We travel to broaden our horizons, and little did I know all those years ago that my horizons were about to be stretched beyond all recognition!
I arrived in India at 7am, stumbling off the plane to a surprisingly bitter cold. I had read in The Lonely Planet Guide where the tourists all stayed in New Delhi, so I took a taxi and asked for the 'Paharganj'. Stepping out onto the narrow mud street full of chickens and cows, I entered the first hotel I came to and was shown to a boxroom in the middle of a corridor. Hardly salubrious with just enough room for a bed and no windows at all, I figured that I may as well get exploring and headed straight out onto the street.
The first person I met was an elderly Sikh gentleman who said 'Namaste' and bowed his head, hands together as though in prayer. ‘Namaste’ I responded, happy to talk because for me travelling is all about being open to the universe and the experiences it provides. What happened next turned my life on its head and shattered my understanding of existence forever!
“You are lucky that you met me today!” he said.
“Why is that?” I responded smiling.
“I am going to write three things down on a piece of paper, your age...” he turned the paper to me and showed me that he had written 23. Correct. Good guess, but not impossible.
“How many brothers and sisters you have...” and showed me 0 brothers, 1 sister. Correct again, but hardly life changing.
“Your mother’s name..” and he showed me CAROL.
Now you need to know that I was travelling alone, no one knew me, that information was not written anywhere, and there was in fact no rational explanation for how he knew my mother’s name.
It was at this point, barely an hour after arriving in India, that my whole world changed. Everything that I took for granted; my education, my socialisation, my upbringing, my culture, my mind, my very existence….suddenly became irrelevant and questionable. Things were not what I thought they were. I was not who I thought I was!
He gave me a cup of sweet Chai and a seat...the maelstrom of incomprehension must have been visible on my face!
“Ask me anything you want to know about your life, I will tell you…” And I had absolutely no doubt that he could! If only I could have that moment again, I think I might now actually know what to ask. Back then I just said ,” Don’t tell me…..i don’t want to know!” The thought of either living up to predictions or living in fear of them was too terrible to contemplate. How could you want to know your own future and still remain sane?
I left that encounter a changed woman. But still my rational mind struggled to find an answer. If he could do it, then it was possible, and if it was possible then there was an explanation. This is the perfect example of Western mentality!
When something happens that challenges your understanding so deeply, you are faced with two choices; completely rethink everything you have ever believed to be true, or just treat it as an anomaly and continue on as though nothing has changed.
I chose the easy option, nothing to see here, carry on! I buried this experience in the depths of my mind and carried on with business as usual! But I never forgot it, and whilst I wasn’t consciously thinking about it my unconscious mind was busy picking away at it like a knotted ball of string, using all my experiences and learning and more likely un-learning to unwind that holy grail of rational explanation….
And after many, many years, this is what it came up with!
Imagine that the source of all life, existence, Great Spirit, God...whatever you may like to call it, is as a light bulb in the centre. Around it is a shade, like a lampshade. In the lampshade, there are innumerable pinpricks through which the light shines. Those pinpricks are us! We think we are the centre of our own universe and that the light shines out from us, but the reality is that in through every pinprick is the true source of the light which is just shining through us!
From this perspective, it seems that we are all connected. We suffer the illusion of separation and self existence, the I, because we perceive ourselves as separate. Particularly in the West, in our modern world, we are socialised from a very early age into believing that we are all individuals and have no connection with others (apart from family ties of blood). If we were to accept Lightbulb Theory we would see that although we appear as an individual, our true nature is greater than that. We are in some way sharing the same part as all others, even if you just wish to call that part ‘life’, and therefore in some way we are part of them too. Life itself is the connection. And how can you deny that?
From this perspective, what that marvelous gentleman did is completely understandable! He either:
This phenomenal change in perspective could be a deep and reassuring awareness, but it also has huge implications for the way that we treat each other and even ourselves. But that, as they say, is another story...!
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