At the end of my yoga class, there is always a cool down moment of breathing when we clear the head of thoughts and let go. Gently, flowing, droning sitars and Om'ing chants perfume the air with wellness, inner light, beauty and truth. Our child of nature ashram living loving instructor ghostly whispers here and there "breathe" "let go." "breathe" "let go."
Breathing I can do. But tell me--how do people stop the mind chatter? How do people "Let go?"
Driving 'round here.
Yes, you need to have some sort of license to drive. No. You don't necessarily have to be familiar with motor vehicle operations. What you do need, what separates you from this world and whatever lies beyond is 360 degrees peripheral awareness and the ability to "Let. Go". These two requisites are ought to haves if one wants to make it through those troubling moments when trying to get from A. to B. in a motorcar. . . 'round here.
The first one I have in spades. Years of undiagnosed and unadderalled hyperactivity and, according to a 10 question Facebook personality test, a slight tendency to Obsessive Compulsive behavior, have given me the gift of hypervigilence.
But it takes more. You also have to know when to--Let. Go.
The roads in fancy new civilization include drivers and their driving cultures from a hundred countries, from all the world's castes, classes, tribes, clans, lineages and blood types. We have right side drivers. We have left side drivers. We have every man for himself side drivers. People from neighborhoods lined with two car garages. People from villages that are a week's hike down mountain passes to reach the nearest road. People from places where you undergo rigorous testing to qualify for a license to people from places that don't know what they're missing until they have to queue up at the DMV. We have drivers who sit behind the wheels of 18-wheeled tractor trailer rigs whose only means of transportation prior to coming here was either on foot or by wrangling beasts of burden.
We have fellers who come out of nowhere, speeding up behind you to within millimeters of your bumper, flashing lights, blaring their horns, going berserk lest you dishonor their grandfather's grandfather by forcing them to apply their brakes.
And we have round-abouts.
Granted. Round-abouts in theory are safer than those suicide lanes we have in the U.S. where only painted stripes, painted arrows and faith in humankind maintain the breath of life. But the round-abouts are U.K. doohickeys that help to keep the traffic flowing while people negotiate turns and U-turns. And any country that has a national health probably thinks two moves ahead when considering preventive health and safety measures, so my guess is that Britishers probably have to undergo draconian processes before being allowed to drive. Negotiating round-abouts HERE is another story.
I'll skip the list of all the possible round-about horror stories and go straight to my favorite.
A round-about has three lanes. One inside lane for making a U-turn. A middle lane to make a left hand turn or continue on. An outside lane to take a right. Fewer people on the road make U-turns so that lane is usually the least trafficked. Being the least trafficked however encourages those who think of having to apply their brakes as one of life's "Why should I's? What's innit for me's?" to take to the lane and accelerate with a vengeance, even if they have no plans to make a U-turn.
This is where hypervigilence and 360 periphery comes in handy. If you plan on using that middle or outside lane to continue on, what you must always assume is that someone will materialize out of nowhere, on your left and will shoot in front of you as they speed across three lanes of traffic to take that right hand turn.
This happened to us a few days ago. Slammed on the brakes. Let him make his turn, but I wasn't going to let him go. I wasn't going to Let. Go. I went after him.
I flashed my lights and blared my horn until he pulled over. The missus said she'd deal with it--speaking Arabic and all, this was for me a wait-in-the-car moment. She got out. He got out. They squared off. Arms gestured wildly. Voices tried to outshout one another, and the situation looked to me like it was about to go beyond words. The missus has been known to slap an opponent in a near driving mishap shouting match, which, in cultures east of the Suez, west of the Bay of Bengal, women can get away with. In public. If she's a believer. Even a lapsed believer. Even if she's a lapsed believer from the wrong side of the aisle of believers. A returned slap from a man, not her husband (or if she isn't his maid) would mean jail and probably a series of interrogation room beatings for a man.
I should have stayed in the car, but my inner-asshole had other ideas. No. I didn't beat on the feller. I'm too old. Too out of shape. But I am loud. Scary, mean, mad dog loud. And that scary mad dog mean loud chased him back to the safety of his truck. That'll learn him.
No harm done except I did get my ass chewed out by the missus an hour later when I was still ranting about it.
"Why," she asked, "can't you just let things go?"
When the lights go down in my yoga class, and we lay there like slugs in the candlelit room, taking deep breaths to the soft strains of a droning sitar and we are told to let go, I'd like to. But I don't know how. Sooner or later the lights will come up, we'll have to change and I'll have to drive home.