Equanimity and the Subway

This is my secret. I don’t mind what happens.
— Jiddu Krishnamurti


A soft rain fell on NYC. Not a rain that had made a decision to be there, but a soft rain. A rain that dipped its toe in your face to test out the waters of your frustration. I had walked through the rain not minding it per se. As a New Yorker, I had gotten used to the curtain of mist that often hangs in the air on the humid summer days until the sky seems ready to cry it out. 

I had gotten to the train on time. I had a long trip in front of me, but one that I was ready to embark on with my podcasts. Being at the end of the line has its advantages: you always get a seat. I sat there staring at the name of my stop on the electronic board. Kings Hwy. Deep Brooklyn. Got it. After accepting a job as an SAT tutor, I had to travel to far out lands. Just accept and move on.

I continued to stare, the voice of the recently deceased Oliver Sacks in my ears. I drifted off thinking about the shortness of life. 

But then I thought "Man, this train ride is taking a really long time."

My eyes had never left the stop name. 10 stops away. 8 stops away. Tracking my arrival like a hawk. Could there be more than one Kings Hwy stop?

There was. My eyes drifted over to the letter of the train. When I had gotten on, it had been the Q train. But, sadly, now it was the N. Dear God. I was on the completely wrong train, and my tutoring session started in 15 minutes.

A small respite in an above ground stop lead me to pull out my phone and quickly check travel time. Half an hour away by car. An hour by train. I hopped off the train, willing to face the elements of the streets of Brooklyn at 5:30 PM. 

As I exited the station, I could see there were no cabs to be found. Damn, I went so far that I entered suburbia. Thank God I had downloaded the Uber app in order to get my drunk cousin home from a wedding last weekend. 4 mins away. I hop in. 

Sirens not long after. My driver pulls over. A plainclothes policeman steps up to his driver-side window. I close my eyes and breathe. "Not now. Please. I need to get to work." After a brief argument about driving etiquette the policeman seems to have pity on me and goes back to his car. We continue en route. 

I had scheduled the session early in order to make a free fitness class. Not only was I going to miss my class, but I was going to have to pay for the car too. Not a great night.

Upeksha. In sanskrit, it means equanimity, even-mindedness. Not giving a hoot. I sat in the car as it crawled through traffic thinking about it. In most cases, I start to think about equanimity when things have gotten so bad that I have to laugh. No matter how much anxiety I have, I always get a certain clarity when in the midst of a situation I have no power to change. However, when things seem in my control, I stress about them until I immobilize myself out of fear of the unknown. 

I cannot control the subway. Yes, I can control when I leave and judging my time based on all the information I have. But, the subway can seem like an act of God at certain times. A destructive and unpredictable force that we insure ourselves against day in and day out. How can I maintain a level head when I live in the city where "sick passenger" could mean literally anything?

Another breath. I start to slow the rapid heart beating, the racing of the mind. Upeksha. I start to feel better. "Life will go on," I tell myself. "After this moment, is another moment, and another." We cannot control what happens in these moments, but we can control our reactions to them. I can choose to be shaken by this inevitable fact, or I can stand firm, without movement, without judgement, and without minding what happens. 

But I will order a bunch of Mexican food from Seamless afterward because the universe needs balance.