I remember reading many years ago that whenever our life path crosses someone else’s, whether it be for a few minutes or an extended period of time, we have something to learn from the person and something to give them; that our meeting is no accident. I don’t know if that is true, but I find it to be a useful concept regardless.
By nature I am a very strong introvert so it is easy for me to stay within myself and not interact with other people. I know when I do that, however, I am potentially missing out on some important opportunities.
I imagine from time to time, all of us meet people in situations where our meeting seems very synchronistic, times when we sense that something bigger than random chance is operating. During my last two trips to India, I had four experiences like that.
1) In January 2013, I was on a domestic flight between Trivandrum and Mumbai, sitting next to an Indian man and his daughter. After a while, I noticed that their accent sounded very American. I finally asked where they were from and the father said “Seattle”. That certainly surprised me since I am from Seattle. When I arrived in Mumbai, I had a problem of some kind. I don’t remember what it was at this point, but I asked them for help and they willingly gave it
2) A few months ago, I wrote a post about a 73-year-old woman I met at Amma’s ashram in India. It seemed like I saw her at every turn. She, like me, was from the United States. She used to be an Emergency Room nurse; I am also a nurse. She had been feeling drawn to study Sanskrit so she planned to go to Pondicherry, India to attend a Sanskrit intensive when she left the ashram towards the end of January. I had been studying Sanskrit for two years.
At that point in my life, I had been feeling discouraged because of my health. I also felt old even though I was only 65. She was 73 at the time I met her. Ten years back, after having been bedridden for many years, she had found a cure for her ailment. Weeks later she was taking an 82 mile hike carrying a heavy backpack. Since then she has lived 7 years in Costa Rica and 3 years in a village in the Himalayas. Having her cross my path was both inspiring and uplifting.
3) One day on that same trip, I decided spontaneously to get in line to give prasad to Amma. (Amma’s form of blessing is to give each person that comes to her a hug and a piece of candy. In India, they also receive a packet of sacred ash. Those gifts are called prasad. Those of us who are living or visiting her ashram have the opportunity to hand Amma those items.)
The line of prasad givers forms outside the temple and it can be really long. It may take an hour and a half to make ones way through the line. As I was waiting in line that day, I was working on my Sanskrit homework. The Caucasian woman sitting next to me asked if that was Sanskrit I was writing and I said yes. She said she and her boyfriend were interested in learning Sanskrit so the three of us talked about it for a while. They were from New York City. I was able to give her information about how to find a teacher there, and so did the person sitting on the other side of me!
At some point, I must have said that I was from Seattle. She said she was born in Seattle, in 1980 at Swedish Hospital. I was the Maternal Newborn Clinical Nurse Specialist at Swedish Hospital in 1980! It seemed really important to her that I might have held her soon after she was born.
4) Coming home from that same India trip, I was sitting in an aisle seat in the middle section of the airplane. Seated next to me was an Indian man. Next to him was his child, and his wife sat in the other aisle seat. I started working on my Sanskrit homework and was having trouble with part of the assignment. I was frustrated because I didn’t have the resources on the plane I needed to finish it.
Shortly thereafter, the three people next to me switched seats, so that the wife could sit next to me. She told me she wanted to see what I was doing. She said me she had learned Sanskrit many years ago. She noticed the areas where I was having trouble and taught me what I needed to know to complete the homework!
What is the chance of me 1) sitting next to a man and child from Seattle on a domestic flight….. in India, 2) meeting a 73 year old woman that had so many commonalities with me, at a time when I needed to be inspired in the ways she could offer…….. in India, 3) sitting next to a Caucasian woman….in India…. who was born in Seattle, at the hospital and department where I worked at the time; and as if that wasn’t enough in common, she also was wanting to study Sanskrit and 4) sitting next to an Indian woman who had studied Sanskrit many years ago and could help me with my Sanskrit homework on my way home from India. To my mind, none of these meetings were random. All were synchronicities.
Having experiences like these really strengthens my belief that our paths cross for a reason. It made me aware of how much I potentially miss out on when I stay in my introverted shell. Even writing this post is a good reminder to me that I need to live in awareness and realize that every person I meet could become an important part of my life.
7/22/14 Addendum: I just returned from a trip in the Grand Tetons. I had a similar experience there. I had said “Hi” to people during the 3 days we were there, but never really had a conversation with anyone until the last day. At that point, I greeted a woman who was moving into her cabin. She asked me a question and then we started conversing. We talked for quite awhile. Towards the end of the conversation, I asked where she lived. Her answer was “Seattle.” She lives about 5 miles from me! How could that be random?
Written for Traces of the Soul Prompt #10: Traveling Log