My foot touches the brake and the car comes eventually to a standstill. There is more traffic than normal today. I can see the traffic lights in the distance, about one hundred metres away but there are two lanes that join into one up ahead and it is causing a bottleneck creating the build up of a queue of cars.
I look at the clock, I could be late for work, I feel anxiousness arise and a feeling also of helplessness. Thoughts arise out of frustration that the traffic isn’t moving quickly enough, it’s almost at a standstill. Thoughts of blame enter my mind that if the cars in the outside lane simply queued up like everyone else in my lane then the traffic would move a lot quicker.
I am aware of these thoughts and emotions. I notice them and I smile knowing that these emotions and thoughts that I am feeling and thinking are a resistance to what is happening in the present moment. I realise there is nothing I can do about the queue of cars and creating a story around this scenario with negative self talk will not change the situation whatsoever.
The traffic lights turn to green. I can see the cars up ahead moving off slowly one by one, only a few cars get through the lights and then they turn to red once more. As the cars in front of me are able to now move forward soon it will be my turn to make it through. I smile and breathe in mindfully, nice and slowly and as I exhale I am able to move my car a few metres forward and then stop once more waiting again for the lights to turn green.
I now move my attention to my inner energy body and watch the subtle energies that we call emotion arise in my body in tune with the thoughts that are going around in my head. The more alert and aware I become of this inner movement that arises and falls away, keeping my attention on the aliveness of my energy body, the thoughts and emotions start to dissipate and slow down.
I retain a gentle smile, I begin to look around outside the car and notice some trees near by blowing in the wind. I notice the birds in the sky, the rise and fall of my car engine and I notice a car fly past in the outside lane rushing to beat the queue of traffic. All of this happens within the space of a minute and then with an intuitive sense before I hear the movement of the cars in front of me I look ahead and see the lights are on green once more. The traffic is starting to move again and with a mindful breath and a gentle smile I move the car forwards some more until we are nearer to the lights and again, the traffic comes to a halt.
The turbulent thoughts and emotions have now stopped and have been replaced by a gentle peace. Now there is just an alert awareness. I hear the wind blowing, a car horn beeping just in front as two drivers become angry with one another as a car in the outside lane tries to push in front where the two lanes join together.
Again, I breathe and I smile. Then the same thoughts reappear in my mind that I could be late for work with the associated feeling of fear. Repeating the same practice as before, simply by noticing these thoughts and emotions, they fall away. I do not resist this moment and I can not change the current situation of the traffic jam. I let these fears dissipate and allow a calm, mindful breath to arise instead.
As the traffic lights turn green I notice out of the corner of my eye the car in the outside lane next to me is over revving his engine in preparation to move quicker than me and push in front. When the cars in front begin to move forward I allow a little more space and think compassionately towards the driver who is next to me in the outside lane. He will be confronted by the similar fears that I felt earlier of needing to be somewhere and whether right or wrongly, whether the cars in the outside lane have caused the queue to be more lengthy there is nothing that can be done about such a situation.
I look at the driver who eyes me up competitively, there is a strained look in his features, almost dark and angry and when a gap appears in front of me he puts his foot down. I allow him to move forward first and again I breathe in mindfully as he moves in front of me and then I begin to move also. As I approach the lights they turn red just before I can get through them as the car that I let go makes it through. A thought randomly enters my mind at that point, “I could have got through if I hadn’t let him go.” I simply observe this thought, keeping my attention in the present moment, on the mindful breath and in the feeling of the inner energy body.
Again I breathe, I allow this moment to be because that’s all I can do whilst maintaining an aspect of my awareness in the energy body and so I enjoy the scene around me once more. The whistling wind flowing through the branches of the trees, I also notice the movement of pedestrians crossing the road and again I hear another car horn behind me as someone expresses their anger. And so, breathing in, the lights change to green. Breathing out my car pulls away as I smile and enjoy the story that is life.
Even in rush hour there is no need to rush life. Of course in a practical sense if you know there is heavy traffic on your way to work, the school run or any other journey it is common sense to plan ahead and leave a little earlier than normal if this is possible at all. Sometimes though there is an unexpected amount of traffic and no amount of hindsight could have helped you in this kind of scenario.
These moments in your car when you are in slow moving traffic or in a traffic jam can be used to create a sacred space. Even if the perceived cause is because of others actions most likely there is nothing you can do anyway so therefore, though you may not have been aware in the past you do actually have a choice. You can either become angry and upset or we can surrender to the present moment and accept the situation as it is. That is our choice. We then empower ourselves to find peace even in times where we have reacted.
We can either choose acceptance and be mindful, or we can choose suffering. Of course when we are in the grip of the unconditioned mind, that which I call the ego, the random arising of thoughts and emotions that we create an identity from, then it is no longer a choice. We were simply acting out of our old conditioned patterns which have their roots in the emotion of fear. In one sense by being so absorbed in the thinking mind we forget the very essence of our being by focusing our awareness elsewhere.
Yet being mindful gives us a choice. We do not have to be engaged in the negative self talk that can be so easy to fall into. Instead of reacting we learn to act by engaging pro-actively in the practice of mindfulness. We become aware of our random thoughts and emotions by being the alert and still presence behind this energetic movement.
You can also use the traffic lights as a tool for mindfulness. Every time traffic lights turn red don’t see this as some obstacle that further prevents you from reaching your destination on time. Instead see the stop signal as a pointer to also stop. By that I mean becoming mindful of your breath and energy body or whatever works best for you so your mind becomes less busy. In effect you stop and become quiet within.
From this place of mindfulness which we can also call awareness we then start to put life into perspective. Seeing life as it truly is beyond the everyday conventional judgements and prejudices that cloud our perception of reality and instead of reacting to a situation what we think is wrong or having the feeling that we have been personally wronged by someone or something, we choose to act from a place of mindfulness, a place of acceptance and from this non reactionary place we then have access to a deeper wisdom that lies dormant within each and everyone of us.
From this place of wisdom we act in a more mature, compassionate and loving way. From this place of awareness you can still have the strength and will to act or change a situation but also there is a knowing when it is wiser to simply accept something as it is and simply allow it to be. Sometimes that is all that can be done in that moment in time.
A good example was the scenario in the queue of traffic and the cars pushing in further down the road causing a bottleneck. When the driver next to me started to rev his engine and was ready to put his foot down I could have allowed anger to get the better of me and fight him for the space. But more importantly and also seeing the situation from a wider perspective, Who’s space is it anyway?
We often act like we own the space that is in front of us when we drive a car. It is of course anyone’s space in reality but there is an aspect within us that feels like we have lost a part of ourselves if we allow someone to push in front of us. Being absorbed by the thinking mind at a time like this, believing in our conditioned responses we then take it personal. As if the person in the other car is being rude personally and only to us. But the truth is it’s not personal is it? If it wasn’t you it would be someone else that he was revving his engine at but it just so happens, by chance, that it happens to be you.
So there are certain situations where we can create change, there are times when we can act mindfully and put a stop to certain situations. Also we can walk away and then there are just those times that we have to simply surrender to what is and allow the situation to be as it is because in truth, at that time, that’s all you can actually do.
Yet in times of surrender through the power of not acting, this can actually be far more powerful and productive than any action you were to take can create. The question is, do you get mad over some small event that has no real significance or do you enjoy the moment by listening to the wind rustling in the trees, observing the inner energy body, the mindful breath, the children laughing as they cross the road.
Touch upon this inner wisdom by being mindful and you will know what to do. Or put simply, you can either choose to act or surrender from a place peace or you can choose to react from a place of fear. I invite you to choose the former.
These posts are part of my mindfulness course, “A Little Piece of Mindfulness for Everyday Living”. This is a mindfulness course borne out of my own experiences and spontaneous living. It is not a programme for you to follow as a set routine in a robotic kind of fashion. It is simply to inspire you to live a more mindful life. To learn to live in the present moment and to show you that it is possible to live a life of spontaneous joy, peace and harmony.
Let us together, step by step, through our daily living, through the love of our hearts and the peace of our minds, touch the souls of others and raise the vibration of the planet so that we may all live in a more peaceful, compassionate and loving world. Namaste ॐ