Today I spent 3 hours on my Boddhacitta practice.

On my way back from yoga I passed a small group of religious protesters shouting the usual “God hates fags.” On the way to yoga, I engaged in argument. I got agitated, took the insults personally, felt separate from them, and saw how the argument was exactly what they were hoping for.

On the way back, I thought I would try something different. Perhaps the presence of one quiet person could change the energy. At the very least, it would change my energy and how I interact with others. The protesters were in a free speech barricade on the corner of Indian School and 3rd. I locked up my bike and spread my yoga mat on the grass in front of the protesters. I sat down, crossed my legs, put my hands on my thighs, and started meditating.

“May I be free of suffering and the root of suffering. May my friends be free of suffering and the root of suffering.” I opened my eyes and looked at the children that were exposed to the hate-filled language their elders were shouting. “May you be free of suffering and the root of suffering.” My eyes moved to the next child. “May you be free of suffering and the root of suffering.” I looked at the adult male closest to me. Mid-20s, white, shouting at the occasional passer-by until he saw I was looking at him. Then he looked at me and focused on me. Interestingly, I did not even hear him. What he was saying was either true, which required no refutation. Or it was false, in which case it was irrelevant. And there was no desire for dialogue. I looked at him, trying to soften my eyes. “May you be free of suffering and the root of suffering.”

As the parade approached our corner the anger and energy increased. I closed my eyes and focused on breathing. “Breathe in hate and breathe out love. Breathe in anger and breathe out peace. Breathe in fear and breathe out peace.” Someone walked up and touched my shoulder “Namaste,” she said and passed on. Someone else grabbed my hand and said “God bless you.”

Masses of people walked by and I remained sitting in between religious protesters and gay pride celebrants. The screams and insults were too difficult for me to ignore, however I remained in my spot, hands on thighs, breathing in negativity and breathing out positivity. I noticed a number of things. The police did a great job of letting things play out and de-escalating the anger of the gay pride participants. The protesters knew exactly what to say to get a response. In fact it almost seemed like a scripted performance by both the protesters shouting the celebrants’ parents were ashamed of them and the participants screaming back that their parents love them.

It reminded me of most interactions that people have. Frequently, we talk to people to get our needs met. We provoke people to get a reaction. Then emotional agitation increases. If we don’t interact–don’t respond to comments designed to anger–then there is nothing for the anger to feed off of. The protesters would be nothing without an audience. No responses, no shouting even words of peace, then their purpose is gone.

 

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