Tuesday, 4 June 2013

I Like Driving in my Car-ma

Keep in Line with your Thoughts

     It can be hard to enjoy driving in your car when you live in a small town like Cork. There's rarely a day that you won't find the narrow roads clogged with traffic. In a bizarre bit of traffic management planning the traffic signals work in the oddest sequence. If you're waiting in a series of lights, the foremost lights will stay red while all the other sets further back up the line go green. This creates a massive bottleneck and build up of frustration. I've seen more than one or two angry exchanges as cars battle to get their place in the queue at a junction.

     You'd better believe it. If you drive a car in Cork then sooner or later you're going to end up in a traffic jam. So why not enjoy it? It's the perfect opportunity to work on mindfulness. Being kept waiting is one of the best lessons in being present.

Make it Count

     When asked once how I could bear driving in Cork I replied "I make it a meditation!" It became a bit of a joke. Apparently I must be responsible for half the accidents in Cork if I meditate while driving. But you don't have to be unconscious or in a dream like state. You need to find a place of heightened awareness where you're alert to what's going on around you.

     So instead of punching the dash and cursing the driver ahead of you who didn't make it through the green light, why not sit back and take a few deep breaths?

Anything Becomes a Meditation

     Just like the saying, you can't hurry a fine wine, there are some things that we enjoy in life that take time. We just have to accept that we're going to lay it down and have to wait as long as it takes before moving to the next stage.

     Treating any event in life like this changes it from something to endure into something to experience. We can actually learn to enjoy the process of waiting. What happens in the course of time that we're waiting for something like a kettle to boil or a pot of coffee to brew? The first response might be "...nothing...!" But taking this to the tiniest extreme of nerve impulses, thoughts and responses, millions of things happen. Never mind the birds that call or the joist that creaks.

A Stairway to Heaven (or Nirvana)

     It's quite true to say that every journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. But why would we forget all the steps in between the start and the finish? When I use Tibetan singing bowls to help people relax I'm always mindful of the Buddhist representation of the sound. It reflects life. It comes from nothing, resonates with its surroundings for a short while and then fades away to nothing. To appreciate its meaning I have to be present throughout the entire cycle. The same is true of every event or act in our lives.

     The next time you climb the stairs try making it a meditation. As you take the first step feel the placement of your foot and become aware of the transfer of weight throughout your body. How do you breathe? How do you move? Consciously observe your body travelling to the next point in the journey. What are you thinking? What muscles are you using? Don't worry about your destination. Simply take note of where you are in that moment. There's no hurry.

     Equally, when you read a book why would you want to hurry through the book to reach the end? I often get accused of being a slow reader but if I'm enjoying a good book I like to savour every word. After all, the author took the time to write them. He or she probably agonized over the composition before it finally went to print. So why would I hurry through their labour of passion? I want to enjoy every word. Sometimes I think it's so possible to get lost in a book that you share a piece of the author's creative process. In a way you're sharing their consciousness.

     Many of the spiritual writings around the world and especially in Buddhism are written to be savoured. A buddhist text requires a lot of thought, analysis and digestion. How can we integrate some of the ideology into our lives without taking time to understand it?

Anytime Anyplace Anywhere

     We don't need to sit for hours in a darkened room to develop mindfulness. We can use any event at any time throughout the day to practise being present. Instead of thinking about completing the thing you're doing or planning a later event, be aware of every moment during whatever it is that you're doing.