The other day, an older, heavy-set woman with a cane,
dressed in a mix of distressed clothing, boarded the bus with a motley collection of bags that appeared to be full of her recent purchases. She didn’t board quickly, quietly, and calmly as the angry looking driver and many of the passengers would probably
have preferred, but instead boarded with some awkwardness and loudness (in movement and voice) as she paid the fare, got to her seat, and arranged the bags around her feet.
During the ride, she spoke a few times, loudly and aggressively to the driver, and also to the other passengers trying to navigate past her bags.
During the ride, I wasn’t giving any significance to her aggressive behaviour, since I was aware that she
was simply acting out from the incredible power of insecure thought. Instead, as I reflected on her situation, I was thinking, “It’s too bad I couldn’t get her access to a portable wheeled cart so that she could navigate her bags more easily”
And then I caught what my own creative insecure mind was up to, and I kind of chuckled to myself.
I realized how the idea of getting her a cart would be “MY” solution if I was in her situation,
and would not necessarily be her solution. I amusingly remembered how often I think I have the answers to what I have personally deemed as other people’s “problems”.
It’s soooooo easy for our minds to define things as problems, and then to begin looking for solutions to something we’ve just completely made up. How do
I know that she wasn’t perfectly fine navigating her bags exactly as she was? Perhaps there were much more pressing problems she was concerned with and could have used help with. After all, I am not living in her head. I’m ONLY ever living in my
And it’s not that it wouldn’t have been a perfectly lovely idea to find a
way to get her access to a cart, but here’s what is significant about my thoughts/feelings in that moment…
When I’m trying to fix what I see as other people’s problems, or I see them as incapable or a nuisance in some way (whether to myself or others), it is a warning bell indicating some sort of insecure thought/feeling
passing through my mind. In that moment, it helps me see that I am NOT feeling unconditional love, or unconditional acceptance, or warm connection, or admiring and appreciating their own natural resilience. Instead, I’m feeling separate from them, and
judging them or their situation, and identifying what I see as “their” problems.
so, the “solutions” I will tend to come up with will be entirely influenced by my own personal perceptions about life. And that’s a helpful thing to be aware of. After all, every one of us knows the difference between getting advice or help
from someone who’s judging us based on how they see and experience the world in their own mind, versus getting advice or help from someone who’s coming from a place of neutral connection
and not currently wrapped up in their own personal thinking.
At the stop where this woman was
to get off, there was a younger woman leaving at the same time. The two of them had a bit of interaction in order to navigate their mutual departure. The older woman eventually encouraged the somewhat impatient younger woman to just go ahead, although she
said it with her aggressive sounding tone. Heading out the door, the younger woman made some sort of sarcastic remark directed toward the older woman, followed by the driver’s loud laughter in agreement. The older woman heard it and snapped at the driver,
asking him what the younger woman had said about her.
I immediately found myself angry and
judgmental toward both the younger woman and the driver for not seeing what I was seeing… an older woman struggling though life, doing the best she could given her thinking in the moment, and likely with many less resources in life than they had.
And then I caught what my own creative insecure mind was up to, and I kind of chuckled to myself
Although I appeared to be in defense of the suffering (being on the side of
the suffering older woman), I hadn’t immediately noticed that I had absolutely no compassion for the driver or the younger woman. Their behaviours were just as driven by the momentary flow of insecure thought passing through their minds (their own personal
suffering). If they happened to be experiencing a secure flow of thought, and were feeling their intrinsic connection to life and each other, they would have acted differently.
See how tricky our thinking can be?
In the moment, it occurred to me to offer the older woman help with her bags. She said yes, and asked me to grab the green garbage bag that was still left for her to pick up. After I carried the bag off the bus and left it next to her, she said “God
bless you”. I wasn’t looking for that appreciation, but it was lovely to have affirmation once again, of the truth that anyone, no matter the circumstances, can regain their intrinsic connection to the world, and respond in kind.
With the understanding that our thoughts and feelings aren’t “caused” by the circumstances of
life, it means that we can thankfully navigate life with a lot more understanding of why individuals (including myself) innocently and often unknowingly act the way we do; that our insecure behaviours are simply a reflection of the belief in the momentary
flow of insecure thought/feeling passing through our minds, temporarily losing our felt connection to life and humanity. And that’s just human.
As a result of knowing this, so much less of our mental resources end up being spent on judgement, or the need to figure out why, or the need to judge/justify/defend/reason anyone’s behaviours.
It makes the understanding of everything in life so simple. And so, we get to spend less time being in our heads, and more time just being.
And despite how deeply any of us know this, we can still (and will frequently) lose our connection to humanity, and get temporarily lost in the belief in whatever insecure flow of thought is passing through our head.
That’s just human. Fortunately, we then get to notice this happening, and have a good chuckle about it.