Don’t restrict mindfulness to your breathing; expand it to include humanity’s pulsating breath.

We interact mindlessly with strangers throughout the day with countless “how are yous,” “good days,” “bless yous.” That’s an equal number of lost opportunities to connect with our shared humanity. Even standard greetings become meaningful when said sincerely.. Human beings crave connection, and the world abounds with opportunities to engage with it.

Once on a tour bus in Australia, the stranger sitting next to me told me it was her last trip ever because she was dying of cancer and that she was donating her body for cadaver research – all in the course of the fifteen-minute-long ride. It is heartening to see New Yorkers, unjaded by the invasion of tourists, still giving detailed directions to people. Grocery stores are another fertile ground to connect with strangers. Let someone with fewer items than you get ahead. Air travel also bursts at the seams with such possibilities. Some people go out of the way to help strangers with their heavy bags and wake up their sleeping neighbors to avoid missing dinner. Even the almost reflexive action of someone holding the door open for you can be elevated to a meaningful moment with a heartfelt thank you.

But the beauty of connections lies in the eyes of the beholder. I once saw a dog owner brusquely whisking away a lost dog without pausing to thank the woman who found the dog and waited with it in the biting cold. A potential beautiful moment lost forever. But thankfully another one lurked right around the corner. I recently engaged in a back and forth with a stranger in the laundry room, each of us wanting the other to take the only heavy-duty dryer there. Eventually, I lost the argument and won the dryer.

Don’t underestimate the power of one meaningful interaction with a stranger. With each interaction you diffuse a drop of fragrant oil to purify humanity’s often smoggy air.

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