If being mindful were easy, we would all walk around like beatific, beaming Buddhas, fully aware and pulsing with energy. In New York, people would operate in a more calm manner, assessing the present situation rather than rushing to the next thing – the next event, email, Instagrammed dinner, date that might have half a hope in hell of working out.
Instead, this city is just a little bit bonkers. But that doesn’t mean people here avoid mindfulness at all costs. I’ve seen people on the train, commuting to work, headphones firmly in their ears, eyes closed, standing. Their faces look peaceful. Even if this is just a podcast, whatever they are listening to at that moment has their focus. Others I see, reading a book – a book! – one hand above them on the chilly silver rail, the other balancing their materials, occasionally reaching down to flick to the next page. And still others actually watch as people pack onto the subway cars and move inside; the observant offer their seat to the elderly and pregnant, or even quietly crack a smile at a stranger’s offhand comment.
However, not everyone is always this mindful and present, myself included. I too can be wrapped up in worries, stresses, excitements and the thumb-scrolling of Facebook, just wanting to get home at the end of the day and do…what? Be off the train? Something more exciting? Decompress? Meditate? I’ve forgotten to move into the car, not wanting to be further squished after nearly being pushed down the stairs, I’ll idly stare at Twitter rather than pay attention to the flow of passengers. I’ve walked entire blocks, deep in the recesses of my own head and suddenly had no idea where I was.
Yet I am still trying to be mindful.
After nothing more than my first meditation class, my world shifted a little bit. Upon returning home, I realized that I suddenly had a way to reground, to remember where I was and not be carried away by my own mind. You see, a small part of what causes me gripping anxiety may be the same as does others – being alone forever, work, dying, money, what am I going to have for dinner when I can’t make it to the store today or tomorrow and I didn’t sleep last night and and and…essentially living in a world that doesn’t exist: the future.
Be. Here. Now.
That’s how I stop. When everything needs to be controlled externally, or the thoughts are racing in a frenzied way, flashing like strobe lights, not making any sense…that’s the time I try to stop. And just be. I have this inner peace and, like the mantra we learned in last night’s yoga class, access it by considering “I am that.”
I am not stress or anger or fear. I am here. I am present. I am kindness and love and everything I want to put out into the world.
I am my fears, but my fears are not me.
Because most what I find causes stress is worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet and what this fictitious event it might feel like or someone might say or how a situation might play out, rather than just waiting for it all to unfold.
I am not that which is waiting to happen; I am that which is now.
Like practicing yoga, taking the train, finishing my work on time, I strive to remember to live in the now without judgement, anticipation or fear.
“I didn’t need these things. I didn’t need them.”