Quiet and still in an auto rickshaw in Delhi

In my first blog post, I shared my goal of living out loud – exposing myself – and learning from this exposure.   Last month exposed me, AKA “kicked my ass” in many ways!  On May 1st as I was welcoming guests for my mom’s 70th birthday party, my two precious golden-doodle puppies bolted out of our front gate and got hit by a speeding van.  24 hours later my live-with boyfriend and I broke up.  I spent the next 3 weeks visiting Holden (boy pup) in ICU praying for him to stay alive, trying to help Phoebe (girl pup) recover from her injuries and sadness about her brother.  I was trying to understand why my life-partner was suddenly not my life-partner.  I had to find a new apartment and I felt like an utter failure at 40 years old.  I needed to run my business and be on for my clients and team…I barely got through it.

But I did get through it.  That’s just it.  It’s now June 14th and May is over.

At 40, I’m now a believer that time does heal.  But being patient sucks!  I’ve never been good with patience so I’ve had to learn to cope.  One of my strategies is creating and practicing mantras.

Quiet in rickshaw” is the mantra that helped me survive May.  It’s a shortened version of “Catherine, you’re in an auto rickshaw in a crazy intersection in Delhi and you’re quiet and calm.”  Mantras with that many words just don’t work; so I cut it down to “quiet in rickshaw.” The two key words “quiet” and “rickshaw” take me to the core idea – I have the power to calm myself in the most chaotic and stressful of situations.

In 2005 I went to India to visit a dear friend who was living in Delhi.  My friend was in the process of “eradicating his ego.”  He shaved his head.  He lived in a rooftop studio apartment with a hot plate and only cold water, and he slept on a yoga mat on the concrete floor. I was visiting from San Francisco where I was steeped in a competitive corporate career culture, surrounded by peers who made millions in various start-ups, high tech developments, etc.  

On my trip, we spent a lot of time in auto rickshaws moving through the city of Delhi.  If you’ve been there, you’ll understand what I mean when I tell you that driving, walking, literally moving through the streets and alleys of Delhi can be one of the most terrifying and chaotic experiences in your life.  Everything in motion (bikes, rickshaws, pedestrians, cows, monkeys, small children) goes any and all directions possible and at speeds demanding collision.

My friend and I struggled in our transportation experiences – I would melt down with anxiety and lack of control, and he wanted me to find my center discover joy in the moment. I quickly learned that my high level of anxiety and impatience and my ego was clashing with my friend’s mission.

When talking about Ego, I embrace Freud’s model.  Id, ego and super-ego are the three parts of the psychic apparatus defined in Sigmund Freud’s structural model of the psyche.

To help you understand my friend’s goal:  In some forms of meditation in Asian religions, egolessness is a mental state that is sought after. While at the basic levels, meditation is geared toward relaxation, the practice of advanced meditators may be aimed toward the purpose of dividing one from their awareness of “self,” to a certain degree, and for a certain time. The ritual and religious treatment of meditation functions so that the individual learns to take the practice with seriousness; learning to gradually control their degree of relaxation such that undesired and harmful schisms do not occur to the psyche.

In my case, these “harmful schisms to the psyche” include the anxious feelings of losing control and getting angry with my friend.  Or cursing out the poor rickshaw driver.

Enlightenment is a state of being in which delusion has been overcome, abandoned and is absent from the mind. Mindfulness, which is an attentive awareness of the reality of things (especially of the present moment) is an antidote to delusion and is considered as such a ‘power’.

If I knew in 2005 what I know now, I could have used my mantra and avoided these meltdowns.  I could have embraced the power of self-control via “quiet in rickshaw” and enjoyed these diverse experiences and even find humor in them.  After all, it is pretty hilarious to see cows and monkeys competing with mopeds in major city streets.  Instead, I was deluded with the belief that I could find control in situations where control wasn’t possible.

My friend has long hair and lives in Atlanta, married, with two gorgeous daughters.  He is a gift to me and lives deep inside my spirit.  His patience with me taught me to believe in myself and I’m truly grateful.

We had many debates about his goal of “murdering” his ego.  I continue to be firm in my position.  It’s not the extinction of egos that creates peace.  Rather, it’s the practice, the determination, and the belief in one’s self-ability that creates peace.

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