Thursday, June 07, 2007

Buddha on the Subway

This morning, when I was talking with a friend about life stuff, I remembered an exercise from a self-help book I once read.

Try going through your day imagining that everyone you run into is more enlightened than you. This means: the post office clerk, your boss, your dog, the checkout girl chewing gum, the delivery boy, your kid, your spouse or partner, your assistant, the scary teenagers shouting on the subway. Et cetera.

Sound hard? Actually, it’s easy. It frees you from the burden of judgment. If you regard other people as more enlightened than yourself, you’re accepting that you don’t have all the answers, and don’t have to.

Instead of getting annoyed at the person who stands directly in front of the subway doors, you get curious about him—because he’s more enlightened than you are. You start wondering about his thoughts, interests, gifts, what he’s struggled with, what he knows, who he loves, who loves him. In a weird way, through this kind of observation, you join with the world, rather than detaching yourself from it.