“In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.”— Rumi
This past week has been very full . . . an amazing retreat with my dear Tantra community, an electrifying intuitive reading from the powerful and caring Nicole Cody, a body and soul nourishing dinner with a close friend who just returned home after a long trip abroad.
Yet the experience I keep on coming back to–the one that makes my heart crack open each time I take it out from my memory–was just a few minutes long, with a stranger.
It was last Thursday night. I went to a restaurant called Opaque in Los Angeles with the Tantra group before our retreat. The concept was dining in the dark. Not just a dark dark, but a pitch, absolutely impenetrable, black. You could open or shut your eyes, squint, or look around. It made no difference. It was all the same. You had lost your sight.
The absolute genius of the restaurant was that there were blind waiters. Something that might be a liability in the daily world was an advantage in this dark cocoon. From the moment you entered the dining room you were in their territory.
Our waiter was named Michael. My very first impression of him was one of gentleness. But not the gentleness of a timid person. He had weight and bulk, a hearty laugh, and a full booming voice. His gentleness was more like a lion feeding its cub. We were under his care.
He began by lining us up, hands on each other shoulders, to enter the dark. He slowly led us to our seats, making sure we were absolutely sure where they were before we sat down. He took our clumsy hands and led them to our silverware, our water, and our food. Throughout the night, he guided our hands to do what he had already figured out–to learn to recognize objects by touch, and find out where they were by reference to other things. Stripped of our sight, his large and warm voice shone like a foglight, guiding us through the space. He laughed at us as we spilled our water, lost our silverware, and joked about all the completely inappropriate things we were doing in the dark. We were loud and awkward and having so much fun.
We played several games: identify the mystery food, guess the objects in the bag. So when Michael suddenly asked for a risk-taking single female, I figured it was another game–which the group happily volunteered me for. Michael came around and carefully helped me out of my seat, and led me to a clear space in center of the dining room. And suddenly, he hugged me close, in a 1950’s dance embrace, like we were in our own private living room. No one could see us. And he began to sing.
I forget now what the lyrics of the song were. All I know is that it was was a classic love song, one that belonged to moonlit nights and porches, and that he sang it straight from his heart. As he sang, we danced in our intimate little world. He held me close in his soft and large arms, and I stopped thinking about anything except sharing that moment with him.
As I listened to him, I understood that everything that had been gentle and light and fun about him was just a way to make us comfortable. A polite service. For those few minutes as he sang, he was–without apology–magnificent. And so I laid my head on his large chest, and cried, and wondered how many people he was able to pull into his world so that they could see him as he truly was. How many people just saw an accommodating waiter? a blind man?
And I cried because all of us are, on some level, moving through the dark, reaching out our hands, trying to find a way to communicate everything we carry inside. When one of us finds a way, with grace and power and humility, to express our full presence to another, the message is always the same. I am here, and I am infinite and vast. My beauty is yours. You are not alone.