Reflections from a spiritual warrior
It might surprise many of the people who know me to hear that I have a deep, spiritual side. I say that because the side of me that most people see – adventurer, thrill-seeker, adrenalin-freak, rugby player and former Navy SEAL – is the side that has come to represent me, although I’m not sure why. Like everyone, I have many sides. For example, if I’m jumped on a dark street or get hit from behind in a bar fight, I must be able to access my take-no-prisoners inner warrior. If I’m soothing and comforting a sick child at 0300, I must be able to access my unconditional-love and caring nurturing-parent spirit. If I’m trying to commune with the universe on a mountain top or a beach, I must be able to access my spiritual side, enter a non-ordinary state and say my mantras. If you saw me on Survivor (Robinson), you know I do positive affirmations every morning. My spiritual side has been kept private and cultivated quietly. Only a few people even know it exists. Nonetheless, as the birthdays go by (seemingly faster and faster), it’s time to write about this side of me.
Interest in the unusual
I don’t know how I became this way, but I do know that I’ve always had an interest in the unusual and the strange. It’s a side of me that has been hidden for the most part. I’ve examined different world religions but never found a good fit. In the end, I decided to believe in the universe and accept that there is much that can’t be explained. Many unexplainable things have happened to me over the years, one of which I’ll describe later in this post. People are not always willing to share these types of experiences for fear of ridicule. But I don’t give a damn anymore. I have written more about my unexplainable experiences in my new book “Chasing Life,” which should be available in the next couple of months. In the meantime, I’d like to share an unexplained experience recounted by Retired SEAL Admiral William McRaven (you know, the guy that planned the Bin Laden raid) in his excellent new book “Sea Stories.” If he can talk about things like this, so can I.
McRaven’s unexplainable experience
McRaven’s story plays out in 1987. He and his team are on a mission to locate a missing Navy P2V2 reconnaissance plane that was lost in British Columbia, Canada in 1948 and hopefully return the remains of the nine crewmembers to a proper resting place. Once they had located the plane in an ice cavern that had been buried under the snow and ice, they later experienced a strange occurrence in the middle of the night at their campsite. Several of his team swore that someone walked around the campsite in the middle of the night. The next day they set off to explore the wreck and find the remains of the crew. Thanks to the melting ice, they were able to find the crew that had been buried under the ice all these years. Due to the danger of the thawing ice-cavern, they decided it would be best to say a prayer and leave the remains there. As they said Amen, they noticed what appeared to be several lights sparkling in the sky.
They looked like signal flares but weren’t. They hovered in the sky for more than 15 minutes and then, one by one, they all rocketed skyward and were gone. On their way out of the mountains, their pilot, who was a local “first Canadian”, i.e., an Indian, said over the comms that the SEALs were the talk of the area because now the lost souls can find their way to heaven. McRaven asked what he meant, and the pilot said, “My ancestors believe that the remains of the dead must be visible to heaven so their souls can be guided through the great dome. Legend says the sky is a great dome and there’s a hole in it through which the spirits must pass to get to heaven. The SEALs looked at one another, noting that there were nine lights in the sky (the exact number of the crew) and said: “The crew is finally home.” And now for my experience.
My unexplainable experience
My new partner (who later became my wife) and I were going through a rough patch, as most couples do at some point, that was distressing both of us immensely. I usually ate Sunday dinners with my ex-wife and my son, and when I arrived one evening, my ex-wife said something had come for me that day. I said there’s no mail delivery on Sundays. She replied, “I know, and I think it’s kind of strange. It just came through the mail slot in the door.” It was an envelope with my name on it and no stamp, address or return address on it. Inside was a passage called “The Invitation.” It was signed by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Indian Elder. Was this from the Indian spiritual guide I had been told about several decades earlier – the one who would appear when most needed? I can’t say for sure, but I don’t have any other explanation for it.
I took it home and read it out loud to my partner, who is also deeply spiritual, and we both broke into tears. At her suggestion, we lit two candles. The first represented our “old” relationship and the second our “new” relationship from that point onward. We blew out the first candle, lit the second and life marched onward! It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but that message impacted us so greatly that we’ve always been able to work out our problems. I still have no idea how it got to me, but I’m glad it did. So, there you have it. If people choose to ridicule me and laugh at me, perhaps thinking “OK Boomer, whatever,” so be it. I’m perfectly OK with that.
Lost beliefs and practices
I believe there is a great deal of understanding about the universe that we have lost. Yet other, older cultures don’t seem to have lost that connection. While studying cultural anthropology at Arizona State University, I participated in a few shamanistic ceremonies (not sanctioned by the university, of course) involving peyote, mescaline and derivatives from other natural plants to enter altered states. It was a fantastic and sometimes frightening opportunity to interact with those who have not forgotten the old ways. People who can feel their past in the wind or access it through the taste of bitter plant leaves. I marveled when reading about how the Jaguar shamans of the Yuruparí (guardians of the sacred sites that contain vital spiritual energy that nurtures all living beings in the world) could take trips beyond our galaxy, how the stories of the Inuit elders full of fantastic creatures, spirits and strange creatures, continue to resonate with the young today or how Buddhist monks high in the Himalayas still pursue the breath of the Karma. The beliefs and teachings of these peoples allow us to understand that other ways of being, thinking and orienting ourselves in the Earth exist.
An open mind and curiosity
Those experiences and readings have stayed with me for decades and opened my eyes and senses to unexplained occurrences. They have enabled me to keep an open mind and remain curious. I accept that the universe works in mysterious ways. I accept that we in the west don’t have answers for everything. I accept that maintaining an open mind can impact you in many ways, including how you age. I’ll leave you with a reflection that came my way somehow, somewhere, sometime. It has influenced me tremendously throughout my life. I have no idea who wrote it, or I’d give them credit. It’s called the Secret of Youth.
“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind, a product of the imagination, vigor of emotions, a predominance of courage over timidity, an appetite for adventure. No one grows old by living a number of years. People grow old when they desert their ideals. Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, self-doubt, fear and anxiety – these are the culprits that bow the head and break the spirit.
“Whether 16 or 70, there exists in the heart of every person who loves life the thrill of a new challenge, the insatiable appetite for what is coming next. You are as young as your faith and as old as your doubts. So long as your heart receives from your head messages that reflect beauty, courage, joy and excitement, you are young. When your thinking becomes clouded with pessimism and prevents you from taking risks, then you are old. And may God have mercy on your soul!”