It was almost 10 years ago, that summer weekend in New York City. I was going to visit my friend who lives in Brooklyn, just for fun, for a getaway.

What I got that July was something beyond a “good time”. It is only in retrospect that I’ve been able to fully appreciate and understand what happened that weekend: I was fully awake. I was alive, alert, present, observing everything around me as if for the first time. Sights, sounds, colors and tastes were vivid. I felt grounded yet high (naturally high). A calm, quiet peace exuded from me and I experienced harmony within and without.  Things went seamlessly, effortlessly. I stumbled upon things and places that I wanted to experience and see. What subtle bliss it is to be in such a state! I have not since experienced it (not so drastically, anyway) but I know it is always possible to get there. Here’s how I came to be awake in NYC.

I decided to take the train this time. I had driven to NYC in the past, and this time I just didn’t feel like dealing with the road; the tolls, the traffic, the parking…It would be so much more simple and relaxing to take the train. The train was to pull into Central Station 10 hours later.

I was equipped for the journey. Books, iPod and pillow were in tow. Why there isn’t some sort of high-speed train connecting Montreal to New York is beyond me… In any case, I boarded a relatively empty car, sure that I would enjoy some quiet and peaceful time.

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Just before the train departed, a group of young men boarded. I don’t know what gave me the impression they were headed to NYC for a bachelor party weekend; could it have been the cans of beer in their hands, or the over-sized pink panties the groom-to-be donned over his pants? Maybe it was the boisterous friend, surely the best man, yelling “Remember, dude, no going to the toilet!” He was kindly reminding his pal that he was to urinate in the Depends-like diaper he was wearing.

“Oh no…” was all I could think to myself. I quickly proceeded to change cars, but the boys were out to have a good time and were all over the train. I couldn’t escape the stench of the urine-filled diaper which got worse as the hours went on. The train couldn’t possibly go any more slowly. I remember seeing people walking by the train tracks passing right by us. Something about the extreme heat preventing the train from going faster… With the reduced speed and the lengthy stop at the border, the journey lasted over 13 incredibly long hours.

Fortunately, I was armed. I had hours of guided meditations, yoga nidras (guided relaxations) and spiritual music loaded up on my iPod and cd player. I put my earphones in, closed my eyes and went inward. I must have done at least 9 or 10 hours of meditation, relaxation, chakra opening exercises and listening to soul-stirring music. I also read from several books including one by Deepak Chopra, which, yes, was very deep…Quill Cloud

The effect was subtle at first. I got off the train at Central Station, feeling relaxed and centered and glad to have finally arrived. I remember vowing that I would never again take the train to New York! I looked around, hundreds if not thousands of people all going every which way, in and out of doors, up and down escalators, and then I spotted her. My friend, who had been patiently waiting an extra 3 hours for me at Central Station, greeted me with the biggest smile and the warmest hug. It was really good to see her. As we made our way to the exit, I told her all about the bachelor party that was my train ride. And then, WHAM!

The door to the outside opened, and the air swept over me like a tidal wave of bliss. It was a beautiful, warm summer evening. New York City was alive, and so was I. I perceived each light and sound as though they were separate and together as a symphony, all at once. I breathed deeply and closed my eyes for a second. Was it the euphoria of being off that stinky train, having arrived over 13 hours later and seeing my dear friend? Maybe. Who cares, I thought, I felt great!

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We headed to Brooklyn and chilled out at my friend’s apartment before heading out. We were going out dancing. Normally, the process of getting ready would have felt like a chore; hair up or down? This or that top? But something was different. I felt good in my body, and I was able to look in the mirror and see someone secure, confident, and beautiful (a rarity for me at the time). I could have danced all night. We headed back home and stayed up eating blue potato chips and laughing hysterically. I had never laughed so hard in my life, nor have I laughed like that since. My belly aches (in a good way) just remembering that night.

Over the next two days we did lots of stuff, touristy and not. We went to Coney Island for a perfect couple of beach hours. Plenty of opportunity for laughter arose on our many subway rides. In Little Italy we had the best table on the terrace of the most perfect little café. I wondered at how the blissful feeling had not yet worn off. Why was everything so light, beautiful, and perfect?

Even Ground Zero was serene. Of course it was somber, as what was then a hole in the ground projected the horror that took place there. There was literally an emptiness, but even the grief I felt in its presence had an undertoneQuill Cloud of love. It was as if beneath the incomprehensible tragedy was a common sense of humanity, a feeling of oneness.

Back uptown, after strolling through Central Park and marveling at greenery like I had never seen, we headed off for an amazing dinner. My taste buds were on overdrive as every mouthful was an explosion of flavor and texture. On our way to the rooftop terrace of a new hotel I wanted to check out, we stopped to get Red Bull to fuel the rest of our evening. As I took a sip, I realized I did not feel the need for this drink and tossed it in the trash. I was filled with natural energy.

As we prepared to ask someone for directions, a little bit lost, we looked up and saw the sign for the hotel we were ready to give up on finding. Synchronicity? Oh, and guess who was in the hotel: Deepak Chopra! He had followed me from the train, I guess. We sipped on a couple of drinks on this most beautiful rooftop with a fantastic view of Times Square. My drink didn’t even touch me. I was not closed to getting tipsy; after all, I was in NYC and I was not driving! But it was not having any sort of effect on me. I was more clear and sober than I had ever been. My eyesight felt sharp and focused, even without my glasses.

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The next day my friend and I said our goodbyes and I headed back to Central Station. I was sad to leave. A part of me knew I was leaving behind this altered state of being, which had taken me on a flight of ecstasy during that weekend. An all-natural state of bliss, brought on by several consecutive hours of high-vibrational activity. The train ride back was quieter and less stinky than the ride there. But it was long, too long. Long enough to allow the high to wear off. I saw it slip away, further and further, until it was gone.

I have dreams of NYC on a regular basis. I usually wake up with a strong desire to go there. In my dreams, the sights and sounds are vivid, like they were that weekend. My subconscious, I think, is trying to remind me to be awake. Not awake as when one is not sleeping, but awake as in being fully alive, in a state of harmony, coherence, and joy. This is the state that our higher self exists in, and it is a state that is attainable; we simply have to invite it in. I’ll never forget the feeling, and just knowing it is there, available when I am ready to take the time to cultivate it, is incredibly comforting. Still, I shall never again take the train to NYC.