In a previous post called “Cultivate Connections”, I wrote about that phrase, my new mantra, and how I was trying to establish connections with my mind, body, and spirit, as well as with others — friends, co-workers, relatives, strangers. And last week, I wrote about the importance of staying connected. Yet, I have to admit I’ve been struggling to make good on that mantra. Sure, it’s easy to cultivate connections with people I like. But to stay connected to my mind when all I feel is anxiety, or my body when I want to reshape it, or my spirit when all I want to do is numb out in front of the TV, well, that’s harder.
This morning was no exception. I have Wednesdays off, so I’m able to sleep in until my body wakes me naturally, which is a good way to honor my body’s needs. I awoke after 9 hours of sleep and felt rested. Before I even left the bedroom, I sat in my meditation position and said to myself, “I will cultivate connections today” as I breathed in and out. So, in terms of connecting with my body and spirit, I was off to a good start. Then I got to the gym and some of my more chatty acquaintances wanted to talk and I brushed them aside with polite niceties about how I had to “get going”. I walked on the treadmill and thought about how that wasn’t the best way to cultivate connections with people.
After an hour of various exercises, I was on the floor stretching and ready to leave. I looked up and saw a man I hadn’t seen in several months, someone who used to come to the gym with his elderly mother. I have only had one conversation with him previously, but I knew then that he is unique — grounded, centered, and unabashedly spiritual in a way that is both shocking and refreshing. There was no pretention with him, no niceties. We spoke in that first conversation years ago as if we had known each other forever.
So, feeling badly about not living up to my mantra earlier, I felt compelled to ask this man how he and his mom are doing. He shared that his mom had been in a bad car accident in which she was hit by a truck that ran a red light. She sustained only a few broken bones, but her usual steadiness and emotional fortitude took a bigger hit. He continued, saying that she was just now getting back to her normal self and had returned to the gym with him yesterday. I was glad I inquired. But as I went into “wrap up the conversation” mode, my friend said — matter of factly — “Yeah, Mom’s doing okay now. But my son died 2 days ago.”
My heart rattled in my chest and I started thinking things like, “He must be in shock.” “He hasn’t processed this yet.” “He’s just hiding his true feelings from me, a stranger.” “Maybe he wasn’t close with his son.” The truth was far from any of those things, as I discovered over the next 20 minutes. My friend shared that his ex-wife and his 19-year-old son lived on the other side of the U.S. His son had been born with cerebral palsy and experienced discrimination and isolation by those who feared his physical deformities or were just unsure what to say when he was around. And yet, this young man had touched the life of so many and in such profound ways!
My friend recounted stories of how his son’s natural exuberance was like an energy that was “catching”. Anyone who “came into his energy field” was touched and so, “like a pebble dropped into the water, my son had an impact on hundreds of people. He brought them profound peace and happiness and probably impacted as many people as someone famous would have.” The young man’s death was sudden and quick, apparently having a heart attack at the dinner table with his mom. My friend continued, saying that others tell him he’s in shock or denial but that he feels at peace, having been worried about his son’s prognosis recently, knowing that if he continued to live, his life would get increasinly painful and he would require more and more medical care. A practitioner of Shiatsu and believer in Buddhist philosophies, my friend smiled gently as he talked about how all things in the universe are interconnected. I smiled, too, as I caught a fleeting glimpse of the bigger picture of this thing we call “life”.
Peace, joy, and health.