An Interview with Laurie Conrad by Diana Souza. Ithaca, New York.
Q Laurie, the first question I'd like to ask – I would like to know what you mean by the phrases "standing in my heart" and "I looked within and found him in the spiritual heart". You wrote: "I was standing in my Heart. My Heart was all around me in the room, surrounding me. I could do little more than look around the room at all that was manifesting from my Heart, intrigued and wondering."
A The passage you just read was about my experience with the sage Paul Brunton, almost thirty years ago. When I say "I looked within and found him in the spiritual heart" … There is the physical heart that beats and gives us life, and there is also a spiritual heart where clairvoyants often go to find their images. You could say that it is where the soul, the individual soul has its mysterious connection to the Divine, to God.
So the divine images, the images that are given to the soul by the Divine, are first received by the soul in what I would call the spiritual Heart. I am not the only person to use that term – I didn't come up with that vocabulary. The spiritual Heart is a mystical term.
When the clairvoyant or mystic is clairvoyantly seeing into other realms or tapping into the future, or seeing or going to other places on earth while in waking state consciousness or in dream state, they are often looking in the spiritual Heart to find these images. I believe that many, if not most people have these experiences while in dream state, they are just not aware of it. But clairvoyants can go there while in ordinary waking state consciousness to find these images of other realms or other places on earth or the future.
Q The average reader is going to wonder how your heart could be in the room all around you?
A Well, I think I wonder about that myself. It is part of that grand mystery of Life. I have had a similar experience with music, where I will suddenly be in my heart, standing in that mystical Heart, and the notes to my pieces will be all around me. So I suppose that I go to a similar place when I am interpreting Chopin or writing my music. I don't know that we can really explain these things. When you meditate, if you meditate, I think it is easier to understand this. In fact, it might be very difficult to explain or describe it for people who do not meditate.
The spiritual Heart is generally believed to be located in the seat of the soul. In my experience, it is roughly where the physical heart is, and more in the center of my body. The soul itself is so beyond the limits and boundaries of our physical body, we cannot even begin to imagine the grandeur of the soul. So my personal self, along with my individual little mind – was sitting in that room with the great sage Paul Brunton. He was near the end of his life on earth and he was fully enlightened. A Christian would probably say that he had reached sainthood. In the Indian traditions, they would say that he was fully enlightened. In his presence, I did have this big mystical experience, where I experienced the contents of my heart all around me in the room – as though I were in a very deep, advanced meditation or contemplation.
I had only been meditating, I think, for a few months when I met him. So it was a very memorable and fortunate experience.
This human body that we are in, compared to the soul – and the physical brain compared to Consciousness Itself – are minuscule in comparison. So, I might have been allowed to experience my Heart around me, filling the whole room to teach me this. I might have been given the experience so that I could see and understand that we are all so much bigger than we believe ourselves to be, that the Soul is immense. There are other meanings to this occurrence as well, meanings that we would not have time for in this interview. It was a mystical experience. It's not something we humans can easily find words for.
Q You also said that you first met the Dalai Lama in your dreams, before you even knew who he was. Later you met him in person. Tell us your impressions of the Dalai Lama. Anecdotes …
A Our Holiness, the Dalai Lama of Tibet. Well, he is an extraordinary person. I have seen him and met with him in a group setting many times. One of the first things that struck me is his incredible sense of humor – and his tremendous joy. The next thing that I noticed was his extraordinary earnestness and seriousness whenever he speaks about prayer. He and his monks are constantly praying for the world. He is a very humble and holy man. And I love that juxtaposition of those two attributes of his personality, the humor and the holiness. He is said to be the incarnation of Compassion, and everything that he says and does revolves around the higher Compassion.
When he speaks about the higher Compassion, it is always combined with Wisdom – the Higher Wisdom which roughly corresponds to the Wisdom of the Catholics and other religions: that we are not the body, that the material world is not Ultimate Reality. This higher Compassion is not the ordinary, sentimental emotion most people call compassion; Paul Brunton would call that emotion, or the sentimentality of empathy, the lower octave of true Compassion. The Dalai Lama would say that true Compassion also includes this higher Wisdom. By applying Wisdom, we would have Compassion for every sentient being, every being on earth – just because they are in the body, and therefore, suffer. That is the true Compassion. This Compassion would also include the view that you stop people if they are behaving badly, because in their bad behavior they are hurting themselves and others. So, in this definition of Compassion, Wisdom stands in the background in a loving, detached way. The Witness position, let's say, of Paul Brunton, when we are able to clearly see what is truly best for everyone in the situation. That is true Compassion.
On the whole, we humans come to the world mainly from our personal thoughts and lower emotions. The big Teachers, such as the Dalai Lama and the sages, the saints – they are all trying to get us to come from a higher position, the higher octave of all the personal emotions. Brunton speaks about this at length in his Notebooks , and the Dalai Lama also has written many volumes of books.
As for anecdotes, I wouldn't even know where to begin. Mainly I remember his laughter, his joy. Next the sacredness that he brings with him. The clarity of his mind. The first time I was in the same room with him, I clairaudiently heard a very low tone everywhere in the room, vibrating the entire room – perhaps it was the energy of his very being, or his mantra, his inner prayers. I had not heard that phenomenon before that day, nor since, not even while in his presence.
QI remember a story you told about the Dalai Lama coming and clearing a space where he was going to speak, with a storm?
A Yes, that was in Boston, when he spoke at Harvard. A friend and I were staying at Mataji's ashram for a few days. I believe Mataji took over for Ramakrishna. She had an ashram near Boston, and we had decided to stay there instead of at a hotel in Boston. We had come to hear the Dalai Lama when he spoke at Harvard.
I don't know what year this was, but it was many years ago. It was one of the Dalai Lama's first visits to this country. Mataji sent three of us ahead, to arrange a meeting between her and the Dalai Lama just before the lecture. She had never met him. So she sent us ahead to talk to his entourage, and arrange it. I always thought this unusual assignment was a ruse of some sort – Mataji was fully enlightened, she did not need to send three young human seekers to arrange this meeting with the Dalai Lama. She and the Dalai Lama were perfectly able to arrange it themselves, through non-verbal communication, mentally. As it turned out, the young woman driving us there had met Paul Brunton in dreams throughout her childhood – as I had visited with the Dalai Lama first in dreams as an adult. In those dreams, Brunton instructed her. She found out who he was years later, when she saw his photograph in a book. That was probably why Mataji sent us ahead together, so that my friend and I would meet this young woman and hear her story. Also that I would experience the storm, to one day tell the story in this interview. Mataji, like Paul Brunton, was perfectly able to see into the future.
In any case, the three of us all got into a little car, an old, very beaten down car that we hoped would get us there. And we did get there early enough to arrange a meeting between the extraordinary Mataji and the saintly Dalai Lama.
After we had finished speaking with his people, they readily agreed to the meeting, and we were very pleased and happy that our mission had been accomplished so easily. I decided to go outside by myself to wait for Mataji to arrive. It was a beautiful, calm, early fall day. The sun was shining and there I was, on the beautiful Harvard campus; I had never been there. Students were sitting under the trees studying, or strolling to or from their classes along the paths. I walked out of the lecture building door a little way and happily stood there, taking in the beauty of the scene. Suddenly, a huge storm came up; an intense and surprising, shocking wind. Students' papers were flying everywhere, branches waving everywhere, the trees were almost bending. I tried to take shelter against a huge tree near the door, wind and leaves flying, students now scurrying along the paths, bent over against the storm, trying to retrieve their scattered papers. It was quite something. It felt like I had inadvertently stepped into a vacuum cleaner or a washing machine.
It probably lasted for about two or three minutes. Then the storm stopped just as quickly as it had arisen. I said to myself: "Good Heavens, what was that?"
Then I laughed. I realized that it was probably the Dalai Lama purifying the grounds of Harvard before he arrived. And that's still my view. He's a very powerful being, the Dalai Lama. He has tremendous power. Yet, in terms of his teachings, probably his biggest message to the world is kindness, to be kind to others. And if you have followed the messages from Our Lady, the Madonna, to the world – She has been appearing in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia for almost twenty years to six visionaries – She also says to lead a kind, simple life. She says that we should try to pattern our lives after St. Therese of Lisieux. And St. Therese of Lisieux never even left her convent! She had the simplest of lives. She had, at most, a little table in her convent cell and a bed. Maybe a chair. At one point she had a vase in her room, but she thought she might be getting too attached to it, so she asked them to remove it. She basically did her daily work and chores at the convent and was kind to the other nuns. And yet she became one of the greatest Catholic saints. In Medjugorje, Our Lady said basically: pick your path and lead a kind, simple life.
The Dalai Lama is now a celebrity, he is a very famous man. He has written books and lectured in many countries. He is world known. And he is still one of the most humble and simple of men. They say that he has one pair of shoes and two sets of his maroon robes. He remains completely untouched and unspoiled by the world. He considers himself a monk, yet he is both the temporal and spiritual leader of his country. But he lives like a simple monk. So, in that sense alone, I think he is an incredible and saintly man, and a role model for humanity.
Our interview couldn't be long enough to really discuss the Dalai Lama. When I first saw him in person, I inwardly told Our Lady that I felt as though I had met Her Son. I felt as though I had seen Christ on earth, that I had listened to Him speak.
Q Modern psychiatric science probably wouldn't be too friendly in their evaluation of mystical states and the saints and persons who experience them. Many modern psychiatrists might even call what you refer to as "inner vision" and "movies in my head" as delusional. How can these mystical, inner visions and movies be differentiated from a vivid imagination?
A That is a very astute question. And I think, in my case, probably the biggest "proof" that an experience isn't just imagination or delusion is if I inwardly saw a place, and then I later saw that exact place in a book or magazine or in waking state consciousness . Or if I had a vision of the future, it then happened just as I had seen it unfold a few days or weeks later, which luckily it always did. If I clairvoyantly saw a lost animal in a particular spot, the animal was found there. When I clairaudiently heard Our Lady's voice speaking to me, my little dog Guinivere heard it also – she was still standing on the street corner, looking for the person behind the voice even though I had already walked on half a block. Most of my experiences have been validated right here on the earth plane. So if I had an inner vision of somebody doing something or saying something or knowing that they were in trouble – I would find out later that yes, that had, in fact, happened exactly as I saw it. So I actually was very lucky in that way. Personally, I had a lot of validation. Otherwise, I probably would have wondered myself if my experiences were just imagination or hallucination.
This is an interesting and important topic. If you are having high mystical experiences, you are being thrown into another, higher consciousness. You are already probably more sensitive than most people. And if people tell you that you are crazy and they keep telling you that you are crazy, you might just begin to think that you are. But there are also people who are delusional. One easy way to determine the truth of their clairvoyance is to see if the predictions come true. The saints were never wrong.
In the Catholic Church, visions and clairvoyance will not make you a saint. And the Church is extremely careful about testing and evaluating such abilities. First, they look at the general behavior, virtue and rationality of the person. Many visions cannot be verified. Some of the saints have seen their guardian angel. How can that be verified? Is this person rational the rest of the time? Do they seem to have a hysterical nature? Do they see or predict things that can be proven wrong later? The Catholic Church observes that person carefully and analyzes their entire life on earth, which I think is very wise.
St. Teresa of Avila, in her books, her Autobiography and in The Interior Castle , speaks of these things. She says that ordinarily she is not an imaginative person. Therefore, it seems unlikely that her visions would be produced by her own mind, by her imagination. But she also says that when we have visions of any sort, we should categorically discount them, just to be on the safe side, just in case it is the imagination or Old Nick producing them. She also says that if it is a true experience, you will just know it. Part of that knowing is something intangible that cannot really be verbalized.
Part of it is the staying power of the mystical experience. It will stay with you for the rest of your life, word for word, image by image. That has always amazed me. But those who have had mystical experiences agree that this is true.
Just as at the birth of Christ, when the angel appeared to the shepherds, most of the children that Our Lady, the Madonna, has appeared to throughout history are shepherds. As in Medjugorje, in these current visions of Our Lady on earth. (She says they will be Her last appearances on earth.) The children in Medjugorje were on their way to take care of the sheep when Our Lady first appeared to them. In Fatima, the children were tending the sheep when the angel first appeared to them. And of course, Christ is called the Shepherd, and we are His flock. Throughout history, She has mainly appeared to children shepherds and shepherdesses. In one instance, the children were very uneducated, they could probably neither read nor write. They spoke a local, rural patois, and Our Lady gave them a very long, complicated message beautifully stated and using words they did not even know. The children repeated it verbatim afterward, without changing a syllable, even years later. This again shows the power of true mystical experiences, that they are indelibly imprinted on our consciousness. This is quite different from our ordinary experience.
Q How can we see the inner purpose of the fall of a sparrow? You had an accident that nearly ended your life. It has partially disabled you. And it even erased for a while your clairvoyant abilities. Yet you say you don't believe in accidents. In view of the destruction and disability it brought into your life, if that accident was Divinely orchestrated, then what possible purpose could it have served to improve your life and consciousness?
A That is another deep question, and not that simple to answer.
Q The fall of a sparrow?
A Yes. That was from a quote from Christ Himself. He told His disciples that every hair on our head is numbered and that there is Providence in the fall of a sparrow. Now the scientists agree, they call it DNA, the little chart of our life in those strands.
Definitely, I think my car accident was Divinely orchestrated. If there was negative intent, which is also possible, certainly God allowed it. And in my belief framework, if He allowed it, it would be allowed for the purification of my soul – and / or for the souls of others, or for the sake of the world. Our life on earth, in my mind, is just a continual deepening.
A continual deepening of being and understanding. Certainly, I would also hope that it is a deepening of holiness; and there are certain experiences that we are given to help deepen wisdom and strength.
It has been more than fifteen years since the accident, and I certainly have had enough time to think about why it might have been allowed to happen. Personally, I might prefer that I either did not have to learn those lessons or that I was able to learn them a different way. But I am certainly not going to question the greater vision that God and the soul possess. Luckily, the small person, the person in the body, Laurie Conrad in this instance, was not in charge the day of the accident. Or any day. God and the soul are in charge. We can see the poverty of our own judgment even within our own lifetime on earth: things that we wanted so very badly when we were young now seem so undesirable, or even harmful. Has that ever happened to you? Well, I look back and just inwardly say: "Thank God you did not get what you wanted." Because either it was not good for me or something much better came along. So, even within the time frame of our earthly existence, we can begin to have that overview of events and the value of events, even as they happen. How could we possibly second guess the wisdom of the soul and of God? You cannot. If I look within with total honesty – which is always the best way to reflect on events – as hard as it has been for myself and those around me, some of the biggest lessons of my spiritual life probably came as a result of this accident.
Well, I could say, I think, that when I was flat on my back all those months and years, it was the first time that I felt union with the Higher Love, the Love from the universe. That the universe, the total of the Hearts of all the creatures that populate the universe, really does hold this extraordinary Love for each and all of us. And yes, of course, it is the higher Love, the Divine Love from God expressing Itself through all the souls of all creatures – but it is also from all those combined souls and the universe itself. I was shown this in a vision of sorts, and I can still see it hung in my mind's eye, like a little movie. A cosmic Love. It is the Divine Love from God, but then there is also a cosmic or universal love that I felt pouring into me and around me. It was as though every creature on earth wished me well, was sending me love and healing. And that, I think, in my vocabulary, would be a high mystical experience. To feel that universal Love from all creatures. And it is there for all of us, every moment of every day. We are just not conscious of it, aware of it. And I was conscious of it because I was knocked flat on my back for so long with a certain sort of injury. I have the feeling that anyone who is that seriously injured, or that seriously ill, is given that opportunity.
I remember reading, long ago, reports and stories that said people with polio, in iron lungs, sometimes experienced an incredible peace. I think it might be similar to what I experienced. In spite of the terrible difficulties and the horror of it, I also felt the deepest peace I had ever felt in my life. Granted, I knew how to meditate, I had been meditating for many years.
And I mainly meditated while I was lying there half conscious and feeling half alive. But, I think that even if I did not know how to meditate, I would have been thrown into that beautiful inner place anyway. And it was an extraordinary peace and love coming in, even at the same time that the vehicle, the body was dysfunctional and miswired. I had fairly severe head injuries. I could not understand what people were saying to me or really speak for almost a year. I had amnesia. As you know, I still can go into a semi-coma state if I overload myself with work or ideas, as I did this past week.
At that time, after the accident, the body, the vehicle was totally dysfunctional – but this other place was so vast and so deep, so filled with love. And I don't know if I would have ever experienced it without that accident.
I think another invaluable lesson or virtue I learned after my accident was the difference between humiliation and humility. In the monastery they ask for poverty, chastity and obedience, which is another way of saying humility. When I was first injured, it was very humiliating. Not for long, because the emotion was too difficult for me to bear. I had been an intelligent, capable, respected and independent person with a big career – and all that changed in an instant. Suddenly, I couldn't do anything, not for myself or others. I couldn't dress or feed myself. I couldn't sit up. Doctors talked about me as though I was not there. I could not really speak or understand what people were saying. I could not even form words interiorly, which means I could not even pray. I had forgotten most of my own personal history and when I tried to walk I fell over. Six years later, I was still crossing the street following grade school children with little bright-colored back packs slung on their backs because I couldn't tell where the cars were. I couldn't play concerts for seven years.
And so I had to very quickly learn how to inwardly stand in another place, a place which I would call humility, being humble. And what I mean by that is being humble before God – because humiliation only comes when we compare ourselves to other human beings. Comparing ourselves to others can be neurotic, and it can be dangerous. Humiliation is more than counter-productive, it is ruinous.
But when you are truly humble, you are just simply kneeling before God. And when I just humbly knelt before God inwardly and said to myself: "Well, I am terribly injured and God wants this from me", the Power of the Divine came through me, the Power of the universe came through me – and suddenly I felt stronger and more peaceful than I had ever felt.
In terms of healing others, after the accident, I now did not even need to receive healing requests consciously, in order for people to be entirely healed. Before the accident, I often had to work quite diligently and pray much to obtain miraculous healings for others. I think this new, more automatic healing for others began because this higher, divine Love, healing energy – whatever you want to call it –
A The Divine Presence was now coming through me. I was just naturally radiating it, because I was so filled with it.
So there were tangible rewards. I was now feeling an incredibly deep peace and love and strength – and others were being spontaneously and miraculously healed without my even working at it consciously. This is still true.
But this difference between humiliation and humility is, I think, very important for everyone. And we have to learn it, I think, if we truly want to stand before God. Or we could say, in order to stand in your higher self, stand with the soul, in a constant way. Not just the mystical glimpse here and there that you might be given in meditation.