I have been thinking about mindfulness lately and how it is related to awareness and to concentration. I think about it when I cross the street, especially the busy avenues. I have been a car driver, a taxi driver, a bike rider, and a pedestrian. Engaged in each of those activities I have wanted to get to where I was going as fast and efficiently as possible. Traffic was always a game. But I always played by the rules and never hit anyone or caused an accident. I was always testing and honing my skill.
What I learned was that I had to be mindful and concentrated, and that the act of driving overrides all distractions. A driver should be aware of what is happening two or three blocks ahead as well as what is happening behind and on both sides in a constantly shifting complexity of patterns. I also learned what it means to be a pedestrian some years ago when walking my dog. I trained him to walk off leash, and to stop at all the corners, which he did. I realized how risky it is to walk across the street when there are cars moving around. By myself I can do a little dodging using my judgment. But that was too much to expect of him.
So I came to the conclusion that the best thing is just to wait until all the traffic has gone by on both sides of the street and then walk at our leisure. Slowing down like that and stopping for 10 seconds or 15 or 30 seconds can seem like you will never get to where you are going. Now I am very aware of how pedestrians get hit by cars. The law in California says that a pedestrian has the right of way in the crosswalk. People often take advantage of this and in an arrogant manner step off the curb expecting the traffic (maybe as many as 20 people just like us) to come to a screeching halt. Or on the other hand they may enter traffic being totally oblivious.
In a perfect world no one has the right of way. We should all be looking out for each other. Before walking across the street, I give way to the traffic and wait my turn. Often, people stop for me even though I don’t want them to. I often just wave them on because I don’t want to stop the flow of traffic. If all pedestrians waited until the coast was clear there would be far fewer targets. Giving privilege to one side creates an unequal division putting all the responsibility on the drivers and reduces pedestrians’ reliance on awareness and proper judgment. This is an example of our ordinary daily life practice of mindfulness, awareness and two kinds of concentration; both narrow and wide. Our practice is to be mindfully aware of every opportunity to create harmony and to awaken together with all beings.