The accident on the highway and the ensuing traffic jam was out of my control and yet I was filled with anxiousness. I felt as if seltzer was coursing though my veins. The students at Breakthrough North were waiting for me. I had not seen them for two weeks and now I was going to be late! I could not let go of the thought of letting them down. When I arrived in the classroom,10 minutes late, I told them the whole story of the accident and why I was late. However, the anxious feeling stayed within me the rest of the morning. What was that about?
In office hours I discussed the experience with my Mindful Communication teacher Marianna. She helped me to dig a little deeper, in order to uncover what this was really about? I shared that this was not about me, it was about the children and not wanting to let them down. She suggested I go deeper and the more I investigated the more I realized perhaps it WAS about ME!
Later in the afternoon, I was reading an article by John Teasdale and Michael Chaskalson, How Does Mindfulness Transform Suffering? Perhaps this would help me to further uncover what exactly this was about. “The central problem is that we cannot let go—we cannot let go of our desire, our need for things to be a particular way, even though that very need is what is creating our suffering.” Hmmmm…now I was coming closer…ok letting go of what though?
Reading on there it was with flashing lights, “It is the subtle involvement of self view here that makes it so difficult to let go. The centrality of self in craving becomes even clearer as we turn to the remaining two types craving- the craving to be and the craving to not be. Attachment to the desire to be or to become has two aspects. The most basic is attachment to the desire to exist at all, to be alive, to continue to exist as this thing we call a self. There is also attachment to the desire to be or become particular selves—either at the very general level, such as the need to be or become a self that is loved, a self that is respected, a self that is kind, a self that does things well, a self that is a good meditator, a self that is successful, or to be or become particular selves that are related to these more general selves at a specific level—a self that has a calm meditation in this sitting; a self that has crossed off all items from the to-do list, a self that gives a talk that is well received. This is the realm of attainment, achievement and ambition.”
Aha! The problem was I was attaching to the desire to be known as a self that does not let people down-a self that does things well etc. I was sure I had read about this before but until I had connected to it experientially I had only understood it on the surface-on the intellectual level. What a revelation!
Lo and behold, the next day I had the opportunity to revisit this experience but with a new awareness and fresh eyes. Another accident, which created a traffic jam, and the possibility of arriving late, to another group of students. This time, with the awareness of reading, and Marianna’s advice tucked into my mind, body, and heart, I was able to detach myself from all that was out of my control. What was in my control was my response to it. Letting go of what was out of my control and the desire of being a particular self that is always on time. I texted the teacher to say I will be there in 5 minutes…no attaching a story to it... and once I arrived was able to be fully present to the students!