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Plant Medicine by the Fire (Dr. Tom Garcia) Transcript

Consciousness Explored – Episode 2

Plant Medicine by the Fire (Dr. Tom Garcia) Transcript

Dr. Tom Garcia: And with plant medicine, I’ve been really circumspect about talking about it openly. And I’m coming out of the closet about it because it’s on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the therapeutic arena, but also for people who are healthy, well, and fully functioning, looking for ways to literally expand consciousness.

Melissa: Hello and welcome to Consciousness Explored, where we delve into the mysteries of the human experience and the nature of consciousness. I’m your host, Melissa Deal, and I look forward to continuing our journey today. Each episode of Consciousness Explored features engaging and thought provoking conversations with leading experts in psychology, neuroscience, spirituality, and philosophy.
We’ll be diving deep into topics like the relationship between the brain and consciousness, ways to expand consciousness, and the impact that our understanding of consciousness has on the quality of our daily lives. Joining me for today’s show is Dr. Tom Garcia. Through writing, teaching, and sacred ceremonies, Tom shares a perspective found in ancient spiritual traditions, indigenous practices, quantum physics, and matters of the heart.

His work is informed by more than 25 years in chiropractic and healing arts, which provide a foundation for understanding and adjusting the expression of energy in the body. He also has a deep experience with plant medicines, which I’m particularly eager to discuss today.

Dr. Tom Garcia: So I’m Native American by birth. It’s part of my heritage, but I really didn’t have any connection to my Native American heritage for 50 years. It came from my father’s side of the family, Tongva, in Southern California, and Mayan. But my dad really didn’t talk about it. I just knew that he was Indian, and so that meant I was Indian.

Where I lived, there was a lot of dysfunction, a lot of divorced families, single mothers, drugs, alcohol, delinquent kids. My mom and dad divorcing, and the loss of that supportive environment and really struggling; struggling in poverty, struggling with self-doubt and scarcity and lack, all the things I think that so many of us struggle with, I had it at spades.

My dad was always in my life, but he would weave in and weave out. And at various times, he would have found religion of one sort or another, and he would tell us everything’s going to be okay because of his religious affiliation, whatever it was. And I remember when I was like 13 or 14, I’m like, “Bullshit, I don’t believe that.”

Melissa: After participating in a number of religious belief systems, including Catholicism, religion broke down completely for Tom in his teen years. He couldn’t get on board with any of it, but he still felt as though he was on a search for something. He just didn’t know what it was. He joined the Navy in hopes of becoming a Navy SEAL, but after a few years, that didn’t feel right either.

Eventually, Tom went into the chiropractic profession, which he found more fulfilling. He married, raised a family, and practiced health care for 30 years. Still, something was missing that he couldn’t quite define. Little did he know that life was about to usher in a series of events that would result in a decade-long journey into discovering what he’d been searching for all along.

Dr. Tom Garcia: Fifteen years ago, a really close friend of mine passed away. My wife and I brought him into our home and we took care of him for the last 18 months of his life. And his passing, having a close up window on his decline and his eventual demise, his exit from life and struggle that he had, and I was with him really close up for the whole journey, that catalyzed something in me.
It was something completely unexpected. I didn’t see it coming. And it was something of a breakdown for me about everything that I held to be true or to be so, it was like turned upside down about life, about death, about who I am, my path, my work, what I’m supposed to be doing. And it really, it set me to the woods.

I just started going to the woods early in the morning before sunrise; in the evening at sunset. And I would often stay out all night. And I’d make a fire, and I would build an altar, open my journal, and listen. And that’s where I learned how to listen. And in the listening, how I describe it is a voice came to me. It was my voice. It belonged to me. It was a voice that spoke to me even when I was; even when I was a teenager.

It’s funny; I may have an emotion come up. Even when I was a teenager, and I didn’t recognize it for what it was, but I knew it was something. That was leading me out of a dark time in my life, and it’s the same voice that guides me today. It speaks to me. When I say it speaks to me, it comes from my journal. It comes as a feeling, as a sense of things, as an awareness, it comes in images. So it’s not just an auditory voice, like from on high; it’s part of me.

I was asking questions and there were three primary questions. And how I described them is that they lived at the fire. Who am I, why am I here and who sent me? I want to know. Like I’m not going home until I start getting some answers. I’m not going anywhere. And so I kept going back, and back, and back, month after month, year after year, asking those questions and other questions.

It wasn’t until I started engaging with the plant medicine that something really kind of broke through. That’s what it felt like. It felt like a breakthrough. Something came through me that I couldn’t have stopped if I tried. And it came through in a beautiful fire ceremony. The elements of which came to me piecemeal, and it looks very native, but I don’t attribute it to any tribal affiliation of any sort.

So when I talk about what I do, or when anybody observes or participates, I say this is self-generated. It’s not traditional. I didn’t appropriate it. Although many of the elements look similar, what I want to say about that is when we get close to nature, and the plant medicine is part of nature, and it’s an intelligence, and it actually induces us or it has induced me and others that I work with to get closer to nature, to spend more time in nature, to be connected to what is most natural, what becomes available is what has always been there.

And what I do now is devote my life and my work to working with people one on one and in small groups using plant medicine and guiding before, during, and after the experience to facilitate their awakening, essentially, and helping them to rediscover or remember who they are at the deepest level. And when I engage with people of faith, I respect their faith. I don’t push against it like I used to.
I don’t make it wrong. I don’t find fault with it. I simply understand this is their way of connecting with the ineffable, the unnameable, and I appreciate it. And I found a lot of value in the beauty that people bring to me of their own faith.

Melissa: We’re back in our virtual studio with Dr. Tom Garcia. Tom, thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s so similar to my own journey in some really powerful ways, and I just really appreciate you sharing it. I want to go ahead now and get into our discussion of consciousness. So could you tell us how you describe or define consciousness and what it means to you?

Dr. Tom Garcia: So consciousness to me is awareness and our collective consciousness is strongly influenced by the paradigms of thought, of our Western culture, of religion, of social constructs. And so we’re inevitably influenced by all of those influences on our own. And my work over these last many years has been to really examine my own consciousness and with others, help them to examine their own to see where do your beliefs come from.

And what fuels, for example, the ego, the ego mind, and its constructs of reality such that it turns the world upside down. And we’re, in many ways, induced or influenced to believe some things that are true and to really take a look at those. And they’re deep and many layered, and we start looking at all the different things we believe about ourselves, and the way things are, and how things got to be the way they are, and also recognizing in that what we focus on and give our attention to and feed, expands and grows. You know, law of attraction at work, right?

And we can look at some of the extremes of what I would say fails us when we look at the media, news, a lot of stuff on social, the narratives, the stories that are propagated through our government and through other influential bodies, Big Pharma, big business and such like that that are hoisting upon our consciousness, a belief or a way of seeing the world that would guide our lives. So my work has been about breaking that down, busting the system, if you will.

Melissa: So would you say that it’s each individual’s responsibility to really take ownership of their awareness, their beliefs? Because if you haven’t actively and consciously determined your beliefs, then by default, you are simply accepting someone else’s. So either you’re programming or being programmed. Do you agree?

Dr. Tom Garcia: That’s a great way to put it. Because if we’re not programming ourselves, the outer world will happily program it for us in telling us what to do, where to go, what to believe, what to buy, and to essentially say, “I’m not buying that. I’m not buying it.”

I have people around me that are very much into the news and the politics, like not just me, but many of us. I have people in our worlds who are watching, like how do you know what’s going on in the world if you don’t watch the news? Well, you’re only watching what the media tells you, essentially what they want you to know.

And so, yes, it is incumbent upon us. It is our 100% full responsibility to look deeply and to undertake the discipline and the devotion of training our own minds, which also entails simultaneously untraining our minds from what was already been trained into us, what we were born into that we didn’t have a say. We didn’t have a say. We were just born into it. And so it takes decades. It truly does.
Melissa: And dedication.

Dr. Tom Garcia: Yeah. They always feel a little bit like, you know, I start to proselytize or evangelize about that, but it’s necessary to express a certain amount of energy to the fact that we have been programmed. We have been conditioned. We have been domesticated to such an extent, we don’t even know. And that’s essentially the work that I do with people is help them to look deeply at what they believe about themselves, about life, and about the world.

I’ll give you a great example. I was working with someone who just had this enormous sadness come up and did not know where it was coming from and he wanted to run. And we’re in the woods. It’s at night. And he wanted to run. And he just started walking. I’m like, “Hey, don’t go out of sight of the fire.” And he just kept going.

And I’d set my timer and noted how long he was gone. And then I went looking for him. And I found him. He wasn’t far away. And I brought him back and essentially saying, “Look, you’ve been running from this. There’s nowhere to go anymore. And I’m not taking anything away from you. Feel your sadness. Feel it.”
And then I just started asking questions. What’s under the sadness? Anger. What’s under the anger? Confusion. But what’s under that? More sadness. And so what I’m getting to is that then, to say, let’s take a step back so he wasn’t in it, but he could start to look at it.

And so much came to light with a series of just questions that came to me organically. Often people will say, how do you know what questions to ask? And I’m like, well, they’re your questions. You’ve given them to me in my listening to ask you because you couldn’t ask yourself. So I’m asking you. And we come upon some interesting places. And one of the places was, I don’t know what to do. Do they need help? This is a very good place to be. Now, we can ask for help.

Melissa: Yeah, I think that’s a really powerful example, too, because I notice in working with myself and other people, in asking questions, whether it’s anger or fear or whatever it is, at the base of it is always some false belief about powerlessness. And we feel powerless that comes off as defensiveness or anger or fear or sadness, but it’s that I say lie of powerlessness because I don’t think any of us are powerless, but it’s that kind of false belief of powerlessness. And when you can dig into that and know what do you feel powerless about, what is it you don’t know, that you think you don’t know because I think we do have all the answers inside us.

Dr. Tom Garcia: So that’s the ego. When I say about ego, it’s your ego or mine. It’s the ego. The ego is angry. It’s upset. It’s afraid. And then it doesn’t know what to do. But there’s something in us that does. And it’s not separate from us. It’s not God out there. It’s within us. It’s all around us. It permeates everything.

And another part of this conversation, I asked, I said, “Would you agree, there is something that’s bigger than all of us?” And he said, “Yes.” “Would you agree that it’s vastly more intelligent than anything we could conceive?” He’s like, “Yes.” “Okay. What do you call that?” “I don’t know.” But that’s okay to not know.

So I’ll tell you subsequently, we had a call and he had like 50 names of what he called it. And he narrowed it down to 10 really good names. And he’s still working to bring it down to one name that feels right, that he can say that’s what I call for me. That’s the nature of the relationship. It is intimate. It is so deeply intimate. It’s more intimate than any relationship we could ever have with another human being. It’s our relationship with our creator by whatever name we give it.

Melissa: Do you feel like the difficulty with that for so many people is years of programming, years of believing that whatever that is, is outside of us? And so, as far as what’s inside of us, our physical mind, our ego, we put far too much weight on that to do things it’s not made to do, it’s not able to do, and don’t realize that that thing we think is outside of us is actually just another part of us. Does that make sense?

Dr. Tom Garcia: Yes. Yeah. And that’s the great lie, if you will; the great deception. That is the nature of the separation that it’s outside of us, that we are separate from it. We were born into it. Even if you’re born into a family where there’s no religion, it doesn’t matter. You’re still born into a conversation, an ongoing, already existing conversation about the nature of reality, the nature of God.
And there’s all these religions that have different ways of describing that. You just have to wonder and you have to ask those questions and be willing. And if your faith can withstand the scrutiny and the inquiry that you come to it with, and it still stands for you, then good on you. But if it’s the kind of faith that says, “Oh, you don’t question that because it’s over here or they sat over there,” then, yeah, therein lies the problem.

Melissa: Yeah, I completely agree. Okay, so let’s jump into plant medicine. I want to talk about that because I think that’s a really important modality, a really significant and becoming more mainstream modality of expanding consciousness for people who don’t have maybe a deep religious connection that isn’t full of beliefs that aren’t serving them or for people who don’t meditate or just an opening to broader awareness.

I think it’s super important. And I want to hear about your experience with that when you started with it, how you use that today in your practice and with your clients, and just how you feel about it, in general.

Dr. Tom Garcia: Yeah, so this is a great topic. And everything we talked about before is all connected in some way to this. It’s like all hangs together like a group of grapes. Everything’s connected. And with plant medicine, I’ve been really circumspect about talking about it openly and I’m coming out of the closet about it because it’s on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the therapeutic arena, but also for people who are healthy, well, and fully functioning, looking for ways to literally expand consciousness.

So in my initial work with it, it was deeply, deeply personal, and I could hardly talk about it. I only talked about it with my wife and very few close friends and had no one to turn to in terms of what I was experiencing because I was having these massive openings and incredible clarity about things and being shown things and seeing things that shed light on this reality that we inhabit.

So I call what I have a parallel universe, a parallel reality. And my inner guidance is just remember which reality you’re in. So when I’m in this reality interacting like this, it’s one thing. When I’m in that reality, there’s a different– there’s an expanded awareness in play. And we can go to deeper places.

So, it’s happening at the legislative level, in the therapeutic models, in psychiatry, psychology, counseling, therapy, all of that. And we’re finding that from research that was done in the 50s and 60s, as well as now currently in the last decade, that plant medicine, mushroom, psilocybin, ayahuasca are having enormous benefits and good results not only with people that are suffering from diagnosable mental illness and challenges, whether it’s anxiety, PTSD, or OCD, any number of things like that, but also for people who are on a spiritual path that are looking to expand their understanding of reality, of this reality.

And the way I use it today, and I can say this from one of my clients, he said, “For me, it’s just a reset.” Here’s a guy, you know, he’s corporate, he’s well educated, really smart and also sees that there is an emotional, energetic reset that happens with plant medicine. And that’d probably be the single, probably be the simplest way to describe what happens. It’s a reset.

It’s hard to put into words because even for them, when they describe how it’s helped them, they have a hard time describing what it’s done. It removes barriers, blocks. There’s openings that weren’t there before; a move toward authenticity and a deeper appreciation for who they are at their core and to be able to live from that place.

Melissa: Did you find a difference in your experience from your experimentation when you were a teenager and with different intentions and different questions as an adult?

Dr. Tom Garcia: Oh yeah. I do recall. This is going back 50 years when I first started experimenting. Even then, I knew there were openings happening. Like I was a guy who went home after the party and would stay up until the wee hours listening to music and journaling. That was not common in my circle of friends. No one journaled. I was like a weirdo. And I didn’t want to talk about it, really, but that’s where my voice came through even then.

But today, I’ll use plant medicine in a ceremonial way. So there’s lots of intention, not like drafting a list of intentions for how the journey is going to go, but setting an intention, creating a mindset that entered into a setting, a ceremonial setting that is distinct from everyday life. It’s distinct from ordinary reality, even before we start with the plant medicine.

So, that said, when we use plant medicine in a ceremonial way, it makes available something that’s not available ordinarily. Even I would venture to guess in the therapeutic settings when you’re in a room on a bed with a blanket and iPads and earphones, we are not like that when I work. We are outside on the earth at the fire. They’re laying on the ground or they’re kneeling or they’re with me around the fire having their experience.

Melissa: I’m glad you brought that up because I wanted to ask you what you thought about synthetics. On the one hand, it’s fantastic that there’s a synthetic psilocybin that can reach more people in places where it’s more available or legal, you know, since it’s FDA-approved; ketamine, for example. I’d like to know how you feel about the difference there in synthetics and actual plants.

Dr. Tom Garcia: I believe that the natural organic plan is always a better choice, but I think you can make great inroads, great progress, have a great experience with the synthetics as well. So it’s not to dismiss them out of hand at any way like that.

And also the setting, I think the therapists and those who create the environment for people to be in that are receiving the synthetic psychedelic do so with really great intention, with care and sensitivity for the environment so that they have a meaningful and powerful experience. And research shows again and again, that’s what happens for people.

I’ll tell you this little part of my story is that for those first 10 years that I was working alone, I did not read about psychedelics, I didn’t read about ceremony, I didn’t want to hear from anyone about how they did it, or the right way to do ceremony, or how the tribes locally did ceremony. I’ve shut it all out because I wanted my own uncontaminated experience without interference of spirit coming through me and the voice that was coming to me. I wanted to listen for that without any outside influence whatsoever.

And then, five years ago, when I started coming out of the woods and engaging others, I discovered, oh my God, there’s been a decade of organizations and research. And Michael Pollan came out with this book, How to Change Your Mind, five years ago. And I got it when it came out. And it’s a wonderful historical perspective, scientific, and also as direct experience. And now I have stacks of books on psychedelics and psychotherapy and finding that they’re all overlapping. They’re all referencing one another. They’re all drawing upon some of the same resources. But also, there’s the inevitable and undeniable personal direct experience and that’s what I wanted.

And that’s what I offer people is to have a direct experience. I love that you’re well educated. I love that you’ve read. I love that you can tell me what happens to the brain, but I don’t care about that so much. And I have people like that. They could tell you everything about the neuroscience, but they never had the experience.

Melissa: No experience. Yeah.

Dr. Tom Garcia: So you have the direct experience, that’s a whole other ballgame right there. Now we can talk. Tell me anything. So direct experience, there’s no substitute. Synthetic, natural, it’ll get you there. And then there’s a whole nother realm. And this is where I say that I’m operating at is in a ceremonial way at the fire, outside, under the open sky like that. It’s totally different.

Melissa: Well, speaking of research and books and all that, you recently collaborated on a book, right? Could you talk a little bit about that?

Dr. Tom Garcia: Yeah, it’s called The Difference: Essays on Loss, Courage, and Personal Transformation. And so each of the authors has a story to tell of their life experience and the obstacles they’ve overcome. For many of us, there’s been loss and the courage that it has taken to confront the loss and to carry on. And my story is in the personal transformation category. And I write about the experience of the friend that I talked about earlier who came to stay with us and he lived here until he passed and then what happened to me.

And when I wrote that story over a year ago. I didn’t talk about plant medicine, but it was plant medicine that was my ally that was with me in that story that I talk about of going to the fire and roaring at the moon and asking who am I, why am I here and who sent me? Like, who are you? I want to know. And I was in tears. I broke down and then I got really still and really quiet and was able to hear that voice come to me and discern that it was different than the voice of my ego. So that’s a little bit about my story.

There’s 10 stories in total, and they’re all beautiful stories of loss, courage and personal transformation.
Melissa: Wow. Yeah, I’ll definitely check that out and we’ll put that information in the show notes, too. I could talk to you about psychedelic use and benefits for another hour, but I wanted to touch on a couple more things before we wrap up today. There’s a lot of collective awareness of what some would call a spiritual revolution. I think a lot of people feel strongly that we’re in a time of great change, a major shift in consciousness. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

Dr. Tom Garcia: Yeah, we are in a time of Great Awakening right now. We are in the midst of it. And for those of us that are willing to go with it, and to engage it, and to immerse ourselves, there’s so many things here around releasing our judgments and accepting what is, and forgiving ourselves, our distorted views of others and ourselves and the world. And it’s happening across, all around the world. It’s underway.

And where we see resistance to it is where we find the greatest suffering, where there’s just an unwillingness to be in the flow and to stay immersed in the worldview that we see that’s presented to us through things we’ve already talked about; the media, social media, and what’s promulgated to us through those organizations. Global organizations have a vested interest in people staying docile and compliant and asleep.

So I describe my own awakening, it’s not to say, I’m awakened now, I’m enlightened. And I don’t really care for the word enlightened. It’s an ongoing process to keep waking up every day; waking up to what’s real and true, hewing the line, staying connected to what sources us. And I’m reminded of some lyrics from a song from years ago; the revolution will not be televised. We’re not going to see this on mainstream media.

We find it like this; through podcasts, through this underground of connected individuals, massive connection, like the mycelial network; the mushroom mycelia that connected root system that underlies all plant life that encircles the globe. That’s how it’s happening right now. And the intelligence of this environment of this sphere is making itself available to us in unprecedented levels.

I think, from my experience, plant medicine is a tool and watch how Big Pharma and big business tries to control how it’s distributed, disseminated. That’s going to happen. Yeah. And there’s got to be money in it. So they’re finding the money, creating the money aspect of it, but it grows naturally. You can grow your own. I’ve grown my own. So yeah, the revolution will not be televised and it’s fully underway. And there’s lots of information, channeled books, people who are coming forward, people who are coming out of the woods, out of the dark, out of the shadows to say, this is my experience and not leaving anybody out. We’re fighting each other, which is beautiful.

Melissa: Yeah. Yeah. It’s fantastic. And there’s so many traditional and well respected universities deep into research on all things plant medicine, consciousness, even near death experiences, past lives; University of Virginia, Johns Hopkins, like that, just so many of them across the country and in Europe. It’s not on the general radar on the mass media type thing, definitely not, but it’s not difficult at all to find this research and information. And so for all those left brainers out there, I know I’m a recovering left brain person myself, so I get it, but there’s plenty of information.

Dr. Tom Garcia: You just Google it. So here’s the thing. I want to mention this, too. This is part of the healing of humanity on a global scale. Now, it doesn’t mean everybody is going to partake. But for those who are of a mind to, those who have the inkling to, I have people reach out to me all the time that are, like, they don’t know where to turn, they don’t know where to go, they’re feeling anxious, they’re feeling the overwhelm. And it’s the condition of the world such that it is.

It’s upside down and turned around. And to orient ourselves to an upside down world is insanity. So people who are awakening to the insanity of the world are feeling increased anxiety. They’re feeling a call to something. They’re feeling themselves being called to something and they don’t know what. And I’m here to help them discover the what. They’re not being called to me. They’re being called by their spirit to something that’s for them and I could help them find it.

Melissa: Right, right. That’s perfect because I wanted to ask if you could kind of describe for us typically who is your kind of ideal client or is there one?

Dr. Tom Garcia: There is. I address a certain, I guess a certain strata, if you will. There are people that are generally successful. Now, what does that mean? They’re successful in their work. They’re successful in their family life. They’re successful in their marriages. They’re successful in a variety of ways and realizing there is something more that they’re reaching for.

And these are people; they have influence, they have a big reach and they want to reach their people with greater authenticity to bring them more value, to help them to find their mojo in whatever it is they’re doing. It could be in the world of finance. It could be in the world of art. It could be in the world of dressmaking. My client is a historical dressmaker.

So it almost doesn’t matter what walk of life you come from. It’s an imperative. Here’s something I say with my folks. You must be a pleasure for me to work with, which is to say, I must be a pleasure for you to work with as well because the work is so intimate and we go so deep but the reward and the value that comes out of it is enormous. It’s priceless.

And what I let them know is, no one finds their way to me by accident. No one finds their way to the fire by accident, especially when we’re there. See, look around. There is no way you’d have found this, this ceremonial space, by accident. Your spirit led you here. It guided you to me and to this, and this is for you. You created this.

Melissa: So as we wrap up our conversation today, Tom, what would be one thought, piece of advice, anything that you’d like to leave with the listeners concerning consciousness and the work that you do.

Dr. Tom Garcia: Don’t stop asking questions. Keep asking the good questions and get connected. Carve out the time and the space every day to establish, to strengthen, and deepen your connection with source, with God, with the Creator. It’s an imperative, especially in the expansion that’s happening globally, it’s a necessity that those of us who are at the leading edge be connected. So whatever it takes, don’t neglect that one thing and keep asking, asking for help because we all need all the help we can get.

Melissa: Absolutely. Tom, thank you so much for your time and generosity today. I love talking with you and I hope we get to do that again soon. Where can listeners find out more about you and reach out to you?

Dr. Tom Garcia: They can go to and that’s my website. So all my contact info is there, Super simple.

Melissa: Perfect. Thank you, Tom.

Well, stick around and I’ll share my thoughts and takeaways from today’s conversation. My conversation with Tom was so deeply resonant. I really could have talked to him for hours. There are so many things that stood out to me. And I thought I would talk more about plant medicine, but I kept coming back to the catalyst for Tom’s deep yearning for answers, which was watching his dear friend pass away.

It made me really reflect on the catalyst for my journey. About 15 years ago, I was pregnant and nesting, as pregnant women are wont to do, moving things around and making space for a new arrival. I wanted everything to be perfect for the new little one, and I was moving around some pretty heavy furniture.
That night, I began bleeding, and I ended up miscarrying. I was so certain it was my fault, and it hit me pretty hard. I was completely agnostic at the time, and I had no productive way to process that loss. So it mostly showed up as guilt and anger. In an effort to soothe me, my best friend Denise brought me a book called The Shack.

I didn’t know much about it, but I knew it had something to do with God. So I thanked her, but inside I thought, “You’re my best friend. You know I don’t believe this crap. Why would you think this would make me feel better?” I put the book on a shelf and forgot about it. Three years later, my adopted son, Taylor, was in a car accident.

It happened just four months after we had celebrated his 21st birthday. He was in a coma for a couple of weeks before a massive aneurysm caused us to have to make a very difficult decision. We buried him a few days later, and I did not think there was any way that I would survive that. The pain was so visceral and raw and pervasive.

I went to his grave every morning after dropping the kids off at school, and I would just collapse on the ground and cry and wail. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know where he was. Was he okay? Was he scared? Was he looking for me? Did he know how much I loved him? It wasn’t just that I couldn’t accept that he was no longer alive. I couldn’t accept that he no longer existed.

One morning, I went out there. I put his favorite song on repeat. And I laid the phone on top of his grave. It was something I would do some mornings, I don’t know why. As the song played over and over again, I cried out so loudly and so desperately. I begged and pleaded to him that if he was out there, he must find a way to let me know if he was okay.

Suddenly, the song I was playing for him stopped, right in the middle. It was so abrupt it caused me to take a pause. As I was reaching for the phone that was still lying on his grave, a new song began to ring out. That confused me because it wasn’t a song on my playlist, and it wasn’t the song I was playing.
But the lyrics caught my attention; “Don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing is gonna be alright.” It was a Bob Marley song called Three Little Birds. I sat there in complete consternation, having no idea what had just happened or how it had happened. I listened to the whole song. And when it was over, no other song played.

Still sitting on the ground, I tried to figure out with my rational mind what had just taken place. There had to be a logical explanation. I picked up the phone and searched it thoroughly for an answer. I don’t know how much time went by, but at some point, I realized that I wasn’t crying. But it was more than that. Not only had I stopped crying, I felt something. I wondered what that feeling was.

For the first time in weeks, I didn’t feel like I was going to vomit. I didn’t feel like my heart was being ripped out of my chest. I didn’t feel sadness, or anger, or guilt. I felt quiet. I felt peace, a peace I’d never felt in my entire life. And I knew, somehow I knew in that still, quiet moment that he was okay. He was better than okay, and I would be okay, too.

Looking back, I can see all of the more subtle nudges and opportunities I had been granted to see beyond my physical world, all of which I ignored in my dogged insistence to deny all things non-physical. I think that’s how it happens for a lot of us. Whether it’s death, illness, divorce, job loss, or any number of life shake ups, it often takes something truly devastating to get our attention.

I don’t think it has to be that way, but we as humans are a stubborn bunch. We hold so tightly to our beliefs without question, while demanding answers from a universe that can seem to us so brutally unfair. I did the same thing, so no judgment here, but I think it’s time we start questioning more internally and less externally.

I invite everyone listening to make a commitment of awareness to yourself. Every day, commit to taking notice of the thoughts, ideas, synchronicities, and feelings that you might otherwise ignore or brush off as unimportant. There is a part of us always trying to get our attention. It is quiet and subtle at first, a tap, a nudge, a gentle knock. If we don’t answer, it becomes more.

To ignore or dismiss it is to deny the very core of our being, and that will always lead to suffering. In case you’re wondering, I went home that day and dusted off the book my best friend gave me a few years earlier, and thus began an ardent search for truth.