Biking from a side street onto a main road this morning, I decided to use the pedestrian crosswalk instead of waiting for an opening in the traffic.

I was startled to hear a man yell angrily out his truck window, “Bikers are supposed to follow the same rules as traffic!” He gunned his engine and drove off, and I kept riding and found myself bursting into tears.

Before our interaction, I’d been singing a meditative song and enjoying the morning sunshine. I had been looking with love on the neighborhood’s vegetable gardens and flowering trees, enjoying a break from work and housework. The motorist’s angry energy had just the affect he intended—I felt ashamed.

But here is the thing about living with an undefended heart—I am open. I am not spending my energy deciding when to be open and when to be closed. I can’t experience the beauty of the vegetable gardens without also feeling the sting of this stranger’s anger. I used to tell myself a story, something like, “That guy doesn’t matter. I’m not going to let him get to me.” What I found was that it takes more energy to not care than to allow myself a few moments of sadness. And that sadness was for a lot of things—his obvious unhappiness, what I read in the news this morning, the pain of life.

I was talking with a client group this week about how all of us have invisible “frontpacks” that contain our past traumas, anxieties, and stories. When we’re interacting with one another, those frontpacks are taking up a lot of space between us. When they bump against one another, it can be surprising or painful. If we don’t recognize what’s going on, we yell out our car windows. Or avoid, triangulate, pontificate, shop, drink, and all sorts of other coping behaviors to keep from feeling what we feel.

Richard Rohr says, “The soul can’t be offended.” That angry motorist didn’t offend my soul—I won’t let him in that far. But I’ve learned that I can feel something deeply in the moment and not stay in that place. My soul whispers, “Go ahead—be sad or angry or mystified or lonely or ecstatic. Let your freak flag fly. The essential you can handle it.”

So I cried for a few minutes (it felt really good in that way crying does sometimes), wiped the tears from beneath my sunglasses, and said a prayer for that motorist:


Love, surround him.

Give him such curiosity about the world,

such wonder at being in it,

such ecstasy at being loved,

that he’s too happy to yell out his window.

And yes, maybe put a really, really slow semitruck

in front of him on the freeway.



P.S. Denying ourselves a moment to feel things like sadness or anger can be a form of spiritual bypassing, which is a phenomenon I’ve become more aware of in the last decade. Lissa Rankin has some great things to say about this, and I’ve put together a little summary that you can download here.