On a recent meditation retreat, during a walking meditation outdoors, a woman walked up behind me & passed me on the sidewalk. I observed that she was older and I noticed I was having thoughts that sounded a little patronizing in tone about her gait and her slight limp as she walked and thinking that I don’t have an obvious limp and she probably couldn’t walk all the way down to the pond which I enjoyed so much. She seemed different from me. “I’m not like that.” All this despite being 72 years old myself and having had an issue with my left foot only a few months earlier that had made it difficult for me to walk with ease. I did feel a certain sympathy and pity, but also felt separate from her. As I became more aware of this pattern of thinking, it was curious to me to see it as a bias, a prejudice, ”ageism”. I wasn’t judging myself about it like I certainly would have in the past as unkind & shameful. I was just noticing it.
There is a natural human reaction to disconnect and distance from people and situations that trigger unpleasant emotional responses in us. Another, less obvious, natural human reaction is to distance or disconnect from our own unwanted thoughts, feelings and experiences. A common way that we do this is by projecting our unwanted emotions or thoughts onto others. When this happens it is very difficult for us to have any curiosity or compassion for others or ourselves. The practice of mindfulness helps us to become more aware of these habits of mind and to bring more kindness and curiosity to what is happening and what underlies these automatic reactions. Read More