I listened to an Eckhart Tolle talk recently where he spoke about how to deal with the annoying situations we encounter in our daily lives. Things like waiting at red lights, dealing with bumper-to-bumper traffic, waiting in line at the supermarket checkout, etc. We’ve all been there and done those.
What do Eckhart, Mickey Singer and many others advise us to do in those situations? Get out of our complaining, impatient, egoic minds and return to the present moment.
Looking around at the grocery store
How? While you’re waiting in line at the grocery store, look around. I advocate naming five things you can see. Nike shoes. Jen Aniston on the cover of People. Red bell pepper. Fan on ceiling. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Voila. You’re back in the present moment.
Same when you’re stopped at a red light. Look around. See the sky. The palm trees. The storefronts. People walking on the sidewalk.
What Eckhart advises is that we look at red lights and long lines as opportunities to practice present moment awareness. You may have heard all of this before in other articles and talks by me and countless others.
What’s new in this piece is that I think it makes sense to take it even one step further. And I’ll warn you: What I’m about to write may cause you to curse me and click out of this article. But here goes.
I think we should all LOOK FORWARD to and WELCOME the red lights and the lines at the store.
In other words, when you’re driving along and you see that a light is green, I say we all think to ourselves “Boy, I hope that light goes orange quick so I get to stop at a red light and practice being present.”
For those of you who haven’t clicked over to your Instagram already, I know. That sounds crazy. As someone who has been particularly impatient about these kinds of things my whole life, it sounds even crazier to me.
But it makes total sense if you give it a moment’s thought. Here’s an analogy to crystallize this.
See the red light as your driving range
Let’s say you want to get better at golf. What do you do? You find a driving range where you can practice. You like that driving range because it provides you with the facilities to help you improve at golf.
Red lights and long lines are no different than the driving range. They provide the necessary ‘facilities’ to help you improve your “presence game.”
And we should love those red lights a helluva lot more than the avid golfer loves their practice range. Why? Because there’s nothing more valuable to a human being than becoming more conscious.
Waking up is more important than anything
Golf is great. I enjoy playing. But it is pales in comparison to the profound benefits that come from awakening from our “mind sleep” and becoming present for the moments of our lives. So it makes a bunch of sense that we would welcome anything, like red lights, that offers us the opportunity to get better at being present.
The most important thing is to realize that working on becoming present is the most valuable thing we can do. Because absent that, why would we ever be so crazy as to want to hit a bunch of red lights on the way home from doing errands?
The world would be an infinitely better place if we all came to that realization and acted on it.