“Babi, you have many wrinkles on your face”

Leo was six years old at the time, and was sitting with me in the kitchen. His little finger was on my face. He checked my expression to see if he can continue to explore, and what he sees in my face is my love for him.

He continues. “You have a wrinkle here. You have a wrinkle there.” His little finger explores the whole entire landscape of my face. Again he looks to check out where I am with all this. He notices that I am smiling broadly at him. My expression says: I am loving being with you.”

Now he looks at my eyes and gently touches my eye lids. “Babi over your eyes you have so much skin that when you open them there are many millions of wrinkles.” Meanwhile, I am loving the tender touch, the exploring eyes, the affectionate finger over my face, the sweetness of the exchange. I am over the bridge in Leo’s world in the neighborhood called: “The world is full of wonder for me to explore.”

Hedy Schleifer and her grandson

Another place and time, Linda, 70 years old was sitting next to me at the gym. “Linda you have big feet” I say to her as she puts on her sneakers. “I have the exact right size of foot for the size of my body”, comes the harsh answer. I cross the bridge in my heart, and I am in the neighborhood in Linda’s world: “I have been teased much for my height and my big feet.” I sense pain. And I sit in silence just giving Linda my soft presence.

I am telling you these stories because for me they symbolize the miracle of “normal.” Just the year before, we were in a “strenuous storm at sea” with Yumi’s health crisis. How nice it was to simply be sitting with a grandson and schmoozing. How nice it was to be going to the gym, and simply be putting on our shoes after a workout. And also how nice it was to have a strong guiding principle to stay connected, no matter what.

Both the interaction with Leo as well as with Linda would have turned out very differently had I not crossed the bridge to their worlds. I am realizing again that a good process allows for any content. We can say and hear absolutely everything and stay in connection. However in order to do that successfully we need a guiding principle. In Encounter-centered Transformation, the embrace of the three invisible connectors is one such principle. We can stay in connection when we know how to keep the relational space clean, when we know how to cross the bridge to the “other”, and when we know how to create the conditions for a true encounter.