Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's What We Don't Know...

I was in class this past week and a discussion occurred between two gals. "Amber" noticed "Betty" had a cell phone in class and Amber asked Betty if it was turned off. Betty replied it was on vibrate and that she needed it because of her daughter. Amber insisted that she turn it off or leave it outside of the room or leave it at the front desk and Betty politely said, I need it for my daughter, and it was left at that. Amber wanted the instructor to announce to the whole room that cell phones were strictly forbidden, and the instructor chose not to, I assume, because it really was singling out Betty.

After class, I overheard Amber talking to the instructor about Betty about how Betty really needed to leave the phone out of the room because Amber felt she couldn't concentrate with electronics present. Amber went on to say she didn't want to spend the whole class "just" focusing on her mat to try and tune out the presence of a cell phone or other electronic item.

I must admit, I also have been wondering why Betty needed her cell phone for her daughter. I have contemplated why her daughter had to get a hold of her during class, but figured there must be a reason for it, kids being kids these days or whatever. And I've been in classes where people have had their pagers and I've always assumed they were doctors, nurses, or EMTs on call or something. It's never bothered me and I've been able to move through my practice without giving it too much more thought. Really, isn't that what a person is supposed to do? Look inward during practice and tune out one's surroundings? I heard of a Buddhist mediation instructor who would take his class to the most busy and noisy places he could find to practice; that it is what is going on on the inside that matters, not your surroundings.

But it is also what we don't know that can have a lasting impact.

I later found out that Betty keeps her phone in class because she has a terminally ill special-needs child under the age of 10 and must be readily available in the advent of an emergency. Mealtimes are particularly dicey and the child's caregiver needs to be able to reach Betty at a moments notice. Betty chooses not to broadcast this to the entire class; when confronted she opts to politely but firmly state, "It's for my daughter."

Now one could get into the discussion about HOW this situation was handled or SHOULD have been conducted, but the matter is, events played out as they played out. All I know is I need to work on being more compassionate for those things that I don't know about.

Maybe the grumpy check-out lady at the grocery store had to work a double shift because a co-worker didn't call in. Maybe the cranky woman in line is trying to figure out how to buy groceries AND pay the bills. Maybe the person with the cell phone at the gym is talking to her spouce overseas. I don't know, maybe... maybe... maybe...

Be compasionate in your words, thoughts and deeds.



shinyyoga said...

Beautiful post x

Eco Yogini said...

This was great. I have clients who come into their speech session for their child and keep their phones on... My first thought when I read her answer was: she has a special needs child. But then- that's because my work life consists of this.
I read a great post on OmShanti about letting go of the 'perfect' yoga class, I think it was titled 'some like it hot' and it was exactly as you said about meditating in a distracting environment.
However, I definitely struggle with cranky people more so than with distracting yogis during class... a nice reminder to continue practicing compassion :)

yogiclarebear said...

excellent thoughts here. it is so easy to quickly pass judgment? but the practice is to stop and think about it first.

great post!

Sara said...

I like your thoughts on being compassionate towards other people but for me, I need to remember to be compassionate towards myself too; to recognize that I have faults, I am only human, and I am the judgmental one at times.

I can empathize with the one who wanted the cell phone off. Although for me it would be because it is the "polite" thing to do when you are in a yoga class, a meeting, or whatever. I can be so concerned with being polite or correct in my actions that seeing someone "disregard the rule" can feel like a personal affront. I like the reminder that we cannot know what is going on with other people.

Thanks for the great post.

Jen said...

Great post. It reminded me of this NYT blog:

Now I just try to remember that I don't know what's going on in anyone else's life and try to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Re: cellphones and pagers, I figure they've been around long enough that adults are aware of good etiquette in yoga class and wouldn't have them there unless it was absolutely necessary. I have taught teens occassionally and will remind them to turn them off.