when assuming doesn’t make an ass out of you. (or me).

Airports are bizarre: an alternate universe where lazy mayhem and frenetic movement coexist. And there are a lot, I mean, a LOT of stressed out people (most of whom are wearing pajamas and eating junk food). At departure gates, I feel for the ticket agents who have to explain, repeatedly, that flight delays are something they cannot control and they are, in fact, “doing their best.” Still, travelers are always yelling at them. Sometimes in English.

This month, we study the yama (ethical consideration of yoga) aparigraha, which means relinquishing and letting go. In the past, this blog examined aparigraha from the most traditional definition, “non-hoarding” in an 5 part aparigraha article series here. Now, I’d like to introduce the concept of aparigraha as a function of generosity of Spirit.   

One of the most profound personal practices I’ve adopted in my life is to assume that everyone I meet is doing their very best, even if I don’t particularly like what they are doing.

Practicing generosity of spirit means that I am willing to relinquish my need to be right, my need to ‘win’, my need to hold on for dear life to my ideals and arguments and assumptions. It means I am generous with my assumption that people are doing the very best they can. (Even airline ticket agents.)

Practicing generosity of Spirit means that when I am triggered by a yoga teacher who arrives late to teach class, I shelf my frustration that she is unorganized and flaky. Instead, I assume she tried to get to class on time, it just didn’t happen.

Practicing generosity of Spirit means that when a friend says something that triggers an insecurity, I shelf my snarky rebuttal. Instead, I assume she had no intention of hurting my feelings.

Practicing generosity of Spirit means that when a knucklehead driver cuts me off without using his turn signal, I shelf my anger and take a breath. Instead, I assume he has somewhere really important to be and send him a prayer for safe travels.

I love this quote from Mother Theresa about how we give the very best we can, every day and anyway; we assume that everyone else is giving their very best, too.

This is one of the most powerful practices of developing compassion that I know. How will you give the benefit of the doubt to people you meet today? How can you practice aparigraha by relinquishing your reactions and assuming that people are doing their very best?

Happy Assuming,


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