On the Opportunities in Commuting


(CRAM Much) Yep, we've all used our faces as windshield wipers before. (Image originally sourced from news.bbc.co.uk.)

(CRAM Much) Yep, we’ve all used our faces as windshield wipers before. (Image originally sourced from news.bbc.co.uk.)

So I’ve been commuting by MRT the last three days, and for anyone who meditates and who hasn’t tried our local subway system yet, I highly recommend it.

Meditation is largely about observing yourself and being with whatever arises. When you meditate on the MRT, you not only get to observe yourself, but you also get to observe others, and, more importantly—you get a crash course on being with whatever arises, which usually involves: anger, anxiety, hostility, impatience, indignation and resentment.

(The other thing that usually arises is shame—which is what comes up when you inadvertently indulge the feelings of anger, anxiety, hostility, impatience, indignation and resentment.)

Today’s trip on the MRT was especially interesting. I was running late unlike the previous two days, and, it’s amazing how being pressed for time makes our buttons that much easier to push. I’d already had to pass up on one train and was third in line for the carriage arriving next. As soon as the doors slid open, a woman way behind in the queue cut straight in front of me and two other women in line and promptly disappeared into the crush of bodies ahead. The space she took up translated directly into the space I should have occupied.

And, that was all it took for months of meditation practice to disappear. Shaking with fury, I yelled something behind her back (to the delight of the two other affronted women). Then I crammed myself into the last three inches of space and spent the next five minutes balancing precariously on four toes with one arm lifted straight up (it was so crowded I couldn’t even bring my elbow down).

Then I spent the next thirty minutes staring balefully at the back of the woman’s head, daring her to turn around so I could give her the Glare of Doom which would result in her instant vaporization.

(Of course she didn’t turn around.)

Much later that day, on the ride back home, a man left his seat and offered it to me as soon as I entered the train. It was a full train, mind you, and no one else spared the effort. I smiled at him and nodded my thanks, took his seat, and watched him spend the next thirty minutes jostling around in the crowded car on my behalf.

What came up that time around was delight, gratitude, surprise and humility.

It made for a significantly easier meditation session.

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