A spontaneous meeting–and a new choice–opens a new way… by MBSR teacher and trainer Lynn Koerbel
There’s a 30-minute walking circuit in my neighborhood that meets all my cardiovascular needs: some good hills, a few straightaways for recovery, interesting views, and safe pathways. I made a commitment to myself to walk it every day for a specified period; fulfilling that commitment felt like just the right amount of stretch.
One recent morning, while striding up the first big hill, a figure ahead turned and called my name. It was an old acquaintance, someone with whom I’d connected at a particular time in our lives, and then some sticky place between us had proved to be too much to move beyond. In the last few years, however, whenever we’d run into each other the greeting had been warm, we’d exchanged deeply. Each of us had lost a parent and we were frank and vulnerable even in the few moments we stood together, but on this sunny day I was loathe to pause in my exercise routine. I had a goal! Something to check off on my to-do list. Still, I waved and she waited while I caught up.
“How are you?” I asked.
“Can you walk me part-way to work? I’ll tell you…”
In a flash, I “chose” to go along—not hold onto some fixed idea of my walk, my routine. Knowing I had time later in the day to walk more if I chose to helped me go with the moment that was offering itself.
As we walked, she shared about closing her psychotherapy practice, taking up more art and music, the fear and excitement about it all. It opened a door for me to share the grist of loss I was working with, and the power of the November bareness to reflect that. We fell into a depth that was much more like two old, dear friends than two acquaintances who rarely saw each other. We walked for all of 10 minutes, and yet some eternity had been bridged: Beginnings, endings, transitions.
As we hugged goodbye she spoke, “You know, back when we were getting to know each other, I know I offended you. I’ve regretted it ever since, and I want to apologize.”
Before she’d even finished her sentence, whatever the offense was had dissolved. “Please let it go… I don’t remember it in detail, but have been so appreciative of how we’ve met each other in the last few years with so much good will, able to meet each other in such rich and real places…” We smiled and said goodbye.
I watched my mind go into the places of wanting: I’ll invite her to lunch, I’ll write her an email, send her a thank-you card. Then I looked up at the clear, bare November sky and let the thoughts go. I continued my walk, enjoying the moment of spaciousness where I said yes to spontaneity, to answering a friendly voice calling my name, to receive someone’s news and hopes and despairs—and an apology.
I rested in that. It was more than enough.
Are there places you have said yes to lately that surprised or challenged you in some way?