Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What's Your Crowd Tolerance?

Do you hate when the beach fills up, when your favorite store is mobbed, when the restaurant has no breathing room between tables? Do you turn anxious or ugly when the crowd closes in on you, when you get jostled?

I remember reading, years ago, that the poet Walt Whitman loved being in crowds, squished so that he could enjoy the press of flesh around him. In “The Body Electric,” he says, “To be surrounded by beautiful curious breathing laughing flesh is enough.” He talks of the “bath of multitudes,” of “the turbulent musical chorus of the boisterous crowds of New York City.”

I loved Whitman’s writing, and his attitude deeply affected me. It amazed me. After all, he was a poet—one of the sensitive types. I had always attributed my dislike of crowds to my poetic nature, but how could I justify sneering at the multitudes if the big bearded poetic genius exulted in them? Thanks to Whitman, I tried an attitude adjustment. I tried loving being among throngs of people. Amazingly, I discovered that I could change my outlook; I could enjoy "the press of flesh" all around me.

Can you really learn to love being in a crowd? To paraphrase one of our presidential hopefuls, “Yes You Can!” You simply need to make a conscious effort to change your mind-set.

Here are a few attitude-adjustment techniques:

Reframe. Instead of resenting the encroachment upon “your space,” concentrate on letting love flow directly from your heart outwards into the crowd, touching each individual.

Open up. Instead of shutting yourself down, open your heart and feel that everyone who passes you is divine.

Revel in the pulse of life. Feel the excitement of energy buzzing all around you. Breathe it into yourself.

May we smile at each other in a crowd in the future,


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