A few days ago I was walking my Whippet Olivia near my home outside of Washington, DC. There’s a long bike path popular with bikers, runners and folks walking their dogs. At a few short stretches of the path, I often let Olivia go off leash being careful that she is safe and that she isn’t in the way of any bikers. That day we came upon a woman running, who looked horrified at seeing Olivia off leash and running up to her. The woman pinned herself against a fence, turning her whole body away as Olivia tried to smell her. Olivia is a super-sweet dog, but can be prone to EGD (excessive greeting disorder).
I promptly ran after Olivia, put her on leash and apologized at least three times. I also said “I can see that you are afraid of dogs.” To which she replied that she had been bitten badly by a dog in the past. I said I was sorry again and you could see the relief and gratitude flood over her. We both left unburdened by the situation.
A few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have acted in the same way. Of course I would have immediately put Olivia on leash, but I probably would have done so grudgingly and would have remained ensconced in my belief that my dog would never hurt her and can’t she see that?
This act of saying I’m sorry seems like such a minor and major thing at the same time. It’s just a few simple words, but those words can seem like giving over something precious – our ego and belief that we are right. Yet saying I’m sorry doesn’t mean that you share the same beliefs as others – or even that you are wrong, it means that you can have compassion for someone else’s point of view and acknowledge their discomfort or pain.
I had to practice saying I’m sorry and now it comes easily, without much thought. As I’ve practiced saying I’m sorry with the small things in life, it’s made it much easier to say it to those who I’m entangled with – the important people in my life.
In your meditation today, you might like to direct compassion and loving-kindness to someone who you have difficulty with. You can use the words:
- May ____________ (person’s name) be happy.
- May ____________ be healthy.
- May ______________ be peaceful.
- May ______________ be loved.