So that is a picture of my car after someone crashed into it. The driver was probably texting when she managed to rip the front bumper completely off. She even broke the frame. Fortunately, she opted to leave a note and when I called her first words were "I know you don't want to hear this but there's not a scratch on my car." I've never had any issues in the ten years that I've owned my spunky little Beamer, and I had just been thinking about taking it for a spin in the mountains when I saw the damage. So how could I find mindfulness in my totaled car?
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness, as it relates to zen Buddhist tradition, is the focal point for your daily meditative practice. In this sense being mindful involves observing the present moment without reaction. If you were sitting upright in a chair or on the floor during meditation, you would only observe the minor aches in your back from sitting upright. Likewise, you would observe and acknowledge the sounds around you as you let them pass into unawareness. Mindfulness is acceptance of the present moment, regardless of the circumstances.
So when I spotted my mangled vehicle, instead of pulling my hair out and shrieking to the gods for vengeance, I took a big breath and walked away. I understood that the situation was as it was and I carried on with remainder of my morning.
Of course, she left a note so it could've been worse. Regardless, had this happened to me five years ago I would have had a meltdown of epic ego-monster proportions.
Accepting The Things That You Can't Control
Although the other driver filed a claim, I'm car-less for the time being. However, I immediately knew that there wasn't a damn thing I could do about this situation. Instead of getting bent out of shape and being rude to everyone involved- from the rental car person to the tow truck driver to the hyper-apologetic lady who hit me- I opted to just shrug and say 'that's life'.
Getting all brow-furrow-y about something like this is akin to getting angry at the weather when hail trashes your roof. Losing it might feel like a valid response when you're fuming in the moment, but ultimately you're only going to feel more resentful later on when you realize you were being a total dick unnecessarily.
How Can I Apply This To My Daily Life And Practice?
Yoga is a fairly perfect format to test this theory out. Any yogi with a sense of humility will acknowledge that there are moments in your yoga practice when you just can't do it...regardless of what 'it' is. Maybe it's a pose or a series of movements, or even a class that is just too complex or difficult. It's easy to react in this situation with and attitude of "poor me" or just flat out getting angry. If you cannot step outside of your ego and examine this situation for what it is in the present moment, you have A LOT to learn as a yogi.
If you look around a crowded yoga class it's not difficult to spot the person (or people) struggling with all their might to force their body into a position for which it is not prepared-- and then getting visibly angry when they can't do it. Don't be that guy; take a big breath and move on with your life.
Likewise, you can spot these folks in our day-to-day society honking in traffic, freaking out when things don't go their way, etc. It's all ego. Sometimes things aren't going to work out for you, and that's just a hard truth of life. Where did this sense of entitlement come from anyway?? If we were still hunting for our food we'd be happy for every damn thing we have! Instead, we should be grateful, and within gratitude lies mindfulness.
It goes without saying being "the dude/chick who freaks out when things don't go their way" is a deeply unproductive way to live. So next time you can't quite do that pose, or someone cuts you off in traffic, or perhaps you walk outside to find that someone has sideswiped your car, instead of letting your blood boil, take a big breath and just accept that 'that's life'.
The size of that ego makes you look fat anyway 😉