I am sitting on the London Underground. The coach is half full, and looking around, there is an enormous diversity of people. Not only are their looks diverse, but also their sounds, expressions, and certainly their smells…
It is a warm and sticky day, so people might have underestimated the warmth while dressing or running to catch the train, but different odors fill the train's air.
It’s not only body odor that I smell. Whenever the train starts to move after a stop, a whiff of alcohol passes my nose. Looking to the left, I see a man sitting in a priority seat. He holds a large can of beer and stares at a spot on the floor. The man is not shaved, his hairs are short, and his body is small and a bit obese.
It is quick and brief, but the first thing that comes to me is judgment. Drinking in the middle of the day and not taking care of yourself is a clear sign that this man is probably depressed, lonely, and maybe aggressive, depending on the state of his football team. A thought crosses my mind to sit somewhere else.
Then I close my eyes and try to take the focus of the man and feel in myself. Why am I judging so quickly?
Being aware of myself, I notice I am a bit stressed, and my last phone call did not leave a pleasant feeling in my body. I didn’t handle the facts of the call very well, and I don’t like how I responded. So there is a bit of judgment towards myself. Then I stuffed too much in this day, which makes me run from point to point and barely manage to be on time everywhere. This makes me less present and less tolerant of things around me. I take a few breaths and tell myself that I am ok. I feel compassion towards myself for doing this more often than today.
When I open my eyes, the man is still there. He has put away the beer, and instead of the can, he is holding and reading a book about breathing. I can see a wedding band around his finger, and if I look at him, I see that his face looks soft. Once in a while, I see a little smile while he reads. I wonder if the book or a memory of something he had experienced before made him smile. That made me want to know more about his life.
There is no time to start a conversation. I am at my destination, so I am preparing to get off. Right before the train stops, I see the man looking up and putting away his book.
When the train comes to a stand, we both get up, and he looks up at me. He gives me a smile and says hello. Then he gestures to me to go first when the door opens. I thanked him and started to walk. He follows me.
We go up the escalator and through the gates, where his partner waits for him with two Costa cups. They kiss and laugh and walk away, zipping their drinks and chatting.
I look at them briefly and feel warm, seeing how they are connected. Content and present, I walk down the hill. I am walking alongside the woods and smell the trees. I feel the sun on my head and enjoy the walk.
Judgment vs Curiosity
Reflecting on what happened, I can see how judgment and curiosity are such a polarity in me. And how judgment is such an easy go-to when I am not present in life. And I feel grateful for the ability to catch this and find curiosity towards myself and others. And when I do, the judgment fades immediately, letting me enjoy the details of my day.
Do you recognize this?