Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Very Angry Man

"soon, swimming #meditation at the Y - just being with experience of body moving through water, lap after lap after lap"

My swim started just as I had tweeted. Nothing like a fast swim to ground one in the present, registering the deafening noise of body kicking and slapping the water, being aware of taking in air in between strokes, and being with the subtle pain from back and shoulders stretching, stretching . . . meanwhile keeping track of the number of laps. 

Then, in the midst of  a turn, a sharp pain at the right ankle that brought me to an immediate stop. A big man had grabbed me forcefully, and was shouting at me that I did not know the rules, and that I should have stopped for him as he entered the lane. I recognized him from another similar interaction two years ago, and I reacted with a firm "You are so rude! You cannot do this." The man continued with his angry rant, and aggressive gestures. I remained calm, and was comforted by the rally of support from fellow swimmers and the lifeguard. I was told "This is not his first time. He is a very angry man. He's done the same thing with other people." I moved to the next lane, and resumed swimming. 

The energy of the interaction was still with me. I realized I was not done with my aggressor. Being mindful does not mean turning the other cheek. It means, standing for what is right, and in this case, taking measures so he would no longer spoil the safe sanctuary of the Y pool. Still swimming, I started to plot filing a report. A crowd assembled as  I wrote down my complaint by the side of the pool. The man was watching from behind his goggles. I looked at him 'in the eyes', and in silence wished him to find peace. 

Now, I have to be careful. To not fall into self-righteousness, and the illusion that I am so much better than 'him'. 


  1. I have met several like him while swimming in public pools in the past 15 years, as my practice grew I learned to enter the water smiling and make friends as much as I can. When I do encounter people like him, I move to another lane like you did. In the past I would gather 'friends' that don't like so and so, gang up and discuss how bad the offending parties are while maintaining 'my' lane. Now more than not, I don't bother with the negatives, and in fact try to talk to these people or talk with others nearby so they see the human side of me. Even if they have bad habits they are still less likely to grumble with me after some interaction. They won't change how they deal with life as so it is up to you to be bigger person. That still doesn't mean you should not file a report against his touching you, just with a level head noting how fast anger arises. Don't you wish you could swim as fast as your anger arises?

  2. Feeling being right can give one the impulse to react without any heart. Anyone can choose between being right or be comprehensive.

  3. Thanks you two for all your wisdom and generous heart.

    This man was definitely another teacher . . . and made me think of the Saw sutta.

  4. I agree with Anonymous, once we begin to feel righteous and in the right, we become less empathic. I find that pitting the other person(s) against oneself is always an invitation to conflict and barriers. But to stop, take a deep breath, and understand them in a way that others have not attempted ... now that is compassionate and loving. That is true meditation without reacting in a negative sense to external stimuli.

    Now, I only have to practice what I'm saying here as well!

  5. Thank you Laughing one :)

    Yes, to shift the paradigm of our usual relating, and blend with the other one. That is where the real freedom lies. And I am not there yet. After the man grabbed my ankle, and hurt me, I went into an immediate reaction of pain, and outrage, for a few seconds at least. My awareness was not fast enough to mediate the first accusatory words that came out of my mouth.

    AND, I think one also needs to be careful to not equate compassion and mindfulness with pure sweetness. This is one of the dangers of the 'Buddhist' persona. In this case, it is my sense that the man's action required some action in return, to set protective limits, so that he will not continue to threaten other swimmers.

  6. Thanx for sharing Marguerite.
    I run into those situations not infrequently. I think it is important not to try and wrap up a conclusion and leave the tension unresolved. It is important not to say "I was mindful", or "I was thoughtless" or "He is angry". Sure, to sum it up gives us a grip and helps us plan for the future, but on the other hand, leaving it incomplete can do interesting things too.
    Hope that wasn't too abstract.

  7. Thanks Sabio. I get your point about staying with the fuzziness of the situation, and not letting mind jump in to qualify and shrink things. That is one more view to complete the picture.

    In gratitude for yours, and others' comments.