Meet Rodney, Ph.D, an uncommon career scientist

by Wendy Down on November 18, 2014

Welcome back.  Shall we continue to set the stage for our upcoming New Experiment?  Thanks for all your topic suggestions – you’re raising possibilities we hadn’t considered.  (See them in the comments section here and here.)

You’ve already met two of the four Experiment leaders:  Janice Dietert, here and Ken Graydon, here.

Today, I’m delighted that Rodney Dietert, our third ‘Consciouseer’ is here to tell you his story.

Take it away, Rodney!

*****

“As one of the team members, I have my own story and unexpected path that propelled me to this place…..a place with an exciting opportunity to join this team project.

Me at my lab bench in earlier days

Me at my lab bench in earlier days

My story began as a rule-bound, highly-analytical university scientific researcher and educator of 37 years.

I had watched my career go in spurts seemingly driven by my having to react to events larger than me. But inevitably, the events ended in the closure or reduced importance of every university department or program I touched. How could this be? I even reinvented myself once but that did not help what had become a very consistent and depressing pattern. Thirty years into a downwardly-spiraling career, I was only one small step away from becoming “academic deadwood”. That is what conventional wisdom said should happen to professors in my position. It was a perfect outcome for a pity party but not useful for much else.

Then things changed….. Thanks largely to my wife, Janice, and an inexplicable personal experience that took me way outside my comfort zone, I began to explore consciousness systems and modalities. Rather than focusing on health changes, I started using consciousness tools (several in the category of contemplative practices) at the university.

I started getting intriguing ideas upon waking up from dreams in the middle of the night and trusting those more than my “analytical or logical” instincts. Those ideas led to me write several scientific concept papers often with collaborators and most in ridiculously short amounts of time.

These ideas were peer-reviewed and published and took hold (a few examples below)

Me at the National Institutes of Health for an invited lecture on my new ideas, Nov. 2011

Me at the National Institutes of Health for an invited lecture on my new ideas, Nov. 2011

Breaking patterns of environmentally influenced disease for health risk reduction: immune perspectives.

Environmental risk factors for autism.

The Completed Self: An Immunological View of the Human-Microbiome Superorganism and Risk of Chronic Diseases. 

My colleagues noticed this change and started asking me questions: what was it I was doing? how could I do it so fast? and….. could I teach them to do it?

Still, sharing that was a barrier I was unwilling to cross. I feared the information would not be accepted by my colleagues.

My career was turning around as I trusted and acted on my middle of the night ideas. But the tools remained hidden.

Then my world was shattered.

A traumatic event led to injury and a near-death experience (NDE). That experience was not so important by itself but rather in how it changed my views. No longer did I fear the potential rejection of ideas by colleagues. In fact, not only would I share the tools, with my wife’s help I would write about them, teach them at my university, and fully embody them.

Creating a different work environment, starting with my desk

Creating a different work environment, starting with my desk

Here, in the photo left, is what you would see in my office today.

In 2012, I remember attending a wonderful consciousness-related workshop by an exceptional speaker who bemoaned the fact that universities would not allow the teaching of ideas that went against the standard paradigms and training practices. And I remember thinking, “Only if that is the “conventional wisdom” game you decide to play.”

I would start playing a different game, a win-win game.

Once that decision was made, everything fell into place.

A science publisher published our book Science Sifting.

Book cover

Book cover

A course I developed based on the Science Sifting book was approved by the university.

In the second year, I won a teaching award for the course.

I was invited to present the material in workshops outside my university (some for continuing medical education credit and some to non-scientists).

Presenting a workshop at another university, Nov. 2013

Presenting a workshop at another university, Nov. 2013

 I was invited to offer the material to a large audience at the university new student orientation.

Workshop during university orientation designed to enhance student awareness, creative problem solving skills, and resiliency, August, 2014.

Workshop during university orientation designed to enhance student awareness, creative problem solving skills, and resiliency, August, 2014.

 I even published a peer-reviewed paper about teaching this material.

http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2014/07/contemplative-practices-boost-problem-solving

This teaching that I would not be allowed to offer according to conventional wisdom has become the most meaningful and useful material I have ever taught to students.  They will use these tools long after the science factoids have faded.

Meanwhile on the research front, the novel ideas keep coming as do the publications.

The lecture invitations are more numerous now than at any point in my career, and they involve topics linked most closely to my dreams (rather than early-career research)!

In fact an award-winning documentary film recently captured one of these middle-of-the-night ideas as a core theme.

Me live streaming the documentary film to an undergraduate class – Nov., 2014

Me live streaming the documentary film to an undergraduate class – Nov., 2014

 What do I intend to bring to this team project, the as-yet-unnamed New Experiment?

It is exactly what I have been teaching!

By sharing some of my unconventional tools, I’ll extend to you the opportunity to step outside of conventional wisdom when useful and to trust what is at your core.

I’ll invite you to see how interconnected we are.

To make a creative space where it is….. your game, your rules.  Where no one else can tell you, “you can’t”.

From a position of neutrality, we will allow, we will notice, and we will record what we notice.

From that space, awesome things can and do happen.”

*****

Pretty great, huh?  If you’d like to leave a comment or question for Rodney, do so below where he can see it.

To read about this New Experiment from the beginning, start here.

To become part of the Experiment, (it’s free!) just enter your name and email address in the Consciousness Playground Newsletter sign-up box, top right corner of this page.

Next up:  On Friday, I’ll share behind-the-scenes details of my own story.  Details that explain the reason I’m so on board with a project like this.  See you then!

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Lesley February 24, 2016 at 9:23 am

This is so inspiring … As a former university lecturer who used to do cool stuff and get great student results in the field of entrepreneurship but has slowly withdrawn – let the system get to me. This was great inspiration

Thank you

Elizabeth November 21, 2014 at 8:08 pm

Really looking forward to this, excited!

Amy Hillenbrand November 20, 2014 at 5:14 am

Your story sounds so interesting Rodney, so looking forward to
The yet to be revealed experiment. What an awesome group of leaders we will have.

Christine November 20, 2014 at 12:55 am

I am curious and excited to see what this will all become . 🙂

Louise November 19, 2014 at 9:39 am

I’m noticing…this all feels so good, so expansive already 🙂 !!

Elma Mayer November 19, 2014 at 7:00 am

So cooool!

Nancy November 19, 2014 at 12:08 am

Hi Rod! Glad to see you here and offering your cool ~~~ energy stuff 🙂 I will add- I have done a remote session with both Janice and Rod, awesome stuff!!!
Nancy, Boise

ron oplinus November 18, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Hi Rodney,
When we first met you were the stogy college professor married to the dynamic Janice. I was privileged to watch the beginning of your morphosis (sic) into the person you are today. Congratulations, and I look forward to working with you and the team.

Neva November 18, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Bravo, Rodney, bravo. You are a brilliant example of what can happen when “conventional wisdom” is not the game you choose to play. I look forward to this experiment very much.