I always had this idea that I should be better than I am. I think a lot of us have these thoughts. We say to ourselves: “I should focus more. If should live up to my potential. I should be more like that other person.”
These were the thoughts that buzzed through my head on my commute to Harvard in the Fall of 2015. I was a Masters student at Brown University and an exchange scholar at Harvard. I’d commute twice a week from Providence to Boston. The commute would last about an hour. I’d leave my house around 9 am and return about 9pm.
A couple of weeks into this routine, I noticed my brain became extra busy. Like really busy. With assignments from 5 classes piling up. My internship. My job on campus. I felt scattered.
I judged myself because there were people on the train who’d been doing this commute 5 days a week for over 15 years. To me, the thought of commuting like this for even a week exhausted me.
So…. what did I do about it?
I started experimenting.
I got some earplugs. I’d put them in and I’d sit in the subway people watching, wondering what their lives were like analyzing their facial expressions. It seemed like they were happier than I was. They seemed to be at peace.
I thought the earplugs would afford me peace and quiet, but my thoughts got louder and more chaotic. I felt trapped in my head. Truthfully, I never fully realized how trapped in my thoughts I really was.
I was hard on myself for feeling this way. Why couldn’t I just sit in this train and enjoy the ride? Why couldn’t I just enjoy the journey??
It seemed like a deeper metaphor for life.
“Enjoy the journey.”
Late one night while surfing the internet looking for solutions … I discovered meditation.
Like a lot of us, I’d heard of meditation, rolled my eyes at it, and was unwilling to give it a shot. I didn’t think I was one of those people who could do it. I really thought I had a busier mind than most, and that meditation couldn’t help me.
But, I was desperate, so I gave it a shot.
One of the meditations I started with were mantra meditations I learned from Gabby Bernstein. These are meditations you do while repeating a phrase in your mind.
The one I started with was, “peace, begins, with, me”, “peace, begins, with, me.”
After trying it out for a few minutes, I instantly noticed my mind became more calm and at ease. I wondered, “whoa. Is this working?”
Meanwhile on my commutes to Boston, when I noticed my anxious thoughts take over and my fears begin to creep in I would do this meditation both with my eyes open and closed.
“Peace, begins, with, me… peace, begins, with, me.”
A couple weeks into this practice, I felt more at ease. I felt like I could control my anxiety, which otherwise seemed to creep up out of nowhere. Like the boogyman waiting to scare me.
After doing this practice on my commute, I decided to begin waking up earlier and meditating in the morning while I was still at home. What I noticed was that I felt better even before I got to the train station.
Here’s what I learned from my commutes to and from Harvard:
Feeling grounded doesn’t come from being in a specific place, with specific people, or doing anything in particular.
Feeling grounded comes from a deeper sense of knowing that you are safe, and at peace wherever you may find yourself.
My scattered thoughts were there before I commuted. I simply projected my anxiety and fears onto my experience on that train.
I encourage you to observe your world and see where you are projecting chaos.
I encourage to forgive yourself for not being present, for not being focused.
I ask you… can you feel rooted and at peace regardless of what is happening around you?
*my commute to Harvard on video.*