Once, I was on a city bus when an elderly woman embarked from a stop outside a shopping center. She was carrying several bags in the manner of one who is accustomed to such a haul. She sat on one of the front benches, at a diagonal to where I was seated.
I have a mind that is quick to formulate theories about the lives of others, by piecing together fragments of given information, like the way their faces have worn or by their body language or in their expressions of dress. With this woman, I guessed she probably lived alone. Namely, I noticed her shoes were old. And I don't mean several years old... I mean, several decades old. I recognized their vintage to be from the sixties or seventies. They were not stylish and they were worn. She did not appear poor enough to be rendered ineligible for an upgrade. Even a second hand pair would surely be an improvement. Perhaps, to her, they were good enough back then, so why wouldn't they be good enough now? But it seemed to me that if she had someone in her life who was intimate enough to concern themselves with such details, she wouldn't be wearing such by-gone footwear.
The thought of being old and alone is a pretty terrifying thought to most humans. So the natural inclination would be to pull back from identifying with any representation of such a dreaded fate. But instead, for some reason, I felt inclined to peer closer…to lift the veil of 'otherness' and to merge momentarily with her humanity.
Suddenly I experienced there to be no distance between us. I felt I was her and I was quite at home with myself. It was no more scary than being the me that observed her as ‘other’. I felt the space between the particles of air was filled with some connective fluid whose substance was compassion. It was so beautiful! Then the feeling spread and I felt the same compassion and union with every person on the bus. I remember having the thought; 'This must be how Jesus felt.' I was flooded with love and realized we were all held and witnessed by this cosmic sinew of compassion.
It was interesting that I found the door to this state by an intentional rapprochement toward that which seemed a dreaded fate. And by looking beyond fear, I received a memorable gift of spiritual comfort.
For weeks after this experience, I kept trying to re-enter that state. I felt desperate to live there. But I have had to reconcile myself to the elusiveness of its entry point. I'm grateful for the taste I was given and I will keep trying to lift the veil. I will post directions when I find the portal again.