My electric bike was stolen out of our garage a few weeks ago. The feedback I heard was how brazen the thief was to come into the garage during the day while someone was home. This could be an easy chance to lose trust in our neighbors and neighborhood and to feel unsafe and in danger of losing more.
This is exactly what I did many years ago in my previous marriage when we lived in a higher crime area. My reaction was to get the weapons ready and install an alarm and camera system, and together with other neighbors, the mayor, and police chief we formed a sort of lynch mob. Even though the suspected thieves were now watched by everyone we felt more fearful, anxious, and unsafe. Our perception and thoughts about our neighborhood became narrowly focused on danger and the threat of crime and or violence.
What to do?
Well when I heard my bike was stolen I saw it as an opportunity to get a new bike with the changes I have been wanting for the past couple years. I enjoyed riding this bike several times a week to as much as everyday, around town it became my car replacement. After a few years of riding it I discovered that if it had suspension and a more powerful motor it’s more likely I would ride it instead of driving, so I am excited to build a replacement bike.
I also saw it as an opportunity to practice staying present, learning, and relating to the thief in a way where I keep my power and see the thief as a person who is doing his best. Maybe most importantly I practice trusting that no matter what happens I’ll be okay and that all life events are for my good.
It took some work for me to shift my perception: a few years of meditating, journaling, and questioning and challenging my thought and beliefs. For me it was a great investment that keeps paying amazing dividends, the most noticeable is that I feel much more calm and peaceful when stuff happens, I am much much less afraid to talk about my feelings, and I enjoy much more of life.
A technique that I practice to build trust starts with a Michael Beckwith saying, “I am for everything and against nothing”. I apply this mantra to every apparently negative situation and ask – how can I rewrite this as a positive statement that I can be for?
So with a stolen bike I can be for:
Using the insurance money to buy a new bike that is an upgrade.
Feeling calm and peaceful in any situation.
A deeper understanding of why people steal and feeling safe around them.
Loving my neighbors and seeing the gift that we all carry and learning to welcome everyone.
Learning to welcome might be the most important and challenging lesson.
In my old neighborhood there was an angry young man that ran with a rough crowd and seemed headed for a thug life. One afternoon he saw me riding my electric Diggler and asked (closer to a demand) to ride it. I was afraid and anxious that he would crash it and his mom would sue me, steal it, or case my garage and steal my other stuff, so I said no. This is the same kid that a couple years later was part of the crew that burglarized our house.
Life presented me with an opportunity to welcome this kid and I didn’t have the tools or know how to do so. I had the belief that certain people are undesirable and we need to get rid of them, lock them up and throw away the key. I had placed my trust in negation – giving power to external authorities to get rid of everything I was afraid of. Even if law Enforcement could lock up all the “bad” guys this wouldn’t make my fear go away. Why? Because fear comes from inside us and is triggered by our thoughts. The only true freedom is sitting with ALL our thoughts and welcoming and befriending scary thoughts. Trusting that whatever thoughts or feelings we have will pass and we are and will be okay.
With the stolen bike I saw an opportunity to befriend the guy who took it and see how I can welcome him into the community.
How can I see and welcome the gift that he carries? How can we employ the gifts of all thieves and empower them to be a beneficial presence in the world? This brings me back to the comment that the bike thief is brazen. It takes courage to steal a bike in broad daylight, especially on an island that only has four roads to get off the island. He had been spotted weeks before casing the neighborhood, this requires patience and perseverance. This man has gifts and talents, how can we welcome and encourage him to use his gifts for the good of all?
My understanding is that if we focus on punishing him we will only succeed in driving the undesirable behavior underground, he will get really good at being sneaky and stealing when no one is looking. I am reminded of the book titled “Catch your dog doing something right” or the human version “Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach“, or the famous saying an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves the whole world blind and toothless.
The weekend after my bike was stolen I went to a flea market to look for it. I felt that nervous butterflies feeling in my gut and was torn between wanting to beat up all the thieves or give them a big hug. It was early in the morning and I saw a man who seemed drunk and he was scaring a little girl. At first I felt angry and my ego wanted to beat the snot out of him, then I felt scared that I might end up like him, then I caught a glimpse of desperation in the way he carried himself. As I was walking away I remembered the quote from A Complaint Free World ,”those who are hurting hurt others” and instantly felt compassion for him and had the sense that he has probably never felt loved in his life.
Shortly after this I saw an old man in a wheelchair selling handmade rosaries. A middle aged man with his family said hello to the old man and gave him some money. The old man insisted on giving him a rosary and the younger man graciously accepted while putting a tender loving hand on his shoulder. The exchange seemed very heartfelt for both men, and was for me a demonstration of the idea that every poisonous plant grows next to a plant that carries the antidote. I let go of my desire to recover the bike and any ill will I had toward the man who stole it.
It’s been said that all human action is either an act of love or a request for love.
When someone is not acting lovingly this is my cue to be as present as I can and tune into the needs behind the action and trust that the universe is friendly and sending me this person as a gift.
So what did I do differently with this episode of bike thievery and apparent loss, what gift is here for me? I felt the feelings that came up, learned the lessons, and let go of any thoughts of dramatically rearranging my whole life to protect stuff I don’t really want or need. I kept my power and stayed true to my nature. I lost nothing and fed my soul.
Practicing Trust – For me the way into trust is finding something we can count on, something predictable that has been relied on for thousands, millions, or even billions of years.
I look to nature. I can trust that our brother the sun will rise and set every day, as he has been doing for millions of years. I trust winter and the other seasons to come every year. I trust the fall winds will be offshore and the spring winds will be onshore. I trust my grandmother the moon will bring the tide in and out every day.
I also trust human nature, the nature of humans is to do what we believe is in our best interest at the time. I trust that someone who has a doozy of a victim story will justify their own abusive behavior. In other words I trust someone who has stolen bikes is going to continue stealing bikes and believe it is the right thing to do. I can count on someone who panhandles to ask for spare change and be quite certain they are going to spend the money on alcohol or drugs. I can trust a rage-aholic to have explosive angry outbursts.
I can also trust someone who is awake and conscious and present to be calm peaceful and loving. I can trust my own true nature, that the abilities that come naturally to me are gifts. I can trust that the intuition, gut feelings, or hunches I have are just as reliable as the intelligence that guides the planets and created the universe and all life.
I recommend being in nature everyday and witnessing evidence of how trustworthy she is and counting on her to have our back and be there for us. I trust that when someone “let’s me down” it’s because my expectations are out of alignment with reality. The best way I have found to return to calm, peace, and joy is to go be in nature and watch the sun predictably and reliably set again and trust that the darkness will pass and dawn will come with yet another beautiful sunrise.