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Marieke van Vugt

Making peace with being stuck in a crowd

Making peace with being stuck in a crowd http://www.theurbancountry.com/
Despite the fact that a lot of scientists these days talk about the wisdom of crowds, which refers to the idea that together, a crowd of people will tend to converge to the right answer for most problems, I tend to dislike being in crowds. This really struck me recently because in Summer the town where I live is fairly empty, but now the academic year has started, it is very full again with students. As I was waiting for the traffic light a few days ago, I really felt quite antsy being surrounded by something like 60 other bikers. But then something hit me: why should I focus so strongly on how these people are in my way? They too are people like me, they try to be happy, and they try to get to their destination on time. As soon as I started to see these people as different "me"s, I felt much calmer and happier.

The Buddhist teachings about kindness really helped me here in considering that I am not the only one around. Seeing how we all depend upon one another can turn people that we habitually see as obstructing us (e.g., cutting us in traffic) into fellow human beings who also want to be happy. Rather than being in an antagonistic relation with our surroundings, we can actually welcome them. I found this creates a lot of peace in my mind and much less stress. And whenever I notice my mind is starting to fret about these other people again, it helps me to remember that that is just my mind--it is not actually me. The true reality of things is that we are, through the chains of interdependence, never really separate from other people and other beings. We depend on the others for so many things: for our food, our house, our job, our health, and so on... I was actually amazed by how such a very simple change of viewpoint changed the whole way I felt. So the bottom line is: there is always space, even if you feel crammed between so many people!