Like many of you, I traveled to work today using the Interstate system, bright and early, my coffee in hand. As I entered onto the I-10, I sighed at the usual sight of bumper-to-bumper traffic. The much-dreaded rush hour greeted us all with open arms, as if it had jokes and all the time in the world. On the radio came the old Bangles song, “Manic Monday” (written by Prince if you did not know).
As I listened to the song, I decided to practice some mindfulness and be aware of my experience as it was happening. After all, I preach mindfulness to my clients. It is important to the process that I practice what I preach. Mindfulness means to be present in the moment, to be aware of feelings and sensations you are experiencing in the moment without judgment. “This is frustration,” I thought as I looked at the hundreds of cars slowly moving before and behind me. “This is what frustration feels like. This is what feeling trapped feels like.” Memories of convoys during military deployments came to mind. “Thinking,” I pointed out to myself. “Now, you are thinking again.” I gently and kindly brought myself back to the present moment. I noticed the tension in my back. My hands feeling the steering wheel, I began to pay attention to the different sounds I was hearing. The Bangles song came alive. The different instruments came to the forefront of my hearing, some playing continuously throughout the song while others made small contributions here and there. Some of the instruments provided the rhythm while others provided the melody. Some were higher notes and others were lower. All of it blended together to make an upbeat song that, if you were around in the 80s, you loved to sing along with as it spoke to the common blues we each often feel saying goodbye to the short weekend and hello Monday work. Some of the instruments caused me to feel happy as I felt the melody lift my spirits. “This is happy,” I thought without judgment. “This is what happiness feels like.” I sang a few lines, feeling my voice vibrate through my vocal cords and just noticing what that felt like.
Then, clarity: You know the moments I am speaking of when something shifts and you see things in a completely different, fuller light, or when you can see random pieces of your experience suddenly become linked in a profound way. In that moment, I realized all of these instruments playing in the song, each so different from one another in their roles, the diversity, it was all of us. The instruments, the song: it contained each of us. Some of us were playing continually, others only now and then, and it was all okay because it created an experience for the listener. Some of us are high notes; others are low. Some of us are the rhythm; others are the melody. However, it is each instrument playing in balance and in sync together that creates a song that can inspire, motivate, entertain, and/or heal. If we could only give one another the space and trust to play their part. If we could only give ourselves the space and trust to play our part. Each of us showing up authentically, adding to the song in our own unique way that can create a remarkable, even spiritual journey for both the players and the listeners. Life can be a struggle, yes. It can also be a really good song.
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