Saturday afternoon drive: Then the car becomes a meditation chamber

The basic instructions for beginning meditation are to sit quietly and concentrate on nothing but your breathing for five minutes. Simple enough, right? I can’t do it for ten seconds. I can turn down the lights, burn all the incense and play all the soothing music I want but, after the briefest pause, my brain will recommence to whirr, instantly, uncontrollably.

Until I get on that blissfully empty stretch of open road, that is. Then the car becomes a meditation chamber. It all happens by itself. Breathing slows, the benevolent sky swells out, almost always a blue so pure, clean and enamelled that even worries of climatic catastrophe recede for a moment. Maybe there are some clouds, artfully arranged. Choose your moment to leave town — I like to leave at around 5am, just before rush hour — and there won’t even be any traffic to speak of. Just the white noise of the purring engine to amplify the calm, blissful silence, which will at last find its way into even the most stubbornly busy mind.

Dropping into the Central Valley from the mountains surrounding the Tejon Pass is like breaking open a petit four, getting past the glossy, pretty exterior: inside is the cake. The urban surfaces of California are what we see in movies and on TV: slick, manufactured, shouting, cajoling, bamboozling, seducing, ready to sell you something. And then the confected beauty of the city gives way; now the land reaches far out to the sky. Your ears pop from the pressure change, and a sign advises you that the next gas station is 19 miles off.

~ Maria Bustillos, from “On the Road” (Aeon, May 2, 2013)


Sources: Quote – Andrew Sullivan, Ode to Highway. Photo: Guy Le Querrec (via newthom)

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