Dreaming & Awakening

On May 15, 2017 shortly after 7pm I sat cross legged at the head end of my mattress staring eyes wide open into heaven from my studio apartment in San Diego.

As if every element of the universe had been split in two along the lines of its own duality, it seemed that only the particles labeled Joy or Love or Goodness were left and I sat awestruck amid its silvery matrix.

If you can imagine, for a moment, splitting sound. If we took only the most beautiful voices, the most harmonious notes and the most heartwarming conversation and created a proverbial soup – how would it sound? Would it have a flavor and what color would it be? One would logically presume that even the most “perfect” sounds (if we could somehow isolate them) heard all at once would still be unpleasant and deafening. Certainly, such allegorical “soup” could carry no taste or physical tangibility.

At 718 Madison Avenue, I discovered that this is not the case.

The same of all the senses, if for a moment or an hour or a lifetime, I seemed to witness the perfect harmony of all existence – the laws of the universe in seemless, working order.

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1 hour earlier…

I sat in a Christian church next to my sister. I had moved to San Diego just a couple of months earlier and upon the persistent suggestions of my sister, I had agreed to join her on Sundays.

Like the handful of services I had attended with her before, I silently cringed a little whenever the word “God” or “Jesus” or “Lord” came up, but otherwise the messages that went along with their series called ‘Breaking Free’ were mostly inspiring and even affirming that life, for me, was already good.

Tonight, the pastor had his son join him on stage. Strapping him with a backpack, he began to fill the sack with various objects – soup cans, mostly. As the demonstration went on, the bearded, tattooed, and often comedic speaker talked about the “sins” (cringe again) and emotional baggage that mankind often carries with himself – the obvious Christian message being that this is what separates humans from the divinity of and relationship with an all-knowing, all-powerful deity called God.

As he illustrated this very simple picture, my mind already raced with how many things that I needed to tell this pastor.

If only he really knew.

At that moment, maybe a half dozen rows behind us in the dim lit room, a woman spoke up. Before you continue, she said, can you remove the gum from your mouth? It’s incredibly rude to be chewing like that up there. She directed herself at the pastors son who was wearing the backpack.

I kept showing up to this church because, for the most part, it was “normal.” No radicals, no concert, no one jumping around or claiming miracles or end times. And usually no one standing up to challenge the sermon.

As uncomfortable as the situation played out, however, the pastor made a smooth transition to continue his point. Yet not another ten seconds later, the same woman spoke out – this time outraged.

HOW DARE YOU DISGRACE THIS HOUSE OF THE LORD, she yelled. HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO LISTEN WHEN YOU CHEW YOUR MOUTH LIKE A COW. And she stormed out the back doors.

The explosion of anger was palpable as was the anxious reaction of the congregation, even my own. Already out of my comfort zone, I kept my head low and peeked nervously over to my sister.

What the fuck was that?

As the tension dissipated and the pastor got back to his lesson, the sermon seemed a nearly perfect response to the situation. By the end of the sermon, I was convinced that the woman had been hired by the church to make a religious point. I imagined a group Kumbaya with our hands held, or maybe up in the air, was about to be called to conjure up some supernatural power. Maybe he’ll tell us to chant.

The end of the service came and went – no hand raising, no chanting, and literally zero fanfare about the ordeal of the angry lady and the gum. Not even a dedicated verse in his closing prayer.

I drove home and sat cross legged at the head end of my mattress at my studio apartment in San Diego and closed my eyes.

What the fuck was that?

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Exactly 1 year earlier…

I hadn’t planned my life past my goals. In fact, I never really thought beyond my goals. My entire life, it seems, I’d been increasingly realizing the power of manifestation so that my ever-growing wishlist, and bucket list, could have as many awesome things on it as I could (or yet couldn’t) imagine. I knew that once I wrote something down, there was no way it wasn’t going to happen.

Such it was that after completing the final day of the California CrossFit Regionals competition on May 15, 2016, life as I knew it was momentarily over and much of my identity along with it, such as it had after goals time and time before it.

Well, I guess I’ll try to make it to the Games.

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My Ojiichan died of cancer in his bile duct not long after I performed at Regionals – from diagnosis to his death bed took less than six months. Surviving long enough to watch me compete at Regionals via the web was as much his goal as it was my own.

My grandfather cared for his health and vitality like a treasure – he regularly hiked, he was a local mallet golf champ, he was a student of “senior citizen University” and he took all of his daily vitamins. He ate well, he flossed his teeth everyday and started each morning with a Thai-chi exercise program over the radio. He learned English as a second language in his sixties and spent countless hours in his study reading books of every topic. He knelt each day at his in-home Buddhist shrine and learned how to use as much technology as he could keep up with. He never traveled much, but he always made sure he knew everything he could about the countries I would go to visit. He was an avid learner of the Japanese chess-like game called “Go” and played tournaments online.

But what was truly the most unique about my Ojiichan was his capacity for pure joy and ability to love others and give graciously – that in any moment spent with another human, nothing else could exist and the elevated status of his mental or spiritual intellect, humbly invisible.

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As I began to read between the lines of the screen write of my life, the magnificent realization that truly anything is possible struck me. Warm and comforting threads of possibility wrapped around me as I seemed to read the story of my life like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book over and over and over again and each one with an equally happy ending.

As if she were the gatekeeper to it all, suddenly I saw her – the angry, gum-hating woman from church – and the storybook slammed shut. The woman I had never turned to see, yet she was as clear as a photo in my minds eye.

On May 15, 2017, I sat cross legged at the head end of my mattress and I woke up.

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When you open your eyes after a good dream, the room you wake up in can be disappointing. Your first instinct is usually to close your eyes, cuddle back up and go back to sleep, hoping you return to the dream. This usually ends up in disappointment or frustration before conceding to getting out of bed (probably on the wrong side).

When I got out of my own bed that day, I knew one thing for certain – that I wanted to bring dreams like that to the people around me. I knew that in many ways, the angry, gum-hating woman at church was me – the fear of a person paying attention to the things that didn’t matter. I realized that I am the one standing in my own way.

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My Ojiichan died on June 1, 2016.

After a lifetime of seeking wisdom and enlightenment yet losing to an unseen battle, his final words were “I surrender to the love of Jesus.”

I used to tell myself that I couldn’t put faith in a sovereign “God” who supposedly wouldn’t let someone like my Ojiichan into a divine eternity where I could be with him, even if such place really existed. But it took my grandfather’s own surrender to show me that life truly begins once we already know the ending and that heaven is something we bring with us every morning when we wake up by making good dreams come true.

I will never fully fathom the universe in a single lifetime, but I couldn’t possibly have a higher inspiration for a love like my Ojiichan’s than a gypsy named Jesus.

I surrender.

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