Voices: Who’s Driving Your Bus?

A short while ago I opened an opportunity for people to send me stories of mindfulness that can show the rest of us how it has had a practical impact on a particular event or their lives. I’m calling this column of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, “Voices.”

A number of people wrote it with stories. If you have a story, continue to writing in and as long as there are good stories that teach the rest of us how mindfulness can work in our lives, I will choose from them from time to time to post on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy.

Of course those that get chosen can also send me a link that I’ll include in the post where people can learn more about them.

Here’s a delightful and insightful true story from Brandon Rennels about the power of acceptance in our daily lives.

A couple summers ago I was on vacation in a foreign country, and I found myself on a bus. It was a day long trip in a well-worn vehicle, and we began our journey at dawn. This particular ride got off to a slow start, as every 20 minutes the driver would pull over, shut off the engine, walk outside to converse with others, and then slowly make his way back to the driver’s seat. Then he would pull over again, shut off the engine again, walk outside to converse with others again, and then slowly make his way back to the driver’s seat, again. Then he would pull over yet again, shut off the engine yet…get the idea? Yea, so did I!

After observing this ritual repeated every few miles, it became clear that rather than being some type of mandatory halt, our driver was taking the time to catch up with his friends scattered throughout the city. An hour in and I was quite perturbed…“What is he doing out there?  Why is this taking so long?? Are we really stopping again?!”  Anger was mounting; I had places to go, and there was no time for social hour! In desperation I looked around to see if anyone else shared my outrage, but to my surprise, the others were just sitting in their seat looking quite unaffected. Hmm, so what is my problem?

I had lost control of the bus. Not the physical bus, but that of my own mind. It was filled with unruly passengers who were clamoring on about how ‘this shouldn’t be happening!’, and they had overtaken the wheel. How to regain control?

In this case, the passengers/thoughts were fueled by resistance. I was resisting the stops as if thinking about them harder could prevent them, which of course only strengthened resistance when we stopped again. Seems silly, I know, but how often do we waste energy resisting what is actually happening?

A new approach was needed: how about acceptance? 

Acceptance is not inaction, and it is important to make this distinction. Acceptance in this sense is simply seeing things as they actually are. Here, it entails the fact that:

A) We were stopping frequently, and

B) Resisting ‘A’ was causing stress

Bringing awareness to my resistance allowed me to accept A&B as they were, and stop wasting energy on my pity party. With a calm mind, I could once again re-claim the driver’s seat!

I had two options: attempt to change the situation or live with it.  For the former, one option would be to get off the bus and try and find another way from whatever city we were in to my destination. Being in unfamiliar surroundings, this was probably not a wise idea. Another option would be to try and convince the driver that he should quit stopping. See previous advice.

Ultimately the best choice in this situation was just to accept it as is, without trying to change anything.

While I couldn’t control the physical bus, I could inhabit the driver’s seat of my own. Freeing myself of this stress then gave my mind space to appreciate those unnoticed moments around me: the sun cascading through the windows and the summer breeze slowly drifting on by…all told, it was a fine day to be riding a bus.

Sometimes even asking the question, “Who’s driving the bus?” can pop us out of auto-pilot and into a space of awareness to see how our mind is getting hijacked. In this space we can choose to see things differently and open the opportunity for greater ease, balance and perspective.

Do you have a story to share, feel free to email me it at elisha@drsgoldstein.com.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com

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