Monday, August 18, 2008

Zen and the art of commuting

For the last two weeks I've been trying so hard to not get mad during my daily commute. It's a problem if I'm always getting angry or upset if people are too loud, or talk on and on, or play music too loudly. (People standing too close or not making room for others is another issue)

I've been telling myself (like a mantra): "Whatever happens, don't get mad. Whatever happens, don't get mad," and I only turned my i-Pod on once, when guys right behind me on the subway were shouting right in my ear. When I say, "shouting," usually I mean TALKING VERY LOUDLY. It's really unavoidable, living in New York. There's no real solution. It won't stop happening. I could get in trouble if I force a confrontation about it, so I'm pretty much reduced to accepting it -- however I manage to do that.

The first few days of this exercise I was deliberately not playing my i-Pod. I heard some woman say once that she lets the noise flow all around her and it becomes part of her and everything else in the world, and she accepts it in this manner. It becomes less annoying, she said.

Was I able to achieve anything like that? Did that happen to me? I tried. I really tried. If you're in a noisy place when conversation is going on all around you, it's fine until one sharp voice rises above the din. It's like a shock to the system. It gives me a headache when I'm just trying to relax after a long day. It's worse in the morning, when people are generally more subdued, to hear such a sudden loud voice. Then it's not a voice rising about the din but a voice rising out of nowhere. You go from quiet to unnecessary loudness.

"Unnecessary" is a judgment, of course. My first step in this process, this goal for serenity on the daily commute, might be to stop judging, to stop saying, "this person 'shouldn't' be making so much noise, this person 'should' know how rude he is being," etc.

Once I go beyond the judging, it comes down to what's actually happening. How is this affecting ME? "Listening to those kids shouting back and forth is giving me a headache. I doubt they will stop. My choices are: 1., keep listening to it and accepting it (I can always take out a notebook and start writing down quotes for my future blogs or short stories); 2, blocking it by putting my i-Pod on, or 3) moving to a different location on the train."

So, that's my goal for today as I head off today to another week in the trenches.


Radagast said...

Unfortunately, I don't think tolerance comes naturally to people but has to learned (i.e. Forced upon oneself through willpower). We all have our own personal space and see any intrusion into it, whether physical or merely auditory, as an insult and affront. These people are invading our territory with their seeming selfishness. This has been something I've struggled with my whole life have to constantly watch lest I "go off" on someone.

Perhaps spankings will help - very hard bottom-reddening spankings.

Indiana said...

Fortunately, I don't have to commute, as your experience sounds like having to go to the airport every day, where you are invariable in front of the people carrying on the most annoying conversation imaginable as you stand in a 45 minute line. I'm certain that the iPod has saved my sanity.

It doesn't work for me to tell myself over and over again not to do something, as that just keeps my attention on the thing I'm trying not to do. I have to tell myself to do something, like to stay calm, be generous, etc.

Good luck this week!

Ms. Cassandra (Sandy) Park said...

Thanks. So far so good. There WERE loud cell phone users on the bus tonight, and I was good about it. I did a little writing, read the newspaper, etc.