Meeting New People

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.

3 thoughts on “Meeting New People

  1. “I used to connect with people so I could be entertained, learn something new, or be challenged to grow. It was all about me.” Such a great observation. I’m totally there. I’m pretty introverted, and it’s these ideas that motivate me to reach out to people, to enjoy connecting with them. How to ask the right kinds of questions of this person so that I can be entertained? And the other person loves it because you’re asking them all these questions. There’s a little bit of other-ness in it, because you’re taking the attitude that every person is worthwhile, that everyone has something interesting going on. You’re right though, it’s really only a substitute for true compassion. There’s nothing inherently wrong with selfish motivation, but it should be selfish because of the gratification of pure compassion, without any desire for entertainment. Boredom plays a role here, too. The worst thing you can do in a social situation is be boring! You know, when we start to write this stuff down, you can really see how it’s all connected. I never suspected that monks swearing off entertainment had anything to do with developing pure compassion. Being bored while you meditate – coming to grips with those negative sensations is probably a large part of losing this desire to be entertained in personal interactions. I’m trying to think of times when I’ve spoken with someone who was purely compassionate, and not trying to get anything out of our interaction. I think these people notice when you’re trying to entertain them. How much you must reveal about yourself in no time at all! I’m with you on this one, but what do you even talk about, then? What is the subject of your conversation? Is it to really understand that person, not for yourself or your entertainment, but for their own benefit? Because you might have the wisdom to see what’s motivating their behavior, that they might not see, and you can guide them towards understanding something new about themselves? And if you succeed in that, you don’t feel good because your ego got boosted, or because it was interesting, but because of your pure compassion? Yes, now I think this is what it should be about. I had forgotten. This is why I wanted to get into mental health in the first place. Actually, when you are able to do this, your ego stays out of the way pretty easily, because you just love that person for being a person, and because you just witnessed something beautiful. And when you fail – do you still love them? Do you get frustrated when you can’t see their real truth? As if there’s anything wrong with them just because your own wisdom isn’t developed enough yet! Yeah, you probably do. And you observe it.

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