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Reach Out and Touch Someone

Several years ago, I met someone who had spent a day with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

He was an airplane pilot who had been contacted to fly the Dalai Lama around to wherever he needed to go. He was introduced to His Holiness outside the aircraft, while standing on the tarmac, and he said the Dalai Lama took his hands and held them….and held them….and held them. 

At first he had the urge to pull away, but as they stood there and minutes passed, he realized the greeting was not going to end anytime soon, so he surrendered to it, and a connection of some sort was made.

When the day’s business was over, and it was time to say good-bye, the same ritual was performed, but this time he was ready for it, relaxing and trying to feel whatever was passing between them.

I found this story entrancing, yet puzzling.

For one thing, how does the Dalai Lamar have time for this kind of behavior? He's world famous, and is required to go around spreading goodwill and love to the entire planet, yet he deliberately took the minutes out of his busy day to make sure there was an authentic connection with someone - one person - who was basically his chauffeur.

It seems that this is how most of us think and behave: we charge through our busy lives, hopping from one person and situation to another, never making that kind (or any kind) of connection with the people around us, sometimes even resenting any kind of attempt at closeness, physical or otherwise.

My husband Larry and I just flew from Los Angeles (our home) to the Chicago area to visit relatives, and I decided to observe our fellow travelers to see if I could spot anything that could even be vaguely classified as connection, and came up blank, with one exception: a little boy who was probably about a year old, who just thought everyone at LAX airport was swell. 

We were slogging through the security line in snake like fashion, and at each turn we would pass the family of three. The boy was making eye contact with other passengers, waving and smiling at them, and just enjoying the experience of being in a situation with a whole lot of other humans.

After witnessing that child, and the effect he was having on the rest of us, I wondered: What if we all consciously performed the Dalai Lama’s ritual of connection with each other?

I use the word consciously, because I know most of us are semi or unconscious travelers through life, distracted by fear, guilt, envy, anger - all of those human emotions that stall us out, preventing us from getting to where we really want to go.

Truthfully though, we don’t even have to touch another human in order to “touch” them.

For many years, I taught violin students in private lessons. During this process, kids would inevitably get to a point in their short careers where they would need to audition for something. This was a relatively new experience for many of them, to get up before a stranger or person of authority in their lives and show them what they had (or didn’t have) to offer on the violin. How they played would determine whether they got into the organization at all, and if they did, where they would be placed. To say it’s a nerve racking experience is an understatement, and many of them dreaded the whole unavoidable situation. 

We did mock auditions to prepare them - a pretend run through that simulated the real thing. But the thing I taught them to do that may have been most helpful was a simple gesture: when you walk into the room with the auditioner, before you start to play, silently wish that person well. This has the effect of 1) giving the student a feeling of control instead of helplessness and/or fear, and 2) giving the auditioner a jolt of good vibes, since a deliberate directive like this will most likely be felt on some level of consciousness.

How does all of this help with our creativity? Or, how does creativity help with connections?

Connecting with another human being opens the door to an entire panoply of ideas. We are all walking, self-contained universes, unique in our own ways of seeing the world. To step back from our personal perspective and see what's around us from another point of view teaches us that we might be mistaken about how stuff works, or we may be encouraged to stay the course. Or, we might discover that we were missing big pieces of our life’s puzzle.

When people start to reveal parts of themselves to others, it is a gift that we can learn from and use in our own lives.

Covid disrupted our ability to connect physically and emotionally with each other, and we humans already had issues with this aspect of our lives on Earth. In fact, all our worst moments, the times when humanity fails itself and its fragile home, are when our connection is broken, and we can no longer walk together towards a better and certain future. War, famine, crime, lack of help or compassion for those who need it most, these are times we should reach out to each other.

What are the connections you value in your life? What have you noticed about making those connections? Did your creative gifts expand?

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