Eyes of Dr TJ Eckleburg

At the pool

Several months ago, I was standing in the pool locker room, preparing to leave after my swim. I was late, busy, and filled with free-floating exasperation. Suddenly I noticed someone wringing a sopping swimsuit into an ominous puddle on the floor.

“You should do that over the drain,” I said, sharply. “Then you won’t leave such a mess for the next person.” I gave her no opportunity to answer, but immediately spun around toward my locker.

She was only a university student. But in the moment I conceded nothing: She was an adult, not a nonchalant child. The locker room is squalid enough without water poured everywhere.

It wasn’t so much what I said, but how I said it. She was making a mess, but I could have approached her with civility, even friendliness. So, before leaving, I decided to apologize to the young woman. My reaction, I knew, resulted as much from my state of mind as from her messiness. But she was gone.

On my way home, my first thought was, “Glad no one caught that on a cell-phone camera.”

Gatsby_1925_jacketMy second thought was, “God sees everything.”

Bizarre. I’m neither Christian nor God fearing. Maybe I was channeling a quote in the news or that very line in F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsy.

By “God sees everything,” I meant that my conscience sees everything. When I behave badly, it doesn’t matter if no one notices (or captures it on video). I know.

When I regret my words or actions, I come face to face with my yoga practice–and I’m not talking about my headstand alignment or my hamstring elasticity. Ideally yoga practice should refine our interactions with others, so that we don’t lose patience or speak carelessly.

Is it possible to conduct ourselves unimpeachably, every day of our lives? According to Mark Twain, “A clear conscience is the sure sign of a bad memory.” Perhaps. But through constant vigilance (and restarts and second chances) we can probably reduce our regrets

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9 thoughts on “At the pool

  1. Ouch – this is the real practice, isn’t it? I have few lingering regrets about possessions, opportunities, abilities. I do regret – and remember – instances when I have spoken or acted unkindly. By practising all 8 limbs of yoga, I hope to reduce these occurrences.

  2. Hi Luci, we are all fallible. I am reminded of the old adage: “To err is human, to forgive divine”. The question is: can you forgive yourself? As a recovering perfectionist, I am still working on that myself. I never thought of thinking of it as part of my yoga practice, but it makes sense to do so. Thanks for that thought. Namaste, Mark

  3. I love that you write so earnestly about what happed and then quote Mark Twain, and I’m laughing again. I’ve always known that unexpected side affect of my yoga practice that makes me a more calm and thoughtful person, and it makes me, like you, more aware of my instances of less thoughtful behaviors. Mark Twain also said something about not giving up all his bad habits so that when the ship was sinking he’d have something to throw overboard. Thanks for continuing to think and write about your life and yoga. Jill

  4. Hi Luci,
    I think everyone can relate to this episode. Sometimes, my “mother’s bossy” voice emerges when I see things like that. So the practice is always to take a breath, and think a moment about how I can best say what needs to be said.
    BUT the young woman needed to be told to be considerate of others by not adding to the squalor on the change room floor, and she isn’t likely to forget your message! So good for you.

  5. Alternate view: She had it coming to her! You gave her great feedback on thoughtless behavior, not to mention the people who benefitted from having her think twice before wringing wetness everywhere. Perhaps its not in your kind nature but be so curt, and that is where the citta vritti is coming from.

  6. Bravo (brava?) for another insightful and amusing post on Yoga Spy. I’ve been reading your blog for years and usually find something that speaks to me. In my mind, it took courage to tell the student she was making a mess. Most people, I think, would have rolled their eyes or cursed her under their breath. (Maybe I’m projecting!) No doubt she got the msg even if it was delivered with loving firmness instead of loving kindness. The fact that you tried to find her to apologize for your tone sounds like you learned a lesson – even if she didn’t. So, no regrets. I’m dying to know, Have you run into her again and is she still wringing out her swimsuit on the floor? God sees everything!

    1. Thanks to all who took the time to comment!

      Coda to the story: I have never seen her again. But I have seen others similarly wringing their swimsuits on the floor. Unlike the locker room at Berkeley, where I previously swam, this one lacks swimsuit “dryer” (centrifuge) and towel service, a luxury I took for granted. People are too lazy to walk to a drain. Now, however, I try to ignore it. One cannot be the world’s policeman.

  7. I completely understand how you felt in the moment – sometimes we just accidentally lash out at people we don’t mean to, even strangers. It’s also easy to beat ourselves up over wrongful things we may have done to other people in the past, but you’re right in saying that yoga can help us to refine our thoughts and regrets. Thanks for sharing your story. 🙂

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