The letter was from the Czech Republic, it was the latest piece of mail for InCoWriMo and it had the loveliest stamp on it. My mail box had been filled with many letters from all over the world, Korea, Japan, Australia, Singapore, China, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. Total strangers writing to me to tell me of their lives, and in turn I wrote to total strangers telling them about mine. Handwritten letters, with stamps, in envelopes, mailed out. A way of connecting in the world that is a little slower. A way of connecting that requires a bit of trust, trust in the basic goodness of people.
InCoWriMo is just one small way to step into the world with more trust. It is a gentle way to engage with others and see the world form another point of view. Not all of the connections last, but I have many good friends that I know primarily through written mail. A lawyer and fiction writer composing mad stories of crime and drama on his commute to and from work, his writing an outlet for his passionate creative side. An English teacher and Canadian working in China who misses home and news from this part of the world. An artist and gentle soul living on the west coast, originally form the east, who is moving through her journey in life in ways that sound like mine, her letters each like a companion travelling the same path just ahead or just behind me on the road. Each one of these began as a random letter of ‘hello, here is what the world is like where I am, tell me what it is like for you.’ Each one a stranger reaching out to connect in a way that is slow and somehow intimate. It bolsters my belief in the goodness that I see in people every day in the clinic. It bolsters my belief that while we are superficially different, that just under this very thin skin, we are all so very much alike as to be almost indistinguishable. It encourages me to be a little bit braver in my trust of the world in which I live.
Connecting with strangers has a funny way of opening you up to more connection with those you do not yet know well. One day, at the end of my morning meditation, I was saying thank you through the app Insight Timer, to those who had meditated with me. I noticed that I had received a more personalized message from someone who had meditated with me that day.
I want to tell you, you are loved, you might not hear it often, and in fact you might not hear it at all, but in this moment, you are loved, I love you and am grateful that you have mediated with me today…
It was so very strange to receive this message from a stranger through Insight Timer, but it stayed with me. My initial response was skeptical, who was this person, and why were they saying this. However, as I let the message sink in, it had a strange unexpected effect. Over the next days, I found myself sending messages of appreciation to those who had meditated with me that day. Nothing very long, and nothing very big, just a simple appreciation for the time we had spent together meditating. The response within my system was fascinating. I watched as I went from simply sending messages of appreciation, to sending copies of my journal entries from the day, the thoughts that came to me during my meditation. Messages of appreciation as well as snippets of what life is like for me through my mediation practice. Describing the moments of self-awareness that arise, some joyful, some sad, some profoundly moving and deep. Sharing these moments with those who meditated with me created a sense of community within my mind, a sense that we are all in this together. The messages I received back from folks told me that for many, my words resonated deeply within them. This process continued to morph and change as I began to post these daily mediations musing on Facebook and eventually to Instagram. Each time, taking a little chance to put out to strangers my thoughts, my feelings, my life. Each time, they rewarded my trust with a deeper understanding of myself, of others, and of life.
As I began my training in Hakomi Therapy, itself an action and activity prompted by the kind words of a stranger, I was looking for places to stay in Princeton as I would be commuting there many times over a two year period. I turned to Couchsurfing. I had been a member of this group since 2011, having joined it after hearing about it through a podcast. It appealed to me, allowing strangers to stay with you without charge for a night or two, and staying with strangers the same way. While a member, we had not had any one stay with us on Prince Edward Island, understandable as we are a bit out of the way. I stayed with a stranger in Princeton, a graduate student getting her PhD in math, and it opened my mind to the possibilities of shared kindness. I stayed with and continue to stay with a lovely family in Princeton, here from France for a while, and in the process of staying, I have found myself quiet in love with this family. I have had the pleasure of hosting many folks in the last two years, and each one has changed my life and my point of view just a little bit more. Each one left me a richer person for their time in my life.
These interactions with strangers, mirror the life that I live, and indeed the lives that I see in clinic. These strangers are really no different in their desires than the Islanders that I care for daily. Each one is looking to be more fully themselves, each one is looking for a world in which they feel safe, where they feel the freedom to live their lives, where they can connect with others and learn more about themselves. Where they get the chance to see that in the end, we are not so very different from each other. It is with a humble and grateful heart, that I say thank you to all these strangers who have helped me become who I am in this moment, who have been the exact person in the exact moment that was needed in my life, and it is my sincere hope, that I play that role for others.
If any of resonates for you, and you happen to be curious, and wish to know more, do not hesitate to drop me a line. If you would like to know more about my work, or to work with me, feel free to contact me. I post regularly to Instagram (@gilgrimes), Twitter (gilgrimes) , Medium and Facebook (gilgrimes) about whatever arises. And if you would like to stay in touch sign up for my newsletter (probably once or twice a month at most). Or send me a letter…