6 Train to Insight

Yesterday started like any other Monday. I felt like I normally do in the morning leaving for work – light and boundless. The day was overcast and dark, but my optimistic view shone brightly on my day. It’s not every day I feel like this, but definitely it’s the majority of my days.

I took the East Side 6 train from the Bronx to Midtown Manhattan where I work for a financial start-up company. The subway ride was as it ordinarily is at the ten o’clock hour – the customary cargo of tired bodies and wearied minds trudging to the next stop with their life of dreams of destiny or despair, sometimes both. I sit for the 30-minute ride reading either Don Miguel Ruiz or the sports section of the Daily News. Reading passes the time well as I feed my brain its morning meal, thus excusing myself quietly, politely from society. It is my peace in the storm.

When I arrived at work I took my position in the orderly assortment of cubicles, unaware of the subtle shift that had already happened within my subconscious. And that I know now because what I am about to describe is a common phenomenon stripped of anything phenomenal when fully grasped as ordinary and quite natural.

It wasn’t long after I had arrived at work that a situation presented me with a work-related quandary difficult to solve. In speaking by phone with a client whose papers were held up, I discovered that a co-worker had previously dealt with this client but did not follow through in the required way, further contributing to the delay. There is no need for the finer details here as this is enough of a backdrop.

In any case, there was nothing here out of the ordinary, nothing that could not be resolved. No problem. Ah,…but there was. Within me rose such an annoyed feeling with my co-worker that it swiftly shifted over to anger. This was a first for me. It was not that I felt powerless to do anything about the delayed application; it was not that I had any ill-will toward my co-worker as I genuinely like this person; nor was it anything remotely understood by me as an effect of a definite, justifiable cause.

I had no reason to feel the rising tide of anger that now carried me in its swirling, intensifying current. I was fully submerged, grasping for a lifesaver of lucidity.

Then it happened.

Another co-worker threw me a lifesaver, breaking the seething silence that permeated the air around me. She posed a question aloud to no one in particular, saying, “I’ve been feeling so pissy today. I have absolutely no patience! Does anyone else feel like that?”

A chorus of confessions shot up from most of my co-workers who all seemed relieved of the burden weighing on their insides. A valve burst open, releasing the trapped steam of anger, unspoken and of unknown origin.

Some laughed boisterously and others giggled sheepishly. One who spoke up, whom I nicknamed Giggles because of her infectious, girlish laugh, actually said she felt happy when she arrived at the office only to feel a “tense vibe” in the air, turning her outlook from sweet to sour.

That Giggles felt that way was an eye-opener for me as I realized at that moment that it was the collective consciousness pent-up in the office that seeped into the cracks of my being. The anger was not my own, but I chose on some level to allow it in, familiar and comfortable as I was in its shadow.

Reflecting on this episode brought to my mind the eternal truth that we are inextricably linked one to another in a feathery, elastic web of consciousness that ripples in waves of causes and effects. The seed of a thought in one mind, and especially its effects, is as readily felt throughout the body of humanity as is the apple seed from one apple bearing its fruits by the thousands. That one seed will give rise to many more that will then feed and benefit many others. And by the application of the same set of natural laws a weed will multiply itself to the ruin of a garden.

It is the same with us, Humanity. Each of us is a seed in the family, the community, the earth, and vast universe. Each of us a cell in the membrane of our world.

Each person in the office that felt the tension splitting their insides could have acted out, giving vent to it injuriously. Instead, respecting the social code of civility or the internal code of conscience, each one chose to suppress it, understandably so. However, that suppressed tension multiplied by hundreds and thousands and even millions in a crowded city carries the potential for psychic and social diseases. And we are familiar enough with them.

But all it took in the small confine of this office was the risky honesty and willing vulnerability of a woman who planted a seed of allowance for herself that bore its fruits in us all. Through an honest moment we felt safe to vent and not hide from the truth of our state and, in so doing, we felt free and could laugh again.

Repost from 2005.

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