The first rains of winter arrived last week to the Los Angeles area. While
many of you might laugh at this announcement because you may have been
living with seasonal rain and snow for several weeks already, this is
actually a monumental day for So-Cal drivers.
And for me, especially; it is practically a spiritual experience.
For many years, I enjoyed an 45-minute commute from my home in the San Fernando Valley to my office in Hollywood. I didn't take the freeway. It was a lovely drive across Mulholland and through the Hollywood Hills with twisty windy roads that were perfect for evaluating a vehicle's performance, but also displayed lovely vistas that included the city skyline at night, and narrow tree-lined roads with none of the bumper-to-bumper traffic so iconic to the region.
In the summertime, I could hear birds singing, and sometimes saw such wildlife as deer and coyotes. But in the wintertime it was even better because, as much as I love to drive, I love to drive in the rain even more.
Some of you may think I'm crazy, but for me, driving in the rain is a meditative experience, an opportunity to become aware of my surroundings in a completely different way. Instead of being a hassle, the rain is an opportunity for me to slow down, and observe my world using all my senses.
In the last year, my commute changed significantly, and once I drop my
children off at school, I only spend a few more minutes in the car. On this rainy morning, however, rather than jumping out of my car when I arrived
at my destination, I sat in my car for about 20 minutes listening to
the rain. It took me a few minutes to realize what I was doing, but
soon I realized that I was entering the rain meditation that I used to
enjoy on my longer commute.
I turned off the radio and listened to the sound of the rain... large heavy drops drumming loudly against the body and windows of my car, as well as the other white noise sound in the background as those same drops fall onto the pavement around me. When driving, another sound is present: the sticky sound of the wheels rolling on the wet ground and the spray that is kicked off. And don't forget the occasional swish and splash of the wiper blades.
Outside, everything is gray. The clouds and the moisture in the air diffuse the sunlight, removing the shadows and contrast from the world, and making everything feel quiet and stark.
The water on the ground and on the windshield reflects the headlights of oncoming cars to create a constantly changing light show. The taillights of the car in front add orange and red to contribute color to display.
I slow down when driving in the rain so I can enjoy this contemplative experience (and also worry less about the poor driving of Los Angelenos who don't feel the same about the rain as I do). It doesn't matter if the rain makes me late, EVERYBODY will be late, so there's no need to rush or worry. Mentally, I become more relaxed and my mind clears as the white noise surrounding me fills my brain and pushes away the usual concerns occupying my thoughts.
There is a smell that comes with the first rains. The wet asphalt releases a slightly acrid aroma redolent of dirt and oil. Soon this is replaced by the smell of the water in the air, refreshed by negative ions that are released as water droplets become a fine spray.
After the rain clears, I feel as if I have experienced a rebirth. My world has been washed clean: my car, the roads, the city, the air, the sky, even me. Everything becomes fresh again, vivid colors return to the surroundings, brightened by the removal of the environmental dust and pollution that has settled on the trees and scenery. The air is fresh and clean and invigorating thanks to the gloriously tranquilizing overdose of negative ions that ease tension and pressure, and leave me full of energy.
It's really a spiritual thing. I am baptized by the rain; it's my own opportunity to be clean again, purified by the water, outside and inside.
Next time you step into your car during wet weather, I hope you will consider this meditation, and let the rain become a positive experience for you too.