Buddhists will tell you that it’s not the external reality that determines your experience but the way you interpret it.
This bit of wisdom was driven home to me this past weekend during a mediation. I had the honor of participating in a paddleboard meditation class along the Saugatuck River. A group of us paddled, mindfully to our meditation spot in a tiny rock and reed filled cove.
After a long and stressful week, I was excited to drop into my meditation.
Before our leader even began the guided meditation I had already tuned into my breath, and turned away from my thinking mind. I was vaguely aware of the sounds in my environment, and how they blended together with the sound of my breath:
the buzz of crickets,
the splashing of water again the rocks,
the steady hum of traffic on a nearby road.
But mostly my focus was inward. My mind was quiet, calm and relaxed.
Then at some point from periphery of my awareness I realized the other members of my group were talking. As my mind drifted to their words I understood that they were complaining about the traffic sounds which up until that moment had been pleasing to me. As I began to connect with their words, my experience of the situation began to shift…
The sound was from motor cycles…
Revving their motors…
For 20 solid minutes….
I wondered for a moment if I too should be annoyed with this apparent distraction. After all, I’d been looking forward to this experience all week, and now it was being ruined by these inconsiderate bikers.
I let these thoughts float through my mind. Watching them, but trying not to attach.
As I tuned back into my breath it occurred to me that those bikers, like me, were spending their Sunday doing what they love best. I let that sense of joy merge with my own as I tuned back into the safe, still spot inside. The sound of those engines became expression of those bikers’ joy and the hum of their motors once again blending in with the sound of my breath, and the crickets, and laps of the waves.
What a beautiful way to spend my Sunday afternoon and, also, what a wonderful lesson!