I’m writing this, or rather speaking it, while waiting for the bus at about 6:45 AM. Several years ago, because of my interest in preserving the environment and saving some money, I pretty much went everywhere by transit. I did this for about five years before giving up and buying a car. It was just too inconvenient and took to long to get to places that were not that far away. It was also challenging to shuttle the kids back-and-forth to their increasing activities, being a one car family. I was fortunate enough to get the exact car I had always wanted, and there’s no doubt that it improved the efficiency, and in some ways, the quality of my daily life. Recently, despite the car, I’ve gone back to using transit a lot more often, and it has been an interesting experience.
People often talk about the main benefit of transit being environmental, but I’m noticing several other interesting benefits.
One key benefit is that taking transit provides many opportunities to practice patience and tolerance. When you take the bus and train a lot, you spent a lot of time waiting. I think I put out a previous blog on waiting, but to reiterate, I think there is great value and practising this skill of waiting for things. In so many areas of life, we all try to be efficient and to avoid waiting whenever we can, but waiting is a normal everyday activity. We wait in line, wait for the bus, wait for our coffee at Starbucks, wait for food, for someone to call or text us back, wait for our children to grow up and mature (and then miss their earlier years!), and so forth. No matter what we do, we’re going to end up waiting for things every day; thus, I think there’s great value in the practice of waiting, and transit offers many opportunities for this. In terms of tolerance, on the bus or train, we often have to tolerate others’ behaviour, smells, sounds, appearance, and so forth. During the winter months, I find myself working to tolerate the fact that everyone around me seems to be coughing up a lung. Sometimes, I can feel the air from such coughing on the back of my neck, and I want to jump out the window. This all probably sounds very unpleasant, but I think it’s great practice at tolerating the small everyday things that bother us.
Finally, I’ve noticed another benefit of transit, and that’s the sense of community that I experience when I’m on the bus or train with other people. This came to the forefront of my mind in the first week of December, at the beginning of the 2016 “Snowmaggedon” event. The bus was chugging up the hill, and we were all in it together, hoping that the folks who were dropped off would make it to their homes, and hoping the bus would make it up the hill. There was a real sense of camaraderie and connection. This is not always the case, but if you practice mindfulness, consider doing this on the bus. Specifically, try to practice mindfulness of the other people around you – mindfulness of the presence of others. Try to use the DBT mindfulness skill of “observing” (Linehan, 2015) to notice your connection with these other people, many of whom you may never talk to, even if you see them every day or every week. Perhaps also use the mindfulness skill of “participating” by actively connecting with those around you (e.g., through greeting, small talk, letting someone enter the train or bus before you, and so forth). Whether you love or hate transit, use it as an opportunity to improve tolerance and practice connecting with others. ~ Alexander L. Chapman, Ph.D., R.Psych.