I managed to slow my mind down somehow, and snapped out of autopilot; my mind slowed down anyway, I was still walking at a pace.
“Slow mind, fast feet”, I reminded myself.
I’d taught myself, even when in a rush, to not let my mind get frantic. You can get where you’re going without worrying whether you’ll get there the whole time.
The first thing I noticed was how warm I was. Both my hoods were up, and walking at such a pace I was practically panting. My heart rate was more than compensating for the winter chill in the air, and I’d rather my hair got a little wet than I exhaust myself. I took my hoods down; the cold air and slight mist of rain was actually quite refreshing.
From there I could actually ask myself why I was in such a rush. “Well, the train is in 35 minutes and if I keep up a pace I’ll make it”. Fair enough, but why are you exhausting yourself? Will missing this train be fatal? “Well, no, there’s one 25 minutes after it actually, so it doesn’t much matter which one I get”.
I’d been visiting home, and as time was getting on I decided to check the trains. The last one was just leaving from the station closest to my house, which got me in to a reactive mode. I checked the other station which was a bit of a walk away, realising I probably wasn’t snookered, and indeed there were a few more trains due.
I should’ve relaxed then, but it was as if that little red flag of seeing I’d missed the last train from the station I’d assumed I’d have been going to had put me in flight mode. I wasn’t actively panicked, or anxious, I just had to leave then. I grabbed my things and set off for the station, figuring I’d have just enough time to catch the next train – if I was fast.
In reality, there was no need to be quick. There was no fire, and once I realised this I just snapped out of this reactive state. It was as if I’d just changed channels on the TV, and in an instant I was back in the present moment. Just walking. I could hear the sound of each car as it passed. I could see the rays of streetlights splayed in to stars through the misty rain. And I just walked, knowing I might miss the next train, but that it literally doesn’t matter.
Usually, assuming I did register that in fact it didn’t matter if I caught the next train, I would push myself to try to anyway – just to see if I could. Again, not out of any real pressure, I just like to play games like that. Timing myself doing pointless tasks, finding the quickest route to a destination, and that sort of thing. This time – for whatever reason – I completely let go.
As it happened, I was approaching the station by the time I checked my phone again, and I still had a few minutes til the train. If I’d wanted, I could’ve ran and caught it, but I didn’t bother. It’s funny though, that even checking the time, and acknowledging that option of chasing, I could feel myself being pulled back in to it. I kicked myself (and then apologised) when I realised I’d gone a slightly longer route – crossing a road rather than using an underpass, literally seconds difference, but it wasn’t the faster route to get to my side of the station.
I made it to the station just the same, realising in fact that it was the other side I needed to be on (which was funny because id I’d stuck to the original path, after crossing the road, that would have been the quicker way to get to the right side). The story in my head at the time though, that I had to be on a certain side of the track, made my actions ‘incorrect’, when in fact I was going the ‘right’ way. It’s all a bit arbitrary, since it added maybe only a minute to my journey overall, but it was the insight in that moment that made it memorable.
I saw how arbitrary the judgements we make of whether we are doing things right or wrong can be, especially when they come from this limited awareness of what we think is really going on. Based on the map we have in our minds, the objects and mental images we hold on to, we make comparisons ad judgements which are often completely arbitrary, pointless, and just hold us back. If we learn to just flow with it more, maybe we’d end up where we were meant to be all along.
I like to remove my internal chatter from the narrative sometimes. When you’r watching a movie, you are fully aware that the main character isn’t in total control of the timeline unfolding: other people, perhaps behind the scenes, are playing a part, as well as totally unforeseeable events. Yet in our own minds, it’s all too easy to think you’re the lead role, director, writer, producer, and the whole crew. Sometimes, it’s nice to accept that there is that inevitable co-partnership of you and everything around you. It’s all one big scene, unfolding, just happening.