Can We Transform Annoyance Into Compassion?
by Kim Blanc
How can we transform annoyance into compassion? I have come to know that one way, for sure, is through understanding. In other words, by coming to know the truth.
Recently, I attended a 3-day meditation retreat where I sat with about a hundred people in complete silence and stillness for periods at a time. After a few sessions, I came to treasure the experience of complete silence, with nothing to focus on but my breath. On the second day of the retreat I came into the meditation hall, took my seat and we all began our meditation. A few minutes later I noticed a sound coming from the person beside me. I thought to myself “what is she doing?” It then became clear to me that she was swallowing hard. This swallowing went on for the remainder of the session. I kept thinking that it would eventually stop but it didn’t, it continued consistently with a swallow about every 30 seconds.
Practicing my meditation, I watched as my annoyance with this sound became more intense. By the end of the session my annoyance had turned to anger. I was so mad at this woman for being so annoying. When the bell rang, signaling the end of the session, I opened my eyes and saw that this woman had tears streaming down her face. In a split second, my anger was gone, and I felt nothing but compassion as I realized that the reason she was swallowing so hard was because she had been trying not to cry. (You know that hard swallow if you have ever had to try your hardest to hold back tears.) Wow! What a lesson! I felt my annoyance and anger melt and compassion engulf me. By understanding the truth of the situation, I felt only compassion and empathy for this woman. She wasn’t trying to be annoying, the truth is, she was suffering.
I am so grateful to this woman who taught me so much. For example, when someone comes late to yoga class, I take a moment to think “I’m glad they made it to class” and I am happy to do my part to ease them into the class by moving my mat if need be. You see, people don’t want to come into a yoga class late. For most, it’s actually quite embarrassing. As a teacher, I have had students who came late to class explain to me that they had a hard time breaking away from a crying child, they got a speeding ticket because they were hurrying to be on time, and a woman who explained that she drives over thirty minutes to get to the studio and on this particular day there was an accident. Imagine going through any of that only to arrive and feel unwelcome.
Throughout my life, I have often wondered why we are here on this earth. To date, through a lot of study (self and otherwise), the best answer I have come up with as to why we are here on this earth is evolution of the soul. And I have found that one way to evolve our soul is to serve one another. So, whether it’s helping someone reach an item while in the grocery store or moving our mat to accommodate a fellow human being, service is service. Try it! You’ll see that doing a kind act for someone else lifts your spirit and, if you ask me, that’s the same as evolving our soul.
Om Shanti, Shanti.
Peace, Peace, Peace
July 13, 2018
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