Whenever my parents come to visit us, we make a trip to Costco and use their membership card to stock up on several key items (kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, and San Pelligrino (things that are usually too expensive to buy elsewhere). Well, I am not sure if you know, but Sundays at Costco are crazy! People are literally running into each other left and right! As we were waiting in a line that zig-zagged through other lines to check out, they opened a new cash register. Enter complete chaos. About ten people and their boat-sized shopping carts started to push and run (yes, run) through the existing lines to get the chance to checkout a little faster. In the meantime, people are using firm tones as other people are bumping into them, heals are being snipped by the bottom of the carts, toes are getting run over. I saw one lady pushing her cart towards the conveyor belt while holding onto the cart behind her to prevent it from mowing her over. It was getting real. While our jaws were dropping to floor in amazement, the woman in front of us in line looked back and said, "What's happening?! Oh, they opened a new line. I am NOT participating." We all had a good chuckle. We weren't participating either. It was nice waiting in line chatting with each other, and we all thought the line was going pretty quickly anyway. I smiled and reflected on what it means to participate or not...
Every day we make decisions on how and when and where we want to participate. Sometimes we don't have much of choice or we have already made the choice and we are now participating as a result of that past-made decision like some of us have to make a morning commute, do the dishes, provide for our family, pay our taxes, etc. These are all ways in which we participate to some extent in the social system. Maybe sometimes we don't like doing those things, but we do them with relatively little complaint and experience the good stuff on the way (like the morning light in the trees on the way to work, the warm water on your hands while doing the dishes, watching your family grow with your support, or getting a good public education).
Things are always going to be happening. Life never stops happening, so it is up to us on how we want to participate.
It's so damn easy to get sucked in to the situation at hand and get frustrated or mad or anxious, whether you are having a particularly hard time with a certain yoga pose, your boss is yelling at your, or your fighting traffic to get home for a date. And sometimes it can be just easy (if you can remember, which isn't so easy) to take a step back, a deep breath in, and say, "I am not participating." I am not participating in the craziness. I am participating in the way that I want to participate. In a way that will make things go more smoothly, that will take me where I want to go with less stress.