The meditation retreat is finished – 5 days of sitting in silence. Ahead of me is a 2400-mile drive across Nevada, Wyoming, Nebraska, and on, all the way to a little place in Tennessee, just north of Knoxville. I have always loved long road trips, never really asking myself why, assuming it was nomadic blood, new horizons, adventure. And it may have elements of those things, but this time I discovered something else, something more fundamental.
I begin driving and I’m O-P-E-N. Open the way one can be at the end of a meditation retreat, yet even by that standard I am cracked open; my heart feels as big as this wide-open country that I am crossing, tears come easily. Adyashanti, the teacher I’ve been meditating with, offers a pointer, “Rest as awareness.” Not as awareness of something, just as awareness. What he refers to as primordial awareness, the awareness that is always and already present. Okay, that sounds like it should be easy, and instead I find that I don’t know how to do or to BE this simple thing, “Rest as awareness.”
My curiosity about driving and being and awareness is awakened. I am aware – of course I am. I realize that I operate from within awareness, only it’s largely filtered through this whirling maze of thought. The miles slip by and I am paying close attention, endeavouring to “lean back” into natural awareness. And I notice things. Some are not new, many are, and they are all showing up differently, perhaps more clearly.
I notice that driving is an activity where I tend to be very present and where awareness is front and center. The stream of awareness notes sounds of wind, humming tires, the great bowl of blue sky/gray sky, huge white clouds, grassy slopes, sage brush, a knot in one shoulder, a cramping leg, bird on a fence post, and of course, cars, trucks, and trailers in front, beside, behind, and all the oncoming, and sensations in hands and feet, the breath, feelings of joy, sadness, anxiety – all noticed – all accepted – all of the time, without let-up.
Out of noticing, reflection happens. “What am I?” “Why do I believe what I believe?” “Where did this particular judgement or opinion come from?” Memories arise and with them, insights. I have used day dreams and fantasies to comfort the anxious ego. I recall how, as kids, my brother and I would create imaginary worlds where we were pirates or cowboys, heroes of some sort. For me this helped ease the fears about my parents’ fighting – my father’s rage, my mother’s tears. I could go to a world where I was strong and safe. And I notice that I drive and walk and even meditate as though I must get to “That Place” where I will be safe.
Seventy years old and I have never outrun that anxious frightened ego. How do you outrun what you carry inside you? Put it down. What a gift of awareness, to see clearly and with complete acceptance.