I attended a nine day course on self awareness and spirituality in California, October 2011. As part of the course other members of the group and I, were required to go on a meditation walk every morning at 7.00am. During the walk we would name everything that are eyes rested upon, using first generation names, such as sky, flower, sun, we could also change the names of objects to whatever we wished. The purpose of this exercise was to find joy and wonder in everyday miracles that surround us.
After each morning walk we would sit down in silence for an organic breakfast. The slow pace influenced me to eat more mindfully and appreciate food.
One particular morning, after our walk, we found that there was no breakfast laid out for us-just water and lemon. We were about to start fasting. We were not told how long we would go without food for, and two days later we still had not eaten.
We then discovered that we were going to take a trip to Santa Monica Pier, and be left to walk along the beach and into the city. It was a silent exercise, and we were only allowed to speak to members of the public using one of two sentences. 'May I join you?' and 'I am hungry'. As I had not eaten for two days my initial motivation was to find food. So I began.
The first person I saw was a man, sat on the beach with a picnic basket and an ice cold bottle of water. He was rubbing sun cream in and appeared to be enjoying the sun. I walked up to him and asked, 'May I join you?’ He looked at me from head to toe, with a confused expression on his face. This may have been the result of my outfit- I was dressed in jeans, a hat and boots in the heat on the beach. He hesitated and then agreed. I sat in the sun with him for a while feeling increasingly uncomfortable as he attempted to make conversation with me and all I could do was smile. Unable to find the courage to tell him I was hungry and left.
I stood up from the beach and continued to walk down the pier until I saw a couple sat hugging on a bench. I asked, 'May I join you?’ The girl looked up at me and replied with a simple 'yes'. I sat down, and they shuffled to the other end of the beach. It wasn't long before I decided to let them enjoy their moment alone.
Then I spotted a tunnel bridge that linked the beach to the road, so I decided to walk through. As I reached the entrance I noticed a man sat on some dirty newspaper articles, with a rucksack, a cup of coffee and a lit cigarette. I asked, 'May I join you?' and he replied 'of course'. As he lifted his head, I noticed that underneath the dirt on his face he had the most striking green eyes. He asked, 'may I help you?' and I just smiled and sat down with him on his newspaper. Due to the lack of response from me, he decided I must be from out of town and he continued to tell me how nice the weather had been recently, how lovely the beach is, and that he was late to meet one of his friends. I felt able to tell him I was hungry, and with what looked like pleasure, he rummaged through his rucksack and found me a packet of noodles. He asked me what my name was and breaking the rules I replied 'Lucy'. He stood up from the floor to leave, but before he did he said 'you’re a very beautiful lady Lucy, take care of yourself. I was touched by the effortless generosity of someone who appeared to have little to offer.
After a while I too decided to leave, and headed to the road on the other side. Continuing along I came to an alley way were another homeless man sat with a guitar and damaged radio. I asked him 'May I join you?' and he said 'yes'. I smiled at his guitar hoping that he would be able to play some music but the strings were broken. He told me that he was unable to fix it, and that he carried it around hoping that somebody else would. He also noticed my lack of conversation, and continued to tell me that he couldn’t hear the crackled sound of his radio over the workmen above. I told him I was hungry and without hesitation he looked through his bag until he found a chocolate covered peanut bar and gave it to me selflessly. He found a can of sweet corn for himself and cut the top of with his Stanley knife. We both ate, and in that moment I felt safe and grateful. After swallowing the content he pulled a packet of needles from his bag. I glanced over and noticed that the medication read 'Insulin'. He was diabetic. Not only had he given me one of the few things he had to eat, but he had given me the chocolate he would have needed had his sugar levels dropped.
I learnt a valuable lesson this day; whether you have a little or you have a lot, you have the ability at all times to give to others. A person who I may have feared in the past humbled me beyond measure and gave me a gift that I will always remember.
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