Rediscovering the Past

January 21st, 2006 by Steve Pavlina

I’m typing from a PC in the business center of a Bay Area hotel. It’s 2:25am, and my wife is upstairs in our room, sleeping of course. Our hotel has a 24-hour business center with free high speed internet access, which is great for polyphasic sleepers. My wife didn’t seem to like the idea of me blogging from my laptop in the room while she slept.

Our hotel is in Emeryville, which is just across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco. I used to live in an apartment here from 1990-91, just a short walk from the docks. Yesterday we visited my old apartment complex and found that it had been turned into condos. My tiny studio apartment where I paid $600/month in rent is now worth about $300,000. That’s almost as much as our 4-bedroom house in Vegas.

This is technically a vacation trip, but it’s also a re-exploration of my past. Emeryville is where my interest in personal development began, and this is the first time I’ve been back since then. In 1990, I wasn’t remotely interested in anything related to self-help. Such concepts were alien to me. I used to play poker a lot with friends when I lived here, and at the end of a year, I’d be no better at the game than at the beginning of the year. I just figured I was as good as I was. I had no sense that I could improve my skills, my personality, or my character if I wanted to. The idea never occurred to me. My concept of personal growth was limited to what I might learn in school — I could acquire knowledge, but I couldn’t change the person I’d become.

But after getting myself into serious trouble, that limiting mindset created so much pain for me that I had little choice but to dump it. I found myself in a situation where not growing became intolerable. I was going downhill fast, and if I didn’t change who I was, it was going to ruin me. I’d probably be in jail right now if I didn’t drop this limiting belief. Pain was the initial impetus to get me working on myself (especially my character), but once I starting seeing results, it was the enjoyment/pleasure that kept me in motion. And today it’s simply who I am — growth is an integral part of my spirit.

We visited Berkeley yesterday and will be spending most of the day there today. It was quite a trip down memory lane as I walked up Telegraph Avenue. I remarked at how much — and also how little — had changed. Blondie’s pizza still looks the same as it did 15 years ago. I ate there often when I lived in Berkeley (I lived there for a year before moving to Emeryville).

As I visited some of my old haunts, I regaled my wife with stories. We didn’t meet until 1994, and this is the first time she’s been to these cities. She remarked at just how different I must have been (except that she used a more colorful word than “different”). I was pretty wild back then. Virtually every day I’d commit some kind of criminal act… usually shoplifting. I had no sense of integrity or conscience whatsoever.

I attended UC Berkeley right after high school, but it wasn’t long before I got expelled. They do that when you don’t show up to class and your GPA begins with the decimal point. I just wasn’t interested in school while I was here, so I didn’t even try. I had some very different life lessons to learn here which had nothing to do with academics. My main academic recollection was lurking by the printer in the computer science lab (aka the WEB, which stood for Workstations Evans Basement) and snatching printouts before someone showed up to claim them. When I found the right completed assignment, I’d write my name on top and turn it in as my own. That was my concept of time management back then. With 500 students in a class, I never got caught. I really hated Lisp.

As my wife and I walked through a student clothing store, I pointed out to her that the school’s mascot was a bear (the Cal Bears). She turned to me and said, “Hahaha! You got kicked out of bear school!” We both had a big laugh over that one.

Despite all the trouble I got myself into, what I feel most is a deep sense of gratitude, as I mentioned on podcast #1. If not for that reckless teenager I was, I wouldn’t be where I am today. If I stuck to the path that was in front of me at the time, I would have graduated from UC Berkeley and probably would have gone on to get a Ph.D. I would have been a straight-A student as I was in high school, and today I might be working as a programmer… or a college professor like both of my parents. Perhaps in some parallel universe, there’s an alternate me who’s living such a life right now… teaching Lisp to other students who are learning to hate parentheses.

If I’d gone that route, something wonderful would have been lost. I would not be connected to that great spirit within me. In Berkeley and Emeryville, I broke all my previous patterns. I forced myself to start fresh as an adult, thinking for myself instead of playing follow the follower. I disappointed everyone who anticipated strong academic achievements from me, including myself. But through this confusing, often painful process, I discovered the core of the man I was destined to become.

I feel a great sense of destiny here. It’s as if all those experiences were supposed to happen. They led to an expansion of my consciousness and began waking me up to new levels of existence. Getting a standard education followed by a decent job just wasn’t my part of my path.

I think each of us has a great spirit within us, and it’s through our emotions that we get in touch with it. Sometimes our spirits are so buried beneath layers of fear that it’s only through our deepest, darkest, most visceral emotions that we can reconnect with it. This path begins with the feeling, perhaps just a suspicion, that something in our lives doesn’t feel quite right, even though our logical minds say we’re doing just fine.

My spirit wanted to rebel against rules and rigidity because its natural state of being is to be free and fearless. So whatever I was afraid of, my spirit compelled me to experience. Whenever I felt trapped in a rigid system, my spirit bid me to either get out or to break the system. The more I tried to deny or control these parts of myself, the more conflict and pain I experienced. But now that I consciously work in cooperation with them, I’ve never been happier or more fulfilled. I can never go back to living in a shell of fear.

Helping others awaken to the great spirits within them is part of my purpose. Many times when I meet people, I can feel the presence of their spirit. It’s almost like it comes through on a different channel than their spoken words. Although everyone’s spirit is unique, they all share similar qualities. Perhaps the most common quality is fearlessness. No matter how beaten down and fearful someone appears to be on the outside, I can sense a stronger being within them that yearns to be unafraid.

The more I live in congruence with my own spirit, the more easily I’m able to connect others with their spirits. I do this by treating people AS their spirits instead of as their third-dimensional selves. I try to bypass the social conditioning that compels us to speak without really communicating. Whenever I arouse emotion in people, I know I’m getting through to their spirits.

As I grow more connected to my own spirit, I’m noticing that people are becoming more emotional around me. It’s as if I resonate an energy that stirs people to feel something. Initially this feeling seems to take the form of restlessness. I make people feel they need to go do something, although it probably isn’t clear what that something is. I’m not saying this out of ego or vanity — it’s just something I’ve been witnessing over the past year. I think this is true for everyone though. When we align our third-dimensional minds and bodies with the great spirits inside us, we help others do the same. And this process of awakening can involve a great deal of emotional release.

This is what I want to spend my human existence doing. I find nothing so inherently rewarding as waking people up to the great spirits inside them. No amount of earthly success even comes close to the joy of helping someone awaken and seeing a part of my own spirit staring back at me through their eyes.



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