I had an interesting experience recently that showed me what a difference being a long-time meditator can make when we encounter spur-of-the-moment stressors. I was having acupuncture done for my sciatic pain — my “ridiculitis” as I call it — when suddenly, I heard a blood-curdling scream.
It came from a young child of maybe three or four, and the scream was followed by her shouting, “I DON’T WANT TO DEAL WITH THE NEEEEEEDLES!”
My first thought was, “Oh, you poor sweetheart! Of course you don’t want to deal with the needles!” But her protests continued loudly for the next 15 or 20 minutes.
I observed as my thoughts started to shift.
I watched what my mind was doing — just as we do in meditation, watching our thoughts and feelings — and it was this interesting stream of consciousness that went all the way from having compassion for this kid; to having righteous indignation that my quiet-time spa treatment was being ruined; back to thinking, “Who am I to have righteousness? This is another living soul who is suffering! Poor thing!”; to beating myself up for my thoughts; then to trying to figure out, “Why is there a kid in here? This is an adult place!”; then wondering, “Well, if they’re going to treat kids in here, how might they do this differently so the main treatment rooms are separate from the pediatrics?”
At one point I even thought, “Wow, what vibrato! That kid is going to be an opera star!”
It was fascinating!
When the acupuncturist came in to check on me and ask how my session went, I shared my stream of consciousness with her.
I smiled when she followed up by sharing with me that she was listening to the tantrum from a nearby room and thinking, “Thank God it’s Potiker in there!”
She knew that I wouldn’t throw a fit about the experience like so many other clients might.
By observing my thoughts without judgment, I didn’t get sucked into them.
And that made a huge difference for both me and the acupuncturist that day! Her response also gave me a chance to reflect on my own ability to observe rather than react.
That’s the gift of practicing daily mindfulness meditation.