In one of her presentations, Sharon Salzberg tells the story of driving a friend somewhere and being held up by a traffic jam. Sharon became increasingly agitated and frustrated by the delay caused by the congestion. Her friend turned to her and said, “Sharon, you are traffic too”.
This is a great illustration of what Sharon describes as the “centrality” of ourselves. We forget that we are part of the problem we are complaining about – that we too are the traffic. By being in the traffic queue, we are contributing to the traffic problem. However, we see the other vehicles as the ones that are holding us up – what right have they got to be there when we are trying to get somewhere else?
We are entirely focused on our needs in the situation and the impact of traffic delays on us. We are unaware and unconcerned about the needs of the other drivers and passengers who are also delayed by what is happening (or not happening) on the road we are on.
Traffic delays create a great opportunity for mindful connection. We could think about frustration of the needs of other people in the traffic queue who are also delayed – rather than obsessing about the frustration of our own needs.
We could think of someone trying to get to see a dying relative for the last time, someone going to the hospital to give birth, someone missing out on an important job interview that they were a “shoe-in” for, someone else going to a specialist’s surgery to find out the results of the diagnosis of a potentially life-changing disease or someone experiencing some impact that is less dramatic.
This process takes us outside of ourselves and our concerns and enables us to become other-centred. It reinforces, too, our interconnectedness – we are all impacted by the traffic delay for different reasons and to different degrees.
If we cannot readily begin to think of the frustrated needs of others in the situation, we can always begin with mindful breathing to slow down our emotional response to the situation and to bring a degree of mindfulness into play.
Having regained some degree of self-control, we can increase our self-awareness and improve our self-management by adopting the complete process of SBNRR (stop, breathe, notice, reflect, respond) that we described previously.
As we grow in mindfulness, we become increasingly aware of the opportunities in everyday life to be mindful. We can more readily notice and act on opportunities to grow in self-awareness and self-management if we have actively developed our level of mindfulness through meditation practice and conversations with ourselves.
By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)
Image source: courtesy of Gellinger on Pixabay