daily dose of mindfulness

I’ve already detailed/complained about my commute in a prior post. Excuse me while I do it again (I spend almost 20 hours a week on the train, okay?). I aim to treat it as a learning experience, this time. Mindfulness. These days, it’s a buzzword. We think mindfulness and envision juice cleanses and yoga teachers in Bali, teaching us how to properly say om and make peace with the world and our surroundings. Easy enough, when we’re on vacation, but everyday mindfulness is a bit trickier.

I was first introduced to the concept of mindfulness in a group therapy session for students with social anxiety. It always makes me think of the serenity prayer that starts with “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” In essence, that’s what the therapist told us (not religious though, because public school). Mindfulness is particularly challenging for the anxious among us, as anxiety is really just worrying about anything and everything for no real reason. The therapist used the example of sitting in traffic. You could get upset, scream, cry, or whatever. In the end, you will still be sitting in traffic. This analogy was particularly relevant when, sometime not too long after that session, I got stuck on the Tappan Zee for two hours. There was nowhere to go, so why waste my energy being upset? The situation was out of my hands. Unfortunately, the therapist didn’t tell me what to do if I had to pee.

In its truest form, mindfulness is the stuff of Buddhas and zen masters. I will never reach enlightenment, fully aware of the moment and blissed out as a result, but the teaching is still valuable. Which is where I’ll transition back to commuting.

This morning was unassuming enough, even though I overslept because I dared turn off one of my four alarms. Aside from being extra frazzled as a result, my commute didn’t truly turn sour until my transfer to NY. These trains are generally packed and slow, but something was clearly amiss when the train crawled, then stopped completely. Confused looks. Mutters. Sighs. The usual assortment of discontent. We couldn’t hear the announcements. The people (including me) sandwiched in the gap between two cars got steadily dripped on by the rain. After standing for 20 minutes, a woman near me told us there’s a delay because of a disabled train in the tunnel.

Extra sigh.

The train sat for another 10 minutes before it finally got moving, reaching Penn roughly 15 minutes after that. A half hour out of my life, squished onto public transportation without moving. Ultimately, it’s not that bad. There was nothing I could do, nothing any of us could do, other than notify our respective employers that we’d be late this morning. Stressing about it or getting angry wasn’t going to make that train move. Granted, this is all easier said than done, but mindfulness takes practice.

And commuting has given me lots of practice.


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