When I was 23, I was struggling with religion. I had been raised in a Christian environment, but a lot about it didn’t make sense to me. In an effort to get some answers I drove to the top of a mountain in the Phoenix area and decided it was there I would attempt a conversation with God.
On many occasions before that, I had attempted to do so, but never felt like I was hearing a response. I constantly heard people tell me that God had told them something or other. “The Lord spoke to me and told me I need to . . . “ was a common opener from those at my church. I was unsure if they were just making stuff up or God was just ignoring me. I had heard no voices. No messages came to me whatsoever.
I’m not really sure why, but I felt compelled to drive to the top of that mountain. I had in my head that some kind of an answer to my questions sat up there. When I got to the top, I parked, walked over to the edge, sat, and looked out over the cityscape. It was the middle of the day.
After a few minutes of sitting I remember suddenly feeling the magnanimity of the view. It was hard to take it all in and I felt like I had to open my eyes wider to fully appreciate what I was seeing. Then, in my head, I felt like I heard the message, “Open your eyes.”
I wasn’t sure if this was coming from me as I was trying to open my eyes wider to take in the scenery or if this was some message from the divine. I eventually drove back home and pondered what had happened for days. The mandate seemed so clear to me: “Open your eyes.” But was I just putting significance on something I was already doing? I had gone up to the mountain looking for an answer. Maybe I was just really determined to find something and so I had found it in a meaningless reaction from my eyes.
The question plagued me. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that if this was a message from God, my focus on religion and Christianity was too narrow and I needed to start looking for answers about my life beyond just Christianity. In contrast, if this wasn’t a message from God, then why would God leave me thinking this? And if that was the case, my beliefs about God were wrong and I needed to start looking elsewhere for my answers. Either way, I was stepping away from my beliefs.
Over time, I became less and less interested in religion. The event on the mountain became a distant memory that I ceased to think about. I drifted increasingly to what seemed logical and tangible. Religion or even spirituality seemed silly to me.
A decade and a half later I was miserable. Life seemed pointless. Things came to a head and I got suicidal. A lot of things pulled me out of it. The first step was a focus on my mindset.
That lead me to read about the science related to mindset and emotion, which in turn brought me to meditation. I read several journal articles showing the wide range of benefits that had been scientifically proven to derive from various types of meditation. So, I started doing it myself.
Meanwhile, many of the things I was reading from successful people touched on spiritual concepts. Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill, for example, talked about Infinite Intelligence and the mystical powers of thinking about things you want and having them come to you. The Master Key System, by Charles Haanel, talked about the law of attraction and similar concepts as those described by Napoleon Hill. A lot of books were telling me similar things. At the same time, I kept meeting or hearing from incredibly successful people that lived by these principles and fervently believed in them.
Conceptually, it made sense that if you believe you can have something while you start focusing on attaining what you want and have actions consistent with those beliefs, that you’re way more likely to get what you’re after. So, I mostly dismissed the ideas as just making rational sense. But, a little nagging thought in the back of my head kept popping up. Are these things for real?
I continued with the meditation exercises. I read about people that just did basic mindfulness exercises with meditation or used meditation to simply calm themselves. My focus on meditation was mostly that.
There were others I spoke with that claimed to have amazing almost hallucinatory experiences while meditating. They talked about connecting to spiritual realms and gaining all sorts of insights from these experiences. I didn’t think too much of those claims.
This morning I woke up at 4 a.m. I got up and just had the compulsion to hike. I walked out of the house and climbed a small mountain nearby. It was still dark and I had to use a flashlight so that I could see where I was walking.
I got to the top before sunrise. No one else was there. There was a light breeze and I could hear an occasional bird chirp around me. Some ground squirrels were talking to each other.
I’d been doing mindfulness meditation at home, but today I decided I was going to do it on top of this mountain. I sat down on a rock, set the timer on my phone to go off in twenty minutes, and then closed my eyes—all consistent with my normal meditation routine.
A few minutes into the exercise, the message hit me again: “Open your eyes.” I hadn’t thought about the incident on the other mountain in almost two decades. But suddenly I could actually see myself on that other mountain and I remembered the message I had gotten before. Open your eyes.
So, I did. I physically opened them and looked out across the cityscape. I had the exact same feeling I’d experienced before. It seemed so magnificent that I had to open my eyes more to take in what I was seeing. As I did so, I felt tension release from the areas around my eyes. It felt really peaceful.
I sat there for the next 20 minutes or so with my eyes open. I couldn’t shake the thought of the message, “open your eyes.” The whole thing felt completely surreal, almost as though I was in some dream.
I eventually snapped a couple pics of the view and climbed my way back down the mountain. For the remainder of the day my thoughts returned to the message. Was I just imputing significance on something that wasn’t real…again? Why did this all happen seemingly out of the blue? Was there some connection to the event that happened on the mountain before?
As I’m writing this, it’s the end of the day. The experience I had this morning seems almost unreal to me now, but I still find myself searching for answers about it. Even crazier, I’m writing this on my computer in the living room. Someone turned on the television and guess what I heard right after the t.v. came on: A character just now said, “open your eyes.” It’s becoming hard for me to think there isn’t some message from the universe being pounded into me.
Ultimately, I don’t know if this was some kind of mystical or divine experience or just my imagination. Regardless, the message has value. Open your eyes.
It’s so easy to get locked into thinking the world is a certain way. We have beliefs about the nature of the universe, about the things that should or shouldn’t be. We have political views or religious views or views about how certain people are. But we can be wrong. Sometimes the way we view things impacts how the world interacts with us—even confirming the beliefs we already had. But we won’t be able to see any of that that unless we open our eyes to other possibilities about the world.
I may have been wrong about how the universe works. I may be now. I’m sure I’m wrong about other things. I’m going to allow this to serve as a reminder that I need to keep opening my eyes to other ways of seeing things. I have no doubt that life will be happier when I do.
The time we have in this life is fleeting. Death waits around the corner, ready to snag all of us before we know it. With such finite lives we can’t possibly know or learn everything there is about the universe. Even more importantly, it makes little sense to spend our brief existences worked up about how right we are about something when we might not be.
I challenge you to look at your own life. What things do you believe in? Imagine just for a moment that you are wrong. What would be the implications? Are you sure you’re right? Question those beliefs. Your life just might be better as a result.