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.”
My 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