Jazz, Snow and Mindfulness

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.

Winter-Driving--Curvy-Snowy-Country-Road-000054265880_MediumThat 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

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Peace Paul says:

    Aloha Mel,

    I am glad that you were able to make it home safe! You must live close to my wife’s family. They live outside the Winchester area in WV. We try to avoid going up in the Winter because of the potentially treacherous road conditions and the COLD! Stay warm and safe.

    Peace, Paul

    Liked by 1 person

    1. melhpine says:

      Yes, I not only live 25-30 miles from Winchester, but I owned a business there for 7 years. I live near Purcellville. The northern edge of the Blue Ridge mountains lies between me and Winchester, a beautiful drive, with many hiking trails, some part of the Appalachian Trail. You’re one of the fellow bloggers I’d most love to meet. Any plans to visit Winchester this summer? Perhaps you would be so kind as to lead one of my Tuesday night meditation groups, or I might be able to arrange a Sunday morning sermon/dharma talk at a Unitarian Universalist church. (One of my teachers noted that I love to get good people together.)

      May you be well and happy,

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Peace Paul says:

        We have not yet made our plans yet but I am thinking that we may be up sometime in either September or October. I would enjoy meeting with you as well and will let you know when our plans solidify. My wife’s family lives about 20 minutes away from the Bhavana Society, which I believe you have visited, near a little town called Wardensville.

        Peace, Paul

        Liked by 1 person

      2. melhpine says:

        Yes, I know where Wardensville is. Visited the Bhavana society quite a few times and did one four-day retreat there. As I’m sure you know, it’s beautiful in the fall.


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