Tag Archive for: peace

Another conclusion I made was while driving one day I was stopped at a railroad crossing. I caught myself looking at the car next to me where a little boy was sitting in his car seat with a birthday hat on, the car was filled with balloons and his mom was laughing and talking to him through the rearview mirror. The little boy looked over to me and gave me a big smile. I, of course, smiled right back at him and gave him a wave too. This got me thinking; when was the last time I walked by someone, or even drove by someone and was the first to smile? It had been a long time. Through this experiment I have caught myself taking time to smile at strangers and to ask people how their days are going even when I felt rushed to get going. I have been taking time out of my day to do this but that isn’t even how I think of it anymore. I am just living life how it should be and I am not “taking time” I am giving my time, happily. I am being my true self because this is me, this person I am today was how I grew up being, how I would like to think of how I have always been but somewhere along the way I got lost, I got consumed in my own being and wasn’t showing who I really was, I wasn’t showing my truth. I now go to bed and reflect on my day and realize how happy and fulfilled I feel with the way it has unfolded. Time is still an issue and of course there are still times I don’t stop to smile or I find myself frustrated at the person in front of me but the use of my time has done much more good than negative. Plus now, I have ways to get myself out of the funk. Just being aware of my actions, I have made significant progress compared to just weeks ago when I wouldn’t have even realized what I did.

Vimala Thakar, in her book Life as Yoga, wrote, “There is nothing more unclean than untruth. Untruth has a wonderful capacity to vitiate all your life. Before you know it, untruth brings you face to face with fear. Untruth is very proficient in giving rise to endless complexes, evils and disease without your even knowing anything about its processes. Untruth lands you in folly, fear, hypocrisy and false pride. Anyone who gives quarter to untruth even once will find that all sorts of impurities will enter into him by the backdoor. So the foundation stone of the spiritual endeavors is purity of life and purity means truthful behavior.” This sums it up. My husband and my interactions had been turning into, “Ok, I’m going to go. Make sure you change Henry’s diaper. Call the insurance company before 5. Oh and be ready when I get home because we have to meet your parents at 6.” We both were stressed, I was tired, I wasn’t eating properly but after realizing that this is no way to live and this isn’t my true self, things have started to take a more positive spiral and I know that it will take time, I will be taken out of my comfort zone but it is worth it, I am worth it.

Living for a few weeks with ahimsa in mind; talking with family, friends and co-workers about it; and discussing the larger concepts with the other yoga students taking on this yama, several varied findings became evident:

  • The process of being aware/witnessing my anger was a big part of the practice itself. When a triggering event would happen (someone’s inconsiderate action frustrating me), my first reaction during the experiment would be to say to myself, “non-harming.” And that was enough to momentarily distance myself from the situation and give myself time to think rationally. I don’t mean to say that I never ultimately got angry, but I was able to see how my mind was focusing on the situation, with detrimental consequences.
  • In talking with family and friends about the experiment, I came to realize that perhaps I expect too much out of people and need to be more gentle with them. I need approach a frustrating situation giving the perpetrator the benefit of the doubt—believing that they are doing the best they can. No one is perfect: we all have human failings and we all deserve respect (we’re all family/connected/related). My parents taught me growing up that the most important thing with whatever task was in front of me was not to be the best at it, but rather, to do the best I could/give it my all. I need to accept that others are doing the best they can.
  • In caucusing with my fellow ahimsa yoga students, I realized that “judging” my own reactions to thoughtless people was also harming. As long as anger is kept in check, it does serve a purpose at times, and like all other passions, is very human! Beating yourself up about a reaction, or replaying an event over and over in your head serves no positive purpose going forward. It is important to learn from a negative situation/reaction, but not to have it define you.
  • Preparing in advance for events I know will be frustrating is an effective strategy. I am a stickler for punctuality, so being late for something is a sure-fire way to build stress in myself that usually leads to poor action. On two recent occasions, concerns for being late to work and to yoga practice made me drive irresponsibly/inconsiderately and significantly raised my blood pressure. I have to be gentle with my own faults (give myself the benefit of the doubt sometimes and accept that life can be hectic and I may be late sometimes, but that luckily people are generally understanding) in the same way that I work to be gentle with others.      
  • Don’t let someone’s initial inconsiderate action lead to my own inconsiderate reaction. The circle only feeds itself! I realized, while keeping ahimsa in mind during a phone conversation with a service rep from Wells Fargo, that being kind in the face of incompetence is a graceful attitude that helps the individual and my own sense of well being. Pointing out someone’s incompetence is rarely useful.
  • “Work toward a value system that supports a higher ideal.” (Not sure if it was Santosh or Derik who had these words of wisdom to share, but they stuck with me throughout the experiment as a grander purpose for taking on a minimal, though important, task.)

Several of my findings helped me in addressing a particular event that was ongoing and continually frustrating. A neighbor in my apartment building would get up very early—both on weekdays and weekends—and leave home before many residents were awake (5:00 a.m. or so). He would rev his car engine several times very strongly, tear down the alleyway, and honk his horn at the end of it several times (presumably to let passersby know he was coming). It’s hard enough to find time to sleep, and this disturbance would wake me up about an hour earlier than I had to be up every morning. What was worse than the shortened sleep time was the terribly angry state I’d find myself waking up in each day.

So my initial reaction (after a week or so of this and realizing that even with winter coming and my windows closed, his routine in the morning would continue to wake me up) was to write a note and place it on his car. I first wrote a note directly after waking one morning—in full anger mode—and luckily he was still gone when I went out later in the day to place it on his car. This gave me a chance to put time and perspective between the event and my reaction, and, based on my findings from this experiment, give the guy the benefit of the doubt. So I rewrote the note, simply informing the driver that his actions were waking me up and would it be possible for him to be a little quieter in the morning. I concluded with a big “Thank you!”

To my somewhat jaded surprise—and really heartened return to confidence in the general kindness of the human race!—he has been extremely quiet ever since. I haven’t woken up once due to his actions since I left that note. I believe this positive reaction to the note can be attributed to the fact that I gave the driver the benefit of the doubt. I came at it from the perspective of, maybe he just doesn’t realize that his actions are having this negative effect on his neighbors. Calling it to his attention in a respectful way stopped the circle of ill will that a nastier note would have continued.

 I’ve found in the past that at the root of my anger with inconsiderate people is usually a sense that there is no justice/recourse for their actions. They harm others and there is nothing to be done about it. I learned through trials during this experiment that approaching the action with a different mindset—imagining that the person is simply unaware of the impact of their actions, not purposefully trying to harm others—fosters goodwill in my responses and their reactions. Piling kindness and patience on top of thoughtlessness sometimes does bring about a positive resolution. If resolution is not possible, taking my mind away from the immediacy of the anger (as simple as saying to myself, “non-harming”) allows me to slightly distance myself from the situation and either not react at all or react when there is sufficient perspective to allow for a fair and helpful response.