We all know the feeling, we’ve all been there. You’ve pushed extra hard all day, you’ve made that special effort to get out of the office on time or maybe just a little early and what’s waiting for you? An unexpected and wholly unwelcome delay in the form of a poxy traffic jam, late train, packed bus etc. etc. etc.
You’re basically faced with two options:
Option 1. You could sit there and seeth for the entire journey home; ruminating into a downward spiral of discontent until you get in the door just in time to take your journey’s worth of foul humour out on your kids / partner / goldfish etc. Try though you might you are furious and for the entire, mind-numbing commute as you start to become painfully aware that the entire universe is, in fact, out to get you. You’re determined now to harbour the resentment, as it is your absolute right. Fury is thy name!!
Or…Option 2: The high road.
Instead of hell fire raining down from above and ruining your evening, you could try another path. Let’s face facts here; sometimes life is going to bite you in your fabulous behind, and despite your level 10 Diva Prowess and how totally on-top-of-this-shit you are, you just can’t control those external factors that tumble and crumble around you. It’s time to realise the only thing you can truly control is how you react to these exogenous forces. That ownership is 100%, entirely in your hands and there are some really simple steps you can take to stop the downward, universe-cursing spiral.
First. Find your breath.
This is something you can do regardless of your environment because, thankfully (hopefully?!) your breath is one of the constants you will have for your entire life and mindfulness can be practiced anytime, anywhere.
Now please people, if you are stuck in traffic in your car this is a simple mindfulness exercise and you don’t have to close your eyes or totally check out from your space. The Unqualified Blogger will not be accepting blame, liability or responsibility for any mindfulness-related fender benders today, thank you!
With your eyes open, take a few moments to remove your focus from the stresses in the environment around you and start bringing your attention to your breath. Notice where your breath is right now. Is it fast? Is it slow? Is it shallow? Is it deep? You might even start counting each breath, in and out up to 10 and starting back again at one. You really want to avoid any judgement or criticism, and certainly not to force any changes or “improvements”. What you are trying to achieve is a mindful awareness of your breath while taking your focus away from the external stressors.
Don’t worry, your mind will wander! So when it does, just bring it back to your breath and start the process again. If you are counting, simply start again at number 1. Every time you pull your attention back to your breath you are building your strength and ability in this practice and you will find it gradually becomes an easier state to access.
Pick one sound and focus solely on it
How could anyone actually find calm on a packed train with doors banging, people chatting, phones ringing etc.? You’d be surprised! Focussing in on a single sound, even the most harsh or irritating, can actually become a catalyst for a mindfulness practice.
Similar to the breathing exercise, draw your attention exclusively towards one sound in your environment. Perhaps it’s the sound of the train on the tracks, or a door banging between cars, or even the sound of white noise between radio stations on your car radio. If you can bring your focus away from the mayhem, again, it can become a source for a few precious moments of mindfulness. Once again, it is to be expected that the mind will wander but you can just pull it gently back again when you feel your thoughts drifting.
Practice makes perfect
You might be reading this thinking “yeah right, not a hope!” but seriously, with a bit of practice you will find yourself enjoying a more fulfilling, less stressful journey home. Every time you are mindfully focussing on a singular sound or just your breath you are building new neural pathways and reducing overall levels of anxiety. This practice will be even stronger if you have an existing meditation or mindfulness practice, but that’s not essential. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to be sitting in a quiet room, surrounded by candles and soft music to find moments of calm. You can create them yourself in even the most irritating, noisy or challenging situations.
Tamara is the self-proclaimed Unqualified Blogger. She is a freelance Copywriter and Marketing Communications / Brand Strategist and Creative Generalist. She is available for speech writing, tattoo conventions and karaoke parties or would love to work with you on your latest marketing or creative challenges.
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