Saturday, April 7, 2007

Why benefit of the doubt?

When "Ecotistical" recently invited a small group of thoughtful, spiritual women to her home to discuss our pursuit of the sacred, our conversation quickly turned to the minor (but cumulatively significant) annoyances that keep us from feeling truly alive, present, joyful and generous. Whether a coworker who seems to have claimed "lashing out at the world" as an additional job responsibility, or the car that invariably cuts you off as you're pleasantly minding your business and following the rules of the road, it seems more often than not that the small stuff of daily living is what most keeps us from the holy.

We shared strategies and tips, and at moments it seemed that our women's spirituality group had shifted to a "coping with the workplace" workshop. The strategies are clever, though, and certainly made for entertaining story-telling. Ecotistical has developed a series of mantras that remind her to be calm and kind. She will intone over and over in her mind "BDBDBDBDBD" to remember to give people the benefit of the doubt--to give the coworker a pass, or allow the car to move forward without the customary New England blast of the horn. And though each of us is probably more naturally inclined to righteous indignation when we feel we've been wronged, we've also all had moments where the release of the indignation brought a far sweeter satisfaction.

Since our conversation I've remembered to sing my own "BDBDBDBDBD" as I'm driving in to work (or comparably, to follow my late mother's rule of responding to every horn with an act of road abundance--like unnecessarily letting out a car at an intersection, or stopping for a pedestrian who is trying to cross away from a crosswalk). There are days when I seem to truly resist the kindness required in giving the benefit of the doubt to the people around me. And as I curiously dig to discover just what that's all about, I almost always find some deep-rooted insecurity. I learn that the kindness I'm resisting toward another is often hardest to extend to myself.

Hmmmm.....perhaps those daily annoyances aren't detractions from the realm of the spirit after all. Perhaps they are opportunities of spirit, opening us to acceptance and love.

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