These days, I’m noticing an increasing trend of complete self-absorption, self-promotion, and constant distraction. Whether it’s from an internal drive of massaging the ego, boredom, apathy or lack of motivation, or satiating insecurities, an external drive of affirmation, validation, approval seeking, or combinations of a multitude of psycho-social factors, we are infinitely dividing our time, our energy, our resources, and our attention.
We just can’t seem to focus on one thing at a time. We need to text or check Facebook while we’re at the stoplight, for those few seconds should not be wasted while we could be firing off some few dozen likes and making sure we’re checking in. But checking in to what, I ask?
All of the social media outlets and many blogs and websites continue to be a hodgepodge of the inflated self in various forms. “This is what I think about xyz …” Or “I feel xyz about what that person said to me at work …” Or “Can you believe this weather?” Or “Ugh. I hate everyone.”
Instead of taking a few moments for some quiet time, some self reflection, without pause we spew off negative energy, instances when someone miffed you, cut you off, made you angry or upset, just so others can read upon that energy and even subconsciously take some of that with them. Our bodies are incredibly powerful, our energetic bodies even more so. When we see someone hurt or crying, isn’t there a part of you that feels empathetic, sad, and/or would want to help in some way? Perhaps so.
I share with you a recent story. A little over a week ago, I finished teaching a yoga class and got onto my bicycle, heading to a coffee shop. Normal routine, normal day. Not quite a minute later, I’m lying facedown on the pavement, a pool of blood growing larger and larger as I bled from my face, completely in shock and in pain. I just got hit by a car.
Whether it’s due to texting, talking on the phone, fumbling with the radio, not slowing down, not looking around, or a mixture of it all, the accident happened because someone wasn’t paying attention. (I’m doing much better now, five stitches later from the laceration on my chin, and the bodily bruises slowly healing. Thankfully, no broken bones or concussion.)
What I recall from the brief few minutes lying on the pavement after being hit and before the paramedics arrived, was that there was a crowd of people around me worried and asking if I’m okay, if 911 has been called, what they can do to help. Complete strangers, instinctually coming to another complete stranger’s rescue. They saw the incident; they psychically felt my pain and tears. The aggression and shields that usually are up when we head out into the world, especially a busy, urban world, all came down as compassion and a genuine want to help took its place. That’s human instinct that comes from the bottom of our hearts, when we hear someone cry out for help, it wouldn’t be natural to turn the other way. There’d be some torment, even if a little, if one shunned another away when the person was in true, desperate need.
I pass by one of the white “ghost” bicycles at the corner of 18th and Clark. The sign tells me it is a 27-year-old father of two who died there after being struck by a car. It is an immediate reminder of our own impermanence.
About 3,000 people in Chicago are hit by cars each year. And that’s just what is reported; the actual figure may be higher than that. I never knew I’d be one of those figures, but then again, we never think it’s going to happen to us, right? Rarely do we embark into a day expecting an accident or an attack until something like that happens.
I recollect the humanity that I felt when I was being helped. Fortunately for me, the person who hit me did not run or flee the scene. Unfortunately for some, there are quite the number of hit and run incidents. One of my coworkers was a victim of such an experience, also while riding her bicycle.
After being asked, “Are you okay?” regarding the accident, it’s a real downer to hear the most common question being, “Did the person who hit you stay?” The fact that this is such a common question because it actually happens all the time is depressing.
I understand, to some degree, why someone would not want to stop. They may a) not have any insurance or identification, b) feel they could not afford the financial and legal burden of the accident, c) be scared, or d) all of the above. Take aside any of the money or legal stuff, though. If we hurt someone else, and it truly was an accident, where’s the humanity? How can someone live with themselves if they hit a person and fled the scene, not knowing whether that person is alive, hurt, or permanently injured? How can that person go to sleep at night, knowing they could have helped but didn’t? What is the point of life, of going through the day-to-day rituals and responsibilities, of work or school, just to pitter patter towards some obscure goal that doesn’t include the very real human aspect of truly living life? To have compassion, to help others, especially in times of critical need, to be generous, to love others the best you can … I cannot comprehend the rationale when I hear of those types of stories. It really saddens me that our hearts can be so dark, or that we allow fear to rule over us to the point that we override our natural instinct to help our fellow man.
But it’s not enough to see what is happening in front of us … what can we do about it that will inevitably alter our fate, the domino effect that is in constant motion? What can we do about changing our behavior, so that we are more present-minded, more aware of this very moment, that all we really have is right now? Everything can change in a second, and I had my very real experience of that. I was able to walk away, but not everyone has that opportunity.
Instead of waiting for that light bulb moment, when everything just clicks and you realize the frailty of life and your own mortality, appreciate what you have now, rather than focusing on what you lack. Realize that you are enough, that if you’re doing the best you can, you’re getting up each day and facing it with strength and courage, and you’re not giving up, that that is exactly where you need to be. Happiness and love, I believe, are two of the most important things in life. Many, if not all, decisions stem from our want of happiness and our want of love.
Those 137 new likes on your new profile picture made you feel great, right? On the surface, it is superficial. But this feeling, this emotion, comes from a deeper place of wanting love. Of needing it. It is our human instinct to want that. It is only natural, of course.
Spending all of our free time chasing after superficial loves won’t fill the emptiness in your heart. Keeping your guard up at all times won’t make you a better person. Doing a hundred things at the same time and being productive doesn’t make you better than someone else. Slow it down, because life’s not in a rush. The leaves change in their own time, the flowers bloom when they are ready. Take the time to cultivate those friendships and relationships you care about. They matter more than how much money you’re making right now. Take the time to apologize when you know you’re in the wrong. Own your actions and be responsible. Take the time to breathe in nature’s air. The golden warmth of the sun rises and sun sets. The illuminating glow of the moon painted on a dark night. Take the time. You simply don’t know when it will be your last.