A couple of weeks ago my husband and I took a trip to New York City.
It was a long overdue anniversary trip. I hadn’t been into the city in years, but was excited by the energy and the buzz of the City.
We took the subway, chatted it up with the locals and walked everywhere! We stayed up late, and slept in. Both rare events for me.
I loved the people watching on the subway. There were so many different types of people, each with their own unique expression, peacefully getting along…. until they weren’t.
One night we were headed to dinner. We were taking the L train from mid-town down to The Village for a late dinner. There was a man, 40ish years old sitting across from me and a few seats up next to the door. He was wearing a t-shirt and matching hat with a “Polo Bear” on them. His attire was in stark contrast to the snarl on his face and piercing eyes. He was making comments under his breath about the Indian man and his friend sitting a few seats to the left of me. The Indian men were also 40ish and wearing Sherwanis, traditional Indian attire consisting of a high necked, long buttoned shirts and loose pants. They were in sandals. One of the men had slipped off one of his sandals and was rubbing his foot. Completely understandable after a long day of walking in NYC.
The Polo Bear man found this deeply offensive. He began to make comments under his breath, and then proceeded to get louder and louder. Telling the Indian man to “Put your shoe back on,” and saying, “No one wants to see that, it’s disgusting.” I began to get a bit nervous. My jovial, post pre-dinner glass of wine mood was quickly evaporating. I was grateful our stop was coming up next. The Polo Bear Man, was still visibly angry and getting angrier by the minute. The Indian man still engaged in a conversation with his friend was completely unaware of the Polo Bear man’s upset.
As we stood to get up to prepare to get off the train, Polo Bear Man stood up too. I quickly glanced at my own attire and hoped there was nothing offensive.
In an instant, I made a decision. Rather than condemn or make wrong Polo Bear Man, I decided to connect with him.
My belief is that there is more similar to us than dissimilar. If we can find that common ground, we may be able to appreciate each other’s point of view.
I guessed he may be returning home from a long day of work and was just tired. I smiled and tried to find a point of commonality. I commented on his Polo Bear shirt and told him I liked it.
In that instant his face softened and broke into a smile. He said, “Thank you. It was a gift from my kids.” I asked if it was for Father’s Day and he said yes. We went on to chat for a few minutes more before the train made it’s way into the station. He told me he had 3 kids and was just on his way home. I asked if it had been a long day, and he affirmed that it had been. I said, “Yeah, we all have days like that.”
As we were getting ready to get off the train, he looked at me and said, “Thank you. I needed that.” I said, “We all do at times” and wished him a good night.
To me, this is the yoga at work.
In yoga class we talk about Drishti, or focus. You’ve likely heard us say, “Where your focus goes, energy flows.” But I think it’s an important lesson to take off the mat.
As a yogi, you have the power to help others shift their vision too. Maybe by shifting their vision for just a tiny moment, it takes them out of that instant knee jerk reaction and gets them into the gap, that space between the stimulus and response where there is choice and true possibility. And maybe even peace.