Noticing Nirvana

Had a very interesting experience a few months ago. My focal seizures were starting to occur at inconvenient tho not really problematic moments, so I started trying trying to catch one coming on. To that end, I was determined to pay attention to all my environmental inputs, to notice everything, external and internal, and in the process identify a connection between a particular feeling and a  focal seizure.  So walking down the street and attempting to be always  aware of colors, shadows, sounds, the feeling in my joints and under my feet.. Just paying attention — being mindful, as it is referred to in meditation practice, seemed like it might work After talking to some folks more familiar with meditation, turns out I was doing “walking meditation”.

Meditating by accident. I’ve been interested in meditation for some time, and had been learning about the benefits for tumor and brain healing, and life in general, which are many. Luckily I managed to be mindful when crossing streets too.

Continuing to try to notice everything,I found myself seeing the unexpected, such as small kindnesses between strangers–from someone pausing to help the apparently lost/confused out of town visitors (common in many places I think) to picking up and returning dropped items — which in one case was a twenty-dollar bill that tumbled out of a pocket and was retrieved and returned at a run by a follower who could easily have kept it without any but me seeing.

I was the recipient of these moments too. A friend, Nancy, picked me up at a convenient place so we could have lunch, and while I waited in a little branch bank lobby, the banker brought me water. At lunch at Inspiration Cafe we learned from our waitress that she had been, in effect, rescued from poverty and homelessness by the Inspration Corporation which started the cafe and uses its program to train the disadvantaged for restaurant jobs including jobs as chefs.

I also found myself alert to such opportunities, like a the young lady on the train whose Starbucks cup was leaking (as they always seem to do), and dripping on her ankle. I had a tissue in my pocket and handed it to her. She smiled in surprise and appreciation  (it seemed to me), and at the next station, we both went on our way without a word. But the interchange was very satisfying for reasons not entirely evident to me at present. Is helping someone just intrinsically rewarding? Can it be explained as an evolutionary adaptation? Certainly human cooperation has been. I think it’s just kind of fun. Getting a friendly reaction (or action) from a stranger is un-expected, and that surprise, like a joke’s punch line can elicit a smile from both parties. Perhaps it’s the joy of a real, if brief, human connection; something rare in any circumstance.

Nancy had another plan — a wonderful dinner for Annie and me to celebrate our recent marriage. Yet another unexpected kindness, even tho from a friend not a stranger. Arriving with Nancy at her house, we awaited Annie’s impending arrival, I still unaware of the upcoming surprise dinner. I laid down to take a nap and continued my attempt at continuous meditation.

Where did that come from?

As I lay there, rather suddenly I noticed I was aware of much more than just the sounds and changing light around me. As I tried to maintain a mindful awareness I noticed I was suffused with a feeling of deep connection to the world. At that moment and for an hour or so thereafter, it seemed to me that at that instant there was not and could not be any strife on-going in the world. That the world was full only of goodness, love and beauty.  The feeling was so strong that despite knowing this to be impossible AND that this impression would end, it nonetheless continued and I could not help but believe it. It may have been a religious experience, but unlike Quaker Founder George Fox, god did not speak to me or make any demands. She was probably busy and perhaps bored with all the insincere religiosity that seems to be in the air. Was my experience the result of my starting attempts at meditation? Or my wonder at the goodness strangers could show to each other? I have no earthly idea.

In any case it was very strong and like nothing I’d ever felt. I remarked upon it for the rest of the evening, I’m sure annoying my hosts and Annie to no end.

Was this nirvana? Who knows. It was amazing and I might repeat it if I could, but it was so intense, I’m not sure I could stand it. It was kind of a revelation and has helped me be mindful of seeing the wonder and hope possible in our world if only we stop and look. I will continue to attempt to practice meditation. It takes more effort than I would have thought, but the discipline seems worthwhile. I will remember this experience I’m sure. And I do recall it at moments of trial to invoke the wonder of life.

Like a cat waiting for a mouse, my persistence paid off in the intended way. Like the feeling before a sneeze or a yawn, my focal seizures seem to be preceded by a slight bit of nausea. Strange, but it is a reliable enough signal that I have some time to prepare for the strange symptoms that come with these mini-seizures.

This entry was posted in I have no earthly idea, No. 01 – Get on with Life, No. 09 – Avoid Situations, No. 10 – Have Fun. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Noticing Nirvana

  1. Alice Berry says:

    Hey Kevin, really fascinating post. I’ve had all sorts of “experiences” over the years and never quite known what to do with them (one of the reasons my new study of Psychology is keeping me occupied). Your altruistic experiences and views are now being found to be part of the brain’s neurotransmitter reward system, and yes, there is some speculation that altruism is an evolutionary adaptation. Helping people, or watching other people help people, makes us happy.
    I hope all is going well with you and Annie, and I’d love to get together soon.

  2. Susan Morse says:

    May I use parts of this in the upcoming Monterey Friends monthly newsletter?

    We heard someone speak on something related to this at the Carmel Authors and Ideas Festival. …That some of the ‘humanity’ you have been observing, is in fact evolutionary and in our genes… but I’m not sure which author it was….

  3. Leslie Simmer says:

    Thank you for this, Kevin. It is everything.

    • Kevin Pierce says:

      A Very generous thought if a bit intimidating!

      Sent from my iPhone Kevin Pierce (312) 933-5254 Chief Operating Officer Resource Center

  4. Arthur Myer says:

    Kevin, first impression: beautiful and moving story. You are also funny (as in humor), and reading that you were mindful crossing the street gave me a smile. Wow. Life is too strange that with this life-threatening condition you find yourself with, it decides to show you it’s brightest most beautiful light.
    Thank you so much for sharing.
    Sending good vibes from Japan (hopefully not the earth shaking kind!)

  5. Hugh says:

    I fear a comment might trivialize your moving account.

    • Kevin Pierce says:

      I can’t imagine a trivializing comment from you but thanks for that thought

      Sent from my iPhone Kevin Pierce (312) 933-5254 Chief Operating Officer Resource Center

  6. Jane Wenger says:


  7. Karen Kalmek says:

    Hi Kevin,
    It is wonderful to read your entries. As someone who has practised yoga for a long time it reminds me how powerful things are when we have the intent to tune in.
    Congratulations to you and Annie on your marriage.
    With love,

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