Family

What riding the subway to work every day taught me about generosity.

A meditation teacher's guide to transforming your morning commute.

What riding the subway to work every day taught me about generosity.

It’s easy to hate the subway — the crowds, the heat, the variety of unique aromas — but taking the train doesn’t have to suck.

In fact, all the things that make the subway insufferable also make it a weirdly perfect place for meditation practice. I know, I know. Just go with me for a second.


If only your morning commute looked this uncrowded... Photo via iStock.

By playing with some simple meditative exercises, you can turn your commute into something you enjoy and even look forward to.

Step 1: Practice generosity.

You’re pressed up against a bunch of strangers in a rattling metal tube. Comfort is a limited resource, to put it mildly. The situation is rife with opportunities to pursue your own comfort at the expense of others — or to do something different and open a path for someone else’s comfort and happiness.

One of the main causes of our suffering is a fixation on our “self” and its petty concerns: Am I comfortable enough? Do I have all the things I want? Do people like me? It may seem like we’re looking out for our interests, but we’re actually suffocating ourselves, choking off our ability to enjoy the present moment.

And one of the best antidotes to this claustrophobic fixation on self is — surprise, surprise — cultivating concern for others. You may not associate generosity, which we all learned about in kindergarten, with the “exotic” practice of meditation, but meditation is simply a practice of cultivating healthy habits of mind, and generosity is one of those habits. It makes the mind spacious and joyful — which is nice — and obviously the people around you benefit as well.

It’s the purest win-win there is. Maybe that’s why the Buddha traditionally taught generosity as his first lesson to new students.

“If you want to be selfish, be wisely selfish: care for others!" — The Dalai Lama

Step 2: Stand up.

Here’s the simplest, most powerful generosity practice you can do on the subway: Decide to stand whenever there aren’t enough seats. Every time you sit on a crowded train, there’s someone else who has to stand. What if you choose to be the one who stands, to make that other person’s comfort a priority? If that seems like a little too much, you can give up your seat for seniors, pregnant women, or people with disabilities.

Photo via iStock.

You give up so little by standing instead of sitting, and it’s such an easy way to make other people feel good. In addition to the physical ease of sitting, they also get the warm feeling of having a stranger do something nice for them, and you get the warm feeling of doing something nice for a stranger. The Buddha called this feeling "mudita," or “sympathetic joy.” You might find that this joy for a stranger’s well-being beats the physical comfort of taking a seat yourself.

Step 3: Share your stuff.

Here’s another easy generosity practice: When someone boards your train and asks for help, give something. I’ve definitely sat there, uncomfortable and vaguely ashamed, trying to ignore someone begging on the subway. Sharing what you have feels much nicer. This is another instance, like offering your seat, where giving something away brings more happiness than enjoying the thing yourself.

I prefer to offer food rather than money, so I order 12-packs of Clif Bars online and make sure to always keep two bars in my shoulder bag. I’ve also seen people give metro cards. When I give, I try not to let the act become rote or automatic. I focus on the person, acknowledge that this is a fellow human being who needs help, and form the wish that whatever I’m giving will bring the person some relief.

“If you knew what I know about the power of giving, you would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way." — The Buddha

Don’t limit yourself.

There are many ways to practice generosity on the subway while you’re surrounded by train delays, loud headphones, and mysterious puddles. If you look, you can find dozens of opportunities to choose someone else’s comfort over your own.

Photo via iStock.

Let’s get to it.

via Pexels

A new Gallup poll found a significant increase in the number of Americans who identify as LGBT since the last time it conducted a similar poll in 2017.

The poll found that 5.6% of U.S. adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. That's a large increase from the 2017 poll that had the number at 4.5%.

"More than half of LGBT adults (54.6%) identify as bisexual. About a quarter (24.5%) say they are gay, with 11.7% identifying as lesbian and 11.3% as transgender. An additional 3.3% volunteer another non-heterosexual preference or term to describe their sexual orientation, such as queer or same-gender-loving," the poll says.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of Creative Commons
True

After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

Keep Reading Show less

As the nation helplessly watches our highest halls of government toss justice to the wind, a 2nd grader has given us someplace to channel our frustrations. In a hilarious video rant, a youngster named Taylor shared a story that has folks ready to go to the mat for her and her beloved, pink, perfect attendance pencil.

Keep Reading Show less
via wakaflockafloccar / TikTok

It's amazing to consider just how quickly the world has changed over the past 11 months. If you were to have told someone in February 2020 that the entire country would be on some form of lockdown, nearly everyone would be wearing a mask, and half a million people were going to die due to a virus, no one would have believed you.

Yet, here we are.

PPE masks were the last thing on Leah Holland of Georgetown, Kentucky's mind on March 4, 2020, when she got a tattoo inspired by the words of a close friend.

Keep Reading Show less