Monday, February 19, 2007


I don’t know what it is about trains but I just love them. We live near the tracks and on calm summer mornings when we’re reading the paper on the porch, we can hear the train whistles in the distance. When my daughter and I go for bike rides, we stop by the restored train depot museum on Main Street. There is an old red caboose on display right beside it. We climb up and have a snack, watching all the cars pass by. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, a train will swoosh by.

Could it be the idea of traveling that makes my heart jump a little to see a train? Several years ago, we went to Europe for our honeymoon and took the train from London to Scotland. There was a quaint dining car with white linens and crystal salt and pepper shakers. We had the most delightful meal watching the gentle rolling hills of the Scottish countryside pass by the window. Little puffs of white sheep grazing along the way. The mesmerizing sound of the wheels clicking on the tracks, the sway of the train cars – it’s entrancing.

I could stare out the window of a train forever. It’s almost meditative that way. Like watching clothes spin in a laundromat dryer. Or clouds float by in the sky. Or the sun set over the ocean. It’s so calming, so soothing, to have your mind just stop for a little. Stop the worrying, the planning, the figuring, the static – just silence and nothing else.

There’s been a lot of talk around our town about meditation lately. Our church recently moved to a more central location in Raleigh and has been getting a little press, especially about the meditations offered daily at lunch and our “One%” program ( The belief that 30-40 minutes of meditation every day can improve your life, bring peace to your family and make a significant impact on your community. I started meditating about 8 months ago and the change has been incredible. I’m calmer, able to handle tense situations with less drama and generally feel more positive. I love it.

So I notice when my mind is spinning it’s wheels, when I try to figure things out, like how I might handle a situation that has not even occurred, my day ends up being so frustrating. I don’t get done what I had planned, I’m less prepared to handle a spontaneous challenging interaction and in general pretty grumbly. But when I stop, when I listen to the wind, when I meditate, when I clear my head… my, my… how much I accomplish.

My parents bought me a Zen Calendar for Christmas, the ones with a daily quote or thought. There are two that really capture this whole idea:

How can you come to know yourself? Never by thinking, always by doing.
Try to do your duty, and you’ll know right away what you amount to.
And what is your duty?
Whatever the day calls for.
–Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

And this one: Lose your mind and come to your senses. –Fritz Perls

So maybe that’s what I love about trains, clouds and laundromat dryers – the sights and sounds that pull me into a state of complete non-thinking, complete meditation, complete blissful release.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


I’ve been noticing more and more “COEXIST” bumper stickers in our area – the ones with all the letters in various religious symbols. I just love this bumper sticker. I love the message and belief that we can all live peacefully together in the world. In our peppered history, as long as it’s been documented, religion has always been a reason to start terrible wars and induce wide-spread hate.

And so when I see this bumper sticker, I have to admire the person driving the car. Because I’m sure there are some people that do not believe in its message and might be inclined to react harshly. So, you’d have to be a little bold to have it there.

One morning I was driving to work and the mini-van in front of me was trying to merge into the left lane. A big red pickup truck sped up, blocking her merge. The little car behind the pick up sped up as well, neither one would let her in. So sad – I thought – that people can’t have the same sense of courtesy that they might have in other situations.

Then I noticed that the little car that followed the pickup truck had a “Coexist” bumper sticker on it. I was really shocked! The driver was a young girl, college age, black framed glasses, black fingernails, pretty progressive it appeared. I thought, girlfriend, how are we supposed to Coexist if we can’t even Cooperate!

But in these situations, even though they may be shocking at first, I try not to pass too much judgment. My husband can be a madman on the road, so when I see someone driving in the same aggressive manner, I think, gee, would you look at that, another just like him. But, you’d never know it to meet him in person. He’s the funniest, most optimistic, most agreeable person I know.

Not only that, you really can’t base a persons entire character on one moment in time. I always try to imagine that they might be having a really bad day – maybe someone was rude to them just the moment before. Maybe they just had a fight with their spouse. No one is perfect – we’re all human! We all get angry, surly, grumpy (although it’s rumored that my uncle never loses his temper, quite astonishing actually, I don’t know how he does it!) I’d like to think that we’re all trying to do the right thing, trying to be better every day, learn something new, or gain a new perspective.

I found a quote that kind of sums this all up:

"Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful.
Yet there will stretch out before you an

ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path.
You know you will never get to the end of the journey.
But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb. . "

Sir Winston Churchill