On The Bus

red car


Back in the day when hippies ruled the world, there was a saying: You were either on the bus or off the bus. You either believed in the unseen presence of Spirit, benevolent creator of magic and synchronicity, or you consigned yourself to sit out the party in muggle-land. You either surrendered and let the flow take you, or you dug your heels in on the shore and relied on your own resources, resisting the pull of the current.

When we read the news diligently, we collapse from overexposure and a sense of fatality that leads to quiet despair. Cynicism, hopelessness, a brokenhearted resignation are all the outcomes of believing we’re doomed. This is the evidence the material world presents to us. When we turn away and insulate ourselves so that we can nourish our connection to Spirit, we feel like we’ve abandoned the battlefield. Is this retreat into spiritual numbness a viable alternative, one that leaves us flinty and cut off from the suffering of others? Does being on the bus mean that we  retreat into a cozy self-satisfied cocoon and blithely look the last penguin in the eye and say, hey dude, no worries?

Most of the people I know right now are either/and, both and more, neither, and is there a column C? We are half out of our minds with grief over the daily atrocities, the tweets and rants, the rape of our daughters and of our earth with impunity, with entitlement, with the flames of hell pouring from their eyes. How do we choose between agonizing unto sickness over the facts and turning to something higher?

In an attempt to reconcile this binary dilemma, I’ve begun reading about the Buddhist concept of groundlessness, living breath to breath with no permanent solutions to a problem, the relinquishing of our habitual patterns of thought that label good/bad, love/hate, right/wrong, praise/blame. Letting go of believing that we can strategize for long term security, of believing that we have any more than the next minute and, by grace, the one after that.  I feel giddy with a sense of freedom when I let go of the cynicism and certainty that keeps me insulated from this terrifying state of unknowing, of groundlessness. My heart and mind open, and Spirit slips in.

This kind of surrender is different from the unquestioning obedience my guru demanded of me as a earnest young seeker. While surrendering to a benevolent unseen force was something I practiced, I always kept one foot on the ground ready to hot-wire a car. Surrender into groundlessness means developing a tolerance for anxiety and not-knowing, seeing how long I can sit still before I jump out of my skin and clean the bathroom. This is watching my mind make up stories about how to keep us safe. Surrendering to this state of awareness is neither believing or not believing, trusting or not trusting, being with the reality of each moment as it unfolds with only Spirit as ground. This is where compassion is born, where we see that others are suffering as much as we are, and we drop our stories about who they, and we, are.

I’m a girl who always creates a safe place wherever I live. The kind of place my friends like to visit. Fresh flowers, good food, good humor and a sense of comfort and ease. But these small pockets of sanity are giving way to what the psychologists describe as a steep rise in climate anxiety. Floods, drought, tornadoes, rising ocean waters, extinctions. There is no safe place on the planet anymore.

Although I’m still fixated on finding safety, I can’t nail it down in the material world.  I’m learning that the antidote to cynicism is finding the courage to act in the world with no attachment to outcome, simply because I’ve been prompted by my heart. I’d rather live in a state of uncertainty, of openhearted love and connection than rely on my scheming squirrel mind. Every time I falter, every time I let outer reality  grip me in its insistence it’s the only truth, I tell myself ‘Get on the bus honey. Get on the bus and buckle up.’

tell me: where do you find equilibrium? how do you balance this world in flames with the call of Spirit?


hippie bus

When you want to lay yourself open for the divine,
like a snare that is hollowed out to its depth,
like a canopy that projects a shadow
from the divine heat and light
into your soul,
then go into your inner place physically,
or to that story or symbol that reminds you of the sacred.
Close the door of your awareness to
the public person you think yourself to be.
Pray to the parent of creation, with your inner sense,
the outer senses turned within.
Veiling yourself, the mystery may be unveiled through you.
By opening yourself to the flow of the sacred,
somewhere, resounding in some inner form,
the swell of the divine ocean can move through you.
The breathing life of all reveals itself
in the way you live your life.
~ Neil Douglas-Klotz ~
If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation.  ~ Pema Chodron
Sometimes hidden from me
in daily custom and in trust,
so that I live by you unaware
as by the beating of my heart,
Suddenly you flare in my sight,
a wild rose blooming at the edge
of thicket, grace and light
where yesterday was only shade,
and once again I am blessed,
choosing again what I chose before.
(Wendell Berry, b. 1934)
Hafiz says:  I once asked a bird…’how is it that you fly in this gravity of darkness?’ She responded ‘love lifts me up.’



4 thoughts on “On The Bus

  1. Loved this post and that you’re sharing your wrestling with these challenging issues. Loved this line: “While surrendering to a benevolent unseen force was something I practiced, I always kept one foot on the ground ready to hot-wire a car.“ That’s the Nancy I know and love.


  2. Nancy, I’m just now reading this terrific piece, at a time when we have just experienced another set of horrors in El Paso and Dayton. I very much want to stay on the bus. Thank you for sharing your thoughts so well.


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