Here’s a story for ya . . .
I was starting to write a little something for my newsletter – a piece about heart practices for Heart Month. It was about how practicing attitudes like kindness, gratitude, joy, compassion, etc., is good for your overall health and especially your heart health.
I put the writing on the back burner to take a weekend trip to Florida for a family visit. It was a lovely visit, but on the day I was supposed to return, Sunday, my flight was cancelled. Hmpfh.
Okay, so I booked the next best flight home which was Monday. Unfortunately, it meant cancelling all of my Monday classes. ‘Not happy about that.
Monday comes. Flight is significantly delayed. Wow, this is a fun game (not). I get to the airport at the appointed time. The board says, Flight Cancelled.
I’m hot under the collar now (that’s putting it politely). So, I go stand in line at the airline’s ticketing counter. It’s a long line – at least 20 parties in front of me. The wait is about 40 minutes long. Grrr.
Here’s where the point of the story comes in – what to do I do with this anger and frustration?
One of the heart practices is equanimity. Now, equanimity does not mean passivity. Quite the contrary. I’m very actively breathing and managing the story-making in my mind. I’m actively working on staying calm and not blaming. I’m breathing.
Think of equanimity as a kind of active boundary holding. If you work at cultivating peace and kindness in your internal world, how do you hold onto it in challenging circumstances? How do you not react with word-daggers or stink eye?
Be mindful of the mind’s story-making tendency.
Stay away from the blame game (not helpful).
Assume that each person you’re engaging with is doing their best (and perhaps even send them some kindness).
Finally, it’s my turn to talk to an agent. She looks very, very tired as she recites the same story she’s been telling everyone: all flights with this airline are cancelled. Nationwide their computer system is down, she says. Next shot at a flight is Wednesday. DOUBLE HMPFH!
Well that’s not happening.
I got a refund, jumped on another airline, got home very late that night. End of story.
The point is that heart practices are about how you relate to yourself and others. For any given situation there is a heart practice: kindness, compassion, joy, equanimity.
And bonus – they all have positive physiological effects on the body like lowering blood pressure (very helpful in this story), improving heart rate variability and reducing stress hormones.
Practicing on regular basis helps you use these tools in a crisis. It may still be challenging to be mindful and kind in a tough situation, but it gets easier with practice.
Try out these heart practices this month – just see what dropping a little kindness into any given moment does for you.