Tag Archives: informal practice

365 Challenge Day 48 – Gridlock

9 Jul

In India I once took a bus on the highest highway in the world, in the Himalayas. It was a 24 hour bus ride to Ladakh, with seats that did not recline, and an insane driver who would not stop for food or bathroom breaks.   The narrow roads on the side of the mountains were terrifying. Sometimes the bus would have to back up several hundred feet so an oncoming vehicle could pass. I was so hungry, and uncomfortable; and my friend got motion sickness and threw up several times (we got more comfortable seats after that : ) Anyway, after that trip, nothing has fazed me! Every single voyage I have had since that one 25 years ago has felt comfortable and quick! Spending time in a developing country sure does give a person perspective.

Well, today I put my informal practice to the test while stuck in gridlock traffic. I usually have a pretty easy commute, but was meeting a friend for dinner in the opposite direction and had to take highway south. The last time I did this it took me 2 full hours to go the 20 miles, even though I had left work an hour early. No joke. I could have walked it faster. So today I thought I’d be really smart and leave at 2pm, well… I guess everyone else must have had the same idea! Unbelievable. As soon as I hit the highway the traffic came to a grinding halt.

I am actually pretty patient with traffic. Usually.  Partially because I don’t have to deal with it very often. I usually try to have a good audio book to listen to, or a dharma talk. For many months I drove 2.5 hours every week at rush hour to see my meditation teacher. Traffic feels very impersonal. It’s no one’s fault. There is no one to get mad at. And while stuck in traffic, one has to admit to being part of the very problem.

But even having said all this, gridlock can be frustrating!! I felt a bit of an anxious feeling rising up, feeling a bit trapped, feeling regret that I hadn’t taken a different route, and feeling annoyed that my smart plan was thwarted! But rather than allowing myself to follow the frustration and anxiety, I sighed and relaxed into it. I noticed a feeling of gratitude for having an audio book and air-conditioning. I even thought about how in Legos, Nigeria I’ve heard that when stuck in gridlock there is a risk of getting car-jacked by armed gunmen! Well, I was safe, comfortable, even entertained, and would get there eventually. This was a perfect time to practice patience, acceptance, and relaxation.  If not now, when?

365 Challenge Day 41 – Informal Practice

3 Jul

I haven’t had a daily meditation practice in while. I still sit in silent meditation at least a couple of times a week, but for the most part I have decided to use my practice. After all, if it doesn’t help you live a better life, what good is it?

Today I went to the dentist for a cleaning, something I dislike as much as the next person. This is a perfect example of something that you can’t really get away from. People often ask me why meditation is better for relaxation than, say, reading, or playing tennis, or playing video games. Well, all those things are great, but won’t help you much on the dentist chair!!

I spent the entire cleaning coming back to my breath, and relaxing my body. I couldn’t think of anything else to do! I kept noticing my body tensing up, or my mouth unconsciously closing, so I would relax and open my mouth wider. And I would notice a relaxed breath, over and over. It was pretty hard to drift off into planning or a fantasy because the scraping on my teeth kept bringing me back!! In the end it wasn’t that bad, and the time went fairly quickly.

I don’t really know how other people are at the dentist, but I have often had dental hygienists stop and ask me if I’m okay. Do they usually do this? I wonder if they get nervous because I am so quiet. Maybe most people react more in some way, grimace or at least look around the room. I always imagine that they think I’ve gone into shock or something : ) Anyway, I was happy to have my practice to turn to, it’s always there when I need it.

On a more exciting topic, I managed to produce something out of my very own kitchen today!! I made some homemade vegan pesto, put it on brown rice pasta, and mixed it in a salad with tofu and capers. It was great! I even packed some for lunch tomorrow!!