San Francisco, Magic and Spirituality

Introduction

Since I “came out” about being spiritual I have had a bit of a writer’s block.  My technique for working through that has always been to use humour and music.

When I have had a particularly constipated writing moment in the past I have brought out Rancid to help see me through.  The day I started this post was no exception and I was listening to “Arrested in Shanghai” (warning explicit lyrics) and thinking about San Francisco to try to get things moving.

Side Note: The following is a bit of a rambling life story and it’s a bit disjointed.  I might come back some day and try to tie it together with some more better prose but hopefully, you enjoy the story.

San Francisco

I am not sure what it is about this city that I find so intriguing.  It started on my honeymoon I think, that was the first time I had seen it.  How the story goes is my wife loved Disneyland and we had chosen that destination for our honeymoon.  We had time and wanted to spend time enjoying each other after the busyness of the wedding so we planned a relaxing drive down the Oregon Coast.  It was lovely driving along the coast and although in my head it seems like we spent months on that leg of our adventure, in reality, it was probably less than a week.  A very enchanting week with wonderful company.

After the coast, we entered California which changed the drive somewhat.  It was a bit more inland and I forgot to mention, it was the middle of August and coming from Canada, we didn’t have Air Conditioning.  When we rolled into San Francisco we were so grateful to be back on the coast again and close to the water as it was a bit cooler.

We had only planned to stay in San Francisco overnight however the city caught us up in the magic and decided to make it a longer stay.  The details and the order are a little jumbled in my mind so I won’t pretend any sort of historical accuracy or timeline and just cover the highlights.  We spent some time wandering around Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square and China Town during our trip. I also “had a thing” where I was working out at all of the YMCA’s so I spent some time doing cardio at the local YMCA as well.  We left the city cooled, refreshed, ready for Los Angeles and Disneyland. I’ll leave that for another post and head back to the magic of San Francisco.

Today, In San Francisco

I started working for a company based out of San Francisco a few years ago.  I am grateful for my job and although I don’t normally enjoy travelling I have very much enjoyed the times we have gone down to San Francisco for planning meetings.  Each time I am down there I have strong emotions, both of happiness and of loss. The eventual outcome though is I find myself caught up in the life that fills the city, the energy and I fall in love all over again.  When I am in San Francisco no matter where I wander my default state is usually: joy.  This song by Tony Bennett resonates with me.

When we are down there the focus is usually to build team interaction and we spend time doing things that are fun so we get to know each other better in a relaxed state.  A recent team event at the Musee Mecanique brought back some memories of my honeymoon, as most trips to San Francisco do.  This time it was a little more intense. The museum had been one of our stops and had emotional significance for me.  It made me think of a promise I felt I couldn’t keep to a heart I loved dearly.  I didn’t remember immediately about the stop and I am not sure how I made the connection but for some reason, the email had filled me with dread. The feeling was surprising and I felt fortunate that I time to process it before the trip, so during the lead up to the event I tried to build courage and resilience.

I’ll be honest, it was not an easy event even with the additional time to prepare and below the surface, I felt a bit of turmoil, a bit of melancholy.  As part of my spiritual journey, I have been realizing that energy can follow you around and affect the people around you. For the people that aren’t into energy, you can call it the facial expressions of those around you, the body language, the body positioning, or any external queues that people pick up on it.  What it translates to though is that if you are surrounded by people that are grouchy, for whatever reason you become grouchy.

I am aware of that energy/ body language and I’m an emotional guy so I’ll take those in an optimistic light and call them two positives (side note: one if you are a minimalist and boil that down to being mindful).  Being in tune with my emotional state I am aware of how it affects others. I also have learned a few Jedi mind tricks that help me to combat these emotional moments. Luckily, making a connection with other people is one of those ways.  It can be a small thing: share a smile, ask someone about their day, interact, be a good human and care about another life form. Given my inner turmoil, I was grateful for the opportunity to meet some new people and help lift my mood. I try to be an “always a bright side” kinda guy.

I also believe it’s important to take care of your emotional self and repair past hurts.  When the event was winding down and there was a lull I snuck away and found my way out onto the dock near the submarine.  I sat in the sunshine on the deck with my sunglasses on and let myself cry into the sun. It was a difficult day, letting the pain go lead to me to cleansing and finally released I felt better and when I wandered back to the team I felt refreshed and happy that I had formed some new memories there.

Side Note: If you “have a problem” with crying in public because it’s “not macho” this is a great quote that will hopefully have you and it almost always makes me giggle:

It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.
Jack Handey – Deep Thoughts (1992)

It makes me think of how counterproductive the act of being macho is.  Emotion is something that brings us closer to people and should be expressed.  That I have such a quote might indicate that I cry a lot and maybe I do.  In any case, I have a strategy for emotions and although I don’t feel shame for crying given the complexity of the “why” I gave myself a pass on the sunglasses.

The rest of the trip went extremely well and I met a lot of amazing new people, connect with some of the old people I had met on previous trips.

Sending Positive Energy Back

The last night of the trip I planned a few stops.  I went to this wonderful “Rock Opera” at the Strand Theater called Weightless.  It had a great story and music but a bit of a dark theme so I decided to wander a bit and take in some live music.  I found a street performer in a tiny crook close to Market Street, left him some Canadian money, which sparked up a nice little talk about Canada, Toronto and his travels.  After we were done chatting I sat for a bit to enjoy a song or two.

Side Note: It always makes me giggle to give people Canadian bills in the US.  A friend of mine always compares it to “monopoly money” because it’s so colourful compared to US bills so that thought runs through my head.  It’s typically worth less than American bills because of the exchange rate so I always make sure the person is okay with that and is not insulted.

Another reliable stop for me is Union Square.  It’s not always an easy stop and I either try to do it when I am uplifted by those around me or I have had a lot of positive happen that day, more back story to follow.  I had decided in my head that it was on the list of places to stop and I headed to another live music spot where they were hosting “dualling pianists” to lift the mood. I figured if nothing else I could just use phonetic imagery to make me giggle.  It was not necessary as I had a fantastic time listening to music, people cheering and watching them dance and interact.  With my heart uplifted I left the club, on to Union Square!

The back story here goes back again to my honeymoon.  My wife and I had spent the day wandering the city and taking pictures with our shiny new digital camera.  For those of you born recently, you will not realize that these cameras did not have infinite storage that could be uploaded to the cloud and that storage eventually filled up.  In any case, we were in Union Square and had reached the storage limit of our camera and wanted to take a couple more pictures before the night was over so we had to do some storage management and delete a picture or two to move forward.

The camera was new so we didn’t fully understand how to operate it and by accident, we deleted all the pictures.  I use “we” sometimes always when I don’t want someone to feel bad about something and in this case, it really could have happened to either of us so it’s applicable.  The camera interface wasn’t intuitive. That being said it’s important for the story to say that she was, unfortunately, operating the camera at that time and we deleted all of our wedding pictures by accident.  I was sad but she was devastated as pictures mean a lot to her and the emotional significance was probably close to the level that our lives had been deleted. I write that with endearing reverence and really cherished her ability to preserve the moment in pictures. My heart broke and I did my best to comfort her.  Thankfully we recovered and the trip was again joyful.

In any case, the reason for that explanation is that on every trip, I try to go to Union Square and send back positive energy to that moment in time.  I feel that the positive energy I am sending might have had some impact on that same moment years ago.  I feel that it helped to make it more manageable and me more understanding and comforting.  Even if it does not it helps me realize that being human and helping someone when they are struggling can only bring good.  I also spend some time there to meditate, and sometimes cry and to forgive myself some of the knee jerk reactions that I have had over the years to other emotionally charged events that I did not handle so well.  It has become a place I go to heal and forgive.

Conclusion

I read a good passage in a book once that explained “magic” in a way that I think is entirely relevant.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the book to give credit however the explanation went something like:

Juggling with two hands is understood quite well.  Consider juggling with one hand and you do not understand this as well so it will be harder.  Consider now, juggling with no hands. This is hard to comprehend and something your mind has no explanation, this is magic.— Unknown

Working in technology I see magic every day in the form of the science and ideas that drive that technology and have to explain some of it to my friends and family.  It has helped me to really appreciate the wonders that are created every day around us are possible to explain if you know the backstory.

It has also made me consider that maybe the things that are shared between us, the closeness, the good teachings from religion, science and spirituality, have a commonality, an explanation.  I do not think it is a stretch to imagine that one day we will have enough information about our world to explain that energy, that magic if we try hard enough to look for that explanation with an open mind.  For me this is spirituality.

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