It’s just after 730 pm and I am in line at CVS. Once again our house is in the grips of another raging sinus infection and the realization that we were out of nighttime sinus medication hit me just as I changed into sweats and finished clearing away a pile of my daughter’s snot filled tissues that filled the space between the couch and the coffee table.
Fine, I’ll go.
All I want is to get in and get out of the store — guerrilla shopping.
But no such luck.
At the register an older woman, the only other customer in the entire CVS at that moment, slowly unloads a carriage full of crap. Paper towels, 12-packs of soda, bags of candy, shampoo, cat food, Pringles — I mean, honestly.
She knows I’m in a hurry, right? It’s cold out, I have what I came for, my head is pounding and I just want to get home.
Then she starts with the coupons. She forgot hers at home and asks the clerk for a flyer. As a matter of fact, the clerk adds, I do have a flyer.
Then the well-meaning clerks asks her if she wants to sign up for e-mail receipts, coupons and specials. Oh, that’d be nice, the woman replies.
I’m on the verge of losing what little patience I do posses. I stare at the five other open registers and inspect the line which has actually grown behind me. Apparently other people in their pajamas realized their kids needed cold medicine before bed too.
In my head I can almost hear a ‘snap’.
Breathe… it will be over soon…
Part of our human struggle is to sidestep breaking. Or, at least that’s what we believe. Disruptions occur at the hands of strangers and loved ones alike. Cultivating calm in the face of disturbance is a challenging gift.
Last week, as I and the rest of the yoga class lay in Shavasana trying to calm our collective breath, our yoga teacher spoke after a seemingly eternal silence. “Your peace of mind,” she said, “is not fragile.”
“Peace of mind is not fragile,” she reiterated, “because it cannot be broken by anyone except yourself.”
Like most advice that seems sound, it takes time to hear. Shavasana is the “dead man’s pose”; it is typically the pose used to finish Vinyasa practice. You lie on your back, eyes closed, palms facing up in an effort to calm the breath and end the practice. In that context, lying dead on the floor, it is easy to remain calm and peaceful; it’s easy to relax and feel in control.
However, when you’re leaving the yoga studio and you’re stuck at the intersection and fighting to exit the strip mall it becomes a tedious battle with shoppers leaving Stop and Shop, caffeine junkies weaving out of Starbucks and the fast food addicts swerving from Wendy’s, the Wendy’s that our town swore we’d never have.
“Welcome all sound,” that’s what the yoga instructor often says at the end of practice. “Don’t fight against them; let them in.”
But all too often we judge these sounds as disturbances, as startling crashes, and persistent white noise. We face backed up traffic, endless appointments and tedious tasks, our daily grind tugs at our day, occasional illnesses with their fleeting aches and pains… and of course all the other people in the world around us.
Sometimes we see all this “noise” as unwelcome; our peace disturbed by those around us.
Clearly its all their fault, we say. You disturb and annoy me. Go away! Screw you! Shut up! Stop!
Is it really their fault that we can’t breathe and stay calm? Is it really their fault that we become annoyed by the inconvenient imperfections of others? Is it really anyone else’s fault that we can’t cultivate our own patience?
Why fight what is?
When we welcome in all sounds, forcing our individual ego on the world becomes un-necessary — we blend with everything the present moment contains. Perhaps then being in a hurry and getting stuck behind someone with a full carriage of crap at CVS won’t “hurt” so much once we embrace it.
But seeing this and being this are two separate things.
Maybe the trick then becomes to hear it, even when the last thing we feel like listening too is the rising of the bells.