Last week my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary by going to a lovely French restaurant. We were sitting at a quiet table in a corner when the waiter ushered in another couple and seated them nearby. I heard the woman mention that it was their wedding anniversary, and unable to stop myself, I blurted out, “It’s ours, too!”
A few pleasantries and congratulations ensued, and my husband and I went back to eating our meal. But within a few moments, the man at the next table asked where we were from. We asked where they were from. They asked if we had kids. We asked if they had kids. And soon we were discussing all manner of things, from the price of condos in Hoboken to the price of tea in China (well, not really). Though we didn’t exchange phone numbers or highly personal information, I felt an immediate connection to and affinity for these people, though quite likely I will never see them again. And that, of course, got me thinking…
This month, I’ve been participating in a 40-day meditative practice called Global Sadhana. Basically, it’s an online effort where people from all over the world come together to recite a mantra. The words of this particular mantra are connected to a sutra (a thread, saying, or aphorism) that was given by Yogi Bhajan, who brought Kundalini yoga to the U.S. The sutra is simply: “Recognize that the other person is you.”
The experience in the restaurant the other night brought this sutra from the heavenly ethers of yoga-land into my real life. It would have been quite easy not to have mentioned that it was our anniversary, too (the fact that I did so resulted in the staff singing to all four of us, a sweet but always embarrassing outcome of admitting such things to waiters). It would have been easy to have eaten our meal in silence, or to have concentrated on our own private conversation (after 36 years, yes, we still have things to talk about besides our children). Or to have considered chatting with the unknown couple at the next table to be rude or intrusive.
Instead, simply connecting with “It’s our anniversary, too!” led to a delightful interchange. And the experience made me realize that as much as I sometimes feel and believe that I am unique and different from everyone else (as are you) we are also very, very much alike. It made me think about the fact that many times when I’m annoyed or irritated or downright angry with someone, that person may be feeling much the same way about me for some of the very same reasons. It made me think that when I’m feeling afraid to connect, maybe the other person is feeling that way too. In so many ways our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams and even our irritations are reflected in every single person we meet.
“Recognize that the other person is you” seems simple enough on the surface. But to live with this awareness day-to-day and moment-to-moment is an entirely different matter indeed.