What a train ride taught me about presence
I took the wrong train today.
I only realized when we went barrelling past my stop. I nearly pressed my face on the glass as I watched the platform disappear in the distance. I got on the wrong train. I was on an express to who the hell knows where.
I was too embarrassed to ask anyone “hey, do you know where this train is headed?” because I felt stupid. So I sat there and patiently waited for the train to stop, wherever it planned on stopping. In a way, I felt trapped. I felt like I had no control over my life for a second. “I’m literally stuck on this train until I’m not. I have no say in the matter.”
I could have gotten upset and for a second I actually really wanted to cry. “I have so much to do when I get home - why is this happening?” But then do you know what occurred to me? This is my fault, and all of this is an important lesson; a lesson about presence.
Consider this story about "full awareness":
After ten years of apprenticeship, Tenno achieved the rank of Zen teacher. One rainy day, he went to visit the famous master Nan-in. When he walked in, the master greeted him with a question, "Did you leave your wooden clogs and umbrella on the porch?"
"Yes," Tenno replied.
"Tell me," the master continued, "did you place your umbrella to the left of your shoes, or to the right?"
Tenno did not know the answer, and realized that he had not yet attained full awareness. So he became Nan-in's apprentice and studied under him for ten more years.
I took the wrong train today because I was not present. Being present means being an active player in your life as opposed to a passive bystander. You make things happen rather than watch them happen. You make choices rather than have choices made for you.
Even though I was frustrated my commute was prolonged by an hour, I’m thankful the only thing at stake was an extra train ride.