I lived in the Marina District in San Francisco in my 20’s. I moved there a few years after a massive earthquake devastated it. The earthquake knocked buildings off their foundations, created massive craters in the streets, and caused fires that destroyed 100s of homes. A lot of my friends were scared for me to move there in case there was another earthquake and my building collapsed again. But I assured them that because of the earthquake, my building had been reinforced to withstand even a larger earthquake than it had already been through. The landlord had taken me down to the garage and showed me the steel beams, and the wires that they had added to make sure that the building didn’t fall again. She told me that since the building had crumbled and burnt, which was devastating, they owners had rebuilt it even stronger so that it would not crumble to that extent ever again.
I happily gave her my deposit and moved into my top floor apartment with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge at a discounted rate, because every one else was too scared to live there. But my reasoning was that the building was stronger because of what it had been through, and that it was safe. And I was perfectly safe for the 4 years that I lived there.
When I lived in that apartment I worked on Montgomery street, which used to be the bustling financial district in San Francisco. I worked hard all day, and drank at the bars with my coworkers and friends most nights. I dated a lot, as there was no shortage of young professionals to take me on dates, or just meet for a drink. I was distracted easily, and couldn’t commit to one person for very long. I was in the mix of working hard and playing hard, but with no real direction. But there was always a part of me that was removed from that mix, and observing. That part of me would go to the bookstore on Saturday afternoons and look for answers.
There used to be a bookstore in the Marina District called the Red Rose Gallerie. Their mantra was, ‘Empowering products for the body, mind and spirit’ My girlfriend and I used to spend hours there reading and talking. We both had fun in the city, but we both felt a need to nourish our spiritual side too. During that time, I bought a book called ‘The Breath of God’ by Swami Chetanananda. I found it in my recent move from Portland to Los Angeles, and I am rereading it. It takes me about 15 minutes to read one paragraph because every word is full of meaning, and I am trying to really understand what is being said. Did I understand this when I was 26? Probably not, but I was drawn to it back then, as a part of me knew that the message contained in it was important.
The main message in the book, is that we can set our intention but we can’t control how things happen to us. The author in the book wanted to lead a spiritual life, and he imagined himself in the solitude of the mountains, living a life of peace and serenity. But he actually ended up doing his spiritual work in New York City. He got where he knew he needed to go, but not in the way he thought it was going to happen. I am slowly starting to understand this. I can set my intention based on my inner guide, but then I have to let the universe tell me how to get there. I have to let go, and let it happen. In trying to control every aspect of my journey I have gone down paths that have distracted me, and lead me astray.
Its hard to let go. I mean truly let go; of outcomes, relationships, and the need to control my journey. My insecurities are deep rooted, and when I give up control my insecurities surface like an open wound, and it hurts. But my wounds need fresh air to heal. I need to let them surface so that they can heal on their own, rather than covering them up and letting them fester. It’s hard, but it was meant to be hard, healing is not for the faint of heart.
My apartment in the Marina was rebuilt, and it was stronger for it. If the engineers were in denial that the original building didn’t need work, then they couldn’t have made the improvements that were needed to make it stronger. They would have built the same building and then just prayed that there wasn’t another earthquake. But it would have fallen again, and again. All their energy would have gone into trying to control the environment, something they obviously can’t control. The building would have kept falling until they acknowledged that it wasn’t strong enough to handle its environment. Covering it up only would have delayed the hard work they had to do to make it stronger.
Same with me, covering up all my insecurities and trying to control my environment has only delayed my healing. Accepting my insecurities, and admitting that I am not strong enough as I am, is the first step to getting stronger. And in order to do that, I have to let go. I have to set my intention on what I want and trust that the journey that appears in front of me has obstacles for a reason. The obstacles are my lessons to make me stronger so that I can move forward to where I need to be.
Somewhere in my consciousness in my 20’s, I knew this fact, and that is why I picked up the book that I am rereading now. But I wasn’t ready back then. I was too scared to let go. I am still scared to let go, but I know it is the only way to make me stronger. And I would rather spend my time enjoying my environment, than being scared of it.