In July, 2013, I spent a week at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, on a silent retreat. Every afternoon, we had a long enough break for me to walk a three-mile loop road from the centre.
Early in the week, I found myself really attracted to a woman named Karen. She and I were in the same small group interviews with each of the teachers. The way those interviews were set up, you only talked to the teacher. So I hadn’t said a word to Karen.
One day, as I was setting out on my walk from the front door of the centre, doing my usual right-to-left loop route, I noticed Karen starting to walk down the circular driveway, heading to the left. I wondered if she was going to do the loop. If so, we’d meet about halfway.
I wasn’t very mindful as I passed fields and woodlots, unless you’d include being mindful of Karen’s (!) possible approach. During the middle of the walk, there’s a long straight stretch. As I curved left to start that section, I looked way ahead. A tiny figure was on the road, hundreds of yards away. And then a little less tiny. And then someone definitely wearing a wide-brimmed hat, like I had seen on Karen’s head at the beginning.
Closer still .. and that was Karen. One hundred yards. Finally, as we approached each other, I brought my palms together in front of my chest, smiled, made eye contact, and bowed. She smiled back and bowed to me. And then … poof! We were gone our separate ways.
At the end of the retreat, we spoke for a few minutes. Neither of us mentioned our moment of contact. She told me about the summer program at the Omega Institute in New York State and said that, who knows, we might see each other there someday. I agreed.
And that was it. No last names. No e-mail addresses. Probably no ever again. But we touched each other’s lives. That I know. The bow was enough.