Sensational Living®

July 2005
© 2005 by Bret S. Beall


I've recently accepted two new, large clients in the northern suburbs of Chicago. It's a great opportunity, with one apparent drawback: a rush hour driving commute that lasts up to an hour.

I've been blessed for almost two decades to have access to Chicago's public transportation system, the CTA (for those who know, the running joke is that "CTA Schedule" is an oxymoron). Anyway, I've used public transportation since 1987, and have found it relatively convenient, relatively affordable, useful for catching up on reading, ideal for avoiding parking difficulties, and educational (the diversity of humanity is amazing!). The last time I commuted anywhere of significance was in 1987 when I was a paleontologist at Chicago's Field Museum; I'd hit LSD at 6:30 in the morning to avoid traffic (FYI, "LSD" stands for "Lake Shore Drive," or just "The Drive," for short), and spend a couple hours doing research until time to do my assigned duties.

Now, my work hours are more clearly circumscribed, and I have no choice but to deal with the commute in rush hour. There is a public transportation route, but I have not yet been inclined to try the multiple transfers. Instead, I have been exploring different driving routes.

No matter the route, there will be other drivers that drive in ways different from me. Some are in more of a rush than I am. Others seem unaware that anyone else is on the road but themselves. Still others are just confused, or careless, or downright dangerous. And driving at rush hour exposes me to more of these people. When my new clients were interviewing me to check the "fit," I always took the interstate highway, as that was most "efficient." I had other client appointments in the north suburbs in the past, and the Edens Expressway (I-94) was THE route to take. Of course, every single one of those previous appointments had been away from rush hour!

Therefore, as part of "going with the Flow," I have simply accepted that, once I get on the road, I must go with the Flow, and there is nothing productive I can do about it; instead of fussing, fuming or constantly changing lanes, I sit back, sometimes with the radio, and allow myself to go into an almost Zen-like calm state. In doing so, I can now say that the part of having new clientele that I was most dreading has now become one of the most rewarding aspects!

As I drive along, I allow myself to soak in the sunshine and the flowers and trees and creeks and breeze … it's almost like I was absorbing energy from the elements of the natural world! I arrive at work actually refreshed and calm. This calmness during the commute (each way) eventually led me to open to inspiration. This openness in turn allows creative Flow. That Flow eventually provided much needed inspiration for this month's three columns and newsletter. Who knows what will be next?

I have experienced similar openness and creativity on other commutes. The key is to not fight the fact that you MUST commute. Accept it. Surrender your "control," if you will. Take advantage of your commute. When I travel on public transportation, I catch up on my reading (and sometimes I watch sunsets: http://www.god-dess.com/webhintsApril04.html). I read so much that the commute on public transportation is actually a gift; I usually can't really do anything else, so I read. It's terrific, and I truly look forward to the commute by train or bus. It's also great for people watching (and listening); this distracts me from my reading, but man doesn't live by reading alone. A bit of human contact is good, and I've been known to help the occasional person on my bus or train (like assisting the woman carrying too many parcels, and giving her a hint about being prepared to easily handle these multiple packages … she was surprised and grateful. Sometimes I "accidentally" eavesdrop on conversations about food (everyone is usually packed together like sardines on public transportation); I just can't resist helping … by interjecting the latest foodie restaurant info or offering a recipe or culinary theory … admittedly, the reactions are mixed, but most are happy and grateful.

And then there are walking commutes, whether one is walking to an actual destination, or walking to the bus stop or train station (or maybe even walking to your car if it's parked far away or you have to pick it up at the mechanic shop). It's fun to flirt with the dog walkers, wave at grandmothers on their porches, look at flowers and check out remodeling projects, all the while getting some great physical exercise … while relaxing enough to open to inspiration and creativity.

This brings us to a crucial point about commuting: it's a metaphor for life and living! The commute itself is a Path to some destination. Life is a Path to physical, emotional and spiritual maturation as a being. The key is that it is the Path itself that is important, perhaps even more important that the actual destination. The Path prepares us for the destination. My commute (Path) prepares me for my day with my clients. My life Path has prepared me to deal with both adversity and joy, and to know that both are necessary to continue making me a better human being.

So, please embrace your commute; don't fight it. Make the most of your commute, as it is part of your Path. Embrace the openness, creativity and Flow that will come by accepting what cannot be changed. Embrace your Path, as it is uniquely yours, and will unfold and open unlike anyone else's.

Let me know what you've learned from own commuting. Or from this essay. I'm easy to reach at 7773.508.9208 or email me, though I try not to talk on my phone when I'm commuting (it's rude and dangerous!). Leave a message if I don't answer!