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Mindful : October 2018
that some of the hassles we encounter getting through the day can actually have a greater impact on our psy- che than we realize. We feel one of our most precious possessions is being stolen from us: our time. The other day, my bank made me come back three times to try to resolve a problem with my debit card, and the last time I spent over an hour there while a manager was on the phone with someone from the head office in a faraway city. After four hours invested, the end result was “Your account is too old to allow that function.” WTF! I hate this bank. I hate all banks. This taps into some deep well of irritation with impersonal institutions. I can get right snappy, and a whole day can be ruined, and in the retelling I work myself up again. In the end, though, irritation with hassles is just that, irrita- tion and impatience. In the grand scheme of things, the hassles amount to next to nothing. Bouncing back from hassles becomes easier when we snap out of the fixed notion that things are just supposed to go our way, and if we’re lucky enough, we can even start to let that chip on our shoulder fall off, so we’re not sniping at innocent tellers for just trying their best to do their job. (By the way, this doesn’t mean you stop advocating for bank reform, if that’s your cause. I’m not talking about being a jelly-hearted pushover.) The big challenge comes with the really hard stuff to bounce back from: ongoing pain and loss. The death of my father, my brother, my mother, the pains in various parts of my body that just won’t go away. These things do not respond to having a smiley face plastered on them. They want their due. They exact their toll. I find it hard to contemplate what to be thankful for on this score, what to savor. In a good moment, though, I can glimpse the fact that pain, whether physical or emo- tional, is something that lets us know we are alive. And as we try to manage it as best we can, we are hum- bled, we are vulnerable, we seek help. We find a way. We bounce back. And, as we savor the equanimity, we learn to take the good and the bad— whichever is emerging right now. 3WHENIT’S BORING...Savor the Freedom In my own hometown and when I’m traveling, I try as much as possible to use public transportation. It’s a good way to feel connected to other people, and when you’re above ground it’s a good way to see a place. But I will be the first to admit that throughout my life I have not been good at waiting. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought, “This bus is never coming; I should call someone to pick me up.” And then they came up with apps you can check and screens that tell you exactly when the next one will arrive. I am an avid user. I wish there was an app to tell me when I’m going to get done cleaning the kitchen, because it’s starting to bore me. I’ve come to realize, though, that when I’m waiting or doing something mundane like washing dishes, I am quite simply trying to avoid being bored, having nothing in partic- ular to occupy my mind and afraid that something is going to bubble up from in there to unsettle me. It’s extremely typical in medi- tation: You end up waiting for the session to end and trying to calculate how soon that ending ’s going to come, because you’re having trouble handling the boredom. So, savor the boredom? Why? Because, as we all keep discovering time and time again in meditation (eventually we will learn, I guess), we don’t really need to keep ourselves occupied with a lot of extra thoughts. It’s peaceful to take a break from that. My savoring challenge helped me learn (once again) to savor the freedom from the need to entertain myself every minute of the day. I can just let my mind be. WHEN I’M BORED, WHEN NOTHING IS OCCUPYING MY MIND, I’M AFRAID SOMETHING IS GOING TO BUBBLE UP FROM INSIDE TO UNSETTLE ME. 54 mindful October 2018 insight