Minding Myself, Minding Others

By Joyce

Besides the Zen meditation retreat I attended last weekend, I also had two mindfulness experiences last week that reinforced the value of my training.

In Janurary, I took a 6 session online webinar for facilitator training from the Prison Mindfulness Institute called, Path of Freedom, a mindfulness and emotional intelligence training for incarcerated youth and adults. As part of the curriculum, we, the facilitators-in-training, were taught about the concept of holding your seat, taken from the horse training sport of dressage.  Basically, the idea is to not let your mind or emotions drag you around like an out-of-control horse; instead, keep your center (hold your seat) as you ride through all your mental and emotional fluctuations.  For homework, we were asked to write about situations where we had to hold our seat within ourselves or with others.

Well, that week, I didn’t particularly have any triggers so I was worried I wouldn’t have anything to write about, but after going on a series of errands, I found I had plenty of material.  My first stop was to my local natural food store (PCC).  Even though I am ordinarily triggered by their high prices, on that day, I put items in my basket with relative equanimity.  It wasn’t until I was waiting in line to check out that I was challenged to hold my seat.  You see, the woman in front of me had some indecipherable issue with her debit card.  It was the kind of issue where back and forth communication between her and the cashier seemed to go on and on.  All customers have an intuitive sense of the amount of time that simple questions like, “Do you want cash back?” or “Did you bring your own bag?” should take, and this interaction was definitely taking too long by my clock. At the same moment my internal sensor was alerting me that I was in the wrong check out line, I decided to try the hold your seat exercise. Instead of focusing on the cashier, I focused on my breath and stilling my mind.  It’s not that I didn’t notice her inefficient use of time, or her poor spatial organization when she bagged her customer’s groceries; it was that I was relaxed and easy with it.  Just as I was settling into taking whatever time it was going to take, I noticed at the edge of my periphery vision, a cashier at the next register opening her drawer. I made a beeline to that register, beating out other customers to be the first in line.  Holding my seat didn’t mean I needed to stay frozen in an unwanted situation. Instead, by centering myself, I was able to relax and keep my awareness open and alert so I could fluidly move out of stasis.

My next stop was to get gas at the Safeway gas station on Rainier Avenue S. When I opened the door to the cashier’s kiosk, I had an instant flash of irritation, an inner harrumph, as
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