Dealing with Those (Other) Imperfect Drivers

Summary: A meditator asks Sathi, “How can we be compassionate when we see drivers putting others in danger?”

Sathi approaches this situation from a wider angle looking at situations such as with family and neighbors, framing
it from the perspective that none of us is perfect, so we cannot expect others to be perfect. He shows where the frustration and anger come from; a point-of-view that says we are perfect and can judge others.

By comparison, he compares situations where we are more forgiving and compassionate. When working with children, or when working with others who do not have the same abilities as ourselves.

Sathi also offers a useful suggestion, thanking the person we are focusing our anger/frustration at, for showing us what we don’t want to be.

Being mindful of this helps us strengthen our minds by increasing our compassion.

A conversation follows exploring:

  • How this is different from being passive/aggressive.
  • When waiting for the emotions to cool is an excellent strategy.
  • The phrase “I am perfect” is really ego and part of our conditioning.
  • How fear or danger is often the root cause of anger.

[A Tibetian bell sounds] [Sathi] Any suggestions for the discussion today?

[Meditator] I found that it is very hard for me to be compassionate toward other drivers on the road. Especially those who that I feel are not driving not as careful lately. And they put others in danger.

[Another meditator] It is not just you but everyone.

[Sathi] I hope you heard the question. Let’s think about that question from a wide-angle. Because I don’t think it is only with driving. If we take that as an example, and many times you may have experienced this: You are very angry at somebody who happens to drive in front of you, and they drive very slow. Then you are blaming and thinking all of those bad thoughts about this driver and complaining.

Then, all a sudden you realize that this is someone who is sick or very old or something which makes you sympathize afterward. “Oh no, I was wrong.”

Until you come to that moment. How much you are cooking yourself in your car with anger and frustration and all of those. But, all of that blame just dropped after you realized [some other details] about this person.

Again, once you realize [details about] this person, why did you let it go down? What happened to you?

Now, think about the opposite side. You are noticing somebody is on the phone. Not someone who is old or sick, somebody young and on the phone. Definitely your reaction is going to be much more bigger. You will probably honk or give a bad look. You will tell that person, “Hey, you are doing something wrong. You should not be on the phone and driving slow and blocking me by being in front of me.”

Think about these two different reactions and how these reactions affect you. How you are acting differently. What is behind this?

In the first case, you are sympathizing because you think this person is not capable of doing this as me. This person deserves sympathy Because this person is not capable. That is why you are feeling bad for thinking such thoughts and you are blaming yourself.

But, the other person, the young person who is on the phone. You are thinking, this person is not supposed to do this. This person knows exactly what they are doing. That is why you are giving them a bad look. You wish maybe you should honk at this one. How come are these people driving this way on the road?

Simply, you want to punish this person and tell this person [they] are wrong.

This is not only happening while driving. This is happening in your home too. This is even happening with your neighbors. If you happen to see others doing something wrong [even though they] know they should not be doing it. They know exactly what they are doing.

Then, you blame them, you want to punish them, you want them to feel bad. You want to [have your] anger be heard. You want them to be defeated because they were doing something while knowing [it is wrong].

In the other case, when someone is not capable, when little kids do something wrong, you are apologizing right away. You forgive them right away because they are being kids. They are not supposed to know.

But, if the same mistake was made by an adult then you are blaming that person.

As a meditator, if you look at this situation, you can see how self-centered we are. By being a self-centered person, we pass our judgment by saying, “This person is supposed to know what they are supposed to do.” or, “This person is not capable enough.”

That is the same thing that happens with kids vs. someone who is older. Or somebody that is not physically capable. We are sympathetic to those by judging, by thinking, they are not capable enough.

There are many young people, but mentally they are not well. When somebody loses their mindfulness. You have many family members who are not mindful all the time. They make mistakes. Mistakes can happen. There are a lot of babies in adult bodies. [A chuckle is heard.] Sometimes we become babies.

Sometimes you lose yourself, your attention, your mindfulness. Sometimes even you blame yourself, “Oh, I did not know. I need to be more focused.”

What’s behind it? There is a huge part of us that is thinking, “I am perfect.”

When you think you are perfect you don’t have a chance to make a mistake. When you think you know everything that you are supposed to know, you don’t have a mistake. All the time blame goes to others because they haven’t informed you totally. Or, they haven’t given you all the details or directions. That is why you made a mistake.

How many times have you sat back and said, “Oh, I didn’t know that.” Because you thought others are supposed to give us all the details.

But the moment you start to think, “I am not perfect and others are not perfect” what happens? You don’t let this anger dominate yourself, blame others, or punish others. Because you know you are not perfect and others are not perfect.

But, as long as you think, drivers should be perfect drivers, since they carrying a driver’s license. They have no chance to make any mistakes on the road. But, if you think, “They are not in the right mind all the time. They are not perfect.” Then, you are learning to forgive yourself and learning to forgive others.

Compassion arises from knowing that you are not perfect and they are not perfect. When you don’t know that they are not perfect then there is no chance for compassion to arise. When you cultivate and practice compassion it is based on imperfections. That allows you to remove those mistakes and know more. It helps you to get perfect. But, being perfect is not part of the pride. It is not a reason to be prideful. It has to be a humble action. You are noticing it humbly, “Okay, I’m doing it well.” It is a reason to be humble, not to be proud.

As a person who has been faced with the situation, or, as a person who is angry, who has experienced anger toward those drivers, to their family members, what do we do?

Every time you can remind yourself, “I am also not perfect.” “I’m not a perfect driver.” “I’m not a perfect person.” Therefore, others are not perfect sometimes. When I am correct, I should recognize it and forgive them. You are not justifying your anger by bringing up such thoughts.

If I go back to our original example of being a bad driver. Often people honk. Then, then the other person, who made the mistake, acts vulnerable. Act defeated. Hiding. They don’t want somebody to honk and they know they made a mistake. When you [honk] the other person acts vulnerable.

Naturally, we know what is right and wrong. But, what makes us do this wrong thing? Because we get caught up into something negative. Either we lose our mindfulness, that is why you make mistakes. Or, you get caught up to some other emotions, that’s why you are on the phone. Or, you are caught up in your dreams so you forget how fast you should drive. Or, you are caught with frustration, that is why you drive faster. Or, you drive crazy because you got caught up with your aggressiveness putting other people at risk.

With compassion, you realize when somebody gets caught up in certain emotions, they lose themselves. They become somebody else. [You realize] “That happens to me too!
When I happen to get caught up in certain emotions, I lose myself.”

For a mindful person you realize, “If I happen to get caught up in the same emotion, this is the person who I am going to be. I’m going to be an unmindful person.” You are reminding yourself not to get caught up in the same emotion and continue your life as that type of person.

That can be a good lesson for a mindful person to learn from other’s mistakes. Then that person is being your teacher. This unmindful driver is being your teacher. Reminding you who you could be if you get into the same mindset.

Instead of blaming this person, you will thank the person for giving you a lesson. [Thinking to yourself,] “I don’t want to be a person like you.”

When someone is screaming and being angry and expressing their anger at your family or as your neighbor. You should thank that person, “I’m thanking you for showing the nastiness. I don’t want to be a nasty person like you. Thank you [chuckling] for being you and showing this negative side that I might be.”

Imagine, if you are a nasty person is it a gift you are giving yourself, being nasty, being ugly? No. As a mindful person, you realize this. When somebody happens to do something foolish at your home, do you think this is a good reason for you to be angry and scream at that person? Being a bad person for that person’s foolishness?

You are better to thank that person, “If I happen to be like you, then I am going to be a fool. Therefore, thank you for showing this badness, this negativity.”

What’s behind this? Wiseness and compassion are protecting you from the danger. Your mindfulness will show you how not to be this [unpleasant] person. That is the mindful way of recognizing [dealing with] these drivers.

At the same time, recognize, your anger cannot change those people. Those people are there all the time. Your anger won’t be a lesson for those people to change themselves. Only you are being a bad person to yourself and others by being bad.

Any thoughts?

[Meditator] These two states, where you can be angry at somebody or say thank you. Often times you feel like, get this passive/aggressive. You don’t say anything and you are smiling on the outside but [group laughing] you are not truly thankful. That is very hard to get out of, avoid, it is natural to be that way. That’s equally bad for a person. Actually for the other person too, because they know, right? That’s kind of hard not to.

[Another Meditator]So, maybe you don’t say thank you to them personally. [More laughter] Say thank you to yourself. [Laughter] [Another Meditator] I’m thinking that next time my partner is angry with me I should tell her “Thank you for showing me what I don’t want to be like.” [Much laughter] Maybe not.

[Sathi] I’m sure you might make her more angry. [Laughing] [Another meditator] Sometimes I feel when I do that though I withdraw a little bit, to give myself time, and I don’t respond in that angry moment. But, I’m still fuming, so it takes me some time to get through it.

[Meditator] Like I say, I’m losing sleep already. The next day I’ll write an email and then wait a couple of hours and re-read it.

[Sathi] Most of the time, if I go back to that same example, we think it is better to express our full emotions. But, what happens, when you express your emotions you may create an environment that is worse. You may create more trouble.

It’s difficult to hold it, but it is okay to hold it a little while until you make sure if you should say something or not. A good example is when you get a bad email, you are writing an email back, then without sending it you take a few hours and re-read it without the same emotion. Then you will realize, “Oh, I don’t have to say that. I shouldn’t say this. This is my reaction.”

Blindly we think, “I should express myself.” Sometimes expressing yourself is a weakness. You have to be mindful, “Okay, what am I doing here?” Come back to yourself and don’t hide you from yourself. You have to look, “What’s underneath here? Why am I struggling here?”

Simply check that door, and then walk away. Even walk away from ourselves. That is how you are keeping your weakness to growing. Giving opportunities to your weakness to multiple. Don’t hide from yourself. You need to be really open to yourself and see.

Once you are able to see yourself clearly, then you will know, what should I express and what should I not express? There is not point in expressing this part. Then, [after being mindful of who you are] you will have a clear picture of yourself. If there is a wound that you need to put medicine on, that is the wound you need to realize.

But, if there is a wound that you really can’t put medicine on, and you need to seek other’s help, then you should go to other [people].

[Meditator] You said at the beginning something I couldn’t resonate with, [the phrase] “I think I’m perfect.” That’s not a thought that I have practiced often. But, it is interesting to bring that up. That is an underlining identity in our world. And the reason that we probably reach for judgment because underneath all of this we think we are actually perfect. We have all the answers. The way I look at it, going back to the passive/aggressive position, which could be thought that way, is I just back off because I know that something is not right. I don’t feel right. As I explore that part of myself, the wound is inside of myself. But, very rarely do I go to the “I am perfect.” [Laughing]

So, I have to look at that a little more. I think that is part of the conceit in the world. Our ego that is predominant in our conditioning.

[Sathi] The people who are doing mistakes around our lives, they are being good teachers. They are showing our level of compassion. “Can I tolerate this weakness? Can I handle these types of situations? Can I still remain as myself when somebody is doing these mistakes?”

If you think my world is perfect, as long as others are perfect, then, where is our energy? Who are you? Then you are okay as long as others are okay. If you can still be okay when others are not okay, that’s where you find your energy. Your strength.

[Meditator] You said in the beginning, “Strengthen our minds.” I think in the past we strengthened our minds by saying we were perfect. So, when you say, strengthen your mind, is it to be fluid?

[Sathi] Strengthening your mind means that you are developing the skills of tolerations, compassion, the ability to handle all these weaknesses. That makes your mind stronger.

[Meditator] Not being carried away by our emotions. Being able to see emotions arise. That’s only true practicing whether it is reacting. To me, as long as I am angry, my focus is out there on them. Bringing it back here and saying, “What does that thought mean about me?” I remember, it is the same of what you teach the children, that our greatest friend is that person who makes us most angry. Because it is teaching you something about yourself. I think it takes presence of mind to be aware of my emotions that are taking me outside of myself, focusing on out there, and saying, “No, what is this teaching me about myself?”

That takes a presence of mind to do that. It doesn’t mean that I don’t see someone doing something that is harmful. But, I can let go of this judgment and see myself. It takes humility too, I think. To say, “What does this teach me about me that I want to react to someone else’s behavior?”

Usually, this is because I have some of the [behavior] in me. When was the last time did something when I was driving. Maybe I didn’t see a car and pulled in front of them. Am I willing to acknowledge my own things.

[Sathi] Think about it. When you happen to make mistakes you want us to understand it, you want us to forgive you, and [group laughter] you don’t want us to honk at you. Just realizing it and

[Meditator] If you honk at me I just wave. [group laughing] I’m very mindful. It’s totally my fault.

[Meditator] I’ve been wrestling with this in my mind, that to strengthen the mind in the past is to feel more perfect. That is a paradox because that is not true. [Sathi affirms.] [Meditator] The strong mind is really having an awareness of my shortcomings. Me too. I too.

[Meditator] Which of us walks freely. Easily without shortcomings, Imperfections. It’s okay.

[Meditator] What I struggle with the most is trying to be mindful when I’m scared or from a place of fear. Like I know there is a guy coming from back there that is feeling like a maniac. And you like, adrenaline, AHHgh, like it is very hard to go all the way to being compassionate to “These assholes.” I think that is my biggest struggle.

[Meditator] I think an angry reaction is sometimes covering our own fear. I’m scared to death and what do I want to do.

[Sathi] From the other side, your angry reaction is giving other people more energy. Giving approval. That is where we have to be careful. Actually, I have been in situations before but I have found that the best way is to give that person space.

[Mediator] Absolutely. What can I do to reduce my fear rather than umppph,

[Meditator] probably save in a ditch. [laughter] [Meditator] That’s true. It’s not just the driving, it’s all of my life. Thank you teaching me this moment.

[Sathi] Thank you for showing my fear.

[Meditator] For showing my fear and showing my wanting to go to judgment and assuming something that [inaudible] Maybe that speeding person is rushing to the hospital because he just got a horrible [Sathi: heart attack] because his wife is dying or something. I don’t know. So why judge that persona and say, “You are a bad person for driving that way.” It is scaring me and dangerous, but… I don’t know what is inside of you. So, I just put it out there, seeing myself. It is a good feature.

[Meditator] What is that story about the guy is sleeping at night and sees a rope and he thinks it is a snake, or something like that. Do you remember that story? There’s a story about a man who is scared to death because he is walking down a path and there is a rope laying on the path and he thinks it’s a snake. But, as he gets closer he realizes it is a rope. So, his perception changes when he realizes what it really is.

[Meditator] Perceptions of things. We don’t know.

[Sathi] I think we can continue this with tea. It is good to see all of you. Yes.

Recorded on December 14, 2019, at the Meditation Center in Chaska, Minnesota.

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