Many different teachers have come to me in many different forms or guises, sometimes remaining in my life for years and years, other times only for a few moments. I have learned from people, animals, plants, supposedly inanimate objects, and the universe. You probably get the idea that I’m not big on the One-and-Only Teacher concept.

I met Dr. Om Johari, a retired materials scientist, at an Indian restaurant in Chicago following a day-long laughter yoga course. By chance, or by coincidence, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Dr. Johari at dinner. I learned that he taught meditation to senior citizens, and councils those who need help in general. I was at a stressful place in my own life, grieving over a loss but I didn’t speak of it to him. Dr. Johari’s good company and the excellent meal we enjoyed helped me forget my own pain. I don’t know if his intuition led him to tell me the following story after dinner.

Dr. Johari had tried to comfort an elderly man whose son had died unexpectedly at the age of 40. No matter what Dr. Johari said or did, the man could not accept the loss of his son. Then one day the man handed Dr. Johari a scrap of paper. Giving immediacy to this part of the story, Dr. Johari wrote something on a small piece of paper, folded it, and handed it to me. Dr. Johari said, “This is what was written on the paper.” The elderly man said he now understood, had found the peace he was seeking. I unfolded the piece of paper in my hand.

What is, is. What isn’t, isn’t” was written on the sheet. I felt relief for the man in the story, and I felt relief from my own sadness. Sometimes the most direct statement of truth leads us to what we are seeking. I haven’t seen Dr. Johari since that night. He was my teacher over dinner.

Years later, I learned that the quote comes from the ancient Greek philosopher, Parmenides. It also came to my mind then that a remarkable sequence of coincidences brought Dr. Johari and I together at the dinner table that night. My hearing about laughter yoga in the first place, attending the session in Chicago, “accidentally” sitting next to Dr. Johari at a banquet of 60 or so people, Dr. Johari’s story, and the peace that it gave me.

What unseen influences come together in our lives to bring about change and awareness? It is likely that the unperceived patterns are just as real as the patterns we recognize in the physical/material realm. If we can step aside and open ourselves up to that Other realm, there we may find astonishing truths.