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Fill ‘er Up: Unleaded Dependent Origination

 

 
I was reading a piece by Thich Nhat Hahn about emptiness, which got me thinking about being filled up, which got me thinking about a gas station just on the Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge. (Occasionally there is logic to the meanderings of the mind, but... back to the gas station.)

Every time I pull up to this particular place I’m reminded of two things. One, that my time in the countryside is over, and two, that it’s not only the car that’s getting filled up. I know that my days staring at falling leaves are done not simply because the pulse of a metropolis lies just beyond, but because the tension between people is palpably more acute, and it feeds the disquieted side of my brain.

I get impatient and make frequent use of the newly discovered horn, tightening my grip on the steering wheel as my eyes dart left and right like some wayward kid in a scene from “Reefer Madness.” The transformation is instantaneous and almost entirely unconscious. In hindsight, the process is borderline terrifying.

So where, oh where, did all the feelings of serenity I’d experienced in the country go? Only hours before I’d been listening to birds and meditating outside, sure in my conviction that I could feel serene forever, all I had to do was breathe and be. Is the thrust and hum of the city too powerful to deflect? How much does environment dictate how we feel?

And where did my practice go?

Last weekend I skipped the gas station, preferring just to dive headlong into the city. Out of the corner of my eye, though, I clocked it, with its long lines of impatient drivers, bored-as-hell attendants, and general sense of unpleasantness. Rather than ignore or bemoan it, I thought I’d work with it, and I returned to the basic principle of the Law of Dependent Origination:

When this is, that is.
This arising, that arises.
When this is not, that is not.
This ceasing, that ceases.

So simple, yet so easy to forget.

Just beyond the gas station, the funnelling towards the bridge brought us all to a crawl. New Yorkers, in their inestimable generosity when it comes to space, nudged each other out of lanes and pushed ahead, clawing for every inch. I could see the faces of the drivers more clearly now, some harried, some coiled, some vacant.

I returned:

When this is, that is.
This arising, that arises.
When this is not, that is not.
This ceasing, that ceases.

We drive over the bridge, moving along a little better now, and I eventually get out of the car and stand on the street. I felt my feet on the pavement, felt the breeze pushing my hat back off my head. A child tottered by with her mother.

When this is, that is.
This arising, that arises.
When this is not, that is not.
This ceasing, that ceases.

I go home.

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Comments

thank you

really lovely reminder - "where did my practice go?" it's a good question, environment. someone told me tonight that i seemed awfully at peace after my italian vacation... but now, maybe not quite as much... thanks for this.

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