Yesterday I escaped the cold and popped into Balthazar to grab a cappuccino. I was in a hurry and felt relieved to see that the small, cheerful bakery was nearly empty. With only one woman in front of me, I knew I'd be able to get in and out in a New York minute. As I waited in line I couldn't help but eye the heart-shaped linzer cookies stacked on a tray in front of me. Dusted in powdered sugar with their glistening bright-red jam, they beckoned me to take them home.
Staring at those gorgeous cookies, lost in thought, I was unaware of the scene unfolding at the cashier. The woman in front of me was quickly proving herself to be a high-maintenance nightmare. "No, I wanted 2 sugar, 2 strawberry, 6 pistachio and 5 chocolate. You don't have strawberry? But she said you had strawberry donuts. Oh well, then fine...I'll take 3 sugar, 5 pistachio, 2 chocolate and some croissants". Her voice grated on my nerves. She barked her order and seemed to lack tact or class (or perhaps a little of both). I immediately lumped her into the pile where I put all unconscious, obnoxious people and was about to give her my standard "I want you to know just how much I disapprove of your behavior" stare. The minutes were adding up and I reassessed just how badly I wanted my beloved cappuccino.
The pros (a jolt of caffeine whose taste would transport me to Paris) outweighed the cons (being in the same room with this woman). Here was my opportunity to practice yoga and so I did the only thing I could manage in that moment; I breathed. Focusing on my breath, I concentrated on sutra 1.33: "By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind retains its undisturbed calmness." Hey, it was worth a shot (of espresso).
I stood there breathing and trying to soften in the presence of the wicked and felt grounded by my efforts. There was nothing I could do about the fact that she was still ordering baked goods with an air of superiority. The only thing I could control was my reaction. I chose to disregard her and fixate, instead, on those supremely divine linzer cookies. I thought about Valentine's Day and let my imagination take me to my kitchen where I dreamed of making chocolate truffles dipped in cocoa powder. I melted and found my own inner calm by redirecting my attention (sutra 2.33).
As the cashier rang up this wicked woman, she caught a glimpse of me standing there with my lone cappuccino and stopped what she was doing. Moving like the wind, she started putting various goodies into a small bag: a few Madeleine's, a couple of donuts and one of those beautiful heart-shaped linzer cookies. I held my breath. Could it be? Was I about to be rewarded for good behavior...for practicing my yoga in the face of skin-crawling adversity? The cashier handed me the small bag and said "Thank you so much for being so patient and kind. Normally people start yelling and complaining, but you were just so patient. Thank you."
You're welcome. Thank you, chère Balthazar and you crazy New Yorker (who, by the way, hopped into her chauffeured car after I held the door for her, which of course she refused to acknowledge) for allowing me to practice my yoga. The cookie was a delicious reminder to look at each obstacle as an opportunity to practice.