In certain communities throughout the world, bells, gongs or chimes sound as a reminder for everyone in the community to stop, take a few deep breaths and come back into the present moment. This is a wonderful individual and community practice.

We do not live in a society that promotes this “stopping”. We live in a society that worships the Energizer Bunny. We just keep going and going and going. The more we go, the more we are validated, both by those who expect things of us and by ourselves.
We keep overriding bodily signals that tell us that we are tired, hungry, overworked, need exercise, need human touch.

Mindfulness bells bring us back into our bodies, back to ourselves, back in touch with reality.

My husband and I own a piece of property next to a railroad track. When we first started working there we tried to ignore the train. If we were in the middle of talking when the train came through we would just continue. We had to raise our voices to be heard over the train and before we knew it we were yelling at each other. One day we suddenly both realized at the same time what we were doing, shook our heads and laughed. We decided then to use the train as a mindfulness bell. Now when the train comes we stop whatever we are doing, breathe and come back to our bodies.

On the way to work I cross a railroad track.

It seems to me that they are adding more cars to trains these days. I guess that’s a good thing in many ways, but it can certainly make being stopped at a railroad track annoying. I learned a while ago to take my foot off the brake and put my car in park. This eases my physical revving and causes me to relax and accept the disruption in my goal-driven behavior.

This morning on my way to work I was going above the speed limit. This did not stop the car behind me from bearing down on me. As I rounded the bend I realized that a train was coming. Between the track and me was a school bus with its blinking stoplights and just ahead were the blinking lights of the railroad crossing.

I stopped my car, put it in park and waited. I closed my eyes as I felt the vibrating rumble of the approaching engine move from the floor of my car and up into my feet and legs.

Briefly I opened my eyes and checked the time 7:26am.

I closed my eyes again.

As I breathed, I felt the rumble of the train and heard the squealing of the brakes and the tracks. I heard the ch-ch-ch-ch, ch-ch-ch-ch and tried to discern if that was the actual sound or if I’d just been trained to hear it that way. I saw the blinking lights ahead of me through my eyelids and wondered if I’d know when the train had passed. Not trusting my sense of knowing, I opened my eyes a couple of times to make sure things hadn’t gotten away from me, but the train was still going. I allowed my entire sensual body to engage in the experience of the train passing and thought, “This is what a train is like.”

The whole experience was so fresh and new and relaxing. Rather than sitting there consumed with impatience and entitlement over the fact that I shouldn’t have to be slowed down by a train, I relaxed into the experience of a passing train. After all, that is what was happening in my current reality.

When the train passed I looked again at my clock. 7:28am.

Two minutes had passed. That’s all; just two minutes, but in those two minutes I’d put my body into complete immersion and relaxation.

The driver behind me had not. When we pulled into a place he could pass me and then the bus, he zoomed ahead and then pulled quickly back in front of the bus to make the same immediate right turn I was making. We both pulled into the same medical complex and then he pulled into a lot across the street from mine and left his car less than a minute before I did.

I watched him frantically get out of his car and I thought, “He might be on time, but he missed the train.”