Yesterday, I drove more than 10km with no petrol. How? Glorious gravity.
Having driven up my favourite pass to our mountain house in a rush to make it to a community meeting in time, I wasn’t able to fill up with petrol. Ascending the pass knowing my “EMPTY” light had been flashing for a formidable number of kilometres already, I had the trust that I would make it back down to the nearest petrol station in fine shape. I was correct.
Success in a situation is not determined foremost by the resources available, but by the resourcefulness. Although, physics first principles and the forces (power as well as magic) of nature are perhaps the ultimate in resources, as they are omnipresent and unavoidable. In this case, all I had to do was start my car as soon as I got to the road, and I was off.
I took both feet off the pedals – there was no need to try to speed up or slow down, as I decided I would literally be at the whim of gravity, the curve and gradient of the road and the sheer weight of my vehicle; things we often take for granted but in this case, they were all I needed. Trust: It’s quite a thing. Trust in the forces of nature, trust in the flow of life, trust in ourselves and the resources we do have at our disposal, both internal and external. The realisations started flooding in:
- The freedom that comes from not dictating the pace, and not constantly speeding up or trying to get somewhere quickly. Life has its own gradients; times when we feel we are going uphill, times when we feel we are going downhill and other times where we feel we are intert, slowly coasting along a plateau, until the next incline/decline. We just need to go with it. I didn’t have a choice – what medicine.
- All I had to do was steer. If we aren’t dictating the pace, our feet are able to be still rather than moving, and we can just focus on direction. There are so many expectations that we superimpose upon ourselves in terms of when we should do things and how quickly. If we are focussed on where we are going, the timing and speed are subordinate functions of that direction, rather than dictators, as we often allow or force them to be.
- There is such a desire amongst so many of us to be in control constantly. What if this wasn’t the aim? What if we realised that we aren’t isolated, that we are part of various ecosystems and we absolutely must acknowledge our environment in the way that we live our lives? What if it wasn’t control that got us somewhere, but direction and choice, influenced partially by inner and partly by outer circumstances?
- We may just have everything we need, even when our tanks (or “tanks”) are (or feel) empty.
- It really is all about perception. It could have been a frightening stress to be without petrol, but I felt myself overcome with the spirit of adventure, shaped in part due to the fact that I knew I would be fine and there really was no danger, and there was little risk and in part because I was inspired and curious about how framing a situation absolutely determines what we get out of it.
- Gravity is like flow. I felt like I was moving down a river in a vessel rather than driving a car. I guess this will be due to the fact that in a boat, one must move with the currents or work 10 times as hard (perhaps in vain) to move against them, so sailing is built on the understanding that you must work WITH and leverage the natural and majestic forces of water. Whereas in a car, we control the variables to dictate how fast we go, how quickly we slow, and where we go. I loved how fluid it felt, and the excitement that came from not dictating the pace; on flatter stretches between steeper gradients, I cruised along and let others pass me if they were in a rush. There was such freedom in knowing that unless the decline was steeper or longer, I wouldn’t speed up. I didn’t need to overtake anyone, there was no traffic buildup, no apology, just freedom and joy. I moved between the speeds of 20km an hour and 110km an hour (which is a pretty hairy speed on very windy roads), without using the pedal at all. What a pleasure!
- It was a bit nervy when I was going downhill as I decided I didn’t want to break, but rather to allow the road to dictate my pace the entire way down. There are some steep sections, and it is very windy; I learned to drive on this road and I do know it inside out, it’s like walking a stretched-out labyrinth up to the mountains that have shaped who I am as a woman. I didn’t know how much faster it would get, and all I chose to do was steer. My foot was itching to get involved and of course, if there was danger posed to me or another I would not hesitate to break, but I wanted to feel it anyway.
- It is interesting to note how steering has a different flavour when we are going slowly versus when we are going quickly. When going fast, it is focussed and intense, with little margin of error and all eyes are on the road. When going slowly, there is time to drink in the scenery, to look around, to trust the cambre and curve of the road and our innate understanding of curves, to enjoy almost luxuriously all the incoming sensory stimulation and the process allows more engagement with the environment. There are valuable lessons to be learned from both. I found that when I was going more slowly, you have more time to make movements and direction changes so you can take time, but when going quickly, you are relying on focus and clarity to make the right calls that avoid unnecessary risk and keep you safe.
- I learned the power of weight and inertia, and how life cannot go on if it is just flat. We are either going up or down or en route to going up or down, speeding up or slowing down – the river is never completely still. When we feel stagnant in life, it is because we need to remember the river, and to join it once again. Waterfalls, oceans, waves, winding rivers and trickling streams all come to mind as teachers in times that may feel like this.
- I thought about the various forces in my life, the natural and the unnatural ones, and my relationship with them. It is a fascinating thought. Speed, timing and direction – who knew fairly standard concepts could be so magical and full of deep wisdom! Are we listening to the flow we find ourselves in and going with it or are we resisting? Where are we speeding up or slowing down, and where can we flip these ideas on their heads?
So as I coasted into the petrol station, while I was delighted to get there, I felt an inner sigh about this glorious experience coming to an end. It was such fun to let go and know that there was nothing I could do but steer. The thought with the biggest impact on me was the sense of just being a part of such a powerful and calm flow, and I just felt so happy. It challenged and inspired me on a practical philosophy level, to check myself and my ideas about movement, the various forces in my life and my relationship with them, where I had been resisting relinquishing control, where I could just take my foot off the fuel pedal and slow down, where I could take my foot off the break to speed up, and how indescribably nourishing it feels to let go and be a part of a greater flow that will take you, in whichever state you are, exactly where you’re meant to go.