On Sunday, January 20, 2013, I had the most extraordinary experience of my life, a metaphysical one, though ever since that day many extraordinary days have come my way.
My soul friend had told me about an experiential self awareness workshop in Arizona. This was the second series we were attending. I was interested in it because she was; she was the seeker. I wasn’t really into this stuff. I was a contented man, who was close to conquering the higher education and career lives, and had now been a couple of years into a conquered love life, of the sweetest kind. Was there anything else?
Nevertheless, we both knew from the previous time that this workshop was powerful, and the second series was expected to delve much deeper.
It was indeed powerful. During one of the activities, I actually made a remark to the group along the lines of: “I feel that I have already received everything that life has to offer.” Perhaps that’s when Divine Mother decided to take my heart away soon after that day: to shake me and slap me and remind me how much greater divine aspirations lie ahead for us.
But let me come back to my extraordinary experience story.
As a last challenge for myself, I had set out to walk in a Starbucks cafe and talk to five random persons, without premeditating a topic. I am timid in front of those whom I don’t know well and mingling was a scary thing to me. So this was no small challenge for me.
I gathered all my confidence and walked up to one guy who had a newspaper in front of his face. I asked if he “had a minute to chat.” No response. I shyly repeated a few times and got nothing. Scared more than before, I moved on to a new person. I got a couple of “No”s and a few funny gazes of that kind which imply “is he mentally ill?”
But this was too important to just walk out with my tail between my legs. I stood in and walked on to the next person, with no less amounts of fear and anxiety.
What proceeded next was the start of an extraordinary turn of events.
I asked a Hispanic man. Hesitatingly he said yes. I don’t remember what I talked about, just that it was brief and uninspired. But with that I got my encouragement to go on.
Next there was a lady, whose face brightened up when I asked to chat with her. She smiled and openly chatted with me with kindness. As she was speaking, my heart was warmed to know that “there are kind people around”. Then a feeling of deep shame overcame me, as I noticed that I myself would be the one who would have turned away or look condescendingly at the crazy stranger guy who wants to have a chat with you!
I felt humbled, especially when I noticed that those who had rejected me looked and acted like the sophisticated, educated kind, and the two people who were open to speak to me had the appearance of more simple folks: low-income immigrant, of less formal education, etc. I considered myself of the first category and thus the shame.
So now I had my #1 and #2 taken care of. #1 had been unsure about letting me chat, but nonetheless had allowed it. #2 was actually kind to me. A little more brazen, I asked a man who was about to leave. He hesitated but then said yes. We sat together on a table on the outside patio.
This man #3 turned out to be an African immigrant and a cab driver. When he found out that computer programming was my field, he brightened up and told me that he came to this country to pursue a career in computers but didn’t have the money or time to take that on.
This is when it hit me. Here I’m thinking about my silly challenge and thinking this man is about to fulfill part of it “for me.” Yet he is genuinely looking at me like someone who can help him pursue a career of his dreams. Once more, I felt shame, this time for being self-centered, but also delighted to have an unexpected opportunity to be a real friend to someone. We exchanged numbers and later on we actually stayed in touch for a while. The thought came to my mind that I could not be of benefit to someone like him, and be a friend, if I was shy and didn’t reach out to people.
I had an awareness that, as moments passed, my chats were magically were becoming more and more easy to get and meaningful.
This is when my extraordinary conversation happened.
I was still in the outside sitting area after I left my previous companion. I looked around but no one was at sight. Then, once more I turned my head and all of a sudden there was someone at a distant table. Encouraged, I walked closer. It was an older man in a an old and wrinkled dark brown suit. “Do you mind if I sit and have a chat with you?” I asked. With kindness, and also a certain distance, he agreed.
As I sat down, he opened the conversation with a peculiar sentence, something about “Jesus Christ turning water into wine on a Sunday.” It was indeed a Sunday. Finding it a bit strange, yet I was just happy that I have my person #4 down. I casually replied: “I wonder what a modern day kind of miracle would be like…”
Then the conversation turned casual. It turned out he was Mexican, and a some kind of a retired priest. I practiced some Spanish with him and talked about my home-country Iran a bit.
As we were talking, a few youngsters came to him and asked him for a cigarette. I think he had one on his ears and gave them one. No more conversation. Then they left.
Once again, a bit strange scene to witness. But our conversation moved on.
Somewhere at this point, I noticed his eyes moved to one side, to the extent that I saw almost only the white part. That’s when he started uttering sentences that I knew and understood to be profound, but strangely I could remember none of it later when I was relating the story. The only thing I could remember that he mentioned the word “cosmos”.
It was during his speaking at this time that I realized I was not having a normal conversation. It was more as if I was seeing the conversation unfold in front of my eyes. I was just the observer. My very first sentenced flashed in my mind: “I wonder what a modern day kind of miracle would be like.” Feeling I was witnessing a miracle right at this moment, I began to weep uncontrollably, as I continued to listen.
A normal person in a normal conversation would stop at this point and react to my emotions. He might try to calm me and asked me why I was crying. But he was not the slightest bit affected. Though he saw me, he kept on speaking.
At times his eyes would come back to normal, and we’d say a few normal things, and again they would shift to the side and the cosmic words would be spoken, ones that would just not stay in my memory after the encounter, but were somehow completely understood at the time.
For a moment Paulo Coelho’s Alchemist book came to my mind. In that book he talks about “personal legends”–certain natural or supernatural beings—that come on one’s road for the sole purpose of guiding him/her along on the spiritual path. Something was telling me that this old man appeared just for me to help me with something. But with what?
The next time we snapped back to a normal conversation, for the first time in this conversation, I came back to my head. By that I mean the normal flow of exchange was cut, and I thought about “what to say” to him to get the conversation going. So I asked him: “I would really like to speak to you again. Can I have your phone number?”
Casually he responded that “there is no need.” He said something along the lines of “today I was here and we talked and tomorrow there’ll be another person.” This is when I realized my mistake had broken the flow of the experience.
Part of my intention during that weekend was to learn how to “be in the moment.” It felt that this was a message to remind me of that.
The conversation had finally come to an end, though I was still weeping and had no clear idea how much time had passed. In fact, I had forgotten about my challenge and that he was person #4 and I still needed to talk to one more person. Yet I didn’t care at all about that anymore. All I wanted to do was to go to my car and cry some more, so affected by an experience that I had no doubt was cosmic, but could not explain what, why, and how.
So that’s what I did. As soon as I sat in my car, I noticed a middle-aged man sitting at a table, directly in front of my car. He was staring directly at me, and had a big inviting smile on his face. I am sure that this doesn’t happen in normal life. Strange guys just don’t smile at each other, especially if one is in the car and the other sitting on a chair in a cafe! Although I had no motivation to finish my challenge anymore, I felt as if life is giving me a gift on a silver platter: to finish my challenge with no effort on my part. Such a contrast to where I started half an hour earlier!
I went to him and we had a brief casual conversation. He just told me he was a dentist and a few other mundane things. I thanked him and left, having finished my challenged successfully, one which held no importance to me any longer.
Coming out of that experience to my friend and my group, and later my other friends and family, I attempted to explain what had happened during that encounter. I would just burst into tears for reasons I couldn’t understand. And somehow I couldn’t really describe much, as you see evident in my writing here too. I couldn’t remember any words! It felt like as if I was taken to a higher consciousness level and I understood him really well. But later on after descending back down those concepts could not be expressed in human terms.
Later on, I often reflected on that day. I wanted to know what its significance was. I thought maybe that was just a crazy person. But somehow I was certain this was a significant divine experience and message for me.
Recently, thinking back on that day, I realized that this might have been the first day I had cried in my adult years. Something had happened in my heart. An opening was made.
A few months after this encounter, my relationship with my soul friend, which had turned long-distance, ended.
One month later, I read the Autobiography of a Yogi, which we had picked up together to read. My conscious spiritual path had begun.