Josh Lynch is a Melbourne-based writer and social entrepreneur exploring the interaction of meditative action and creative processes. He has a particular interest in psychology, philosophy and anthropology, and was a founding member of multidisciplinary meditation studio A–Space.
It’s Monday morning, and here I am avoiding eye contact with my fellow commuters at all costs. Standing in the aisle, forever shuffling out of the way, only to find myself in the way again. Dodging small rivers of spilt chocolate milk and other miscellaneous liquids that seem to be following me. All of this angst and it’s not even 9am.
If meditation has taught me anything it’s that we have the choice to see things differently. Even when travelling on public transport. I remember a post from Humans of New York where an eye doctor was asked, “What's something about the eye that most people don't realise?” And he replied, “The eye doesn't see. The brain sees. The eye just transmits.”
Our regular morning commutes are filled with visible annoyances. But what if we chose to see things differently? What if we chose to delight in someone giving up their seat for someone else? Or someone running for the train and making it, just in time?
As a practice, meditation allows you to choose to see the beauty in banality. Not always, but more often than not. Below are some steps you can take to transform your morning (or afternoon) commute.
- Turn your music or podcast off and put your phone and headphones in your bag, or in the pocket you use the least.
- Now, whether standing or seated, take three conscious breaths. Breathe in and know that you are breathing in. Breathe out and know that you are breathing out.
- Next, move your attention to the sounds you can hear. What are all the different sounds around you right now? Whatever they are, allow the sounds to arrive and leave. There’s no need to judge them as good or bad, or try to push them away. Just listen for no other reason than to listen.
- You may notice that your attention darts off to a thought or a feeling or a sensation in the body. Know that this is normal. You’re not a “bad” meditator. You’re a human in a busy, stimulating environment whose attention is moving between many different forms of stimulus. Notice when your attention is moving and, with a sense of kindness, bring your attention back to the sounds you can hear. Attention moves and you bring it back. It moves, and you bring it back. Over and over. This is you self-regulating your attention. This is you meditating.
- Once your attention has settled on the sounds you can hear, identify a sound you might not have heard before. A new sound. Or it may be a familiar sound that sounds different. Whatever it is, just observe it until it leaves.
- Now, letting go of the sounds you can hear, begin to move your attention to the sights you can see. Again, try your best to not judge what you see as good or bad. Just see them as they are. You may catch the gaze of someone else. This is okay. Notice what happens internally when you do this and move your attention to something else you can see.
- Now, just like the sounds, notice one thing you haven’t seen before. Something new. Can you focus your attention on this thing, noticing how it changes or remains the same?
- Once you’ve done this, return your attention to your breath and, again, take three conscious breaths. In and out. In and out. In and out.
- Notice how you feel. You may feel calmer. Maybe a little happier. Or you may feel overwhelmed and stressed. Whatever these feelings are, try your best not to push them away or judge them as good or bad. Just let them come and go. Just like the sounds and sights.
Simple? Yes. Easy? Of course not. But it’s a practice like anything else.