What The F*ck Are You Looking At?! {A Love Story}

{Photo via Tumblr}

{Photo via Tumblr}

“The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk

Here is a fun fact for you: NYC has 722 miles of subway track.

And here is a bonus fun fact: earlier this month, a 4-foot-long dead shark was found on the N train at Queensboro Plaza. And while your chances of seeing another dead shark on the NYC subways is rare, your chances of seeing either nudity, fights or shit & piss, or, if you are really lucky, possibly a combination of all three, are actually pretty decent. Ah, I love NY.

This article is going to focus on something much less offensive than the aforementioned incidents however, so rest easy, the worst of it is over. I am simply interested in addressing the obligatory staring that I find myself subject to while riding those trains, which, after such an exciting introduction, is — I am sure — a letdown to many of you readers. My sincerest apologies, but the show must go on…

You see, I am covered in tattoos, so catching people staring at me/my tattoos is nothing new.

I appreciate the art I have and do not mind folks taking a look (hell, I will even still answer, “Yes, they hurt” with a smile when people ask). The thing is, when someone notices I have caught them staring, they are usually very quick to look away.

That, however, is not the case for many of the patrons who frequent the NYC subways — no, you subway folk are a special breed (said with mostly sincere affection).

Admittedly, the extended, intrusive kind of staring that I have found myself subject to on the subway bothered me at first because yes, it is rude, but really, what was I going to do about it… talk shit? Start a fight? I mean, I am not in High School anymore, and while I am still an eleventeen-year-old at heart, I do not have to act like it in the way I react towards people and situations.

I do have to pull my own covers however. As I began to catch myself feeling somewhat egotistical by taking the higher road and just letting it go when I would catch people staring, I remember thinking, “Hey, look at me, I’m Rising Above just like Black Flag.” The problem was that while I was doing some good by controlling my mouth, I was being as mentally violent as it gets.

Thoughts like “If this motherfucker even knew how I would have handled this years ago” and other tough guy rhetoric would enter my mind.

My body would tense up and I’d feel an overwhelming sense of negativity engulf me, but I rationalized it by reminding myself that since I was keeping my mouth shut, I was being spiritually awesome. I mean, isn’t that what it’s all about — how things look on the outside and figuring out ways to justify them, right? Wrong.

If we are even remotely sincere in cultivating some semblance of spirituality in our lives, then it is utterly important to understand that everything we do in our day-to-day lives — from riding the subway system to meditating, making love, rocking out, going to work, skateboarding — all of it is our Dharma, our practice.

So it was in my own remembrance of that fact that I contemplated how I could use these subway experiences (and the subsequent negativity and frustration they would produce in me) as grist for the mill of my spiritual practice.

And it was not long before the cliché of all clichés hit me like a ton of bricks — send those people love.

Love, love, love. Everything always seems to come full circle back to love for me (hey, I gave you the ‘cliché’ disclaimer in the last paragraph, okay?!).

So taking this mushy love crap into consideration, I realized that the times I met the eyes of a stranger staring at me (whether it was a look of approval or disgust) left me with two choices: the first was that I could stare back at them from a place of my judging egoic mind, keeping my mouth shut but still mentally “motherfucking” every last one of them, or I could choose a softer, gentler way and look back at them from a place of open loving-kindness and compassion.

Look out! The clichés are about to get even worse…

As I allowed my heart — rather than my mind — to guide me, the answer became obvious. Why in the world would I consciously choose negativity and frustration when I could just as easily choose to let it go and experience peace and calm?

So that is what I began to do, let it all go — from their looks to the mental story I’d create around it — and honestly, when I brought that mindfulness into those situations, they became surprisingly easy to work with. Negativity and frustration, or peace and calm, the choice is always ours.

Unfortunately, I do not have any crazy stories of strangers being so overpowered by my love that they cried or hugged me… nope, no amazing climax to end this piece. In fact, for the most part, the subway trips were just more of the same. More stares of approval or disgust.

However, with each stare, I became grateful for the opportunity to send each of these people a very real love from heart center, and for me, that in and of itself makes up for the lack of any spontaneous Kundalini breakouts in the subway.

{Mushy Love Crap Society}

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Chris Grosso
Chris Grosso is a public speaker, writer, recovering addict, and author of Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality and Everything Mind: What I've Leaner About Hard Knocks, Spiritual Awakening and the Mind-Blowing Truth of it All. He writes for Huffington Post, Origin magazine, Mantra Yoga + Health magazine and hosts The Indie Spiritualist Podcast with The Mindpod Network. Check out Chris on his website The Indie Spiritualist and follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.


  • Mamaste
    Mamaste commented on August 30, 2013 Reply
    Keep this guy on your radar. Chris Grosso. Interesting. Deep. Intuitive. Smart. And best of all, a master of clichés. :) ~Mamaste
    • Chris Grosso
      Chris Grosso commented on August 30, 2013 Reply
      Thanks so much Mamaste! I love the “master of cliches”!!! I try ;) Much love to you. xo.
  • Chris Grosso
    Chris Grosso commented on August 30, 2013 Reply
    … if only I was as hot as the dreamboat in the article picture ;)
  • Jenn Grosso commented on August 30, 2013 Reply
    This touches so very close to home for me, as I’ve experienced the same kind of situation, the same reaction. Love the way you express this, love how your words touch deeply and are so light at the same time. :-) So much love to you! xoxox
    • Chris Grosso
      Chris Grosso commented on August 30, 2013 Reply
      So glad it resonated for you Jenn. I know you know all about it! Much love back! xo.
  • Jenn Grosso commented on August 30, 2013 Reply
    Hahaha! Naw, that dudes got nothing on you, You’re the total dreamboat. But then again, I guess I’m highly biased ;)
  • ri commented on August 30, 2013 Reply
    Excellent article that affirms my own life experience. 1) A connection of love saves us from ourselves 2) NYC isn’t as open as I would have thought when riding the subway.
    • Chris Grosso
      Chris Grosso commented on August 30, 2013 Reply
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read it Ri, and sharing your experience. I truly do love NYC and it’s diversity, but like you said, I too am often surprised at how close minded some people can be… but obviously we’ll find that pretty much anywhere in the world we go. Much love to you.
  • Sarah commented on August 30, 2013 Reply
    I love your perspective, Chris! I don’t ride the subways every week, but work in midtown (across from the Empire State Building) and encounter all sorts of reactions to my tattoos from tourists and the throngs of ticket-sellers. I used to try to get past them quickly on my way to lunch, the bank, etc. But now I try to slow down, relax, float… and I feel much better about being ogled/hit on/judged. I think it has actually cut down on the negative stuff coming my way. Or maybe that’s just the way it feels. ;)
    • Chris Grosso
      Chris Grosso commented on August 30, 2013 Reply
      I love that Sarah! I’m actually from CT, though I frequent NYC often, so at times I wondered if it was just m, but hearing your experience certainly helps to know that’s not the case. And I’m sure you must get it even more being a woman. But hey, NY is nuts and that’s part of it’s huge appeal to me. Maybe we’ll cross paths one day in my travels. Have a wonderful weekend! xoxo.
  • Jenny commented on August 30, 2013 Reply
    I’m so happy to read an article like this that doesn’t end with: “And then we all embraced, flowers fell from the sky, and as we sang kumbaya I realized the great enlightenment (so please buy my workshop so you can get yours).” So refreshing!
    • Chris Grosso
      Chris Grosso commented on August 30, 2013 Reply
      Hahaha, oh that will neeeeeeever happen Jenny! Not from this guy at least. Thanks for taking the time to read it and your comment! :)
  • amybscher commented on August 31, 2013 Reply
    Incredibly written. And I know this isn’t the point of this article but the term “mental motherfuckering” should be noted as genius. P.S. I’m with Jenny.
    • Chris Grosso
      Chris Grosso commented on August 31, 2013 Reply
      Hahaha, thanks Amy! I know there’s people who aren’t a fan of the language but hey, it’s part of who I am and I’ve gotta give the truth ;) xo.

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