Everyday, we are tested. Tested to release judgment, to extend kindness and compassion, and to accept the present moment for exactly what it is.
I’ve spent the past two weeks in a lovely city in southern Spain taking in the delights of not just Spanish culture but that of the Mediterranean and all of Europe. Many Europeans love to visit the "Costa del Sol" in summer, to relax on its beaches and enjoy its delicious delicacies.
This isn't my first time in Spain. I backpacked here as a college student in the late 90s and I returned a few years ago for business in Madrid. I remember during those times observing and judging certain part of Spanish culture that didn't feel natural or normal to me. I'd be lying if I said the same wasn't happening again: the arrogant waiter when I sat down to my first meal, the loud Castilian voices streaming across the street, and the lack of a personal space “bubble” (must you stand so close???).
Traveling abroad is a rich opportunity to notice how one’s loving-kindness is being tested. We are very quick to judge other cultures for not being like our own - other people for not being like us. We size up the shape, attitude, and style of other people and nit-pick the intricacies of a societies’ “way of being”. We so quickly forget that our way of being may in fact be what’s strange and that they are the ones who are “normal".
I could spend two weeks criticizing Spanish society for not being like my own, judging the French and Italian tourists for the length of their shorts (you do know your butts are hanging out, right?), and admiring the Scandinavians and Germans for their courage to endure this society along with me. Or, I could stop, notice, reflect, breathe, and love everyone around me for being exactly who they are, much like I want them to love me for all my own American deficiencies and intricacies (and I…we…have a lot!).
That's non-judgment. That's mindfulness. That's liberation.