September 29, 2018: the first day of The Bloom’s existence. David and I stood in front of our booth at the Pear Festival, handing out business cards and sharing our idea with the thousands of people passing by. During a lull in the crowd, a woman with short hair, coffee-with-cream eyes, and a compelling presence walked up to me.
“It’s all good news, nothing bad,” I heard myself say for the hundredth time. “It’s all about the best part of living in Lake County.” My memorized speech rolled off my tongue.
“I’m Reverend Priya,” she replied, holding out her hand for me to shake. I smiled and continued my spiel.
But this time was different. I felt a real connection with this woman, like she truly cared not only about what I said, but also about me and who I was as a person. Before I knew it, we were no longer talking about The Bloom, but about humanity and the fact that we have more in common than not. We chatted about how faith, love, and community not only bind us together, but also bring out the best in who we are.
“Now I know why I came today,” Rev. Priya said as our conversation wound down. “I was destined to meet you.”
It would be well over a year later that our paths would cross again with a tip from a local reader. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we met over Zoom. There, David and I saw her bright smile framed in our computer screen. Her gray zip-up hoodie and hoop earrings seemed every bit her as her robe she wears for her daily morning meditation or her weekly service.
“So what advice would you give to all of us going through COVID-19 together?” I asked.
Priya paused, thinking for a second. “Stay conscious of what we do have under our control, instead of spinning out with ‘what if?’ thoughts.” She paused for a second more, light reflecting off her thin-rimmed glasses. “Be present with yourself,” she continued. “If you dwell on suffering, you’ll just go down the rabbit hole. Instead, think, ‘How can I influence the community in a positive way?’ Use your creativity and imagination to change things. This isn’t forever.”
“This can be a difficult time for so many people,” I responded.
“I know it’s hard,” she replied. “And my advice to people who are struggling is to focus on gratitude; that is key. If you focus on things to be grateful for, it helps. For example, I’m grateful to be meeting with you right now,” she smiled, lighting up her eyes. For a half-second, that smile filled the room with grace and beauty.
“But even for me, some days are harder than others,” she continued. “Yesterday was one of those. And during those days it’s important to be gentle to yourself. Take some time. Journal your experience. Write down some of the positives that could come out of this right now; look for a positive outcome.”
Time moved quickly, and all too soon our interview came to an end. But it’s not the last The Bloom will be hearing of Reverend Priya. Our Zoom conversation birthed something new. We are excited and privileged to offer a new column for The Bloom: Contemplative Corner. It’s a short, thoughtful insight into our inner lives.
We all come from different faith traditions and different religious or non-religious backgrounds. We all have different ways we relate to the universe. But once again, even in differing names, faith is itself is simple and common among most of humanity. It defines who we are as individuals, how we relate to our culture, and influences every part of who we and what we do.