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Practicing Mindfulness

A young girl in a happy- yellow jacket brushed past me. She made the kind of sound that didn't require the tongue to touch any area of the mouth, but came as a rush of air from deep inside.

The lobby of the Overture Center was crowded as more than 2,000 people made their way to their cars. Like me, I guessed many were headed home to bed, as it was a weeknight.

For once I wasn’t in any particular hurry, letting the last few images of Wicked circle in my head. I had to work the next morning but took my time leaving, as much as I could in the momentum of the people around me. I felt like a leaf caught up in the current.

After their final bows the cast had asked the audience to consider making donations to a few local causes on their way out of the building. I remembered it as I wound my way down the stairs to the lobby floor. On the main floor I stopped for a second as I dug into my purse for my wallet, not wanting to lose my billfold in the crowd. I sifted through the plethora of singles, change from the parking attendant earlier. She had apologized for having only small bills.

“That’s all right, with $16 in ones I’ll have change for anyone who needs it,” I had joked. I was noticing the serendipity of having such a ready donation now when I heard an exasperated breath behind me.

A young girl in a happy-yellow jacket brushed past me. She made the kind of sound that didn’t require the tongue to touch any area of the mouth, but came as a rush of air from deep inside.

“You don’t just stop in the middle of the crowd,” she said to what appeared to be her mother. I assumed so by the resemblance in their chins. She shot her meaning at me through squinted eyes and pursed lips.

I tilted my head and watched her push her way through the glass doors, continuing her rant to her mother, as I dropped my donation into the plastic bucket. Her face was contorted in way I guessed she would see again in the form of permanent lines in coming years.

I knew. I had my own deep gashes between my eyebrows that I suspected would not be there if I hadn’t spent so much of my own life scowling at other people. Until this very moment I would have said that I was that girl, creeping up on the heels of those who stood in my way. But now as the one walking so slowly, even stopping carelessly in the midst of a hurried crowd, I could see that I really had begun to change.

I had spent the last two years practicing mindfulness, which my teacher said was paying attention to the moment in a particular way. She meant with non-judgement and openness. We cultivated it through formal sitting meditation, but also by being mindful in our daily lives, and in situations just like this. When I castigated myself for not being good enough at the formal part, favoring short 5-minute sitting meditations over longer ones, my teacher reminded me that we are all practicing throughout our lives. The formal sitting was important, but it was just as important to learn to be mindful throughout our day.

Here I could see that I was actually making progress. Not only had the tables turned between me and the girl, I felt no judgement of her and her actions, only seeing the moment as it was.

As I continued on to my car, the girl and her mother now long gone into the expanse of those now moving toward the parking garage, I felt as if I was in a bubble. I imagined it surrounding me like the one I had seen Glinda ride in on earlier that evening. I could still see all the frustrations outside me, but somehow I felt removed.

I knew I would have plenty of opportunities to continue to practice and wouldn’t always succeed. But now heading into the parking garage with the throngs of other theatergoers, I felt pretty confident I could do it. When I failed I would remember this moment and try again.

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