Thursday, October 30, 2014

May I Meet This Moment Fully

"Peace and Quiet"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

A few days ago we had to drive up to Los Angeles for some meetings - the experience provided me with some unexpected opportunities for spiritual insight. 

Life out here in the desert is about as far from life in a city like Los Angeles as you can possibly get. The city pace is loud, fast and furious, always "on the go." The desert is filled with an abundant silence, and the pace of life here is slow and calm.  And if you really want to get a feel of the pulse of living in this city, you need to drive on the many super highways for which Los Angeles is famous - eight lanes of traffic moving along at breakneck speed is enough to stress out even the most seasoned driver.

Of course "rush hour" is that one time of day everyone tries to avoid if it is at all possible.  When I lived in Los Angeles I was generally able to avoid the highways for the morning commute and the evening return, and I was grateful to be able to do so.

That's why, on our latest venture back to the city the other day, my wife and I had rather carefully planned the trip to avoid the dreaded "rush hour" traffic. All was working out just as we had planned until we began our return journey home. The entrance to the freeway we needed to take was blocked by a police car and a part of that freeway had been closed for an accident - this one seemingly unimportant incident literally turned all our plans into uncontrolled chaos.

Anyone who has ever driven on the freeways of Los Angeles will know that when a particular freeway entrance is blocked, it becomes extremely complicated to find another way on - even our GPS system wasn't much help. We found ourselves just wandering around in fairly unfamiliar territory until finally we were able to figure it out, but by the time we got back onto the freeway, guess what? We were in the middle of the notorious "rush hour."

There were six, sometimes eight lanes of bumper to bumper traffic which at times resembled an immense parking lot, horns honking, frustrated drivers weaving from lane to lane, various and sundry disabled cars pulled over, small accidents here and there. On top of everything else, the sun was setting and it was getting dark, making the driving even more treacherous. Then, if that wasn't enough, my car's air conditioner didn't seem to be working and it was hot and muggy outside. 

I just wanted it all to stop, to make it all go away. I kept thinking about the peace and quiet I had left behind in my desert home, longing for this trip from hell to come to an end.  I could literally feel my stress level going up and up, when I suddenly came to my senses and said to myself "you should read your own blog  - especially the posts about accepting the "present moment." 

Eckhart Tolle wisely writes:

What you resist, persists

As I was driving in that "rush hour" traffic I was doing everything I could do to foolishly resist and fight against something over which I had absolutely no control. There was nothing I could do to stop the dreaded "rush hour" from rushing right along. The air conditioner was broken and maybe I could get it fixed at some point, but at that moment it was broken. Furthermore, thinking about what I had left behind or about where I might be the next day provided even more resistance to what was actually going on in the present moment.

I then remembered something I had just read in a book of Buddhist essays. The author was talking about a time when she missed a flight and was extremely stressed out by her travels at a busy airport. In the midst of all the chaos she kept invoking a helpful little mantra especially as she ran into one frustrating delay after another:

May I meet this moment fully.
May I meet it as a friend.

The other day as we struggled our way through "rush hour," I began to silently recite this little mantra. I stopped resisting it and began accepting what was there, even greeting the moment as a friend. After a while peace and calm retuned again - maybe not on the road, but certainly in my mind. When we finally made it back home, I smiled as my wife turned to me and said: "You seemed pretty calm through all that." 

Many times the journeys we plan in life don't quite work out the way we might have hoped. Sometimes the traveling is easy, sometimes you get stuck in traffic, and that's just the way it is. I am learning more and more to embrace whatever comes my way:

May I meet this moment fully.
May I meet it as a friend. 

1 comment:

  1. Amazing, We always have to accept the present moment. Stay positive