Oct 21 2013
“Without difficulties, life would be like a stream without rocks and curves – about as interesting as concrete. Without problems, there can be no personal growth, no group achievement, no progress of humanity. But what mattes about problems is what one does with them.”
â€• Benjamin Hoff, The Te Of Piglet
On September 11, 2013, I was walking a few blocks from the downtown Oakland BART station when two guys ran up on me, flashed a gun and shouted, “Give me your money!” I was quite taken aback and tossed them my old cell phone. Luckily, they were satisfied with the beat up old phone. Not much street value to say the least. I was fortunate that they didn’t use physical force and seemed to be more interested in getting a quick turnaround on some of my goods. As startled as I was, it could have been worse. I lost an old phone with a weak battery and a broken case. I rationalized that I’d been living in Oakland for over 13 years, and was somewhat fortunate that this was my first mugging.
And besides, I’m a yoga therapist. I should be able to roll with this punch, right?
No quite!! It took me almost a week to realize that this incident had impacted my sleep patterns. My amygdala was on hyper alert mode and would not calm down. It was even more than just being afraid or having an increased startle response. That part of my brain was ON and would not turn OFF.
I took a couple weeks off from some of my teaching obligations and social work jobs and increased my time on the yoga mat and acupuncture table.
What the muggers stole from me:
1) An old iPhone with little street value
2) Temporarily, they stole my trust in strangers
3) Temporarily, they took my ability to get a good night’s sleep
What the mugging incident essentially gave to me:
1) A reinforcing of my belief that our society is very unjust and that, given the opportunity, MOST thieves would rather get a pay check than have to live a life of crime.
2) A stronger love of Oakland and the people with whom I coexist. Most of the peeps here are very kind and look out for each other. The woman that helped me afterwards proves that!
3) A reminder of my strong desire to contribute to this world and make it a better place for all
4) My belief that alternative health like yoga and acupuncture are lifesavers is stronger than ever!
5) My gratitude to all of you who showed me in so many different ways that you care about me and that indeed “we are all just walking each other home.”
Thanks to this incident, my commitment to my health and well-being is stronger, and my yoga practice deeper. It does sadden me that we have created a society where many people do not have job opportunities. Oakland has earned the title of the ‘robbery capital of the nation’ because of this inequity. While I am more cautious when I walk or bike the streets of my beloved city, I refuse to let it take away from all that I appreciate of this city. And I am always sure to check out the daily dose of GOOD NEWS that happens in Oakland to keep my outlook 'fair and balanced.'
I am grateful for the woman who lent me her phone so I could call the police to report the mugging. I am grateful for the quick response of the Oakland Police and how thorough they were with the investigation. I am so blessed to have people who reassured me during the more distressing two weeks after the incident.
Three weeks after the incident, I held my yoga therapy office space’s OPEN HOUSE and I was so touched by the 30 people who came from the different parts of my life: some yoga students, some friends, some colleagues…all kind and caring people who believe in community. Shortly after the mugging, I shed some tears of sadness.
But those tears – and that mugging – turned to tears of joy the night of the open house.
I have chosen to serve in an urban jungle and that is where I will be for a while longer. I have forgiven the two men who stole from me and have offered them many a heartfelt OM in hopes that they find a better way to coexist with those of us that live peaceful lives.
As John Lennon, sings in his eternally profound song, IMAGINE:
“You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one. Someday I hope you will join us, and the world will be as one.”