I’m merging onto a packed freeway and there is just enough space for my farm truck to squeeze into the 75mph flow. An 18-wheeler is hovering to the left of me and the car behind me is repeatedly speeding up to my back bumper. As I peek at the driver behind me, I notice an irritated hand gesture of hurry up. As I focus to maintain truly the only speed that will not cause an accident, the benefits of my mindfulness practice emerge.
“Breathe.” I am able to steady myself by drawing attention to my breath. For the past few months I have shifted my breathing practice in meditation from feeling breath in my belly and chest (which is perfectly wonderful) to locating the air moving through at the tip of my nose. I have practiced enough that in this moment of stress, the noticing of breath shows up naturally. A corresponding touchstone of calm also arises naturally.
Awareness of my experience. Without much effort, I am able to notice and observe the cascade of stress responses emerging in my body and mind. I notice fear and anger. I notice aggressive instincts to punish the driver behind me. I notice the effects of adrenaline, quickening my heart rate, sharpening my senses, tightening my grip on the wheel. I perceive angry, justifying words forming in my thoughts, full of judgments like this should not be.
Presence and choice. Grounded by my breath while watching my experience unfold, and welcoming the help of adrenaline to keep me sharp, something remarkable arises.
It is my deep care for everyone on the road that day. I see that I can be the calm in this storm.
May we be safe. Maybe we be healthy. May we be happy. May we feel peace.
(the Loving Kindness meditation in action)
I drive with purpose, steadiness and love, imagining that perhaps I could be a source of safety for us all. I wish the woman behind me well, and realize that more than once in my life, I have been her. I begin to form thoughts of compassion toward myself and the people all around me who are also surviving in this hurried world. I organize all of my thoughts and behavior around a wish for the safe arrival for each and every one of us to our intended destination.
What can be possible when we arrive at the difficult moments life serves up so readily with greater access to calm, kindness and care?
Life is full of storms, big and small, around us and within us. Our opportunity is to learn to meet the storms with new interest, to find new ways to express our deeper intentions no matter which way the wind is blowing.
Where would you like to bring new calm and care into the storms in your life?
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