Standing in Line at the Post Office: Opportunity to Practice Mindfulness

After leaving work yesterday, December 19, I called my mom on my way to the post office. Telling her where I was headed, she replied with an exasperated “Ugh! Good luck – the lines are soooo long right now!” I hadn’t thought much of it; it was a chore I needed to do, and it was going to be what it was going to be. But now, based on her reaction, I was beginning to dread this quick errand of buying some stamps and sending a small package. I was beginning to fear it turning into a potential ordeal…well, as my mom attempted to convince me as so. As I was driving there, I noticed some anxiety begin to arise as I realized I had already formed a negative judgment about this post office experience before I even arrived.

Feeling the dread accumulate, I hesitantly pulled into the parking lot convinced I wouldn’t find any parking. To my surprise and relief, there were two spots, readily available. So far, it didn’t seem to be that bad. Clearly if the lines were going to be soooo long, then how could there have been any available spots? Still anticipating an hour-long line and people on the verge of going postal, I pulled in, took a deep breath and was ready to brave the post office just 6 days before Christmas.

Armed with caution, I walked in expecting to see madness. Once again, my fears were worse than my reality (as they most always are!) as I was relieved to see that it looked pretty tame and under control. No super long lines. Plenty of employees.  No disgruntled workers or angry customers proclaiming their over-self-importance. There were just people on line, waiting patiently and trying not to overhear the conversation of the lady on the phone who was clearly receiving some bad news. It was just another day in the life of suburban people going about their business. So, again, I laughed at myself for the amount of expectation, drama, and dread that I had allowed my mother to give me. (No wonder I grew up with so much anxiety and fear – she handed it to me on a silver platter…sorry mom, its true!)

As I made my way through the line, which was pretty quick by the way – in and out in less than 10 minutes – I recognized this (and by this I mean any instance in our life) as a wonderful opportunity to practice mindfulness. Any experience we have is an opportunity to notice is what is arising within and around us, and decide with skill how to proceed forward. So, as I stood on line, I didn’t pull out my phone to distract myself to help pass the time faster, I simply just stood in line. I breathed. I was aware of the people around and soaked in the sense of holiday cheer they were exuding. I let go of the anticipated dread and anxiety my mom had prepped me for. And I actually relished in a few minutes alone time (I wasn’t technically alone, but I choose to define the space in between work and picking up my daughters from school as alone time – it’s all about our perspective!). By the time it was my turn, I felt calmer than I did when I walked in and completed my business with a smile and a "happy holidays" to the lady behind the counter.

When you are amidst the hustle and bustle of holidays, and notice yourself getting caught up in the negative energy of busyness or obligatory pleasantries, here are some tips to practice:

Ÿ ~ Take a minute and just breathe

Ÿ ~ Let go of expectations (good or bad)

Ÿ ~ Give space to allow for whatever is going to arise

Ÿ ~ Keep breathing

Ÿ ~ Be careful not to judge yourself or others

Ÿ ~ Practice gratitude and compassion

Ÿ ~ Still keep breathing

Ÿ ~ Take it one minute at a time…the only moment we have is now

~Ÿ Remember to smile, laugh and find the joy

May you be mindful. May you find gratitude. May you feel joyful. Happy holidays!

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