It was the wee dark hours of the morning when I arrived at the Ashram for the second of three pilgrimages to India in my quest for Enlightenment. I didn’t want to wake any of the other occupants in the dorm so I just took the first open bed I came to and settled in for a few hours of shut-eye before the sun rose, figuring that I could always move to a less crowded part of the room later in the day if I so chose.
I was awakened by someone jostling my bed. It was a woman apparently returning from a backpacking trip through Nepal, dropping off her luggage onto the bed beside mine and sounding very out of sorts as she mumbled something to the effect of; “Why do people ALWAYS have to take the bed next to mine!?”. Immediately I sat up and introduced myself, with all the kindness and welcoming I could muster after the long flight the day before and only a few hours of sleep. The woman looked at me more closely and glared. It was a look of intense dislike verging precariously on sheer hatred. Then she turned without a word and strode out of the room.
By this time I was wide awake. I didn’t have a clue as to what I could have possibly done to offend her that terribly. I was the sort of person who always managed to get along with everyone. Not necessarily best or even good friends but amicable. Polite. Basic respectful communication. So to say that I was dumbfounded by the way she had reacted to me when I had literally done nothing but move into the bed beside hers was the understatement of the century.
One of the core teachings of the Yogic lineage I belong to is: “See God in each other”. Mercifully there are no requirements about liking what you see. The teaching is merely an invitation to open to the innate divinity of all of God’s Creation, so as to be able, in time, to recognize one’s own essential perfection. I decided that I was going to see her as God, fury and all, and simply mind and go about my own business as if we were the most loving and respectful of friends. I also decided that I was NOT going to vacate my bed just to placate her and she just as stubbornly also stayed put.
Two weeks went by. Our paths did not cross all that frequently other than when we were in the dorm so it wasn’t too hard for me to focus my attention on my practices of meditation, chanting, and seva, or selfless service, all integral parts of the daily Ashram schedule. My final day arrived and as I had a few minutes before the taxi was to arrive to take me to the airport, I went for a last cup of chai in the outdoor cafe. As I was sitting sipping the sweet blend of spices and tradition, the woman approached me. With some trepidation, I looked at her in silence.
“I know who you are!” she exclaimed!
I continued to sit in silence.
“I know who you ARE!”, she repeated almost gleefully.
I looked at my watch. I knew that I couldn’t leave India and her without hearing her story. So I motioned to her to sit and listened as she shared from the depths of her heart and soul.
“When I was very young, both my parents were killed in a car accident and I was placed in a Catholic orphanage. The Mother Superior became like a new mother to me and I was extremely dependent on her after the sudden death of my parents. One day a new Mother Superior came and replaced the old one. All of the other children took to her right away, as she was kind and caring and a genuinely loving person. But I hated her because she had replaced the only person I had been able to depend on for comfort and support when I lost my parents. YOU were that new nun! Everything about you reminded me of her and took me back to that time of pain and abandonment so that I could finally face it and allow it to be healed”.
My eyes welled up with tears. How easy it would have been for me to return her projected pain with hatred for her behavior. Instead, supported and surrounded by the purity of the energy of the Masters before me, I had been strong enough to bear the discomfort, neither repressing nor ineffectively expressing it, and successfully did my part in helping her become free from a powerful ghost of her past. I gave her a big hug and said, “We will meet again. And next time it will be very different.”
Her eyes brimmed with love and gratitude.
The teaching that we always meet ourselves is one of the most powerful, sublime, and potentially transformational agents for real change available to us. Nothing short of recognizing the divinity in each and every particle of the universe will bring about real or lasting change.
See God in each other. We are each a divinely perfect and irreplaceable part of the Whole.