Earlier this evening I planned to attend a fitness class but once there found it had been cancelled. I then headed to the gym but when I went to change into my sneakers I found that a gallon of water had leaked and saturated one of the shoes – I was already cold and the thought of putting on a sopping wet shoe was more that I was willing to do (yeah I know suck it up and stop being a baby). Next stop was to pick up a few things from the store, which thankfully was successful and then to make a return at another store. The second store was crowded so I decided it could wait until tomorrow.
You may be wondering why I wrote about the class, the gym and the errands. I did so to show that while incidents may seem random and unconnected, the universe brings us to the exact place we need to be in any given moment - to meet who we are destined to meet, to learn what we need to learn and to experience that which we need to experience.
As I drove out of the parking lot I saw a woman sitting with a blanket around her shoulders and her belongings next to her. I continued to drive but the image stayed with me, and so I circled back around to see if perhaps she wasn’t loaded down with bags from a shopping spree and waiting for her ride. But unfortunately, that was not the case.
I went up to her and said hello and asked if she was okay, I thought maybe I could buy her a hot coffee or a meal, but she said she was waiting for someone to pick her up, and because the night was classified as a code blue (temps below freezing), she would be taken to a warming station. She added that it wasn’t exactly where she had planned to be at age 67 but was hopeful that she could turn her situation around.
I gave her the money I would have spent on the fitness class and wished her all the best, all the while feeling totally inadequate. My heart was breaking for this stranger who grew up in the same decade as myself and I knew that her current situation could easily be mine.
As I wished her well she shared her beautiful smile with me and her brave hope for the future. I got back into my warm car and headed home, feeling a rush of gratitude for all the good fortune in my life. No longer taking for granted the fact that I have heat, hot water, a bed, privacy, a stocked refrigerator and freezer, an oven, stove and microwave, television and internet, a bathroom and shower, a computer, plenty of clothes, a washer and dryer, a door that locks and so much more.
This month I have been offering a group meditation challenge and I knew that the meditation I would share for tomorrow would be Tonglen meditation. Tonglen is a method to overcome our fear of suffering and to open our hearts in compassion for our own suffering and that of other sentient beings.
Let's acknowledge the suffering that is inherent in life and do our part to lessen it. When one of us suffers, we all suffer.
A big shout out and thank you to The Branches Center of Rio Grande for all the love and kindness they share with our community.