Mindfulness Meditation
    • Learning how our mind creates our world

Avoiding Cell Phone Disharmony

by on 07 May

     The new tagline on my website – Living in harmony with everything – helped me handle my irritation recently with someone on their cell phone in the restaurant.

     Since I created a website to advertise my course, I have changed many times the “tagline” below the name of the website – Meditation and Mindfulness - to convey some of the benefits from practicing meditation and mindfulness (M&M). Most recently, it read – Calmness, confidence, happiness.
      Jon Kabatt-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) - the course my teachings are largely based on - talks about M&M changing our relationship with ourselves, with other people and with the world, of being in greater harmony with them. So I decided this week to switch the tagline to Living in harmony - a more generic description of both the benefits and the practice of M&M.
     I later thought, however, that people might wonder about its meaning - “Living in harmony” with what or with whom? And, so I expanded it to “Living in harmony with everything” because the goal should include all situations. Our practice of mindfulness should aim to live in harmony with every situation and every person. We can apply our mind for our benefit instead of being “pushed around” by it - by our constant inner voice and colour commentary. We can aim to be content, rather than have our happiness depend on special external conditions which we constantly try to optimize.
      This is the practice which I aspire to, whether I ever arrive there or not. To experience harmony in every situation, but to know when I’m causing mental disharmony (which is still pretty frequently!) and to know how to handle that. To have mental strategies and tools to deal with disharmony in the moment. And, if I can’t do that, to subsequently reflect on my habits, perspectives and motivations in the disharmony situation so that I can modify them and move closer to harmony in a future situation. After changing the tagline, I decided to apply it in everyday life. I didn’t have long to wait.

     Twice a year, I take my car to have the tires, oil and filter changed. I drop it off and walk a block to a restaurant that specializes in breakfast and lunch. Last week when I went in, there were fewer customers, the soundless TV was on as usual, and my preferred table was available. The waitress brought me a coffee and I opened my paper to read awhile before ordering.
     There were 3 or 4 guys at a nearby table. I could hear them talking but they weren’t loud enough to bother me. And then, a big fellow walked in and sat at another table beside mine, ordered his meal, and pulled out his cellphone. I thought he might be checking the weather or news but he was phoning someone. I returned to reading the paper.
     After a few minutes, however, I noticed an irritating feeling so I checked out my thoughts to see what was causing the negativity. I realized my inner voice was criticizing this fellow, saying “Doesn’t he realize he’s bothering me? Why should I have to listen to him?” And then I remembered my goal of “living in harmony” and began to reflect more broadly on what was happening.
     I realized that the 3 fellows on my right were making as much sound as the guy on my left. I felt, however, that their sounds were “normal” while the single fellow’s sounds were bothersome. That struck me as an arbitrary and perhaps unfair judgement on my part. I also realized that, if I continued my negative judgements, I would create a lousy mood which could last for some time. So I searched for another attitude – a different intention - to adopt. I chose curiousity - a favorite of Kabbat-Zinn’s.
     As I listened closely to the fellow’s conversation, I learned that he was instructing a colleague at a job-site. He was asking about various conditions and giving instructions. He was reasonably friendly while straight-forward, probably a decent guy to work for. He was also giving a lot of care to ensuring the work met the customer’s specs. I enjoyed trying to envisage the situation of his colleague and imagining what was happening at the site. And, I realized, I was quite content with what was happening in the moment. I returned to my paper and breakfast and didn’t give the situation another thought.
     As I walked to my car after breakfast, I realized that being “in harmony with everything” would require some work in many situations and might not always be successful. But, I thought it would be a very useful indicator of when my mind was crating disharmony, reminding me once again that I have a choice about how to live my life. In any moment, I can react habitually and resist or fight reality – act in a complaining or needy fashion – or I can choose to respond more wholesomely and not create any harm for me or others. “Living in harmony” could help me reduce negativity and stress, and understand and modify unwholesome habits.
     I also realized that my relationship to cell phone users had probably changed a bit.


  • Debra

    Your method of explaining everything in this article is truly
    nice, every one can easily understand it,
    Thanks a lot.

    Debra Monday, 18 September 2017 21:08
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