Mind the Gap

We returned from our 10-day family road trip on Sunday night after the final leg of the drive, an eight hour excursion across Nebraska and eastern Colorado. I now know why that house of a car from Ford is called an excursion – it is like the spacious and luxurious wagon on the Donner Trail – you are no less likely to freeze to death and be eaten for food, but it's comfortable while your actually moving. We were driving an Acadia, which is just as luxurious, but it has fewer bathrooms. We were thinking about taking the Prius but there was no where to put it after we got the guitar and skateboards packed.
 
In Chicago, we took the Metra to the Museum of Science and Industry, where Peggy had nervous childhood flashbacks of being left by her family of six in the gift shop. Her response was a testimony to her infinite faith, patience and shyness – she waited for close to an hour until her family, while on the Coal Mine ride, realized she was gone and returned to retrieve her – she did not tell anyone she was lost, nor did she (at 7-years-old) elicit questions of concern from others the entire time.
 
On the way back to the hotel, Ian (13) pressed the emergency call button on the train platform, prompting an audible police interrogation over the speaker. Peggy quickly explained that it was a false alarm, and Ian immediately explains, “Grace (4) told me to do it”. He would jump off a building, so don't joke about it.
 
On the last day of our trip, we stopped at Starbucks in North Platte (one every three hundred miles so you want to have the Starbucks app on your smart phone and set the radial search pretty high). I was sitting in the car with the kids while Peggy ran into the store, and I was listening to Loggins and Messina's Danny's Song on my Cat Stevens Pandora Station, totally getting into it, thinking I could tune out the kids as they bickered with each other (which I have come to mistake for play over time), and I saw a woman walk by wearing a shirt that said “MIND THE GAP” in huge letters on the back – she had to leave her shirt untucked so the bottom word, gap, would not be out of site. At first I thought, what an unusual way for the Gap clothing store to advertise, then I remembered my fifteen years of meditation study and education, and knew she must be a fellow meditator sharing the pithy wisdom of the cushion. One of the teachings in meditation is to be mindful of the gap between the in-breath and out-breath as you pay attention to your breathing. It is a way of tuning into the background of our experience and a way of staying with the present moment with diligence. Do not stray because the truth of your being is right here at the end of the next breath.
 
Shortly after, the conflict in the car rose to a clatter and I turned the song up, lost in the musicality, “...and even though we ain't got money, I'm so in love with you honey...”, until the demand became too much. Frustrated, I turned down the music and let my anger spill into the back seat like one of those puking jack-o-lanterns. Blah – how does it feel having pumpkin goo all over you – hope you like it. Then I remembered the shirt – mind the gap – it was like some cosmic heartland coincidence – warning me of the moment to come, saying, “John, remember your training – pay attention, let everything in without judgment, and most importantly, let go of your expectations about how things are supposed to be.”
 
Lately, I have been experiencing an inner reluctance to engage with the world, and a voice in my head says that it's okay to go inside the cocoon for a while and do some inner work, and strengthen the soul, but the truth is that there is no withdraw. The cocoon is a prison and an obstacle to life. While that voice is protective and well meaning, it is also simply scared of being exposed. Whether we like it or not, we must remain consistently available, to our children and to the world, so that we might learn to instinctively engage with love, to simply mind the gap, and we will come to know in time that “everything is gonna be alright”.

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