I recently came back from a vacation trip to Puerto Rico and at the beginning of it I learned a thing or two about monkey mind, mindfulness and the importance of “the witness”..
My girl, Whitney and I had a reservation on an airline that was leaving out of Kennedy airport in New York. Being very unfamiliar with NYC airports I mistakenly booked a parking reservation at a parking lot near LaGuardia. I didn’t however learn this until we were already on the shuttle transporting us from the parking lot on the way to the terminal. The driver asked the riders which terminal they were all leaving from. I said terminal two and he replied that there was no terminal two at the airport where he was taking us…..LaGuardia. A fellow passenger chimed in, “ You must be leaving out of Kennedy. I hope you have time to make your flight from here.” …..yikes!
So this was the beginning of my vacation. The driver kindly turned quickly around and Whit and I hustled to the car….my mind went into overdrive as to how to now resolve this situation. I anxiously searched for and made a lightning fast reservation at a parking garage near JFK. I recklessly sped down the Van Wyck Parkway while my girlfriend, who is naturally 180% more relaxed and centered than I am, sat quietly and patiently. At the same time my monkey mind was working its way from branch to branch creating movies of failure. Failing to find the new lot, failure at having made a correct reservation and of course, the ultimate failure, failure to make the flight. I was already trying to calculate the time and money involved in having to take a later flight, certain that there was no way we were going to arrive in time. However, we caught a break with the traffic, the security lines were not too long and we are able to make it onto the plane moments before it pulled away from the gate. Anxiety relieved a bit as I sat down in my seat. I was finally able to take a deep breath only to be informed by the pilot that our flight would be delayed, that the plane was in need of repair and we would have to go back to the gate we had just departed. Monkey mind went back to work, “What about our reservation at the other end?” , “ What if they can’t fix the plane ?”, “ what if, what if, what if ?” Monkey mind was back as it worked on a situation that I had zero control over. I should have known better, but I forgot to look inward. I did not take the time to “witness” my own mind.
We finally arrived at the lobby of the hotel and I found myself standing in a long line of resort guests waiting to check in. My mind reads this as MORE delay. My mind would not let me escape the fact that we were two hours later than originally planned. My mind was on the two hour delay and the reasons behind it. In the meantime I was not taking notice of the tropical beauty surrounding us. I was now at the top of my level of tolerance. Meanwhile, Whitney had taken a seat on the comfortable lobby furniture and seemed totally chill about everything. I was jealous for a moment and then it hit me. I conversed with myself and began to take witness of how I was feeling and reacting to all that had occurred. At that moment I decided that THIS moment is the one to pay attention too.. So I stopped, took notice of my impatient feelings and opened my awareness to the moment I was in right then. It completely changed my perspective and thus my mood.
I looked at the pond just to the right of me with an abundance of exotic koi fish of many different colors and shades. I marveled at the birds that were flying through the open tropical paradise lobby where I was standing. I hadn’t even noticed either a few minutes before.
Now I did, and I took that moment to enjoy watching the people in front of me, a young girl and a young man wrapped up in each other’s arms. They may have been on their honeymoon. I noticed a woman behind me with her family and her kids. The kids were running around but kept coming up and excitedly told her about the fish or the birds. I noticed a small salamander scampering across the exquisite marble floor. I saw the white ornate pillars and a domed gazebo sitting in the middle of a green carpet of grass just to my left. The bar, an oasis in this paradise, was just 50 yards away down an elegant hallway. An inviting place where I was sure we would spend a few hours. Which, of course we later on did. And then I watched my beautiful lover, Whitney, the calming force in my life, she was my hero right then, for it was her relaxed demeanor which had caused me to witness my monkey mind and move beyond it. I learned in that moment that I needed to take a timeout, witness my trapped mind and focus on the moment I was in. My real vacation, a vacation from my monkey mind, had now finally begun…..be well, be present and stay real.
Steven Bayer, The Daily Buddha Contributor