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OTHER ITA SITES:
Any Experience Can Change Your Life
Any experience, even simply going to a restaurant, can create new beliefs about how you want to live your life.
I have read in many different cultural and religious texts not to take any moment in life for granted, as all experiences can be opportunities to learn about yourself and the world around you. Recently I went on a trip to Melbourne, Australia and while I was there I had two very memorable experiences, both in restaurants. I love going out to eat anyway, but these two events were both what I believe to be extraordinary, as neither had ever happened in my life previously. Let me tell you a little about what went on in this strange place we call planet Earth.
The first restaurant I went to was with my brother and was called �Lentil As Anything� (www.lentilasanything.com), which is a play on words based on an old Australian rock band called �Mental As Anything�. Mental">All the food is vegetarian, which is great for me as for seven years I have fit into this classification, although I�ve started to eat fish recently for health reasons. The thing that shocked me here was that the menu had no prices. On the back of the menu were the words, �Pay what you feel�, then the owners went on to tell you the ideas behind this concept. In the same vein as the Hindu belief of karma the patron is urged to give equally in monetary value what they feel the meal is worth to them. I think the main idea is that they want to create a more traditional human relationship with customers instead of a purely capitalist consumerism type of connection. Much of our society has shifted to a focus on the acquisition of money as of ultimate importance, and interaction between people is relegated to being simply a �meaningless� transaction.
Well you probably want to ask me, �How long has this restaurant existed? Do they make a profit?� The answers are: The restaurant has been around for years, and as they have opened a second storefront in a separate location, I �d have to believe that they are doing just fine. I ate an entr�e of breads and dips which was very tasty, followed by the best lentil burger I�ve ever had in my life (I�ve had many), and I drank a chai tea which unfortunately wasn�t very good that day. When I went to pay, a lot of questions entered my mind like, �How much should I pay? Should I give a lot so I�m not perceived as being a Scrooge? Could I pretend that I haven�t got much money? Do homeless people come in here to get a free meal? The realization I had after I paid was that in this age-old trading process one�s conscience is tested. You want to walk away from the experience happy, and you would like for the restaurant owners to feel that they got their fair amount for their services. A feeling of trust, respect, and unity is given to this relationship, where you might even feel that your honor is being tested. This is altogether a very different human connection when compared to many modern fast-food ideologies that are pervading our local environment.
In my last article entitled, �The power of meals� I emphasized the importance of what we eat, how and whom we eat with, and even the relevance of how the person who was cooking the food felt emotionally. In a consumer situation should any of these factors become irrelevant? Eating is one of the few imperative actions that every human must do if they want to exist in our world. Why not make the experience as sacred as all the other important rituals and beliefs that we partake in?
The second amazing restaurant experience I had was at a place called, �Moroccan Soup Bar� (Check reviews on Google). They also serve a vegetarian-only cuisine menu, which after going back to several times is easily one of the tastiest I have ever eaten in my life. Back when I used to eat meat everyday I thought that vegetables were boring, boy was I wrong! The textures, vast array of flavors, and multiple ingredients are tantalizing to all taste buds that I have taken with me to share in this �holy� experience.
The particular evening in question saw my girlfriend and I arriving late and subsequently being the last people eating. Earlier on in the night the owner, an Islamic woman, had sat down at the table next to us with a few customers who were obviously regulars or friends. When she mentioned the film, �What the bleep do we know?� I had to interject, as I felt I was one of the few people around who saw the film and had also thought the movie to be quite interesting. She was saying that not many people were in the theater compared to the mainstream stories like �Batman� or �Star Wars� and was wondering why more weren�t interested in real life as opposed to human created narratives. At the end of the night she came and sat down at our table to discuss what we did and didn�t like about the film.
The conversation flowed naturally about aspects of life such as science, spirituality, religion, and human relationships. She said that earlier that day she had gone on an excursion with a group of Islamic women and Jewish women to a Mikvah (a Jewish women�s� bathing ritual), which she had organized. She said that at first the Islamic group were quite reluctant to go, but after they had went and met the Jewish women, none of either group wanted to leave. They�d all enjoyed the connection so much that the Jewish women were planning to visit the Islamic group at one of their religious ceremonies. Of course I thought this was great given the turbulent political climate in Israel and Palestine.
I haven�t even gotten to the really cool part of the story yet. When I went up to pay for the meal I gave the woman the thirty dollars (very cheap for the quality and quantity of the food) and she handed me back fifteen bucks. Quite surprised, she then went on to tell me that on some nights she would give patrons half of the price of the meal back if they would do her a little favor. I asked her what it was and she told me that I would have to give the money to someone who I felt really needed or deserved it. This just blew both my girlfriend�s and my own minds! The lady said that she believed 90% of the people went through with this generous task, and that she simply hoped that it might affect some of our beliefs about humanity and the interrelatedness of all people on planet Earth.
My girlfriend and I have been contemplating child sponsorship for a while so we took the fifteen dollars and used it towards our first monthly payment to Plan International www.plan-international.org. It just proves how powerful one humble, anonymous person can be in making a difference to the world, as well as to people�s perceptions of reality. It is true that every moment is a chance to learn from what�s around us in the world, as well as an opportunity to share knowledge with others by incorporating our new beliefs into our own actions and behaviors.
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Travel Part B