Driving recently to catch a flight, I got caught in congestion following an accident on a motorway (freeway). In a hire car, driving on the right side of the road (we drive on the left in the UK), my heart sank.
As we got closer to the city, there were multiple on and off ramps and cars everywhere, weaving in and out, cutting in very close, moving into non-existent gaps. To add to the show, motorbikes slalomed through the lanes.
I could feel tension mounting and thought, “I need eyes everywhere”, as well as keeping track of the airport signs. Breathe I told myself.
Then the thought occurred to me: this is amazing, how does this work, all this traffic? By rights it should be a disaster area. In that moment, I relaxed a little and slowed up a bit, leaving as much space as I could. Suddenly it didn’t look so bad and it seemed inevitable I would get to the airport no problem (and sure enough I did).
I’d be lying if I said there was no stress involved. I parked up at the airport and handed over the keys with some relief but I realised how different the experience could have been.
There were so many opportunities for judgement in this situation:
- judgement about the other drivers cutting in
- judgement about the driver who narrowly missed a motorbike
- judgement about my driving competence
- judgement about my sat nav failing
The interesting thing is all these thoughts did pass through my mind (along with a hundred others). At any point I could have really dug into one of those judgements and the result would have been increasing stress levels for me.
The point where it got easier was when I noticed something not just okay about the situation but had a split second of ‘wow, look at the dance of traffic going on here.’
This story shows me the changing experience I had driving through that traffic was coming to me via Thought in the moment not from the traffic.
Each driver was having her own unique experience (especially the woman laughing on her phone while weaving in and out, driving one handed – whoa – there goes judgement again!).
And we begin to see there is the possibility for any experience in any situation (depending on the thoughts we happen to be having).
It is not about enjoying a situation so much, rather noticing that our thoughts constantly come and go, enjoying more and judging less our changing responses and feelings moment to moment including the tension, stress, anxiety, indignation.
As we open to each feeling, it moves through us more easily and now and then, a completely different thought and feeling might pop in, (like the sudden awe at the crazy, impossible dance of the traffic) which can transform our experience.
How can you enjoy feeling stressed, anxious or other people being unkind?
What facilitates this is a deeper understanding of our own innate mental health. Without that, this is just another practice.
From a change of heart, a realisation or an insight about our own mental health, our well-being, our deeper essence, something unaffected by the ebb and flow of how we feel. Then the ups and downs in life look less threatening, less important and we begin to find space to open to our experience, moment to moment. We get more curious and appreciate more and more our deepening awareness of how our mind works.
Judging and resisting our experience tends to get us stuck in it and we suffer.
Rather than just enduring our experience what happens if we open to it, even enjoy it? Once we begin to notice how our experience is created via Thought and look more kindly on our own personal experience (the comfortable and the uncomfortable), a lovely thing happens; we look more kindly on others’ idiosyncrasies, habits and behaviour. And so the world begins to transform.
What if you noticed how much judgement goes on in your head? What if you chose to experiment with enjoying more moments, getting curious about the source of your ability to think and feel? Taking each thought or feeling less seriously? Replacing judgement (especially of ourselves) with enjoyment?
It’s been a shock to me to notice how much of my thinking contains judgement: of myself, others, events, life, the world.
“Love is the absence of judgement” Dalai Lamai IV
I’d love to hear your comments, please email me or use the comment box below.
P.S. Not that many years ago I turned back from a car trip on local roads near my home because of overwhelming feelings of anxiety. I remember being terrified of my own mind. The result was near paralysis. I didn’t know I was innocently magnifying my own fears by thinking into those fears. I didn’t know my mind was not my enemy. I thought I was faulty. This understanding is giving me more ease with the ups and downs, knowing that all is well at a deeper level, knowing the mind changes, constantly, and that there is a deeper intelligence at play.
If you’d like to further explore the understanding known as The Three Principles, looking towards a deeper understanding of who and what we are and how our experience gets created via the power of Thought, I am running another small group online programme, Love your life again, starting 23 October. Find all the details here.