As I was browsing through my photography archives this morning, I came across this photo that I had taken of these two beautiful butterflies mating in union and harmony. The more I look at it the more it looks like palms opening, a chalice holding within itself the love while also staying open in freedom allowing movement to shape even more love. Freedom and necessity interweave in destiny; the necessity to meet those we need to meet, and the freedom of what we may choose to do thereafter.

So today I thought I’d share with you a beautiful Zen story about Master Hotaka and a young boy Hiroshi as we dive into the wisdom that all people we meet are part of our life’s story, the river flow and the orchestra that plays us into our soul’s true love melody.

Have you ever noticed that certain people come into our lives at just the right moment? It’s almost as if they were sent to gift us a meaningful gift, deliver us a message, help us solve a problem, or support us. Have you ever felt a sense of deja vu when meeting someone, as if you’ve met them in another life, because how you feel is more than one life may allow – and it’s as if you are starting from where you left off. It feels familiar, known, comforting. There are no chance meetings, and that’s a wisdom we know through various belief systems throughout the world.

Let’s begin our story, and at the end I’ll share with you ways to incorporate this wisdom into your every day life. 

One sunny morning under a blossoming cherry tree an elderly monk named Hotaka was meditating. A young boy named Hiroshi approached him cautiously and asked, “Master, why do I sometimes feel a special bond with some people as soon as we meet and with others a sense of discomfort?”

Hotaka opened his eyes which twinkled with wisdom and replied, “Dear Hiroshi, no meeting is a coincidence. Each person you encounter plays a specific role in your life’s story; some stay briefly, while others stay longer helping you through various seasons of your life.”

He pointed to the birds soaring in the sky and continued, “Like those birds we don’t fly randomly through life – we are carried by unseen forces meeting others for reasons deeper than we might understand. Think of your life as a garden,” Hotaka added, his voice calm and soothing, “Each person you meet is like a seed that destiny plants in your path. Some grow into beautiful flowers blooming brightly but briefly, while others become mighty trees providing shade and shelter for many years.” Hiroshi reflected on the people who had come and gone in his life likening them to the various plants in a garden, each contributing in their own unique way.

“The ones who hurt us,” Hotaka continued, “are like stones in our path, and though they may cause us to stumble and feel pain, they also make us stronger helping us to grow and find our inner strength. And then,” said Hotaka looking towards a sturdy tree nearby, “there are those who support us during stormy times much like the roots of this tree hold it steady against the winds.” Hiroshi thought of a friend who had been his anchor during a tumultuous time in his life, and how his solid presence had been the one he could rely on.

“Some people,” the Master concluded, “remain with us forever, they are like stars in the night sky, constant and bright, guiding us – these are our true friends, family and soulmates with whom we share both burdens and joys of life.”

As the sun dipped lower in the sky casting long shadows beneath the cherry trees, Master Hotaka shared a profound insight with his young disciple hero, “Every individual you meet is not just passing through your life by accident, ” he began as his voice resonated with a deeper truth, “Imagine life as a grand orchestra – where each person plays a unique instrument. Together, the music they create influenced the course of your journey, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically.”

“Consider this,” Hotaka continued as he pointed to the flowing river beside them, “Just as each drop of water contributes to the river’s might, each person you encounter adds to the river of your life; some are like small tributaries or side streams bringing new insights and energy, while others like undercurrents that may challenge your strength and resilience, and yet they are still are moving you along your path.”

Hiroshi listened captivated by the metaphor as Hotaka elaborated on three profound types of individuals we may meet, “One are the catalysts – these are the people who compel us to move beyond our limits; they challenge our complacency and push us towards new horizons of understanding and achievement. Like a stone thrown into a still pond, they create ripples that change the very shape of our waters.”

“Then there are the nurturers – these are the ones who nourish our spirits and hearts, providing us love, comfort and support. They are like the sun to our gardens helping us grow and flourish even in the darkest times. Their presence reminds us of the goodness and light in the world.”

“And then there are the reflectors – they are the meetings of our mirrors in our journey; they are those who reflect back to us the truths we need to see about ourselves. They help us acknowledge our strengths and our weaknesses, driving our personal evolution; we see how far we’ve come, where we are, and we also get the chance to see what more we may develop in ourselves to be a better person.” 

“With each meeting, no matter how brief, a lesson is imparted, a gift is given,” Hotaka explained, his eyes gleaming with wisdom. “These lessons weave into the tapestry of our existence; each thread is important and enriches us, expands us.”

As the lesson neared its end, Hotaka looked earnestly into Hiroshi’s eyes, “Now, young friend, remember this life is an intricate symphony of encounters. Listen carefully to each note. Harmonize with the melodies around you and contribute your music with intention and grace.”

I love this story for many reasons, and something that I always imagine while remembering it is how young Hiroshi listens intently and openly to the Master, and continuously reflects on his life and all he hears – this is how he is able to learn and absorb the spiritual wisdom. To incorporate this wisdom you too may reflect on this:

Call into your mind the people who walked with you and crossed your path, no matter for how long or how briefly. How did you feel when you met, what did you learn, what gifts they may have given you; who were like ripples in your waters, who moved you and in what ways, who were the warmth of sun and comfort and love, who are always beside you, who are the roots of your tree and the beautiful aromas of flowers, who are your stars ever shining and guiding you.

What is the melody of your own soul song? How did you show up in other people’s lives – because we all help one another in unique ways; perhaps for some people you were their answered prayer, even through only a kindness of few sentences, encouragement, patience of rhythm and movement, gentleness of hands, smile on the side walk of the street. What harmony and melody do you contribute to others when your song touches them?

With intention and grace, always. This is a most beautiful melody and movement. And may we be grateful.

We may be grateful to those who love us and the opportunities we have to love another, because this allows us to learn what true love really us, and allows us an opportunity for soul growth. We may be grateful for the love we’ve received, and the love we’ve given; and regardless of what happens whether mutual or not, just the opportunity to feel love for another person is what deepens our experience of life and deepens us within – because all looks more beautiful when we have the eyes of love, when we see through the purity and wisdom of our heart’s eyes.

We may be grateful for the opportunities to work with others, share ideas and perspectives, and create beautiful things together that contribute to others. We may be grateful for the inspirations along the twists and turns of life’s paths, and how we shape and form love through its various speeds and movements, through our every day words, hands and seemingly ordinary gestures along the circling staircases of life.

We may be grateful for the pearls of wisdom we’ve gathered, because it all creates the necklace of life and enriches us. We may be grateful for the stepping stones, the waterfalls, the seasons and temperatures along;

and we may fall into trust, that as rivers flow to sea what is will always be, and life itself will become the hands of those on your life’s path, giving you what you need when you need it.

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Cover photograph by me.

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