Last weekend I was mugged.
Sorry to alarm you. Rest assured, I am fine – with the exception of some anxiety around the ‘hood, a maxed-out adrenal system from the stress, a sore shoulder from wrestling with the mugger, a cut and bruised finger (see photo of fingers) from my purse being yanked out of my hand, and very sore hamstrings from chasing down my mugger barefoot on pavement (see photo of broken sandals). Help in many forms arrived quickly. Although we did not catch my mugger, we recovered my purse and all of its contents, except the cash and some chocolate. The situation made for a late night, yet I was able to wake up early the next morning, enjoy teaching meditation and yoga classes, and spend time with yoga friends.
Lots to be grateful for.
A few things strike me about the situation: my reaction of fighting back; my impulse to ask (and scream and yell) for help; and my ability to completely forgive my mugger and wish him well. With a smile. A giggle, even.
Here’s how it went down…
At about 11pm Saturday night, I returned to D.C. from a week in Tennessee. Shortly after midnight, I left my apartment building to take a gift of local Nashville artisan chocolate (58% dark) to a friend. I was carrying the gift bag and a small canvas purse in my hand. Less than 1/2 block from my doorway, two chubby, sweet-faced black youths approached. One lunged at me and grabbed my purse. After a struggle, he ran off with it.
His friend kept strolling slowly along.
I kicked off my sandals and took off after the thief. As I passed the friend, I punched him HARD in the arm and vented “F*** YOU.”
I think I heard him respond, “I didn’t do anything, m’am.”
I chased the mugger for a few blocks, screaming for help the entire time. People perked up, but not quite in time. I lost him as he disappeared around a corner. Thankfully, a neighbor saw which direction he’d headed. I gave up my pursuit in exchange for calling the police. They came quickly, neighbors offered support, everyone was great. After much report-taking, one of the officers and I traced the mugger’s steps and recovered my belongings except the chocolate and about $60. Overall, it could have been worse.
Fighting back felt great. Wrestling, screaming, punching, running. Paying attention to details served well. Following, searching, finding. Asking for help was a huge relief. Not-alone, cared for.
Still, what to do with the mixed emotions and adrenaline at the end of the night’s events?
Yoga and related practices, I should add. I was wired trying to fall asleep, so I accessed my Somatic Experiencing resources, laying flat on my back with my hands on my hips, breathing deeply and settling myself a bit. After a little while, I was able to turn on my side, curl up, and drift off.
Before falling asleep, though, I giggled at a vision of this young punk, at home with the video game, chili dog and Big Gulp he just bought with my cash…and digging into a big bar of frou-frou artisan chocolate! He’d be ruined forever. I could see it – the next day, his friends offer him some M&Ms and he’s like, “Ick, gross, no way.”
The morning after the mugging, I taught my weekly meditation and yoga classes. For the guided meditation, we practiced an adaptation of Buddhist Metta. “May all beings be well,” we inhaled. “May all beings be free of suffering,” we exhaled. I included my mugger and his friend in those wishes. After meditation, a student noted, “It can be hard to wish well for those who’ve harmed me.” I shared that the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (and a great therapist) helped me understand that people who cause pain are most likely in pain themselves. If I meditate on their well-being and direct compassion toward them, perhaps they will hurt less and therefore hurt others less frequently.
We continued with a set of Asana and Pranayama, focusing on alternate nostril breathing. I read a story from Integral Yoga’s Swami Ashokananda, where his practice of this calming breath helped him navigate a potentially serious conflict with perfect peace and ease. These stories motivate me to continue my yoga and other balancing practices no matter what.
It was a powerful “morning after.”
Since the mugging, as I walk my sore body cautiously and anxiously around my ‘hood, I keep my eyes open for my attackers. If I see them, I am to contact the case detective. And I hope I do. Because I have another vision – as part of his punishment, my mugger must do 90 days of yoga classes with me. I sincerely believe in yoga’s power to transform harmful little punks into helpful human beings.
I believe because it worked for me.
I can’t be sure why this kid stole from me. But I can guess that he’s in some kind of emotional pain – as I was, for decades. Through yoga and other tools of recovery, I have changed. Today, someone asked me, “What keeps you happy?” and I answered, “The chance to help others by sharing the things that have helped me heal.” Opportunities to practice Karma Yoga keep me happy.
So who knows – maybe this kid and I will share yoga and chocolate and there will be one less hurting/hurtful human being on the streets. More will be revealed.
Wishing all beings peace, joy, love and light.