a bubbling fountain and the Buddha in my meditation garden
When we first moved to Southern California I was incredibly intimidated about driving on the highways here. I must admit, things haven't changed all that much. Highway driving is still daunting for me, and I find that I do a lot of driving.
There are all sorts of highways, interstates and freeways out here. They all intersect and criss-cross one another forming an intricate web of complexity, baffling even for those who were born and raised in this part of the country.
Sometimes you find yourself driving in eight lanes of traffic -sometimes almost bumper to bumper- speeding along at 75 to 80 mph, people weaving in and out of lanes, motorcycles, cars and trucks all competing for the highway space.
There are constant crashes, and so the daily weather reports also contain "highway reports," warning about where the accidents are and what highways to avoid.
Whenever I drive on the highways, I am always tense and somewhat anxious.
You would think that, since I now live out in the desert, I wouldn't have to drive on such busy and complex roadways - not so. If I want to go anywhere outside the little city of La Quinta, I have to brace myself for the Interstate.
As I drove along on the chaotic and cluttered highway yesterday, it seemed as if the traffic was more brutal than usual. Then it struck me - there is a big music festival out here in the Coachella Valley this weekend - literally a hundred thousand extra people driving into the desert. The traffic was indeed more brutal than usual.
While driving along, a thought came to me abut how iconic highway driving is for life in our contemporary culture. All of us speeding along in our own separate cars, trying not to get into a crash with the other drivers, not really focusing on where we are but on where we are going. The routes we take are complex and complicated, and an underlying anxiety is the order of the day.
As I thought about it all, I realized how very important it is to pull over once in a while, take a deep breath in the midst of everyday life away from the chaos and complexity, and simply be aware of where we are, as opposed to where we are going.
So, I invite you to take a deep breath. Visit my retreat house from time to time. I offer these daily meditations on this blog as a "rest stop" along the way.