One morning recently I had to commute for over an hour across London for work. For some of this time the train was very crowded and I had to stand, increasing my back pain. I arrived feeling rather sorry for myself and already quite drained of energy. As I started the final part of the journey, a 15 minute walk along a busy four lane road, I was hunched over and walking really quickly, thinking how unlucky I was that the end of my commute was through such an 'ugly' part of London and dreading the day ahead.
I noticed the tension in my body and how these negative thoughts were colouring my feelings about work and I decided to slow down and take a breath. I then decided to actively look for the pleasant on the final part of my walk, though I noticed an almost simultaneous judgement that there wouldn't be much here by a busy, noisy road!
Almost immediately, however, I came across a silver Birch. Its base was in concrete but it was tall, slender and strong and it looked beautiful, with its silver bark reflecting light. I stopped and felt it: it was shiny and smooth in parts, broken up by darker ridges and bits of bark that were peeling off. It was lovely. I then noticed another Silver Birch further along the busy road and stopped to look at that too, feeling a happy anticipation as I approached it.
Next I noticed that one of the houses nearby had a Box Hedge in the garden – the very ordinary kind that I may usually have dismissed as common and not very interesting. However when I looked closely the leaves were all reflecting light in a different way, some shiny, some dull, some lighter, some darker and there were many, many different shades of green. I felt one of the little leaves and it was soft, delicate and smooth– a deep dark green. I felt a sense of wonder and appreciation.
I enjoyed the rest of the walk to the office and arrived in a completely different mood, feeling positive about the day ahead and able to greet my colleagues warmly and cheerfully. I feel grateful that my mindfulness practice enabled me to notice my tension and negative thoughts and not to let them spoil any more of my day. My mood was affecting what I saw and how I saw it and changing this around enabled me to enter a very different space, possibly changing the whole course of my day. I can't control my commute, and all the delays and cancellations and lack of seats I often come across, but I can control how I respond to it and that knowledge is really helpful. The memory of those trees in such an 'ugly' and built up part of London has often come back to me since and made me smile.
By Sophie Matthew, Breathworks Mindfulness Teacher - London
Sophie Matthew is an Associate Teacher for Breathworks in London. She also teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction courses, and is a qualified Mindfulness in Schools teacher. She is currently doing a Masters in Teaching Mindfulness Based Approaches at Bangor University.
Free Commuter Meditations - These 10 minute meditations have been recorded specifically to help commuters connect more deeply and compassionately with their experience as they travel too and from their place of work.
Recorded by Singhashri Gazmuri , Breathworks Program Director