I was only 18 when I first learned how to manifest my dreams. I’m in my 40s now, so this was long before vision boards — collages of one’s deepest desires — were trendy. It was my Filipina grandmother who taught me how to set an intention from a young age. “Iha, you’ve got to prayerize and visualize,” she told me, “to actualize your dreams!”
Without judgment, my grandparents kept science and religion under one roof. While my grandfather worked in chemistry, my grandmother was a devout Catholic. Despite coming from a humble immigrant family and making some highly questionable choices as a latchkey kid in San Francisco, I shaped up and got accepted to my top choice university and convinced my parents to finance their third child’s pricey private school education and allow her to move to New York City.
I was raised to believe in miracles, and my family’s second life in America — the land of opportunity — was a constant reminder that a higher consciousness exists for me. My husband, Ben, on the other hand, thinks differently. Three years prior to meeting him, I’d seen a psychic, an elderly Filipina who chain-smoked so much, she had to hold down her throat to produce an audible tarot reading.
“You will marry someone from the opposite side of the world,” the psychic told me. “He will look very different from you — blue eyes — but he and his family will have the same beliefs and morals like your own family.”
I’d met Ben at my first job out of college. Out of Manhattan’s 22 square miles, the universe placed us in the same building, floor, and corner of a 19-story building on Park Avenue. While I wasn’t looking for a relationship, happenstance forced Ben and me to notice each other every day. After six weeks, an email materialized: “Would you like to go out for dinner sometime?” I imagined Ben’s unpretentious British accent through the computer screen.
For years, I stored the psychic’s prediction deep in my subconscious. A few months after I began dating Ben, I met his parents from England, and it hit me: Ben was the guy in the prophecy. His parents were the same age as mine; they looked different, born on the opposite side of the world. However, similar to my parents, Ben’s folks were down-to-earth, honest, and considerate. They believed in hard work, democracy, and equality. Both our paternal grandmothers were hardcore Roman Catholics who’d wept when they met the pope at Vatican City.
Our similar upbringing and outlook on life helped Ben and I fall in love quickly. We got along so well that after a couple of years we decided to move in together. A few years later, we married. In our nearly two decades together, we’ve rarely fought. Then, on Valentine’s Day toward the end of the pandemic, everything unraveled. “You’re always off in your own world,” I told him.
For almost a year, I noticed Ben had become more distant, retreating to video games, fantasy football, and Google News alerts. He’d often scroll through his phone during dinner. It was clear that his love language, doing acts of service for his family, had become more of a checkbox. He admitted he was feeling beat by his daily grind of working, cooking, and cleaning. Rinse and repeat.
“I’m too tired to be present,” Ben replied as I looked at his Valentine’s Day gift to me: a set of wireless speakers I’d known about for weeks because a) I suggested it, b) Ben ordered it in front of me, and c) he made no effort to conceal the box when the package arrived.
“Maybe you could start exercising and release some endorphins,” I prodded. He rolled his eyes and headed toward our bedroom. “I don’t have time,” he said, his words trailing off into the hallway. I asked him to return so we could talk, and our conversation escalated from being about lacking energy to being spiritually bankrupt. “Are you a f--king atheist?!” I screamed. “I don’t think I can be with someone who doesn’t believe in God, the universe, whatever you want to call it.”
“I believe in the universe,” Ben replied.
“What do you believe in exactly?”
“I don’t know,” he said.
At first, our ideologies seemed to be aligned from the start. For our wedding, Ben and I chose an American Catholic priest, a conscious decision to override Roman Catholic rules about marrying inside a church. We preferred outdoor views of the Pacific Ocean from the shore while we said our vows. No offense to the Lord.
To manage work stress and anxiety, I started to turn to acupuncture, yoga, spinning, and Pilates. As my quest took off, Ben’s remained nonexistent. My spirituality deepened when I learned Buddhist mindfulness at the Kadampa Meditation Center. With chakras activated, I began seeing an energy healer and eventually became a reiki master myself.
While I was out searching for the meaning of life, Ben stayed home playing Football Manager and Call of Duty on his PC. When I was chanting “om” and aligning mind, body, and soul, Ben was learning computer programming and reinventing his career. Throughout these changes, I never pushed my spirituality on him.
When we cooled off from our Valentine’s Day confrontation, Ben revealed to me, “I don’t believe in fate. I believe that we have control over our destiny, that we create our own path with the decisions that we make.” After everything we’d encountered throughout our 18 years together, I couldn’t comprehend it.
When Ben and I decided that we would try for a baby, I got pregnant on our first attempt. For our 10-year wedding anniversary, Ben gave me a computerized telescope that used coordinates to identify the planets and stars. What were the chances, after dozens of heartbreaking open houses and bidding wars, that the home we would be fortunate enough to buy was located on Earth’s longitude where seven digits formed a combination of mine and Ben’s birthdays?
On the day of our 10-year wedding anniversary, Ben and I encountered hearts everywhere, from heart-shaped leaves to heart-shaped sunlight on the shadowed ground. As if hearts in nature were not a clear enough message, we also stumbled on an art installation called Heart of Carmel, where we witnessed 10 different sculptures of giant hearts — one for each year of our marriage.
Carl Jung, the famed analytical psychologist, attributes such meaningful coincidences to synchronicity, a concept that he argued validates the presence of the paranormal. “Synchronicity is an ever-present reality for those who have eyes to see,” Jung said. So, how does the guy I love with front-row seats to a life of magic not wholeheartedly believe in the existence of it?
All I was asking after our Valentine’s Day blowout was for Ben to acknowledge these winks from God as the presence of the divine so that maybe — just maybe — the karmic heavy lifting doesn’t fall solely on me. Otherwise, how can I transcend and achieve spiritual enlightenment? Wouldn’t I get there faster if Ben and I did this together?
Eventually, I realized that we are doing this together but in our own ways. While I meditate and journal in the mornings, Ben gets our daughter breakfast and takes her to school. When I do yoga on Sundays, Ben shops for groceries for the week. During my acupuncture sessions, he prepares and cooks dinner.
You can’t have yin without yang, darkness without light, or heart-shaped sunlight without the shadowed ground. Ben and I form a whole for our family, and Ben’s support — no matter how skeptical he may be — ultimately makes my own spiritual practice possible.
Alyssa Lauren Stone is a Bay Area-based writer, reiki master, and yoga teacher. Follow her on Instagram at @alyssalaurenstone.
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