Last week, my husband and I were among thousands stranded in Bali because of the volcanic ash cloud. It was difficult to get much sympathy for our plight from friends and family back home in Australia, especially as they were shivering through a particularly wet and icy week. ‘We’re stuck in Bali’ doesn’t really have the ring of tragedy about it. And for sure, there are worse places to be caught in. Another week in Bali, soaking up the sun, sitting by the ocean or the pool, paid for by travel insurance – poor devils!
And yet it was stressful, not knowing when we’d be able to return home. Since the beginning of July, the airport had opened sporadically for a few hours, let a few planes in and out, before closing again for the afternoon or a whole day. We were booked on a flight a week later, but of course there was no guarantee that this one would be able to depart. By Monday there was a backlog of 300 flights. There was no way of knowing how much longer this might drag on for, and it was impossible to communicate with our airline apart from filling out an online form and hoping that someone would be in touch at some stage.
In mindfulness, we’re always taught that our perception of an event plays a large part in how we experience it, and our extra week in Bali was the perfect example of this. Here we were, back from an exhausting day at the airport, which had closed only minutes before we arrived to check in. We were back in the same hotel, even the same room. We were back in the same routine of swimming, walking, reading, eating. Apart from the hours spent on the phone and computer contacting insurance, work, the airline etc, nothing had changed – and yet everything had. We were no longer choosing to spend time in Bali, we wanted to be back home, and even though we tried to make the best of the situation, it was not particularly relaxing.
At times, our external circumstances quite clearly influence our mood, but often it’s actually our perception of events which colours the glasses we view them through. This is normal, quite natural, but it helps us to be aware of this process, and our additional week in Bali was a perfect lesson for this!
Weekly practice idea:
This week, pause every now and then and ask yourself – is my current mood dependent on the situation, or on my state of mind? Do you notice anything interesting or unexpected as you do this exercise?