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David Diana
Jun 10, 2010

What Happened to the “Experience”?

I miss the experience. This is the umpteenth time I’ve browsed the shelves of my local Barnes & Noble Bookseller, and I could be anywhere. It feels like I’m shopping in Walmart – lot’s of stuff here and there, but not much substance. No matter which section I browse I feel nothing.

Several years ago, when I was living in Washington, DC, I walked down Connecticut Avenue and stumbled upon a little hole in the wall bookstore called Politics & Prose. It was brimming with excitement and filled with books that seemed to matter. The business grew quickly, yet its owners worked hard to stay true to their vision.

You never knew what to expect when you entered the store, but you always knew you would experience something worthwhile. One night, I walked in and found Jean Houston giving a wild and passionate talk about myth in front of 30 people. On another evening, while browsing through the psychology section, I literally bumped into Irvin Yalom. He was passing the time before giving a talk about his latest book. It was that kind of place.

There are places like Politics & Prose sprinkled here and there, and when they’re discovered people recognize the difference. They feel the energy even when they can’t tell you why it’s special to them. I believe these people and places hold a level of significance that will continue to grow in the years to come.

I’ve experienced it from time to time in our profession. I used to feel it when I visited a Jungian Analyst named Phyllis Blakemore in downtown Washington, DC. Phyllis lived what she shared. She was as real as can be. Meaning at times, when I would hear her talk, she glowed as if you could see right through her.

I feel it today when traveling down to Beaufort, SC to visit Dr. Royce Malphrus. You experience it as he sits and talks about the work he is doing, his eyes ablaze with excitement, biofeedback computers and electronic gadgets blinking like fireworks in the background. I experience it when visiting Ellen White of Coastal Empire Mental Health. The feeling is undeniable when she shares her experiences and offers insights from 30 years of service to the chronically mentally ill. Her compassion and determination fills the room and you leave re-energized, hoping the next patient in that lobby is fortunate enough to cross her path. And you most certainly feel it when you enter The Art of Core Consciousness, an indefinable art gallery and yoga studio in the heart of historic Charleston, SC. It defies tradition, launches you into a seemingly timeless space, and offers a unique experience you will not find anywhere else in town.

There are too many examples, too many of you out there, and too many to keep hidden in a world where people are searching for something more honest, real and pure.

These people and places offer experiences worth seeking out and paying for. So I must say “no thanks”, I’ll pass on the Starbucks Venti Mocha Latte and 20% off the latest bestseller. I’m waiting for a cup of Joe made with purpose, and a book that’s worth the read. Trust me, others are waiting right there with me.

Can they find you?

David P. Diana is a counselor, author, and a director for a behavioral healthcare organization. He writes a weekly blog on sales and marketing for counselors (

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