Let me tell you about the freeway that runs right by our house. We are two houses down from the retaining wall that holds back the roar of the 99 (just barely). The new windows we put in block out much of the noise, but it’s still there, a continuous motor hum underneath our day to day lives. A rainstorm at rush hour turns the hum into a threatening roar.
I read an article once in Sunset Magazine, which I like to read so I can berate myself about the things we aren’t doing to the house and yard due to lack of time and money. It described a couple’s backyard makeover, one central feature of which was an enormous fountain. The article explained that now you couldn’t hear the freeway even though it was eight blocks away. Eight blocks? I can’t think of a single home in Sacramento more than eight blocks from a freeway. The freeway is a defining feature of Sacramento life, and of life in California.
I have heard a theory tossed around that the Earth, like the human body, has its own meridians – channels that move subtle energy around the planet. In this theory, one of these meridians is confluent with Interstate 5. People are apparently naturally attracted to these conductors, drawn to live along them – Los Angeles, Sacramento, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver. The cars that pass between these cities mimic a subtle, energetic process, a current we respond to but cannot see. Our freeway may not be I-5, but the 99 runs parallel to and eventually merges with it.
The steady sound of the freeway at first bothered me in morning meditation, but now it anchors it. I stay present by deepening my ears enough to hear it for what it is, a neutral hum, a sound neither good nor bad. I picture the way it connects me to others, my friends in all the cities that dot its path like acupressure points.
In lovingkindness meditation (metta) after offering kindness to yourself and specific individuals, you offer it to all beings everywhere. This is another way I make use of the freeway – I let it do the work. Rather than sending out metta on my own steam, I offer it to the commuters there on the freeway. I picture them picking it up, invisible passengers creating a sort of lovingkindness carpool. Without even knowing, the drivers chauffeur it along, sending good intentions along all freeways everywhere.