It was a bright autumn day. The car was packed with paints, brushes, and other artistic materials. I was on my way to a workshop I was facilitating for a group focused on creative healing through loss.
As I made my way onto the highway, my heart sank. There was traffic. Lots of traffic. The line of cars extending as far as I could see made me realize the severity of the situation. Although I typically arrive early to set up, I was still a long way from my destination. Very likely, I would be late.
As I wondered about the best way to handle the situation, I looked up and saw a sign. Literally. It said, “yield.” Yield. I heard that loud and clear. There was nothing I could do about the traffic or the delay. It would be wise to yield to the experience and allow it to unfold. To welcome it.
I pulled off the highway, taking another route. At a traffic light I got out the number of one of the participants who was almost always present and punctual, and called, asking her to tell the group I would be there as soon as I could.
What does it mean, to yield? According to Merriam-Webster, to yield is to “give way to or become succeeded by someone or something else.” In other words, to pause, to be alert to the oncoming traffic, and to make informed, timely, and safe decisions about when and how to proceed. To truly yield to another, we first have to be able to yield to ourselves, and the situation at hand.
While I couldn’t change the fact that there was traffic, I recognized that it was up to me how well I maneuvered through it. I declined the invitation to merge onto the “freeway of shame,” taking responsibility instead for my actions without getting lost in self-blame.
Often we move through life at incredible speeds. We race to pick up the kids from school, then soccer practice, the grocery store, gas station, or an urgent meeting. Are you the sort of person who barely slows down at stop signs? Why not choose to welcome the pause? Stop signs insist that we cease all movement for a moment. Paying attention enables us to become aware that there are others in the world, and they are also hurrying about. When we notice them and take turns despite our busyness, all can proceed safely. The more we pause, the more authentic and present we can be in every aspect of our lives.
A sign that says “one way,” tells us to be alert to the directions and flow of everything around us. We must be mindful of the rules of the road in order to maintain respect and safety for our fellow drivers, as well as ourselves. Without judgment, we can aspire to see what things, or relationships in our lives are one-directional. Sometimes there is the need for a one-way street. The stressors of life can—understandably—cause a loved one to lean on our shoulder heavily. Other times when there isn’t an equal flow of traffic in a reciprocal direction, it may be wise to consider finding a new route.
How wonderful it is that there are signs alerting us to upcoming dangers! Whether there is a bump ahead, steep incline, approaching curves, school zone, or animal habitats, hazard signs prepare us for what is to come. When we know there is potential for trouble, we can proceed with caution. Imagine if there were hazard signs in all areas of our lives! It would be so helpful if they warned us about the potential boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn’t have our best interest at heart… or were in front of the office building we have an interview if it is not a good match for our skill set.
Children at Play:
This may be one of the most important signs yet! In addition to reminding us to be aware of kids having a good time in and around the street, the mindful message of the “children at play” sign may also coax us to be more playful ourselves. When is the last time you had a good, full-bellied laugh?
Road signs offer firm, direct, simple messages to keep us on track. For the most part, they are saying—in different ways—to be mindful. Regardless of whether the signs are dictating the need to stop, pause, or be aware of potential hazards, they are asking us all to be alert, aware, and present to the moment. They call us to drive with integrity. Careful consideration of these messages reveals a deeper level of meaning, which offers advice for living with integrity as well.