Where I live in Los Angeles, driving through traffic is quite the experience, and it can be quite testy. There are too many people in too small an area. Most folks are in a massive rush. A friend of mine, who is also a yoga and meditation teacher, was driving the other day. As she was listening to the “Metta Hour” podcast with Sharon Salzberg this guy rudely cut her off. In an instant, she threw up the middle finger and yelled out obscenities. The ironic thing was she acted out this way while she was listening to a podcast that is all about being compassionate and kind to others. But it’s pretty funny because we can probably all relate to this!
Last week I just finished teaching a class in Santa Monica. I was blissfully walking to my car. After crossing the street, with my harmonium in hand, I proceeded along the sidewalk heading towards two guys coming in my direction. Because they were taking up almost the entire side walk, I did my best to swerve around them, but sure enough I collided shoulders with one. It wasn’t a little brush, it was a pretty substantial body check. After 2 seconds, we both stopped and turned around glaring at each other. Suddenly the guy blurted out, “Excuse YOU!” Immediatately, I snapped back louder, “EXCUSE YOU!!” We both stood there for a moment in a state of anger not sure what would happen next. Would the words escalate from ‘excuse you’ to ‘fuck you?’ Would the situation escalate into physical violence? Anything was possible!
Fortunately, we both did the ‘right’ thing and continued on our way. As I walked back to my car I felt guilty. Here I am this yoga teacher, carrying a harmonium used for chanting sacred mantras, and getting into this confrontational spat, that could’ve easily turned into something more violent. I was thinking what would Buddha or Jesus have done? I felt like I had flunked ‘the test!’ But the truth is, sometimes unexpected confrontation pops up out of nowhere, and our reactivity gets the best of us. Historical records show that even Buddha and Jesus had emotional flare ups time to time. Had it been me in my younger years the situation would’ve unfolded differently.
We may not always respond to challenges flawlessly and that’s ok. Inevitably, the more we practice yoga and meditation, the less frequent and dramatic these reactive moments will be. This is why we practice. We practice to create space between the stimulus and the response.
Practice Tip: Next time a challenge pops us and your impulse is to get angry take a moment and pause. Ask yourself, “What is highest path to take in this situation?” Take a few deep breaths and then proceed from a place of inner balance. Keep in mind that being a yogi isn’t allowing other to take ‘advantage’ of you. Being a yogi, trained in yoga and meditation, allows you to be an ‘advantage’ to society. Use your Ultimate Mind to uplift others to the best of your ability.