We've all been there. At some point in our lives, the time comes for us to make a trek over to our beloved post office, where we're handed the golden opportunity to sort out a matter with our mail.
If you had an experience anything like the one I had today, you quickly realize that going to a US post office is not too dissimilar to getting a root canal, or food poisoning for that matter.
The rude, incompetent employees, the disorganization and lack of empathy for the patrons' needs, coupled with the rushed and impatient state of the people in line, all make for a miserable experience.
A trip to the post office is an easy way to ruin your day, if you're not careful.
And that's why I'm writing this reflection here. Today, I witnessed a small piece of growth in myself, which would not have happened without practicing the teachings of this blog.
Typically, a visit to the post office could easily ruin my day. It's not uncommon for the workers to royally mess something up - whether that's mishandling your mail, giving you misinformation, or being downright rude and unhelpful.
When this happens, it's so easy for us to carry our anger with us out of the post office and into our car. Then from our car, we head home, where we take it out on our family. Then we come into work the next day and commiserate about our experiences, thus stirring up those emotions again.
Weeks could pass after the actual experience, yet somehow when we bring it up with someone, we're triggered as if we're back in the post office.
The problem is not that it came up in conversation, but rather we never truly moved on. Internally, we're still resisting the experience we had because it was so uncomfortable. We're still in denial about how bad it went, trying to fix the outside world with our thoughts because we didn't like the way it came in.
There's got to be a better way to make a successful trip to the post office, right?
Luckily, there is, and it involves working with the discomfort the moment it arises, not just tomorrow morning on the meditation cushion.
When you're in line and you sense your body temperature rising, your thoughts of anger swirling, and your patience declining, the first thing to do is notice that. Beyond the obvious, "Of course I'm angry" type noticing, actually sit behind the anger and notice that you're angry.
Who are you that notices? What is the quality of the you that notices the anger? Surely, it's different than the anger itself, right?
The more you get in the habit of pausing to notice the inner storm taking place, the less likely you'll be to get caught up in the turmoil.
When you can simply witness a storm without getting caught in it, you're able to move on quicker with your day. You'll be able to run your next errand without carrying the post office with you.
That's what I did today.
And while that might seem insignificant, think about the experiences you carry with you throughout your days, and your whole life. Whatever happened to you earlier today really has no bearing on this moment, other than the fact that it's still going on in your mind.
But it's your job to separate what's happening in your mind versus what's happening in the real world.
When you're in line at the post office, frustrated beyond belief, remember to check in with yourself, and notice that frustration. What do the sensations feel like in your body? Who is around you? What baggage are they carrying? Perhaps they're feeling just like you, and from there you can direct your compassion.
There will be a time when you're out of the post office, free. But while you're there, you might as well learn to deal with it, no?
So that's my message to you, today, or any time you find yourself in an anger-inducing situation. While you're there, will you simply be there? Or will you resist it, and try to be somewhere else?
While witnessing my frustration today, I also was present to witness other things, like the miracle of my body changing its state, the rain pouring down outside, and the deep empathy I sensed for others' and their frustrations.
When you get in the habit of watching your inner state rather than being consumed by it, you enter a new realm of being, where even the post office can be a magical place.
Live with substance!