I stepped out tired and disoriented from Manchester Airport. The information desk helpfully directed me towards the railway station, but urged me to rush. If I missed the train I wanted, the next one wouldn't be for a couple of hours. It was already past 8 pm and I had been travelling for a day now. In the fading light, the deserted corridors were not a welcome sight at this point. As I raced with my luggage towards the platform, I noticed a middle aged man, in a long overcoat walking briskly behind me. As I turned corners, he appeared to keep up with me. I rushed into the elevator and emerged on an empty platform. I confess a small part of me was relieved not to see the same person around. I rushed towards the train and was informed that there were still a few minutes left. I sat on a bench to catch my breath and adjust my time.
When I looked up, the same man was now standing before me. I looked around once again at the empty station. The train driver was nowhere in sight. As I felt a pang of anxiety, I recalled my first time alone on a train. It was at the age of 9. Feeling small and insignificant, I had taken a local train from Santacruz to Churchgate. Anyone who has been on a Mumbai local, would understand the stark contrast here. At that time, the hustle and bustle of a sea of humans had seemed intimidating. Now, the stark desolation was equally disturbing. With the flash of this memory, I also remembered one of the instructions I had been given when I left home: “Don’t talk with strangers.”
Now as it happened, just before I embarked on this trip, I wrote an article on some of the lessons we need to unlearn from our childhood. Here was a fresh opportunity right before me. Did I really need to be so wary at this point? As an adult, couldn't I be more alert and discerning? I looked at the gentleman with fresh eyes. He looked tired and hesitant himself. Sensing the change in my attitude, he cautiously asked me if this was the train to York. Before long, we progressed to a polite conversation. Within minutes, I learned that he was a neurologist from Dublin who visited a local hospital a few times a month. We boarded a carriage and only one other passenger joined us. With earplugs on, he paid us little attention.
When the neurologist heard about the kind of work I do, he was most intrigued. He said he had a back pain for months and could I help him? So I taught him Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). Can you imagine the scene? The two of us tapping away as the youngster with the earplugs watched with mild curiosity. Within minutes, both of us felt fresh and energized and his back pain was almost gone. He was smiling and laughing and saying he should probably share this with his patients. I was beaming at the possibility of EFT reaching more people and that too through a neurologist!
I referred him to websites as he left the train and I hope and believe that because he did feel a significant change, he will actually look it up and share it with others.
For my part, I was delighted with the rest of my journey. As passengers got on and off, they were no longer strangers to be wary of, but individuals who held the potential of interesting conversation. I could watch the tipsy revelry of young footballers without concern and converse with a senior gentleman about football and world economy. Two young York University students shared their project presentation and by the time I got off the train late at night – I was delighted with my “talks with strangers”.
I do not intend to encourage carelessness by sharing this anecdote. But I do hope to invite a more open mind set, a greater self –awareness. If we are able to notice our conditioned response and instead choose what is more prudent in the present moment, we may bring down more walls than we can imagine.
Because the doctor and I got over our internal dialogues, we were able to exchange some valuable gifts. The ripples of this stray incident may be far reaching. It is not rare for me to learn how EFT has benefited people whom I have never met but have learned it from those whom I have taught. Who knows how far this one doctor could take it?
Speaking at a broader scale, is it not dialogue that will open our hearts to those we distrust or know little of? The more we interact, the more we see our commonalities. I remember reading that if you are attacked or held hostage, you should start telling the perpetrator about yourself. Apparently, the more that he/she knows about you, the more difficult it becomes for them to cause you harm. You are no longer a random statistic but a human being to them now. I don’t know if this is true in all cases, but it certainly does make some sense. Perhaps that is exactly what the world needs today. Less silos, walls and isolation. More open-hearted dialogue.
So would you consider conversing with a stranger today?