Taking It On the Road
by Wonp'ung (Miyo Wratten)
We all face those challenges in life: Something happens, and the daily routine we used to rely on goes into upheaval, including our daily cushion time. It can happen during the holiday season, work, or something changes in our homes, and if we’re really lucky--all of the above.
Currently, I’m facing a little bit of the “all of the above”-- I’ve got a new job that comes with a longer commute, and our house is undergoing some significant renovations that have us camped out in our living room for weeks, and living out of boxes and suitcases. Needless to say, this caused some turmoil in my daily routine--my usual sitting time was pretty much gone. Not because I didn’t actually have time, but because I felt that from the moment I opened my eyes until I laid myself down to sleep, I needed to be doing something…getting ready for work, packing lunches, sorting through clothes for myself and the kids, cleaning constantly because our space is much more cramped now and any amount of “mess” makes the space feel all the more cluttered.
I felt myself getting “prickly”--the word I use for how my mind feels when I don’t let myself sit down and meditate daily. It got to the point that I couldn’t see myself out of this cycle of never-ending commute, work, cleaning--it all had to be done, RIGHT NOW, NO TIME! TOO BUSY!
“Try meditating while you drive,” suggested Ven. Do’an. Well if that wasn’t just the most Zen thing I experienced...
How often do I drive, and just have the radio on? Fret over my long list of to-dos while driving on automatic pilot? How often do I drive, and get to a certain point and realize I have no idea how I got there--no recollection of the route because I haven’t been mindful?
The solution to this problem wasn’t so hard. I made it hard because I told myself it was. It strikes me that there are so many moments in our day when we go through the motions on automatic pilot, grumbling to ourselves about the tediousness of the task, distracting ourselves with TV or pausing to scroll through social media rather than paying real attention to what is happening.
So, I took my meditation on the road--what I discovered is that it is a lot tougher than it sounds. So much of my drive was devoted to redirecting my thoughts which constantly wanted to revert to mulling over the day and my to-do list. How many years have I spent doing that? Far too many.It’s taken literally a few weeks, but my commutes are much calmer now--spending more time focusing on the road ahead, the feel of the steering wheel, the pedals under my feet, the changing light of the morning sky--and less on everything else that isn’t actually in front of me.
This led me to realize that there are so many tasks I do mindlessly--folding laundry while watching TV. Doing the dishes while--again--going over the day and the rest of the tasks that need to be done. These are all things I can choose to do in more meditative ways!
Slowly I’ve been working on taking the mindfulness off the cushion in other ways too, which is our goal for meditation after all. Walking the hallways in my building is another part of my day I’ve chosen to take on more mindfully, for example.
This seems so simple now, and here’s the truth that has hit me upside the head--taking mindfulness on the road has to be a conscious decision. It’s not something that happens because of the magical properties of Buddhism or of a mindfulness practice. It happens because I decide that I need to focus on my driving, on the feel of the clothing I’m folding, and the peculiar sound that dishes and cutlery make when moving around in a sinkful of water. It happens because I just do it by letting go of all the “yeah but”s and excuses that I whip myself into a frenzy with.
I’m not all the way there yet, but I can say that I believe adding the meditation time to my commute has helped me-I’m back to also meditating first thing in the morning like I had been but had gotten away from, and driving mindfully. I feel that taking that time to meditate during the drives helped me soothe the “prickly mind” that I was developing, which in turn helped me see that I do, in fact, have time to sit in the morning--even with everything going on.
Maybe next, I’ll try folding laundry mindfully too--but I’m at a really good part in Dr. Who, so I might wait a little bit ...
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A blog by the Lotus Heart Zen Meditation and Study Group members