Practicing Contemplation on the Road
Today’s post is by Leah Rampy
My hands are locked on the steering wheel as I sit in the mass of vehicles inching down I-395 during morning rush hour. I look straight ahead, my eyes locked on the truck just ahead of me. I carefully avoid eye contact with the driver of the car to my right. I pretend not to see her blinker, not even to be aware that she’s there trying to move her car in front of mine. Drat! My peripheral vision is too good; I can see her now beside me, just as I saw her pull out a dozen cars back into the diminishing right hand lane, moving up to the front of the line, trying to bypass all the rest of us who are waiting “patiently” to make our way to work. I am indignant that she does not follow the rules.
There’s something about righteous indignation that feels so good, so superior— at least for a minute. And then it all comes crashing down. What am I doing?!? I started with a spacious morning, I set my intention to bless those along the way, I really want to be gracious to others I meet, and I’m on my way to Shalem for heaven’s sake! Yet here I am again, hijacked by my amygdala, under the control of my ego, or maybe just caught up in an old habit. How distressing!
I suppose in some ways it’s a blip on the radar. And yet I feel sad. Why is it so difficult for me to live consistently from the spiritual heart? In this moment, I feel that others have figured out the key. They pray enough; they hold silence longer, they don’t fail so often in their intent.
And then I smile. In the course of two minutes, I’ve fallen fully into dualistic thinking. The other driver is wrong; I’m right. No, she’s fine; I’m the one who’s not good enough. My thinking mind is a judgment machine! It leaves no situation unlabeled! I open to the possibility of simply being with what is, as it is, in this moment. I breathe.
Such a small and yet such a frequent occurrence in my life. I think it’s time for the words of Richard Rohr to be taped to my visor: “Perfection is not the elimination of imperfection, as we think. Divine perfection is, in fact, the ability to recognize, forgive, and include imperfection! —just as God does with all of us. Only in this way can we find the beautiful and hidden wholeness of God underneath the passing human show. It is the gift of non-dual thinking and seeing, which itself is a gift of love, suffering, and grace. In fact, this is the radical grace that grounds all holy seeing and doing.”
What shows up for you as you as you open to living contemplatively?
Leah Rampy, Shalem’s Executive Director, has a background in corporate management and leadership consulting as well as a deep passion for contemplative living and care of the Earth. She has a PhD in Curriculum from Indiana University and has participated in Shalem’s Living in God: Personal Spiritual Deepening as well as Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats: Transforming Community.
Shalem’s intention is to open space for you to deepen your own contemplative practice and awareness. We offer online courses, one-day retreats, and extended in-person programs. This fall, Leah Rampy will be leading an online Contemplative Leadership workshop. Read more here.