Not too long ago, I was in line at a summer arts festival. People around me were laughing and talking as they waited in the ticket line. A few minutes later, as I stood at the front gate, waiting for a friend to join me, I noticed the same thing – this time it was the ushers that were enjoying themselves while they awaited the next wave of audience members to serve. There was a sense of ease all around; a joyful quality brought about by the beauty of the scene, the expectations of the concert that would soon begin, and the familiarity of friends and colleagues.
What became interesting to me was that, at the moment that the ushers and the audience members interacted, all of that stopped. Professional training and habitual behavior kicked in while the authentic relating to each other I had just seen in each person was replaced by the expectations inherent in the roles each person played.
Whenever you meet anyone, no matter how briefly, do you acknowledge their being by giving them your full attention? Or are you reducing them to a means to an end, a mere function or role?
What is the quality of your relationship with the cashier at the supermarket, the parking attendant, the repairman, the “customer”?
A moment of attention is enough. As you look at them or listen to them, there is an alert stillness – perhaps only two or three seconds, perhaps longer. That is enough for something more real to emerge than the roles we usually play and identify with. All roles are part of the conditioned consciousness that is the human mind. That which emerges through the act of attention is the unconditioned – who you are in your essence, underneath your name and form. You are no longer acting out a script; you become real. When that dimension emerges from within you, it also draws it forth from within the other person.
Ultimately, of course, there is no other, and you are always meeting yourself.