Estoril, Portugal—May, 2019. As I waited for my girlfriend by the pool at the Palácio Estoril Hotel—a place where kings, queens, dukes, duchesses, dignitaries, artists, creators, and writers of all shapes and sizes have been staying since 1930—I had to take several deep breaths so as to not completely lose control of my emotions—which I was on the verge of doing for reasons that were at once incredibly simple and simultaneously complex.
Reason 1. Quantum Strings
As we neared the Palácio Hotel in the late afternoon the previous day, at the exact moment I turned left and my line of sight beheld the royal, palatial structure, the song Raconte-Moi Une Historia by M-83 began playing. It immediately transported me to a very specific moment in Baja, Mexico, within a very sensorial experience, within a very tumultuous and fiery relationship.
But what actually had me on the verge of tears the following morning was the fact that when I hit random on a playlist of more than 200 songs, Wait by M-83 filled my headphones. This was the song I shared with my girlfriend prior to my ex-girlfriend, within a very loving and supportive relationship (I know, it’s sordid and complicated).
While yes I am a writer, and yes I am always searching for the narrative, I found it cosmically mystical that not only were these songs representative of each respective relationship, but I had never before put together the fact that they occurred back to back on the same album—in the same order of the relationships…and I’d never even listened to the album before.
At the heart of the great mystery is an impeccable sense of humor, irony, and perhaps most importantly, design.
As attendants brought cappuccinos, mimosas, and terrycloth bathrobes to guests lounging by the pool, it was as if via these songs, the higher selves of both of these women—the selves that exist outside of time and space—called out to me through time to wish me well on my journey. At the same time, it was as if my own higher self whispered, “Look how far you’ve come.”
In the transcendental moment where my past and present unexpectedly collided, through the firing and wiring of neurological networks that existed in the past, combined with a series of chemical reactions that culminated in the production of oxytocin in the present, my body produced the correlating feeling.
If that feeling had a voice, it may have said, “All there is in this life is the love you make, the love you share, and the love you leave behind. To love is to surrender to the mystery and to know that things are happening for you and not to you. If it were easy all the time, you’d never learn anything. Sometimes life is messy, and sometimes it’s beautiful, and sometimes it’s confusing and painful, but this is the human experience and this is what you signed up for. It’s via your life’s trials and tribulations you learn what it means to be human, the power of resilience, and the transformative power of love. And it’s through this inward journey of awareness—the journey into the heart of self-love—that the alchemy to transform the world occurs.”
To be human is to be complex.
In that moment, an awareness within me shed light on how both relationships were catalysts for my soul’s journey, delivery mechanisms fueled by the accelerants of joy and suffering. The purpose of their design was to bring about growth, awakenings, expansion, and the eventual peaceful surrendering of who I was, the pain I caused, the pain I experienced, and the mistakes I had made as a result of the knowledge I lacked at those times in my life. They were aspects of the Yin and Yang, the totality of which brought me into greater degrees of wholeness and an understanding of myself that I otherwise could never have experienced. If it were not for these spiritual teachers and the lessons garnered from them, I would never have grown into the man I needed to become in order to be traveling around Portugal with the woman who I was currently with.
The songs were what I called in my book, A Curious Year in the Great Vivarium Experiment, quantum strings. Although I’ve evolved the notion since the book’s publication a year prior, the way I see it is that quantum strings are energetic threads spanning through time and space to connect the internal journey of our life. They consist of moments, experiences, interactions, or thoughts at specific times in specific places designed to rouse us out of our unconscious slumber. They do so by calling us into the present moment so we can take an inventory of who and where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re headed. Existing as signposts, serendipities, or synchronicities in our external world, they’re created for the human mind by an intelligence greater than the human mind, and are only accessible through the awareness of—and immersion in—the present moment.
Try as you may to explain your experience of a quantum string to someone (or to relate to another person’s experience of a quantum string), because of their indelible personal nature and the fact that they exist outside of language, time, and space, when trying to communicate your experience of them to another, you can only begin to hint at their relevancy and mystical guiding force in your life. Why? Because their nature combines your past and present so you can reflect, analyze, and plot your future trajectory.
In other words, quantum strings are designed for you and only you.
Reason 2. The Victory of Awareness
On this mid-May morning in Estoril, Portugal, as I peered out through the lens of Tim Shields, a personality housed in a body—the vehicle of which provides the senses that enable me to experience and explore this physical, three-dimensional reality—at the intersection of my senses and the external world, I found myself asking: How is it that I came from such a lack and fearful mentality to now be in Portugal with such a beautiful, smart, funny, successful woman? How is it I am living my dream of traveling the world as a writer and exploring the mystery through the pen? How was it that—unbeknownst to me in the present moment—the following week I would be going on an all-expense paid, itinerary-less, work-related road trip (which would find my counterpart and I driving from the French Atlantic coast, across the Pyrenees, to the Mediterranean Sea) with a virtual stranger to write about the experience?
As far as I could tell, what had delivered me to that moment at the Palácio Hotel’s pool was a combination of two things: 1.) Relentlessly pursuing the dream of my internal world, and 2.) The letting go of the thoughts and habits that were no longer in alignment with the dream.
Beyond walking away from a high-paying corporate job and desperately trying to conform to worlds or places where I didn’t fit in, the most important aspects of the self I needed to surrender were the stunted thoughts and blocked energies that held me back from experiencing my greatest potential. At least in the present moment, I was living within the alignment of what I chose to be my life’s purpose, and in doing so, I had transformed from the person I was a decade prior, a year prior, and even a day prior into my present-perfect consciousness.
What that looked like was me being me and me doing my thing, which was the embodied evolution of the person I had been since the dream was engendered at age 17—an aspiring writer, curious about the world, and engaging myself in the mystery through the written word; trying to learn more deeply what it means to love; trying to heal my wounds so that I may be of better service to others and the world; and surrendering to, and trusting in, wherever this delivery mechanism called life was transporting me. Since my first moment of awareness, the only absolute that existed in my life was that I—whoever or whatever the consciousness of this I was—was at the center of the mystery.
From beneath the protection of a sun umbrella, as I scanned the manicured grounds, the edges of the pristine pool, and the towering facade of the hotel, the final reason why I was fighting back tears was that for the first time in my life, a new voice had risen up in protest to overtake one of the most destructive, unconscious forces in my life. Instead of the voice (which was really a feeling) causing me to think I was an imposter at the hotel (which was nothing more than a programmed thought of lack and unworthiness, completely unfounded in reality), the voice said, “Why not me?”
The victory was in the awareness of the voice that percolated up to ask the question. “Why not me?” was the echo of the fearlessness of youth, a voice that was fueled by passion and the unencumbered connection to a dream in which there was no barriers or static. Over the course of time and life lived, however, wounds and self-doubt inflicted by self-judgement enslaved that voice. It was only in the daily, conscious revolt of meditation (which means to become familiar with, or bring awareness to) that the greater voice of the 17-year-old self who had the gumption to declare “Why not me?” rose up.
As the wind began blowing one page of my notebook over the other—one day at a time, one experience at a time, one page at a time, one word at a time—as the haunting chorus of Wait reverberated through my headphones, I hid my tears behind the tinted lenses of my sunglasses, only to taste the salty release of the lacrimal gland as it reached my lips. For most of my life I had been pushing, forcing, and fighting my way through it. The struggle was not an external one, but the adolescent punk rock-fueled fight against the fear and contraction with which the ego and the limited self sought to domineer the unlimited self.
But from what I now knew and had the tools, strength, armor, and awareness to fight back with was that the battle was against an invisible enemy whose fortress was built by one limited thought and one limited belief at a time. To conquer those self-imposed limitations was how you moved the needle and gained territory in life’s ultimate game of Risk.
To achieve things in life, you can certainly work harder. This definitely helps in some arenas, but to achieve our greatest strides as human beings requires us to surrender what no longer serves us so we can be in closer alignment to our higher self or soul’s purpose. This requires us to become an open channel for the creative energy of life to flow within and all around us. As energy beings, we can either be a conduit or an impediment of this energy, after all—we are nothing more than blooms of consciousness in physical matter.
If one were to dissect our human, physical existence down to its most elemental core, through the process of reduction, all you’d be left with is I AM, which is the further reduction of Descartes’, “I think, therefore I am.” As I said in several previous essays, including On Becoming Conscious (or) The Pylon and the Pier, my own interpretation of I AM is that it is the individual aspect of the universal consciousness waiting to be informed and directed. This is the power of freewill and the evolutionary gift of humanity.
Through my own my subjective experience of life, what I interpret reality to be is nothing more than a freestanding piece of tinfoil or a ball of Play-Doh clay. Our life is the raw materials of unmanifested potential just waiting to be shaped and formed by the courage to dream and the will to match it—the will being the energetic force behind awareness and intention.
This poses an arresting, poignant, and pivotal question: Will you intentionally create something with your ball of clay and impose your force on that sheet of tinfoil? Or will you be drifting through life unintentional, unaware, and asleep? And if you do choose to intentionally create, will it be solely for you, your tribe, and the people who think, act, and look like you? Or will it be for the greater good of humanity?
The evolution of mankind is the evolution of our thoughts.
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