(Or How I Got Splattered With A Puddle and Someone Else’s Mood)
There I was in the Target parking lot on a wind-whipped, rainy day. I’d just stepped in a gigantic puddle, so in addition to being wet from the driving rain, my left foot was soaked through. Of course, my purchases were heavy – two cases of water for an upcoming yoga retreat. As I struggled to move the water from the cart to my car, I heard a voice. “Nice parking job.” With a case of water in my hands, I twisted around to see past the hood of my rain jacket. The car next to me had pulled halfway out of its parking spot. The woman had taken the time to stop her car and roll down her window (in this rain!) in order to scold me. Incredulous, I said, “What?” She virtually spit at me, “You parked really close to me.” She then threw her car into drive and squealed away from me, leaving me splattered not just with more of the puddle but with her foul mood.
I found myself muttering mean things about her as I dripped into my car. But, as a trained yoga professional (ha!), I realized that I was allowing her negative energy to infect me. I’d headed out on this errand with a smile on my face despite the weather. In addition to getting the water on sale, I’d found the perfect pair of pajamas for my Tinker-Bell-loving niece. Other than being slightly damper than I generally like to be, my day was going just fine. I took a deep breath and forced myself to see things from her point of view. God knows what kind of day she’d had that would make her behave so horribly. I tried to feel empathy for her. When that didn’t work, I tried to imagine how lonely she must be because no one would be friends with such a mean person. Pity turned out to be a little easier.
Still, as I made my way home, her words replayed in my head over and over. Let me tell you, as they did, I was coming up with some really snappy comebacks — each one more biting than the next. Again, the trained yoga professional in me raised her voice. “What are you doing? Your thoughts are as awful as she was. Stop it!” So I stopped. Only to have to stop again and again the whole way home. The splatter of her mood was really tough to rinse off.
We’re all connected. Whether we know each other or not, we make an impact on one another. Yoga teaches us to pay more attention to cause and effect. We practice on our mats by noticing how a posture changes if we simply straighten our elbows or relax the muscles of our thighs. Time spent on our mats can also illustrate our interconnectedness with others. As we practice in a group class, we may notice that one person toppling out of a balancing posture (i.e. Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana or Vrkasana) can bring down the whole class. We may notice how two or three strong breathers in a room can inspire the entire group to deep, rhythmic breath. Yoga reveals the powerful effects our actions can have – negative or positive.
Each person that we encounter represents a choice. We can choose to shine or we can choose not to. The woman who splattered her bad mood all over me, chose not to. And it was a powerful choice. She changed the tenor of the next thirty minutes of my day as I worked to rinse myself clean of the experience of meeting her. If I hadn’t been on my yoga game, her mean-spirited words could have dampened even more of my day. Worse yet, her choice could have messed up more people’s days if I’d acted on the nasty feelings her words left in me.
Imagine an entirely different scenario in that parking lot. Imagine if I’d turned to peer out from under the hood of my rain jacket to find her smiling at me. Imagine if she’d decided, in that moment she took out of her day to speak to me, to ask through her car window if I needed a hand. What if she’d chosen to shine love and compassion my way? That would have been a powerful choice indeed. I suspect the afterglow of an exchange like that would have left me floating on good feelings for a whole lot longer than thirty minutes. There’s a decent chance that her choice to be kind to me would have inspired me to reach out to someone else in a similar gesture.
Today, with each person you encounter, why not choose to shine?
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