Conversations with Strangers

After teaching yoga one early morning, I got in an uber to get home to make it to my day job. I was annoyed at how long it took for me to get a car, living in our instant gratification way of life, and all I wanted to do was go home. Of course, this uber driver wanted to chat it up, and I wasn't having it. Often people ask me if I’m going to work and I say, "no I’m going home and then work. I just came from work". This brings on more curious questioning. Then I go on to tell them what I do and usually people respond with even more peaked interest. At this point in the conversation questioning with the driver, I started to let go of my annoyance and staying in my own head, to just have a simple conversation with a stranger. We started to talk about yoga.

"So, do you do any of that mental stuff in yoga?", he asked.

"Oh, like philosophy?", I responded trying to figure out what he meant by "mental stuff".

"Yea, like philosophy, that's what I meant", he said with a twinge of embarrassment. 

"For sure, I incorporate a lot of philosophy into my teaching. Yoga is more about philosophy than it is about the body."

"You must be really happy. You know, doing all that yoga and teaching all that yoga."

"Well, sure. But not all the time. Happiness and sadness are impermanent. Each day is a new day and brings new things for us. Change is the only constant in this life. And so yoga is the way for me to be able to move throughout all the various emotions and changes in life and accept that each emotion and change is just as important as the other."

He wanted to share, he wanted to be heard, he wanted to be seen. Just like most of us. Just like ALL of us.

He paused and I could see the gears in his brain moving and working. He shook his head in agreement and went on to share that he had been dealing with depression for the past three years. His mother passed away and he was very close with her. My heart sank as I saw the story in his eyes. I began to soften, to have more compassion, to truly listen. And that’s just what I did, listen. He wanted to share, he wanted to be heard, he wanted to be seen. Just like most of us. Just like ALL of us. He had to drop out of college to take care of his mom while she was sick and then depression set in. She passed away shortly after and then depression got too bad for him. He went back to school but couldn’t finish the major that he had started. He’s driving for uber and lyft struggling to find a job. I listened deeply and said "that sounds really difficult". His face softened. A glow formed around him. It was as if he really needed to get that out. To connect with someone who could truly listen to the heartache he had experienced. To know that he was not alone. I encouraged him to keep following his passion and things take time. Advice I needed to tell myself. As he dropped me off, I looked at him in the eyes and said, “It gets better. Keep moving forward.” It was quite a profound moment, one that I didn’t realize how big it was until a few days later and was reflecting on a reading that ended with the following quote.

We can feel joy and sadness. We can feel anger and happiness. We can feel disappointment and love. The challenge is to see all of the emotions as equally important to our self and our being. And that no one emotion is greater than the other but is a product of the human experience. It took me a long time to realize this and accept it. I still have a hard time accepting it, especially on those days when the negative thoughts and emotions overwhelm me. Having that encounter with the uber driver and then reflecting on this reading really allowed me to see the full complexity of the human experience and find gratitude in it all. To feel gratitude for being alive.