Monday, January 26, 2009

Yin and Yang: Triumph and Humiliation

I had to go grocery shopping today.

Don't know if you know this about me, but I hate shopping. Grocery shopping is the worst, but one must do it, because one must eat.

I hate the lights, the music, the crowd, the unending choices. But most of all the uncaring bagger person who always bruises my fruit and mooshes my bread. I walk out of there feeling like every cell in my body is vibrating in hypersensitivity. I just wanna get in, run through, and get the heck out.

But today would be different! I would stay present. Not be affected by the bazillion ridiculous choices we have of everything. I wouldn't become frustrated with those around me. I would not become angry with the bagger lady. I would try.

And today, I noticed something as I wound my way around, trying not to forget toilet paper and trash stickers (another post all together).

There is weird balance of flow and stagnation between people in a grocery store.

Like water in a creek.

Some people are like big rocks, completely unaware that they have positioned themselves to take up most of the aisle, slowing the flow. Sometimes they just position the cart so that it takes up the shelving area you want to get to. Like a couple of branches at the side of the creek that have caught leaves in their twining arms. You can eventually get what you want, but it takes some time.

There are others who whip through the aisles, either forcing you to the side like whitewater or allowing you to catch the wave they produced by riding right behind them and moving with their flow.

Flow and tranquility. Movement and stillness. Yin and yang.

I wasn't grocery shopping anymore! I was watching flow, part of flow. It was tai chi!

I waited in line. The aisles next to me flowed. Mine was stagnant.

Flow! Stagnation! More complementary opposites! Yin and yang. I was in my element!

I watched...waited. Gently began to place items on the conveyor belt. Feeling each item carefully, not breaking the flow of this experience.

With each item I lovingly placed on the item, with each scanner beep I heard as my carefully chosen item rolled down the conveyor belt there was a slight tightening of my existence. What's this? The flow became constricted. The coherence was disrupted. I looked up.

Into the eyes of my nemesis.

The bagger lady.

She was trained to place yin and yang in each and every bag. A can of tomato sauce on bread. Delicately ripened bananas wedged under a box of crackers and cereal. All the while staring right into a shopper's eyes. Almost in challenge.

There are times when you can't watch flow. Times when you can't just move with flow. You have to create it. You have to be the rudder in the stream. You have to guide yourself, move yourself in this water.

I grabbed the pears from her blunt-knuckled hands and gently placed them with the apples. I took out the soup can and put it in with the box of cereal.

"Yin and yang may not be in each bag," I told her gently, not realizing I had embodied the accent of Shaolin monk Kwai Chang Caine. "Yin bag, yang bag: all go in same cart." I said, softly. "Balance." I nodded to the bags and then gently bowed to her. "Have good day."

I walked slowly behind my grocery cart feeling at peace. I made it through. Not only was I not stressed out, but this time my fruit and bread were saved. I was triumphant.

Until I realized I had forgotten trash stickers and had to get back in line.

"Just trash stickers," I said quietly to the cashier. I glanced down at the bagger lady. She held my glance, then rolled her eyes and moved to the fruit and cans of the next line.

Balance, I thought. I was triumphant. I am now humiliated.

"Have good day," I said quietly to myself as I walked out.


  1. As you say, human beings have choices about how they perceive and think about the world. Your decisions shape what you see and how you feel. You can alter sensations and shift your mindset anytime you choose. What stops you?

  2. Maybe I don't understand the intent of your post, Liara, but one isn't ever stopped from choosing, right? You can even make the choice not to choose!