Entries like these are always hard, because there are several different trains of thought running through my head at once, all colliding with each other and vying to be written first. My challenge is sticking to one at a time, so these entries make sense. ;)
While we were wandering through the ferry building, I had an epiphany without realizing it, sort of. I decided that instead of looking at the various stores and things they had to offer (which, frankly, were pretty boring to me), I would instead watch the people.
This guy's really busy, but stopped for a second to make sure his customer is doing OK. That guy wants to challenge anything that moves. This woman just needs to pick up a few kitchen utensils, while the woman standing over there is happy, excited to be here and drinking in everything around her.
Each person I saw, I would look them in the eye; pay close attention to them for a brief moment -- smile at them, accept their presence and move on. A surprisingly large number (and by surprisingly large, I mean perhaps a half-dozen out of who-knows-how-many) met my glance and genuinely returned the smile.
I noticed--unsurprisingly--that the more I did this, the more I was smiling naturally ... not because I was smiling at anybody in particular, but just because I was. After a fairly short period, I actually started to become overwhelmed with this feeling.
Of course, every so often, monkey-mind would jump in. It would make a judgement -- think something unkind ("Oh, she's fat!" "He looks like an asshole!" "She should cover her fucking breasts." "What if he doesn't like me looking at him?"), and then I would lose state and go back to square one. When monkey-mind was quiet, people reacted favorably to me. But when it was fidgeting, people would, without fail, look at me strangely or suspiciously.
I think we spend too much time staring at people and making judgements about them ... we are constantly and unconsciously judging and making threat assessments. We forget what it means to simply observe, and accept.
Today I had some direct and practical experience in observing and accepting. Today I realized just how ingrained this "judging" thing is in my psyche. Although judging isn't a bad thing, necessarily ... I realized that we really do take it to extremes, and I know that unfounded or discompassionate judgement--even when it remains unexpressed--is often a very hurtful thing.
On the way home, while we were going over the Bay Bridge, I wondered what driving would be like if every car came equipped with a short range (i.e. several hundred feet) radio. Would people be more considerate, or less so? I think they would be more considerate -- communication might help us come to the emotional realization that there are actual people in those other cars around us.
I'm curious what you think.