Welcome back to Mindful Metaphors. I’ve been busy working on a big project recently, but more on that later. This episode I am covering the Passengers on the Bus metaphor!
Traditionally we think of mindfulness practice as something that is separate from our normal lives. We think of sitting on a cushion, secluded from the real world, and being as still as possible. And this is one good way to practice mindfulness. But what about the times when we take action in the world? Can we be mindful then? And what does that look like?
In my view, the whole purpose of practicing sitting meditation is to be able to bring that awareness out into the world. Formal mindfulness practices give us the mindfulness tools to use when things get difficult. And things can get especially difficult when we start to act in new ways in the world. Ultimately, mindfulness allows us to act FLEXIBLY. It allows us to change our behavior from what does not work to what does.
This is no easy task. Changing the things you do is difficult, especially if we have been doing the same things in the same way for so long. But when things are not working and we are suffering, we need some flexibility. And we need to know what new direction we want to go in our lives.
The passengers on the bus metaphors brings all of this together. It looks at the dilemma: How can we mindfully deal with difficult thoughts and emotions while still living a meaningful life? This is a big question, but we are up for the task.
Imagine that your life is a bus, and you are the bus driver. On this bus you have many passengers. These are your thoughts, feelings, past experiences, or other mental events that show up for you in your life. Your bus may have passengers/thoughts such as “you’re not good enough” or “no one likes you.” It may have feelings such as depression, anger, anxiety, or shame. Or it may have past experiences of trauma, difficulties, harsh parents or teachers, or other influences in your life. This is normal and we all have these difficult passengers.
Often, these passengers will try to tell you how to drive your bus. They may say, “don’t go to that party, no one likes you” or “don’t even try to pursue that career that you want, you’re not good enough.” They try to take control of the bus of your life and sometimes we listen to them and do what they say. Sometimes we try to fight with them and argue and tell them they are wrong. We struggle with them in hopes that they will leave the bus. But they don’t. In fact, these passengers are more like holograms; they have no physical form, so they can’t be thrown off the bus. However, this also means they cannot physically control the direction of your bus either. It is only if you buy-in to what they say that they have any control.
The good news is there is another way to live life. You don’t have to spend all your time and energy fighting with the passengers or obeying them either. You can choose your own direction. You can ask yourself: What is important to me in my life and what direction do I want the bus to go? Do you want to be a loving parent? Or a hard-working student? Or a compassionate partner? Or self-loving? Or be adventurous and travel? You can choose the direction and take action in your life to move your bus forward.
This does not mean the passengers are gone. In fact, they might show up even more at first when you start to direct your bus. If you go to the job interview you want they could show up there with “you’re not good enough” or whatever. This is when your mindfulness skills come into the play. This is when you can choose to not take the passengers/thoughts literally, just observe them, and return to the present moment, doing what is important to you. You can take the wheel of your bus and choose your direction, while letting the passengers just be.
Great. That is a big metaphor and covers a lot. Let me know what you think of it.
And as promised… my project. For the past few years, I have been working on a therapeutic board game that uses this metaphor as the foundation for the game. It is called The Mindful Bus and it has been a joy creating it and bringing it into the world. It is excellent for playing with a supportive group, as a couple, or playing by yourself. If you are interested in learning more about the game, visit the website www.themindfulbus.com to learn more. I just put up a short video demo of the game.
Thank you again for reading this episode of Mindful Metaphors and until next time, may you choose your life’s direction and mindfully manage your passengers!
Ellis Edmunds, Psy.D.
Therapy for Anxiety and Mindfulness Training in Oakland, CA.
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