Sunday, August 9, 2015

Finding Zen in Your Daily Commute

Everyone seems to notice that Metro Manila traffic has gotten worse lately. Those who drive or take UV Express, Uber or the cab claim that getting to work takes them an extra 30 minutes as there are more cars traversing EDSA even after rush hour and as old shortcut routes courtesy of Waze are getting jammed by cars even on early mornings. The MRT is everyone's last option but it remains the fastest way to get from north to south and south to north if only it isn't unpredictable and overcrowded all the time.

You would not want to lose your cool in any of these situations. It's harmful to your energy and focus, which you wish to direct towards your priorities. So I'd like to share with you some of the things that I do (or have heard other people do) that work to bring some zen back to your daily commute:

1. Rise early

Waking up early allows you to have a few moments to spend quietly and complete your usual routine. It also gives you a good chance of getting to work or your appointment on time.

2. Listen to inspirational talks, audiobooks or daily reflections

Diffuse the noise outside and tune out of your cab driver's loud music by listening to talks or audiobooks that add to your knowledge and enrich your spirituality. I suggest loading podcasts such as the Zen Commuter by Thom Walters and audiobooks to your player over the weekend so you can set your good mood for the week.

2. Meditate

Still with your earphones on (and if you're not driving), you can take tuning out to a whole new level by listening to guided meditation exercises such as those of Bob Proctor's or with the help of mobile apps like Calm and One Touch (available on iTunes and Google Play).

3. Listen to feel-good music

As some of you might not be the meditative types, listening to the kind of music that calms you and helps you find your rhythm may be the best option.

4. Read

Reading a good book has become a luxury to most working folks like you and me. Those who take trains are in a better position to take this luxury as moving trains are more stable than moving cars. Remember, a good book can take your mind to places.

5. Breathe

Heavy traffic can cause your anxiety to build up. When we are constantly in a state of stress, our breathing becomes rapid and shallow, which may cause our heart rate to increase and eventually, lead to higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Taking in deep breaths through your nose and diaphragm can help decrease your heart rate and stress level, as well as  resume your body's processes. (Here's an interesting link: The Science of Stress, Heart Rate and Breathing.)

6. Pray

They say that calm and peace are not caused by the external environment but by one's internal reality. Praying helps us find stillness in urban chaos and hence, more attuned to the voice of the Supreme Being.

7. Practice mindfulness and compassion

In Thrive, Arianna Huffington quoted Tessa Watt in her forthcoming book entitled, Mindful London:

"Use the famous British queue---at the bus stop, post office, or shop---as a chance to slow down and practice mindfulness. Instead of letting the frequent wailing of sirens irritate us, we could use the sound to remind us to take a pause and notice the moment. At the traffic crossing, instead of being impatient for the green man, appreciate how the red man gives us a chance to stop, breathe and look around."

By being present in the moment, you can take a look at your fellow commuter not as that annoying smelly person who pokes your side with his bag but as another human being who has his own story to tell. You can choose to appreciate and bless them quietly or show some form of kindness to make them smile and think that the world is a better place.

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