I was cold, wet, and annoyed.
Navigating the NYC subway maze on weekends can take a lot of mental effort — various lines get shut down or re-routed to do maintenance work on the tracks.
I had planned for this. I used the MTA’s new app to plot my route and find the fastest route from the Upper East Side, where I’m currently staying, to Trapeze School New York in South Williamsburg. I had checked the weather forecast. And I even left on time to arrive 30 minutes before my class.
I embraced flexibility, doing my best to adapt to the changes. It seemed that every time I got on a train, that train was stopping early or skipping stations. I transferred 4 times, including walking out of one station only to go back into that station. Each time I updated the MTA app, it gave me a different route and pushed back my arrival time.
Separating From The Self
All the extra time I had left myself appeared to vanish into the commute.
Sitting on the subway, I could feel myself get increasingly agitated with each announcement and each stop.
Why do they have to do the subway work on all the lines every weekend?
Why can’t post clear announcements of service changes and alternate routes?
As if that weren’t enough, it was also raining.
I had checked the weather in two different apps, both last night and before I left in the morning. Both showed a clear, sunny day. But as I walked to the subway it was misting. By the time I got out of the subway in Brooklyn — over an hour later — it was raining more steadily.
So I was cold, wet, and annoyed.
I could hear myself in my head about it, :
Weather forecasters never get it right. The subway never works like it should.
I was in resistance, fighting with what is rather than accepting it.
Have you ever noticed how we default to absolutes when we get in a state of resistance? Or, maybe it’s just me.
The Practical Applications of Mindfulness Practice
One result of mindfulness practice and consistent meditation is that we learn to catch ourselves more quickly. A situation like this is where the daily practice meets its “real life” application.
I caught myself today before I fell too deep into the spiral of negativity. Instead of racing down the subway stairs to the street, I moved slowly, giving myself space to move into a state of greater resourcefulness.
There’s a bodega on the corner of Flushing Avenue, just below the elevated subway tracks. Even though I felt like I was running way behind schedule (spoiler: I wasn’t), I popped in to get an umbrella.
Under the cover of the umbrella, I walked down Flushing Avenue, continuing to shift my state.
Shifts That Begin From Within
First, I reflected on what was good in that moment.
Grateful for the bodega on the corner.
Grateful that the subways even work at all, given the age of the system.
Grateful that I left myself for leaving enough time that I wouldn’t be late.
Remembering that I was on my way to trampoline practice — always a highlight of my week. This is my fun time. Did I want to waste it by being annoyed?
Second, I asked myself: what did this experience come to teach me?
As I continued down the street, I saw a guy standing in front of his building with two tote bags. A King Charles Cavalier was sticking his head out of one of the bags.
There was something about the dog’s face and his look that instantly changed my mood. I felt my face brighten with a big smile. I looked at the dog, snuggled in this tote bag. I looked up at his owner, who smiled back at me. Just one of those little moments of humanity on a rainy Saturday morning in South Williamsburg. As I walked past, I thought about that story I had in my head just 5 minutes earlier, and how easily it faded away upon the sight of the dog. I started to laugh. The dog was just so cute.
I backtracked a few steps and asked the owner if I could take a picture of his dog; I wanted to remember the moment because it was such a great interruption of my negative pattern.
In the midst of my fuming, this dog brought me back to presence.
Sometimes, that’s all it takes. The big, soulful eyes of a puppy. A smile from a stranger. A moment to reflect in gratitude. Anything that reminds us that the story in our minds isn’t as bad as we are making it out to be.