P1000542r3Switzerland: The number nine bus arrives but the destination shown on the front is saying the bus is going in the opposite direction to where it should be going. It takes me a while to figure it out. The driver forgot to change the destination sign for the return journey when he got to the terminus and he’s just carrying on with it as it is. How could that happen? I’m tired. I just want to get home, it’s the end of the day, I step up on to the bus and ask the bus driver where it’s going: où ce bus va, monsieur? Simple question really, it’s not a personal remark: hey, what’s happening? Indirect, where’s this bus going, sir? But he doesn’t reply, the francophone shrug – eyebrows raised, pout of lips, shrug of shoulders and held like that; a freeze in video downloading: buffering … no further response. I get off and look at the front again to make sure and, there it is, according to the sign, this bus is going backwards? I see other people asking the driver the same question and he’s still locked into his downloading ‘freeze’ – the same question being asked over and over can lead to induced hypnosis? I don’t know and neither does anybody else, so I get on, find a seat and wait to see what happens next. Not at ease, turbulent thoughts spinning around: it shouldn’t be like this. Accelerating into different scenarios that end with the same old ‘UNABLE TO FIND THE SERVER’ window. At some point I manage to get it together enough to know it’s necessary to take note of this.

Not getting hijacked by how horrible it is. Everything is okay, the bus is not going backwards; the driver is not involved in a subversive act, he just forgot to change the sign – or maybe it’s broken. Yeh, but there are these waves of unease; passengers are talking about it, grumbling discontent, nursing a negativity about the driver. Deep breathing. I try to allow it to be what it is and not get injured with the thought of it. Meanwhile, tightrope-walking high above the raging inferno of things not being right. Mindfulness keeps the balance. Not easy… it’s not possible to be completely sure that this driver isn’t actually having a nervous breakdown.

What to do? There’s a place coming up where the 9 bus intersects with the 10. The 10 can take me to the station where I can change to a 3 and then I’m on the way home. So jump off the bus, run across the street – fortunately traffic lights change just at the right time – the 10 bus is arriving. I get on and the bus moves off, all in one movement. This in itself is quite a satisfying achievement. Now I’m on the 10, speeding along, looking out the window. The 10 drops me at the station, and it so happens a number 3 is waiting at the stop. Jump on that and I’m on my way home – a fortunate sequence of connections and I’ve already forgotten about the 9 bus going backwards (unless I consciously bring it to mind). Wonderful! And I’m glad it happened as it did, I had an opportunity to practise uppekha. I hope the driver is okay and found out what his problem was.

Later that night I’m up in the apartment, sitting on the cushion and just being with the pleasant quietness up here on the 7th floor. Away in the distance, I can hear the bus just leaving the stop at the end of the road. The sound of it is present here in the room. So familiar; I recognise everything about it. The engine noise increases with the accelerator as it moves away from the stop, I can see it in my mind. It’s coming to the corner. The sound becomes less as it slows down for the corner. Then increases but I can’t hear it as it passes behind the buildings (I know this so well). Then in a short while there’s a break in the buildings and I hear it quite clearly for a moment. After that it becomes faint again and fades away, becomes less and less. It’s really quite far away now. I follow the sound until it becomes just a distinctness in the bzzz of the hearing mechanism… then it’s gone. Some time, soon after that, I bring the meditation to a close, crash out on the bed and fall asleep.

‘When we feel assailed by the fluctuations of experience, where do we turn for refuge? When we can’t see our way through complexity and confusion, how can we make sense of things? Dhamma directs us to an awareness informed by understanding’ [Ajahn Munindo’s Comment in Hilltop Newsletter on the Eight Worldly Winds]

Photo Image: Ajahn Vajiro’s Portugal Collection

2 thoughts on “Backwards

  1. Hi DhammaFootsteps,
    I came across your blog recently and I just love it. It is so thoughtful and beautiful. I also try to bring Theravada Buddhism and meditation practice into my everyday life. I live in downtown manhattan. It’s nice to read about someone applying mindfulness practice to riding the bus because taking the subway in the late summer heat here is a challenge. Patience has never been one of my most perfected paramis. 🙂 I get frustrated. I also try to be aware that this is how it is. I also walk around the city listening to dhamma talks on my iPhone. Your blog really inspires my own reflections.

    • Hi Rooster
      Welcome and thanks for these kind words. I know what you mean about Patience; it’s not easy. Encouraging to know it’s the same in downtown manhattan as it is here and it’s the same everywhere – not a personal thing (it’s my suffering, etc). Separating the resentment from it is the challenge, I think. I’m working on it. Drop in again sometime, Posting twice a week at the moment. metta

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