The yoga studio is only six miles from my house. 15 minutes. But they are 15 Jersey minutes, so for my 9:30 class I leave at 8:50, giving me a full 40 minutes to get there. Because, you never know.
The other day I got caught up with something at home and when I looked at the clock it was 8:55. I started off behind schedule, but I have such a cushion built in that I wasn’t in a huge hurry. I still had 35 minutes to travel 6 miles. I grabbed my keys, slipped on my sandals and headed out the door.
Just as I started to pull out of the driveway, our usually sleepy street woke right up! There were cars coming in both directions. I waited for them to pass and glanced down at the clock.
Come on, come on. I have to get on the road.
I drove down the street and turned onto a more major road. At the first traffic light, the left turn arrow turned green and the nice elderly man in the hat sitting in the car in front of me didn’t move.
He didn’t move at all.
So I tapped the horn. Just a gentle little tap, to nudge him, hoping that he would hit the gas. But he was obviously in no hurry. He gently began rolling to the left.
Aw, come on now, Grampa. Can’t you drive any faster? Some of us are trying to get to work, here!
I was behind him for the next few blocks. Inching my way forward for half of a mile or so, my foot anxious to press down on the gas pedal, my hand itching to beep the horn, the frustration building up inside of me.
Please turn here! Please turn! Turrrrn!
He didn’t turn. I could feel it churning in my gut.
Please pull over so I can pass you. Pull over. Pull. Over. Pull. Over. Pulloverpulloverpullover.
At the next traffic light he pulled into the left turn lane behind a line of cars. I sped up in the right lane. Finally a chance to pass him! Now I was first in line at the red light. I was in the lead! No one ahead of me! As soon as the light turned green I took off- 10, 20, 30 miles per hour.
Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about! Here we go!
Up ahead I saw some flashing lights. There was a police car in the right lane.
No problem. I’ll just have to slow down and pass him.
And the big orange detour sign.
And the giant arrow pointing to the left.
So I followed the detour and went a few blocks out of my way.
As I made my way back to that main road I found myself behind a large landscaping outfit; a pickup truck that was pulling a trailer filled with lawn equipment and bags of leaves. And they were moving so very very very slowly.
Oh, Mother Fletcher! Really?
Raising my hand up off of the steering wheel and cursing at the hardworking men in front of me.
Move faster people! Don’t you know I have to get to YOGA!
(Right! Yoga. The first thing you’re going to do when you start teaching is tell everyone to relax, to get comfortable, to connect with their breath, to find some peace. And here you are screaming at the landscapers. Hypocrite, much?)
You’re right. I’m good. I’ll just breathe. I’m okay.
And after a few blocks they finally turned off the street and the way was clear. I was first in the line again.
Yes! Here I go.
Then up ahead I saw some yellow lights.
And a bucket truck.
And a man in a safety vest standing in the middle of the street waving his arms and pointing to the left. Another detour.
What the frig! Are you friggin kidding me? You must be friggin kidding!
I screamed up at the Elephant.
Another friggin obstacle?! Really?!
What could I do? It was there. I had to deal with it. And so I circled around the hospital, and then sat at a red light I shouldn’t have had to sit through with my hand hovering over the horn, ready to lay on it if the person in front of me didn’t jump that damn-stupid-damn light as soon as it turned green.
(Don’t do it. Don’t beep that horn. You’re right outside of the hospital. This is a quiet zone.).
Just breathe. Deep breaths.
The light changed, and we were moving again. I turned the corner and saw a long line of cars. Just sitting there.
Not moving. Just sitting.
Ah, Geezus. What the hell is this here now? With two hands raised in the air, in my best Archie Bunker voice.
And I saw the red lights flashing.
And I heard the ‘ding, ding, ding’.
Train! The friggin train, now.
The railroad gates were down, but there was no train in sight.
Where the hell is the train? What the hell is happening. Where is the friggin train, people!?
Moments that felt like hours passed. The train came, the gates lifted and the cars began to move. I rode right up on the bumper of the guy in front of me for a few blocks, and pressed through a couple of yellow lights. When he turned, it was clear sailing again. An uninterrupted mile. 10, 20, 30 miles per hour.
And then there it was again.
Another damn detour.
What the hell is happening? How is this even possible? How many times can this happen on one 6 mile ride?
Unbelievable! I couldn’t even make this shit up if I tried!
And that’s when it happened. The release. I started to laugh out loud. I followed the detour. I turned up the radio, and I laughed for the next 2 miles. I arrived at 9:27 with a smile on my face.
At almost every turn I hit an obstacle. I had so many opportunities to be frustrated, to be angry, to curse under my breath or to yell out the window. So many occasions to slap my hands down onto the steering wheel, to repeatedly beep the horn, to slam my fists on the dashboard.
I took those opportunities. Thank you very much.
At every turn I also had the opportunity to soften, to take a deep breath, to release my need for control, to let go, to laugh it off.
(The better option, in the end.)
At every turn, the choice was mine. I had no control over the outside circumstances, but I did have the opportunity to choose a reaction.
When we practice yoga, every pose offers us that same opportunity. When we reach for our toes in a forward fold, we feel the pull in our hamstrings. We can get frustrated, we can strain ourselves, or we can pull back a little, relax, and wait for it to soften, to open, to release. Or maybe it won’t release. Maybe we will come back to the pose a few minutes later and meet another roadblock. Maybe we will continue to hit roadblocks over and over and over again. Maybe we will never touch our toes, ever.
Shins it is, then! Let it be shins! Sometimes we have to change our direction completely.
Every time we meditate, we have the same opportunities. Sometimes we try to sit still for just 1 minute, 1 measly little minute, and we end up feeling fidgety, uncomfortable, frustrated, bored, disappointed, sad, angry, panicky. Sometimes we have to take a detour through these feelings to get to the stillness.
Meditation is just like a Jersey drive. Maybe we’ll get 1/10 of a mile of clear open road, in between miles and miles of traffic and detours.
We have the same opportunities every single time we interact with other people. We have to realize we are not in control of any interaction. Their reactions, opinions, ideas, beliefs will often act as roadblocks. But we always have the opportunity to decide how we will react. Moment by moment, sentence by sentence word by word. We can always decide if we will react with anger, resentment, frustration, sarcasm, or with kindness, compassion, understanding, surrender.
So many opportunities for surrender. So many roadblocks. So many detours on the road to enlightenment.
Are we there yet?