Synchronicity Story: A Spiritual Experience on Bernal Heights

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
~ Fred Rogers
“When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him, you will see yourself. As you treat him, you will treat yourself. As you think of him, you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose sight of yourself.”
~ A Course in Miracles (ACIM)

Bernal Heights view


Lately, I have been blessed with ever more magical moments and with ever increasing gratitude for this precious and lucky life. Usually these magical moments have happened synchronistically and unexpectedly. And often they’ve involved spiritual experiences with people, creatures or Nature, which I call “holy encounters”.

Just before the recent solstice holidays, I was blessed with a magical visit to a beautiful San Francisco view place which I had never before seen. And there I met a lovely man, Daniel Raskin, who shared with me a haunting story (which follows) of his unforgettable spiritual experience in a remote Utah desert canyon.

Here’s what happened, and the story Daniel told me:

I moved from Chicago to San Francisco in 1960, attracted by San Francisco’s climate, physical beauty and ambiance. Within its boundaries are more than fifty hills, several islands, and significant stretches of Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.

So, while living in San Francisco I have visited and enjoyed almost all of its best known view places. But until recently I never had known about or seen the spectacular view from atop Bernal Heights a hilly neighborhood above San Francisco’s outer Mission and Bay View districts.

Then, just before Christmas, I was invited to attend a beautiful holiday dinner party hosted by Shelley Cook, a very talented and intuitive massage therapist who has been skillfully helping heal and realign my body since it suffered a painful lower back yoga injury.

At the party there were many lovely artistic people, all much younger than me. One of the other guests, Audrey Daniel, a professional photographer/videographer, told me she had lived for many years in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights district, which she regarded as San Francisco’s most charming and typical neighborhood – like a village within the city. Whereupon, realizing that I had never yet visited Bernal Heights during my 50+ years as a San Franciscan, I became curious about seeing what Audrey was describing.

My curiosity was soon satisfied synchronistically by The Lone Arranger, my ‘appointments secretary’.

A few days after the party, at Shelley’s request, I unexpectedly rescheduled my regular afternoon appointment with her to morning, so she could accommodate some people from Santa Cruz who’d just been injured in an auto accident.

Upon finishing our morning massage therapy session, Shelley had extra time before her afternoon appointments. Generously, she offered to show me a nearby Vedanta healing center and shrine which she had long been urging me to visit. So we went to the shrine.

There, as I gazed at an image of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa – a nineteenth century Hindu saint with whom I have long felt special affinity – I experienced a deep Divine mood, and cried copious tears of devotion.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa


Thereafter, when Shelley and I left the shrine, it was lunch time. And instead of returning home to eat, I unexpectedly went with Shelley to a restaurant which she recommended. At first she suggested a nearby Asian restaurant, but then she suddenly intuited that we would probably more enjoy going to a place on Bernal Heights.

So, four days after hearing from Audrey Daniel about the Bernal Heights district, I visited that area for the first time in my life, and there enjoyed a delicious Mexican lunch with Shelley. After we ate and before returning to her studio, Shelley urged me to hike atop Bernal hill to enjoy the magnificent panoramic view of San Francisco, instead of taking my usual daily walk by the Bay.

So, still in spiritual mood from my experience at the Ramakrishna Vedanta shrine, I walked up steep streets to the base of Bernal hill. There I approached the first person I encountered, seeking directions to the hilltop trail.

But instead of a quick encounter about directions, we had an extended dialogue. It was Daniel Raskin, with whom I enjoyed a long spiritual chat and experienced a ‘holy encounter’, before we parted and I beheld the spectacular panoramic view from atop Bernal Hill.

Synchronistically, Daniel identified himself as a photographer living in the Bernal Heights vicinity, like Audrey the photographer responsible for my curiosity about that neighborhood. And when I mentioned Audrey, Daniel said he had participated and appeared in her documentary film The Owls of Bernal Hill.

As we chatted, I told Daniel of my interest in mysterious spiritual synchronicities. Whereupon, he shared with me a wonderful story of an unforgettable spiritual experience. Here is Daniel’s story as he wrote it for a diary in 1998, just after it happened:

A Spiritual Experience
By Daniel Raskin *

July 15, 1998, Cottonwood Point, Arizona
Sierra Club Trip: Locating Petroglyphs

Utah Box Canyon


Today we visited the end of a box canyon where there were complex and intriguing ancient petroglyphs and small ruins. After breakfast we drove a short way to our trailhead and hiked a few miles along a sandy path. The plants were mostly a bluish
aromatic sage; also juniper, cacti, local grasses and, here and there, a late blooming flower. The sky was perfectly clear, deep blue, and the sun fierce. Most of the hike was in full sun; the temperature in the nineties by ten or eleven.

The end of the canyon was a spectacular place, a high semi-circular vertical cliff. It was concave and beautifully banded, brown, light brown, reddish brown and yellow. A broad waterless wash wove through the flat valley floor. There, in the
shade of the canyon, oaks and plants with red berries grew.

As soon as I got into the shade of the canyon walls, I began to breathe rapidly. I did not feel I had over-exerted myself, and did not understand why I was breathless. I began to feel slightly nauseous, faint and dizzy. I also felt very moved by the beauty surrounding me. I began to feel very emotional. My heartbeat was rapid and my breath uncontrollably fast and deep. I began to feel like I had taken LSD.

I sat down. My condition intensified. I began to cry, copious tears. I was simultaneously relieved, frightened and confused. My thoughts and feelings wandered freely. As I continued to cry, I felt over-joyed to be alive. I felt blessed to enjoy the relative security of my middle class existence. I thought about my partner Ann. I thought about her ovarian cancer. It almost killed her, but now she is healthy again and stronger in new ways. I thought about Jesse, my twenty-one year old, and how he is now thriving after a difficult adolescence. I thought about Sam, my sixteen year old. He has survived a risky and chaotic early adolescence, and is stronger and more mature. I felt my love, my powerful love for my family. All this time I was crying and breathing deeply.

I thought about the miracle of being alive, of experiencing existence in the midst of infinite eternity. What explains my chance to experience life? Who or what, ultimately, gave me and all of us this miraculous gift?

As I thought and cried, I slowly began to calm down. My breath slowed. After a while I felt stable enough to get up. I took photographs of the canyon and the beautiful oaks and wild currents growing there. Then I joined the group. They had
dispersed about the headwall to view the great array of petroglyphs. There were animals, human figures, designs and scenes pecked into the rock. The most impressive was a figure of a one-legged person. People with deformities were sometimes holy people in Native American cultures.



After looking at the rock art I investigated the remains of a kiva. A coyote had made a lair in its recesses. I found a small rodent’s jaw. I climbed down to the canyon floor. Datura, a hallucinogenic plant was growing there. I wondered: “am I in a sacred place?” After a while we left the canyon, had lunch, visited more rock art sites and returned to camp. I felt light-headed for several hours.

What happened to me? Did I become delirious from the heat? Was I freaked out by the rigors of this trip, lonely for my family? Maybe. But why did this happen today, rather than on another hot, hard working day?
And, why did this happen in a place with a petroglyph of a one-legged person, a kiva and hallucinogenic plants growing?
I’d like to say I had a vision, if saying that didn’t feel arrogant and presumptuous. Who knows? Fortunately, life is full of mysteries.

After returning home: I shared my experience with Ann. She said that I had had a spiritual experience about the gift of life and the power of love, as she had had when she was sick with cancer.

* Daniel Raskin is a retired San Francisco preschool teacher and photographer.


******

Do you agree (as I do) with Daniel’s partner Ann that he “had a spiritual experience about the gift of life and the power of love”?

And didn’t Daniel’s spontaneously copious tears express more eloquently than any words the heartfelt depths of his joy and gratitude for this blessed life?

Ron’s moral of the story:

Daniel’s deep spiritual experience, shows us that we don’t need religious rituals, beliefs or dogma to experience Divinity; that, beyond religion, our grateful communion with Nature can be an equally powerful spiritual path.

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One Response to Synchronicity Story: A Spiritual Experience on Bernal Heights

  1. sage January 6, 2012 at 5:42 am #

    Beautiful! Thanks Ron!

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