These profound experiences were never on a bucket list and some of them weren’t even planned, they just happened. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had a bucket list. For years, after seeing Frances Ha, I wanted to run down the street EXACTLY like Greta Gerwig with “Modern Love” playing LOUDLY on my headphones. (Watch that clip here.) Does that count?
I finally did that last year btw – not on Catherine St. in Chinatown but on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.
People must have thought I was nuts, but I didn’t care. It was FUN.
So no bucket list, but this list of five uniquely profound experiences did make my life better.
Experiences I highly recommend to anyone who might be interested and looking for bucket-list items. All you need is some curiosity and an open mind.
For me, savoring good memories is quality self-care, especially in between making new ones. Writing down my profound experiences or sharing them with loved ones is even better. It’s a legacy project, helping future generations understand who I was because of what I did.
Maybe then they will feel inspired to create their own profound experiences.
So here they are, for the ages.
Eating Magic Mushrooms
Decades before I understood the importance of set or setting, I picked some mushrooms and ate them with friends. Then I floated in a pool for six hours while feeling connected to every other living being around me.
Tripping renders us extremely suggestible. Reading Diary of a Small Planet days before that trip strengthened the pull I felt toward becoming a vegetarian. Afterward, I stopped eating meat altogether and remained a vegetarian for the next three decades.
The psilocybin in magic mushrooms, responsible for fear reduction, mystical feelings of connection, and the death of ego, might be more accessible once it’s rescheduled in the next year or so. Hopefully, decriminalization and legalization everywhere will soon follow.
Nevertheless, if you don’t feel comfortable tripping, you may achieve a similar awakening with meditation, breathwork, prayer, and/or therapy.
When Marc and I decided to have children, we didn’t just put on Mezzanine by Massive Attack and get busy.
I mean, we did.
But we did other things, too. Our “giving birth fundamentally alters the universe” mindset meant we took it seriously. For six months, I eschewed caffeine, alcohol, and anything else a pregnant woman should avoid – before I got pregnant.
Marc did the same because we wanted healthy sperm. I started taking prenatal vitamins. We gave our babies the best possible beginning.
The day they arrived, we looked into their eyes. Our weary and wise little travelers looked back at us. The connection was immediate. Soulmates. My spirit broadened in ways I continue to feel today.
Many of my friends don’t have children. They experience similar spirit-broadening energy by serving others. This includes rescuing animals, caring for parents, devoting careers to worthy causes, and showering strangers and loved ones alike with empathy and affection.
Running the Boston Marathon
I started running the day after the 2013 bombing.
I felt like I had to do something. We had lived in Boston during the mid-90s and I wanted to show my support for my former community in a very real way. Running the Boston Marathon in 2014 seemed like a good way to do that.
Most experts suggest running for at least a year before considering a marathon.
I’m glad I didn’t know that.
I was already fit, thanks to power walking, eating right, and yoga. That helped. After training and running steadily for a few months, the Boston MS Society chose me to join their team, and I ran with them in 2014.
I found meaning along every one of those 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Copley Square. Buoyed by the cheers of crowds along the way and running alongside firefighters who told the funniest stories, I felt a part of that beloved community once more.
To make meaning out of tragedy is a distinctly human trait. I couldn’t do much to combat terrorism on a global scale, but I could show up in Boston on Patriots’ Day. Challenge myself and raise money for Multiple Sclerosis. Join with a few thousand others and say no to fear and terror.
You don’t have to run a marathon to feel this sense of accomplishment and purpose.
Pushing yourself physically happens with any race, even a 5K. Others choose half-marathons, half-Ironmans, or full-Ironman races. Whatever works! Combine it with raising money for a worthy cause or participating with like-minded people you grow to love and it’s a win. No matter how far you go.
Witnessing a Total Eclipse
Every triumph on this list involved physical discomfort.
Whether you’re vomiting before a psychedelic trip, breathing through labor pains before giving birth, or dealing with blisters and cramps before a race – pain often precedes joy, especially during sacred moments.
Witnessing a total eclipse of the sun is no different.
Because I had to travel through rural South Carolina to see it.
And again, like everything on this list, it’s impossible to put into words what I felt. When I took off my protective eyewear and looked up at the amazing spectacle in the sky, all I could do was stare.
I felt so small.
In the best sense of the word.
I wondered what our ancient ancestors thought when they first witnessed a total eclipse. How they must have stood just like I did, filled with wonder and awe. Such a sight connected me to this world and everyone in it: present, past, and future.
I’m not certain there’s an equivalent so when it happens again in 2024, I highly recommend finding a place along the Path of Totality and checking it out for yourself. Even if you have to travel through South Carolina to do it.
I don’t know about you, but by the time I got to 50, I had some entrenched ideas about myself. Someone once compared our minds during middle age to skiing down a mountain with dozens of worn trails.
You don’t even really think about what you’re doing.
You just go the way you’ve always gone, telling yourself the stories you’ve always told.
Ayahuasca is like a fresh coat of snow. The worn trails disappear. This powerful psychedelic allows you to see and think about things differently.
Make new trails.
What was revealed to me during that trip wasn’t anything I didn’t already know. I just got to feel what I knew, on a visceral level.
It’s like when someone asks, “What’s your favorite song?”
You tell them, right?
But when you walk into a store or a coffee shop and unexpectedly hear that song playing, you feel it, don’t you? You’re like, “This is my jam!” And “Turn this up!” That energy tingles.
You almost glow.
That’s the best way for me to explain a meaningful ayahuasca trip.
I attended a safe and legal retreat in Orlando. But if you’re apprehensive, keep in mind that some people report mystical revelations with deep meditation, prayer, silent retreats, and therapy.
Our Final Profound Experience
I can’t help but compare my life’s most profound experiences with death itself. As a practicing death doula, I’ve seen clients work through discomfort. I’ve witnessed their feelings of awareness and connection with the “all.” Sometimes bliss and joy follow, sometimes they just close their eyes.
And then they’re gone.
Trusting the process, letting go of attachments and expectations, and being open to whatever happens. It’s a beautiful way to experience life’s profound moments…including the one added to the end of all our lists.