Despite myself, I held faith in Mark's promise that it gets better and just at the end of the first chapter, the story did seem to take a left at Albuquerque and improve. I wouldn't say it's been a gripping read (the kind that has you blowing off other things in favor of another chapter), but it's definitely remained interesting with powerful insights and entertaining analogies. Plenty of food for thought and spirit.*
This morning I was feeling lazy after I woke up so I snuggled into the sheets and turned some pages before seeking out coffee. Tolle was describing the "pain-body" that resides within us, both personally, and in different groups such as race, gender, and nationality.
The pain-body, for those who have not read the book, is a field of stored negative emotional energy that is inherent in us all. It is the source of unhappiness in our lives, closely connected to ego; that which separates us from peace and Presence on a spiritual level. I get the concept, but for a reason I have yet to figure out, I am very resistant to the moniker Tolle has given it. "Pain-body" just sounds stupid to me, although I admit I can't come up with anything better. Whatever.
Anyway, he was talking about triggers - how our own pain-body can be attracted to other active pain-bodies, and how that can manifest all kinds of day-ruining things like traffic accidents, arguments, etc. The best way to counteract it is to be fully Present in the moment and not feed on the negative energy. That immediately reminded me of a bizarre experience I had one night at the grocery store.
It was late and I had run down to A&P to pick up something I needed the next day. I came out to the Jeep with my purchase, jumped in, and started it up. The parking lot was mostly deserted since it was closing time. The space in front of me was empty, so I intended to pull through (as most people do) instead of backing out.
I put it in gear, but there was a gentleman coming with a shopping cart. His car was parked diagonally to the left of me in the opposite row, next to the empty space I intended to pull through. I wasn't in a hurry so I waited for him to cross in front of me; I didn't even lift my foot off the brake. He stopped short of his door and fiddled with his keys. His cart was still in my way so I sat there absorbed in my own thoughts. He only had a couple bags, so I figured it wouldn't take long for him to put them in the car.
I'd say on a normal day his fiddling may have elicited some kind of impatience in me because one of my less attractive traits is zero tolerance for people who are completely unaware of what's going on around them. Such self-absorption really pisses me off (maybe because my ego secretly wishes it could be that way too instead of being the people-pleaser I am). For instance, one of my pet peeves in any crowd is when people stop in the middle of the flow of foot traffic to discuss where they're going. They either don't realize or don't care that other people around them would like to continue on their way without obstruction.
But on the night of this confrontation, that truly was not where my head was at because I was not at all pressed for time. In fact, my thoughts were so far away that when the guy started yelling at me, it felt like I had to come back into my body before I could understand him, and even then my head was doing double time experiencing and observing in the same moment.
Through the windshield, I saw he was staring at me intensely and asking a question. I rolled down my window and leaned out to hear him better - I thought he must've asked for directions or something. Wanting to help, I said, "I'm sorry, what?"
He came towards me angrily then saying, "What's your problem? Don't you know it's illegal to pull through a space in front of you?!"
I was completely bewildered. I hadn't even moved, but I guess he assumed I was annoyed? Was he a cop or just crazy? I hadn't made any kind of threatening gesture toward him, had barely looked at him in fact, but he was totally pissed at me. Before I could process enough to get Ego involved, I heard myself say in true concern, "Are you okay? I'm sorry if you're having a bad day." Meanwhile I could feel the other part of my brain on red alert, all too aware of how alone we were in the lot, and devising a plan of escape in case he became violent.
He gave me the strangest look, like it was his turn to be entirely confused. I think he didn't know quite what to do with my unexpectedly detached reaction. Hell, even *I* didn't know what to do because I felt like I was watching someone else live this experience. That's never happened to me before, or at least not so vividly.
At that moment we both heard his cart start rolling and turned to watch it thump into his car door. Whatever weird thread of energy was connecting us (or not) was broken, and he stomped over to retrieve his groceries. I have to admit it was hard not to giggle at the cosmic joke. My rational mind took over then and I pulled through the space and left since both he and his cart were out of my way.
Down the road when I was more myself, I wished I'd stayed a little longer because my people-pleaser that can't stand to see folks unhappy wanted to understand why he acted that way and "make it better" for him. It was probably smarter to get out of there though. Trying to wake the Unconscious can be dangerous business, and should probably be left to professionals.
I've never had such a surreal experience though. I don't know if that was complete Presence in the moment or removal of presence (out of body experience?), but whatever it was I won't soon forget the feeling.
And by the way, three cops I've asked have said they've never heard that it's illegal to pull forward through an empty parking space.
* People often use the words spirit and soul interchangeably, but I have a theory that spirit is separate from soul. I think spirit may be the thread that connects your soul and your thoughts. Have to think about this more and write the whole thing in another blog.