At eighteen it was Shirley Maclaine, at forty something-something it’s TED TALKS

The inspiratons that open our minds to a whole new world.

Originally published by Raving Consulting Company

“I saw an ad in the paper for a past life regression seminar in San Francisco this Saturday, shirleyyou want to go?” my girlfriend Jenna asked.

It was our last summer home together, before college. We had just finished reading Shirley Maclaine’s autobiographical book Out on a Limb about new age spirituality stuff – reincarnation, out of body experiences, meditation. That dog-eared book passed through our group with the swiftness of Fifty Shades of Grey. We spent many weekends on the beaches of Santa Cruz analyzing it.

Remember that time of life? Your first year at college? I know my mom just barely tolerated me; I’m sure wanting to say, “No Chrissy, your generation didn’t come up with that thought. And ‘Dancing in the Street’ was originally recorded by Martha & the Vandellas in 1964, not Van Halen in 1982, you smug little teenager.”

At 18 our brains were sponges; experimentation, a necessary rite of passage.  I remember my favorite class, the very first quarter. My Psychology professor blew my mind by sharing a case study about the size of a mouse brain that was stimulated compared to one that was not, and then asked us to imagine a child’s brain, say one who was raised in the ghetto, no trees, limited stimulation.

She told us how the military tested tear gas, barbiturates, tranquilizers, narcotics and hallucinogens on army soldiers – human guinea pigs. And Maslow … oh Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs! The learning was heady.

And the clubs and activities in college were so different from our white-bread suburban high-school in Castro Valley (even though I was just a town away). When all of the girls came home for holidays and through much of our early twenties, we compared notes on Rolfing, rebirthing, sensory deprivation, sexual partners (scary STD’s), spirtuality, materialism, LIVE AID. We found out kids we knew from elementary school were homosexual (and seemed so totally free and reinvented in college).

Everything was new … we could be who or what we wanted to be, there were always jobs to explore future careers.

There were groups like the Wiccans, Fencing, and Young Accountants. Eager to meet new “college” friends I accepted an invitation to a youth group meeting and ended up getting ambushed by “Christians” who told me that as a Catholic I was going to hell. I hadn’t been a practicing Catholic for years, but you betcha’, that night I certainly was. College, my 20s … it was shocking, invigorating, sexy, scary and certainly the modern rock look from 1984 was OUT.

So, back to the past life regression
Jennifer and I pull up to this Victorian house in San Francisco. Thirty years later, my memory sees a house shrouded in fog with flickering candlelight visible through lace curtains. We had every confidence that we were about to connect with our former selves.

A group of us lay in a circle, with our heads towards the center. The “guide” led us through a long visualization, encouraging us to breathe deeply that went like this … we are in a field, there is a well, you walk to the well, there is ladder coming up from the well*, you climb down the ladder and when you get to the bottom …. what do you see when you look down?

And by golly, some folks saw that they were wearing Roman sandals! Others moccasins or military boots!

I’m lying there listening to myself breathe and to what other people are saying. I’m worrying that my stomach is going to growl, what I have going on the next day, and wondering why everyone else was falling “under the spell” except me.

It was Jennifer’s turn to reveal what she saw!

She said, “I have no shoes on. They’re men’s feet!”



And what did I say? “I have no shoes on. They’re men’s feet!”

Seriously, I did.

Bounding down the stairs later that night I said, “What was it like? What was it like? What was it like?” I was so jealous.

“Oh, I made it up. I didn’t see anything,” Jenna said.

We still laugh about it.

So, Shirley, we tried. We believed.

In my forty-something-somethings, I can tell you that my closest out-of-body experience has happened not at a Victorian-style house, trying to visit what was. But instead, living in the moment, and entering my first of several running events. I remember rounding the corner about a half a mile in and crying and laughing, amazed that my previous fat-ass was healthy enough to run, baby, run.

I’m not sure if it is our ages, but all of us old friends (pictured, Jennifer and I far right) are Girls at Spanksynot experimenting with past life regression, but focused on “second creative careers” and uncluttering our lives, making more time for the people and the things that are in our present. And what sources help power those goals?

TED Talks on happiness, and blogs like Penelope Trunk, Seth Godin, and Copyblogger.

No doubt, learning at this age is just as passionate as it was when I turned 18. For my closest of gal pals, I can say that we know ourselves better, we know what style of learners we are, we know what motivates us and what bores us and accept that. And as hard as it sometimes is, we don’t waste time on those things or people that might benefit our resumes, but are personally fulfilling. And most of all, we aim for our own personal bests. Not someone else’s.

Hoping that you are chasing adventures, still experimenting and loving the journey …


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One Response to At eighteen it was Shirley Maclaine, at forty something-something it’s TED TALKS

  1. arsinoe ferry says:

    HAHAHAHA!!! This totally made me laugh out loud! I remember this story and your writing put me right there in that room with you and Jennifer! LOVED IT!

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