Racing in a New York Taxi: A lesson in mindfulness
Yesterday, I was taking a taxi cab across town to Penn Station with my dad. Our driver grunted and mumbled about gridlock the whole way. Clearly, he was frustrated and angry.
When we arrived at our destination, he barked, “No tip? Get out of the car!”. I showed him the $2 in my hand intended for him when he said, “Forget it! Get out! I have to go to work!”. I calmly and perplexedly replied, “You ARE at work. You’re already there.”.
I got out of the car and wondered what I tend to rush through. You know that sense of urgency and pressure that compels you to hurry? It fuels impatience and frustration. It short circuits your effectiveness. It’s the focus on what’s next instead of what’s now.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a Master of Mindfulness, “People are losing their minds. That is what we need to wake up to.” He refers to meditation as “a radical act of self love and sanity.”.
Further, mindfulness is “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally… It often results in apprehending the constantly changing nature of sensations, even highly unpleasant ones, and thus their impermanence.”, he says.
Ahhh. Non-judgement. Impermanence. Each reminds us to wholeheartedly accept and value what and who we have, and to trust that the pain and angst of what we don’t want will pass.
Mindfulness is, “A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”, according to Dictionary.com.
So how do you cultivate a sense of mindfulness?
- Stop. Sit. Breathe. When your mind is racing and your heart is pounding, recognize that as your cue to slow down. Take a breath and notice the sensations of each in-breath and out-breath. If you’re feeling anxious, make your exhale longer than your inhale.
- Notice what exists now. What is right in front of you? Who is present with you? Take a moment to soak that up. This is gratitude in action.
- Distinguish your process from your product. Clarify the journey versus the destination. Your actions are not merely a means to an end. They are efforts that can be savored and enjoyed. When you produce with love, your product excels.
- Engage with the flow of each moment. It’s an essential component of wellbeing, according to Positive Psychologist, Martin Seligman. Lose yourself in an activity. Allow it to be the only thing you are doing now.
- Recognize the impermanence of everything and everybody. Even the largest boulder is gradually eroded by water.
Driving that taxi cab IS the process and product, the journey and the destination, not racing to the next customer at the expense of losing income to anger. That’s self defeating. What matters is what exists now. When you lose appreciation for present moment awareness, you never truly arrive.