Personal essay: wendy stein

Personal essay: wendy stein

The Trouble with Following Urges

The urge came upon me to do further research on the meditative technique that I discovered on my travels. This urge took me to the jungles of a country in the western Pacific, to the source of this method.

Others had already begun trickling in from around the globe, and 40+ more were soon to arrive. The founder of this particular healing method told me something serendipitous was happening, as people from many different countries unexpectedly called and insisted on being there in February, urging him out of his 4+ year hiatus from teaching. He embraced what life was offering and built new dormitories and expanded the structures on the property to handle the onslaught of new visitors. (Or was it just clever marketing, I thought in hindsight?) 

That is part of what sparked the magic for me. That I was part of some sort of spontaneous mysterious wavelength of people drawn to this healing modality. A kismet. Something rare and special. A group hallucination? Whatever you call it, the coincidence of it enticed. I was the newest to inquire. And I was told about the convergence and invited to join in.

I felt the urge to go and waited for the next urge to confirm. My litmus test. And it did. I was to become trained as a facilitator in a body/mind/spirit technique that uses music as its gateway and then introduce it to Vietnam. It would be a way for me to reenter the healing arts world, without the complexities of transferring licenses, hiring lawyers, money and red tape. It wasn’t a new technique. It was simply discovered by chance and branded. And it worked amazingly well for me, providing me with insight, the one time I tried it.


I laid still on my yoga mat, amongst other people’s flailing bodies, while they communed with their prenatal, preverbal selves. Some were speaking in tongues with spines arching, bodies twisting, contorting, and energy releases shouted into the open air. Hands banged the wooden boards like drums; facilitators chanted and gave intuitive acupressure, accompanied by the specially designed music mixes. I kept my eyes shut, mostly, waiting to enter into the wavelengths that the discordant music was supposed to guide participants intoa deep sleep state and then slowly up into a subconscious and awakened state; and bouncing here and there with musical inducements into alpha, beta, theta, delta and even mu brain wave states. The overall intent was to access and bring deep inner wisdom from unconscious to conscious. 

And yet, internally, it was subtle. (Which was the socially acceptable way of saying “it isn’t working” for me.) It wasn’t working like it did on my first encounter, in a different jungle, with a different facilitator. (A facilitator who got kicked out of the country due to neighbor’s complaints from his clients making too much noise. Perhaps they saw the bizarre twisting of bodies that happens to some?) 

I was told to be receptive and to just let it happen. “Let go of the urge to judge,” I reminded myself, each time I felt a judgmental thought arising in my mind. It felt a bit like those 1990’s posters where you have to adjust your eyes in a certain way to see the 3d image, and instead of eyes it was my own mind. Yet others were having incredibly dramatic reactions at this location, almost shockingly so.

Someone questioned if it was cockamamie and in that same breath that same someone shot that thought down right fast. A convert, it seems. Someone who figured out how to get here. Whatever, it wasn’t working for me. 

The founder of the technique told me that I was under the control of others’ minds and will and that I was blocking this technique from working more effectively. Hmmm, maybe? I didn’t like being touched on the top of my head, as it is where gurus connect their energy cords to their followers, and I didn’t want a cord connected. So perhaps on some level, I was blocking it, as the facilitators kept coming to the top of my head.

There was so much talking happening to explain these ideas, which weren’t fully figured out, admittedly so. I even sat for 2+ hours straight listening to a meandering mind-dump which attempted to explain with words the preverbal states of consciousness. The talks were designed to confuse, to take one into the chaos needed to reach this altered mental state. I took nonsensical notes.

Many of the participants followed in the founder’s footsteps, subsisting on a diet of fruits, bananas, and coconuts, without as much as a nod to the famous coconut monk of Ben Tre. Me, I unpopularly opted for the cooked meal, trudging 40 minutes down and then up the hill in the dark, not knowing what time it would be ready and if it would conflict with the evening’s session. The wifi didn’t work below, so communication functioned in a sort of organic way, which they said works for them. 

My last night, I had a dream-vision of being in a giant cake pan immersed in cake batter, and that I would have to bake it myself. Was this my mind blocking again, by perhaps telling me it was a half-baked idea? Or more positively, would I have to exert even more energy to put the pieces together in a way that made sense to me? 

As I sought closure from these experiences, the founder told me that he will bring this method to Vietnam, my current home, and he will do so with his own channels. And without me. He made it clear that I am neither needed nor wanted. How did my 10 days progress from lovebomb to dis? 

Was I conned? Conned with clever marketing into spending my money to come to this place? To shit in the jungle. To wipe with soft leaves. I had upgraded my sleeping arrangements to a tent, next to where the water buffalo was subsequently tied up, and where I could hear it munching grass throughout the night. The nearby beach was pleasant, tho a hell of a hilly walk in the hot sun if I was unlucky at hitching. 

I had paid half-price (which was prolly close to full price). A nice beach-side bungalow would have cost half this. Yet my urge wanted me to be here, and I agreed to this “discount.” That’s on me for valuing the technique and teachings at a higher rate than they deserved.


This was not the first time an urge called me to a distant place. Yet before, the purpose and results were much more positive and obvious.

It cost me money and time, but at least I made it out without the Malaria of at least two others and the Typhoid of one who ceased believing in washing one’s hands, despite Semmelweis and Nightingale.

After I came back I saw an obviously mentally disturbed woman at the park, and it took me back into the experiences of that jungle, with the contorted bodies and techniques. I could use some distancing from this.

This year I also followed several other urges into foolish dead-ends. The silver lining: at least I don’t have to wonder “what if” any longer. I am getting more practiced and better at dealing with anger, resentment, and moving to forgiveness faster. Tho how do I take the next step forward in life, and does it have something to do with the urge? How do wiser folks than me decide which urges to follow and which to ignore? 

Looking inside is the way for me to go. To recalibrate my urges is for me to do nothing. Really, just do nothing. Not as easy as it sounds, I had already discovered. The ancient practice is called Zuo Wang, discovered by the Taoists yet not owned by them, so they say. I am ready to start a plan to scaffold my life, step by careful step, instead of reaching outside of myself for the magical spontaneous sparkly lights that tease me into following them, that suggest they will deliver results, although now I hope I know they never will.


about the writer and photographer: wendy stein

Wendy Stein, MS, LAc, is a Saigon-based freelance writer, photographer, improviser, Toastmaster, and RPCV Lesotho (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) from the USA who writes about traditional healing and lifestyles, as well as short stories inspired by her travels. She can be found practicing tai chi / kung fu, playing badminton barefoot, planning her next motorbike adventure into the countryside, or tasting new foods with her local friends.  

Painting: toby penney

Painting: toby penney

Poem: shannon felt

Poem: shannon felt