Two Gathas For A Potholed Road
Today is Sunday. A perfect day. And this is the road from Highway 307 to Bahia Soliman. It is a bumpy, potholed road. Right now it is in fairly good shape: the many potholes are relatively small and they are not so deep that they make the road utterly impassable. The road is in reasonably good condition because of the efforts of my neighbors. In the stormy season, the road sometimes is under water and sometimes it has deep potholes that have made driving it extremely difficult. Sometimes the potholes are enormous, and they destroy cars and trucks and bring travel to a complete crawl.
There are many advantages to having a potholed road like this one. Because the potholes will flatten tires of cars and trucks that go too fast, and because the potholes will destroy the vehicles’ suspensions, drivers have to slow down. And they slow down even though there is no speed limit sign. This enforced slowing has saved the lives of numerous coatis, iguanas, foxes, and birds. Also, it has preserved isolation. Nobody who is out for a Sunday wander around wants to be intensely buffeted while trying to explore a new road. Most daytrippers with no real destination don’t go very far up the road. It’s just too much trouble. So the potholes insulate Bahia Soliman from people who don’t know it is here. It’s easier to find another road to some other beach, one that is going to be smoother. And not threaten flat tires and vehicle destruction.
But the greatest benefit of the potholes is that it slows down the obvious transition from highway fast to Bahia Soliman slow, from business to vacation, from work stress to play relaxation, from the outside world to seclusion. A road with potholes makes these transitions take longer and makes them more gentle. And all of this happens because of the potholes. It takes a while to get from Highway 307 to Bahia Soliman, and it takes time to return to the outside world. And that's a real benefit to the spirit.
Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh explains gathas:
Gathas are short verses to recite during daily activities to help us return to mindfulness. At Plum Village in France, we practice gathas all day long--when we wake up, when we enter the meditation hall, during meals, when we wash the dishes, and with each activity. To meditate is to be aware of what is going on in our bodies, our feelings, our minds, and the world. Dwelling in the present moment, we can see so many beauties and wonders right before our eyes--a child's smile, the sun rising, the autumn leaves. We can be happy just by being aware of what is in front of us. Practicing with a gatha can help us return to ourselves and to what is going on in the present moment.
And so I offer two gathas I have made up for the potholed road, one coming to Bahia Soliman, one returning to the highway:
I am driving on the potholed road to Bahia Soliman. I inhale gently the slowness of my careful journey. And I exhale all of the events that are behind me on Highway 307. I inhale the coming Caribe, the sweet smell of salt, the gentle waves, the breeze. I exhale all of the speed and hurry I was carrying with me. I am present on the potholed road, and I am travelling with each breath toward greater joy and relaxation.
I am driving on the potholed road from Bahia Soliman to the highway. I inhale gently the slowness of my careful journey. And I exhale all of my anticipation and planning and thinking about what may lie ahead of me on Highway 307. I inhale the continuing relaxation, the Caribe, the sweet smell of salt, the gentle waves, the breezes that are now behind me. And I exhale all of my thoughts and planning about what may lie ahead of me. I am present on the potholed road, and I carry with me with each breath all of my joy and relaxation.
May all beings be happy and may all beings be free from suffering.
May you have a wonderful Sunday.