It was a rushed morning. A morning that demanded every part of my body multi-task. I had to get my child to school, prepare lunch and breakfast, tidy and make the living room look a little decent to my own eyes. Even my mouth was on the job, threatening the little one of the degrees of upset I will get if she does not wake up NOW from bed. Voice ranging from alto to soprano. There were moments when I would forget why I was in the room. There were moments when I would stop packing up my child’s breakfast to start sorting out her dress to wear. She had at last woken up but would rush back to sleep if she did not have her clothes ready. I wished my husband had not gone on his monthly tours Amongst all this, I kept feeling anxious as I thought about work. What work, my mind asked? You never said, I had to make some space for professional commitments too today?! We made it out of the home atlast. I heaved a sigh of relief to have finished one huge task. But my mind rushed me into the next task. I had to catch the bus. Two buses to be precise. The only consolation was I had left early for the appointment. I knew I didn’t have to be worried about reaching the place on time. The bus came. It was quite empty and I found a space to sit and meddle with my purse to find money. No change, only a 50Rs note. “Gosh, why didn’t you think of getting change? Now we have got to face the grumpy conductor for making his work miserable,” my mind would not stop thinking and worrying. I was asking for it to calm the hell down.“I am sorry I have no change, Koramangala water tank please!” I said. The conductor did not say anything. He took the cash, gave me the ticket and the change. As he gave the money back, we made eye contact. I thanked him. I was relieved and grateful that he did not make a big fuss and I know I thanked him wholeheartedly.
What happened next made my mind go from fast forward multiplied by 4 to complete slow motion. This conductor looked at me as he gave the change and acknowledged my thanks. He smiled warmly and nodded his head once as he gave me the ticket. There was so much grace and warmth in that action. He made me feel like I was understood, accepted and respected. He made me tap into my own feelings of compassion towards myself. I became calm. As the bus dragged through traffic, I realized that I was noticing smiles around me. A mother cuddling with her child in the car next to the bus, two friends who seemed to have shared something funny standing in the bus stand. I realized that I had been like a horse with blinders until that moment of acknowledgement. I felt funny, how this simple act brought me back to the ‘here and now’.
The day went on, I had productive day. I attributed this to that one gesture of the conductor and that gesture would not leave my mind. What about this act made such a difference? I have been told ‘you are welcome’ a million times, I have been thanked even more, then why was this ‘day changing’? Processing, analyzing is part of my DNA. And I did find my answer.
First, it wasn’t the acknowledgement itself, it was how it was said.
The eye contact, the smile, the fact that he received nay embraced my thanks. It was different because it came from the heart. Thanks, you are welcome, good morning, goodnight, have a good day. Namaste, ram ram, hello—they are mostly non- existent between strangers or if it is around then it’s protocol. I must admit, I am also a culprit to ‘automated responses’. This exchange between the conductor and I was a reminder to practice acknowledgement from a place of truly feeling what was said. Especially with existing courtesies. Feel what you say because it feels even better to the receiver.
Second, it’s not just how you say it, it’s also about how you receive it.
So many times I would wish my flat’s security guard and he would be taken aback, not knowing how to receive it. A sheepish but grateful smile would come after which he would wish me back.How many of you really want to have an awesome day at work? Then how come you don’t receive somebody saying ‘have a good day’ with an open heart? Do you really? I could have not noticed the conductor’s smile, I could have questioned his intentions, I could have cursed him for having a better day than me ( or so I’d like to think). I could have done all of the above and more and not have done one critical thing—which is to receive the warmth with an open heart and grace. Accept a courtesy from a place of belief that the person who is giving you a courteous wish or response truly believes you deserve it.
Easier said than done? Maybe. Food for thought nonetheless.
As I write this article, I wish from my heart that you have a wonderful and blessed day. And if you are thanking us, we will receive the same with sincerity, grace, gratitude and happiness.
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Archana Shyam is a therapeutic counsellor certified by Parivarthan, Bangalore with a specialization in counselling for individuals, children and adolescents.
Archana has a Post Graduate diploma in Special Education working with Vidyasagar (formerly the Spastics Society of Southern India) for over 7 years. Archana has extensive experience in working with multiple disabilities (physical and neurological) for people with varied social and economic backgrounds.
Archana also practices mindfulness and yoga which she believes enhances her skills to be a better counsellor. She is also looking to pursue certification in Dance Movement Therapy soon. When she isn’t called the counsellor, she holds titles like baking-fiend, mindfulness-obsessed, ocean-lover, passionate-dancer, and awesome-sauce-mommy.