It’s easy to lose sight of the Divinity in people, things or anywhere in creation. As soon as judgment rears its ugly head, Divinity gets instantly hidden from view. I had an interesting experience of this some years ago.
I was in New York teaching a workshop at the same time Deepak Chopra was there giving a public lecture. As I had the evening free, I went to hear him speak. The hall was crowded with around two thousand people so I made my way to the front row which had been reserved for special guests. I’ve probably heard Deepak speak more than anyone else in the world so I don’t usually sit in the front row. However, this evening there were really no other seats.
I sat next to some people I knew, two seats in from the aisle, leaving one seat empty between me and the aisle. The lecture was going very well, with Deepak in his usual top form, when a woman, who had probably been eyeing the empty seat from the back of the room, walk down the aisle and half slumped into the seat next to me. She was middle-aged, poorly dressed and smelt strongly of alcohol. The Divine immediately disappeared and judgment took over. “Why did she have to sit here, what if she falls asleep on me or even worse?” All these thoughts flooded my mind as I began to lean towards my friends.
At times like this, when ego is on the rampage, I’ve found that Mother Nature will often step in with a quick kick to the seat of the pants. That’s exactly what happened here. With all these judgments flowing through me I heard Deepak saying, “Now I’d us all to do an exercise, please close your eyes and think of all the things you are grateful for”. Knowing what was coming next, I groaned silently as I closed my eyes. After a few minutes, which seemed like two seconds to me, Deepak asked us to open our eyes, turn to the person next to us and share with each other what we were grateful for. Instant dilemma! Do I turn to my friends and share with them but in doing so exclude the woman from the exercise because she had the aisle on her other side, or do I turn and share with this person about whom I’d been having all these negative thoughts.
By this time the woman had turned towards me and, as even at my most judgmental self, my mother’s upbringing won’t allow me to be totally rude, I smiled weakly and suggested she went first. She mentioned several normal type of things including family, friends, a job etc. and then paused, looking straight at me. It was my turn. Then I was flooded with the Divine, and without thinking, I found myself saying, “I’m grateful to you for sitting next to me” and the next thing I know, she was hugging me and sobbing. “Thank you, thank you”, she said, “It’s so wonderful of you to say that”.
Then an amazing thing happened, my heart became completely unbounded, filling the whole auditorium and far beyond. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I have had. Somewhere in the distance I heard Deepak announcing that we would now take a short break and through my euphoria, noticed the woman get up and head for the back of the room without saying another word.
The feeling of bliss lasted for several hours and even now I get tingles when I think about it. What happened to the woman and who she was, I will never know. She didn’t return after the interval and I never saw her again. A gift from the Divine.