It was a Friday afternoon and Shya and I were driving into New York City to begin one of our Transformational weekend seminars. As is our practice, we allowed ourselves plenty of travel time in case the traffic was heavy. But on this particular day there was an accident on the road that made the trip significantly longer than usual.
Originally we had intended to drive by the hotel, check in, then continue on to the workshop location, park the car near the venue and have a quick dinner before the course. But as we were driving into the Lincoln Tunnel, which runs under the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York, it was much later than we had anticipated. It was time to reevaluate our plans.
Shya was of the opinion that we could get it all done. I thought it was safer to skip the hotel and check in after the evening session. The only problem with my idea was that when we had checked in late in the past, often the only rooms left were the noisy ones by the ice machine or the elevator. There had even been an instance when the hotel had overbooked and had absolutely no rooms left when we arrived. They sent us to a different hotel, which made for a very late evening.
Even so, I was concerned about the traffic. Going across town in Manhattan on a Friday evening can sometimes be a very slow process. We know this from experience. I thought it safest to go directly to the parking lot near the course. In fact, I was fairly sure that would be the best way to go. As we approached the end of the tunnel, we reached a crossroads–literally and figuratively. If we went to the seminar venue, we needed to turn right. If we went to them hotel first, we needed to turn left. I was concerned about our timing and so my vote was to go downtown to the seminar when Shya said to me again, “Ariel, we can get it all done. Let’s go by the hotel.”
“Okay,” I said.
In that moment I realized I was at my own personal crossroads, too. It would have been easy to go along with Shya’s plan but quietly, privately, secretly hold onto my own idea. I recognized as we made the left to head to the hotel, it would be almost natural to watch for Shya’s plan to fail. I could easily have surreptitiously looked to be right. If we turned down a block that had a traffic backup or if we missed a light and had to sit for an extra moment or two at a red light, my original idea would have proved to be the superior one. If I didn’t truly surrender to Shya’s point of view, I would mentally be rooting for a delay in order to prove that my perspective was right after all. Shya would have to lose in order for me to win. But I would lose also since I’d have to be late for our seminar in order to be right. I turned the “alive” way, going in the direction our car was traveling rather than mentally being against it. It meant that if for some unforeseen reason we didn’t have time for dinner before work, it would have been my plan, my choice, and I wouldn’t be victimized by the circumstances.
As I surrendered to going to the hotel first as though it was my idea, I intended this to be an excellent choice, and I noticed how a sense of calm settled in. I was able to enjoy the ride. I placed a hand on Shya’s leg and felt his warmth through the fabric of his pants. I watched people hurrying to their destinations. I could see lane openings ahead on my side of the car that couldn’t be seen from the driver’s seat and I acted as a co-pilot, partnering Shya in getting to our destination. I felt my shoulders and face relax. I was instantaneously in sync with Shya, the traffic, my environment and of course, my life.
It was a simple event, yet profound. I could see how in the basic enculturation process, we’re taught to either fight or give in, but rarely how to partner. Both fighting and giving in are about being right. If I didn’t wholeheartedly choose to do what I was actually doing (i.e., going to the hotel first), then I would be a victim of my life in general and of Shya in specific.
Shya and I are rather practiced at surrendering to each other. When one of us has a strong opinion for (or against) something, the other generally defers as if we were the originator of the action, not the follower. And yet, even though this has been our style of operating for many years, I had never before so clearly seen the choice, the crossroads, where one road led to tension and separation and the other led to intimacy.
Shya was accurate, by the way. Or perhaps it is more true to say we were accurate. We did have enough time to go to the hotel first and get it all done. We checked in, got a lovely room, drove downtown, enjoyed a bite to eat and arrived at the seminar relaxed and refreshed. All it took was going down the Alive road rather than the Right one. And guess what? If we had guessed incorrectly and hadn’t had time for dinner, we would have enjoyed getting hungry and having our meal later.