“Yay! Perfect timing!”
I had been driving around a really crowded parking lot for a few minutes when I saw someone backing out of a spot, to my left. It all seemed like a wonderfully orchestrated synchronicity.
But as I pulled into the open spot and turned off the engine, I could hear someone screaming outside, followed by aggressive honking.
“I was waiting for that spot!”
The voice that was screaming at me belonged to a tall, older man.
“You were? Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize…”
He didn’t let me finish that sentence.
“Take your car out of that spot right now or I’ll blow your tires!”
He was seething. And I was completely caught off guard by this sudden and aggressive interaction.
Then…my mind was pulled into the drama very quickly.
You see: I’ve always been rather anti-authoritarian. I don’t like to take orders, especially from men.
I’m not sure where this wound came from. But it was there. It was lodged in my subconscious mind for as long as I can remember.
I felt my body tighten and anger started to build up in my stomach. I looked over the angry man’s shoulder and saw his car: a top-of-the-line Mercedes.
And my mind immediately piled on more thoughts:
But I didn’t outwardly do or say anything. I remained motionless for a few seconds, trying to stay fully present. I realized a wound of mine had been poked and was using the power of my consciousness to remain the observer of thought — without getting caught up in whatever the mind was thinking.
But the wound was deep. And Mercedes Guy kept poking.
“Are you taking this car out or not?”
My mind was saying:
“No freaking way you’re moving! If he had asked nicely, sure. But since he’s rude, you should teach him a lesson.”
But I didn’t voice that answer. Instead, I took a deep breath and stepped away from the man.
My mind, however, continued to scream at me:
“Don’t move this car! Teach him a lesson!”
Yet somehow, the words that actually came out of my mouth were:
“Sure, I’ll park somewhere else. No problem.”
For the rest of the day, my mind was relentless.
“I can’t believe you moved the car! Why did you do that?”
I was amazed at how much mental commotion that single incident caused in me. And as I sat down for my nightly meditation, I was keenly aware of how deep my wound around men and authority was.
How did I know this?
If you want to know how deep your wounds are, simply notice how quickly your internal environment changes when they’re poked.
One minute, I was excited and happy to find a parking spot. Then suddenly I became angry. How is that possible? How did my inner world change that quickly?
Because my subconscious pattern was deep. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t have felt anger or irritation toward the screaming man.
This reminded me of a favorite passage from the book “Rediscovering Life: Awaken To Reality”, by spiritual teacher Anthony de Mello. In it, De Mello talks about human “programming”.
There are never any difficulties in relating to people. There are only difficulties in your programming…
You ask, “When somebody insults you, you’re not getting upset?”
“Why not? Why not be upset when someone insults you?”
I mean, when the letter isn’t received, it’s sent back to the person who wrote it. You don’t receive it, it goes back. You know why you got insulted or why you were upset by the insult? Because you took it, that’s why. Silly, why did you take it?
“You mean that it’s possible not to take it?”
You mean, you call this being human — living like a little monkey? Anyone pulls a little string and you jump?
I’ll tell you what it means to be human. You know what it means to be human? It’s something like this: A guy buys a newspaper every day from a newspaper vendor. The newspaper vendor is always rude to him.
So a friend of his says, “Why do you buy your paper from this guy? He’s always rude to you. Why don’t you buy it from someone else just next door?”
Says the guy, “Why should the vendor decide where I buy my newspaper? Why should he have the power to decide that?”
Now, you’re talking about a human being. Otherwise, you’re talking about monkeys. You could control them; twist their tail a little and they act in predictable ways. Programming. Programming.
So, it isn’t the person who has upset you. It isn’t you who have upset yourself. It’s your programming. All you have to do is understand this and distance yourself from it, understand it.
You want to do something about that programming? If you can, fine. Is it necessary? No. If you’re understanding it, you know that it comes from the programming, not from you, not from them. It’ll take care of itself, it really will.
You’ll be amazed that, after a few months, things that before would have made you sick with anxiety, or with suffering, or with whatever, you can take in your stride with perfect peace. You’re quite relaxed about it.
That’s the spiritual life. That’s dying to yourself — dropping that programming. You drop it by understanding it for what it is. Call it by its name.
Drop it. Distance yourself from the programming. Exactly.
I hadn’t dropped my taking-orders-from-men program. And once I re-read this passage, I knew it.
Life was also giving me the opportunity to learn and evolve.
So what were the lessons I learned from this intense confrontation?