Daily spiritual practice: on the road

As young children we learn that riding a 2-wheeled bike without training wheels takes some practice, as does playing the violin or the piano. This is also true when it comes to developing our spiritual “chops”. I recall years ago when I was first introduced to the teachings that eventually led me to a Center for Spiritual Living and the study of the principles of Science of Mind (SOM). I was in awe at the luminaries who seemed to glow from all the higher understanding and I wanted to “be there” in that same state – immediately!

Anyone can watch a movie, read a book or attend a Sunday service or weekend seminar; thanks heavens for the many outlets we have to bring us teachers from so many perspectives in this teaching, but as you have probably figured out – that good feeling you get after watching “You Can Heal Your Life” or Wayne Dyer’s “Power of Intention” talks from PBS or a Sunday lesson from any number of truth teachers dissipates quickly if we revert to our old ways of living and being.

In the beginning of moving full-scale into this teaching I remember being assigned the task of choosing a spiritual practice and journaling about it in a SOM class. At the time I was struggling to squeeze in the other activities of my life: work, family, exercise, graduate school, cleaning my house, grocery shopping,… I envisioned the luxury of sitting in a sacred space and meditating and wondered if I would ever be able to reach any level of higher consciousness with the schedule I kept.

As happens if you remain in this teaching for long, I found that while creating a sacred space for quiet, spiritual meditation is a huge benefit; I didn’t have to wait until the room was remodeled to begin and you don’t either: in fact, you can begin Monday morning in rush-hour traffic.

I’m pretty sure meditating in the middle of rush hour is against some traffic law,” you might be thinking, but I’m not suggesting you close your eyes while you merge onto a 5-lane freeway on-ramp.

I am suggesting that you practice the principle of unity with all – in traffic. Understanding our Oneness is a foundational principle; but it flies in the face of the way most of us were raised and it’s definitely not something that was on my mind most mornings as I joined the slog into the city via the asphalt trail. Here’s how I have turned that around and added a “spiritual practice” to my busy days without requiring any extra time or new wallpaper in the spare bedroom.

I began by realizing that the road, or asphalt trail, does not belong to me or to anyone else. There is no spot along any of the streets, boulevards, or parkways that I have more rights to than anyone else. This helped me step back from the belief that I needed to maintain my place in a line of traffic, and away from behavior where I became infuriated when other drivers tried to nudge ahead of me. I’m not sure where the thought of letting go of my attachment to any one position on that road came from, but one day it was there, and I relaxed into it. When someone made a move to nudge in ahead of me I slowed down and waved them over. I noticed almost immediately that I felt much better when I did that than when I rode the back bumper of the car in front of me to prevent someone from “getting ahead of me”.

I began to make a game of it: watching to the left and to the right and letting people over as often as I could without creating havoc for the people behind me, and guess what I noticed? Many people tooted their horns, waved and said “Thanks!”. They were grateful and acknowledged the kindness, which only made me want to do it more often. Then I began to notice that this was contagious. In a long line of traffic where another long line was waiting to merge, when I would slow down and allow a car in front of me to merge, the car behind me followed suit, and so on for several cars behind that (as far as I could see without causing a 5-car pileup, anyway).

This became so fun, and I felt so much better about my morning commute that I kept it up to the point that I now allow people to pull out in front of me and merge ahead of me all the time. I wasn’t really thinking about it as a spiritual practice until a few weeks ago when I caught myself “regulating” the good and realized it was time to get intentional in my practice again.

Here’s what happened:

Among polite mergers, there’s this unspoken/unwritten rule that everyone waits their turn when merging. It goes something like this: merge car / car in traffic line; merge car / car in traffic line, etc. and this all works very well until someone messes up the rhythm and makes it: merge car / car in traffic line; merge car / merge car / car in traffic line. Someone jumps ahead when they are supposed to wait their turn and that’s not the way,…

As soon as I caught myself taking on that “how dare you” energy, I knew it was time to once again let go; to adjust my routine and start letting 2 cars merge ahead of me. I waved that white SUV in ahead of me and behind the first car I had let in and went on my way. I was home in the same amount of time, and had no clenched jaw from dragging anger home from an incident that didn’t need to become an incident.

I’ve discovered that as I practice this simple courtesy in traffic, I think about my fellow drivers much differently. I see us all as equal travelers, trying to get from Point A to Point B; each of us with important places to go and things to do. This simple shift in my thinking about traffic has taught me invaluable lessons of a spiritual nature; lessons that have positively impacted my life far away from traffic. So,…if you’re seeking to elevate your consciousness, and wondering if you’re sitting correctly on your new meditation pillow, or if you should have music with chimes or chants, remember that you can engage in profound and life-changing spiritual practices almost anywhere – even in rush hour traffic.

And So It Is.

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