I have been meditating every morning and evening for 20 minutes for nearly two weeks, studying yoga for a year, and attempting to be a generally kind individual with intention for most of my life. Yet, I find myself feeling as far from Enlightenment (and all of the empathy and compassion that comes with it) as ever.
I feel genuinely affected by every little seemingly intentional unfriendly act—a car cutting me off and nearly sending me off the road, people whose paths I cross who are irritable and unkind, and so on and so forth. I recognize that at least half of the instances that vex me are ones that could be avoided if I simply stepped out of the consumer trajectory of my current culture. These occurrences are most certainly first world problems—my new boots falling apart because they were not made well (is anything made well anymore?); the seam in my sweater ripping the first time I wear it; I have to pay $25 to shorten the dress my mom just gave me (yes, there are added expenses to being a short person); my husband and I share one car between the two of us since a woman driving behind him dropped the cigarette she was smoking in her lap and bent down to pick it up instead of braking as she approached the stoplight, and the logistics of being a one-car family can be irritating; etc. etc.
I stopped going to the dog park in my neighborhood after several large male retired veterans surrounded a woman friend to “protect” her, instead imprisoning her in a circle of aggressive men while another inside the circle shouted expletives at her. Their energy so upset me that I haven’t gone back since.
And this energy seems to be everywhere. I sense it in the über conservative, if not misinformed bumper stickers I see on the cars that drive around the somewhat less conservative than other parts of Arizona town.
Keep honking, I’m reloading
Guns save lives
Somewhere in Africa a village is missing an idiot
My dog is smarter than the president
I used to laugh and roll my eyes when I would see these kinds of paraphernalia, but it seems that the tension has been building until it takes very little for me to feel downright angry and irritated.
The other day, I was driving behind an enormous jeep (not an unusual occurrence for Prescott or Arizona) when I saw two Hello Kitty stickers. They were outlines of the cat in a bright pink hue. I was thrilled!
Finally, some normalcy, I thought.
Sadly, as I approached the jeep at a red light, I saw each little Kitty armed with AK-47s.
Each day, I vow that tomorrow I will not let things get to me so readily.
Each tomorrow arrives, and I am bombarded and give up.
Am I really bombarded, though? Is life that different here with regard to human behavior than anywhere else? Is that I am paying closer attention? Or is it that I am choosing to be affected?
I am not sure. I do know that there are several times each day that I want to run screaming from this state.
I also know there are underlying issues that I have not yet dealt with that may cause my stress level to constantly be so near the surface: struggles at a former job with an abusive boss; a sense that people who tell me I can trust them will at some point turn against me; close friends who fall out of touch and are somewhere out in the ethos when I most wish I could find them.
The gift of life is that there are so many opportunities to practice patience and compassion. I feel like I have failed the last thousand (at least), but I know there will be several thousand more before the year is out to continue trying.
Frustration and irritability is the easy path. I know this, yet each of these “opportunities” feels like a personal attack.
Doesn’t that person know they won’t save any time by cutting me off and that they are driving like a crazy person?
I recognize that a person’s driving patterns likely have little to do with how they feel about the person in the next car. This isn’t Massachusetts, after all, where people seem to speed up in order to keep you from changing lanes to get off at the next exit when there are high levels of traffic.
And yet, I still find myself angry and shaking my fist at them (I also realize that this probably looks more funny than threatening). I am reminded of the Prairie Home Companion episode poking fun at people in their tiny Prius waving their fists up at the person driving the enormous SUV, who can barely see them they are so low to the ground.
I guess I just have more work to do until I can find beauty in all beings and joy from each moment of a day that should be thought of as a gift but at times feels like a pain in the butt.
Your yogi in training,