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Buddhadharma : Spring 2017
88 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spring 2 0 1 7 Inmy early twenties, I went on a trip to Europe. This was before cell phones or the internet—each new country meant a new language, new money, new phone sys- tems, and a hope for the best. One evening, it wasn’t working out. I had just arrived in Austria and made arrangements to meet a friend. I was exhausted, hungry, low on money, and stressed. And I didn’t speak German. Getting on the bus to go meet my friend, I pointed to the stop in my guidebook to show the driver where I wanted to disembark. I was sure the bus driver would tell me when we were there. In retrospect, I don’t know why it felt like such a big deal, but I felt desperate to meet my friend and couldn’t stop picturing her waiting for me, only for it to look like I’d stood her up. The ride was intermi- nable. I was so, so late, but I knew we had to be getting close. Finally, I looked out the window and realized we were back where we’d started. The bus had done a full loop—I had completely missed the stop. I couldn’t believe the bus driver hadn’t told me when to get off. So I went up to the front of the bus and I screamed at him. In English. At the top of my lungs. My stress, frustration, exhaustion, humilia- tion—everything came to a head. To this day, just thinking about it leaves me mortified. And at that moment—while screaming my lungs out to a very nice bus Journeys Get off the bus by casandra luce driver who probably couldn’t understand a word I said—something snapped in me. It is hard to describe except to say that I broke. I gave up. I realized in a deep and profound way that I couldn’t speak the language. I might not have a place to stay or be able to keep my commitment to my friend. I might go hungry. I might end up sleeping on the floor of the train station, or I might go in circles on the bus. And I couldn’t stop it. I realized that I didn’t have control. My des- peration to try and maintain it had brought me to the brink: hurling insults at the top of my lungs at a completely innocent person. For several weeks, that change—that giving up—stayed with me. I continued to live and make plans, but the fear and the desire to impose my will had left. And the strangest thing came in its wake: I opened up to the world around me. It was as if the colors were brighter, the sounds sharper, the conversations more meaning- ful. It’s hard to describe, but the next few months were magical; to this day, I can still clearly remember the vivid blue of the Italian ocean, the soulful voice of “Big Bill Broonzey” in my headphones, the crispness of the air on a motorcycle ride. I came home to a mountain of credit card debt and a dead-end restaurant job, but the feeling helped me through those problems before eventually fading away. What re- mained was an interest in Buddhism, which seemed to be the only thing that explained that moment of awareness on the bus. I call it my “mini-enlightenment.” It feels far away now, but I can still see—even if I don’t always feel—the calm clarity of that time and remember that there is a different way to live and experience the world. CaSaNdRa LuCE is a freelance writer based in Seattle. She has practiced meditation for over ten years. PHoto | andreW nash