I got a message the other day that Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk, author and peace activist, was following me on Twitter. A day later, two of his followers signed up to follow me, and a day after that a third.
This was just a week after I’d joined Twitter, and I was still skeptical of its value. Mainstream media limit access to keep fools and amateurs from cheapening the product, and I wasn’t persuaded that social media had much value beyond connecting with old classmates.
Eventually I signed up to follow Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports columnist Jeff Schultz with whom I’d exchanged a few emails. But when Jeff started following me, I realized I could no longer get away with being a paperweight.
Whole Lotta Tweeting
A search to see what others write in their posts led to Thich Nhat Hanh’s Twitter page, and I decided to follow him. When he (or, more likely, someone in his organization) reciprocated, I figured that whoever responded was just being polite. I mean, TNH had 4188 followers and was following 3901 people. Even at 140 characters a person, that’s a lot of tweeting.
But our interaction reminded me of something that happened 15 years ago, something that occurred in a matter of seconds and yet has shaped the trajectory of my life ever since. Something that speaks volumes about the magical possibilities in our everyday world.
Nowhere to Go
In March of 1994, I was living in northwestern Connecticut and had just gotten a message from my landlord that he wanted to put the house on the market. I was recently divorced, freelancing, and not doing well financially.
I was awaiting word from Florida where I’d been promised a job as a senior writer and writing coach. But when I called the editor, he’d been reassigned and the job wouldn’t be filled for another six months.
Suddenly I had no prospects, no place to go and no idea what I wanted to do. I called a friend, and she commented, “You need a niche!”
Vision in a Garden
Immediately a vision appeared in my mind’s eye: I was walking with a small Asian man in a garden littered with white blossoms. A lavaliere microphone was clipped to my shirt, and the interview was being fiilmed by a video crew.
There was no antecedent for this, nothing in my experience to suggest any such activity in real life. And yet I knew instantly what it was: a TV series that I would create and produce as well as appear in.
But how did I know that? And where did the vision come from?
I am host to thousands of visions and fantasies, but usually they are self-generated and address fears or desires. This was beyond anything I’d ever thought of or dreamed about. In fact, the very idea was absurd. Not only had I no experience on either side of the camera, I didn’t even LIKE television.
Deepak It’s Not
As for the other man, his face was blurred, and I thought at first it might be Deepak Chopra. Which, as things turned out, would have been a good guess. Five years later, I would speak with Chopra on three different occasions, and two of those conversations included discussion of that vision.
But it wasn’t Chopra, it was Thich Nhat Hanh. I’d heard of the man, but didn’t know much about him. Research took care of that, and revealed, among other things, that the blossoms that I thought were apple were plum blossoms. He has a retreatin southern France called Plum Village, reason enough to pay the man a visit.
Now all of this could add up to nothing more than a mildly interesting anecdote, and ordinarily I would have dismissed the vision out of hand or ruminated on it for days and weeks.
Instead, I did something so uncharacteristic that even now it surprises me. I took action.
More in my next post.