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

Via Jay Winston
on Aug 11, 2011
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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*


About Jay Winston

Jay S. Winston, founder and proprietor of Yoga for Cynics (http://yogaforcynics.blogspot.com), has a PhD in English, making him the kind of doctor who, in case of life-threatening emergency, can explain Faulkner while you die, is currently (semi-)(un-)employed as a freelance writer and editor, teaches creative writing to homeless men, tutors recovering addicts in reading, was recently certified as a Kripalu yoga teacher, gets around mostly by bicycle, is trying to find an agent for his novel, resides in the bucolic Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, State of Mildly Inebriated Samadhi, U.S.A. and, like most people who bike and practice yoga, used to live in Boulder.


13 Responses to “On Karma, Yoga, & Being Called an A**hole.”

  1. Maria says:

    She may not have been mentally ill. She may just have been mean and rude…. but good on ya for not reacting. I'd probably have been spitting nails!

  2. tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  3. tanya lee markul says:

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Assoc. Yoga Editor
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  4. Brooks Hall says:

    I bet that she was projecting some old wound of hers onto you ’cause it doesn’t sound like anything you did…

  5. Yogini5 says:

    Only a certain (MILD!) type of yoga class would have done it for me and/or I would have had to have been channeling the memory of one of my recent home practices. For sure, something happens to formerly shy and milquetoasty women once they reach menopause age, and at least it happened to me.

    With many yoga classes the way they are – particularly power yoga and classes like that (which do NOT calm me) – I would have let her have it—even if we are sister age-cohort baby boomers. I also have that same—though rare—reaction to ginkgo biloba (that's why I avoid the stuff) … that reaction of getting righteously pissed off.

  6. yoginibunny says:

    Exactly! Totally agree with Brooks' comment.
    and what kind of question is "you are a bit of an a$$hole, aren't you?" — who in the right mind answers "yes, I am!" ?
    and bravo to you for your restraint. as someone who reacts strongly to rude and aggressive people, I totally sympathize..
    thanks for sharing.

  7. Yogini5 says:

    And even if it were the ORIGINAL Mt. Airy (North Carolina) … small towns being what they are …

  8. What a delightful opportunity to go within, seek out the light that resides in each of us, and embrace her fear with utter love and compassion. The Universe always delivers what we need.

    Nah, I'm just kidding. She kind of sounds like a jerkface.

    peace, love, and humanness,

  9. Katie Desmond says:

    HA! That reminds me of getting called that in writing after a yoga workshop (presumably by a practicing yogi) last year. I wrote about it here: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/11/open-your-

  10. YogiLexi says:

    Yoginibunny, if I hadn’t taken a class, I would have been that person responding with a sarcastically proud tone , “Yes, I am”. Overall, I can 100% relate to this. The only control one has, is over his/herself. How we react determines the experience. Bravo for holding yourself together, keeping the control, and not indulging in HER a$$hole moment.

  11. sarah says:

    Maybe she felt rushed. I don’t like that, either. But, I wouldn’t call you an a-hole.

    Or, maybe you had a smug post -yoga class grin that set her off; like when you see a canoodling couple when you just broke up.

    The word a-hole is pretty crass and vulgar. But, it’s over now and you got an article out of it. ;~D

  12. Hey Jay! You make yoga class for cynics sound like AA for drinkers. I can just see you strolling into the yoga room. "Hello, my name is Jay". "Hello Jay!" "And I'm ten days non-reactive." Woo hoo. I totally get it. Hilary

  13. tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.