Awake at the Stoplight

Many years ago, I was reading a book by Thich Nhat Hanh in which he described using your time at red lights to meditate. This morning on my way to work, I hit the usual red lights and reflected on how I’ve got so many ways to get to where I’m going, that I’ll usually just make a right turn and find another way. I choose that, rather than stop at the red lights. This morning Thich Nhat Hanh’s words came back to me out of the blue, and I decided not to turn.

Truly Stop.

The red lights call on you to pay attention. To notice the jogger that turned this corner, the dog that turned the other. Each a mirror of the opposing being, never mind the difference in species. The red lights call you to feel the car abuzz, the AC warring with the unruly heat.

You could turn the corner for a faster route, or you could sit and experience the world. The flitting squirrel in the roadside trees, the perching crow, these will then go unseen.

Did you know? The red lights only ever wanted to be mindfulness bells. We put them there to regulate the flow of traffic, we put them there to make the world a little safer, one corner at a time.

But how we are there matters. Are you sitting there, frustrated by the color of the light? Impatient to get going? Is the world moving too slowly for you? Or do you pause, notice the little things. the birds on wires, looking down at our foolishness? The bright and unrelenting sun scorching the pavement. The people, all shapes and colors and beautiful in their own ways, walking, driving, biking, skateboarding from one place to another.

Did you see them? Or were you only looking for that green light to tell you that you can live again?

Too often I have practice not stopping. I pause, I turn the corner, I do not stop even though my car does. My mind is already down the road. Today I stopped. I saw the world on a drive to the office.

What will tomorrow’s travels bring?

By J. Parrish Lewis

J. Parrish Lewis was born and raised in Maryland. In his youth there, he and his brother had many adventures in the dogwood forests near his home. His nostalgia for these adventures has strongly influenced his characters, their relationships, and their perspective on the world they inhabit. He moved to California’s coast to earn his degree in communications and now lives with his family in the San Joaquin Valley. Lewis is profoundly deaf and uses American Sign Language to communicate. He enjoys hazelnut coffee, captioned movies, and walking his dog.

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