October 20, 2013

A Parking Lot Lesson in Compassion. ~ Dawn Gluskin

I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but

Recently, I found myself standing outside the doors of the spiritual center where I practice kundalini yoga, waiting to go inside as I was finishing up a chat with a client on my cell.

Just then, an older man with crazy hair, driving a beat-up old work truck stopped right in the middle of the road and rolled down his window, looking my way. I thought maybe he was just going to ask for directions but started to feel a little uneasy, as he continued to stare. A few moments passed and he still sat there idled in the middle of the road. I looked over and gave him the ‘one second’ gesture with my pointer finger, as it was quite obvious he wanted to ask me something but I was still on the phone. He paused for another moment and then finally went ahead and blurted out:

“I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but…” I thought to myself, “Oh great. Nothing good can come after that assertion.”

He then went on to say, “But, I just wanted to pay you a compliment. You are a very attractive woman.”

I didn’t exactly take it as a compliment. It made me pretty uncomfortable, actually. I was on high guard as I muttered a half-hearted “uhhh, thank you” while inching myself closer to the door of the studio and wondering if anybody has ever successfully used a rolled up yoga mat as a weapon of self-defense before. I then apologized to my client for the distraction, quickly got off the phone, shook it off, and then went inside for class.

As I was getting settled, feeling safe again, I joked with the ladies that I was making “new friends” out front & told them what happened. One said, “That was nice, a little flattery.” To which I replied, “Well, I guess—But, kind of creepy.”

As we finished tuning in and began our kriya (yoga set) for the day, it occurred to me that I was being pretty judgmental. There on my yoga mat where I so often melt my stress, expand my vision, and compound my love, my thoughts were going deep. The word creepy is not exactly yogi-like when describing another human being.  While, I usually try to strive for compassion and understanding towards others, I had failed to do so in this instance.

It is easy to practice compassion when somebody acts in a way that we deem appropriate and that lines up with our own beliefs and morals. But, when somebody pushes us outside of our comfort zone or acts in ways we don’t agree with, it becomes a much more difficult feat to pull off.

I felt conflicted. As women, we have to deal with these uninvited “compliments” from time to time, which can leave us feeling anywhere from mildly annoyed to completely objectified. There is also the safety issue. You never know somebody’s real intention and there are some misguided souls in our world. The dichotomy was this: I felt justified in how I felt and reacted, but also felt a bit bad for judging this stranger as some kind of “creep” when I knew absolutely nothing about him.

To view the situation with more compassion, I considered a couple possibilities. Perhaps the man truly thought he was just paying a compliment? Maybe he did not understand that shouting out to a random female to comment on her physical appearance might be a little off-putting to her? Maybe he simply didn’t know better?

It made me think of my brother, who left this earth too early about 4 years ago. He was a wild spirit who could have easily been a stand-up comedian with all the crazy things that would come out of his mouth. He brought much laughter to those around him. Sometimes, all I could do was shake my head with a little chuckle at his antics. Our personalities were so different. But, I would always love him dearly, regardless. It made me think that this wild-haired man in his old pickup truck was also somebody’s son, brother, friend, maybe father. I wonder if they too loved him unconditionally.

The lesson I learned from this was simple: Judge less, love more. I thought I was already doing so, but realized it was mostly on my own terms and within my comfort zone.  It was a call for me to dig deeper. We can’t possibly know what somebody else has been through on their path, yet so often we try to sum them up after only a brief interaction. Sometimes our ego rightfully goes to that scared and judgmental place in order to keep us safe.  But, more often than not, we have room to open our minds, expand our hearts, and to feel so much more understanding, and compassion.

I will continue to work on expanding my own heart and practice filling it to the brim with love, even when it’s hard to. I hope you will consider joining me.

Namaste and Sat Nam.

Like I’m not “Spiritual” I just practice being a good person on Facebook.

Assistant Ed: Judith Andersson / Ed: Bryonie Wise

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