Snatam Kaur woke me up this morning with her singing. She’s not a noisy neighbor. She’s a songwriter and singer whose song “Gobinda Gobinda Hari Hari” was the soundtrack to one of the most memorable and impactful moments of my life. I keep the memory alive by using her song as my alarm to wake up each day.
It happened a couple of years ago, at a “Seduction of Spirit” retreat at the Chopra Center near San Diego. I was one of about 600 attendees from all over the world. My main purpose in going was to reinvigorate my meditation practice, but I got so much more than that. One afternoon, they herded all of us outside for an exercise. As much as I love the Chopra Center, I’m not a big “kumbaya” type so I was a bit skeptical, but happy to be outdoors on a gorgeous, sunny day.
The exercise was this: we all held hands and formed two enormous intertwining circles, one circle facing the other. (The folks at the Chopra Center are experts at choreographing these things.) We were told that, as the circles slowly moved past each other, we were to look each person in the eye but not say anything, just look. And we were not to pass anyone by without looking them in the eye. Throughout the exercise, Snatam Kaur’s “Gobinda Gobinda Hari Hari” played in a continuous loop.
Let me tell you, there was EVERY kind of person in those circles. Different skin colors, heights, shapes, young, old, middle-aged, English speaking, non-English speaking, designer clothes, jeans and T-shirts, most standing, some sitting in wheel chairs, some fresh and energetic, others somewhat ragged around the edges. At first, it was a bit awkward with lots of slightly embarrassed grins and smiles. I mean, how often do we really look a stranger in the eye – not just an averted glance, but truly meaningful eye contact?
As the human circles continued to move, we relaxed into the beauty of it and awkwardness morphed into openness. The looks lasted longer as we wanted to stop and appreciate each person in those circles of tremendous diversity. The smiles remained, but they were accompanied on many faces by tears of joy. And it dawned on me what the exercise was all about: you in me, me in you. No one had to tell me that. I knew it, and I felt it every time I looked into another set of eyes.
It took about 30 minutes for the intertwining circles to complete their loops. By the end, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. And then, a sort of miracle happened. People started pointing up to the sky and saying, “Look! Look!” Above our circles, high in the sky, a large circle of birds had formed. They continued to fly above us in their circle formation for a couple of minutes, then they flew off in their separate directions. We followed suit.
I’ll never forget what I saw, and what I felt, and what I learned that day at the Chopra Center. Snatam Kaur helps me remember every day: you in me, me in you.