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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Practice Connection

One way to define "family" is that they're the people that will love you in spite of everything.

So there's a funny little exercise that you can do.

Try this next time you're out in public: Try to see every person around your age as a brother or sister. Older people can be seen as a mother or father, aunt or uncle. And younger ones as your son or daughter. (Here in China, family labels are often used toward non-family members, so a slightly older man at work may be "Older Brother Wu," etc.)

That guy smoking at the next table? You’d forgive your brother, wouldn't you?

The old lady shouting across the restaurant--would you scold Grandma? (Maybe you would; but try not to.)

The screaming child down the hall in your apartment building? She's your baby.

This is a first step in developing compassion, "feeling with" other people. (The final step is not just to love our neighbors as ourselves, but to see that our neighbors are ourselves. But that's a mighty big step.)

So practice connection with strangers around you. And when you've got that one down, try the (much harder) practice of doing the same thing with the people in your life: your boss as sister, the new kid in the department as son, that cranky old bus driver as uncle.

Suddenly, you start to see the connections we have with other people. You can tolerate their behavior, and more, really start to love them. And guess what happens next?

You'll be happier.

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