As a yoga teacher, I try to talk a little on patience and compassion in class. I have a bit of patience for holding Frog pose, but yesterday at 5:30 pm at the grocery store, I noticed I was a lot like most of the other people there. I was ready to get in, get out, and get on with the rest of my life. It’s funny that we think actual life gets put on hold while we are at the grocery store or sitting in traffic. Those are the places that we need patience and compassion the most, but we press pause on our higher selves because we think we have more important things to do.
As I finally get through the checkout line and start rushing to my car, a woman steps in front of me as she…slowly…schleps…forward…just one foot at a time. Immediately I think, “Jesus! I have to go lady! Why do you have to take up the whole doorway if you are going to walk this slow?!”
Then, I guess the more mindful part of me chimes in, “Compassion. Have patience. Compassion.”
Of course, that frantic side of my brain interrupts, “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! MOOOOOOOVE!”
Okay, Compassion. Compassion. I’m not feeling the compassion or the patience. How can I find the compassion? This tiny whisper appears inside me.
About five months before my father passed away, he wanted to do some after Thanksgiving shopping. On this day, Dad was having a particularly hard time getting around. His liver disease caused his feet to swell so much that he could only wear slip-on house shoes. Walking was very painful. He was hobbling along very slowly and wincing. A group of teenage girls behind us kept encroaching upon us and sighing. They finally collectively rolled their eyes and passed us. I felt my face get hot. Couldn’t they see he was in pain? Don’t they know he would walk faster if he could? Although, he didn’t say anything, I could see on his face that he was embarrassed. He limped over to a nearby bench where he sat for a while gazing blankly into some far away place until he said, “I’m sorry, but I think I need to go home. I just don’t think I can get around.”
That day I felt what it’s like to be the person in someone’s way, a nuisance. At that moment I was filled with so much compassion for him and so much anger for impatient teenage girls that I had made a promise to myself that I was going to patiently walk behind every slow, living thing I could find. For a time, I would seek out the elderly in grocery stores. Can I walk behind you? Can I take my time? Can I hold space for you to walk in this world unhindered? And here I am four years after my father’s death, forgetting that promise to myself. Yet, when I asked, “How can I find compassion for this thing in my way?” That memory, the feelings came back. As I look at the back of this thin, softly-stepping woman leaning on her cart, I see my dad’s swollen feet shuffle. My heart aches, but it’s full as well. Mercy. Compassion. They don’t have to be saved for those big life events. We can do it at the grocery store, right here and now.
As we finally made our way through the last set of automatic doors of the supermarket, the lady I was following veered to the left towards her car. I was free to walk as fast as I would like, but my pace remained slow. It was almost 6:00pm, and I looked up to see the full moon just rising above the horizon. It seemed to take up half of the sky. It shined golden yellow, and it was clear enough you could see all the craters. My walking slowed down to a shuffle as I try to take in one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I heard quick steps and the rickety wheels of a shopping cart rushing behind me. In a flash of blonde hair and white sneakers, another woman quickly veered around me, and looked back at me to say, “Nice moon, eh?”
“Yes. I’m actually in awe of it.”