In the beginning of this week, right after the most sacred day of the Jewish calendar – Yom Kippur, my husband and I took a trip to China to see the famous terracotta warriors. I was on cloud nine since I had just cleansed my soul with the 25 hours fast of food and water we observe during Yom Kippur that is meant to remove us from our earthly self and connect us with the Divine. I felt like I was ready to face the world again renewed and filled with new insights.
When I got to China and began experienced the unfamiliar enviroment and the clash of the cultural differences, I reminded myself in a very ‘coach-like’ way, that their way of doing things works for them just as mine works for me. Children were peeing on the streets, cars were honking non-stop, people were trying to get just another dollar out of us, and that was all part of the experience. We were there to see the warriors and to have a good time.
Here is when the Yom Kippur liturgy came to mind. We were called to repent, change our ways and get back to the right path. It’s one thing when we are inside the comfort of our synagogue, surrounded by people who are committed to the same experience. We are all Jews and used to more or less the same culture. While walking on the streets of Xian and being surrounded by Chinese people who do things differently, think differently and behave in ways that challenge my notion of cleanness, politeness and what’s the right thing to do, now that’s another thing! How can I change my ways here? How do I not judge and feel like we have all the answers as my lovely husband argues in Mandarin with the taxi driver about where he is taking us? It turns out he was taking us to the right place and we were the confused ones! Mind you, this is not my first time in China. I’ve been there many times and knew very well what I was going to find.
The rubber hits the road when we go out of our comfort zones and are called to walk our talk. For me, going to the heart of China one day after Yom Kippur was the best experience I could have had. It dawned on me that I had just asked G-d to have mercy while judging my actions during the past year, and here I am in China having no trouble judging their ways without an ounce of compassion. Ooops, that hurts…
The great thing about it all is that awareness, which is the first step to growth, played its part beautifully. The proximity of Yom Kippur rang a bell louder than I could bear and my actions where immediately steered toward finding the commonalities between me and all my fellow Chinese. As I showed compassion, understanding and gratitude toward people, I got the same and more right back; a friendly smile, a free mocha from Starbucks, bread and apples from the hotel to take on our trip to the see the warriors, an immense amount of courtesy and refreshing cold water from our guide/driver.
All our faults are only opportunities to achieve more, all our not so wonderful traits are challenges offering us opportunitites to grow and choose to do better. It is all for the good. Keep feeding your awareness with the clarity that comes from knowing yourself! It will never fail to show up when you need it.