Commuting as a Sacred Journey
I have to admit that I have a problem with road rage. I’ve always resented sitting in traffic in a little box with wheels, penned in by other drivers. I have little patience for it, and it feels as though a little piece of real life is being devoured by a vortex of meaninglessness. I’m sorry to say that my frustration with Atlanta traffic reached a boiling point over the weekend, and my response was less than graceful (to put it mildly). As I seethed with irrational anger, followed by the inevitable guilt (I am a 9 on the Enneagram, after all), my wife suggested that it might be a good idea to explore how my commute might be a part of the pilgrimage experience – a sacred journey.
My initial reaction, of course, was to think, “That’s preposterous! There is no way in the world that I can experience that misery in any kind of meaningful way.” (Again, being a 9, I focus on those things in life that are pleasant, non-confrontational, comfortable.) She was, however, absolutely correct in pointing out that pilgrimage is not just nice ramblings through leafy green countryside (even if that countryside is just in my mind as I walk on the treadmill). Real pilgrimages, real sacred journeys are full of frustration, dangers, “ugly” scenery, and difficult people. How can I work with that to see what’s sacred in my daily journeys? How can I approach this very unpleasant task with compassion (for myself and others) and patience?
I’m not sure if I can answer that, but this task will be in parallel to my imaginal pilgrimage. I could tritely say that all it takes is a change in my attitude (which is not really all that easy, anyway). But it’s a question I need to answer. If a spiritual practice is worth anything, it must be as a step in the longer journey of spiritual transformation and growth, however small of a change it might actually effect. Change doesn’t just happen through “nice” experiences. In fact, I don’t know that it can happen if we never struggle with our own demons and shortcomings as well as difficulties that come from outside of us.
In the grand scheme of things, a long, stressful commute is a tiny nuisance. I’m not starving or sleeping out in the cold. I’m not suffering from major health problems. Who am I to complain? And yet, it is a problem I must face and try to become, in some small way, a better version of myself. I’ll close this post with a quote from the book Thanking & Blessing — the Sacred Art by Jay Marshall.
When you awaken in the morning, remember that you carry the potential to have a positive influence on the day’s activities. Your interactions each day can be the source of new insights and observations as God reveals creative possibilities about yourself and projects you undertake. As you move out in to the routines of life, go with the knowledge that the Creator is present all along the way. Making the morning coffee, commuting to work, conversing with colleagues in the elevator, even the prickly disagreement with a friend all occur in the presence and company of the Divine. Each moment, therefore, is potentially a sacred moment. Sacramental living lives and acts with some awareness of the fullness of time and grandeur of the universe rather than with obsessive fascination with the outcome of the task at hand. In that present moment, you can serve and be served, you can learn and teach, you can witness and bear witness to the movement and leading of the Holy in that moment. (p. 48)
Amen. Now, how to practice that “sacramental living” while stuck in traffic in Buckhead…