I thought about what had precipitated the other driver's anger and what I'd been doing prior to her antics. I had allowed another driver who had been waiting an extraordinarily long time at a junction to merge into traffic, and I had been praying. Letting the other driver go didn't affect the line I was in. There is, I believe, a natural flow if you let in every third person who is waiting and that person pays it forward. There is also a need for prayer in this frenzied parking lot we call a highway, even (and, really, especially) if people don't realize they are being prayed for. (This fact was driven home by one of my favorite writers and chaplains, Kate Braestrup.) I'd been practicing the Metta prayer in Sanskrit, my yoga teacher's melodic voice playing in my head as I sent blessings of peace, an open heart, awareness and spiritual awakening, healing and the desire to be a healer to others to those who immediately surround me, to those I love, to those whose lives I may never touch, to myself, to those who have hurt me, and to all beings everywhere. Praying like this is what gets me through most rush hour drives, as well as the traffic jams of self doubt and fear of inadequacy. A sense that prayer can help smooth the wrinkles of worry and stress that mark the faces of those in traffic eases my own anxiety. As though being pulled out of a sweet dream, comfy pjs replaced by a confining business suit, I was pulled from a place of spiritual comfort and thrust into the stress I was attempting to soothe.
My hand never made it to the window to gesture back, though I didn't chill out very quickly either. I wanted to hang on to the injustice of this woman's behavior. I noticed her car donned a "choose life" license plate. "Fabulous." I quipped, my mind working on all the ways in which this woman was NOT choosing life. I found satisfaction in my smug game and began to feel better. Yet I lacked the clarity, the peace and the fullness of being that were present prior to the incident. Spirit, unfettered by my whining, nudged me. If letting every third person into the flow of traffic and letting kindness beget kindness works; then what would happen if I (after a brief human meltdown), I considered giving this woman the same pardon I gave every third driver? What if, instead of getting thrown off center by anger, I took a deep breath and sent her even more love? What if this became a common way of dealing with hurt? What if this four part act of indignation, emotion, realization and grace is my 21st century response to turning ones cheek?
In the days following, I've continued the act of praying while driving. I have made it a point to look at other drivers when stuck in traffic, to smile at them. I've added singing and car dancing to the stuck in traffic repertoire, noticing it makes my heart feel lighter and makes those around me smile. I've tried to hold back the string of obscenities that come when horns blare and the fog of impatience obscures my sensitivity. Most times the fog dissipates and the roadways clear. Every once in a while, when I glance into the face of another driver, I imagine that she too is whispering the Metta prayer.