I said nervously, “He sounds creepy.”
My son is a young adult who feels every conversation has unseen potential for self-discovery and conversations with strangers hold huge adventure potential. I tend to be introverted and protective of my comfort zone and since he doesn’t share either of those traits, a “stranger” becomes a friend as soon as he knows their name. Since he began to talk he has made friends in the brief time we stood in line at the grocery store or chose a book at the library.
Now his conversations take place without me hovering nearby, but he often shares his adventures. I usually respond with mixed wonder, admiration and sometimes, concern. Recently, a story of a late night encounter with some unusual individuals set off my maternal safety alarms and, regrettably, my unkind comment, “He sounds creepy.”
“He’s just a kid, Mom – he wasn’t dangerous.” He went on to say with deep feeling, “There are many people in this world who are overlooked and discarded, and Leo is one of them.”
Immediately, personal and painful experiences of being ignored came to mind. Whether another person is just too self-absorbed to bother with you, or there is conscious malice intended, for most of us being ignored or overlooked confirms a deep fear that we really are worthless and disconnected from everyone else. It hurts. Feeling alone, disconnected and worthless leads to countless ills in our society because it leads in the opposite direction of the truth: that we are a part of all that is.
Shutting out others from our reality also takes us away from the greater awareness that we are seeking as spiritual aspirants.
In Success and Happiness Through Yoga Principles, Swami Kriyananda tells us: “If we are indifferent to the feelings of others, we lose our own sensitivity to feeling itself. What we must do is deepen our sensitivity to everything and everyone around us.”
Read Swami’s first sentence again. He says we will lose our own sensitivity to feeling itself. What a chilling thought. Everything about the spiritual path is about expansion of feeling – of our awareness, of our sensitivity, of our receptivity, of our experience of unity and the one reality of Spirit.
He tells us to go in the opposite direction of indifference – to deepen our sensitivity to everything and everyone around us.
So I’m practicing becoming more aware and responsive, but not reactive. If you live in an Ananda community, it’s pretty easy to notice people and feel connected. But “out there” in the mainstream it is more of a challenge. I get lots of opportunities at Home Depot, where I work. I often think of Swami Kriyananda traveling the globe and interacting with thousands of people. He was able to treat them all as friends and he was never indifferent to anyone. I don’t have to travel the world, hundreds of people come to me every day.
“Lorna! It’s good to see you; I am so glad you are here today.” This is the greeting my boss gives me almost every day when I walk into Home Depot. It is said with casual friendliness that is warm and deeply sincere. Those days seem brighter and the work easier.
It would not be appropriate to greet everyone I see in the store in that way, but it is a good lesson for me on how much difference it makes when we are noticed and appreciated. Much of the time, noticing someone is an inward response, soul to soul. A smile, and an offer to assist is also usually appropriate in that setting. When someone radiates “Don’t bug me!”, I can still smile and inwardly welcome them. Being non-reactive when my reality bumps into someone else’s reality still takes work, but there are always new opportunities to deepen my sensitivity.
Swami Kriyananda used to tell a story about an experience he had being ignored at a dinner party – that he was hosting. He would tell it with laughter and great joy, because he was beyond being concerned about himself and he was able to see the whole experience as one of life’s jokes. I will readily admit that I’m not at that level of detachment yet; being treated like a rock in a river is still hurtful. But now, when I want to say, “Hey! What about me?”, I ask myself these three questions:
1) Do you believe in karma? This is a result of energy you put out to others at some time.
2) Do you ever want to treat anyone like this ever again? Kindness is so much better!
3) What part of you wants to be acknowledged? The ego is demanding attention and this is an opportunity to tell the ego that the higher Self is in charge.
See people. Look at them with kindness and see their soul as the same light that is within you. Whether you realize it or not, you cannot exclude them from your reality, for you, and they, are a part of all that is.
Blessings in light, Lorna