Lately, I initiate my yoga practice by standing off the mat with heels grazing its top boundary and toes aiming north. Methodically, I circle its perimeter twice in each direction, pausing at the center to invoke the space. A sense of safety moves through the soles of my feet, balancing my pelvic halves. Perhaps the most important part of this ritual is to remember the higher perspective: life is not being done to me but, rather, for me.

Neutrality is a life-affirming practice and, for me, requires the bravest heart. It invites us to hover north of our circumstances to entertain multiple truths simultaneously. While we do not need to agree with another’s truth, we, at the very least, need to acknowledge that their truth may also be accurate. This is roll-up-the-sleeves, walk-the-talk work; after all, it’s hard to pause, locate ourselves, soften our righteousness and contempt, and be decent toward people who host differing views than us.

The restroom at Starbucks has a keypad to enter. I pressed the combination, but it didn’t work, so I tried again. An aggressive voice blared out from behind the door, startling me: “I’m in here!”

I had made a mistake. I didn’t see the “in use” message when I was fumbling with the number sequence. The woman emerged from the bathroom, and as I went to apologize, she put up her hand to block my words and demonstrate disgust.

I traveled the perimeter of the store. It afforded me the opportunity to understand her irritation. I know how alarming it is when you’re inside a public bathroom and the door might open. I also have no idea what is transpiring in her life. On the way out, I tried to apologize one last time. She refused it, but her teenage daughter’s eyes silently spoke, “It’s okay.”

I chose not to dive into story, prove my innocence, nor pulse the chemistry of indignation. Instead, I extended gratitude and faith that perhaps she was able to off-load any built-up pressure from the encounter, and if not, that I could simply feel the benevolent energy of a neutral stance.

Ironically, the more I grant myself permission to make mistakes and still love the one who witnesses the imperfection, the more grace I can offer others to do the same.

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