I’ve always loved the adventure of meeting new people. I would seek out individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, ages, and personalities. I’ve found that connecting with strangers is the best way to learn something new, gain a new perspective, or to make a dull situation exciting. I also enjoyed the adventure of making the proper first impression to spark a conversation. We all have limited time and energy so we’re constantly evaluating the value of investing in a conversation with someone new. If you’re not careful you could get shot down taking a hit to the ego, open a big can of worms that you didn’t want to, or get trapped in a boring conversation that isn’t interesting to you. There is a constant game of evaluation and reevaluation. “What is this person after?” “Can I trust this person.” “How much personal information should I share?”
If you take a step back you start evaluating the other aspects of your first impression: what type of clothes are you wearing, how does your hair look, what posture are you carrying, what tone of voice will you speak with, is your facial expression kind and inviting. So much of our world is impacted by these personal touches. I got pretty good at going into the world and starting a conversation with someone who was interesting and entertaining.
Enter Vipassana into my life. This completely changed how I interacted with strangers. Before Vipassana I could speak honestly about who I was, why I made certain life choices, and what direction I was taking my life. I was confident in who I was and the confidence helped me make a strong first impression. Now I had this practice that I didn’t understand, that forced me to question everything about my life, and that was nearly impossible to express to someone verbally. I just stopped trying to connect with strangers.
I also wanted to spend my energy discovering things inside instead of outside. The pit of undiscovered truths within myself was more engaging than the perspectives of a stranger. At least for the first year I took my practice seriously the desire to reach out to new people was minimal.
Now something has shifted. I want to connect with new people but in a less selfish way. I used to connect with people so I could be entertained, learn something new, or be challenged to grow. It was all about me. Now I’m just want to connect without and of the extra strings attached. I’m still discovering what this means but the closest thing I can use to describe it is the feeling of practicing metta with a group of meditators. Everyone is healthy and stable within themselves but they’re also giving and receiving metta and you can feel it.
I’m not sure exactly how this looks with a non meditator. If there is no personal motivation what sparks the interaction? Do people putting out the same vibration really just run into each other and words just flow without a spark? In the past I’ve learned that I always needed to get over that initial hurdle to start a conversation. Now instead of proving that I can jump over the hurdle that someone place in front of me its seems I’m trying to take the hurdle away. Maybe when two people no longer feel the need to put up hurdles is when a true dhamma connection is made. I’ll let you know when I find out.