How to be mindful (sort of) when missing the Acela to Boston

How to be mindful (sort of) when missing the Acela to Boston

Early on in my meditation practice I had the realization, “Now I can watch myself get into a bad mood.”

This is a good thing. With more awareness, I can hold whatever thoughts, feelings, and sensations are arising spaciously, and rather than react, choose actions that benefit all beings.

Recently I took a cab from West End Avenue and 72nd Street to Penn Station to catch the 8:00 a.m. Acela to Boston.

“Stay west!” I said, as the cab driver started to maneuver the steering wheel left at 70th Street.

“West End Ave. is always faster than Broadway. Always. Trust me,” I added.

As we sailed effortlessly through green light after green light from 72nd Street to 34th Street, the words of a Rumi poem surfaced in my awareness: Everything is rigged in your favor.

The universe certainly does seem rigged in my favor, I mused, silently. Especially when I listen to that still, small voice within that causes me to boss cab drivers around.

At 34th Street we stopped and waited. We waited for a long time. After minutes passed, it occurred to me this was much longer than I’d ever been delayed in a cab.

“What’s going on?” I asked my cab driver, as if I didn’t know.

“Construction,” he said.

“Why is no one honking their horn?” I asked.

The cab driver turned his head to look at me and smiled.

“I teach meditation and yoga,” I said, sensing he would appreciate the irony.

It was then that I noticed a tightening in my solar plexus, feelings of agitation, and this thought: I’m going to miss the Acela!

I rolled down my window and stuck my head out to examine the traffic situation. Up ahead, there was a short man holding a large Stop sign.

It was as if “the universe” was mocking the smug note in my “everything is rigged in my favor” musing.

I inhaled, exhaled, paused, and then….

“You’re making us all late!“ I offered, just loud enough for the man with the large Stop sign to hear over the jackhammers.

Then I sat back and calmly pressed the window lever with my index finger to close the window. My cab driver was smiling more deeply now as we proceeded in unison with the sea of cars around us.

Around the corner, on West 32nd Street, we encountered more construction. This time, I surrendered.

“There’s another train in a half-hour,” I told my cab driver. “It’s not worth getting heart disease. It’s certainly not your fault if I miss my train.”

I missed the Acela by two minutes and also my connection, the 1:05 train to Exeter, NH, so my best choice was to have a latte and a leisurely lunch in Boston.

Back Bay sparkled in the sunlight. The leaves of trees, already tinged with gold and red, moved gently in the cool breeze. A bittersweet feeling arose with the realization that the golden, sunlit days of summer were giving way to fall.

Walking down Boylston Street, I heard mesmerizing music and quickened my pace to find the source, which for a moment, seemed to be a food truck. It was street musicians—Boston’s best!

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As I listened to two young masters play their electronic violins with so much heart and such deep joy, I succumbed to bliss, and that thought surfaced again: Everything is rigged in your favor.

This time there wasn’t even a trace of smugness. Just gratitude for this perfect late summer day, these gifted musicians, and a deeper understanding of the koan—that everything is rigged in our favor when we soften, surrender, and go with the flow.

(Written in August of 2017.)