This morning, I noticed the gentle rounding of the upper back/lower neck of a woman unfamiliar to me. Maybe if I had known her, I would have seen the person instead of the rounding. If I had to admit my thoughts and feelings, there was some mildly annoyed judgment, then a prompt straightening of my own back. After working a few moments with which muscles needed to change to straighten my own back, I realized I had forgotten something. “Thank you for your lesson,” I mentally added, with a barely perceptible bow.

In the past, that judgment of the other person might have dominated my perception. I was raised with, or allowed in myself, a strong level of perfectionism. Anything that did not meet the ideal standard was mildly rejected. As part of my CL training, it was suggested that this ability to perceive was a strong part of me, but I was misusing the gift. Was there a way I could use my “powers” for the good of others rather than against them?

One way to handle this was to promptly thank the person for the lesson offered. If I needed to work on my upper back muscles, the nudge to do so was offered, even if unintentionally, by this person. Simply to take the lesson without acknowledging it being received, much less while being critical of the person, meant that I was being a “taker.”

Native cultures seem to understand this. I recall seeing a PBS television program about a Native American woman repaying a tree for what she received from it by tucking pennies in with the roots. To my Western and, at that time, predominantly scientific way of thinking, that practice edged into superstition. When I brought this up in training, it was pointed out that returning something to the tree completed the contract, and who knew? Maybe the tree produced the tree nuts better with the addition of the metals to its system. Maybe those who ate the tree nuts had better health because of the presence of trace elements, in addition to “completing the contract.”

So, an assignment for me was to go ahead and notice what I notice. However, be ready to say “Thank you” for whatever is received. “Thank you” to this woman who wore a black scoop neck to church, allowing me to physically adjust my own posture and learn from the movement. This adjustment will be incorporated into the yoga classes I teach in the coming weeks. Students who come to my class will also benefit from this woman’s offering, again even though unintentional.

There was a play referred to by Marlo Thomas titled “Thieves.” I’ve never seen it, but I saw her passion in speaking about it. “We all steal from each other all the time.” With this practice of noticing and thanking, rather than taking the lesson from her, stealing it without her permission, I may receive the lesson in gratitude.