THE BLOG

Cosmic Chabad Cable Car

02/08/2012 11:23 am ET | Updated Apr 09, 2012

You are cordially invited to add some emptiness to your over-scheduled life. Leave some space for serendipity, novelty and cool things happening that you could not possibly imagine.

I tried this last week and had amazing results.

Last Thursday was a spectacular day in San Francisco. It was imbued in a ridiculously neutral climate, at 65 degrees with a slight ocean breeze and a sparkling sky casting impossible shades of blue.

I'm sitting on a curved, wooden bench perched over the bay near Pier 7, watching the birds and waves frolic as fishing people waited patiently by their poles.

Earlier that day, I had interviews for a new job that I would really love to have. I met interesting people with whom I'd really love to work. Then, I find three hours time that needs to be killed before an evening event with Jimmy Wales who founded Wikipedia.

This time I had on my hands was empty. And, I felt empty. A little lost, actually. Have you ever felt that way?

In Buddhism, there is a philosophy and paradox, which says that "emptiness is form and form is emptiness". We need to allow moments during which nothing is planned and nothing is expected but everything is welcomed.

I wander down Market Street in San Francisco near the ferry building, thinking that I will hop a trolley car up Nob Hill to hang in the lobby of the Fairmount Hotel and relax with my emptiness. There in front of me is a classic burgundy and green, wooden paneled trolley car.

I step in, step up two stairs and meet empty-eye to kind-eye with an older man, donning long, grey beard, black suit and top hat.

"Shalom Aleichem" he says (meaning "peace be upon you"). "Would you like to say Kaddish?"(Kaddish is Jewish memorial prayer said during times of mourning and the anniversary of a loved-one's passing.

As it happens, this was the week of my mom's Yartzheit (anniversary of her passing) and I had missed other opportunities to say the memorial prayer honoring her name.

So, I say "of course". I've now become the 10th man, which is required for a prayer minyan in Judaism. I stay and pray for a while, just being amazed that the universe has provided this moment.

I'm standing in a cable car with ten men, praying on the streets of San Francisco. We say each word in Hebrew slowly, because each word has meaning and intent. Each word evokes a fine memory. I savor this moment of wonder, feeling the magnetic pull of friendship and purpose. I don't completely understand how I arrived here. After 30 minutes or so it feels like time to move on. I drop a donation in the Tzedakah box and exit the trolley and I'm back in a standard reality.

A block away I see another trolley that's on the move. What will I find it there. I run to catch it, jump on the sideboard and pull myself onto the trolley with just a small risk of falling. Now, I make my way up to Nob Hill. I wonder what this experience will provide. Then, there's the Fairmount so I jump off and wander to a comfortable couch in the lobby, where I sink and think for a while.

Later that evening, I hear Jimmy Wales speak of Wikipedia, which he describes as "a world where every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all knowledge". An idea that more than 400 million people have embraced. Go Jimmy!

Reflecting on this, I wonder... what if everyone on the planet takes a moment everyday to enable emptiness to happen and new experiences to surprisingly emerge. What if?