Leaving my yoga class in the dark last winter, I was hesitant to proceed through the walkway to the parking lot with what looked like a homeless man walking his bicycle in 20 degree weather. I was relieved when a young woman fell in step behind me.
We were headed toward two sets of stairs, and the man continued to walk his bike toward them. When we reached the bottom of the first set, he hesitated.
“Do you want me to help you carry your bike up the stairs?” I asked.
He ignored me while easily picking up his bike and ascending the stairs. I felt embarrassed, mostly because the young woman was witness to my naïve offer that he blew off.
We climbed the stairs in silence, side by side. “That’s a lot of stairs,” I mumbled audibly to myself, primarily for self-redemption and justification.
When we reached the top of the stairs, he put his bike down and turned toward me. “Would you really have helped me?” he asked.
“Yes,” I responded. “I just got out of yoga class, and I’m feeling nice.”
What a stupid answer – no wonder he ignored that too! Feeling “nice?” Does that equate with taking pity? Does it suggest I’m not typically “nice?” Does it accentuate my bourgeois life style (attending yoga) versus his poverty (riding a bike over ice-lined streets)?
I headed toward my car; he just seemed to vanish. But he lingers in my consciousness as a lesson yet to be examined.
The following week, I read this story to my yoga class. Mana followed up with a phone call to say that the word for how I felt after yoga wasn’t “nice;” it was “spacious.” She told me I was feeling larger than myself after yoga, willing and able to give to another. I felt open, and that felt “nice.” She pointed out that my self-recrimination was undeserved; rather than focusing on my generous offer, I had criticized myself for the words I chose.
“You set something in motion,” she said. “That bicyclist had to process that someone offered to help him. And that someone was you! Feel good about that!”
Now that Mana is gone, I will have to listen harder for that voice of loving kindness. But I’ll still hear it.