As I stood in the sunshine on the peace picket line today, a fellow smoking a cigar stopped and said he would stand with us for a while. As it happened, he stood next to me together with his incense. Jim looked to be in his 50's.
"I presume you are a student of the Dharma," he said, glancing at my robes. And, after shifting a little at the use of such a term, I said yes, I was a Zen Buddhist.
And, incense and all, so was he. He was currently a student of Bernie Glassman's and attended Glassman's place in Montague, a hill town not far from here. So we fell into easy conversation, just chatting because we had a common background ... instantly.
Like a couple of old hens, we remembered names and places, swapped some personal information -- he is a social worker who helps cops, firefighters, vets and others suffering in the wake of their work -- and generally enjoyed the sunshine.
Instant background based on Zen practice.
It made me think how pleasant it is to have some instant rapport with another person. Not based frivolously on clothes or clean finger-nails or the linguistic furbelows of education or even spiritual trappings. Just a sense of connection and ease because, after all, we are human beings together.
OK ... the general way is to speak with your guard up, with secrets kept hidden, with omissions abounding ... because it's too scary somehow to just be there and be as honest as you can and relax in the sunshine of this new company. But it's so labored and laborious and more often than not, poorly executed by even the most adroit people.
Well, I guess I should stop whining and be happy to have had a conversation with Jim.