The intensely frustrating queue…
It’s funny how Mindfulness can sometimes desert you when you need it the most. I was reminded of this earlier today when I went to post a parcel. I was in a bit of a rush… when I arrived at the Post Office I was greeted with an enormous queue snaking majestically out of the door. My heart naturally sank, and settled somewhere around my knees.
I muttered to myself: ‘Why don’t they just get on with it!’
Almost as soon as the words had left my lips I remembered that phrases like that are often signs of stress – not statements of fact. How often have you felt yourself thinking such things as ‘Why am I not enjoying this any more?’, ‘What’s the matter with me?’, ‘I can’t give up’ or ‘Something has to change!’
Again, often as not, these are signs of anxiety, stress, or the first stirrings of mental exhaustion.
As I remembered this, I also recalled the antidote: the Intensely Frustrating Queue Meditation (or Intensely Frustrating Line Meditation, if you’re American). The trip to the Post Office had turned into an unexpected opportunity to practice my Mindfulness meditation.
For those who don’t have a copy of our book ‘Mindfulness’, here’s the meditation:
The Intensely Frustrating Queue meditation
When you are in a queue in a supermarket or post office, see if you can become aware of your reactions when something holds up your progress. Perhaps you joined the ‘wrong’ queue, and are obsessing about whether to make a dash for another one that seems shorter? At these times, it is helpful to ‘check in’ with what’s going on in your mind. Taking a moment to ask yourself:
– What is going through my mind?
– What sensations are there in my body?
– What emotional reactions and impulses am I aware of?
Mindfulness accepts that some experiences are unpleasant. Mindfulness will, however, help by allowing you to tease apart the two major flavors of suffering—primary and secondary. Primary suffering is the initial stressor, such as the frustration of being in a long queue. You can acknowledge that it is not pleasant; it’s OK not to like it. Secondary suffering is all of the emotional turbulence that follows in its wake, such as anger and frustration, as well as any ensuing thoughts and feelings that often arise in tandem. See if you can see these clearly as well. See if it’s possible to allow the frustration to be here without trying to make it go away.
This moment, too, is a moment of your life.
You may still feel pulses of frustration and impatience while you are in the queue, but these feelings will be less likely to spiral out of control. You may even become, for yourself and for others around you, an oasis of stillness…
After fifteen minutes or so of meditating, I finally reached the front of the queue. In the past, I would have been hot and bothered, but today I felt far more serene. My time in the queue could hardly have been described as ‘pleasant’ but neither was it particularly unpleasant. It was fifteen moments of my life in which I had been fully aware of being alive in all it’s majestic glory. And that is infinitely better than the alternative.