This is a really good exercise for learning acceptance and mindfulness. It is called the ‘Children on the Bus’ exercise and appears in “Overcoming anxiety: Using Compassion- Focused Therapy’ by Dennis Tirch (New Harbinger, 2012)
This exercise is rather similar to Rumi’s ‘Guest House’ poem. It is part of Tirch’s Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) approach a relatively new development in psychotherapy and self-help.
So here it is, get comfortable and imagine…
…that you’re a bus driver. You have a powerful bus at your command. The bus represents all the different aspects of your life, your challenges and strengths. You’ll be driving the bus to a destination of your choice- a destination that represents your values and goals. You want, above all, to keep to your route, because this goal or vision is very important to you.
As a bus driver you’ll be picking up passengers along your route. Unfortunately some of the passengers are quite noisy and unruly children, some, the most unpleasant that you’ve ever encountered. Each one represents a difficult, anxiety-provoking thought or feeling you’ve had to deal with in the course of your life. Some children represent panic, others worry and fear. These children are very rude, they shout insults at you, they call you names like ‘loser’. Some shout: “Stop the bus! This will never work!”
You’d like to stop the bus and discipline these children or maybe throw them off, but if you did that you’d no longer be moving in the direction of your goal. You could, alternatively, try a different route, and then the children would quieten down. But then this would be a detour from living the life that takes you closer to your goal. All of a sudden, you realize that you’ve been so preoccupied with these bratty children that you’ve already missed a couple of turns and have lost some time. You realize that in order to reach your goal you need to continue driving. So you make space for these noisy children, and, at the same time, pursue your life in the direction you’ve chosen.
You see that each child represents a very tricky brain that’s evolved over millions of years to respond in all sorts of angry and confusing ways to a difficult or complicated environment. You realize that your tricky brain is not your fault.
Your compassionate self, driving the bus, can make room for all these unruly children: your anxious self, your angry self, your jealous self—all your ‘difficult’ selves in fact. All these children vying for your attention, carrying on and on. And yet, in spite of these difficult children, you find you can still travel on your chosen path. And, as you do so, you feel kind to yourself and non-judgmental as you keep your eyes on the road.
To read more about CFT or to download meditation exercises, see Dennis Tirch’s website: www.Mindfulcompassion.com