Every morning and every evening, those of us doing the commute into an office in a big city go on an epic journey. Or at least that’s how it feels to me.
Rush hour requires stamina, persistence, flexibility, one-pointedness of mind, quick thinking and in London, a fair bit of assertiveness. It is not for the faint hearted.
By the time I get to work, I’m usually ready for a bit of a rest.
Anyway, one of the benefits of doing the same journey again and again is you get to practice, and hopefully improve your performance. It’s a bit like that film Groundhog Day, only it’s important to remember that it isn’t just the same day again and again – every day you spend doing it is a day closer to your death. So make it count!
Rush hour is a spiritual practice, or it can be. Staying in a positive emotional state through rush hour requires one to, as many great sages have said, have one’s shit together. I have seen Buddhist monks get totally freaked out in rush hour. It’s the opposite of retreat. It’s advance!
When we enter rush hour, we enter the crucible. We offer ourselves up, to be melted down and hopefully made into some beautiful golden Buddha statue. Of course if we don’t guard our minds well, we can very easily come out as a grimacing gargoyle, and our whole day is spent under a dark cloud.
So here are some tips for staying sane during rush hour:
1. Start the day with a smoothie. I love a fruit smoothie in the morning. It gives me the energy for rush hour. I have to have breakfast number 2 once I arrive at work, but the smoothie gives me a nice morning buzz.
2. Prepare. Be aware that you are about to enter the crucible. Go in with your eyes open and your breath calm.
3. Maintain awareness of body and breath. This is a high octane movement meditation you are undertaking. This is tantric ‘awakening in this very lifetime’ kind of stuff.
4. Balance self and other. Rush hour (at least in London) is generally about self. But when everyone is like that, it makes things incredibly unpleasant. You need to be assertive or it will take you 3 hours to get home. But having awareness of others in a place where this is not expected gives everyone a new faith in humanity. And that is a beautiful gift to be able to give.
5. Don’t get wound up by the zombies. They are everywhere. They don’t care about you. They ignore old men with walking sticks and pregnant women struggling to stand. It is tempting to fill your mind with fantasies of violent retribution for this injustice. Don’t. Rush-Hour-Mind is precious. Guard it.
6. Keep practising. You can do it better every day. More peace, more bliss, more agility, more presence. You’ll be a Buddha yet. Today is not the same as yesterday.
7. Celebrate when you survive it. Don’t just dive into the next thing. Take a moment to think ‘Yeah! I did it again!’
8. Go for refuge. When it all gets on top of you, don’t give yourself a hard time. There’s always tomorrow. When I can’t keep it together, I just chant. I ask the positive forces in the universe to come to my aid. I let go. I submit. Mastery and submission are in the end two aspects of the same thing.
Go well on your everyday odyssey!
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