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Dear JMC,
Although I don’t currently meditate, I wonder how people who do meditate take the sense of peace into their daily lives. I think that especially in the city, life moves really fast, and it is hard to slow down in crazy moments like rush hour subway rides or long days. I feel like meditation could be one way to consciously slow myself down and keep from becoming easily overwhelmed, but I’m not really sure how…
– Busy B

Dear B,
Thanks for your question. I agree with you – life in this city does move very fast and the amount of stimuli that comes through our senses can be totally overwhelming sometimes. Meditation does help to bring some calm into the craziness, and I really think having a daily practice where you sit and return to the breath – even for 20 minutes – makes a HUGE difference in the rest of the day.
In a past blog I wrote about mindfulness – consciously inhabiting the moment that you are in. Sometimes it is easier to do this than other times. I’ll give you an example:
Today I rode the Chinatown bus from Boston to New York. The bus was fully packed – not one seat open. I was tired and cranky and it just happened that the man behind me had an urgent phone call to make and proceeded to talk VERY loudly from the minute we left South Station till the moment we arrived in New York. I kid you not – 4.5 SOLID hours of uninterrupted yelling on the phone in Spanish. If he ever hung up, I was planning on asking him what type of phone he had that wouldn’t run out of batteries with that much use!
I watched myself go through a range of emotions, from angry, to furious, to really furious. A few other passengers shot him dirty looks, and one woman poked him on the shoulder and pantomimed hanging up the phone with an impatient look on her face, but he just waved her off angrily and continued talking while looking out the window.
I caught myself. Either I could go through the rest of the ride simmering, upset, angry, disempowered, or I could recognize what I DID have control over – my own response to the stimuli. I could try and bring mindfulness to the situation.
So I tried to steady my breath. I felt the bus seat under me. I tried to become aware of the slight rocking of the bus over the highway. I felt the air conditioning vent blowing on my skin. At first, the man’s voice was like a bulldozer boring through any peace I tried to find. Then, I also started paying close attention to his voice – not what he was saying (which I couldn’t understand anyways) but the peaks and valleys of his voice – the music of how his voice interacted with the silence and the other noises of the bus – of my breath – of the noises around me. Of course, I often slipped out of this meditation and back into anger, but the more I drew my attention to the sounds of the bus, the more I could feel the my discomfort and anger lessen, and, eventually, disappear.
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