moment's gaze.
You slipped off your sunglasses without hesitation.
It was more than I could handle...
I could not begin to return your high voltage gaze.
I was eye-to-eye with the Hypnotic Green Eyes
of the Luminous Word Dancer.

With all my heart-thank you...

Tom Robbins' response: 12 April 2012

My Dear Debra:

While it may be slightly insulting to assign something as creative, original, and elaborate as "Meeting Tom Robbins" to the category of fan mail,
I've nevertheless nominated it for inclusion in the Fan Letter Hall of Fame.
Certainly no writer, past or present, has ever received from a reader a tribute to equal yours. Please know that it melted the top-ice off my bucket of stars and that I treasure it more than if it were an actual vial of K-23,
blessed by Pan and condemned by both the Vatican and The First Metropolitan Church of the Firm of Jesus the Executive.

Please accept my sincere thanks for the words, the presentation,
and, of course, the beet talisman which now hangs in my office,
protecting me from both evil and too much of the wrong kind of goodness.

Love, Beauty, Serenity, Novelty, Mischief and Mirth,
Tom Robbins