Days 241-243: MLwC and 64 Miles to Mindfulness

I headed out yesterday to an all day meditation retreat held by Seattle Insight Meditation at Bastyr College, a 24 mile drive from my house in West Seattle. I was really looking forward to this retreat as I’ve been a little, well, how to say? Unfocused lately.

Anyway, so I took off leaving myself plenty of time for traffic, should there be any on an early Saturday morning through downtown Seattle. What am I saying? There’s always traffic through downtown Seattle. But I hit something a little more than just your usual traffic–all lanes were virtually stopped, with no explanation of what was going on.

We inched along and finally, as we get just past Capitol Hill I learn that there’s construction and they’ve closed all but one lane from downtown to the University district. Holy cow. I’m getting increasingly irritated and concerned that I’ll not make it on time, I’ll walk into the serene environment of meditators laughably late, no doubt indicating some transcendent failure on my part.

Finally a light bulb comes on in my head: I’ll take the 520 bridge exit, get off on Montlake, zoom up arterials and grab the freeway somewhere north of this mess and all will be good, right? Wrong. Lots and lots of other people have the same idea and then another light goes on in my increasingly unfocused head: I’ll just stay on 520 over to the eastside and go to Bastyr from there! After all, Bastyr is on the eastside, kind of, isn’t it?


So narry another thought presents itself to dissuade me and off I go. By the time I reach land on the east side, I have realized I wouldn’t know how to get there…I’ve always had someone with me who actually knows the eastside and knows the back roads. I have virtually no chance of getting there without getting at least a little lost.

By this time I realize that it’s so easy to go sailing down the freeway, so easy! So easy and fast that I’ve simply been in “get-away-from-traffic” mode rather than just relaxing and knowing I’ll get there when I get there. It’s a meditation retreat, for goodness sakes!

So, yes, I turned the car west and retrace my path back to the original plan, get back on the freeway–I’ve managed to get farther north at least to avoid the bottleneck–and resume my trip. With an added 9 or 10 miles to the odometer. I make it to the retreat 15 minutes late and settle in for an excellent day.

During the day, the meditation teacher, Rodney Smith tells a story of one of his students who has a packed schedule every day: two kids, a job, and appointments, activities and errands all day long. She was sitting in snarled traffic one day, the kids were fighting in the back seat, it was hot, she had lost her cool a few miles back, and suddenly she thought, “What if you just surrendered. Imagine you will never leave this car, not ever. It will always be like this.”

As he told this story, I thought: yipes! That makes me want to run screaming away from here! Yet on my way home, the 24 mile trip home, I got caught in traffic in the downtown corridor and the story popped up in my head. I thought, well, hell, why not give it a try. So I really focused and thought: “you will never be out of traffic. It will always be like this.” I felt a sinking feeling but then guess what happened? My head leaned back against the headrest and I involuntarily took a deep breath. I relaxed.


Daily stats:
Car: 64 miles
Bike: 8.5 miles
Ped: 2
Bus: 0

4 responses to “Days 241-243: MLwC and 64 Miles to Mindfulness

  1. Well done Cass. You did some lovely practicing there. I’ve been in an inordinate amount of traffic this past week after returning from my 5 day retreat last Sunday. I don’t drive much, but in the past few days I’ve been in rush hour traffic morning and night several times, including both the Mercer Madness and Microsoft to the North End. I could really, really tell how the retreat energy was lingering as I dealt with each of these situations. It seems so wrong to be in an object designed for speed and propulsion, but to be inching along a few feet at a time. But that word “seems” is the key. Because (as Rodney would day) “facts are friends” and the facts are, I’m in a car going 5 mph and will be for awhile. So how about listening — really listening — to some music? How about watching the leaves dance about in this moments wild weather?

    And about those back roads to Bastyr. Wish I’d been in the car with ya. Did you use your iphone and google maps for help?

  2. Traffic really dulls the allure of a car–all the concepts and marketing go right out the window. It’s sort of fun to be reminded of that.
    Re iPhone–I thought about it but thought by then, what am I doing? I’m so eastside-a-phobic that I’d undoubtedly get turned around, and plus there was the issue of stopping on 520 to enter the info to find out the correct exit. Coulda, shoulda, woulda but didn’t. Just decided to get back on track….;-)

  3. Great story Cass . . . I use a similar kind of mental gymnastic whenever I start to worry too much about my teenage daughters. What if? and so what? can really work wonders. For in the end, I can always go back to my breath. And let go for long enough, to give my body a break.

  4. Pingback: Days 246-251: MLwC and the wild fear of no exit « What it’s like

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