Last week, Steve and I were in Omaha, Nebraska on our way to Lincoln to help move his grandmother into an assisted living apartment. While planning our trip we decided to stay a couple of days in Omaha because I had never been there. I figured that, with a name that "begins with a mantra and ends with enlightenment or at least a laugh", Omaha might be an interesting place to visit.
On our first day, we decide to walk around “The Old Market” district. We wander in and out of the wonderfully renovated old brick buildings into boutiques with whimsical arts and crafts, spiritual bookstores and galleries where we have an inspiring conversation with a local painter. We are crossing the street and Steve sees a sign on a storefront, which reads “Om’Aha Healing Arts Center.” “Look Jarl!” he exclaims, “they spell it like you say it!” I look over and see the sign and a window full of Buddha heads and sacred images from the East. Ooh, this is my kind of place. I feel myself almost being pulled across the street as Steve says, "It's closed." I see a woman walk up to the door, someone on the inside unlocks it to let her in and then locks it again. I keep moving forward. I’ll just look in the window if nothing else. As I approach the door, the woman unlocks it again and says, “You look like you are on a mission to get in here!” “May I?” I ask. She smiles and tells me to come on in. Steve follows me in.
Beyond the small import section with sacred images, incense and candles, we find a wonderfully renovated space for tai chi, yoga and other events. Sandy Aquila, the owner and creator of the center and former “on tour” massage therapist for Sting, invites us to sit and enjoy one of the therapeutic tea blends at the world’s only Tibetan sand painting tea bar, painted on site by a group of Tibetan Monks from Drepung Gomang Monastery in Karnataka, India in honor of the opening of the center. They serve a variety of elixirs for wellbeing. We sit down. I feel so at home.
The Om Center is usually closed on Sundays except for an occasional private session or special event. Today, Sandy is hosting two acupuncturists from Florida. They are longtime friends of hers who have come for the weekend to offer facial acupuncture sessions. A woman emerges from the floor below, with a relaxed, fresh and peaceful aura about her. “Was the treatment good?” I ask. “Ahhhhh”, she answers, “it was heavenly.” The acupuncturist, Yvonne Woodson, who just performed her magic on this woman also emerges and slips behind the counter to prepare herself some tea. Sandy introduces us and we chat about her particular technique of acupuncture. Her partner, who is a Tibetan Lama and acupuncturist, soon joins us from one of the therapy rooms below. They both also happen to be tai chi teachers and Sandy mentions to them that I teach tai chi in Berkeley, California. Yvonne, looks up from her cup and says, “You don’t happen to know Tish Woodson, do you?” My mouth drops in amazement as I answer, “Tish has been a student of mine for at least 12 years.” Yvonne smiles and says, “She’s my former mother-in-law and the grandmother of my two children,” “Oh my gosh! I know of you!” I exclaim. Yvonne picks up her cell phone and says, “Let’s call Tish and surprise her.” She dials her number. “Hi Tish, how are you? I’m having tea with someone who wants to say hi to you.” She hands me the phone. “Hey Tish, it’s Jarl!” “Jarl? What are you doing with Yvonne?” We all have a good chuckle about the “coincidence”.
What are the chances of our meeting? Yvonne, who lives in Florida, has never been to Omaha. I have never been to Omaha, and here we are together in the Om Center drinking tea.
Five hours after walking through the door, Steve and I leave the Om Center and get on with our journey. Isn’t life a trip?