The other morning as I raced around trying to make breakfast, make lunches, and brush three sets of teeth, while trying to convince two children under the age of five to change out of their pajamas before 7am, I could feel myself tightening up. One of my teachers says to try and catch yourself when the first domino that leads to your negative emotional state is falling rather than when the 50th has already crashed down. I could see how, by rushing around like a caffeinated squirrel trying to protect my nuts, I was teaching my kids to stress out about time.
I was trying to catch the dominos, but that felt like just another thing to do before leaving the house.
Opening the Lyft app to see that it would be 7 minutes until anyone would arrive, I let a few more dominos fall. I should have been leaving the house at that moment. When 7 minutes turned into 7 more minutes, I told myself it really didn’t matter, but my nervous system believed otherwise. While I tried to focus on helping the babysitter get the kids dressed and being playful with them, the dominos kept falling.
When Wayne, the Lyft driver, finally arrived about 25 dominos later, I tried not to flip out. “Was the road closed?” I asked trying to sound normal. He didn’t answer. He also didn’t start driving through the green light, which meant we would sit there for another 3 minutes. Figuring he didn’t hear me, I asked again a little louder. He still didn’t answer or drive. The third time I asked him, maybe a little louder and maybe with a little tiny bit of attitude, he answered.
“No the road wasn’t closed and this isn’t worth the 5 or 10 bucks to be disrespected,” He replied.
I have to admit that in my survival mode I panicked more at first about him not taking me than thinking about the way I was treating him. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t think you heard me, because you weren’t answering.”
“Oh I heard you alright!” he said. “And I don’t need disrespecting!”
“Okay. Again, I’m sorry. I’m a yoga teacher. I’m a peaceful person. I didn’t mean to disrespect you.”
He chuckled as if to say, Yeah right! But at least he began driving. I closed my eyes and breathed a sigh of relief. We rode in silence while I attempted to set the dominos back up. When I finally tried speaking again my voice shook and tears came out. I wasn’t worried about being late anymore. I was embarrassed about being rude. I was sorry that I had made him feel disrespected, but I was still holding onto a little bit of defensiveness. “I am really sorry. My husband is out of town. I was trying to get two kids ready for school and I’m going to be late for work,” I spewed. He made it clear one more time that it’s no excuse, but then he started to soften. He told me that he was stressed about the beautiful new car I was riding in and the house he just renovated that he hadn’t paid off yet. That’s why he was driving for Lyft.
By the time we arrived at the train station it felt like we had mostly cleared the air. It was the best we could do in 8 minutes. He told me to have a great day and that he would do the same. I decided to take his advice and shift into another mode through gratitude- thanking the Universe for the ride and the lesson.
Later in the day I passed a woman sitting on a stoop crying hard. Something told me she wasn’t crying over a boyfriend. It seemed more serious. So I stopped and put my hand on her back and rubbed it the way I do with my kids when they are crying. Her name was Eliana. She told me she just found out she has cancer for the fifth time. I handed her the paper towels in my pocket to absorb her tears. Rather than analyze the situation I just let the compassion rising up inside me come out. I told her the things I know to do in crisis- number one is to pray to whatever you believe in, pray for healing, pray for guidance, pray for strength. Then I told her that from an energetic perspective any illness is a way for your body to tell you that it is out of balance and that it needs some help coming back into balance. I encouraged her to feel what she needed to feel- the fear, the frustration, the anger, and when she was ready, rather than asking herself, Why me? In the way that leads to more despair, ask, Why me? As in, What can I learn from this? How can I grow from this and what do I need to do to heal? In Shamanism, healing is different than curing. Healing is something we do on the soul level that may or may not change the state of the physical body. As the words came through she listened and nodded as if hearing lullabies.
We sat in silence for a while. It felt much different than the silence in the Lyft, probably because I was thinking of her and not myself. After a minute or so she said her mom was coming and that she would be okay. Walking away I realized that these two encounters had mirrored what I’d been teaching that week from Pema Chodron’s book, The Wisdom of No Escape. In it she says that sometimes we see the wisdom, brilliance or sanity that we possess, and sometimes we see the petty, narrow, stuckness. She writes, “These are actually two sides of one coin: when they are put together, inspiration (or well-being) and burden (or suffering) describe the human condition.”
She reminds us that we need to see both sides of ourselves in order to wake up to who we truly are, which is beyond both our brilliance and our neurosis. Who we are is our essential eternal nature, which is perfect. As Ekhart Tolle says, the soul never changes. As we become enlightened we simply draw more of its perfection into this plane of existence.
We do this by embracing both the embarrassing, nasty things we do and the compassionate, courageous things we do and by seeing that everything we do is simply an opportunity to draw more of that essential self out.
In class that evening I told the story about the Lyft driver instead of the one about the woman with cancer. I figured they already know I am a yoga teacher and a peaceful person. I want to make sure they know I’m also impatient and rude sometimes. Maybe this will help them go a little easier on themselves for being that way sometimes too.
Later that night I thought of how we are all moving around, bumping into each other and apologizing when in truth we are giving one another the most perfect gift for the very moment that we receive it- the opportunity to wake up to the truth of who we really are and to tap into our inherent gifts- our capacity for compassion, self-knowledge, courage, humility and peace. My wish for you is that as you go about your days you recognize what is trying to wake up in you when you bump into the exact people that you need and the ones that need you.