Who let the dogs out?

Disclaimer: I like dogs, and I love big dogs. I don’t mean to disparage dogs in any way while I write this. I don’t know how my crazy head came up with this metaphor… here it goes.

Even after I began practicing yoga, I still had anger and irritability issues. I was grateful to not have those issues during the 75 or so minutes on my mat, but overall I was pretty irritable most of the time, mostly due to stress from my previous job and the long commute.  Being a commuter in Los Angeles, I am embarrassed to admit that I have had a few road rage encounters.  These encounters often resulted from my taking other people’s aggressive driving too personally– looking back, I was mostly the provokee, not the provoker, but stupidly I still reacted…

In hindsight, I realized this destructive behavior was the genius work of EGO. Yep, ego again. Ego that nagged ‘I-am-better-than-you. Thugs-like-you-need-to-f*@k-off!’

Road rage is scary as hell: body is literally in full fight-or-flight mode -middle finger, horn leaning, speeding, and all. Heart raced, tight chest- these encounters felt like panic attacks. My mind raced with boiling black steam of rage. My heart cried for help, but the cries are suffocated by the body in shock.

So what does all this have to do with dogs? Human’s best friend.

(Photo by: Jesse Gardner)

I realized the mind’s dynamic of  fights and confrontations are similar to when dogs fight at a dog park with their owners trying to break up the fight.  Pretend every person who goes to the dog park are peaceful and nice human beings, and their dogs are wild. When the dogs meet, they do not get along and they fight, asserting dominance over the other dog. The owners of each dog run to the scene to break up the dogs, but because they understand that the nature of the dogs the owners do not blame and fight each other. They each get their dog and the confrontation ends.

I would like to think that the dog owners represent our true nature-patient, understanding, and compassionate. The wild dogs represent our ego-perhaps confrontational, impatient, angry. When I flipped off the person who tailgated me, it was my ego reacting to that person’s ego. The angry, reactive, irritable, psychotic driver was not my true self. Even then I knew this was not me, and I would feel so angry and disappointed  at myself for committing such violent and stupid acts.

As my yoga practice continued and after I quit my job, my bouts of anger have decreased significantly. As I learned about the concept of ego, I began to understand the dynamic of anger. I still commute, but I am learning to breathe and not feed into my ego, so that it will seek out a nasty confrontation with another person’s ego.

There will still be times where I am just a grump, for no good reason. Like today, when I was waiting for some friends in front of a restaurant at a certain swanky beach town, I felt irritable in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, all the giddy tanned people with their fancy clothes and driving in circles to park their fancy cars.   I know, I am not nice.

Wait, stop!  The ‘dogs’ are coming out!

OK,  long inhale… long exhale… long inhale…long exhale…

And my friends showed up.