Have you ever considered the extraordinary power of changing or discarding a routine or habit of yours? When we perceive something we have been doing repeatedly in the past, envision a new or different way of doing it, and then willfully carry it out, life tends to suddenly cooperate with our efforts, producing results that can border on the miraculous.
One day not too long ago, I decided to break one such routine. On this occasion, I decided not to walk through a large hilly park that overlooks San Francisco bay, which would have deposited me in the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf area. Instead of climbing through that elevated park with its lovely view of the Golden Gate, I decided to explore the three long piers known collectively as the Fort Mason Center. These edifices, left over from Civil War days, are now divided into dozens of sections -- including headquarters for renowned dancing and theater troupes, offices for environmental and global movements, various California cuisine restaurants, and other interesting and unusual facilities. It has become a kind of mecca for the cutting edge, and the sometimes far out.
The first place I stopped at Fort Mason Center was a store that was dedicated to presenting the concept of time -- in particular, to showcasing a number of magnificent, unusually large timepieces. For example, prominently displayed was a 10-foot computerized clock that was created to be accurate for up 10,000 years. It, like others on display, consisted of an astonishing array of gears and other moving parts.
At the time, I was the only one in the center, aside from the host. As I walked around the facility, I could hear soft, ethereal-like music playing in the background, which added to the already mystical atmosphere of the museum. Other than presenting these marvelous futuristic devices, the intent of the facility (longnow.org) was to capture the feeling of time itself -- or perhaps the timelessness of time. In fact, throughout the facility were posted a number of elaborate statements describing the nature of time -- including how we interact with it, what it really is, and others. There were also a number of books prominently displayed for sale on the subject. The entire experience was not only fascinating and thought provoking, but haunting and serene.
When I left the center, the guide asked me if I had any questions. However, finding myself in trancelike state, I could barely answer. As I exited the facility, I felt myself moving from the timeless like quality of that place back into time – i.e. into ordinary life. I then looked around to get my bearings, and continued on my walk. Not a minute later, I came upon San Francisco’s most famous and venerable New Age restaurant, Greens. Now over 25 years old, it is recognized as the home of the vegetarian movement in America, and one of the pioneer restaurants in the use of locally grown produce in the preparation of its meals. This very large restaurant has a spectacular view of the Golden Gate and environs, and is one of the main gathering places for the intelligentsia of San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
When I walked into the facility to see how things had changed, I saw that it pretty much looked the same; except it was a bit more modern, and the people were younger. As I contemplated entering the enormous main dining area, a man standing a few steps above me suddenly interrupted and called down in my direction. “Excuse me sir,” he said to me, “do you have the time?”
Indeed, I was bowled over by the question, when you consider considering where I had just been! I then quickly responded that it was 2pm. Then I looked at my watch once more and called out that it was actually five minutes to 2. (I guess I felt compelled to be accurate since I had just been in a place dedicated to the specificity of time!) Shaking my head and smiling at this extraordinary little response from life, I then headed out of the restaurant. As I looked around, I could still feel that sense of timelessness and peace enveloping me.
Now in the bright light of the day, I noticed that I could walk completely around the 300-meter pier, which would in effect deposit me at the bay’s edge. And so I did just that, discovering one of the most spectacular views I had ever seen in this city of many such views. Also, I noticed that the weather was somewhat unusual, as it was overcast directly above me, yet the entire bay – with its shimmering hills and mountains in the distance -- was crystal-like, bathed in brilliant sunshine. The contrast was at once breathtaking and surreal, which was for me yet another response on this startling little ‘road not taken’ adventure. As I stood there all alone at the end of the pier with its magnificent view, I felt the wonder and magic of life compressed into a single moment.
After that stirring, almost cosmic-like experience, I headed back inland to explore the other two piers. In fact, I was really looking for a special place that I believed was located somewhere in the third. A moment later, I then came upon the bookstore that I was looking for: one that I had visited once before nearly a decade earlier.
When I looked around the large facility, it looked at once familiar, yet somehow different. As I am want to do, I then immediately headed over to peruse the books on spirituality and religion. This time however, after rummaging though the shelves, I found nothing that caught my fancy. Slightly disappointed, and without much energy to peruse the plethora of other bookshelves, I decided to leave the facility. However, just before I exited the front door, I noticed a section of books prominently displayed that were marked down to half price. Immediately, I found an interesting book that I thought a friend of mine would enjoy. Then something very special happened. I found a book on the subject of how to write spiritual books, and, in particular, how to submit them to literary agents. In fact, the book contained a listing of a number of agents -- with explicit, detailed information about each. I found this utterly astounding because in the last several weeks I had been constantly thinking about how to find an agent and publishing house for my new book! Now in one fell swoop, all my prayers were answered! In fact, as I walked out of the store, it occurred to me that this book could turn out to be the most important discovery of my life!
Like shifting away from a negative attitude, changing or overcoming a habit tends to attract instances of sudden good fortune. When I decided to get out of my dull walking routine and try something different, I was set on a journey that unfolded like a dream -- with unexpected occurrences, mystical like experiences, and infinite-like results.
Likewise, each of us can identify one or more dead or dull routines in our own lives, and experience that same sort of magic. If we come upon a habit or ritual that has no life behind it, and then try to do it differently, life will suddenly open up before us. What was once limited and finite will suddenly blossom. What was dull and unexciting will instantly energize. In that way, our fixed, dull habits and routines will begin to give way, attracting not only startling positive life response results, but in that process bring us moments of great happiness and joy.
That is precisely what happened to me on that mystical-like, sun-dappled afternoon at the shoreline of Fort Mason!
--Roy Posner 19:35, 20 August 2008 (UTC)
See also other Case Studies on Life Response