I went to a program at a Temple in a nearby city this morning, and two things challenged my calm demeanor. The first was that the Temple wasn't where I thought it was. I got off the freeway and headed south, I should have gone north. I had two other people in the car with me, so I felt bad getting there later than planned. (It turned out that they said to be there at 10 am, but the program didn't start until 10:30, so we still got there in plenty of time.) I could have used my GPS, I could have looked it up on Mapquest, but no, I didn't need to do that. I knew where we were going. I thought.
I used to be very uncomfortable arriving anyplace late. I would worry that I might end up not getting a good seat, or there wouldn't be parking, or I would have a hard time getting into the program, because of thinking about the three minutes I missed. If I let myself get all worked up about being late, I would ruminate on it for awhile, and I would miss part of the program from not paying attention. On the other hand, if I didn't let myself get worked up, I would arrive, find a seat, and settle in to the program, and not miss more than the couple minutes I actually missed by being late. I trained myself a few years ago that usually it really doesn't matter so much if I get somewhere a little late. I usually got a fine seat, and didn't miss much the first few minutes. Just letting go of my fears helps me keep my equilibrium.
Yesterday at work (I am a psychiatric occupational therapist), I was leading a group on getting yourself out when you feel trapped. In talking about attitude, I used this example: You are on your way to a dinner, and left yourself just enough time. Up ahead you see break lights, and you end up in a traffic jam for a few minutes, making you late. You can sit in the traffic jam cursing the car in front of you, yelling at the unseen idiots who are causing the problem, and fret about being late. How would you feel when you get to dinner? The answers were the expected: stressed, anxious, tense, etc.
Now. I said, you are at that same traffic jam, but this time you say to yourself "there's nothing I can do to change it, I will just go with the flow". You take advantage of the time to make some phone calls, or just turn up the radio and sing along. How do you think you would feel this time when you got to dinner? One patient said "I would still be stressed, that's just the way I am." Some of the other patients just stared at me. They didn't get it. They could not fathom that you have control of how you feel by how you think and act. (I have used this example many times before, with good success.)
The other incident today took me a little longer to let go of. I usually wear a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl) when i go to services. I forgot to take it today. Not very many women wear a tallit, and it is a statement I like to make that I am daring to be different. Also, The tallit that I wear is painted silk, that I made myself. Like most artists, I like to show off my work,and here would be a whole new group of people who would see it. Besides that, (There is also the fact that it helps me to 'get into the groove' of prayer.) So I was ruminating for a bit during the service about not having my tallit, and thus not paying attention to the service. I had to remind myself several times that there wasn't anything I could do about it, and that no harm would come of it, I should just to let go.
I did let go, and then was able to 'get into the groove'. We all have incidents like these, where something happens not according to plan, and we get thrown off. Usually there are no lasting effects, except for the psychological ones we place on ourselves. Calling ourselves stupid, or mentally trying to undo whatever it was makes the situation worse. We make the proverbial mountain out of a molehill. If there is no harm, learn to let go. If there is small harm, apologize, make amends, and let go. (This is not the place to talk about a situation where there was great harm done.) If the only harm is to your pride or your ego, then you are causing the harm to yourself.
Learn to ask yourself if there is anything you can do to change the situation, if so, do it. If not, let go. Ask yourself if there is any real harm. If so, make amends. If not, let it go. Consciously tell yourself it is okay, that you don't need to think about it anymore. Give it only the amount of attention it deserves. Occupy your mind with other things that do matter, or with some music, a book or a movie that holds your attention.