Sometimes I’m a bad yogi. I let four-letter words fly, and I do things I later regret. Why? Because people can be cruel. They can be savage, brutish, diabolical. They can say unconscionable things, using words as weapons. Just the other day, a lady inquired about the vegetarian options at a local cafe. Some condescending jerkface (no, that’s not a word, but I’ve adopted it) decided he’d chime in and belittle her by saying, “Oh, please. Go hug a tree.”
This infuriated me because I don’t do well with bullies. Yes, I’m normally pretty damn sweet, calm, and unperturbed. I don’t go around making trouble, and I genuinely enjoy people. The cashier’s working slower than dial-up internet? No problem. The waiter got our food wrong and spilled a glass of cold liquid in my lap? It happens. Let me grab a napkin. But when it comes to perceived bullying, I’m suddenly the Thuggish Ruggish Bone (flashback to the 90’s). No, I’m not proud of that. It’s NOT who I want to be.
So before I could consider the man’s statement that day, I spouted off a very inappropriate response, “She should hug a tree? You should kiss an ass!”
Yup, not mature. And if you had the time, I could give you more examples of such outbursts. My teen has warned me that I may get shot one day. That’s a grim possibility. But all this got me thinking…
Why Can’t I Let it Go?
I would love to not give a damn what people say in crowded cafes when the lines are long and tempers are short. I would love to be unconcerned and unfettered by the insults and vulgarity of others. But so often I’m not. Sometimes it matters and maybe it shouldn’t.
After the incident with the outspoken man, I questioned a yoga group about my reaction, asking how they were able to tolerate such behavior in the world and if they had any advice for me. Some called me courageous and urged me to continue to stand up for what I believed was right. I didn’t care for that response. Because who the hell am I to say what’s right? And while standing up is good, my hate-fueled retort was not. Some yogis told me to practice compassion, to consider how I’d want to be spoken to in future situations and use gentler words to correct an offender– if I must. I didn’t care for that answer either. Because even compassion felt inauthentic.
My goal was to not feel anything — to not give a damn. I did not want to expend any energy (good or bad) on that man. But that’s a fantasy, and every “Never give a damn what anyone thinks” quote is flawed. Because we are human, and as long as we live and breathe, we give a damn. But perhaps we can get to a place of detachment…
The Concept of Detachment
I’ve been working on detachment, on relinquishing expectations and separating myself from outcomes. Since much of my suffering comes from my attachment to things, ideas, even pursuits, detachment can be freeing. I want to see the world as it is and refrain from judgement about how I think it ought to be. I want to experience life without the need to control it. I want to feel without being consumed by my feelings, and to live without excessively longing for anything other than that which I have.
This concept of detachment is not new. It’s a central philosophy in Zen Buddhist teaching, which dates back centuries. I’m currently struggling with how I can detach without being indifferent, passive or careless. I know that dropping out of life is not the answer, and emotions don’t cease to exist when you ignore them. So maybe my big mouth isn’t so bad. But it’s my response I need to adjust.
The Best Approach to Bullies with Bad Manners
Just brainstorming here, but perhaps the best approach to bullies with bad manners is acceptance. I should understand there are people who will engage in cruelty and that their behavior is often just a projection of their own conditioning. In other words, their bad, not mine– no need to take it personally. Why should I be alarmed at their actions? Instead, I should do what I feel is right for its own sake, without getting caught up in anger, swept up in a sense of unfairness or driven by a thirst for revenge. I should let go of the need to teach anyone anything, and simply do what my conscience requires: ask jerkface to use his manners… and then calmly order my coffee.
Mantra: Let go or be dragged ~ Zen Proverb
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