For years, I’ve found riding the New York City subway frustrating.
(Which many straphangers will affirm.)
But my angst goes beyond delays, over-crowded trains and panhandlers, which are expected in a city of millions.
My anxiety cuts to the core of my being, and unless you have a similar tendency, you’ll never understand.
You see, I’m clastrophobic.
When a train stops in between stations, even for a few seconds, it feels like hours, exciting all the symptoms of my phobia: anxiety, disorientation, paranoia, shortness of breath (feelings of suffication), sweats, closing walls and tightening clothes (like a straight jacket).
Actually, you can multiply these effects by ten if the train is crowded, or my thinking is fixated on terrorist attacks.
This is something I’ve dealt with for years.
I’d routinely ride trains while praying they wouldn’t stop and grit my teeth when they did.
Yes, I suffered. Until I decided to let fear educate me.
Everything changed when I accepted reality and started focusing on my mental responses.
After years of dedicated self-work and consistent progress, I realized there was a lot I needed to learn (and there always will be).
If the bar was raised just a little bit, and my comfort zone disrupted, I was an emotional novice right back at square one.
But I made up my mind to no longer be a prisoner of my own mind.
I began practicing mindfulness techniques on the train. Basically, this meant (slowly) counting breaths (inhaling and exhaling through my nose), while consciously watching my fears arise and dissapate in my minds eye.
I learned to stop worrying about what could happen, and to start embracing the unkown.
I affirmed that, “If anything tragic happens, I can handle it. Because everything is a part of life, they’re actually no surprises. Either way I’d be alright,”
Overtime I began to apply this approach to my daily life, and not just during times of stress.
I no longer cared about outcomes, and simply experienced the sensations of now.
As a result, I have achieved a new sense of calm and inner peace that has enhanced every aspect of my life.