How can we be here and not wonder at the miracle of existence?
It all started when my dog ran away.
Actually, it started a lot earlier than that.
Like most kids, I asked a ton of questions growing up. “Why is the sky blue? Why do I have to go to school? Why can’t I eat ice cream for dinner?” And answers to questions like that were reliably forthcoming.
But answers to the really interesting questions like, “Who am I? Why am I here? What is life? What is God? What is death?” went unanswered. I was told there were no answers to such questions, so it was best not to ask.
Which shut me up temporarily.
But the questions never went away. As I went about living a “normal” life I just lost track of them for a while.
I went to school, got a degree, developed a great career in the (at that time) exclusively male bastion of network sports television, got a dog, made money, got married, bought a
house with a swimming pool, and then got divorced and sold the house with the swimming pool.
It was the move from the big house with the big yard in suburbia that did it. What large, self-respecting, half collie, half German shepherd would tolerate a small midtown Atlanta apartment? Apparently not my dog, Merlin. After screaming myself hoarse and plastering his picture on every telephone pole in a two-mile downtown radius, in desperation I finally took a friend’s advice and went to see a psychic.
A rather plump, matronly woman named Virginia assured me Merlin was okay. “He’s all part of the plan, dear,” she said soothingly. “Don’t worry. He’ll be back in”—she closed her eyes briefly—“eleven more days. Now . . . let’s talk about you.”
What about me?
I didn’t care.
But she wouldn’t back off. As often as I tried to lead the conversation back to my dog, she kept bringing it back to me. Apparently I was not doing what I’d come to planet Earth to do. I was fiddling while Rome burned. I needed to clean up my act. I needed to quit smoking and get a handle on the booze. I needed to exercise. I needed to move back to the country (I’d been raised on a farm). I needed to get in touch with my Higher Self.
I needed to meditate.
I paid and left feeling unsettled. I was relieved to hear Merlin would come back. Not that I totally believed it. But the rest? What a load of hooey. And then, after lots more driving around town calling his name, crying, and poster plastering, exactly eleven days later, Merlin came home.
Hmm . . . how the hell did she know?
THAT SIMPLE QUESTION OPENED the floodgates. If she’d been right about my dog, what about the rest of what she’d said? It wasn’t like I was actually happy or anything. Network sports television, while exciting and lucrative, was also stressful and exhausting. I hated living in the city. And drinking and smoking, both of which I did a lot, made me feel like crap.
Why not make a change?
Within a month I’d found a great condo on the Chattahoochee River next door to a state park north of the city. I bought a kayak and started paddling the river. I hiked with Merlin. I danced. I quit smoking and dropped the hard liquor, diving into an exploration of fine wines instead.
And I started meditating.
All I had to do was close my eyes, put my hands in a funny position, and look within. I mean, how hard could it be?
OKAY. I GOT IT. A crazy person was at the helm.
A crazy person with a mind that contradicted itself and never shut up and yet had nothing interesting to say. A crazy person who was restless and couldn’t sit still, who felt anxious and nervous over nothing, whose brain couldn’t hold a coherent thought for more than fifteen seconds.
And why bother trying? My most profound thoughts revolved around sex, food, money, and the latest sitcom plot. What was there to hold on to?
So much for self-discovery.
But I persevered. After all, there had to be something in there . . .
And so every night I sat up in bed and looked within for hours (if I could stay awake) watching the yadda yadda in my brain that was, apparently, the sum total of “me.”
Talk about depressing. But then, after about six months, something extraordinary happened.
I’d drifted off to sleep sitting bolt upright (as usual), when suddenly, I was aware of a bright light and high ringing tone all around me. The light got brighter until it was LIGHT. The ringing got louder. The most awesome ocean of LOVE swept through me. I became aware that the light was actually a being.
I woke up, scrabbling around in my blankets trying to get on my knees to bow down to this being. And yet the light still filled my mind and I could still feel the love and hear the ringing. So I cried out to the being, “Who are you?”
And the most enormous, gentle tide of laughter rolled through me—laughter that was infinitely loving and very familiar. “You’ll know someday,” came the answer. Not in words. And yet the understanding was crystal clear in my mind.
Then gradually the light and the ringing presence and the love died away. And I was left, once again, with questions.