Rob Brown, MD

A Physician's Unique Perspective on Wellness

Month: October 2017

Numeric Symbols as Spiritual Guidance

For years, friends commented that I was blessed to live under a lucky star. Things often worked out according to plan, but I didn’t subscribe to the religious belief that someone could be blessed or in the childhood fantasy of lucky stars. I rode the streak of good fortune for many years until my luck faded and I became submerged in misfortune. As crazy as it may sound, doing so was a conscious choice.

This sequence of events began after returning home from my semester abroad in Rome. My life became filled with extraordinary coincidences. With frequent moments of serendipity and good fortune, I began to notice the number 69. It was on license plates driving by, price tags, addresses, jerseys, everywhere! At the time I thought it was a funny coincidence.

After graduation though, I moved to Miami, Florida and the phenomenon seemed to follow me. I got used to seeing the number 69 and even began to look for it as a symbol to let me know that I was in the right place at the right time. Sometimes, I would see the number 96 with frequency, as if to tell me that I was “ass backwards!” Over time, I began to notice the number 73, too. The two numbers 69 and 73 seemed to be related to each other as I would often encounter them together.

On one such occasion, my housemate, Paul, and I had gone exploring South Beach to look for a place to rent the following year. Most of the small homes we saw were run down as it was 1988, just before gentrification took place. While meandering the streets, we came across the 100 building, a high rise on Lincoln Road. Neither of us had considered living in an apartment building, but as we drove up to the entrance, a car pulled out of a parking place right in front. Perfect timing. I noticed that the car to the left of the empty space had a license plate with the number “6969” on it. The license plate on the car to the right had the number 73 on it. I thought to myself, “This is meant to be!” My buddy and I walked into the lobby and asked for the rental agent. We were quite sure that rates in this building were way out of our price range, but we had time explore. The agent was out on break. So, we casually asked the doorman if there were any units available.

“I think there’s one in the penthouse,” he said.

Stepping away from the desk, I looked at Paul and said, “I’ve never seen a penthouse, have you?”

He smiled and with that, we walked quickly across the marble flooring to the elevators. We pressed PH for the first time. When the doors opened, we stepped out into a long hallway. I’m not quite sure what we thought we would find up there, maybe an open door? Then, we heard a creek at the end of the hall. A big man, wearing a bathrobe and large gold medallions around his neck stepped into the hallway and faced us. Paul and I, looking suspicious, turned around quickly and headed back towards the elevator.

“Hey, what are you boys doing up here?” He barked.

We turned around nervously and told him that we were looking for an apartment to rent.

“There’s one available across the hallway here. Do you want to see it?”

I grinned from ear to ear as the man pulled out a huge ring of keys and opened up the door. We walked into the living room of a huge 3 bedroom apartment with balconies, roof access and spectacular views of Miami beach and the ocean. He stood in the doorway as we checked out the apartment.

“This is my room!” I called out excitedly.

My future bedroom for the next 3 years had 3 walk in closets, a balcony and its own bathroom!

Initially, the cost of the rent was more than twice what we were able to afford. But, the manager, apparently wanting to attract younger people to Miami beach, lowered the rent until we could make it work. My rent, $490 a month! What at an amazing experience! The sequence of events that lead to us to finding and securing the apartment was unbelievable.

During a conversation with my father afterwards, I mentioned to him about my fascination with the magical numbers 69 and 73. His response shook me.

“That’s interesting. My father died when he was 69 and my mother died when she was 73.”

Upon hearing this, the hairs on the back of my neck stiffened.

My grandfather had died early during my childhood and I didn’t know him well. But, I knew I loved both Nanna and Grandpa. He had been a controlling person, making his fortune in an international art supply business.

It was strange, but somehow, attaching these two numeric symbols to my grandparent’s spirits made sense. I was grateful. But then, the feeling of gratitude dissipated and I felt I had been manipulated. Having this extraordinary gift left me feeling privileged, but also isolated from my friends and family who didn’t seem to be living under the same guidance. It may sound silly, but I wanted to have the same struggles as everyone else. I wanted my success to be from my inspiration and my failure to be from my own lack of performance. I wanted to control my own destiny.

One evening, I went out on to the roof and yelled up to the sky, “Thank you for your help, but please leave me alone and let me be!“

And then, the free-fall began.

At first, I noticed a small discoloration on my earlobe, but it quickly turned into a rapidly enlarging bump, maybe a wart? Melanoma had been an unsuspected diagnosis, even by the dermatologist, and so the the initial attempt at removal was performed incorrectly. This error led to further problems in assessing the severity of the disease. After extensive surgery on my face and neck, I experienced another problem. Because of uncontrollable bleeding in the recovery room, I was rushed back to the operating room to find the “bleeder.” I think I spent over 11 hours in surgery that day.

My classmates were wonderfully supportive. The love I felt from them all made the whole situation during and afterwards manageable. Yet,  I experienced frequent mishaps and I felt vulnerable. One night while looking out over the beach, I quietly sang the lyrics to the Carole King song “Up on the Roof”. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I prayed to my grandparents for help. Afterwards, I felt better for I sensed I had not been abandoned. But, the guidance I received from that point forward was subtle. I observed the number 69 at important junctures, but much less frequently. The sporadic guidance left room for me to make mistakes. Life was less easy than it had been before, but the new paradigm allowed maturation.

The number 73 never resurfaced.

Why have I shared this incredibly personal story? Because I know that this phenomenon occurs to many if not all of us, regardless of whether or not we recognize it. I have heard similar stories from others and now accept that the frequent reoccurrence of numbers in our lives can most definitely be an indication of spiritual guidance. The number usually has a significance to the person who has passed and may indicate the prior relationship. Recently, a friend shared with me an experienced of a reoccurring 4 digit number that he realized had been the numerical birthdate of his sister who had passed on many years prior.

If you too have noticed a recurring number in your daily life, I suggest you try to figure out who you might be receiving communication or guidance from. Be grateful when you do and your life will become that much more meaningful.

I now think we are all blessed.

A Reincarnation “Bleed Through” in Rome?

At a recent panel discussion, I was asked a question to the effect of, “How is it that you, as a classically trained physician, have gotten interested in the spiritual?” This inquiry got me to revisit my long and multifaceted journey. After much contemplation, I feel compelled to publicly share some of my most memorable experiences. Until now, I’ve saved these stories for close friends and family members. But, I suspect this series of blogs may help others see patterns in their own lives and help bring to conscious awareness their own spiritual existence.

My journey into the metaphysical began 30 years ago during my junior year semester abroad at Brown University. My closest college friend, Ken, an East Asian studies major, planned to spend the year in China to further his exposure to Chinese culture and increase his fluency. As a premed student, I would receive no academic benefit towards my biology major from study abroad. Regardless, I decided to go to Rome, Italy, for no other reason than because I had always loved Italian food.

In preparation, the program, sponsored by Temple University, mailed me a packet which included an introduction to Rome, a basic vocabulary list, and instructions on how to get to the pensione, our lodging for the upcoming semester. As the time to leave approached, I became increasingly excited for the opportunity to see famous collections of art, and the colosseum.

Upon arrival into the pensione, my two roommates and I unpacked our luggage in the tiny room. We walked to the school and around the neighborhood to become familiar with the surrounding streets. Later that day, our group met at a nearby restaurant for dinner. The 14 of us sat at a long banquet table. After handing out menus, the waiter unexpectedly addressed me, in Italian, for the entire table’s order. This would become commonplace at almost every restaurant we dined in. I tried to explain to the waiter, in English, that I didn’t speak Italian. He didn’t seem to understand me, or maybe he just didn’t care. I placed the order with finger pointing and hand gestures.  All seemed successful until my plate arrived hosting a few slices of tomato and a few slices of cheese. I realized that I had better learn Italian quickly! After the meal, the waiter handed me il conto, the bill. Why to me? I had no idea.

The next few days were spent in class and eating in local bars and restaurants. We were living in an area of Rome that was anything but touristy. At what quickly became our neighborhood bar, the bartender served me a cappuccino and said “You are Roman!” I laughed and said, “No.’ I’m Jewish.” He insisted, “Ah… No, You are Roman.” I smiled awkwardly, not sure what to say next. He followed up with, “You look like Chessaray!” I enjoyed his friendliness and my new nickname. It wasn’t until much later that I realized Chessaray is the Italian pronunciation for Caesar.

After a few days, during our first afternoon off, we decided to venture into the old city. I remember it was a beautiful day and I was excited to see the Colosseum. We walked down the streets en masse, while one of the group held a map directing us towards the old city. Although I typically had an excellent sense of direction, I was very confused about our location and could not get oriented looking at the map. So, I left the navigation to others.

We approached a great stone wall and walked through the gate to Piazza del Popolo, Awe came over me. The piazza was beautiful with a central stone obelisk and 3 roads that splayed out in front of us, one in the middle, and the other two going off at 30 degree angles.

The group stopped in the center of the piazza so our leader, Christine, could study the map. My eyes were fixated on the buildings and grand architecture. Christine wanted to head to the Pantheon first. The map of Rome was in Italian and not a tourist map, per se. Finding the landmarks was a bit challenging, especially while on foot with cars zipping by. I became increasingly impatient. Then, as if a light had been turned on in a dark corner of my mind, my confusion cleared and I suddenly knew exactly where I was.

“Follow me! I know where it is!”, I said.  I started down the main road in front of us, which I later learned was Via del Corso. I stared ahead and walked quickly down the road in front of me. My speed picked up as my excitement built. One of my companions call out with irritation, “Where are you going?”

I darted into an alley on the right and kept walking, taking unknown, but purposeful right and left turns down the narrow stone streets. When I finally stopped, I found myself in a square hosting an imposing ancient building. The group quickly gathered around me.

“Is this is the Pantheon?” someone questioned. “How did you know where it was?”

I became choked up, almost in tears. My head was swirling and I felt dizzy. I looked at them and cried slowly, “This is My City. This is My City.” That was all I could say.

After this experience, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. How could I have possibly known where the Pantheon was without a map? Why did I get so emotional? Nowadays in the eurozone, street signs containing symbols and English translation point out tourist attractions, but in the 1980s, this was not the case. In fact, I don’t think there was any signage that said “The Pantheon”.

Many unanswered questions

Upon returning home from my favorite city, I was left with uncertainty. How did I  know the location of the Pantheon? Why did waiters consistently address me as if I were hosting a private party at each group meal? Why did people throughout Italy assume I was Roman? And, why did the bartender insist on calling me Caesar?

After some time, I dismissed the experience as weird things that happened to me in Rome. There wasn’t much written about reincarnation at that time and the term spirituality wasn’t common. Either one subscribed to a religious doctrine or was agnostic or atheist. A clear memory of this day stuck with me though and I occasionally shared my story with others. Years later, while reading a book by Brian Weiss entitled “Many Lives, Many Masters”, I curiously came across a short blurb about an American doctor who had a reincarnation experience in Rome. It wasn’t until speaking with Dr. Weiss at a meeting that I  learned this paragraph referred to my trip. Dr. Weiss had been one of my psychiatry professors at the University of Miami a decade earlier, at which time he was writing his pivotal book.

Looking back, I do consider this to have been a reincarnation “bleed through” phenomenon. Despite proof, my mind opened to the possibility that there are forces at work in our lives that cannot be explained by the physical here and now. And, by doing so,  allowed for additional future metaphysical experiences.

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