Seeing the Divine in the Eyes of a Stranger

Mar 30, 2024 | Virtues of the Heart

Sometimes the divine can show up in the most unlikely places and times. Such was the case when I was walking in New York City one summer day. The city was busy as it was close to lunchtime, and the streets were packed with people shoulder-to-shoulder, moving in all directions. There is something exciting for me about being in the city and feeling the energy it radiates. That’s what I love about New York—its palpable vibrancy and energy. One feels like one is close to the heart of humanity. The city’s pulse beats with creative energy, and as an artist, I feel the radiation of this collective wellspring of energy. But the city also has a darker side, where the inequality of its citizens and the disenfranchised starkly contrasts with the unapologetic display of glamour, status, power, and wealth that captivate and provide endless cravings for its ego-driven inhabitants.

In this sea of humanity, while it is hard not to focus on the crowd, I view each person as unique, all having their own challenges and aspirations just like me while trying to navigate the social complexities of the city that is exciting and vibrant, yet often cruel and unforgiving.

Sometimes, one chance encounter can stand out in unexpected ways, leaving me deeply moved in ways that are hard to process. While standing at a light, my focus was on the wall of humanity waiting on the opposite side of the street, but then in an instant, it shifted to one person with laser precision.

I saw her for only about ten seconds at the most, but her image would stay with me for weeks. She caught my eye as I waited for the light to turn green. Her gaze was fixed, trance-like on the ground in front of her. The corners of her mouth turned sharply down as if being pulled by invisible weights. Her head tilted toward her lower right shoulder, which gave the impression of being pushed down by some unforgiving hand, and so tight were her hands grasping each other that I felt my arms begin to tense. I was transfixed at the sight of her; my senses probed for something unknown. Suddenly the light turned green, and on cue, the wall of humanity lurched toward me. She stepped forward on thin, wobbly legs, which looked barely capable of supporting her tiny frame. I prepared for what I thought was her certain fall, but in an instant, she was consumed in the crowd lurching forward, and I lost sight of her. As I crossed the street, I turned to look for her, but she had disappeared in a sea of humanity. She was gone. I was left with feelings of sadness, mixed with compassion, empathy, and mystery.

I couldn’t stop thinking about her. It wasn’t only that I felt sorry for her or wondered if she was okay. It was something else. I felt that I had witnessed something far deeper than the surface of this fragile young woman. Words fall short in describing my experience. It was more like a revelation, a download of understanding. I felt I could see her in totality—her Sovereign Self (Soul, higher self, or essence). This was not conveyed in words but as a fully formed understanding or knowing. My perspective of her began to change; she was much more than a vulnerable young woman. She was the face, the projection on a screen of something much larger, and I could sense it. It was like I was peering into her Soul, and this body was but one of an infinite number of experiences the Soul was having. As I contemplated the memory of her, I began to feel that I had witnessed myself. In a very real sense, I was her. I was equal to her as a life form, living life on Earth to the best of my ability. We were traveling on a similar path, although our experiences were dramatically different, yet equal in the sense that we both were consciousnesses having an individuated life experience through a human body.

I thought about how we both grew up in different locations, influenced by family, education, lineage, and the greater social environment we share. Through life experiences, we processed those influences to create the life experience we have today. She and I are very different, yet at that moment when our paths crossed, there was a connection, a union, a sharing of something invisible, something inextricable, and very powerful.

I firmly believe that every person has their essence, Soul of Sovereign Integral, within them. Our essence is who we are; our body is a miraculous instrument by which we can be in this world of duality. Our essence or consciousness is the real individual (I AM) and infinite, yet capable of having many individual life experiences in a body. In this world, for the most part, our essence is overshadowed by the Ego’s sheer will to survive as the imposter of who I am while in the body. It is a magical entanglement of deception that has defined humanity’s borders for countless generations.

But on this day, on the busy streets of New York, I was given a gift from an unlikely actor in the theater of life. This gift would allow me to see myself through the mask I was wearing. Seeing this young, fragile woman on the streets of New York, I could have so easily judged her in an instant and moved on unmoved and void of empathy. But I chose to pause and allow the feelings to sit with me, to hold her in me. In doing so, I could have a much deeper experience than I could have imagined—touching the divine.

The Six Heart Virtues

Looking back, I feel humility as just one of millions of people on the streets of New York, all having individual life experiences, each important in its own way. I feel appreciation for the experience of seeing this woman and how a chance encounter would unfold into a revelation of understanding and a much deeper picture.

Later, I remembered the instant of connection, and I sent her compassion, appreciation, and blessings, knowing that the heart virtues are not limited to time and space. I could still fulfill my desire to help her in some way.

This experience taught me that the divine lives in everyone and everything. It is always there waiting to be seen and welcomed into our lives. It does not have to be a holy person, an exemplar of higher values, or a person of position within the spiritual community. Any situation can be the instant of a brief awakening, which can be repeated again and again, to a point where it becomes familiar part of our life experience.

Now, I am much more aware of my interactions with others, no matter how mundane or seemingly inconsequential, to allow and welcome the deeper essence always present to shine through. I am the vehicle by which the divine enters this world.

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