Going through Houston airport’s security is an interesting (code for “shitty”) experience.

On the front-side, the TSA agent is telling us to put our stuff into buckets (and then through the x-ray machine), is impatient and annoyed. She brushes off questions with a cursory answer, and for the most part, my fellow travelers and I just do what we normally do going through security.

On the back-side, the next agent is frustrated and rolling their eyes at us for not separating things the right way, or following the directions like we should have.

It’s a bit of a set up, and by the end of it, I felt shitty. I felt kind of dumb and stupid (I should have known), indignant (you should have told me), annoyed and righteous (fix your stupid system, dumdum) and so on.

I really wanted to huck this negative energy back out into the world.

First I wanted to make a kind-sounding comment towards this lady as she rolled her eyes at me that would highlight how she was being shitty, under the guise of me being nice. Like “Sounds like it’s been a long day…”

Then I wanted to come online and write a witty, sarcastic post that would ridicule this kind of behaviour. Maybe talk about the “scientific correlation” between making people feel shitty and having them be safe.

But, as I sat with these choices, I could see I would just be sending more shitty energy out into the world.

This would feel satisfying in the short-term, because I could dispose of the negative energy that’s rolling around inside of me. But I don’t want to keep that kind of energy swirling around.

I want to practise something different: I want to get better at transmuting this kind of energy.

Transmuting this energy means I have to receive it first. That means I can’t just block it, or “refuse to let it impact me”.

I mean, that’s a choice — a totally fine choice — but if I want to work with something, I have to actually hold it in my hands, and so I have to be willing to let myself get the negative energy on me first.

From there, I have to sit in it a while, rather than throwing it off as quickly as I can to alleviate myself from the feeling. I need to open, and let that energy swirl around inside of me.

The temptation at this point is often to jump to positivity.

“I feel bad, but I don’t want to put bad into the world, so I’ll just say something positive.”

Jumping to positivity this way is reactive. It’s ultimately creating positivity “because there are too many negative people in the world”, or “because there’s already enough people being jerks” or “because someone has to counteract those losers at the security line”.

This kind of positivity is what people call toxic positivity.

It’s not the generous act of “sharing positivity” — it’s the act of “sharing positivity because someone else is negative”. There’s a subtle “fuck you” in it (whether the fuck you is to an individual, an experience, yourself, the world, or negativity as a whole).

This isn’t transmuting — it just creates more of the same energy (while calling itself the opposite).

So instead, my practise is to sit with it.

I let that energy sit inside of me, and my being, and I give it time to settle. That means I breathe, I relax, I get supported (if needed), and I give myself, and everyone else, permission to simply feel/be shitty.

If I can let myself off the hook for the fact that I felt shitty when I started this process, then I don’t need to react to it (nor to the people at the start of this story).

And only once I’ve done that for a while can I consciously choose what I want to put into the world instead. Not because it’s wrong to put negativity into the world — but because I find I feel better when I spread more joy.

This is the practise I’m working with in my own life right now. Being an alchemist, and practising transmuting the energy I’m given into whatever I would like to see more of in the world.

I’m grateful for the practise Houston’s security team inspired, and I hope it will inspire you too.