Hubris is my middle name, whether or not I pronounce it correctly. Deep within me, unasked-for, is the knowledge that I am probably superior to everyone else. Well, everyone I don't know. The people I do know quickly reveal their strengths and excellent qualities and that revelation disabuses me of my untenable feeling of better-than.
Obviously such thoughts have no place in the heart of a seeker, so I am now consciously changing my ego-driven gut reaction.
Who ARE these people I know barely or not at all? Since I have no clues as to their nature or even their behaviour, wouldn't it be more appropriate to assign them activities and ways of being that elevate them in my mind rather than diminish them?
Let's take the Smiths. I frequently see these two retired people walking. But beyond those neighbourhood sightings, their lives are unknown. How they spend their time is a mystery, just as it is for any casual acquaintance.
So rather than wonder about the apparent lack of excitement or virtue in the Smiths' lives, I have come to the conclusion that they are closet Buddhists. Unbeknownst to us neighbours, they spend each day in meditation (jointly or singly I can't know) and prayer; they eat abstemiously; they revel in sending healing messages to all sentient beings.
Well, who would have thought? This has completely reversed my view of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I now imagine them as selfless, conscious beings committed to the good.
And having accomplished this turn-around in my thinking, I have begun to apply a positive spin to everyone I come in contact with. Those dispirited people on the subway are not living empty lives of despair but only seem dull on the subway because internally they devote their commuting time to meditation, prayer, attempts at enlightenment. Strangers are not who I originally thought them to be, but are infinitely better.
This way of thinking does nothing to diminish me. On the contrary, their gain, arbitrarily imagined by me, is also my gain. The world wins.
Now, if I could just successfully extend this generosity to everyone. Excluded, for the moment, from my benign thinking are those who barrel along the sidewalk without making room for others; those who steadfastly refuse to notice that the subway car is filling up and thus it might be time to move their feet or their giant backpack off the nearby seat; in short, anyone who annoys me while I am out in the world. Those who fail to shovel their walks after a snowstorm. Those who are publicly noisy when I want quiet. Those who are slow when I want fast, or fast when I want slow. Those, in short, who are not ME.
H'm-m. The new me seems to need additional work. Well, I've made a start. If I can open my heart a bit more maybe I can make room for uncritical views of first one other couple, then another. Then three. And then on to an entire subway-ful. It's a work in progress.
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