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100 Days of Gladness: Day 39

The Unexpected Sweet Spot of a Stop Sign

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I slow down a little, check left and right, and if it looks okay, I go.I’ve done this all my life.

There’s no time to come to a complete stop at stop signs.

(Unless you’re qualifying for a driver’s license.)

Enter Mindfulness.

Psh. Not while I’m trying to get somewhere important!

Not if I want to be responsible and show up on time.


But when you get more serious about mindfulness, your practice begins to deepen, and you notice it everywhere. Suddenly, how you fling your coat on the couch, or drop your keys into the bowl, how you flip through the mail, or scroll through your phone — everything becomes an opportunity to observe your actions.

Then you start noticing your conversations.

Once I vowed to practice Right Speech for just one day. (In the Buddhist world, Right Speech is defined as abstaining from lying, divisive speech, abusive speech, idle chatter, gossip, swear words, and cynical or hostile tone of voice.)

The bad news is, I didn’t make it out of bed before breaking the vow.The good news is, I noticed.

When I was younger, that noticing might have shut me down. I might have thought this is impossible, why even try it. These days, I am less defeated about how much work there is to do, and more motivated to do it.

I am also kinder to myself about when I don’t do it, or I forget, or I fail.

The practice of paying attention has made its way into more areas of my life — how I eat, how I make my bed, how I show up on social media, and lately…how I drive.

Lately, it’s stop signs.

If you ever try coming to a complete stop, you’ll notice there are four stages to it. Most people don’t get past the first two.

  1. Notice the stop sign coming, and pad the brakes a little.

  2. Look both ways, make a good show of ‘stopping,’ but without serious intent. (This is usually where most people proceed through the intersection, given enough time by cars approaching on the left or the right.)

  3. Press the foot further down on the brake until you’re almost all the way stopped. This is for the cop watching you from across the way.

  4. The truly committed will experience the Complete Stop. This is the sweet spot. You’ll know it because, at a certain point, when the car knows you mean it, it will sit back on its haunches and you’re both at rest.

For me, practicing the Complete Stop ushers in a sweetness. It’s like a tiny sip of peace. An ounce of quiet. A micro rest stop. A bandaid of slow over the sore of our world’s hurry.

Full disclosure, I don’t practice this when it’s busy. I’m not a jerk. I know people are in a rush, and sometimes for very good reasons.

But I almost always practice it if no one else is at the intersection.

Try it. Challenge the thoughts that have you blowing through Steps 1, and 2, and maybe even 3 of the 'stop' process. See if you can gift yourself with Step 4. It’s a miniature moment of mindfulness. And like all moment of its kind, it can lead straight to the center point of stillness.

Not a bad place to be.

Especially now.


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