Sometimes the Universe brings opportunities to us to assist in navigating our spiritual journey. Other times it brings us to where we need to be in order to assist others in pursuing their journey. Sometimes, it is both at once – a shared experience. As I look back on the various twists and turns in my life, there have been many instances of both types of such interactions between the Universe and me. One particular track has been a pattern of key travels, and finding myself at the right place at the right moment in the right unique circumstance. The following is a personal example of multiple such special moments.
Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev gathered for a first summit meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on November 19-20, 1985. As an IT manager for Bank of Boston, I was scheduled to meet in Geneva with its European branches. I arrived in Geneva on the 20th, with tight security visible everywhere I went. I had never seen or experienced such images back in America. But the summit was successful, laying the foundation for future dialog and strategic arms reductions. My understanding of a larger world beyond America was beginning to be irrevocably changed.
Jean-Claude Duvalier became the dictator of Haiti – the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere – after his dictator father died in 1971. On February 7, 1986, following growing street demonstrations by the people, Duvalier fled the country. I arrived in Port-au-Prince a few weeks after the overthrow (another bank trip). I saw the extreme poverty of the citizenry, young men with military rifles patrolling the streets, but also the jubilation of people celebrating their new freedom. I felt lucky to share in that moment of national joy.
In 1997, I scheduled a personal genealogy trip through the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic. I arrived London/Heathrow Airport in the evening of August 31. Going to bed early, I woke up around 2am, and turned on the TV. The first reports of Princess Diana’s car wreck and death were just coming in live. Thus would begin a week of all-consuming national mourning over her death that served as the backdrop for my entire trip. On the day of Diana’s state funeral, I was in the far northwestern corner of Scotland, alone in my car, parked on a high bluff overlooking the sea, listening to the service on the radio. I was glad I could be there to “participate” in person. These times and events began a substantive reevaluation of the British monarchy that continues to this day.
Continuing on, I arrived in Belfast on September 9, 1997. Northern Ireland has a long history of violent conflict between the Catholic and Protestant populations. “The Troubles” had claimed many lives over a recent twenty-year period. I visited the Stormont government building where peace talks were being held intermittently. Sitting for hours on the lawn, I silently wished success to all parties involved. My itinerary across Northern Ireland brought me into visible contact with the many signs and structures of this conflict. On October 7, 1997 a renewed effort began to negotiate a multi-party peace accord. The result was the “Good Friday Agreement” on April 10, 1998, that created a new shared governance structure that continues to this day.
As a young teen, I watched a 1930s movie titled “Lost Horizons.” A man crashed in the Himalayas, and made his way to a fictitious hidden civilization called Shangri-La, a land of perfect peace and communal harmony, modeled after the very real land of Tibet. In my 50’s I vowed to see Tibet for myself. I booked a solo trip to go to China (Beijing, Xi’an), and then Tibet in September-October 1999. I hired personal guides for the China portion, and was scheduled to join an international bus tour group upon arrival in Lhasa. Getting off the plane in Beijing, my guide informed me that the city was closed for a week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. The next day they put me on a plane to Xi’an, and then Chengdu, thereby advancing the Tibet portion, doing Beijing at the end. So much for my carefully made itinerary planning.
In my travel journal that I subsequently wrote, I described in detail the daily events of this China/Tibet trip. I was traveling all alone in two countries and cultures uniquely new to my entire life experience – and no one back home knew where I was. I followed a series of local guides, continual coincidences, and Universe-interventions that redesigned all original plans. It simply required me to trust things to work out as the Universe intended for me. By (thankfully) missing the bus tour, instead I was given a driver and a guide to show me around. Being free of the bus crowd, I had the unique opportunity to see and hear Tibet on a 1-1 “people” level. Similarly, the same people contact occurred when I returned for the China leg. I enjoyed celebrating China’s founding anniversary. I saw that same China in the process of destroying an honored Tibetan culture and religion. I followed where I was led.
The weekend of June 30-July 1, 2001, I attended a Buddhist conference in New York City. The event was held at a hotel/conference center situated in the Twin Towers Plaza. I stayed in a hotel room that looked directly into the plaza and into one of the Towers. 2½ months later, on September 11, 2001, terrorists destroyed the entire complex. “9-11” entered our lexicon, representing world-wide terror, to be avenged and defeated. But I had a first reaction that, in America, “9-1-1” represented our emergency call number and a plea for help. We never responded to that possible perspective of “help.” Thus began decades of involvement and war in the Middle East. Was a different opportunity perhaps lost? I don’t know.
The modern version of Lebanon is a country of widely diverse cultural/religious factions, requiring significant efforts to hold it together. But in 1975-1990, civil war broke out. Afterwards, Lebanon began re-governing itself as an independent country, but with neighboring Syria pulling the strings in background. I was scheduled to do consulting work at a Beirut university in February 2005. On February 14, 2005, a former prime minister was assassinated in a car bombing; Syria’s secret service was blamed. The people took to the streets in protest Syria’s involvement; it was a very tense time. My colleagues and I were given the option to postpone our visit; instead, we opted to fly in as scheduled. Thus was I at another significant moment of historical change, working side-by-side with wonderful Lebanese people, while being exposed to yet another distinctly different culture that exists in a significant place and time in world history. Syria left Lebanon in April 2005; I made a number of trips back over the next several years. The country has faced many tough times in the intervening years.
***** In Conclusion …
A one-time event is an experience. Two similar events are a possible coincidence. Three or more similar structural events are a pattern. It is in seeing the recurring patterns that have shaped our lives that makes possible some of our most meaningful spiritual insights. I do not fully know why I found myself at these particular locales at those particular times. But I know they were important to my life path. Important for me to expand my horizons. I know these experiences were brought to me not only by my own doing, but with the assistance of the spiritual Universe. Which required me to step out of “control mode,” and work with the Universe by being a trusting partner and willing follower. Did I bring some tangible effect on others, on my “hosts?” I honestly do not know. We rarely know the domino effects that our actions create for others. Perhaps it was merely to be present. To simply bare witness to a significant moment. My reward was to know these people, locales and cultures on a personal level that remains with me to this day. Maybe that was a mutual gift enough.
Learn from the pattern. The pattern is a window into the Universe. The Universe as Teacher.
© 2022 Randy Bell https://OurSpiritualWay.blogspot.com