I’ve spent too many years as an editor to let a writer get away with describing someone as “radiant.”
So I’ll have to do it.
Patricia Sun is radiant. “Love without attachment is light,” wrote Norman O. Brown. Maybe that explains her glow.
I wasn’t especially eager to hear her, even after she was described to me as “the female Ram Dass.” Not another spiritual teacher, I groaned, preaching what I find so hard to practice. And from California yet!, turning up my Eastern nose.
But being with Patricia was an intensely moving experience. Despite my admonitions not to be “blown away,” I was. I wouldn’t call her the female Ram Dass — that label is unfair to both of them — but she’s surely one of the most extraordinary teachers in America today. In fact, not long ago she shared a stage in San Francisco with Ram Dass and Jack Schwarz, another heavyweight of the American spiritual movement. During the discussion Ram Dass was asked a question by someone in the audience and, according to one published account, “Strangely enough, this man of so much eloquence only replied, ‘I can’t answer that. I’m too stoned on Patricia!’”
Seven years ago, Patricia Sun would have scoffed at this, or at the notion that in 1979 she’d be flying to the University of Madrid to teach teachers how to teach, or going to the Findhorn community in Scotland to speak on the nature of love. Back then, she was finishing up two degrees at the University of California in Berkeley, one in social science, and the other in conservation and natural resources. She was in the top two percent of her class, a highly motivated and highly successful Phi Beta Kappa student, ready to go on to graduate work.
But Patricia started getting more and more “intuitive” — disconcertingly, because she “didn’t want to get into this funny stuff,” but not knowing how to get away from it either. She took some tests given to several hundred people at a parapsychology symposium in Berkeley, and was one of a handful who scored 100 percent.
Patricia went to see a clairvoyant, who insisted she was a psychic healer. Again, Patricia balked, but was impressed by the accuracy of the woman’s account of her childhood. Towards the end of the reading, the clairvoyant said, “Patricia, now is the time for you to really come into that which is yours.” As she said that, Patricia was struck by “a gold white light . . . that went through my whole body, through my feet, right down into the earth, and it filled my hands, and I drew in a deep breath because my hands were so thick and full of energy. I couldn’t put them down. . . . Tears came to my eyes, and I heard, ‘I’ve come home.’”
Today, at 38, Patricia is increasingly in demand as a lecturer, healer, and teacher. Looking at her, it is hard to believe she has three grown children — the oldest a 20-year-old son. She’s been married ten years, to her second husband. She chose the name Sun a few years ago, “or rather it chose me, and when people say, ‘Is it your real name?’ I want to say ‘Most definitely yes.’” Well, I don’t like people changing their names, either, but in this case, I won’t quibble. The shoe fits. And it leaves tracks of light.
Patricia came to North Carolina last summer to give a lecture in Greensboro on August 16 and then spoke at the Black Mountain community of Melloweden on August 19. Betsy Campbell was there with me, and wrote the following article. (Special thanks to John Larsen for the photographs of Patricia.)
The ordinary is not one of the more heavily advertised images in the New Age. Promotional material for speakers, workshops, and communities emphasizes the grandiose, with an insistent sweetness that’s an easy target for the satirists and cynics: Transformation! Self-Metamorphosis! Rainbows! Sunsets! Joyous Life! Oneness is All!
My prejudice against the emphasis on the glorious is this: the ordinariness of the moment is included in the job description of life — with all its beauty, boredom, missteps, and broken bones — then the point is entirely missed.
And despite the widespread acknowledgement that becoming whole (as a person, or a planet) will take time, there’s often a determination to portray the vision at fruition now, no matter how inappropriate that might be.
I was reminded of that prejudice when I walked into the Guilford College auditorium where Patricia Sun would speak, because the people there fit my worst stereotypical views of I’d find. They seemed giddy, over-confident, lots of them making their way to the most visible place down front and engaging in dramatic goodwill, ecstatic embraces, not a single person looking blase, chomping gum, or acting even vaguely unconscious.
The program was sponsored by the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship, and began with a meditation, led by an emcee who had participated with most of the audience in a week-long series of workshops.
The meditation was led like calisthenics, with show-biz style and near cheerleader antics; it was over before I’d had time to begin.
Afterwards, everybody sang enthusiastically: “I’m not the same anymore. I found the truth and it set me free. I’m not same, I’m not the same, I’m not the same anymore!”
I’d heard Patricia Sun stood outside the glitter of the spiritual movement, and that was why I’d come. My doubts about her were superficial: I couldn’t figure out how anybody who looked so young could know so much. I was mildly suspicious of her beauty. (TV makes pretty faces into stars, why not the spiritual movement?) And, she was from California, where gurus rise and fall daily.
The tall blonde woman walked onstage and murmured thank you into the microphone as she waited for the thousand people to stop clapping looked even younger than in her pictures. But her stage presence was well-developed, relaxed and focused; she seemed at home in this circumstance, attentive to her audience, and secure in herself, wearing her big-boned frame like a grounding rod.
It was only after the crowd settled down, that I could begin to feel who she was. She won me over easily, when she said:
I’d sometimes almost rather not talk to New Age groups, because they’ve got all the words down now. They say, “Oh yeah, I know all about that. Oh, I heard that . . . Yeah, I know . . .” They won’t be innocent and they won’t be vulnerable. They won’t say, “Is there something inside the word more here?”
Patricia spent the next three hours, and then another three hours the following Sunday at Melloweden, encouraging people to experience the moreness. “Until we begin to know that we don’t know, we don’t have any room to get full . . . ,” she said. She suggested that we can embrace the unknown, simultaneously learn to make “the power in us that is ours, more available ordinarily.”
The obstacle to all that is your conditioning, your programming, your “tapes,” as Patricia called them. “Especially when you feel powerless,” she said, “let a flag come up and tell yourself, ‘There’s some governing principle I’ve taken on here for my survival that I don’t need, and there’s some truth right in front of me, and I’m about to see it, and that’s why I’m into this crazy circular painful place.’ And the solution, the key, will always be paradoxical.”
Patricia addressed the parts of each of us that refuse to allow for our craziness. “We are all nutty as fruitcakes,” she said. “And until we can know that there isn’t anybody in a body who isn’t programmed with some craziness, we can’t really relax and work on it, because we’re all going to try to look cool . . . we’re all going to try to look like we’ve got it figured out. And all that’s going to do is block your process of actually doing that.”
Her emotional savvy was like any good therapist’s. She knew how to relieve the tension, how to love the parts of us that fear and fight. And her total belief in the enormity of one’s potential, encouraged us all to risk more, to give up a little control, to stop trying so hard to be good, to discover our most genuine selves, and comprehend that it is unnecessary to deny your own power to stay in God’s good graces.
She pointed out that if we all did everything “right,” it would have a sterile quality to it, and only if we’re willing to experience being “off the mark” will we come to know what it is to be on target, to find our center. “Finding your center,” she said, “is finding a sensitivity in you that lets you be vulnerable and open and let everything in, and simultaneously saying ‘yes, no, alright, nope’.”
What made Patricia so accessible to me was the equal footing she put herself on with the audience. Her emphasis, repeatedly, was on supporting everyone, in all their power. In the freedom she has inherited by loving herself so totally, she is able to beam out unobstructed support for everyone else to do the same. This is her intention and her success: “Love is for giving. Love is forgiving.”
The language she used an open-ended quality, necessary to carry the telepathic surge of meaning one can feel before the words are spoken. I was pleased that she spoke in terms that anyone could relate to. No cosmic code words. The words she used to describe our destination were simple and universal: “We are coming home.”
And when she said it, everything that home could ever mean bubbled up from deep inside, and I knew she was right.
At the Mellowden workshop, the group was small, no more than a hundred people gathered in a small chapel. Patricia talked about relationships, child-rearing, nuclear power, sex, illness, and about her transition from an academic perspective (as a psychological researcher at the University of California at Berkeley) to where she is now, deep at the heart of the human potential movement. “At one point,” she said, “my rational mind convinced me, and showed me that there was more than rational mind. And it was like I broke a seal, a barrier, and that’s when I opened.”
Her psychic and healing abilities developed very rapidly after that, and eventually she shifted from private healing sessions to the workshops she does now, “because the same energy I’d use in an isolated way to work on somebody’s illness, I now use in a bigger way to work on everybody opening up.”
She asked us not to take a break during the three hours of the workshop because it would interrupt the rising energy among us, which was very definitely building.
To close the session, we all sat quietly and Patricia made her sounds — hard to describe, something like a cry or a chant, at first sounding like one voice, and then like two, with an electronic resonance that you could feel in your head.
I opened my eyes and looked at Patricia. She was standing tall, her eyes closed, her feet firmly planted on the floor and her arms spread, the palms of her hands facing one another. Her open arms seemed to support, hold, or guide the sounds they opened to, and encircled an energy vortex that mounted as the sounds did.
I could feel her making a creature call to each individual in the room. I could feel us helping her make the sounds without knowing how.
All she said when it was over, was, “I love you very much,” and I struggled not to burst into tears. I was so grateful that Patricia was patiently weaning us from our need to fear — for the moment — and letting us experience this openness within ourselves, where undreamt of connections were giving birth to more beauty, more fullness than the mind could comprehend. And all of it available ordinarily.