Mind the gap: commuting in the present

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Turning your commute from a stressful exercise into something that’s enjoyable and productive is easy, writes mindfulness consultant Andy Hix, and you can make the change straight away.

Afriend asked me the other day how to stop herself getting stressed on the walk to work as her mind whirs over all that she has to do when she arrives. She said she often notices nothing of the journey because she’s so caught up in thought. Can you relate to that? Doing something mindfully is to focus your awareness on it, rather than let your mind be pulled around by thoughts and distractions like a mouse hanging on to the tail of a raging bull.

To turn your commute into a mindfulness exercise, try focusing on the contact between your feet and the ground as you walk. Each time your mind starts time- travelling into the future or back into the past, notice that and bring it back to your feet.

If your train of thought is of a negative or unproductive hue, which many people’s mind wanderings are a lot of the time, you’ll break the train of thought and have the opportunity to send it off in another, more helpful direction. You also will likely start to notice more of your surroundings, which is often pleasurable.

You can do the same if you’re cycling, by using the contact between the pedals and your feet as the anchor to the present moment.

If you’re on the tube, instead of tuning out of the moment with blaring music or a mindless game, tune into your body. How are you feeling? What thoughts are you experiencing? What is your dominant emotion?

I find that by practicing mindfulness during the day it’s impossible for me to be bored, because there’s always something to take interest in, internally or externally. The game is to marshal your response to what you’re experiencing towards something that’s aware, open and curious rather than succumbing to smartphone checking, planning, worry and regret.

A friend of mine recently published a book in which he says that for him, travel is a form of meditation. He suggests that the routine of daily life allows us to switch on the autopilot whereas travelling invites us to pay attention to our surroundings in the moment, because everything’s novel. Try this for fun: next time you go to work, imagine you’ve never done that journey before. See how much you can notice the sights, smells, sounds, textures, faces, shops, adverts, dress senses, patterns, headlines, trends. No commute is the same twice.

Mindfulness in many ways is about turning yourself into an explorer: jettisoning all assumptions and preconceptions and always trying to look at yourself, others and the world as though for the first time. It’s a much more enjoyable way to live, costs nothing, and takes no extra time. And you can start right now.

Andy Hix is director of zen at work, a London-based mindfulness consultancy. Get in touch with Andy for a free taster session at www.zenatwork.co.uk.

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