As the handful of my long time readers know, I work at a grocery store. As an introvert, dealing with the public constantly is exhausting for me. It is very difficult to act and think compassionately toward the mewling needy American populace constantly.
I often think to myself: well, Jesus and Buddha never worked retail.
Of course, I know such thinking is wrong. I pull back and breath to calm myself. It is very, very hard to keep people in perspective when they are so many of them doing unmindful and inconsiderate things to each other. These are not done maliciously; they are done just because people are not paying attention. I often catch myself daydreaming to escape the noise and bodies in my exhaustion. I fail to live in the present when I am working. It isn’t that unusual for me to have hour long holes in my memory.
All of this thinking is contrary to the philosophy of compassion and mindfulness. I am passing judgment on people. Where is my compassion? When I am tired and mentally exhausted is when I need to practice more mindfully. I try to breathe more and focus on the moment. I am better than I used to be; I don’t have panic attacks around people anymore. I do feel genuinely kinder toward them. But they are still exhausting.
It takes time to grow in mindfulness. I still think even Jesus and Buddha would have difficulties in today’s consumerist culture. Challenge also provides room for growth. I have improved greatly. That is what is important. I just need to be more mindful in the moments I have at work. Before, I often view work as a segregation of my life. It was a part that I just cut away. Well, that is now most of the waking day I cut out now. I am still alive during work hours. My time is still my own to use toward the practice of compassion and mindfulness.
So I shall focus more on understanding and reason. Next time I am out in the rain collecting shopping carts, I will think on how maybe the people leaving them behind are hurting today because of the rain, or stressed because of appointments, or using a cane instead of labeling them as simply lazy and inconsiderate. Next time I am called to bag groceries, I will see it as an opportunity to help someone with one small suffering or concern instead of getting angry and frustrated at the interruption. Whenever someone is in the way when I have a heavy load, I will consider how their back is likely hurting like mine or how their mind is so distracted with suffering they cannot notice the people around them. Whenever the lines back up, the noise becomes too much, I will breathe, calm down, and smile. These people are suffering. My small smile and patience may well be the only kind thing they see today.
It is difficult. I will fail, but the attempt is enough. Each attempt makes it easier. Practice is simply a matter of trying, and that is enough.