I’m reading Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” with my women’s group. And because I’m the so-called “leader,” I’m also attempting to follow the Oprah/Eckhart web class and workbook. If you’re thinking, “That ended last spring”; the webcasts are still available online.
So yesterday I tried an exercise while driving to work. My intention was to be mindful for as long as possible. I turned off the radio. I left the phone alone. I tried just being present with the sights and sounds. I even tried to strip the names of things out of my mind.
It was my best effort at “not thinking”. When my mind wandered to pondering a situation, I would say, “That person isn’t here now, so you’re using your imagination. Be present with what is here now.” Or if I started having a train of thoughts, as soon as I noticed, I would think, “Thinking,” to remind myself to move back into quiet.
So I’m driving, and looking. The commute is only 12 minutes. Not a big challenge.
I noticed vivid colors and interesting objects that I have never really seen before. The car dealership at Santa Monica and 11th has the coolest lights in their lot. Further north, I spotted a building with gorgeous turquoise accents.
I wanted to appreciate without assigning judgment or qualitative labels, but I was a far way from doing that because so much of what I saw (for the first time) gave me so much pleasure. I know it sounds dorky, but it’s the truth. It did feel sort of close to bliss.
By the time I got to my parking structure on 4th where two lanes of traffic were closed due to on-going construction, just as it was my turn to turn into the garage, the ticket dispenser stopped dispensing.
So I, and the three drivers ahead of me that had already cleared the road, waited. And waited. Right about the time when cars behind me started honking, I realized that I was the driver of the car that was causing the jam in the intersection a full block behind me. It was my car blocking the road.
For the first 9 minutes of the ordeal, my usual response would have been anxiety, helplessness and rage. Instead, I found myself looking at the cones right outside my car thinking, “Orange.” If it hadn’t been for the honking behind me, I may not have had the momentary indecision, “Should I drive on? No, I’ll wait another few seconds. I’d really like to get into the garage.”
By this time, a lot attendant was fixing the ticket dispenser. Cars behind me continued the honking. The main thing that startled me was the fact that I hadn’t actually been upset. I felt more like an observer of something trivial. I felt oddly relaxed.
When it was my turn to take a ticket, the attendant was there handing them out. I smiled and said, “I sure am glad you came along when you did.” She winced, “I’m so sorry.” I said, “No, what I mean is, thank you.” And then we smiled at each other.