I Found the Meaning of My Life at a Party in Brooklyn


Growing up, I was a straight-A student. I played tennis, basketball, and football. I attended Harvard and then worked as a consultant on Wall Street, meanwhile partying like a rock star every weekend in New York City’s hottest clubs.

And yet, my fundamental life trajectory was set when I was seventeen years old.

I went on a retreat offered by my Catholic high school. On the last night of the retreat, a priest came to talk to us about walls around our hearts, walls that block out God’s love. It affected me deeply.

Afterwards, I sat with him in a “face-to-face Confession.” I don’t remember what I said to him. But when I finished, he stood to offer the traditional prayer of Absolution, one I had heard countless times in my youth.

As he prayed, he touched his hands to my forehead. The moment he did, something went woooshh right through my body from head to toe. It felt like a split-second flash of electricity and water, all at once. The experience left me feeling washed clean. And in that moment, I realized there was something real behind all the religious dogma.

It launched me on a quest. I wanted to know what that was that had flashed right through me.

It led me deep into Christianity, as a student-leader in the Evangelical Christian fellowship on Harvard campus, then, after college, to a Jesuit Seminary, as I still contemplated becoming a Roman Catholic priest. But after two years, I realized my path did not lie in the priesthood; so, I left with a master’s degree in Roman Catholic Theology.

I did a U-turn and went to work on Wall Street – Seminary to Wall Street, doesn’t everyone do that? But even in Corporate America, I was consciously seeking meaning, contemplating the deeper reasons, and searching for the hidden levers that set the whole show in motion.

I enjoyed my work, did well, and was twice promoted. But when the dot com bubble burst in 2002, I, along with everyone else in the firm, was laid off. I took my severance and my savings, cashed in my 401k, and went to India without a return ticket. I suppose it’s a clichéd thing to do. Even more so, I was chasing a girl.

But the doorway to the deeper meaning of life had already opened wide for me at age 17. And I knew enough to follow my heart.

After a brief dalliance with my ex-girlfriend in Dehli, however, I moved on to the Osho ashram in Pune, which is South of Mumbai on the coast. There, I meditated 8 hours a day and took initiation as a Swami. I also travelled to Goa, where I first learned alternative healing modalities.

Eventually, I returned to New York City, where after a few twists and turns, I met the woman who became the mother of my children, got married, and co-founded a holistic health center. During this time, I was also diagnosed with several supposedly incurable autoimmune diseases, all of which I healed naturally by radically changing my diet and lifestyle. Meanwhile, I also apprenticed to Shamans, doing regular Ayahuasca ceremonies… still searching for answers.

Then, my marriage fell apart.

The day after the divorce papers were on the table, I went out to a party. There, in a loft space in Brooklyn, someone casually introduced to me the real meaning of the playing cards, telling me that I’m born to play the 9♥, the symbol of heartfelt completions, tragic personal loss, and starting new chapters.

As I heard this, my knees actually buckled under me. I felt like time slowed down and the air got thick around me. It hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks… because it’s true. Not just in my divorce, but in my friendships and my life – inexplicable emotional endings followed by new chapters with new relationships and experiences.

From that fateful encounter, I studied what I could about this esoteric knowledge. And I found out that my Personality Card is the 7♣. But altogether, very little is written about the real meaning of the playing cards.

Then, in meditation, I started to feel like I was receiving direct downloads of insights and information. And over time, I started to develop a fuller understanding of this knowledge and how it had once been known as the Book of Life.

More importantly, my personal quest was complete. For once I found what’s written for me in the Book of Life, I found myself. I understood my life. And I got my answers.

I realized my purpose in life is to share spiritual knowledge (7♣) that opens people’s hearts (9♥) to the next chapter of their lives. It means that helping other people play their cards right is how I play my cards right. In other words, it’s my purpose to help people live their purpose.

And since it was through the playing cards that I had found my answers, it only made sense to me to share the real meaning of the cards as the same tool of personal transformation for others.

But still, it was risky to bet my professional life on reading playing cards. And when I initially decided to set up a business to read cards for a living, people, including my family, thought I was crazy. I must admit; it was difficult for me to believe I was doing the same work that Gypsies used to do.

But nonetheless, I set up a professional coaching practice, the only one of its kind, to help people play their cards right in life. I even set up a professional school to teach people how to use the Book of Life as a coaching tool for transformation.

And after doing this work for seven years, I now see very clearly, in my own life and in my client’s lives, how choosing to play our cards right does in fact attune us to abundant success. For once we are in conscious harmony with the underlying patterns of our life, as represented by these cards, then we are quite literally tuned in to the soul-satisfying success of our lives!

And in my love life too, knowing my cards to play has been transformational! For one thing, this knowledge gave me the insight to choose a woman with whom I have an excellent romantic connection.

And, once in the relationship, the Book of Life continues to enlighten me about the dynamics of our relationship. For example, it helps me to see my partner’s shadow side (her Pluto Card) clearly. And knowing her shadowy tendencies helps me to have more compassion for her, as it does her for me: knowing my Pluto Card helps her to have more compassion for my shadowy tendencies. And it’s this awareness of each other’s patterns that equips us with the knowledge to make our relationship truly blossom.

Plus as a parent, I find it tremendously helpful to know my children’s cards to play. It helps me understand their gifts and their challenges so I can more effectively parent them. It gives me a clear perspective so that I don’t unconsciously impose my egotistical thinking on them, but instead, can consciously support them to play their cards right.

For example, my son is born to play the Ace of Diamonds. It means he is learning to master his own self-expression. With that awareness, I can encourage him to do things on his own, as well as (at my best) have patience while he does learn how to do things for himself.

Meanwhile, my daughter is born to play the 5 of Diamonds. It means she does things out-of-the-box, outside of the norms, on her own terms. And that has been tremendously helpful to know so that, rather than get upset when she breaks away from the way I would do things or try to make her follow the social rules of society, I can actually encourage her to do things her own way.

These are just very small examples, but the main idea is that this timeless knowledge has become the foundational truth and touchstone for all aspects of my life.

And I chuckle whenever I recall that I once searched everywhere: I became a born-again Christian, studied philosophy at Harvard, went to Roman Catholic seminary, travelled to India, meditated all day, became a Swami, worked with Shamans, did plant medicine ceremonies, and read every spiritual development book I could find, but it was at a party in Brooklyn that I found the meaning of life… in a deck of playing cards.


Amazon best-selling book: Play Your Cards Right: A Sacred Guide To Life On Earth


About Author

Alexander Dunlop is a Life Coach whose unique work is based on the Book of Life, an ancient blueprint for realizing our full potential. This ancient wisdom is found in – of all things – an ordinary deck of 52 playing cards. He writes about this ancient tool in his Amazon best-selling book: Play Your Cards Right: A Sacred Guide To Life On Earth. Alexander is a Harvard graduate and former Wall Street Consultant. He lives in Brooklyn with his soulmate and two children.

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