I drove home from Salem Thursday night in the dark , in the heavy pouring rain. With lightning and thunder. Maybe not a big deal for most.
A very big deal for me. Driving in the dark on dry ground is excruciatingly frightening for me. Add to that a heavy thunderstorm and it is enough to keep me holed away in the safety of my cozy upstairs apartment alone until it is over and daylight has returned. I actually love thunderstorms from that vantage point. They clear stagnant energy.
Not too long into the trip I decided to practice feeling less frightened. I wanted to see if I could change my experience of the ride home. I live in Oregon. It rains. At night. I’d like my experience of rain at night to shift.
I learned a little on that drive about letting go of my grip. Just enough. Again and again. As often as I noticed myself holding my breath, tensing my shoulders and gripping the steering wheel as if it were keeping me alive, as if the fear were keeping me alive, I loosened my grip, took a deep breath.
I wonder what it is about fear that has us believing that it keeps us alive, that without it we would die?
I asked myself what is the worst that can happen. I could die.
Well, then, the body will die. That will be it. Not in my control.
I remembered a trip I took twenty years ago on an airline that scared me more than any of the others at that time. It had a track record of crashed flights.
I recalled sitting in the seat, awaiting take-off. I felt afraid, tense, worried.
The tension and worry was stealing the pleasure I generally experience in the take off.
I made a choice in that moment after a couple of questions. Would the worry change anything? Was the terror in my body associated with anything going on in the current moment? Was I in immediate danger? No.
If the plane was going to crash or explode on take off, I could be feeling good as it happened. I started taking sweet full deep breaths, relaxed into my seat and thought of the most pleasurable thing I knew. And that is where I stayed.
The plane did not explode during take off nor did it crash in flight. But that is not the point.
The point was I stayed relaxed and open to whatever showed up without constriction.
I could translate that awareness into this present moment, this moment of intense fear that I would die or worse en route to my home. I cannot control certain events but I can meet them aware. I put my awareness only on what was going on with the drive, relaxed into the moment at hand and only the moment at hand. I stopped fighting the moment and gave myself to it.
Some of the words to an original song played by one of the members of Salem Body and Soul Circle earlier in the evening entered my awareness … seeds are planted in the dark. Love is made in the dark … (Thank you Randy … I had no idea how much I would need that on this drive … or maybe I did?)
Seeds of breathing through the fear. Seeds of feel good in the midst. Sprouting even.
I stopped worrying what the other drivers might be thinking about my driving skill (or lack of it?), stayed in the slow lane and kept moving. There were moments where I was tensely gripping the wheel for dear life that I just wanted off the road. I let it be ok to be driving in the slow lane, I let it be ok that people were passing me … My speed stayed in the 55 range for the most part.
Every time I noticed myself tightening around the steering wheel and holding my breath, I took a slow deep breath while loosening my grip on the wheel and in so doing, loosened the grip of fear. I let love in as I drove.
I did not allow myself to entertain the wish that this moment was anything other than it was. By doing that I got in a driving flow where I let go of time and simply did the next thing and allowed myself to trust that if there was an issue, I would know what to do.
I arrived home relaxed … far more relaxed than the week before when there was no rain, only dark. Funny thing.
Driving in heavy rain in the dark is remains something I would not actively seek out.
And, now, I no longer choose to avoid it at all costs. The cost of that avoidance is too great.
Joy to you all and much love.