compassionate interception, and the angry guy who just gave you the finger
November 23, 2010
THIS IS A CALLING To everyone who’s ever met a stranger’s anger with anger, insults with insults. Including me.
That girl on her bike who just gave you the finger? That guy jogging who just got pissed off at you for accidentally cutting him off? The homeless guy on the street who just insulted you? They aren’t mad at you.
Anger stems from hurt.
So that girl on her bike? Maybe she’s heartbroken. And that guy jogging? He might have just lost his job. Or maybe they’ve just had an incredibly challenging day. The homeless guy on the street, well, it’s pretty easy to understand why he’s upset. I once did a writing gig for a not-for-profit homeless shelter, and none of the people I interviewed voluntarily chose hunger pains, garbage for dinner, and fearing for their lives.
ON THE MAT When I was doing teacher training, Gloria Latham, one of my favourite Kundalini teachers and a great influence on my teaching, told us: “Even though your students might be looking at you like you’ve got two heads, it’s not personal. It’s not about you. It’s their stuff.” And every time I teach, I’m reminded of this. People walk in the door carrying all kinds of frustrations, pain, insecurities, blocks and stress from their day, their week, their life. As that stuff comes up during their practice, it washes across their mind, and often their face. They may be glaring in my direction, but it’s not me they’re seeing. They’re seeing an element of their own self.
OFF THE MAT So what’s my point? Ego and insecurity cause us to assume it’s about us. But if we can practice stepping outside our own mind and into someone else’s, we’re not only helping them, we’re helping ourselves—by dropping the negative self-talk. Personally, I’d love it if someone I’m short with because I’m feeling stressed offered me a great big hug. Outside the yoga studio, a smile is the most socially accepted form of doing this for someone you don’t know.
Getting back at that random person you feel has hurt you is like starting a game of ping-pong, only the ball is full of pain and you sub out to let someone else get it next. Wasn’t it Gandhi who said
“An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”
COMPASSION IN ACTION We have the power to transform the world through compassion. We have the power to start a radiating spiral of giving. We have the power to stop the chain of pain. Let’s opt out of operating from our Ego-driven insecurities. Let’s find that deep sense of relief that comes from truly trying to see other people, without our own junk getting in the way.
Let’s join the loving-kindness revolution. To those who think it’s the way of weakness: It’s time to wake up. Choosing compassion takes more strength than being bound to unconscious reaction.