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1. Through the windows I see the waiting room is crowded.  I step over a bicycle sprawled across the entrance and make my way  inside to shelter from the wind and rain. By now, we realise that the scheduled passenger ferry will be  cancelled due to high winds. A mixture of irritation and resignation. This happens often enough for us to be accustomed. A young man in a high visibility jacket appears to tell us that he has ordered a courtesy bus to take us to the other ferry and leaves.  A man – the owner of the hastily abandoned bike – has missed this message because he has been having a noisy conversation on his mobile phone. He is clearly under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both. He begins staggering about and noisily haranguing the other passengers, who do their best, with bowed heads, to ignore him. He staggers out and disappears for a few minutes ( presumably to try and find out what is happening) and comes back to announce what we already know, that the ferry is cancelled!  He still knows nothing about the bus, so someone fills him in. He goes back outside and  lights a cigarette. And then he comes back inside with it!..

2. The train is packed, just enough room to sit. Bags need to be stored overhead, knees and feet and elbows tucked in. The woman opposite is listening to music on her iPod and reading a magazine. We all know what she is listening to (Adele) because it is so loud it sounds like she is playing it through speakers. I mean it is REALLY loud! Not just the normal iPod loud. There are two other women in the same group of seats, we exchange glances , one of them tuts her disapproval, both bow their heads and read. I hope that she may be getting off at Paisley. Not too long to wait. But she doesn’t!…

3. A rare visit to the cinema to see a much anticipated film. The theatre is busy but not full, so we choose seats as close to middle/middle as we can. A group of teenagers sit behind us. They are talking and laughing and using their smartphones through the adverts. They are talking and laughing and using their smartphones through the trailers. But that’s OK cos the film hasn’t started yet. Oh yes it has and… yup – they are talking and laughing and using their smartphones. And they’re not getting any quieter…

4. A visit to  Edinburgh. We’ve been at some yoga thing. We are on one of those streets just off the royal mile. Shops selling tartan tat and cool funky clothes and stuff you didn’t know you wanted. A young couple. Tourists (French?) are walking on the other side of the street looking lost, looking at map the wrong way up. A group of young men  approach them from the other direction.They begin to pick on the them , pushing them, grabbing at their bags, name calling…

5. A quiet lunch break at work. I am on my own in the communal lunch area in our open plan reception area, but out of view behind a screen. Two of my colleagues are in the reception area chatting about something or other, and then I hear my name mentioned. They are talking about something I have left for someone to read which I appear to  have mistakenly left  in the wrong place. One of the colleagues says (about me)  “she’s a bloody weirdo!”…

The point of this is not some kind of “weirdo” therapy ;-) These are all real situations where I have felt I had to challenge what I believed to be anti-social  behaviour. But it’s something that doesn’t sit that easily with me. For all sorts of reasons.

Firstly, there’s the compassionate view. I practice Metta Bhavana. The Buddhist practice of loving kindness. This practice involves extending compassion and loving kindness to myself, to loved ones, to aquaintances, and also to those with whom I have a difficult relationship. My enemies. People I don’t like. Maybe those who I might judge as anti-social?

Then there is the path of the yogi. The non-judgmental accepting yogi.The yogi who practices non-attachment.  The yogi who practices ahimsa (non-harming) The peace loving yogi who commits to finding creative ways of managing conflict.

Then of course there’s the possibility of getting my head kicked in.

Or worse!

There is something to be said for practising quiet acceptance and non-attachment. So what if someone is playing loud music all the way from Glasgow to Gourock? Really? Was my desire to challenge the iPod woman  an attachment to quietness? And the weirdo comment. In the eyes of some, all this yoga stuff is weird. And maybe what other people think about me is none of my business. There are always going to be people who don’t like me, for whatever reason.

Then there is compassion. There are always reasons why people behave they way they do. What we view as anti-social behaviour may be someone coping with a mental health problem.

But when the behaviour has potential to harm…?

What I have (hopefully) managed to do in all these situations is, well, firstly, avoid gettting my head kicked in. I have avoided overt violence, but I must admit to having been on the receiving end of verbal aggression. The iPod lady being the worst offender! The first rule of Ahimsa is look after yourself. But I also believe that social responsibility is part of my role as a yogi and as a human being. To my mind yoga is not about avoiding conflict at all costs, it is about learning to communicate in ways that are compassionate, and which gently defuse any potential aggravation.  

I like to think that there is also an element of yogic practice that is challenging and radical. Just as we challenge our bodies and minds to open to alternative ways of moving, thinking and being, we may begin to feel this exerting its force on our environment. It allows us to explore creative and expansive ways of looking at the world. Through the practice of yoga, people have been able to free themselves from  the challenges of addiction, abuse and destructive behaviour and have been able to move into a more loving relationship with themselves and  with those around them.

When it comes to antisocial behaviour – perhaps the challenge is not “should” we intervene, but how should we intervene to ensure the most compassionate outcome. If we always act from compassion, then  the right action will surely emerge.

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