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Public Transit Mindfulness For The ‘Summer Of Hell’

These meditations work year-round for making any public transportation surroundings perfectly ‘normal.’ (As opposed to a demoralizing hell-scape.)

flickr/ Diego Torres Silvestre

When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo deemed this the “summer from hell,” the city collectively decided that truer words had never been spoken by a politician. (In Albany.)

Those of us in the Tri-state area girded our loins for the worst — a sensation that, admittedly, we had gotten used to since the November 2016 election. New York’s crumbling infrastructure feels more than apt, considering the state of American democracy.

But maybe you want to try something new. Perhaps, during this seemingly endless summer filled with so many subway problems and delays that we’ve run out of Circles of Hell to describe them, you may have gotten desperate enough to consider taking up the practice of mindfulness.

New York’s crumbling infrastructure feels more than apt, considering the state of American democracy.

The basis of mindfulness is that once you focus on your actual surroundings, you will realize that they are perfectly normal and harmless, and not a cause for worry or concern. Let’s try a guided mindfulness exercise in a situation where you’re on a stalled 7 train somewhere between Manhattan and Queens, beneath the East River:

Take Inventory Of Your Environment

I am standing up in a metal box probably manufactured when Jimmy Carter was president with my face smashed into someone else’s armpit.

This metal box is located in a tunnel dug more than 100 years ago and is currently stopped underneath a body of water.

The sharp, fluorescent lighting in this subway car makes everyone look like jaundiced babies, including actual jaundiced babies.

Express Appreciation

Many people died creating this subway system, so if I think I’m uncomfortable, I appreciate the fact that I am riding, rather than constructing, the subway.

I don’t need to hold onto the pole because it is so crowded that the other bodies on the train are propping me up.

Enough people have gotten off so that I’m able to hold on to a pole, and scan it with my hand for a section that’s refreshingly cool to the touch.

I remind myself of how appreciative I am that Chris Christie is not our governor. I am thankful that his windbreaker and beach chair have remained firmly planted on Jersey soil.

Awaken Your Senses

I focus on what I hear: the sounds of Candy Crush coming from someone’s phone, the intermittent snoring of the man asleep on his neighbor’s shoulder, and the recorded announcement letting us know that we are delayed because of a signal malfunction.

Beads of sweat form in the folds on the back of my neck, and trickle down my back, collecting in a pool at the base of my spine. A single hair falls onto my face, causing it to itch, but I let it pass so I don’t lose my cool spot on the pole.

I wonder if the hair is mine.

Make The Familiar New Again

I stare at the transit map on the wall, taking note of the large portions of Queens and Brooklyn not serviced by the subway and allow my mind to wander, wondering if rents are cheaper in those areas. I read and reread each of the ad panels hanging above and for a brief moment, consider calling Dr. Zizmor for my adult-onset acne once I have cell reception again.

I feel the weight of the book I’m carrying in my bag on my shoulder, cursing myself for choosing a hardcover. I fantasize that my commute home will be less crowded so I have the luxury of enough personal space in which to open a book. I laugh at the notion.

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Focus On Your Breathing

As I deeply inhale, I feel the damp, heavy air fill my nostrils with a bouquet of body odor, coffee breath, and the cologne of the man next to me. I exhale slowly, through my mouth, pointing my pursed lips downward in a vain attempt at air circulation. I try not to breathe too loudly so as not to frighten my fellow passengers.

Find Your Release

A wave of relief will come when you finally reach your stop and squeeze yourself through a tangle of arched arms before spilling out onto the platform. Rather than dreading going into the office, you will be so thankful to get off the subway that you welcome your over-air-conditioned cubicle and are ready to start your day—grounded.