The Train Crossing

I’m an impatient person and one of the things that can really bring my blood to a boil is getting stuck in traffic. Having to wait on a slow moving train to clear a crossing is something that has always resulted in irrational anger and frustration. Having lived in an area that requires me to cross busy tracks frequently for over a decade, one would think I’d be over that by now. Yet, when my mission of getting a Latte at a local coffee shop was blocked by a train yesterday morning, my temper flared. Fucking trains.

For some time now, I’ve been practicing mediation. It’s something that I know has huge benefits, particularly for dealing with my anxiety. I carve out time almost daily to practice at home. Applying it in daily life has been more of a challenge. While my mind was internally grumbling while the train lumbered through the crossing, it occurred to me that I hadn’t done my morning mediation before leaving the house on my mission of caffeine acquisition. Seeing as I had some time, I thought, “Why not now?” I put my car in Park, let my eyes fall to a soft downward gaze, and turned my attention to some long, deep breathes.

After 2 or 3 breathes, calmness replaced anger. I became aware of the sounds of the train clacking along the tracks. There was a peaceful rhythm that I hadn’t noticed before. I felt my tense muscles in my neck, shoulders, and jaw start to relax. In what seemed like hardly more than a moment, the clacking faded off and I heard the sound of the crossing barriers raising. What initially seemed like a long and sluggish train now seemed like like a mere blip in my day. I was almost disappointed that it was gone.

It was a nice lesson in mindfulness, as it applies to daily life. What might appear as an obstacle may be an opportunity for a fulfilling experience. It takes persistence in personal practice to get there and it doesn’t come easy or naturally. As fate would have it, I got stuck once again at the tracks on my return trip home from my errands that morning. My brain’s initial ingrained response started to flare…”Argggghhh…” Before the default response could take hold, I remembered the breath. Breathe, listen, enjoy the calm. Train crossings aren’t so bad after all.