I have had my bag stolen. Now, before you go feeling sorry for me, it’s all good. Really and truly. In fact, it has been a wonderful mindfulness lesson in how I relate to my suffering and I have come to see it as a blessing, not a hardship.
This week, I am writing my blogpost from beautiful Belgium. After a late- night flight, I touched down for a few days of waffles, Belgian frites and soaking up the atmosphere of the continent. It feels amazing. The sun is shining, the air is warm and the squares of old Brussels have been most welcoming.
And then I discovered it. My bag is gone.
I could have gone into panic mode, and I nearly did. However, I found myself looking at a quotation by Pema Chodron sounding all Yodaesque:
‘It isn’t the things that happen to us in life that causes us to suffer, it is how we relate to the things that happen to us that causes us to suffer’.
I started to look for the good in the missing bag. I had no money in the missing bag and my phone just happened to be at the hotel on charge. So, I didn’t lose any cash or my mode of communication. My passport and Irish residency card were nearly expired. So, I would be renewing these documents anyway.
BUT… my car keys were in my bag and they are the only set that I have. My sunny disposition clouded (only slightly). This was OK. This was OK. I kept hearing the ‘it’s how I relate to it, it’s how I relate to it’. The cloud was merely a passing puff- one of those beautiful pinky, yellowy tinged cumulous clouds at that.
I could handle this. I would ring my insurance.
Once on the phone with my insurer, a few more clouds rolled in- my car would need to be reprogrammed and in order for this to happen, it would be towed to a local dealer. Again, this was OK. This was OK. With my mantra rolling in my mind, I really felt it was OK and it’s simply how I relate to it. Why worry? I wouldn’t be home for a few days and it would be sorted. I was relating just fine. Only a few clouds…three or four of those big, dramatic cumulonimbus clouds- the one’s I marvel at as they display their power through low, deep rumbles.
I could handle this. It wouldn’t cost much.
Then the nice lady started telling me about all of the extras and the thoughts started to creep in:
‘This is going to cost me 500 quid’
‘Why has this happened? Surely it’s my fault?’
More clouds- however, I kept reminding myself that, actually, I was in a lovely city, in a nice hotel and I was safe.
The nice lady then asked me where exactly I had parked my car. I told her the name of the carpark. She then asked for the section. I told her that it was in the priority section. I then proceeded to tell her all about how I had never parked in the priority section before. It was my first time. They had upgraded me. And then it dropped:
THEY have my keys!!! In the priority section, they park the cars. They took my keys! My keys were not in my bag.
The nice lady and I laughed out loud and both of us ooed and ahhed and expressed delight. It was amazing. We had connected through the problem and we had connected through finding out that there was no problem.
The best part it? I did not add any extra suffering on to my pain- as I kept fast to my mindfulness practice and the reminder of ‘it’s all how I relate’.
So, this week’s challenge is to check in with how we are relating to our hardships or our moments of difficulty. Are we adding to the pain or are we meeting the pain at source without extra story about how bad things are, how it is my fault, how it would never happen to someone else?
As part of our Level 1: Being Present course, we start to explore what Rob Nairn calls our undercurrent, or the constant stream of thoughts running through our mind, and how we are able to become the observer of our undercurrent. Once we are able to become the observer, we can start to notice all the ways in which we subtly relate to situations and even to the thoughts themselves.
Due to my practice, I was able to see the thoughts, the emotions, the mood that I was experiencing and I was able to recognise that I did not have to buy into them or believe the stories of ‘this is my fault’, ‘what a nightmare’, etc… Instead, I chose to relate to them in a way that was open and without reactivity. I knew it was OK. And ultimately, it was OK.
If you would like to know more, or maybe even move towards becoming familiar with these processes, make sure to find a Level 1: Being Present course near you and come and join us.
Also, next week at our Weekly Sit, I will be guiding a practice that can help create the conditions for noticing the undercurrent. If you are a member, make sure to log on to our membership website, find the Zoom Meetings tab and start the video link for the live session.
Not a member? Why not join us?