Those who are debating whether to entrust their lives and their education to someone deserve to know something in depth about who they are and what makes them tick. Some of the unorthodox and unusual characteristics that make Integral Deep Listening so effective are better understood with a bit of background. To that end, here is an extended biography.
I was born in Little, Rock, Arkansas, in 1949, the son of Joe, an orthodontist, and Grace, a housewife, both Protestant Christians. My father’s mother, Ruby Dillard, had been an avid reader of Ernest Holmes, Unity, and various spiritualistic authors. This had led to weekly prayer meetings and Bible readings at my home, attended by my parents and grandparents, followed by Ouija board contact with a personality that called itself “Aun,” who claimed he had been Daniel in the Old Testament. The message of these channeling sessions, which occurred for more than five years, centered around the idea of continuously maintaining an awareness of the presence of God. What all this meant was that when I was five, in about 1955, such experiences were part of my world. It wasn’t strange, it wasn’t metaphysical, it was part of the reality I took for granted. Jesus, souls, the afterlife, spirits, miracles, and psychic phenomena were unquestioned assumptions of my early scripting. In addition, there was Presbyterian Church and the many Bible stories I learned in sunday school. Looking back, it seems reasonable that my later interests in Egypt, archaeology, and dreams were scripted by the story of my namesake, Joseph, dream interpreter to Pharaoh. God,
My mother became interested in the clairvoyant medical and life readings of Edgar Cayce in about 1959. In 1963, at the age of thirteen, I traveled with my parents to the Middle East for five weeks with the Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE), an organization dedicated to the study of the Edgar Cayce readings. The group included Hugh Lynn Cayce, son of Edgar Cayce, Bill and Gladys McGarey, MDs, later co-founders of the American Holistic Health Association, and Ida Rolf, founder of the bodywork known as Rolfing. At that time I was introduced to meditation, dream work, and a number of talented psychics. This created a peer culture that was talented, educated, much older, and at a great distance both physically and conceptually from my peer environment in Arkansas. I began reading about metaphysics and psychic phenomena, dream interpretation based on the Edgar Cayce readings and Carl Jung, and kept a dream journal. I began meditating, using the affirmation-based approach based on the Edgar Cayce readings I had learned while traveling with the ARE. The most important influences for me from the Edgar Cayce readings were the statement that one could and should learn to contact and use “the physician within,” an emphasis on setting “ideals” or intention to direct life goals, and his statement that all major life events are first previewed in dreams. I decided that if this last statement were true at all, I should be looking at my dreams in order to find and follow my life path.
In college I studied comparative religion, psychology, and philosophy, with a particular interest in Nagarjuna’s Madhyamika (Mahayana) Buddhism, as taught by Fredrich Streng, PhD., at Southwestern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Nagarjuna and Buddhism opened up to me perspectives of formless and non-dual mysticism. I began meditating in a way based on Nagarjuna’s four-fold negation and had some powerful, transformative experiences. I realized that my path forward had to take into account not only the affirmative statements of goodness, truth, and beauty found in Christianity, Cayce, Hinduism, and the New Thought movement of my childhood, but also the yogic or injunctive path as well as the via negativa, both so central to both Hinduism and Buddhism. However, in addition, I found in Buddhism aspects of sage mysticism and the non-dual that I did not experience in my previous world view. My Christian, Cayce, and New Age friends tended to associate these things and the via negativa with nihilism and pessimism, in the tradition of Arthur Schopenhauer. However, I decided I needed to use and balance all three approaches. This caused me to move away ideologically from the language of Christianity and the Cayce readings. I no longer found theism and the concept of an immortal soul either rational or helpful, but I was not an atheist or agnostic either. I didm’t know who I was or what to do with my life, and I didn’t know where to turn to get a sense of direction.
I consulted a number of psychics for advice in my late teens and early twenties. One of them told me that in the 1800’s I had been a Protestant minister in New England and had stumbled across writings on reincarnation and started preaching it from the pulpit. This led to me being literally tarred and feathered and thrown out of town on a rail! The moral of this story, according to the psychic, was that I was so humiliated that it made me very hesitant to this day to put myself in positions of authority over others or to tell other people what to believe. The reason the story stuck for me is that it gave me a way to frame my interest in devising ways for people to seek their own truth, independent of their childhood scripting and external authority.
Starting in 1972, three years before I graduated from the University of Texas with a BA in philosophy, I made several choices that turned out to be dead ends. For one, I moved to southern California to pursue something called “The Light Work,” or “Agni Yoga,” and study under its founder, Russell Paul Schofeld and Ralph Metzner, who along with Timothy Leary, the father of “Turn on, tune in and drop out,” and Richard Alpert, who became Ram Dass, experimented with psychedelics in the early ’60’s at Harvard. I was asking Schofeld difficult questions. One night I had an experience of Schofeld, who knew of my respect for dreams, appearing in one, telling me that if I only waited until lesson 23, everything would become clear. I woke up with a sense that this was not a dream but a case of psychic invasion, of manipulation in a clever way designed to feel authentic and authoritative to me. I continued to study. However, not long afterward I had a horrendous nightmare. I was in an “upper chamber” telling friends about something I had read in a psychic reading from a source I trusted, of an angel bearing a “holy light” in the Middle East in the days before the coming of Jesus. There was then a tremendous earthquake, followed by a terrible sense of tragedy. I rushed over to one window, to find my mother dangling outside, strangled by a rope. Filled with horror and foreboding, I rushed to the other window to find my father dangling out the other window, strangled by another rope. As I pulled him up I looked in his face and knew he was dead.
Because I only knew about symbolic dream interpretation at that time (1972) I came up with my own interpretation and shared it with some other people who I respected as dream interpreters, including Hugh Lynn Cayce. The result was that I very reluctantly, and with great difficulty, extricated myself from what for me was a dreamlike culture of self-validating groupthink, and headed back home to Arkansas, humiliated and without a plan.
It wasn’t until 1976 that a psychologist friend I met through the ARE asked me to come to work for him in the mental health field. It was a job as an occupational therapist running a day treatment center for people who had psychotic breaks or had tried to kill themselves. I received much intensive direct experience dealing with extreme anxiety and depression and had the good fortune of regularly participating in patient group therapy with a talented psychodynamic therapist by the name of Dan Bynum. I also learned Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis, and we taught these principles to patients. I also taught a series of dreamwork classes; one participant was Joe Hart, a PhD in sociology from the University of Arkansas School of Social Work. He was impressed with my work and strongly encouraged me to apply for admission. I had little interest in returning to academia, but I did, with the attitude of “getting my ticket punched” so I could earn a living in mental health. While in graduate school I took outside training in Gestalt, psychodrama, Reality Therapy, cognitive emotional therapy. Because Joe Hart had done his PhD work in JL Moreno’s sociometry I took the courses that he offered in that area.
Steve Jobs once saying that in college he took a wide variety of courses, including one in calligraphy because it was a specialty of the college where he ended up. In retrospect, that class had been critical to the development of the stylistic quality of Apple computers. Similarly, my eclectic interests caused me to be familiar with a broad range of resources to associate in novel ways. That’s what happened with sociometry and dreamwork. In 1979, a couple years after completing my training in clinical social work, I was finishing my PhD work in health education while working in northern Arkansas as the administrator of a multidisciplinary pain treatment center. I was developing and presenting health risk reduction programs to groups of senior citizens. After graduating, while running a second pain management program, Joe Hart called me up and asked me if I could put together a talk on sociometry and pain management. I thought for a moment and said, “I don’t know if I can Joe, but I think I can put together a talk on sociometry, pain management, and dreaming.” This led me to ask myself, “What if one were to treat the characters in a dream as if they were members of a group?” “What if one were to ask them their preferences regarding the other characters, actions, and emotions in the dream, in a manner similar to how sociometry collects the preferences of students and workers, tabulates them in a grid and then displays their relationships a diagram called a sociogram?” The purpose of those sociograms was to reorganize the group for higher level functioning based on knowing who was most preferred, who was most rejected, and who was isolated. I thought, “couldn’t one use something similar from dream character preferences to create a higher-order integration of dream groups based on the preferences of those same dream characters?” Intrigued, I started creating dream sociomatrices and dream sociograms on my own dreams. Each one took probably two hours to create. They also involved the collection of “elaborations,” or character explanations, regarding character preferences. These were collected in a “commentary.” Further commentaries asked other questions of the characters from the dream. “What aspect of the dreamer do you most closely personify?” “If you could change the dream, how would you change it?”
I was amazed that the answers I received from dream characters often demonstrated considerable autonomy from my own. In addition, they were generally wiser and more accepting than I was. Although I was skeptical, doubtful and unbelieving, I was very curious with what I was hearing and I pursued creating dream sociomatrices with a passion. The perspectives that I was accessing undoubtedly belonged to me and were my own, but yet they did not reflect my perspective, beliefs or attitudes, in most cases. Each interviewed character had its own unique take on the dream, itself, and my life. Each perspective made sense, within its own frame of reference. Each had its own internal validity, even if it was coming from a dream goose or a spoon. There was no distinction in the value of a “spiritual” or “sacred” character, like an angel or a deceased relative and a mundane or stupid character, like spit or a dancing worm. In addition, I found that almost all these interviewed perspectives were more accepting of myself than I was. How could this be? Were they lying to get in my good graces, telling me what I wanted to hear? I chose not to believe them, because their degree of acceptance of me was in conflict with my own self-image, which was far more critical. I could not accept how they saw me, yet I could not find reasons to dismiss the legitimacy of their perspectives, either. The result was a third major shift in my world view.
I saw that my own self-image was slowly becoming much more accepting, conforming with that I was hearing from various dream characters. This was a change I had never gotten from years of immersion in psychotherapy, religion and philosophy. It was happening spontaneously and authentically, although I was not sure why or how. How could a table or a broken chair be of more practical assistance for me in my development than a trained psychotherapist? For two or three years I only used the process on myself. I did not trust it enough to use it with clients. That only changed in 1983 when I moved to Phoenix, Arizona, as the result of a dream, to work as a therapist at the ARE Medical Center, the holistic, Cayce-oriented treatment center begun by Bill and Gladys McGarey, both MDs, who I had first met when I was thirteen on that trip to the Middle East.
My approach to therapy became holistic and integral due to my broad interests and studies in schools of psychology, philosophy, and comparative religion. At the same time, I developed a very strong practical focus. If people weren’t getting better, I referred them. Most of the time my therapy has been short-term, focusing on teaching people the tools that they need to return to equilibrium and then setting them loose to practice them. However, some people have elected to work longer, particularly those who are interested not simply in a return to normalcy but in steady, ongoing, unfolding development. In style, I am empathetic and a very good listener, but I am not a hand-holder. I think it’s a sign of disrespect to validate people’s stuckness or help them maintain their victim status. I expect my clients to work, and I expect them to get results that are meaningful and lasting. Consequently, I generally do get such results. Anxiety, the most common mental health disorder, diminishes quickly with IDL if people work with the principles they are taught. Most forms of exogenous, or environmentally-derived depression also resolve themselves, although that can take longer. Interpersonal relationships usually improve very quickly when both parties are willing to work together. Addictions are difficult. There are so many co-morbid factors that reinforce them that they are extremely resistive to every sort of intervention I am familiar with. What IDL does offer, however, is the ability to suck the drama out of an addiction. When it is no longer experienced as a rescuer, the desire for it ebbs. When the addiction is no longer experienced as a persecutor, conflict with it diminishes. When you no longer experience yourself as being victimized by your addiction, you are no longer reactive; you make better decisions regarding it.
One of the first clients I experimented with using Dream Sociometry was a young woman who had severe agoraphobia. She had tried many treatments and was something of a walking dictionary of therapies, professionals, and facilities for its treatment. She even published a newsletter and information source for agoraphobics. Her condition was bad enough that she had been almost completely housebound for two or three years. She had come to the ARE Clinic in desperation, having tried all the standard treatments, and hoping that something “holistic” might help. I decided that I didn’t know what to do other than the treatments she already had tried. I said, “Why don’t we do an experiment? Why don’t we ask some characters from your dreams to see if we can access the physician within you?” Since she was familiar with that concept from the Cayce readings, and also respected dreams and dreaming, she was receptive to trying something very different.
We interviewed characters in her dreams and attempted to follow their instructions. Some of these had to do with the transformation of the dreams they were in, based on consensus plans presented by the dream characters themselves, and to visualize that reframed dream before sleep, as a form of pre-sleep incubation or suggestion. The results were amazing. Over three to six months, meeting perhaps once every other week, her agoraphobia continued to diminish. She was much more comfortable with leaving her house and being with groups of people. These changes were reflected in her dreams, in which she would be at a basketball game or outdoors or in other public situations, without fear. It was as if she was rehearsing immersion without anxiety in her dreams.
I began working with other clients. I found that one session generally eliminated nightmares and recurring dreams. I found that dream characters were always superior in their interpretations of the dreams they were in when compared to my own “professional” interpretations or those of their creator. I learned to stop interpreting, which was a major shift from what I had learned in school. Instead, I started learning to suspend my assumptions and defer to the perspectives of this or that interviewed dream character.
I came to view symbolic and interpretive approaches as horribly, embarrassingly pretentious and projective. How on earth could anyone assume that they knew the proper response to someone else’s experience, particularly before asking those perspectives that were intimately invested in it and in a position to know much better? This became so obvious to me that I could hardly believe how locked into interpretation, not only of dreams, but of clients experiences in general, I had been for years. I found that when I tried to explain this shift to other professionals that most didn’t understand. Therapy was all about imposing their own interpretations of a patient’s experience. After all, why else were they being paid, if not for their expertise? In other cases therapy was about validating a patient’s interpretation of their own experience. There would often be some combination of these two approaches, mixed with education. The goal was often catharsis, or an “ah ha!” awakening that felt meaningful to the client. The problem was that these usually didn’t last. They were impressive enough to bring the client back for more, but they were not additive; they did not equate to people getting better, even though they would feel better after the session and now had better explanations of why and how they were stuck.
My treatment model became centered around putting people in touch with perspectives that included their own, yet transcended theirs in unique and useful ways. I realized that it was an injunctive method, in that it gave instructions to follow, and that it was empirical, in that it subjected the results of these personal experiments to validation by three sources: outside experts, other interviewed perspectives, and ones’ own common sense. I realized that it was a yoga, in that it was not simply a physical or mental discipline, but that it was transrational, in that it was based on reason, and yet could not be reduced to it, and that it was transpersonal, in that becoming these different perspectives thinned out and broadened ones’ self-sense. Who you thought you were became multi-perspectival instead of centered around waking identity. It was a movement from psychological geocentrism to psychological polycentrism. This shift happened to me not because of something I was taught, or something I believed, but because of repeated experiences I had with taking these various perspectives, listening to what they had to say, and applying the recommendations that made sense to me. Because it happened to me I knew others could do it too.
I also realized that the same method could be used with waking life issues, like partner issues, fears of failure, career choices, and physical health problems, treating them as if they were waking delusions, or socio-cultural dreams. It was in this sense that Dream Sociometry became called “dream yoga,” with the “dream” being the delusion of our waking perspective, both during daily life and carried into our sleep in our perception of our night time dreams. The idea was to wake up as a process of developmental progression, in our waking, everyday experience, through a process of deep listening that was integral.
This was a different conception of dream yoga from how it is classically and popularly understood. Most forms of dream yoga teach lucid dreaming, with the assumption that if you can wake up in your dreams you are more enlightened. I did not find this to be the case, as I ran into many people who were avid lucid dreamers who were not enlightened or any less confused because they could lucid dream. I realized that the dream we needed to wake up out of involved the waking delusional assumptions associated with our current level of development. This was because it was quite obvious that the self that perceives both dreams and lucid dreams is that waking self, which means that lucid dream experiences are perceived, interpreted and responded to in the context of our current waking life delusions. Therefore, IDL is a dream yoga that recognizes and respects lucid dreaming as one specific form of lucidity, while emphasizing the development of waking lucidity, awakening and enlightenment.
During this same period of time I was also following the recommendations of interviewed emerging potentials for meditation. I began closely observing my breath. Following it, I realized it could be subdivided into at least six stages and that each one was associated with different processes and qualities. Each breath was a microcosm for the cycle of a day, a job, a relationship, the seasons of the year and a lifetime. The qualities that appeared to be associated with each breath, confidence, empathy, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace and witnessing, became part of the ongoing interviewing process, as six aspects of life that co-originate and co-create one another, generating higher-order balance. My practice, teaching, and writing on meditation centered more and more on exploring these processes and their relationships, as well as the need to learn to name the contents of one’s mind and to practice becoming this or that interviewed emerging potential while meditating.
Because I was working with clients and only had so much time, I needed to figure out how to streamline the bulky, intensive process of creating dream sociomatrices and sociograms. The various commentaries turned into dream and life issue questionnaire protocols in the late 1980’s. Beginning in the 1990’s I had the opportunity to streamline the questionnaires and systematize my thinking about how and why dream yoga worked by teaching at The Southwest Institute for the Healing Arts in Tempe, part of greater Phoenix. The way the work was conceptualized was heavily influenced by the writings of integral philosopher Ken Wilber, whose works I began reading in 1985. In particular, his distinctions between temporary states and permanent developmental stages, and between prepersonal, personal, and transpersonal levels of development were very important to framing why and how Dream Yoga worked.
During this period I wrote about seven textbooks on Dream Yoga for my students: Dream Yoga, Transformational Dreamwork, Dream Yoga Interviewing Techniques, Dream Yoga and Healing, Dream Yoga and Meditation, Dream Sociometry, and Dream Yoga Practitioner. I taught courses to go with each of these different texts. The terminology of the work became less metaphysical and sectarian over time and more focused on application and simplicity. The coursework led to a certificate in Dream Yoga and a designation as a Dream Yoga Practitioner. I continued to teach these courses until I moved to Germany in 2007. Dream Sociometry had become Dream Yoga in the 1990’s; in 1006 it became known as “Integral Deep Listening.” Since that time Practitioner certification has been offered at Toskana Therme, Bad Sulza, Thuringia, Germany, in four, four-day training modules. It is very much fun with much practice interviewing oneself and others, applying recommendations and learning to help others to do the same, both during and between modules. In addition there are Integral Salons, meditation seminars and a Coaching Certificate in IDL program.
My personal life underwent a transformation at that time too. I had been married from 1985 until 2007 to a speech-language pathologist who specialized in the treatment of head injury. In my private practice I would often work on the mental health component of these clients, dealing with their depression, anxiety, and interpersonal issues in particular. I saw how IDL quickly reduced and eliminated symptoms of PTSD in a wide variety of clients, from war veterans to those who sustained accidental traumatic head injuries. In 1987 we had our daughter, Kira. In 2006, when I started traveling to Germany I met Claudia Hahm, a naturopath and art therapist, who translated one of my books into German and who served as my translator. In 2011 we married on a trip to the Bahamas, where we lead groups of people every year to swim with wild dolphins, rays, and sharks.
Integral Deep Listening has become my primary teacher. I feel no need for a guru or other life development teacher, unless it has to do with learning some specific skill set. I have more than enough “homework” to keep me busy from the recommendations of my own interviewed characters, collectively called “emerging potentials.” One can never outgrow Integral Deep Listening; your interviewed emerging potentials are always one step ahead, ready to wake you up into the next phase of your development. At present I do a lot of personal work on amplifying three subtle, rarefied, and basic qualities, abundance, cosmic humor, and luminosity, that feel like they generate the six core qualities. Increasingly, my own practice of IDL focuses on awakening into each of these, moment by moment.
In 1985 I co-authored Dreamworking, How to Use Your Dreams for Creative Problem Solving with Stanley Krippner, a pioneer in dream telepathy and shamanic healing. I am also author of Ending Nightmares for Good, Waking Up, Transcending Your Monkey Mind: Meditation and the Five Trees, Fire from Heaven: Interviewing Near Death Experiences, Integral Deep Listening Interviewing Techniques, Integral Deep Listening Practitioner, Integral Deep Listening Case Studies, Integral Deep Listening: Accessing Your Inner Compass, Dream Yoga, Der Weg der Träume, Transformational Dreamwork: Toward an Integral Approach to Deep Listening, Dream Sociometry, and Integral Deep Integral Deep Listening and Meditation. In 1988 I created DreamQuest!, a role-playing game adaptation of Integral Deep Listening.