I’m somebody who travels a lot; to teach on courses, to visit my family in Scotland, and as part of the MA admin team I get a train from London to Manchester and back. Thankfully, I’m somebody who enjoys travelling, but at times I do find it can be frustrating, with delays and anxieties when trains are running late, with over-crowding and not being able to find a seat, by being jostled by other people, and a host of other little irritations.
And often in these situations, we can be surrounded by other people who might be stressed and anxious, and our mirror neurons can pick up on what people around us are feeling, which can influence how we feel.
Of course, it can be very tempting simply to zone out and ignore how we might be feeling, or what’s happening around us, or to find ways to distract ourselves with phones, computer games, listening to music, and a host of other diversions. I’m certainly not immune to this (and do like a good book to accompany me on long train journeys!), but I do consciously try to bring mindfulness and kindness to my experience.
I wouldn’t suggested that there’s necessarily any “best” practice for doing on the move, and I would suggest that we do whatever we can to bring some mindfulness when we’re travelling. Simply bringing our attention to how we feel, physically and emotionally, and what’s going on in our thoughts at this moment. Simply experiencing the motion of the train, and the passing scenery, can sometimes be wonderful.
What I generally like to do is do a short practice to settle my mind, and bring my attention into my body – I find that a practice such as the Three Minute Breathing Space can be very useful. Then I try to cultivate some loving-kindness, by wishing those around me well. I generally use the “phrases of loving kindness”, such as “May you be happy, May you be healthy, May you be free from stress”. When I look at the people around me, I sometimes imagine what their hopes and aspirations might be, and remind myself that everyone basically wants to be happy. So I choose phrases that might seem appropriate to individual people at that moment.
I do like to look at people when I do this, although I’m quite aware of not making eye contact, as people seem to find it threatening! I also sometimes wonder if there are other people doing the same as me! Wouldn’t that be nice?
I find trying to bring some mindfulness and loving-kindness to my journeys softens my attitude to those around me, especially when they do things like push in front of me to get onto the escalator, or to get a seat on the train, or whatever it might be. This helps makes my journey more enjoyable, and less stressful, and I’d encourage you to give it a go for yourselves….
This week’s challenge is to practice saying the loving-kindness phrases on the spot. Whether you are on a train, a bus, standing in a queue, driving in your car or walking down a street, as we meet people or simply pass another, see if you might be able to say a phrase such as
May you be happy
May you be well
May you go safe
May you live long and prosper
As you say the phrase, notice how you are feeling in the body, the thoughts that are presenting themselves and what your emotional landscape is.
Let us know how you get on!
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