Last night, I was mugged in New York City.
Here’s how it went down:
I was walking home in Brooklyn, about 9:30 p.m., a route I’ve taken a hundred times before. People were out and about, coming back from—or maybe going to dinner. We eat late here in the Big Apple.
My guard was down, partially because I’ve lived in the city for 11 years, and never had an issue with violence. I was texting a friend, and didn’t notice the young man running up behind me until….
I felt a strong yank on my purse, and my first thought was that my dinner date had snuck up on me to walk me home. Then the yank became a crazy hard pulling, and my purse strap broke off.
I reflexively grabbed my purse before he could, and my cell phone clattered along the ground in front of me. The guy, maybe still in his teens, although he was bigger than me, ran a few paces in front of me, then turned back around, as if undecided whether he should get the hell out of Dodge or come back for a second try.
We looked at each other, he with a wild look in his eyes. Me with fear in mine. My arm was hurting, already bruising from the strap pulling on my bare skin, but that wasn’t my biggest concern.
In that moment, I had to think fast. What could I possibly do that might help him choose the first option instead of the second? Yell for help, sure, but I was already doing that. Besides, on my block, the last one by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, there are a lot of cars to cover my voice, no one was outside, and loud voices are a common occurrence anyway.
Luckily, my 20-year yoga practice has apparently given me some skills I didn’t know would apply to a street mugging: the ability to slow down and breathe in the face of intensity, and take decisive action from a place of clarity when perhaps I would otherwise be freaking out, confused and defensive.
So here’s what I did:
As he turned around, I lunged for my cell phone, and pretended to take a photo of him.
Then I turned and did the same to his friend who I’d just noticed was coming down the other side of the street toward me.
I looked at them both and said, “I have both of your faces and I’m texting them to the police right now. You better run before they still get here, or you’re going to jail! Even if you take this phone right now, or hurt me, they still have your photos.”
The two guys looked at each other, and hightailed it away from me, around the corner and away.
As they fled, I screamed at them: “That’s right! You messed with the wrong Bitch!”, which, in hindsight, was perhaps over the top…
…but it felt damn good.
Now, once I got inside my apartment, I started shaking and had to do a few sun salutations and Ujjayi breathing to get the adrenaline to calm down. And, in assessing the damage, I’m only out one super-cute purse and my arm doesn’t look too pretty, but it could have been much, much worse.
So, lessons learned, and I pass the savings on to you:
• >>Remain as attentive as we do on the yoga mat when I’m walking, or any other time.
• >>Don’t text when walking in less populated areas at night.
• >>And be sure to have some pepper spray handy after dark.
Part of being a spiritual practitioner is creating boundaries around your own health and safety and right to move through your days as a master—not a victim.
There’s a Zen saying that goes:
“Trust everyone…but lock your doors at night”
Become a Warrior of the Peace, do what you feel is right to ensure your Ahimsa practice—not causing harm to yourself first and foremost—stays strong, and that you don’t allow other people’s unskilled choices to leak into your personal space whenever possible. After all, I didn’t want to allow those kids to continue violating my peace, nor enable them to act in such a harmful manner. In this way, ahimsa was preserved more fully on both sides.
Take care, everyone,
and know that, in any relationship with another person, from the ones closest to you, to the total strangers that appear in your life unexpectedly, you also have the capacity for this loving fierceness too…
…even if you get a little bruised once in a while.
Editor: Kate Bartolotta