If you have a spouse like mine who appreciates economy, take note! Give, as a Christmas gift, tickets to a show on Valentine’s Day — two holidays covered with one gift.
The only possible flaw is that, for most of us, seeing a good show involves driving a fair distance, and Valentine’s Day falls right in the middle of February, which means possible cold, ice and snow. That’s what happened to Carol and me this year.
We live about 50 miles west of Washington, DC, and one of our special date venues is Blues Alley, which despite is name is the place to go for first-order live jazz in an intimate setting. Last night’s show was good but not great, and soprano saxophonist Marion Meadows must have felt the same way about the audience, because he declined an encore.
That put Carol and me back on the street around 8:30 p.m., earlier than we had anticipated and with enough energy left to drive home.But we had reserved a room in a nearby hotel and stuck to our plan to spend the night a short jog from the White House. That’s when the snow started. We checked out late this morning and drove home amid still-falling, quick-freezing snow.
Early in the drive, I suggested that Carol refrain from commentary on the route I chose, the lane I selected, the proper speed for our all-wheel-drive Honda CR-V, and so on. Jokingly, I said I must maintain the calm of the Buddha.
But quickly I realized that was no joke. Driving in icy falling snow is a beautiful example of, and metaphor for, life and the importance of mindfulness.
Our mind must be calm, not distracted either by the dazzle of the snow or the fear of an injury. We let go of judging other drivers, of regretting the decision to stay in the city overnight. If our mind wanders to the weather forecast for tomorrow or the tasks that await us at home, we gently return to what’s real and true in the here and the now — the next patch of ice, the driver on our right, the visibility through our windshield.
I know this is much harder for some people, prone to anxiety, than it is for me. I’ve always been calm and functional in crises, although I sometimes react later through withdrawal. Maybe I inherited a Buddhist-friendly amygdala via the 2% or so of my DNA that’s Asian (certainly not from the 96% that’s Eastern European Jewish). Or maybe it was something in my early environment. Or my karma.
The only events that sometimes intrude on my calm are, well, a running commentary on my driving, for example. But we all have work to do.
If your blessings, or luck, or karma lead you toward the more anxious neural route, you can change your pathways via mindfulness meditation.This article in Scientific American documents that. Some of us in the Buddhist religious community are not entirely comfortable with seeing mindfulness promoted for its secular benefits alone, but the Buddha was all about relieving suffering.
May mindfulness help those who need it and show the way to the dharma for those who need that.
— Mel Pine (Fearless Lotus)
Copyright 2016 © Mel Harkrader Pine