A couple of years ago, on my first pilgrimage to India (I could say trip but pilgrimage sounds far more spiritual), we attended an aarti on the river banks of the Ganges. Briefly, aartis are ceremonies conducted nightly and form part of the Hindu ritual of worship in which light from wicks soaked in ghee or camphor is offered to one or more deities, and songs are sung in praise of the deity, when lamps are being offered.
Following the conclusion of the aarti, a small group was invited into the ashram for a private audience with the guru. On this occasion, the guru accompanied by his assistant, fielded questions from the audience. What does one ask an esteemed guru? Well, to be honest, some of the questions were straight out of the Miss Universe beauty pageant book – how can we achieve peace in the world, how do we get the world to look after the environment and what do you think of the idea of life on Mars (yes, really). The guru, via his assistant, dutifully answered each question thoughtfully and sincerely.
Then one chap asked a simple and brilliant question and one that I am sure, we can all relate to. He asked the guru – how do you deal with someone you don’t like?
The guru, via his assistant, acknowledged that in life we meet all kinds of people – some we like instantly, others we grow to like and then others that no matter what we do we can’t seem to like or get along with. Instead of dwelling on the feeling that we just don’t get them or why we don’t like them, what we do is this – we really look at the person in front of us, and we look hard – for one thing about the person that we like or find likeable. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, just one thing.
I like his socks.
That’s enough, that’s one thing. And that’s the beginning. The idea being that once you can find one thing you like about the person, chances are you will find another and another and eventually the person won’t seem that bad at all. What it also does is flip your mindset, from negative to positive – instead of looking for (more) reasons not to like this person, you actually clean the slate and look for what you like instead of what you don’t like. And it might only be one thing but its one thing more than what we started with.
It’s simple and profound. No, really it is. Just consider this – instead of approaching life, making mental notes of what is missing or lacking or what it should be like or could be like – we become present to life and we look for the good, the beauty, the inspiration. We look for what is there. We look for a connection, for what we have in common rather than what separates us. And there’s going to be at least one good thing about the person or experience and what happens when we acknowledge and pay attention to the one good thing, it grows and we start to see more good things and life feels less hard work and more frictionless.