By Angela Patnode

In the winter 2013/2014 issue of Mountain Outlaw, our publisher Eric Ladd asked readers to submit their thoughts on kindness. “Best idea gets a full page to share his or her thoughts on how to make the world a better place,” he wrote. Our thanks to Angela Patnode for this submission.
I told myself I’d never dance the tango. I’d been ballroom dancing for years, but tango was different. I didn’t want to be that close to a guy I didn’t know. Then tango caught up with me.

Oh my God, I thought at my first tango class. I don’t know this guy, and I’m chest to chest with him. I wanted to run away. But something kept me going back to class – interest or curiosity, perhaps.

After many relationships, men still felt foreign to me. I didn’t know how to relate on an intimate level, and I judged my partners as “not open enough,” or for “linear thinking” or “being cold.” I tried to understand, but I just couldn’t.

Until I learned to tango. It taught me that my judgments were just that – judgments. There wasn’t, and still isn’t, a lick of truth to them. And I learned that every time I judge others, I’m judging myself: We’re both human, and I could be perceived in the same way.

Tango taught me what it means to be compassionate.

It put me close to a man when he was vulnerable: learning to dance with a woman, trying not to collide with other couples, holding me in just the right place, all while doing difficult dance steps. I could feel his hands shaking, his heart beating and his palms sweating.

Compassion is not sympathy or feeling sorry for someone, which indicates you believe you’re better off than they are. Nor is it just empathy, because with compassion you also desire to help another person in some way.

Every time I dance the tango, I’m reminded that I’m human too, and that self-compassion is as important as compassion toward others. There is no room for judgment, because you see yourself and others through your heart, instead of how you believe we should be.

We share this human experience together: In the supermarket, at work, at home or tango dancing. The next time you’re hard on yourself or someone else, take a deep breath and open your heart to humanness. That is all there is to be done.

Angela Marie Patnode combines her skills as a transformational coach and spiritual teacher to provide life-changing, one-on-one programs and retreats allowing students to break free of anxiety so they can realize their inner peace, wisdom and potential. angelamariepatnode.com

This story was first published in the summer 2014 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.