Back in 2009 my father had passed away from complications due to kidney disease. I remember it being 3:30am, holding Dad’s hand as he took his last breath. The only other person in the room was a nurse, standing with us, honoring the moment of a father and son’s last moments together.
It was also my birthday that day.
The following few months were a nightmare for my family. As if the shot to our hearts of Dad’s passing weren’t enough, we found that his business, and all the capital that it was founded on, was merely a fragile house of cards made to crumble. And slowly over the next few years, we watched as everything he ever worked hard for disappear. His American Dream of providing a lasting legacy for his descendants died along with him. Some of our so-called family-friends, as well as many of my blood-relatives, ditched us, leaving my newly-widowed mother, myself, my wife, and my toddler to fend for ourselves.
This all happened around the same time I was still going to school for my Masters in Oriental Medicine.
I remember it was a busy afternoon during my clinicals, and I was filling out some charts for my patients. One of my classmates who always loved conversing about space walked up to me. “Did you watch that Stephen Hawking show the other night?” he asked me. I said that I did, and that I loved it. He then asked, “It makes you feel small, doesn’t it?” I looked up at him, puzzled. He repeated himself.
“Astrophysics makes you realize how vast the universe is, right? Makes you feel small?”
I nodded and smiled. I turned away looked back down at my chart. I found myself closing my eyes. I visualized my spirit body separating from my physical body, letting out line, and flying off to space. Further and further from Earth. Looking behind me the further out I got. Into the center of the galaxy. I could no longer see Earth. Into the center of the universe. I could no longer see our sun. I could no longer see any trace of myself. Or my “self.” I could no longer see my problems. They seemed to have dissipated with my anxiety and depression.
I reopened my eyes, and the cord connecting my spirit and physical bodies recoiled violently back together like a steel spring, snapping me back up to consciousness. I was only out for a few seconds, but I felt vastly better and more at peace.
Did my problems disappear into the void? No, they were all still there. But they didn’t feel like “problems” anymore. They felt like… “projects.”
What once felt like a horrendous time for us, the feeling as if life had plummeted and shattered on top of our heads, now felt like opportunity. All with a shift in consciousness, thanks to a very short meditation.
In the grand scheme of the universe, whatever I was going through — the loss of my father, the loss of friends and family, the loss of financial stability — didn’t feel as bad after that fifteen-second visualization. I realized that the difference between a problem and opportunity is perspective. We felt like we lost everything, but the opportunity we had was that we could feel free to rebuild our world from scratch, the way we want it.
I found this brilliant comic a few years after that moment.
“‘I’M SIGNIFICANT!’ screamed the dust speck.”
You can probably look at this comic as an existential nightmare; the feeling that you and your special corner of the universe are not as important as you’d like to believe. I could definitely see how that view may cause feelings of anxiety. The feeling of being so small that you’re insignificant. Or even the feeling that nothing matters anymore. Or that nothing has meaning.
But there’s a much more positive way of looking at it. And it doesn’t come from a place of helplessness, it comes from a place of inspiration. The universe isn’t just a bunch of space with no meaning in it. The universe is meaning. It is the creative force behind all of existence. Nothing can be more beautiful than that.
Constructively, I chose to interpret the comic as an opportunity to take refuge in the boundlessness of the universe, giving me access to its limitless creative energy. This power is mentioned in the great oracle, the Yijing/I-Ching, in the first chapter called “Hexagram #1: Creativity.” According to translator Hellmut Whilhelm, “these [six] unbroken lines stand for the primal power, which is lightgiving, active, strong, and of the spirit. The hexagram is consistently strong in character, and since it is without weakness, its essence is power or energy. Its image is heaven.”
Heaven is the universe. And by its power of creativity, we’re made from it. Heaven created us, and we’re the microcosm of heaven. We are heaven. And thus we can create anything by the power of heaven within us.
Looking deep into my heart and embracing the vastness and the power of the cosmos then made all negativity diffuse, stretching and spreading my anxiety so thin that what was created was the feeling of detachment from my own suffering, the shift in consciousness from which I could once again regain my power and begin the reclamation of my happiness. And that’s where the healing began for me.
It was easier said than done. But I didn’t give up. This all sounds so spiritual. But that’s never enough. Spirituality without hard work is just entertainment. Spirituality may give you inspiration, and it might even give you some strategy and a mindset from where you may begin to reconstruct your life. But there’s no getting around it… at the end of the day, you have to work hard. And to rebuild our lives from scratch, that’s exactly what my wife and I did.
Eventually, with dedication, patience, and faith, my family and I did see great times again. Since that aforementioned shift in consciousness during clinicals ten years ago back in 2010, I graduated school with honors and successfully became a Reserve Navy Corpsman (medical technician). My family and I moved into a beautiful home and my daughter was born. And before the pandemic in America started a few months ago, my acupuncture practice and my wife’s business were enjoying great success. It’s a wonderful place to be.
Even during this Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic, my wife’s business is still thriving as I wait patiently for the right time to reopen my office. I’m not worried at all. We’ve strategically placed ourselves in a position where we would be okay in moments like this. And at the time, I’m grateful that we’re all safe, and I get to spend a lot of time with my kids.
Just the other day, I helped my daughter ride her bike on her own without training wheels for the very first time.
And we’re definitely doing okay.