I was totally challenged by the Buddhist exercise “I am you.” I’m an introvert. I love being alone. My “people skills” could use some work. I’m independent so my compassion and empathy could be increased. I wasn’t sure how I might improve them until I heard of a Buddhist exercise that asks you to look at each person you encounter and think, “I am you.”
Our natural tendency to stay separate
“Namaste” means the light within me honors the light within you. That’s a lovely way to greet another person or end a meaningful conversation. I like using it along with a short bow. However, in light of “I am you.” there is separateness in it. I am here. You are there. Your light is there. My light is over here. “I am you” asks a lot more of me.
Can you hear what is not said?
I’m getting better at listening to what is not said – a person’s worry that makes them snappy, a distraction that makes them seem distant. I observe a person’s response and take a moment to feel the energy beneath it. That helps keep some remarks from feeling too personal. It makes it possible for me to respond with more empathy and compassion.
Can you sit beside them?
Instead of telling, people what to do, or even offering advice or suggestions, I’m gradually learning to metaphorically sit beside them and look at life from their point of view. Then we can find a new way to look at things together. That has been a very powerful change for the natural organizer and overview observer that I am.
A major insight: what you don’t like is all about you
The qualities you don’t like in another person are the qualities you don’t like in yourself. That’s a huge awareness to have. I don’t like to be told what to do. Guess what the natural leader in me is prone to do. This awareness of the reflection of yourself in the people around you is a huge idea to grasp. It also means that the good stuff you see in people is a reflection of you too. That feels better, doesn’t it? Be patient with the people who annoy you. Take a closer look to see what you need to change within you. Mirror, mirror on the wall…
I am you
I’m not sure I can do “I am you.” At the very least, it is going to take some practice. I have so little in common with the senior community in which I live that I have developed a very strong and supportive community online. What do I see/do when I come across someone far removed from my own interests and way of being? I know they are bored because so few have developed interests that stimulate them. I know they are, in their own way, dealing with the aging process. Very few are proactive, most of them expect decline and rely on their doctor to tell them what to do. I cannot identify with that at all. It is going to be challenging to think “I am you” under those circumstances.
However, I can identify with the fabulous people I am connecting with online who are doing their thing, sharing their excitement with others, and encouraging each other to do their best work. With those people, I love to think “I am you!”
So what do I do about the people I don’t “get”? The people I don’t want to copy. The people I don’t want to spend time with? I don’t know. I have some work to do.
“I am you.”
To Sing a Deeper Song consider: