Wednesday, September 20, 2017

On Mindfulness

Leye - Every other Wednesday

By Asia Society

On a recent flight from Montpelier, I was a few minutes into my abdominal breathing session when suddenly, the elderly gentleman next to me knocked over his full cup of hot tea unto my laps. And his. He looked about eighty. His wife, who had the window seat, looked about the same. A beautiful, elderly couple flying together, helping each other, being graceful together.

My reaction to the accident is what I find interesting, and what I credit to the mindfulness exercise I was doing at the time. Part of my daily routine and my continuous journey into self-awareness.

Where normally it would have been normal to jump out of the seat, urgently tend to the burning thigh and the English Breakfast tea soaked jeans, to panic, be upset, be infuriated even, I did not feel any of these or react in any of the ways afore mentioned feelings dictate.

My first thought was for the gentleman; how he must be feeling, having just caused an accident that affected someone else.

With a calmness and presence of mind that I would spend most of the rest of the flight reflecting upon, I checked that he was ok. I assuaged his concern for me by repeatedly letting him know I was fine. I fetched and gave him tissue I always carry in my pocket, and only when he stopped fretting over me did I let him know I was going to get more paper napkins from the back.

I returned to find him dabbing my seat. I gave him the bulk of the napkins I'd gotten from cabin crew in the back, and I used the remainder as a barrier between the soaked seat and my equally soaked jeans.

He continued to apologize. Smiling back, I assured him that I was fine. I threw in a joke about how they should make the cup indent on the pull-down tray into a proper hole to secure cups.

Now, while it's possible to put my actions down to my upbringing, and specifically to the fact that he was an elderly man and I was brought up to respect my elders, what I find must peculiar about the entire episode is that at no time did I have to calm myself or rescue my mind from the grasp of an emotional hijack.

Hot tea was poured onto my laps. Without warning. And I did not react with panic, or fear, or even a surge of anger however short-lived. Instead, I remained in control of my feelings. My thinking mind was never absent. I did not react. I chose how to act. I acted with empathy, with politeness, and with consideration. I acted with what you might call maturity.

As I’ve said, I put this down to the mindfulness exercise I was engaged in at the moment of the incident. I recommend this to President Donald Trump, particularly in light of his ongoing shenanigans with Rocket Man.


  1. My dear Leye, what a lovely story. I wish the Donald might take your advice. But you are a grownup and he has the character structure of a two year old. Empathy from the SCROTUS? I am afraid (very afraid!) not.

  2. I'll try to emulate your behaviour, Leye, on my next flight. My trip to Bouchercon is about 36 hours so I should have opportunity...

  3. There may yet be hope for The Donald... after he's reincarnated another three or four hundred times. At least, we can only hope that reincarnation is real and that, like mindfulness, practice makes perfect. Either that, or we just tie him down to the hot seat and keep pouring on the tea.

  4. Would your reaction have been different if he had been an arrogant sod who acted like he didn't care? I think it might....