August 12, 2011

On Karma, Yoga, & Being Called an A**hole.

My very first Elephant article was called Probably Not the Best Example of Loving Kindness (actually a reincarnated version of one of my earliest Yoga for Cynics posts) , in which I rambled on, like I do, about cursing somebody out, in a bit of obviously ill-advised bike-on-car road rage, on the way to yoga class.

Commenters suggested that I probably wouldn’t have done that on the way home from yoga class, which, I thought, might be true. As it turned out, not long afterwards an opportunity arose to test that thesis.

(“Test that thesis?”Jeezus, did the pretentious academic in me just pipe up again?) (Well, at least I didn’t let the let the sanctimonious yogi in me write something like as always, the universe responded with an opportunity to…whatever). (Truth be told, I’ve never been inclined to think that being a good yogi, having a positive attitude, or whatever, is going to in any way effect what the universe throws my way). (It might, however, have a profound effect on how I respond to it, and whatever repercussions arise from that response). (Some people might call this an argument about karma, but I’ll leave that to them).

I’d just biked home from a really awesome yoga class—without, actually, anybody yelling or cursing or threatening to run me over—and strolled, a spring in my step, imbued with that renowned yogic optimism and good feeling toward all living beings (most of ‘em, at least) to the legendary High Point Café, local coffee shop and center of the friendly, progressive community of West Mt. Airy, State of Caffeinated Stupor, USA (kinda like Boulder but smaller, more diverse, and without the attitude).

Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole,
not like you…
Jonathan Richman

The place was packed. However, just as I got my coffee, two older women were standing, putting coats on, and clearing dishes away from their table. I asked if they were leaving, and one of them said “yes” as they moved away and I set my coffee down. Seeing a couple of crumpled up napkins, I decided to be helpful and throw them out. Upon turning back to the table however, I was confronted by the other woman, who, in a voice more like a low, mentally unbalanced hiss, said “you’re a bit of an asshole, aren’t you?”

I said “excuse me?”

“You’re a bit of an ASSHOLE, aren’t you?”


“Putting your coffee down on the table before we’ve left…” she intoned, almost shaking with rage.

But…you had your coats on…you said you were leaving…you were walking away…” I sputtered as she turned her back, with what I think was a final muttered “asshole” as she headed out the door.

My happy mood dissolved like a sugar cube in a pint glass of hot piss. While my friends behind the counter sympathized, and joked with me about it, I stood dumbfounded and distressed. Why the hell, I thought, did this have to happen just when I was feeling so good?

Then, however, I asked myself: how might I have reacted if I hadn’t been in such a peaceful, positive post-awesome yoga class mood? And, related to that:  what exactly might the repercussions of loudly cursing out a possibly mentally ill old lady, perhaps half my size, for something nobody but me heard her say, in a public place, smack dab in the center of a community where people were still just getting to know me, no less, be?

And, as such, thought it was an awfully good thing I went to yoga class that morning….

*contains reincarnated material from Yoga for Cynics*

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