At 7:21am on a Tuesday morning I pulled my car over in front of the Street Cleaner who was already spinning his brushes for a 7:30am start. I had 9 minutes to get my coffee and get out of his way. As I got out of the car, he started honking at me. I yelled over the roar of his powerful brushes, “It’s not 7:30 yet!!! Calm down!!! I’ll be back in 5 minutes!!!” I couldn’t hear his response. I turned and walked into the coffee shop, pretending not to be embarrassed that everyone had seen my little freak out.
I returned to my car at 7:27am, gave him a sarcastic thumbs-up and a less than genuine smile. Driving away with my coffee and my reactivity I caught a glimpse of the gap I had missed between his action and my reaction. How could I have handled it differently? I thought. I might have stopped for a moment to listen to him explain that he wanted me to move forward because the bus was struggling to fit between us. I might have seen him as a real person rather than an obstacle. Instead of beating myself up for the missed opportunity I sent him loving kindness.
The following Tuesday at 7:24am I found myself in the very same situation. This time I decided to pull in behind the Street Cleaner. He got out of his truck. I thought he might be coming to hit me, but he actually came up to say he was sorry for yelling at me. I couldn’t believe it! This never happens in New York City. I told him that I was sorry for yelling at him too. I went into the coffee shop feeling electrified. I bought him a scone. When I came out and gave it to him he was so touched that he gave me a big bear hug. In nine years of living here an on-duty employee of the City of New York has never once hugged me.
For a moment he was not a city worker and I was not a cranky commuter. We were just two people humbling ourselves to one another. One of my teachers said, “When you can look into another person’s eyes and see yourself, you are doing yoga.” That morning we recognized the light in one another, which I like to think rippled out in invisible waves to the people around us. May you recognize the light within one another and yourselves.
For 13 years Elizabeth has practiced and taught yoga and meditation around the globe. She is a Senior Teacher and Teacher Trainer at Yoga Works in New York. Elizabeth is also a writer, life coach and mother. She sees life itself as our greatest teacher, especially in New York City. To learn more about Elizabeth, click here.