The Gift of A Conversation with a Very Wise Lady

I met Sonja at a small Seattle coffee house where I sat sipping a latte and reading “The Prophet” by Gibran a book I often turned to when things didn’t seem to be going very well in my life, this was one of those times when everything I had come to know and cherish had been torn out from under me in the blink of an eye. As was often the case it was due to my own damaged and warped feeling of insecurity and self-doubt that had brought me to this wretched place of aloneness once again.

Sonja must have been at least sixty years old. Her hair was solid white cascading elegantly down to her waist. There was not a wrinkle on her face only the hint of a perpetual smile that was as warm as a summer’s afternoon. Her petite frame betrayed what at one time would have been considered a beautiful young woman, despite her obvious age she was still quite attractive, she exuded an energy of joy that was infectious. I had not noticed her when she sat down at the table adjoining mine in fact I wasn’t even aware she was there until she commented “that the “Prophet” had been one of her favorite books when growing up as a young girl.”

When I looked up our eyes met and my melancholy was immediately transformed by her obvious enthusiasm for life, she reminded one of a child discovering secrets at every turn insatiable for new adventures. Without a moment’s hesitation she began discussing her favorite parts of the “Prophet” declaring with excitement that the section on “good and evil” provided a foundation for understanding and empathy that was as precious as gold, she cited:

Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil. For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst? Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts it drinks even of dead waters.

As I listened the weight that had shrouded its self around me began to lift and I became mesmerized by her larger than life presence. She exclaimed, see this explains the things we sometimes do without understanding why, as you come to understand the fullness of this truth you also begin to recognize that we are all on the same path, headed for the same ultimate destination. Some began the journey sooner, some later. There are of course crossroads and interchanges that take us off in directions that lead nowhere or that after much traverse bring us back to the path upon which we began. Sadly there are some who wander far from the path and never find their way back to the course upon which they were intended. With this understanding:

Be kind to one another.

Do not judge or condemn for this inevitably results in bitterness and remorse rather honor and respect each other. Recognize that it is a privilege to interact with each person that crosses your path. Esteem given to others most assuredly fuels the esteem of self.

Time is precious, each moment an opportunity to be more, to do more, to love more.

Service to our fellows is time not wasted on self and always reaps great reward.

Acceptance of what is - will always lead to a state of inner balance and harmony; Acceptance does not mean agreement or acquiescence, it does not suggest complacency -it does not imply that inaction in the face of injustice is even a choice to be considered. Acceptance provides a platform for clear headed, assertive address of life’s vicissitudes. Acceptance is one of the greatest personal characteristics.

Be patient; everything in this world is governed by the law of seedtime and harvest time. Though a sprig of parsley may sprout quickly it also withers in the face of the slightest adversity. An oak tree takes years to develop and is able to withstand the fiercest of storms. Never be haughty, pride inevitably destroys relationships and is never attractive. Rather allow humility to be your guiding principle.

Once a good deed has been done, once a kindness shown, retreat back into the shadows seeking nothing in return. Allow yourself, in fact encourage yourself to continuously grow, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Though this requires constant change it is a key in becoming and remaining happy.

Let your love flow unabated to the world. When given without reservation, without any condition it will be like a river of living water that cannot be depleted. Trust that there is a source of all things and that by connecting to that source you will eventually lack no good thing.

She said all this without seeming to take a breath her eyes glistening with delight. I sat dazed as if I had stuck my finger in a wall socket, zapped by a burst of cosmic energy that had jolted every fiber of my being. With barely a pause she continued while looking at me with the most compassionate gaze I had ever felt or seen.

I feel and recognize your pain David she said. You have recently parted with someone you loved deeply and the separation is seemingly tearing you apart. This sorrow, this profound sadness is rooted in your refusal to let go of that which was. This clinging to the past causes suffering and an unbearable burden. Rather than mourning the fact that you no longer have direct physical contact with this loved one rejoice in the love you shared. Recognize that you will be eternally connected. Your energies will continue a spiritual dance that will not, cannot end.

Search your heart. Is not every person you have ever known still with you? Though time and distance may separate your corporeal bodies they continue to form the individual threads that make up the tapestry of your life. You also exist and take shape in their tapestries indelibly stamped in their hearts and minds. Reflect on what Gibran spoke of on “Joy and Sorrow.” Again she cited:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

So you see, your sorrow is a reflection of your joy. You must embrace your sadness, your sorrow. It has divine purpose and will most assuredly bring greater rejoicing as you travel towards your ultimate destination. You must let go of what you desire and fully accept what is. This is the way to knowing peace in the midst of every storm. It is the only way to quiet the turmoil you feel. To continue clinging to what was can only create suffering. It is not a requirement, it is a choice.

I had closed my eyes while she spoke wanting to soak in every word without any distraction. It was several moments before I realized that she had stopped speaking and I looked up to see that she had quietly left me with my thoughts. Several minutes passed and I was beginning to think that perhaps I had daydreamed this encounter when the barista brought me another latte that he said the lady had bought for me as she was leaving. I thanked him and grabbing my drink stepped out into the warm summer evening. I lit a cigarette as I began to walk towards the YMCA where I had rented a small room, not what anyone would consider glamorous but certainly a step up from the park in Pioneer Square that I had briefly called home.

That night as I lay in bed recalling all that Sonja had shared with me I realized that I had never given her my name. This provided quite a shock that brought me up with a startled and dumbfounded expression. She had known me, called me by name. How on earth could this have taken place? My head was spinning with questions that I could not wholly define or articulate. Who had visited with me in what was a dark moment in my life?

I went back to the coffee house several times hoping to find Sonja there but this proved a futile venture. Upon asking the workers there I found that not a one had ever seen her before or since that day when she had mysteriously appeared at the table next to mine. To this day I am left with the wonder of our encounter and the question. Who was Sonja? So, I sip my coffee and fondly recall.

by David Lee Byrd

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