Yesterday as I was driving along Arizona Avenue, something caught my eye. There was a huge, furry spider with red markings that suddenly dropped from behind the window visor, and appeared in the compartment just next to my steering wheel, where you can place your wallet, phone and so on. It was empty but for this sudden tenant. Now, I grew up in New York City, and I freely admit, I’m a little petrified of spiders, have no idea which ones are poisonous, and am especially wary of ones with “fur”, my love for Charlotte’s Web notwithstanding. I know that spiders are amazing, I just don’t particularly want them in my house or car. I remembered that red markings were part of the black widow description, though I felt fairly certain black widows were shiny and not hairy. Nonetheless, I had a mini adrenaline rush, noticed there were cars behind and in front of me, put my blinker on, and moved to the side of the road where I decided it was okay to block a driveway for a moment if it meant saving my life. Yes, you can laugh.
I jumped out of my car and stood staring at this arachnid, wondering how to get it from my car to the street. There were two guys working on the building where I’d pulled up, and I called out to them and asked for help. I told them there was a huge spider in my car. They looked a little bewildered and started walking over, but then I thought, “Really? Do I really need help with this?” I took a look at the passenger seat, grabbed a postcard that was sitting there, and managed to flick the spider onto the card, and then gently fling it onto a bush. Neither of us died, so I consider that a success.
When I got back in my car, I realized this is the second time in a matter of weeks that I’ve dealt with big spiders, as a black furry one with a white back crawled across my desk not long ago. My kids were home, and I instructed them NOT TO MOVE while I caught it in a jar, and took it outside. No one died that time, either. My friend Jessica, who knows all about spiders, had a good laugh at my expense, though, so I also consider that a success. I have this story I tell myself, that if I were married, my husband would be dealing with the big bugs, and he’d also be there to help me unload groceries from the car. I don’t have pity parties for myself very much, but for some reason, those are the two experiences that make me feel sad that there isn’t a man in my life. So yesterday I thought, “those are some really dumb stories you’re carrying around, and maybe it’s time to check them.”
The truth is, many of my married girlfriends have told me that they deal with the big bugs and the groceries, too. Of course, there are other fabulous reasons to have a partner, so don’t get me wrong, I’m just trying to point out that sometimes we tell ourselves things that aren’t true, or that are weakening, or that might have been true at one point, but aren’t anymore.
Here’s another example: a couple of days a go, I taught a benefit class for Breast Cancer Awareness month (ladies, check your boobies!), and you never know who’s going to show up when you teach at these big events. Usually, you’ll see people you’ve known for years, and experienced yogis, along with people who’ve never done yoga before but have come out for a cause. So I’m teaching, and I look up and see this woman front and center, and she’s in Warrior 1, but she’s scrolling on her phone. Lower body in Warrior 1, upper body focused on the device, standing up on her mat. I see a few people around her looking on incredulously, and one woman made eye contact with me. My first reaction was, “Whoa. That is so rude!” I mean, I’ve seen people with their phones next to their mats, surreptitiously checking it in down dog, but this was a new one on me.
Then I looked at the woman, and she just looked sweet, and I thought, “She has no idea that that’s rude, that isn’t where she’s coming from.” Now look, I’m no saint, I’ve just been practicing yoga for twenty-five years, and the good news is, it helps you catch yourself quickly. If you feel triggered, for example, a long, consistent practice teaches you to perk up and pay attention, instead of lashing out and doing or saying something you might regret. It also reminds you that most things are not personal. She wasn’t being rude to me, her behavior had nothing to do with me. So I waited until everyone was in down dog, and went over to her and whispered, “Are you a doctor?” She looked at me in utter confusion and said no. I said, “Okay, I was just wondering if you were ‘on call’ or something, or if you’re dealing with an emergency. Otherwise, why don’t you put your phone away for a little bit so you can have some you time!” And she smiled at me and said, “Oh, okay!”, and put her phone away. After class, she came and thanked me and hugged me. Total win-win.
The thing is, a breathing practice is enormously helpful for this whole “being human” thing, because being human is not always so easy or straightforward. We’re always filtering information from the world around us through our own particular (and sometimes foggy) lenses, and we’re always dealing with our inner worlds as well, which are often full of ideas and thoughts and stories that are specious and worth examining. There’s nothing quite like developing a sense of humor about yourself, and all your occasional absurdities, and celebrating your humanness without embarrassment. Then you can shake your head, and get back to the business of opening to all the beauty around you.
Wishing that for you, and sending you love!