It’s always a joy to share inspiring events that come into our lives, especially when they come unbidden and filled with “education and entertainment”—the purpose of all our life’s experiences, according to Paramhansa Yogananda.

A few days ago a friend shared an article written by the well-known writer Jean Houston, describing her “chance” encounter with an older gentleman and how it blossomed into a deep friendship. Unbeknownst to her at the time, he was the well-known philosopher, Teilhard de Chardin. But that is beside the point. The point is that we are all part of God’s intricate web of life and consciousness. If we treat everything and everyone as a friend, as an extension of our own self, life becomes magical.

Here is an excerpt from her article:

When I was about fourteen I was seized by enormous waves of grief over my parents’ breakup. I had read somewhere that running would help dispel anguish, so I began to run to school every day down Park Avenue in New York City. One day I ran into a rather frail old gentleman in his seventies and knocked the wind out of him. He laughed as I helped him to his feet and asked me in French-accented speech, “Are you planning to run like that for the rest of your life?”

“Yes, sir” I replied. “It looks that way.”

“Well, bon voyage!” he said.

We met again about a week later, and thereafter, for about a year or so, the old gentleman and I would meet and walk together often several times a week in Central Park. The walks were magical and full of delight. Not only did he seem to have absolutely no self-consciousness, but he was always being seized by wonder and astonishment over the simplest things.

I remember one time when he suddenly fell on his knees, his long, Gallic nose raking the ground, and exclaimed to me, “Jeanne, look at the caterpillar. Ahhhh!” I joined him on the ground to see what had evoked so profound a response that he was seized by the essence of caterpillar. “How beautiful it is,” he remarked, “this little green being with its wonderful funny little feet. Exquisite! Little furry body, little green feet on the road to metamorphosis.” He then regarded me with equal delight. “Jeanne, can you feel yourself to be a caterpillar?”

“Oh yes,” I replied with the baleful knowing of a gangly, pimply-faced teenager.

“Then think of your own metamorphosis,” he suggested. “What will you be when you become a butterfly, un papillon, eh? What is the butterfly of Jeanne?”

Or there was the time we leaned into a strong wind that suddenly whipped through Central Park, and he told me, “Jeanne, sniff the wind.” I joined him in taking great snorts of wind. “The same wind may once have been sniffed by Jesus Christ (sniff). by Alexander the Great (sniff). Sniff the wind once sniffed by Jeanne d’Arc. Be filled with the winds of history.”

All souls are interconnected in a great web of consciousness. A couple of days ago I tried to start a conversation with a green banana slug slowly making its way across one of our steps. Though it seemed unimpressed with my eloquence and simply continued unhurriedly toward a bush, that little creature has now become part of my web of consciousness and remains in my memory. As Swami Kriyananda wrote in a song, “All the world is my friend when I learn how to share my love.”

We can choose to focus on life’s shadows, or we can cultivate friendships everywhere. Let’s start small by delighting in a caterpillar, sniffing the winds of history, or talking with a slug. Then, one day, we will realize that it is all Divine Mother just trying to entertain and educate each of us!

In divine friendship,

Nayaswami Jyotish