I was biking home the other night from the yoga studio, the route I take home most nights, and I noticed a car parked on the side of the road with his lights still on. I watched the car closely as I passed, and moved slightly into the lane to avoid getting “doored” in case he didn’t see me.
As I passed by, though, I noticed the scowling face of the driver, and his fist raised, middle finger extended, in the universal gesture of “Fuck off.” Who ME? I thought. Who is this guy? Do I know him? I looked around, and there was no one else around, no other car. He was clearly directing this vitriol at me.
As I rolled into the next block I glanced back and he was still shaking his fist at me, middle finger raised. Our eyes locked through the windshield. For a moment I pondered turning around. But for what? To ask him why he was so angry at me? I kept pedaling.
I was shaken. What the actual fuck?, I thought. Who flips off strangers for no reason? I didn’t do anything to this dude. I’ve never seen him before in my life!
And then I thought of this quote by Yogi Bhajan (roughly paraphrased):
When you see that how someone acts towards you is a reflection of their relationship with themselves and not a reflection of your value as a person, there is no need to react.
The Middle Finger Man was clearly in an angry relationship with something. And once I had that thought, I softened towards him. I thought about how my own anger is usually covering up some deep hurt or dark fear. I thought about how grateful I am to have so many tools for dealing with my own anger. And I thought about the times when I, too, have given the middle finger to strangers.
I saw our sameness. I softened.
Of course, I understand how much easier it is to soften towards the Middle Finger Man than it is to soften to your partner, or your mother, or your own broken heart. Thank you, Middle Finger Man, I thought, for giving me a chance to practice compassion.
As I rode home, I whispered out loud my favorite prayer for lovingkindness.
May you be at peace. May your heart remain open. May you open to the light of your own true nature. May you be healed. May you be a source of healing for all beings everywhere.
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