I was listening to a friend recently tell me aboutÂ a rather unhappy experience he’d had recently. He was going to a local convenience store that he usually stops at on his way to work. He was wearing a t shirt with an emblem on the front that identified him with a particular movement that is both popular and unpopular at the same time. Those that agree with it’s philosophy are all for it, but those who don’t think twice about voicing their disagreement, as they feel that many will share their convictions.
So my friend walks into this convenience store, fills up his coffee, and is waiting in line to pay. The guy working behind the counter begins an open tirade against the organization on my friends t shirt. Now my friend was on his way to work, and only stopped in for a few minutes to grab a cup of coffee, so he wasn’t mentally prepared for any kind of debate. And as luck would have it, everyone else in the store seemed to be in agreement with the worker behind the counter. So my friend, who was only expecting to buy a cup of coffee, found himself surrounded by people that had no problem ridiculing him for what he believed in.
Keep in mind that the organization that he supports is a mainstream organization with a large percentage of the population on the same page. It’s not like he was advertising kiddie porn or something on his t-shirt.
He was totally taken aback, both by the fact that he was suddenly surrounded by detractors who through their apparent agreement didn’t feel any reason to hold back, and that the instigator was working in a large chain convenience store, where one would expect at least a surface level of professionalism.
Now my friend is an avid meditator. He told me that after the situation began, he stopped, took a deep breath, held it, and then exhaled. He did this a couple of times, and focused on his purpose. Enter shop. Buy coffee. Leave shop. He told me that after only a few breaths, he was able to feel centered, and allow the people the luxury of expressing their opinions. They weren’t going to harm him, they didn’t have guns or knives, they were just capitalizing on the fact that they had him outnumbered, at least with respect to the opinion suggested by the organization on his t-shirt.
I asked him how he specifically practices to be able to get to that level of uninsultability, and he says it’s simple. All you do is exhale all your breath, wait until you feel the desire to breath, and then breath in slowly while feeling appreciation for your breath above all else. Then when you fill your lungs, you hold that appreciation in your mind to the exclusion of all other thoughts. He said that it takes practice, but once you develop a habit of breathing this way for a few minutes every day, you will train your brain in powerful ways. You will train your brain to “detach” from automatically reacting to the world around you. Instead, you will learn to see and hear the events around you, and then have the presence of mind to choose how to respond.
It all sounds very esoteric and zen like, but it really is just practicing a behavior that you want to get better at. Nothing different than practicing a golf swing or your tennis back hand. You are practicing withholding any thought other than the appreciation of your own breath in your own lungs.
And from that space between outside reality and your choice of thought, comes incredible power and resourcefulness. Not a bad skill to have, if you ask me.