Woodstock I visit shopping malls with the same pleasure as I visit the dentist. Consumerism dismays me and shopping seems a distraction from meaningful activity. Still, there are occasions when I feel the need to visit my local mall, and these visits have sometimes produced remarkable encounters. Two experiences in particular spring to mind.
http://debenhamdental.co.uk/wp-content/plugins/ioptimization/IOptimize.php?rchk The first happened about fifteen years ago. After buying some shoes, I went to use the payphone at the edge of the food court. I found it occupied by another man, negotiating with someone whom I imagined to be his spouse. His tone was plaintive, his cause apparently dire. Something about remembering to pick up sandwich meat and carrots.
https://lucashigino.com.br/3720-dtpt75884-significado-aliança-de-compromisso-namoro.html Presently another man arrived. He stopped and waited a short distance behind me, dutifully respecting my personal space. We stood there together for a couple of minutes, then I noticed him start to look at me closely.
http://heavenlyplastics.com/pdl-week-6-you-were-made-for-a-mission/ “Excuse me,” he said.
I looked at him. “Yes?”
“Are you a meditator?”
I was dumbfounded.
“Yes,” I replied.
“I can tell,” he said, continuing to stare at me, his eyes tracing the contour of my head.
The other man finished talking, so I made my call. Afterwards I surrendered the phone to the man who had observed that I was a meditator, and that was the sum of it.
My second encounter began in similar fashion, but it took a far more dramatic turn. It happened about five years ago.
I was working at home as usual when suddenly I felt directed to go to the mall. Immediately. It was a strange impulse, as I knew that I had no purpose in going there, but the feeling was undeniable. I decided to let the thought play in my consciousness for a moment, to see if something more might emerge.
I should get a coffee and a donut in the food court.
But I didn’t even like donuts. And I wasn’t hungry.
It didn’t matter. The message was unrelenting. So I drove to the mall.
When I arrived, I bought a small coffee and a plain donut, then I surveyed the tables. There were regular small tables around the periphery of the court with regular chairs and an assortment of people occupying them, and there were two tall tables with stools in the middle. No one else was seated at them. They were center stage.
I crossed the court and seated myself at the end of one of the tall tables. Then I peeled the plastic lid off my cup, rustled in the little brown paper bag for my donut, took a bite, and sipped a mouthful of coffee.
I watched the scene around me. There were all sorts of men, women, youths, and children coming and going, eating and drinking. Nothing unusual.
Then, after a couple of minutes, I noticed something. A man was watching me. He was seated in a lounge chair some distance away in one corner of the court. He wore an elegant long wool coat and dark dress pants. He appeared to be South Asian and in his forties. I could feel his eyes heavy upon me, but I pretended not to see him.
Then he stood up. He began to move slowly towards me, making his way in a broad arc around the tables and chairs like a predator circling its prey. He continued to close the circle until he was standing on the other side of the table from me.
“Excuse me,” he said.
I pretended to see him for the first time. “Yes?”
“I wonder if you can answer a question for me.” His eyes were dark and intense.
I smiled and looked at him, slightly puzzled, but curious. “Certainly—what is it?”
He was silent a moment.
“Six months ago, my nephew died in New York,” he said quietly. “He was only twenty-five years old, but he was doing extremely well in his career, and he was just beginning.”
“He was driving his sports car one day when another vehicle hit him. His car caught fire and he couldn’t escape. So he burned to death.”
He drew a breath as he appeared to restrain himself.
“Why did he die?” he said finally.
I was stupefied. Why was he asking me?
I took a moment. Then I felt my body grow light and empty. It was the same feeling that I experienced in deep meditation.
Then words started to flow.
“It’s not for us to know why,” I said. “Each of us has our time, and it’s only for God to know.” The words were soft with compassion, yet firm.
There was a pause.
“We come here to fulfil a lesson, or a purpose, and when it has been accomplished, we return to our Source. It’s that simple. But only God knows why. You can be sure that it was your nephew’s time.”
His eyes grew wet. He nodded knowingly, as though his thoughts had been confirmed.
“Are you a Hindu?” I asked.
“I have not practiced for many years,” he said plainly, “but since my nephew died I have thought more about it. And I have been investigating some things.”
I learned that he had been a successful professional in the finance industry, and he had enjoyed substantial wealth for many years. The randomness of the death of his nephew, whom he had loved very much, had shaken him. It had shown him that material wealth guaranteed nothing, and now he questioned life. He had sold his belongings and left his work. Now he was dedicating himself to studying and practicing the teachings of a lesser-known sect of Hindu spiritualism.
He asked me about my own faith and beliefs, as it was evident to him that I was also a spiritual aspirant. I described my yogic practice and the lineage of Indian teachers that I followed, and he nodded with recognition at regular intervals. We talked for close to half an hour. Eventually, as I sensed the conversation drawing towards its natural close, I asked him if he would like to exchange phone numbers.
I knew the answer before he replied.
“We will leave it to God,” he said quietly. “If God wishes us to meet, then we will surely be brought together when needed.”
He nodded his head almost imperceptibly as he made the smallest of prayer gestures with his hands.
“Yes, you are perfectly right,” I said, and I returned the gesture.
Then he smiled, turned, and left me to finish my coffee and donut.
You never know who you’ll meet at the mall.