The more mindful we are,
the more alive we are.
On the feeder bus to the subway station after work today, I was wondering what to write for this week’s article in this column. I whipped out my phone and surfed some news for inspiration. Tired from not sleeping enough last night, I dozed off, with the phone in my hand. What seemed like a few minutes later, I felt a nudge. The man sitting on the inside of the double-seater had stood up and was pushing his way to get out without warning. Rudely awakened, I moved to let him through, while saying softly enough for him to hear – ‘You could say “Excuse me”?’ Suddenly, he glared at me and snapped, ’Bloody hell! You were playing with your phone!’ I replied sheepishly, ‘I fell asleep.’ He didn’t buy it. As he exited the bus, he continued glaring at me through the window. I gave him a salute. A gesture of apology and respect it was, but in his foul mood, it is even likely that he sees it as sarcasm?
In a recent Dharma class, I was sharing on how the lack of awareness causes needless suffering to oneself and others. This incident is a good example. On my part, my lack of awareness in mindfully reading made me doze off, thus conditioning the unhappiness. On the man’s part, his lack of awareness made him assume I was wide awake and engrossed in a game, to the extent of ignoring him. If he was more mindful, he would have noticed that my phone was displaying only text, and that I was nodding off. Surely, blaming someone asleep for not seeing one is hardly fair. To be fair, perhaps he did say ‘Excuse me’ loudly, while I was too switched off? We’ll now never know… The man was so unmindful of what could had gone wrong, despite an explanation, that he continued to suffer from anger. He assumed I was someone ‘awake but wifully unmindful’. But isn’t this person exactly him?
We all have the choice – of how long we wish to torment others and ourselves with our lack of awareness. Yet, ironically, those who suffer the most from the lack of awareness are seldom aware of this choice, while they unmindfully, and thus seemingly choicelessly create misery for oneself and others. The least mindful are thus by default the least happy. On the other end of the spectrum are the Buddhas, who have perfected their mindfulness of all phenomena, who have realised True Happiness, as expressed by their ever radiant smiles. Many years ago, I would have been pissed off by the man’s behaviour, and probably snapped back. This round, I was only taken aback. Thankfully, there was enough awareness not to add fuel to the fire of the man’s anger. With some mindfulness, Dharma inspiration for writing can strike at the most unexpected moments. This is one of such! – Shen Shi’an
Without awarenss that we cause our own suffering,
we can never cease our suffering.