On August 8, 2006, I sat at the corner of Shattuck and Kitteredge in Berkeley, California, three blocks North of the Royal Grounds Cafe, where I had just spent my last two dollars on coffee.
I had walked back and forth, to and fro, not knowing where I was going. It gradually dawned on me that I had nowhere left to go. I had spent my entire severance check after leaving my summer job as a singing teacher with Children’s Musical Theatre San Jose. I had spent it all on taxicabs, meals in restaurants, and motel rooms. So I sat down, expecting to enter into total misery. Instead, I entered into total bliss.
I finally had nothing. Nothing to prove anymore. Nothing to hold on to. Nothing to need to protect or salvage or horde. Nothing that could be coveted or stolen. Nothing that I needed to accomplish or achieve.
And in having nothing, I realized that I was open to everything. In an instant, everything that the Universe had to offer came soaring into my consciousness. All the gifts of life — the very gifts that my worldly concerns had blinded me from seeing — were now not only visible, but tangible, accessible, and omnipresent.
I found paper and pen, and I wrote down these words:
I have indeed hit bottom.
And at the moment when I reached my bottom,
I realized that I had reached the very top.
At that moment, I was Buddha.
While this surprising sense of liberation was very real, and while it was destined to impact me for years to come, its accompanying bliss was short-lived. Within three days, I was to see its downside in a dramatic way. And the bittersweet dynamic thereof informed my later thought.
So I’ve decided to use the next several Thursdays to post my thoughts on this theme as best I can. There are distinct dangers involved when one permits oneself to receive gifts of joy and happiness from sources commonly associated with misery and despair. I’ll do my best to illustrate what the years following that experience have held for me. Hopefully, I can do so with clarity.
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