I composed the photograph at the top of this post in the late Spring of last year, but the image came powerfully to mind as I began my day, braving the sting of winter’s breath on my way to my annual physical, as the sun poked its nose over the tips of the trees, with deliberate thoughts of Spring permeating my consciousness. The rose bush is directly outside my bedroom window, and every year I anticipate the arrival of the roses with a grateful heart, and a keen sense of the natural beauty that is a vital component of my experience of the world. Contemplating the events of the past few weeks, hoping for a clearer perspective, my deliberate effort to connect to my deeper nature made me think of this enchanting image. It also brought my heart and mind to bear on an unexpected meeting with someone who needed to connect to their own nature.
Upon arrival at the medical center, I couldn’t help but notice how the air seemed thick with disharmony. I instinctively smiled and nodded as I made my way to the nurse’s station, but was unable to discern any reciprocal response at first. After filling out the forms, I was able to turn my focus to the people in the waiting room with a bit more attention to detail. Most of those assembled seemed to be either preoccupied with their smartphones, or not feeling well, but there was a young child sitting in her mother’s lap who seemed quite unphased by the wait, and she smiled sweetly, so I smiled back and enjoyed the feeling of empathy it produced. After what seemed like a fairly long wait, my name was called, and as I glanced over to the nurse holding my file, I immediately got the sense that something important was about to happen. I followed her to the examination room, and simply allowed myself to be open to whatever was to come.
Without saying a word, as I cooperated with the evaluation, my heart seemed to open, slowly at first, but then as the conversation began, I could feel my inner self swelling in response with a kind of compassionate or cognitive empathy. Before long, I found myself immersed in an exchange of thoughts and ideas that took me quite by surprise. I mostly listened at first, but soon found myself sharing some personal thoughts and history in a reciprocal manner to what was being shared. As the final test was being administered, the nurse was sitting directly in front of me as we waited for the computer program to run its course, and she asked me what I thought about what she had told me. I opened up just like the roses in the photo, and felt the same gratitude and keen sense of connection that normally rises within me when I see that image. She smiled as we parted, and on the drive home, I felt certain that the connection to this person was equally shared and appreciated.
For a very long time, I have asserted that we share an intimate connection to all life, and this awareness has manifested numerous times in my life, but is most often experienced in the fleeting transcendent moments of every life, whether we recognize it as such or not. Puzzling still, in some measure for me, is the purpose of being subjected to the variety of emotional and psychological states of others, so characteristic of such encounters, prompting me over the years to investigate human consciousness, and to conclude that there is a great deal more to understanding this aspect of our nature than simply investigating the brain.
As the Hallmark Holiday on February 14th approaches, far from being irrelevant or silly, it simply misplaces the emphasis on romantic love, when what we should be celebrating is a more universal love for every living being, and encouraging empathy for other people and for all life, whatever form it takes. Acknowledging the broad spectrum of love, and its many manifestations and opportunities to share it more broadly, is at the very heart of human consciousness, and the best medicine for the sense of longing for Spring on a bitter cold winter morning.