Zen Diary november : Staying zen in traffic jams.

Month by month, a journey through the little worries of everyday life – 19 practical exercises to overcome them and modify our relationship to life.

Chronicles written with four hands with the journalist François Busson, for the Swiss magazine L’Illustré.


Staying zen in traffic jams.

So do Buddhist monks and nuns stay zen in traffic jams? Don’t they ever rant in the queue at Migros when the idiot in front has forgotten to weigh their bulb of fennel and the cashier has disappeared somewhere into the shelves? Do they sit in lotus position in the lift when it’s stuck between two floors? I am sure you ponder these questions… So here’s where I have to come clean : I confess that I heard a Buddhist nun come out with a string of swearing on the outskirts of Strasbourg when the ring road was thick with cars and flashing rear lights. “ F***, s***” I understood it as if it came from from my own mouth! And all the better! How can we Buddhists be taken seriously when we speak about managing emotions , if we only have the feelings of a snail. We have, just like other people, fits of humour, explosions of annoyance in the traffic jams of life, but we learn a technique to live more peacefully : profiting from empty time.

Reconnecting by taking advantage.

As one moment of waiting and emptiness appears, take advantage and feel your breath, reconnect to your body or observe the appearance and disappearance of emotions. In jams, queueing in shops, waiting for a web page to load, waiting on the phone , there are many ways to practise every day.

Imagine this : your mother -in-law starts telling you about her holiday in Thailand for the umpteenth time ( the famous “diving”episode) without wondering if there is anything about it to interest the listeners. No problem! Just refocus on yourself and take advantage of her (very long) tale to do some personal development. For this time, your mother -in- law is your ally on the Buddhist path. How to change the paradigm!
The key: turn negative contingencies into positive ones.
In addition: with this practice of profiting from empty moments, the empty moments become powerful waves, that wash us onto the shore of the present moment. Jams can become a space of inner silence, and the freeway one stop, a necessary slowing down, where you can tune in to the soft beat of your heart.

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