As a New Yorker, I depend a lot on the subways. And disruptions to subway service cause disruptions to life.
This month, there is no L train service on the weekends. The L train is a vital part of my commute to Trapeze School New York, which I visit every Saturday morning for trampoline practice and Sunday evening for flying trapeze.
Right now I’m staying on the Upper East Side, and the MTA app directed me to take the 4 train to Fulton Street, then transfer to the J to Brooklyn.
The Fulton Street Station is not one of my typical stations. The J train is foreign to me.
Yesterday morning I had a near ADHD meltdown while trying to find the J train track.
I walked down the stairs, down the ACE platform, then back up the stairs, following signs that made no sense. I asked 3 people and nobody gave me clear directions. At least according to my perception.
I allow for the possibility that they were clear but I couldn’t hear them, because I was at my anger boiling point, trying to hold myself back from screaming,
CAN SOMEONE PLEASE JUST SHOW ME HOW TO GET TO THE FUCKING J TRAIN?
I managed to maintain my presence and avoid the ADHD meltdown.
When I finally found the platform, I had no idea how I had gotten there.
Fortunately I had left plenty of time and arrived early to practice.
Today I was back on that same route: the 4 express to Fulton Street, where I switched to the J train.
Same station as yesterday, but it was like a different world.
There were clear signs directing me to the Brooklyn-bound J train.
Signs that I did not see yesterday.
The path was easy. There was no drama.
Even though I had been in a frazzled state yesterday, somehow my body knew where to go. And I was able to take in more of my surroundings.
Nobody in my way. It wasn’t a function of traffic — my commute yesterday was early in the morning, when the station was relatively empty. There were more people around today.
Yesterday I had left plenty of time, yet I couldn’t see the signs that were clearly there.
Today, even though I was in a rush, I was able to see more things in the field.
What caused the difference?
Here are three factors:
Because I had been there before, even if not in the same way, my brain had a level of familiarity with my surroundings. Because I had been in the space before I was able to see more parts of it.
I had a better sense of what I was looking for, which allowed me to see it more clearly.
The brain looks for signs because the brain processes information. Signs present information.
While my brain was looking for signs yesterday, my body navigated the space. It knew where to go without interference from my brain.
This is knowledge. It comes from physical experience.
(3) Not Locked in Fear
This is perhaps the biggest difference. Yesterday, my unfamiliarity with the route made me anxious about being late. Although I left myself plenty of time to navigate this unfamiliar subway terrain, I felt like it was taking too long to find the track and I worried about being late for my class.
Today, the app pegged my arrival at 6:23 pm, which would have made me late.
There was nothing that I can do about that at this point, so I surrendered to it. It’s not ideal, but it is what it is.
I accepted that I would be late.
Fear literally prevents us from seeing what’s right in front of us.
Having accepted that I would be late, I wasn’t caught up in fear of being late. That freed up the cognitive resources for me to see the signs and navigate with more ease.
Just that one shift to acceptance of the current situation removed the fear and worry about the future and opened me to the present.
My focus on the present opened me to more resourcefulness.
What could I do to minimize the impact of being late?
The J train ride was about 20 minutes. Once I settled on the train, I put on my trapeze grips, so I would be ready to fly when I arrived.
Find Time in the Present Moment
I surrendered my illusory control over time and the fear that comes with it, choosing to make best use of the present moment. Instead of trying to squeeze in an email or a social media post, I relaxed and centered myself.
And here’s the kicker: in the end, I arrived early. And, without the weight of the energy of fear and anxiety, I flew better than I have in recent weeks.
If you’re looking to find time, try letting go of the fear you have related to time. The present moment gives you all the time you need.