I am back from visiting family and friends in Scotland, and taking a few days away in Amsterdam. It was a wonderful trip, despite delays, many hours spent in the airports, and the cancellation of our flight home. International travel is a great way to explore how you are doing with your spiritual practice!
Standing in endless lines and observing myself and those around me became an interesting practice in mindfulness and being present. I asked myself, “What am I observing here – within myself and with others?” I saw clearly how the external disruptions caused distress, anxiety and angry frustration.
External chaos becomes internal chaos so quickly.
In stressful times its easy to get triggered, and focus on all that is “wrong”, and all the negative feelings around being out of control. Our ego-mind goes into defense or attack mode. When we are surrounded by others who are also experiencing this, its all too easy to join in this negative judgment-fest! “They treat us like animals…How can they do this to me? …This shouldn’t be happening… I will never fly with this airline again… Oh my God, this was the line to get into the line!.. They should be doing more!… I’m going to miss my flight… How can they do this to me?… Why was I so stupid to come to the airport so late”… etc etc etc.
We humans are attached to the good times (when we get what we want) and have aversion to the bad times (when things don’t go our way). In spiritual traditions, this attachment leads to suffering. Things are always changing, yet our ego-mind wants to feel good all the time and does everything it can to avoid feeling discomfort and pain.
When we can step back and see this ever changing reality, without getting attached to it, then we begin to set ourselves free from external circumstances and come into the present moment.
Being present is the ability to be completely in the moment and flexible enough to handle the unexpected. In one form or another, fear is what keeps us from being present.
When we focus inwards we can become centered and grounded.
It isn’t what is happening that matters, but how we are experiencing it. The mind defaults to “This shouldn’t be happening. How can I change this? …. rather than “How can I transform my relationship to what is happening?”
When we are not able to control what is happening, we can free ourselves of this analytical anguish and frustration.
Here are the steps to become centered and grounded no matter what is happening:
- Recognize what is arising. Notice when you feel upset, irritated, or frustrated with what is happening. Take your own bearings. How am I doing with this?
- Pause. It only takes a moment to feel your feet on the ground and take a few deep breaths to release tension and energy. Take a few more slow breaths. Focus on the breath until you feel more centered.
- Reflect. What I am thinking? What am I feeling? What am I resisting? What do I notice in my body? How is my breathing?
- Allow. Let whatever comes up, come up. Give your judgments and feelings space. Let them be there. Invite them in, rather than pushing them away. They are showing you a deeper hurt and vulnerability. They want you to recognize them. When you accept them and the fear behind them, they will diffuse. You will be free to accept the reality instead of resisting and resenting it.
- Be Kind to your self. This being human isn’t easy. Bring love and compassion to the vulnerable part of you that is feeling the fear and frustration.
During the 1.5 hour check in process for returning to the US, this practice helped calm me down, and when I looked up, I saw the faces of others who were having a hard time. When we become present, we calm ourselves and can tune in to others and support them. This shift in energy shows itself with a smile, a joke about conga lines catching on in airports and a kind word or two. Noticing the sign that is everywhere at Edinburgh airport, was also reassuring. People do care. We are all in this together.