I was in yoga class this morning, thoroughly ecstatic to be there.
Driving there, I was at a light that just turned green, facing a pick-up truck.
We were both kind of in the intersection doing nothing until he turned on his turn signal. I was initially annoyed at this disregard of his signal, until I quickly shoved down my own left blinker to signal my own turn, mine also, apparently, disregarded.
Embarrassment crept into my heart as I told myself that it was early and I was not yet awake, but this rising pink color of my cheeks was more from my quick readiness to not extend this other driver the same courteous break.
And then I was in class, with my mat down and my blocks set just so and my towel placed just there, when a stranger placed her mat unnecessarily close to mine and then her block unnecessarily close to my mat and then her folded jacket behind my mat rather than hers.
Annoyance rose within me once more.
I took a yogic breath—a pause—and quietly—silently—reminded myself of my already similar morning lesson.
Yes there are cubbies for jackets, but wasn’t my blue jacket also folded and placed behind my mat on this particular day too? Maybe she wanted hers nearby for a particular reason, like I did.
And so what if her mat was closer than it needed to be.
All week I’d been experiencing loneliness, so I asked myself if she had been my sister next to me, for instance, wouldn’t it be true that she could place her coat where she wanted and her sticky mat nearly on top of mine without either bothering me in the slightest?
What if she were the friend that I’d been wishing I had all week long?
And my week-long lesson—my continual, current moment of progress and my seemingly lifelong regression—is realizing that my judgement often stems directly from a lack of both patience and knowledge.
Knowledge comes to us along with wisdom and time, and when I’m quick to throw around an unnecessary assessment, it’s generally because I don’t have enough information at hand to offer the situation something much more wise, something much more valuable, than my opinion: empathy and gentle kindness.
It feels awful to be judged.
It feels terrible to know that someone is picking us apart and dissecting us with their nonchalant—and completely unimportant—conclusions.
I distinctly remember walking on the towpath one breezy, tropically lush morning with my daughter, pushing her stroller, when I received a phone call that I had to take.
This happened well over a year and a half ago and I can still see the contorted face of the unknown man on a bike as he turned around to throw me his disdainfully judgmental face after he’d ridden around me; he having no idea why I was on my phone and that, normally, I didn’t even pay attention to it when walking in nature (probably, generally, like him).
And this unbridled impatience that leads to snap perceptions is the exact same thing that I do with myself.
My lack of patience towards my flaws and challenges and, equally, towards myself in relationships with others leads to my own improper self-rating. This is why we often say that people who judge others most harshly are often judging themselves the worst.
Yet the inverse of this sorry equation is also true.
I slow down—I take a deep yogic breath—and my ability to open my eyes and heart to a more sincere truth becomes available because I’ve slowed down and can take much more in.
And wisdom and its sister compassion arrive when we slow down, breathe and are receptive to a story in its entirety—and let’s be honest that we usually never have a story in full.
We witness tiny parts; we are given access to an infinitesimal piece of another’s personality or situation and, frankly, who in the hell are we to judge anyone, especially given this simple, ignorant reality?
So as I inhale and momentarily still and close my eyes, and as I exhale and feel my fingertips prance across my laptop keyboard, I invite within my life and within myself this gift of patience that I might slow down and practice being with each moment as they occur for me and for those around me, rather than haphazardly brushing off unseen intelligence as incorrectly unimportant.
I invite into my heart space this appeal to slow down and take it all in, one breath at a time.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo credit: Flickr.