Parking Garage Spirituality

I had a spiritual experience in a parking garage. Does that sound weird? It was mysterious, but not supernatural.

End of my senior year in high school, I came to Portland, and fell in love. I’d saved up a chunk of money working odd jobs, and moved right after graduation.

Back in the old days, kids, there was an activity we all had to do all the time: wait. When you parted ways with someone, you’d make a plan to meet again, and then you’d have to… wait.

I was waiting, in the parking garage at the corner of Middle and Union street, for my girlfriend. It was a beautiful day, I had the windows open, smoking, radio, nice. Finished smoking. Listened to the radio a while, shut it off to save battery.

Nothing to do but wait. Listening to seagulls cry and traffic rush. Outside I could see the sky, picturesque clouds moving slowly, making patterns of sun rays on the roofs across the street. Nothing else.

I heard footsteps inside the garage. From the pace and the click, sounded like a woman in heels, in a hurry. She had a long way to walk too, the sound just kept going.

I noticed as she walked the echo inside the garage changed, I could see her position in my mind’s eye as she crossed one of the angled ramps of the garage level to another. Kept going.

Then the footsteps disappeared. Wait, where’d she go? Hold on, they didn’t disappear. I realized I had been focusing so intently to the still-ringing echoes, I’d simply tuned out the footsteps.

This thrilled me. Musicians talk about listening to the spaces between the notes, and now I got it. I heard the seagulls again. They hadn’t stopped either, I’d just tuned them out too.

The clouds drifted, the sun shined. In one way, it was loud, but in another way it was silent. In my mind’s eye, I saw the gulls circling and dipping, the traffic on the street slow for the woman to cross.

That’s when it happened. I realized I hadn’t been aware of myself, I guess for… minutes now.

I was part of the world. The cries of the gulls and the rumble of traffic vibrated my ear drum, the same air moved in and out of my lungs. There was no ‘I’ separate from these things. No stories in my head about everything wrong.

Silence inside. Not just contentment, the complete absence of any desire.

Maybe my girlfriend showed up, maybe there was a fender bender outside the garage: I honestly don’t remember what broke the spell. Obviously something snapped me out of it.

But for weeks after the feeling kept coming back. Total peace.

Some say when we die, we relive all our experiences. The good ones are heaven, the bad ones hell. If I got stuck in that experience for eternity, I would be very happy.

So yes, I think that heaven on earth can be in a parking garage. Maybe that is weird, but life is a mystery.

Mysterious, not supernatural.



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Lifelong musician, quarter century programmer, recent writer. Punk Buddhism, Bike Party Party, Practice Uncertainty