As Ehab would say, Ensa!

Mohammad and Ehab Mahmoud (photo by Tom Waggoner)

Ehab teaching (photo by Ruth Shilling)

Early on, being persecuted by street vendors, I asked Ehab if Arabic had some equivalent of “Enough!” or “forgetaboutit,” and he said, “Enza!” I had to write it down to remember it, but the first time I used it on a vendor, he laughed out loud in delight. A good note to end on, maybe. You’ve seen a lot of posts; you may be thinking, Enza!

All things come to an end (Photo by Tom Waggoner)


A presence

No single thing, not pyramids alone,

Nor Sphinx nor modern street,

Nor black land’s donkeys

nor red land’s camels.


Instead, a cascade of whispers:

Antique shards and modern beginnings,

Unreadable hieroglyphs, unreadable Arabic.

And always the Nile, always the desert sand,


Awakening ghosts to the ruin of their world.

Arousing one feeling, resolute, calm,

Unshaken amidst desolation.

It said: “I still serve Ra.”



Certainly a quietly deluxe way to travel upriver, from the night of the 21st to the morning of the 28th..

Our home and transportation for a few days

Our crew chief, who took care of us

Luxor, across the Nile

Our dahabiya had two lateen sails, fore and aft, but mostly we were tugged like this.

Loved the artwork on the bridge we passed under

Dreaming our way up the Nile (photo by Ruth Shilling)

And every meal featured luxuriously great food (photo by Tom Waggoner)

Every so often, “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go” (photo by Tom Waggoner)

And always time for socializing when back on board.

Like any other planned event, at first it seems to stretch endlessly ahead. Then you’re in the midst of things, and then you’re looking back, thinking, “That didn’t last very long at all.”





Black Land, Red Land — Green Land?

Egypt, as I said in a previous post, thinks in terms of dualities. Upper Egypt, Lower Egypt. Papyrus or Lotus. Cobra or vulture. And mostly, Red Land and Black Land. Red Land refers to desert. Black Land means fertile, arable soil, once the land annually inundated by the overflow of the Nile.

While we were in Cairo having lunch at a local farmer’s, I talked with him about the declining fertility of the soil, and the slow subsidence of the land down at the delta, along with the gradual incursion of salt from the Mediterranean. It was worrisome. The coming of the Aswan Dam had ended the Nile’s persistent refreshment of the land. What would replace it? Chemical fertilizers aren’t going to do it, though they may slow the decline. It wasn’t until nearly our last day in Egypt that I saw solid reason for hope for Egypt’s future.

Desert road

On the last day of February, our group of 15 took a 50-passenger bus three hours and more from Aswan into the Sahara Desert ultimately to the temples of Abu Simbel. That’s a lot of desert, and there’s plenty more ahead: 3,000 miles worth, all the way to the Atlantic. The sheer expanse of Egypt’s Red Land is daunting. With the Black Land slowly losing its fertility, and Egypt’s population continuing to increase, where was there a future for this old, old country?

You looked out one way, to the north, and you saw the accompanying power lines that marched along with the road. Look out the other way, to the south, and you saw — what? I told people it reminded me of what the Aussies call GABA — the Great Australian Bugger-All. Deserts have their beauty, but they aren’t exactly inviting.

And that’s a lot of desert — all the way to the Atlantic

But then things changed. At a certain point, we saw that the government has been industriously, methodically, planting palm trees and other forms of vegetation, using water from nearby Lake Nasser (the Nile that was drowned by the High Dam) to do the irrigating. Better, it was apparently raising silt from the bottom of Lake Nasser and creating farmland.

Signs of hope

I was told that it was also importing families of farmers from the delta to farm the new land, thus attacking two problems at once: overpopulation and underemployment in the North, and a need for farmers for the new land being created in the South. What a wonderfully hopeful approach!

It reminded me of the kinds of projects my own country used to undertake, like TVA dams and the Interstate Highway System, and the creation of the industries associated with the Space Race, before people lost faith in the ability of governments to make constructive differences in our lives. Fortunately for the Egyptians, they apparently still have hope that their government can accomplish things.

And what makes it possible

And here is a photo of what I think is the largest manmade lake in the world, the water that may prove to be Egypt’s salvation. If the project succeeds, by rights Egypt will no longer be a duality, Red Land, Black Land. It will have added a third, call it Green Land, turning desert into farms and communities, creating a future.

The Ramesseum — A strong and strange reaction

Our visit to the Ramesseum hit me with a totally unexpected impact.

From Cairo we had flown to Luxor, and on Thursday morning, Feb. 21, we saw several things worth describing. But the Ramesseum is the one that surprised me. Ruth says it is not all that commonly visited. If it impacted others as it did me, it would be much more widely known!

As you can see from the chart below, the Ramesseum is not a building but a large complex containing the remains of temples, statues, etc.

An impressive complex (photo by Ruth Shilling)

As soon as we came to the gates, my jaw dropped. Literally. It was constructed on so huge a scale; it had clearly absorbed so much labor, so much attention. The sheer scale took my breath away. And yet, if I had questioned myself, I might have asked why. After all, we had just been to the pyramids of Giza! A two-million-block structure covering 15 acres of ground is not exactly unimpressive. Nonetheless, it was the Ramesseum that took my breath away.

(Later I wondered if it was because it was New Kingdom, whereas the things we had seen in the Cairo area were Old Kingdom. I found that I responded to New Kingdom remains in a way that I did not react to things of other eras.)

A jaw-dropping first impression (JLuxor temple: photo by Tom Waggoner)

However, my internal reaction surprised me. I was impressed, all right, but instead of experiencing something between appreciation and admiration, something within me said, and quite clearly, “I’m so sorry!”

Silly, isn’t it? All things pass, and certainly the New Kingdom had its day (had its innings, as the English would say). It isn’t like it was cut off in its prime. Nonetheless, my response to the site was one of sorrow that it was over. Later I tried to explain my reaction by comparing myself looking at New Kingdom remains to someone living 2,000 years after the fall of America, visiting whatever was left of the Museum of Modern Art, say, thinking that they were seeing anything more than shards.

Ruined, fallen (photo by Ruth Shilling)

Anything you could see was a remnant, at best a reminder of great days now long gone. Yes, what’s left is magnificent, but it left me not with a feeling of exaltation but of mourning.

Possibly we would be wise to appreciate our civilization, such as it is, while it still exists, for it won’t exist forever.










Egypt: My Real Journey (part two)

Three strands converged during my time in Egypt, with very satisfactory results. At first glance, the three might seem to have nothing to do with each other, but believe me, they do, they do. And the reason to mention them here is that I think they are available to pretty much anyone who wants them. it isn’t a matter of having to be born with special abilities or of spending years in esoteric training. It’s more a matter of adopting a certain attitude.

Let’s call the strands (1) connection without added content, (2) conveying healing energies, and (3) energetic psychometry.

The phenomena themselves are not anything new, and I hesitated to give them labels, lest the words mislead. But we use words because words are what we have to work with. The thing is to remember that, as the saying has it, the map is not the territory.

An absolutely stunning impact (photo by Ruth Shilling)

(1) Connection without added content

As I mentioned in an earlier post, in hoping to experience greater connection, I set out to be open to anything while being careful not to put story to it. It’s one thing to have a real experience, but it’s something else again to know what that experience was, what it meant. On the one hand, you don’t want to be so closed that you miss what’s available; on the other hand, you don’t want to be so hungry for an experience that you allow yourself to make it up, or to embellish. It’s not an impossible balance to maintain, but it does require a certain vigilance. And it means you probably wind up impacted by something without knowing why or how. Perhaps you don’t know anything about it. All you know for sure is the impact it had on you. But if the impact is strong enough, you do know that!

So, case in point, when we were in the Valley of the Kings, the first tomb we went into was that of Ramses V and VI. I can’t say what that site did for others; for me, the impact of the hieroglyphics was absolutely stunning. The hieroglyphics were still in full color after so many centuries hidden from the sun. They were mostly intact, though of course here and there some had been damaged. The indirect lighting, top and bottom, did a superb job of illuminating without glare. So, in short, all the conditions were ideal. But that doesn’t explain why I spent an hour and a half in there, inching down the passageway, slowly absorbing what I was seeing, mesmerized by signs I couldn’t read. When I came out from the tomb, I didn’t have any interest in seeing another. How often does it work, when you try to improve on perfection?

Externally, it was an esthetic experience, but as usual, what was important was invisible, and, also as usual, is not very communicable in words. I had entered into the tomb in an attitude of expectant openness; then the entirely unexpected visual impact of the hieroglyphics had moved me well beyond words. I stood there stunned, overwhelmed. I made no attempt to deduce what the symbols were saying. In context, this would have amounted to trying to guess, even if I thought of it as intuiting. Nor did I make an attempt to apply what little I had learned of symbolism. I came to it like a little child, absorbing the impact of something I made no attempt to understand. (Indeed, at one point Ruth came over and wanted me to notice something that would have required intellectual processing, and I had to tell her that I couldn’t function that way at the moment.)

If I had been trying to put together a story, an explanation, a fantasy, or if I had attempted to consciously communicate with Joseph the Egyptian, I could not have gotten from the experience what I did get. Writing this now, more than two weeks later, I am surprised to realize that I never thought to try to contact Joseph. You’d think it would be a natural development. But I did not, and I can see that it was good that the thought never crossed my mind. I was wide open to input; I added nothing of my own. In this I was working from a sure-footed instinct, but it was only later, thinking about it, that I began to see why this was the right approach.


With Diane and the cane she stopped using (photo by Ruth Shilling)

(2) Conveying healing energies

Years of experience (including years of learning to overcome incorrect ideas) have convinced me that any of us may learn how to help others to heal themselves. But this is not the same as saying that some people “have” a gift of health that they can bestow upon others. It can look like that, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t what happens. Conveying healing energies often amounts to little more than helping others to recognize (or remember) that they themselves have access to all the healing they need.

Case in point, Diane Mullins, one of my fellow excursionists (who has given me permission to tell her tale). Diane has traveled to Egypt something like 15 times, having been fascinated by it since she was a child. She was planning to do Ruth’s tour again in 2019, but early in 2018 she broke her left femur a couple of inches beneath the hip. To provide her the needed support, surgeons had to put in a rod, and of course in the process they had to cut though the muscle groups. All that surgery requires recuperation time, but at the time she assumed that by February, 2019, she would be walking normally again. Didn’t happen. Healing was so slow, so unreliable, that she several times considered canceling. In the event, she came, but she came still relying on a metal cane, still having to give thought to how to climb or descend stairs, how to walk on uneven ground, etc. Not much fun.

Well, on the day we visited the Saqqara pyramid, she and I got to talking. and I offered to work with her, leading her through some second-body exercises, and then suggested that she try walking without the cane. We were on very uneven ground, part of it paved with stones that were flatter than cobblestones, but not level. It made an excellent test. So she walked, and I walked beside her so she could grab onto my arm if need be. And that was the last time she used the cane. In half an hour, she went from being dependent upon it to being entirely independent of it, and never used it again.

I was astonished. I had thought to plant a couple of seeds that might or might not germinate. What I had not known is that she was very accustomed to doing energy work, which of course implies openness to energies and lack of resistance to non-physical manifestations of healing. Without resistance, and with experience in channeling those kind of energies, she was ready for her miracle.

It was only after I returned from Egypt and thought about what I had experienced that I recognized the similarity between the process of connecting without adding content and the process of helping someone convey healing energies. In both cases, it is a matter of your 3D consciousness being willing to channel energies from beyond your conscious control, without insisting on imposing meaning or content of any kind. It is (I realized after still more pondering) a matter of cooperating with your larger self without insisting on trying to run the show.

(3) Energetic psychometry

And that gave me the clue to the meaning of the strongest yet least tangible experience I had in Egypt, something I can only call energetic psychometry. I find no photos to illustrate or even hint at the process. An illustrative photo would have to show me with my hand only a couple inches from carved stone, absorbing the energy without quite touching it.

Psychometry, you may know, involves holding an object and receiving psychic impressions from it. That has never worked for me. The tactile sense seems to overwhelm anything more subtle, or perhaps it is just one of the gifts I have not been graced with. But what does create an impact, at least for me, is to be within a very few inches of the object and open myself to the energies. Again, as in the two previous examples, this comes without substantive content. I don’t “see” or “feel” or even “know” things. So, in that sense, it isn’t psychometry at all. But I did experience something else, with ever-stronger intensity as we went along.

And that something was –? Well, eventually it came to feel like a buzz, an energetic buzz. It was as strong as I have ever experienced, stronger than person-to-person exchanges, for instance. But again, it had no intellectual content. I did not put my hand near a carved hieroglyph and come away “knowing” I had been King Tut, or somebody. Quite the contrary: Each time, I came away feeling the strength of the connection and having no slightest clue what the connection actually was. (Well, one slight clue, perhaps. I noticed throughout the tour that my interest centered on New Kingdom, with only a casual and almost negligent interest in other periods. It was as if New Kingdom was me visiting home, and other periods were me playing tourist.)

Possibly I shouldn’t admit this, but often as we were being shown some detail, or being told of the history or context of something, I would realize that i was standing there somewhat bored. I’d move my hand closer to some carved stone, and the buzz would be back. What I think was going on (though of course how can I know) is that in those times I was directly reconnecting with whoever and whatever brought me back to connect with ancient Egypt. There was no intellectual content for 21st-century me to chew on, so I functioned as a conduit rather than a tour guide, and we’ll see where that connection eventually leads me. But the three kinds of experience all flowed together, and, as I say, provide a hint as to a productive approach to connecting with our larger selves.

As I say, quite satisfactory — if I can hold on to it. We’ll see.

Egypt: My real journey

Not that what I have been writing hasn’t been real, but it has been, necessarily, superficial. Travelogue is all well and good, but it is, as Thoreau once wrote about any biographical facts, like a journal of the winds that blew while we were here. Our real lives are internal, reflected in the external, not the other way around.

As my body was transporting me from place to place, from event to event, I was not necessarily as interested in where I was as in how I was. I went to Egypt not in search of photographic subjects nor interesting information, but in search of me.

Now, you might well ask, how could any particular geography affect one’s internal affairs? Landscape, scenery, even the people you meet and interact with – how can any of that touch you at your core? Yes, you might have interesting experiences, but you might have had interesting experiences at home. Why should the foreignness of a foreign land have value for you, beyond satisfying your curiosity?

It isn’t that easy to explain. Here’s my best attempt so far.

Our society thinks that time works like this: a present moment that is real, surrounded by past moments which were real but have ceased to exist, and future moments that will be real, but don’t exist yet. In effect, the modern mind thinks, we leap from a present moment that is crumbling beneath our feet to another present moment that isn’t yet there.

That would be some acrobatics! But there’s another way to look at it that makes more sense to me.

Look at it this way: What if every moment of time exists and continues to exist whether we have “come to it” yet or not, whether we have “moved on from it” or not? In other words, what if moments of time are more like our everyday experience of geography than like this hairbreadth-harry idea of the present moment being the only thing that’s real? In geography we would never dream of thinking that the place we just left had ceased to exist, and the place we were moving toward hadn’t yet been created, even though, so to speak, the railroad tracks were headed there.

If this idea is new to you, it may seem fanciful. But play with it, and perhaps you will find that it makes sense of many of the conundrums of life. Either way of seeing the world shows us the present moment as our point of application; common sense does the same. That’s our experience of life, after all. But only the view that says that past and future moments exist and continue to exist makes sense of well-reported time-slip phenomena.

But this isn’t the place to try to “prove” what can’t be proved. You are either going to consider it as reasonable or reject it. (Either way, your reaction will probably have more to do with your emotional makeup than with intellectual process.) The point here is that if all moments of space-time exist and do not cease to exist, then, since we cannot revisit past times at will, perhaps we can connect by revisiting the places associated with those times. And that’s what I went to Egypt to try to do.

Of course, any such attempt comes with potential pitfalls rooted in our psychology. It is so easy to fool ourselves! It is so easy to (on the one hand) persuade ourselves that something is so because we want it to be so; thus we come home convinced we were King Tut, or Nefertiti. It is equally easy (on the proverbial other hand) to persuade ourselves that nothing is happening, because it is important to some part of our psychology that nothing could be happening. Thus we come home triumphantly convinced that nothing happened because we are way too rational to believe in such nonsense.

You can fool yourself in either direction, with too much credulity or with too much skepticism. The trick is to be open to experience without structuring it, thus avoiding both pitfalls. How I set out to do that, and with what results, will constitute another post.