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March 13, 2023

Seek To Understand

How quick we are to judge someone for the very same thing that we ourselves do.

Kelly, my girlfriend, came home from subbing a yoga class at a studio she doesn’t normally teach at. It was her second week subbing, so there were a few people who were there the week prior. Once Kelly took to the front of the room, one of these women became clearly dismayed to see her again. She expressed her un-welcomed surprise by asking this question in front of the entire class: “Are we actually going to flow today?”

For my non yogi friends, what this woman was conveying is that she did not like how Kelly taught her class, and was hoping for something that would fit her expectations of her usual teacher.

Of course, like any human-being getting publicly shamed, Kelly did not feel very confident standing up in front of the class. Alas, she went on to teach in her more anatomically functional, less “Let’s see how hard and fast everyone can move” style. She came home to tell me of this story.

I was livid.

“How rude of this woman! She clearly does not understand the purpose of yoga, what an unkind thing to do.”

I played out the scene in my head as if I were there. In defense of my loved one, I saw myself getting in the woman’s face, telling her how disrespectful she was, and that she didn’t get the purpose of yoga. I thought she deserved to hear how wrong she was.

As I went on with my day, I continued thinking about what happened. Each time that I replayed the scene, I felt the same anger, coupled with the feeling of wanting her to tell her how rude she was. It came up so many times that I had to ask myself, “Why is this effecting me so much?” It’s then, the cold hard truth hit: It wasn’t her who wasn’t getting it, it was I.

At that moment, I saw clearly that I was doing the same thing she did to Kelly; judging her based on my own expectations. It’s that moment I was reminded of a verse in The Prayer of Saint Francis, a prayer I repeat often to myself. The line in essence says, “Seek to understand rather than to be understood”

It’s then I thought how could I understand this woman rather than judge? What would that look like? I imagined a few scenarios.

Maybe her partner left her. Maybe she’s in child-custody battle and doesn’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe the dependability of her 8 AM hot yoga flow is the only thing that she can depend on. Maybe it’s her saving grace in the midst of a scary & unknown situation. Maybe it’s what is keeping her going, and the fact she couldn’t get that made her project the frustration of her life’s turmoil.

“Seek To Understand, rather than to be understood.”

Now, I don’t know if anything like this is remotely true. But It’s not totally unlikely, and it’s also not the point. Just by shifting my intention to view her not as rude & judgmental, yet as a human with human issues, it lightened everything. I no longer held that anger and I could feel my heart open a little. All from allowing me to explore, “Maybe”.

What if we gave up needing to be right? What if we gave up needing to tell people all the ways they don’t fit our world-views, and notions of how things “should” be. Could we be happier?

I think the answer is yes. But it’s practice.

It’s this story that inspired this weeks’ meditation: Seek To Understand.

I hope it helps you soften some of the grudges you hold with others.


My Insight Timer course is out. What I shared today is so aligned with the core lessons of the course. If this email resonates, or if ANY of my work resonates, I really hope you take the course. I know you’ll take a lot of value out of it. You can enroll here: Learn to Stop Caring What Others Think.

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