This year I have had two regular teaching engagements outside of Zen Center: one at a tech company, and one at the county jail. When I mentioned this to someone I was meeting recently, they remarked on them being opposite ends of the spectrum, and of course in some ways they are. In terms of the guided meditation, they are not so different. I will always adjust the focus depending on the energy of the group in the room at that moment, and often offer similar instructions.
The other similarity is in their respective locations, which are not far apart, so that my commute from Zen Center has been largely identical – down the hill on Page St, along Market for a few blocks and then down 8th St. This is a nice route to take as there are wide bike lanes all the way on the latter two streets, which allows a certain sense of security, but drivers are usually going pretty fast along 8th (it is just the same coming back up 7th), and we have to pay close attention to cars wanting to turn, especially around the freeway junctions.
I tend to allow more than enough time to get down to the two engagements, so once I am underway, I am not usually rushing. These days I really don’t seem to be in so much of a hurry, and I am not sure if that is more a function of getting older, having a less packed schedule, or just mellowing out through practice. In any case, on sunny Friday mornings, and the darkening Monday afternoons, I am usually able to have the ride be preparation for the meditation: enjoying my surroundings, taking in the many sights and sounds, relaxing – as far as it is possible – with the motion and ease of the bicycle.
These days commuting often means flowing with a group of riders. Even as we weave together through tight gaps and awkward manoeuvres, I rarely come across any bad tempers or raised voices among cyclists, which I would say compares favourably with the driving experience. There is also a sense of safety in numbers that I only used to feel in my days of doing Critical Mass in London in the early nineties; it often feels that we are really looking out for each other.
When people complain to me about traffic, I like to remind them that they are not separate from traffic. Everyone is in the same boat, just trying to get where they are going. All we can control is our attitude and reaction to what we encounter.