I spend as little time in my car as possible, but with two young kids and frequent appointments in a neighboring town, I still end up driving quite a bit.
While it’s easy to get frustrated in traffic—especially if I’m running late—I discovered an on-the-road metta practice that really transforms my day.
At stoplights, instead of indulging in my unsavory habit of picking up my phone, I sometimes sit and watch the faces of drivers going by. There is something so sweet about these brief glimpses of other humans—a tiny snapshot of their lives. I like to take in their expressions—maybe they’re rocking out to a song that I can’t hear.
Maybe they’re pissed off because of traffic or a spat with a loved one. I’ve seen people crying, people talking on their phones, people with Mona Lisa smiles.
I’ve come to view this little habit as a spiritual practice. There goes somebody I might never meet, I think. Goddamn, people are beautiful, I think. My heart goes buoyant and I feel damned grateful to be here, in this skin, in this moment. I watch the blurs of their faces, and perhaps I wish them well. I wonder if they’ll always be strangers to me, and what the chances are of being here, alive together, at the same time, in the same little square of traffic.
It’s almost like seeing a deer in the woods—taking in the faces of stranger, free of judgment, I see them as innocent, beautiful creatures.
I give them the benefit of the doubt.
Out of context, free from connections with political views or Facebook updates, people become heartbreakingly beautiful.
May you be safe, I whisper. May you be happy.
While I mostly do it in my car, you can do this anywhere you’re waiting—in the grocery store, the post office, the DMV—God knows the DMV could use some loving kindness.
This mini-metta practice has become a lovely way to take a little break from my own thoughts and just be grateful to be alive here on earth, open-eyed and open-hearted.
At least until the person behind me honks.
“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time, there would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.”
~ Thomas Merton
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Author: Lynn Shattuck
Editor: Editor: Renée Picard