Improve Your Calm Through Mindfulness

As we enter into one of the more stressful seasons of the year—we may feel pressured with time, and so our ability to tolerate the challenges of life activities, such as traffic/waiting in lines/crowds, might impact us more than than we’d like to admit. I thought this post could be, 1) a good reminder to those that have an established mindfulness practice, 2) an opportunity to learn something new as a way to manage anxiety and frustration and/or 3) proof that your feelings are shared, and you’re not alone.

Below is an excerpt from a recent article in the Washington Post by Katherine Shaver, which explores the common human reaction to the stress of transportation, and the helpful effects of a having a mindfulness practice. Here is the link to the full article if you find it interesting: Washington Post Article- Mindfulness/Transportation.

Tara Brach, founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, said she, too, needs a regular dose of mindfulness…Feeling like we’re not moving when we’re in a hurry, Brach said, taps into a deeper psychic fear of not having enough time.

“We think, ‘If I don’t get there on time, I won’t get things done, and I’m going to fail,’” she said. “It brings up a lot of fear and tension in our bodies. ... We think of commuting like we’re on our way somewhere else, and it’s wasted time — time we didn’t choose. But it’s a big swath of time in our lives. What if we thought of it as time to examine our hearts and minds in a way that calms us and brings more equanimity?”

District resident Glen Harrison, 45, said he realized five years ago during his bike commute that it wasn’t riding in traffic that made him tense. It was the frustration that he brought to it.

Harrison said he began taking in the trees and the feel of the breeze on his face, making him a safer cyclist because he’s more attuned to his surroundings. He said he also reminds himself that he’s sharing the road with others trying to get somewhere, too. That gives him more mental “space” so he doesn’t react as quickly when aggressive drivers cut him off or scream at him.

“Road rage for me became much less personal and a less frustrating experience,” said Harrison, who rides 15 to 40 miles a week as an event coordinator for Brach’s group. “I can navigate situations better with a more compassionate attitude. ... Traffic is just traffic. I bring to my commute what’s inside of me, and I need to be aware of that.”

Ronald Siegel, an author and assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, called his commuting practice “taillight meditation.” Siegel, who teaches mindfulness to health-care professionals, said he focuses on the colors and shapes of the taillights around him to remain relaxed and alert. Observing feelings that arise during a commute, he said, trains the brain to notice and respond more wisely to emotions throughout the day.

“We realize they’re simply thoughts and feelings and not necessarily realities,” Siegel said. “Mindfulness practice trains us to use all the moments of our lives productively, including the commute, rather than seeing the commute as something to get through so we can get to the good stuff.”

If you’re seeking support with your mindfulness practice, or to learn how to create one, please contact me for an appointment.

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