Tag Archives: driving

The Path is the Destination

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Back home after a harrowing journey,
a night time drive of 212 miles
in fog and driving rain
over hills and mountains
and high speed highways.
A lot of prayers were uttered
as I drove through plumes of rain
kicked up by semi after semi,
my two children in the back seat,
completely oblivious to how
dangerous it was
as the car hydroplaned
on many occasions,
gusts of wind
spraying wet leaves across the road…
Visibility was low
and I felt myself growing tense
with the responsibility
of keeping us all alive…
one wrong move
and we could all be gone
in an instant.
I finally put on the hazard lights
and slowed way down to be safe
in the fog and the rain.
And it occurs to me now
that the same can be applied
when going through
harrowing mental and emotional weather–
slow down, proceed with caution,
we cannot see what’s ahead
and there is bound to be
all kinds of weather,
so relax into this journey of life…
the path is the destination.

NaPoWriMo 2015 Day 15: A Dialogue

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Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt tells us to try a dialogue poem.  Alrighty then.

 

A Dialogue Between My Neurotic Mind and My Breath

Neurotic Mind:

EEEEEK!
Oh my god,
I’m going to be FIVE MINUTES LATE
to my daughter’s preschool for pick up time
that makes me a terrible mother,
and the director and my daughter’s teacher
are going to resent me for being late
for the umpteenth time.
Now I’m rushing,
and teaching my son terrible habits
as I drag him out into the rain
and drive too fast to the school.
Poor little guy,
I don’t pay enough attention to him,
and he’s growing bigger every day.
Why didn’t I savor his babyhood more?
And now it’s all gone.
CRAP!
I’m such a poor time manager.
Why do I do this to myself?
Will I never learn?
What is wrong with me?
Now I’m speeding, and it’s dangerous.
Hopefully I don’t get pulled over.
I shouldn’t be rushing like this.
Better late than dead.
They’re going to hate me for my lateness.
Oh good.  I’m only three minutes late.

Breath:
Inhale slowly.
Yes.
Exhale slowly.
Yes.
.
.
.
Repeat
.
.
.
No other moment but this one.
.
.
.
More space than you can imagine,
right here,
right now.
.
.
.
Breathe in,
breathe out.
.
.
.
All is well.

The Gift of Slowing Down

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Slowing down has taught me some things…
I have learned that I don’t arrive any later,
but I do arrive more relaxed, more peaceful,
and I’m saving a lot on gas.

I see cars whipping around me,
drivers in a hurry,
hurrying up to wait
and I’m ambling along,
coasting to the red light,
catching up to them.

I slide into the spaces those who hurry leave behind.
I see the world around and I am peaceful.

There is much more of a flow now
as I am no longer swimming upstream
having given up the frantic pace,
the fight to keep up,
the fight against the current.

No more fight–I have let go.
I have allowed myself to be absorbed in the great ocean of being.

This is the gift of slowing down.

A Moment For Myself

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Everyone else is in bed.  I wiped off the table, lit a candle, opened up the laptop, rubbed a drop of frankincense essential oil between my palms, cupped my hands, inhaled deeply. Ahh, yes.  A moment of quiet for myself.  At the end of a long day, it is heaven to hear an airplane rumbling somewhere in the skies above, and inside, just the sound of the keyboard keys clicking, the house settling, the metal ducts of our heating system clicking and ticking as they cool.

It has been a while since I have devoted any time to my idea of incorporating the Twelve Steps into the twelve months that I have committed to daily writing in this blog.  This third month is drawing to a close; I might as well take some time to explore my work on the third step, lest this last week of March escape me without any mention of how I’ve been experiencing it.  Step three is about turning our life and affairs over to God as we understand God.  Nearly every session of meditation starts with me turning the thirty minutes over to God.  God, I turn this meditation over to you. I turn my focus over to you.  I turn my mind over to you.  Please do with it what you will.  Please help me to focus my mind, that I may experience the divine in me.

More often than not, I have been turning my commutes to the yoga studio over to God.  If there is a genetic predisposition for road rage, I have it.  Maybe it was just a learned behavior, but it feels a lot deeper than simple conditioned response.  It feels karmic.  I don’t want to be the person who mutters angrily while driving.  I don’t want to feel the adrenaline coursing through my body, my heart racing.  I have tried chanting, breathing, calling friends and family, and other tactics to distract me from jumping into my normal mode of tenseness behind the wheel, but results are slow to become apparent.  In my quest to transform into the calm person I want to be, I find myself becoming impatient, disheartened, doubtful that I will ever see results…but there is another way to handle this.  I can turn over my driving, my thoughts about my driving, and the experience of sharing the road with other people over to God.  It’s a relief to know that turning it over is an option.  I don’t have to be in control.  I don’t have to be pinched and anxious and angry as soon as I turn the key in the ignition.  I turn my driving over to you God.  I turn my anger and my mistrust of other drivers over to you.  Please help me to stay calm, alert.  Thank you.

I have “turned over” many other experiences and thoughts this month.  It surely requires practice, like any other skill we can develop.  I want to surrender fully to the flow of life.  Because I have become accustomed to struggling with the daily challenges of life and the illusion of control…there is a lot of resistance, and anxiety surrounding this work of surrendering.  I turn over this act of surrender to you God.  Take it and do with it what you will.

I would love to see what I could write–say at midday or early afternoon–when my mind is more alert and my body not so exhausted,  but here I am writing after eleven o’clock at night.  The reality is I’m growing drowsier with each passing minute…so I shall surrender to sweet sleep now.  I turn my dreams over to you God.  I turn over my deepest longings, my hopes and my fears, my sleep, my health, my body, my family–all over to you, God.

 

Bonne nuit!

At Least I Won’t Be Haunted

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I’ve been listening to some talks that Pema Chodron gave in her abbey in Nova Scotia during a retreat some years back. She mentions how many of us go though our lives with a kind of haunted quality, never truly present. Because we never allow ourselves to fully experience the depths of our sorrow, we are never truly able to experience the potential for our greatest joy. We are haunted by our aversions and cravings. We hurry toward the things we want, and we run from what we dislike. We equate happiness with getting what we want, and suffering with being deprived of what we want. Always desiring something different from what is, we never fully experience this moment, and like disembodied ghosts we lose touch with reality.

So much of what Pema says resonates with me. I can see my own haunted ways of living my life–running to get to my yoga class, exceeding the speed limit, becoming stressed out en route, wandering how I can get myself into that peaceful, centered head space needed to assist people in reaching their own peace. I feel resentment toward the driver who is on his cell phone, who doesn’t notice the light has turned green. I’ve given myself plenty of time to get to the studio, so why do I feel this urge to get around the slower moving cars, to get from A to B more quickly?

I repeatedly see myself being impatient with my kids. My not yet two year old son, spoon in hand, slops yogurt all over his face, the table, his bib; my hand itches to clean him up, to just feed him the yogurt, although I know he has to learn how to feed himself somehow, and learning can be messy. My daughter is jumpy from skipping her nap yet again. As the evening wears on, she gets even jumpier. She knocks into things, slips, spills things, doesn’t listen when I ask her to wash her hands, won’t hold still so that I can help her brush her teeth. The whole time, I thinking about how much I want to be on my cushion, enjoying a moment to myself in meditation. Haunted by what I’m wanting, not fully present to this little being who is acting from her own cravings and aversions. I guess we’re all haunted.

As I become more and more aware that this haunted quality does not have to define me and my existence forever, as I come to realize that change is possible, that I have many options, I look for ways in this moment to practice being present, to reclaim my life energy, to gather my attention. Not simply accepting the concept of being present on some abstract mental level, but really practicing present moment awareness, with all of my faculties, now.

I meditate two times every day to bring myself back to this place of being. I thought it would be so hard to establish a practice and stick with it, to show up day after day after day. But after nearly 900 days, I find that the showing up is easy. It’s the choosing to stay that is hard. When I sit down on my cushion, full of hope that I can find stillness and focus, and then I discover that I’m so tired that all I want to do is nod off, it takes great will to keep sitting there, bringing my mind back again and again to the passage I’m silently repeating. The inner critic takes on a sultry, seductive tone and says, “Sleep would feel great right now. There’s no point in your doing this, you’re not proving anything to anyone, and you’re certainly not going to find enlightenment any time soon, so why not cut your meditation short and just go to bed?”

I’ll tell you why, it’s because I don’t want to be haunted right now. I don’t want to be haunted by the idea of sleeping, or haunted by the disappointment that would come if I skipped my meditation. I don’t want to be haunted by the vision of the person I want to be, when I awaken to my true nature and abide in that nature, so that I may be of benefit to those around me.

It’s time for me to meditate now. I’m tired. I’ll most likely feel really drowsy the entire time. I’ll probably fidget quite a bit to stay awake, and I’ll probably lose focus many times in the thirty minutes I’ve set aside for this practice. My bed will be calling to me, my body will feel uncomfortable, my mind will be assailed by many thoughts, images, hopes, fears, memories, goals, projects, desires. I’ll think about giving up many times, because I am so doggone tired.

I’ll sit up a little taller. I’ll shake all my tired thoughts off. I’ll try again.

Oh well, I’ll tell myself, I might be tired, but at least I won’t be haunted.

Towson Town Center

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Today I was feeling pretty ambitious, so after I got back home from teaching my morning yoga class, I packed the kids up in the car and drove to the mall. On a Saturday. A mere ten days after Christmas. What was I thinking?

My mom’s birthday was January 2 and I still hadn’t found a moment in my jam-packed schedule to get her a present. We had a dinner reservation in just a few hours so it was now or never. I didn’t want to show up empty-handed to her birthday dinner with some lame excuse about how busy I am, so to the mall we went.

On our way there, my mom called and announced that she was still in pain from a back injury she sustained on New Year’s Day. In addition to her back pain, her car was still covered in snow from last Thursday’s snow storm, it needed to be cleared off before she could drive it, my dad didn’t feel like taking care of it, and she just didn’t have the energy to be out and about–so she would prefer it if we could postpone dinner to another day. Could I blame the woman? It’s winter time, which means that we should all be hibernating. Her back is hurting, so she doesn’t feel like clearing all that snow off of her car herself. No argument from me. “Well,” I said, “I guess I’ll get a hold of the restaurant and cancel our reservation.” We hung up the phone.

I felt really disappointed. This was the second time this week that we’d have to cancel mom’s birthday dinner reservation. The first cancelation happened New Year’s day when my mom threw her back out. Both times I had built up lots of anticipation around spending time with my family and being served delicious food that I didn’t have to prepare myself. Something about becoming a mom and having to prepare meal after meal after meal, day in and day out, has greatly enhanced my appreciation of food that is just served to me, food that I didn’t have to go out and procure from the grocery store, recipes that I didn’t have to select, ingredients that I didn’t have to combine, vigilance that wasn’t required from me to make the dish turn into something edible. Just sitting at a table and having food brought to me is a beautiful, relaxing, precious thing. No restaurant tonight? So. Disappointed.

I’m driving in the car turning things over in my mind. Really? My dad doesn’t want to clean the snow off the car? Well, I’m not going to see my mom tonight, so why should I bother dragging the kids to the mall and looking for a present? If I do get her a present, when will I actually be able to get it to her? Maybe I won’t go to the mall after all. This is pointless.

No, we should go. We’re already halfway there. 

When we got to the mall’s parking garage, I drove around a good while looking for just one little parking spot, and could feel my blood pressure rising with each passing second. I was growing more and more irritated and disappointed about having to call the restaurant and cancel a second time. I was pitying  myself for having to make alternate dinner plans. And people just ahead of me were getting all the good parking spaces, leaving nothing for me–ME with TWO children! I see able-bodied lads hop out of the cars they parked in the convenient parking spots that were clearly meant for me, and I begin to grumble. Goddamned post-Christmas returns. Goddamned winter weather driving everyone indoors. Goddamned everybody taking my parking spot. Goddamn.

I finally found a place to park, dialed the restaurant, and canceled the reservation. The woman who answered the phone was sympathetic about my mother’s situation and wished us well. I managed to get the second-born child into the stroller, and the firstborn’s hand held tightly in my own, and we slowly made our way into the mall, which has been synonymous with hell, for much of my life.

I generally don’t like crowds. I like to wind my way from point A to B with speed and strategy, and I find crowds to be slow-moving amoebic masses that pose a great impediment to my plan of getting things done quickly. My type A personality doesn’t handle people on cell phones not noticing that I’m trying to get somewhere with two kids, three coats, a diaper bag, a purse, two sippy cups, one stroller, and a PMS induced bad attitude. After decades of feeling inwardly anxious, impatient, and doubtful of humanity’s inherent goodness whilst doing my business in these crowded centers of commerce,  I have decided there must be a different way. Something healthier, more enjoyable. In recent years I’ve slowly learned to approach the mall as a fertile opportunity for self-reflection.

A lot of the time I’m successful in reminding myself that waiting behind a slow moving mass of people is an opportunity to step back from my normal frantic pace, to radiate good will toward my fellow human beings, to take in all of the rich sights and sounds that a palace of commercial delights can offer. But sometimes I end up feeling just really damn annoyed. When that one person steps out in front of the stroller and just stops to talk to their friend, or look at their phone, or rummage in their purse–it makes me want to scream “DON’T YOU KNOW YOU’RE NOT THE ONLY PERSON IN THE UNIVERSE?”

Ok, so mall yoga. That happened today. After we finished lunch and I got the kids moving in the direction of the jewelry store, a young dude stopped right in front of the stroller without warning, causing a mini collision. He didn’t appear to notice that I had rammed one of the stroller wheels into his left ankle.   He just sauntered off in another direction talking to his buddy, laughing and pointing at who knows what. I didn’t bother to apologize for my part in the collision.

All of a sudden, I became aware of the tension I was holding in my body. My shoulders were hunched up close to my face, and as I looked ahead of me, scanning a path through the sea of bodies, every other person in the mall had become a human obstacle. My jaw was set, and I was fuming.

Breathe now. Let your shoulders relax. Take another deep breath. Walk gently.  Acknowledge the presence within these beings around you. All of them want happiness. All of them have friends and family. All of them experience joy and pain.

I slowed down and stopped fighting. I went with the flow. I was still my vigilant, strategic self, winding myself, the stroller and the kids through the crowd, but I was no longer looking at people as if they were deliberately trying to piss me off. I just saw people, sharing this mall space with me.

I felt more relaxed as I found some pretty citrine earrings for my mom, and then a couple of birthday cards. I didn’t react to my three year old’s impulse to touch every single thing in the store; I merely reminded her to look, but don’t touch. I applauded myself for being patient with her as we went through the never ending bathroom routine . My son’s diaper was wet, and I sang to him and goofed around as I changed it. No hurry. This moment. I felt calm as I got the kids back into their coats and car seats. I only fussed a little bit at the obscene mass of traffic waiting to get out of the mall parking garage.

Out on the road, I got my dad on the phone and announced that I was coming to clean off Mom’s car.

It’s a good day. I survived the mall. Why not keep up the momentum?

Thirty minutes later, I picked up my parents’ mail from the top of the driveway, and my mom came out to meet us. I gave her two birthday cards, two earrings, and one big hug. She gave the kids some chocolate.

It took me about ten minutes to clear the snow off of the car. I watched myself feeling judgmental about my father not stepping up and just taking care of it, and then I realized that regardless, it feels really good to help, and that I don’t have this opportunity to show up for my parents so often. I asked my mom to wear her earrings the next time I saw her, if she could remember. She laughed quietly.

On the drive home, sun shining directly in my eyes and illuminating the road with a golden fire, I felt this distinct sense of completeness. My son was snoring softly in his seat, and my daughter was quiet, watching the suburban landscape fly past her window. I reflected on the inner challenges I had confronted today. To an outsider, getting the kids to the mall, having lunch, and purchasing a gift might not seem like such a big deal. Coming to the aid of one’s parents following a snowstorm is to be expected. Such simple experiences, however, when viewed through the lens of self-awareness, can be the greatest of teachers. Where situations seemed so dark, and impossible, and heavy, now they are simple, workable, and light.

If I keep this up, maybe I won’t need to walk through the mall any more. Maybe I’ll levitate.