Urban Mindfulness--The Book!


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    Sounding Off

    By Emily Polak, Ph.D.

    Last weekend I attended a lecture on Inner Revolution from a Buddhist perspective. The speakers discussed that mindfulness is about how we relate to our experiences, and that our experiences are distinct from the stories we tell ourselves about them.

    The day included several periods of short meditation. At one point before we began a meditation, the teacher instructed us to turn on our cell phones. At first I thought it was a joke. We have all had the experience of being asked to turn off our cell phones. But who ever heard of being asked to turn on your mobile device. It turned out we would be doing a meditation on sound.

    As we sat, I anticipated the beeping or buzzing. But for some time it was quiet, save for the noises coming from outside the window. And then a jazz melody began to play. Though we had been given permission to let our phones ring—asked to, even—my immediate reaction that someone should make it stop.

    The sound of a phone ringing is intimately connected in my mind to the notion of interruption. To make the sound my focus rather than a distraction required a change of my mental framework. I tried to just hear the sound.

    As it continued to play, I found myself enjoying it. I thought, maybe I should get a jazzy ringtone. And when the sound stopped, I missed it. But only for a moment. Soon enough I was on to the next sound, the next thought, the next thought about the thought.

    Only a few phones actually went off during the 15 minutes or so that we sat. But I was struck by the strength of my tendency to be annoyed at the sound of a phone ringing in a public place.

    Next time you find yourself disturbed by someone’s phone ringing, see if you can notice the story you are telling yourself about it. See if you can isolate the event from the story and use it as opportunity to move beyond your habitual reactions. Perhaps you can find some compassion for the person who failed to turn off their ringer (we’ve all been there, right?) Or perhaps you could even get in touch with gratitude for the person whose phone unexpectedly jolted you back into the present moment.

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    Reader Comments (1)

    This reminds me of a meditation that Jonathan Gustin had us do in a workshop. It was in his office on a busy street. The day was warm so the windows were open. He instructed us to meditate and to say 'yes' to whatever happened, including things we would normally complain about, like traffic noises outside, or feeling too warm. I think we tend to see meditation as an escape from these 'temporal' experiences, but he taught that meditation is actually a way to be truly IN these experiences. The ringtone meditation is an interesting twist on that!

    November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

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