A little before 1PM, I peeled off my headphones and glanced around. The traffic rolled lazily enough that I could almost hear the click of the streetlight’s switch from red to green. To the west, the Rocky Mountains stood like bouncers to a nightclub. Arapahoe street seemed to scoop down toward them and I wished I could plop onto an inner tube, ride into the mountains, and never come back.
Instead, I reached down, grabbed my empty Styrofoam cup, specks of traffic dust clinging to the coffee dribbles inside, and shuffled along the sidewalk back into the store for my lunch break.
I’d been working my job spinning signs on street corners for almost three years, having started in Englewood, Colorado, then Aurora, and now at the Centennial location. Ritzier.
Instead of just flipping you off, high school kids might throw pencils at you.
As I stepped into the cramped parking lot, a man paced back and forth in front of a nail salon, smoking his cigarette as if trying to win a bet for how quickly he could get through an entire pack. Probably an employee on break. He gave me quick nod – more like a jerk of his neck muscles – and I nodded back.
At least once a day, he was there to neck-spasm hello to me, while taking a lot of breaks and blazing through even more cigarettes. But we never exchanged a word.
Around this time, I helped hire another sign-spinner and handed him paper after paper to sign. He had a chiseled jaw and looked like he might have been a college quarterback. As he signed and signed, he moved with almost a fuzzy quality. Not nervous, but not relaxed, as if reality was a television show he wasn’t quite following.
I pushed another paper in front of him and commented: “This says we have the right to randomly test you for drugs.”
He froze. I barely caught it. His body hit and un-hit the Pause button faster than the chain-smoker nodded. Then he signed.
He didn’t seem like the shiniest apple in the bin. But he’d aced the interviews and we had high hopes that he’d do a good job waving around a sign and getting attention for the stores.
Within three days we knew we had to fire him.
Every sign-spinner smoked pot except me. That was an open secret. We never drug-tested because if we’d bothered to do anything about the results, the company would have had to shut down. Getting a little high before a shift was one thing, but this guy…He didn’t so much smoke marijuana as supersaturate his brain cells with enough weed to float his consciousness past Uranus.
Working outside, he didn’t wave around his sign. He propped it at his feet and gazed into traffic, jaw fully slacked. Maybe he thought he was standing before an open refrigerator, spending a few hours deciding whether to make a baloney sandwich or eat popcorn… then he’d remember popcorn’s not in the fridge.
One day before he got fired, he walked inside to take a break and the chain-smoker said to him, “Hey, want some cocaine?”
The chain-smoker had never said anything like that to me. But the first time he saw this other guy, he smelled a potential customer.
It’s common knowledge that people size you up the moment they see you. A scientific study1 substantiated this when researchers found that known predators could identify potential victims just by watching footage of people walking.
I’m no scientist so you’ll have to indulge me in a bit of woo-woo speculation.
I believe that the dynamic between the drug dealer and his potential customer can be understood at a deeper level by looking at it through the frame of ancient Daoists. They believed living things have three bodies (actually they believe every object has three bodies). First is your physical body. Next is your energetic body. Third is your spiritual body. Your energetic body extends roughly arms-length around you in all directions. Your spiritual body usually extends a couple feet farther. The more you develop yourself spiritually, the bigger it gets. Some people’s spiritual bodies extend for miles.
This means that two of your bodies can contact other people, even if you don’t physically touch them and even if they don’t see you. Maybe the chain-smoker subconsciously knew the sign-spinner was a drug user before observing the subtleties of his body language because he picked up on something in his spiritual or energetic body.
Maybe the ancient Daoists and their beliefs have been outmoded by science.
Or maybe not. Another scientific experiment measured brainwave patterns in response to images shown on a screen. Scientists noted how wavelengths changed in relation to pleasant and unpleasant images, but here’s the twist. The brainwaves changed – and reacted accurately to the images pleasant or unpleasantness – before the images were shown. Somehow, the brains knew.2
We know first impressions matter. But what if the real first impression starts before people see each other? What if it has nothing to do with what clothes you wear or how you carry yourself? Perhaps how people see you isn’t nearly as important as how they sense you.
That’s why I consider a daily meditation routine as mandatory as bathing and brushing my teeth.
If I left home without doing it, I’d feel strange. Just like you might run your tongue along your rough teeth and think, “Oh no! Will someone smell my breath?” I’d wonder if my energy and spirit bodies would give off the wrong odor. Maybe someone would try to sell me drugs. Or try to victimize me.
Try adding meditation to your daily hygiene regimen. Even better, try thinking of meditation as hygiene – not just in terms of how essential it is but what your expectations are. Brushing your teeth probably won’t change your life overnight and skipping a day of brushing probably won’t ruin your life, either. But, over time, the decision to brush or not to brush will impact how others perceive and treat you. It can be the same with meditation. The way it changes you could be imperceptible but, as we’ve seen, even imperceptible things can make an impact.
This is why meditating may change your life even if you don’t feel a difference every day.
It might make the difference between someone sensing you as a victim, unlikable, untrustworthy… or as a confident, authentic, loving soul.
1. Book, A. (2013). Psychopathy and victim selection: the use of gait as a cue to vulnerability. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23422847/
2. Radin, D. (2009). Intuition through time: what does the seer see? PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19608110/