Urban Mindfulness--The Book!


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    Bus Mindfulness in Gotham: A Lesson in Acceptance

    By Irene Javors, LMHC

    I ride city buses all the time. I like buses. I prefer them to the subway. I love looking out the window and watching the world go by. My mind wanders. I daydream. But there is one thing that happens on a bus that has the capacity to totally "undo" me. Whenever, I see someone who is relatively healthy, young, and totally oblivious take one of the seats that is designated for the "elderly and or disabled," at the very front of the vehicle, behind the driver's seat, I lose all my mindfulness training and I am about ready to blow a fuse.

    Last week when I was on the bus in my Queens neighborhood, I witnessed a particularly acute example of such behavior. The bus was very crowded and a boy around 15-years-old took one of those seats. He had his iPod and he was totally involved in whatever music he was tuned into. Unfortunately, he was completely tuned out to anything else.

    A very fragile, elderly woman got on the bus and was looking around for somewhere to sit. My immediate impulse was to get up for her, but then I reminded myself that the reason I was so grateful to have a seat was that the arthritis in my left knee was causing me a great deal of pain and that I was in no shape to play good samaritan.

    I, then, argued with myself as to whether or not I should say something to the boy. He bristled with very defiant and oppositional energy. I felt totally conflicted. Was it really my business to intervene and speak to the teen? What was going on with the woman? What was preventing her from speaking up for herself? Where was everyone else? How come no one was getting up and giving her a seat? What about the bus driver who was a witness to what was happening- what was going on with him?

    I didn't know what to do. I ended up doing nothing. This didn't feel very good to me. I see myself as a person of action yet, this incident showed me that there are times when doing "the right thing" isn't always possible. I wanted to help the woman but I didn't have a clue as to how to do so. In the past, I actually have spoken to people who have wrongfully occupied those seats. Every time I have done so--no matter how diplomatic I have been--I have been the recipient of curses and hostility. I was afraid that this would happen again.

    I have asked myself if it is possible to look at this episode in a mindful way. This incident has taught me the importance of 'acceptance.' I need to accept that people often don't do "the right thing," including myself. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people. Remembering this, I have concluded, is the first step to mindful wisdom.