I got myself into a scrape last weekend – literally. I want to tell the story because it reminded me of the power of my mind and how easy it is to create negative fantasies. It’s something we all do rather than face unpleasant feelings that lie beneath the surface.
I had just finished leading my ‘Restorative Yoga’ workshop in Port Stephens. I packed up the Prop-mobile with bolsters, belts, blocks and blankets, all ready for the 2.5 hours drive home.
Backing out of the driveway, I neglected to look behind and drove smack into a concrete gate. The gate was fine, but my tail light went, the bumper was scraped and the passenger-side panel dented.
I felt awful about this mishap. Do you ever feel that your body has been wounded when your car gets dinged? How is it possible to confuse my body with my car’s? It’s not even that I have a particularly swish car – just a trusty old Toyota Corolla.
In the mix of negative emotions that ran through me, I felt embarrassed that I’d done something so stupid. I’d been happy with the workshop and heard great comments from students. Immediately following the accident, I spiralled down into feeling terrible.
I started thinking of a way to tell my husband, Daniel, about this smash where I wouldn’t come off badly. Where it almost made sense that I would have had an accident. The post had been built in the wrong place, someone should have guided me out, Heather should have offered to drive (I think she did). I caught myself in mental lies and came back to the feeling of embarrassment. I noticed that I was looking for a scapegoat, and the next logical step seemed to make it me.
Bad idea. For a few minutes, I called myself unkind words – you know the ones I mean – dumb, careless, irresponsible, thoughtless. I caught myself and realised I needed to get out of my head and feel my feelings once more.
I was embarrassed by having dinged my car. When I probed, I realised I didn’t want to look bad in other people’s eyes – that is, Daniel, the workshoppers, my host, Nikki, my housemates. When I got right down to the bottom of the spiral, my mental turmoil was about looking bad.
Have you ever noticed how much effort it takes to manage your image to create favourable impressions? Unfortunately, we yoga teachers think we have to present as paragons of happiness, health, and wholesomeness.
What saved me this time was just a little thing and with any luck I’ll file the insight away in my mental tool box in case of other misadventures. I did a reality check. I looked at the car and saw that it wasn’t wounded, just a bit crumpled, yet still drivable. My passenger and I were in no way injured. Even the gate had nary a scratch.
I decided to stop being self-critical and instead extend some loving kindness to myself. I told myself what most people would say – ‘accidents happen’.
Maybe they happen just so we can practice letting go of being perfect, of looking good, and being self-critical.