Encounters with strangers can be very enlightening experiences, full of opportunities for learning about yourself. But often times the overwhelming lesson I come away with is how connected we all are. A couple of occasions – synchronicities and strange encounters – definitely gave me the sense that there is a spiritual connection that is always there, even though hidden from normal awareness.
A few months ago I experienced some kind of dissociative state while I was going out to grab a bite to eat. I’m still not sure what happened, but it occurred during a trip to a local taco shop.
The place was Chipotle’s. A place for good, fresh tacos and burritos, that has become a favorite place for a quick bite. You place your order at the front and they make it right there in front of you in assembly-line fashion. At this particular location in Cupertino, there is plenty of seating available and at the right time of day it can be a very lively, noisy environment.
So on this occasion when I stopped in it was one of those busy days with plenty of people seated, waiting in line at the order counter, or walking with their food. I gazed around the room as I approached the end of the line, and then became surprised when the first person who caught my attention looked awfully familiar. For a few moments I tried to recollect where I’d seen him before or why I felt I knew him, but nothing came to mind. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. All I knew was that his appearance, his hair, facial features, and expressions, all combined to give me the distinct impression that I had seen him before.
Finally I gave up trying to figure it out. Then I looked at another person nearby and she, too, looked very familiar. What a coincidence, I thought. But again, I couldn’t place where I had seen her before or recollect who she was. It was at this point that I started gazing over the entire room and, one by one, with each person I looked at, I felt I had seen them somewhere before! And I don’t mean that I had seen them there at Chipotle’s (though that can’t be ruled out), but it was more a feeling that each person’s face was not new at all, not unfamiliar in the slightest. They weren’t all in one group, either, but were the typical conglomeration of several individuals and small groups of people who all happened to decide to eat at Chipotle’s at that point in time. There was no reason I should have known ALL of them. And the frustrating part was that I couldn’t put my finger on where I could have possibly seen them before. I can’t adequately describe how bizarre it was to go from face to face, each time discovering that I had already seen that face, or even already knew who they were.
That has not happened again, and I’m not sure what to make of the experience. I do feel, however, that perhaps I really did know everyone there. Researchers on the subject of life after death have written books describing the process of soul migration, and how groups of souls often decide to incarnate at the same time. Normally there is no memory of previous incarnations, the time spent between lives, or the other souls encountered. Had what I experienced actually been a recognition on the soul level of other souls?
Are you my daddy?
This next account betrays behavior on my part that I’m not proud of. I’ll be open about it here because the entire account ties in with this theme of being connected with others, even strangers, at a hidden level.
I had just finished exercising at a local gym. It was a weekday evening, after work, and I was tired and somewhat impatient to get home. As I walked to the door, a woman with her small children were also leaving, but they seemed to be having problems actually getting through the door. I realize she had her hands full as there were two or three small children and maybe an older child with her that she was trying to get out the door.
Now the entrance to the gym was one of those double-swing doors and they ended up blocking half the doorway and weren’t moving fast enough for my impatient pace as I came up behind them. Actually, they didn’t seem to be moving at all. Since they were only blocking half the doorway (one door), I went around them and pushed on the other door to get passed and then walked right on through.
In my haste to leave, I didn’t notice that one of the children decided to move to the part of the doorway that I had just walked through, and so when I let go of the door it almost swung right into her. In fact, it would have hit her if the mom hadn’t shouted “look out!” and caught the door.
The door didn’t hit her, but then neither did I break my stride as I kept walking.
The mom didn’t seem too concerned, and didn’t appear to notice me at all. Still, I felt bad that the door could have hit the little girl – but not bad enough to say anything as the entire family followed me through the parking lot and right to my car (NOW they decided to move fast). No, they weren’t tracking me down – it just turned out that they, of course, happened to be parked right next to me! Yes, it was a fitting metaphor for my nagging conscience that itself followed me as I walked to my car.
I got in and drove away.
Two days later I went back to the gym, and again, after I finished my workout and proceeded to leave, the same family was leaving the gym at the same time. Another reminder of the events from two days prior. I took a deep breath and determined that I would not be impatient this time. Even though we all exited at the same time, there was no incident.
As I walked from the building I wondered if they recognized me at all. As if on queue, one of the children, a little boy, kept staring at me. He even started to walk alongside me, straying away from his family. Just when I began to wonder what was on his mind, he repeatedly asked me some question that I couldn’t understand. His older brother was walking with him and explained, very matter-of-factly, “He thinks you’re his Dad.” And then the kid showed me his hand-held video game he was playing with, as if wanting acknowledgment or approval. I just smiled, nodded, and continued to the car. That seemed to satisfy him.
I have not seen that family since.
So what forces were at work to bring strangers together in such as minor yet intriguing way? And why did one of them seem to recognize me, or at least think that he knew me?
The doors to that gym have since been replaced – with automatic sliding doors.
Is anyone truly a stranger?
Perhaps there are no true strangers. Spiritual tradition teach of the unity of all people. All we need to do is open our eyes to see the truthfulness of those teachings. We interact with others every day – we see people at work, at the grocery line, at the bank, at school. Some are familiar and others appear as total strangers. I believe that the true original sin is the concept that we are each separate from each other. If, instead, we could view all others as part of ourselves, then we could be happy when good fortune smiles on others. And we wouldn’t feel the need to take for ourselves at another person’s expense.
Several meditation traditions include the practice of blessing others at the conclusion of a meditation session. It starts with people that we care the most about, but eventually expands to encompass the entire world of humanity. That is the part that takes some practice to do with sincere feeling. But if we can open our eyes to the small clues that present themselves daily, we can see the truthfulness of it, and then feel sincere concern for all people everywhere. Such attitudes can go a long way towards healing a planet.