Lights of Awareness

Flashing lights in my rearview mirror got my attention and I pulled over for what I thought may be an ambulance on its ways to help someone. Then the vehicle pulled in behind me. I soon realized it was a police car. The officer suggested I was crossing into the bike lane. I was not aware of that but I accepted his assessment. He obviously was looking for signs of something. Inebriation? Driving while Buddhist?

After taking my information and returning to his vehicle to do the usual research, he returned with a warning ticket. I was grateful for his kindness but remained stunned as I have not been stopped for anything in 50 years. On a relative level, I will be more attentive to my driving. On a symbolic level, I wonder about these lights of awareness that followed me.

We often do not pay enough attention to where we are—what we are doing and thinking. The light of our awareness nonetheless maintains a silent vigil, watching over us without a sound until we go a little crazy. Then lights begin flashing in the form of some precipitating event or insight. What we call conscience (with knowing, awareness) arouses us and calls us on our lunacy. A light bulb goes off as we recognize the need for a course correction.

This moment of awareness is very natural, like in the movie Star Wars when a character recognizes “a disturbance in the force.” If we are distracted by our habitual ways of thinking, we will not respond to this insight. We will rely on limited thinking, fall into the trap of habit, and hope to resolve the issue with blinders on. Maybe it is an ambulance. Maybe it is a police car. Maybe it is any experience in front of us. In any case, we need to slow down, pull over, and allow the lights to teach us something.

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