Dr. Stewart Bitkoff had a long daily 30-mile commute from his home in Westchester County to New York City for most of his 30-year career as a specialist in therapeutic recreation and psychiatric rehabilitation. He drove his car on the Major Deegan Expressway, an 8 1/2 mile stretch of highway with 125,000 vehicles a day from New York state, New Jersey, and Connecticut. In this user-friendly paperback, Bitkoff models a viable and imaginative everyday spirituality infused with insights from Sufism and other religions. He answers the question posed at the outset of this quest: is it possible to attain enlightenment traveling to work every day on a highway as crowded, dirty, and in need of repair as the Deegan?
The United States Census Bureau reported in 2004 that if you live in a metropolitan area with a population of over 250,000, you are likely to spend nearly 30 minutes getting to work every day. Instead of viewing this experience as a boring one or a nightmare, why not reframe it as a time for you to meditate, do spiritual practices, disarm troubling thought patterns, or focus your attention on what shows up during your drive. Bitkoff models this kind of reframing of commuting for us. The paperback is divided into mile marker designations and a few of them are: Signs, Learning, and Life; Opening the Door; Happiness and Everyday Experience; and States of Mind.
Here are a few examples of the material covered:
• Notice the trees that sometimes grow in concrete.
• Check out pigeons that have made nests beneath highway overpasses.
• Think about Divine traffic reports on a trouble spot.
• Relish the peace and quiet you sometimes can only experience in your car.
• Ponder the changes in the cityscape you see out your window.
• Transform your mind by moving from boredom to wonder.
• Be prepared for irritations like traffic jams and flat tires.
• Create a "happiness calendar " to bolster the pleasure of the commute.
• Don't bring yourself down with yesterday's problems or tomorrow's stressors.
• Notice any signs or sights that are symbolic of hope and light.
• Think of the wind-shield wiper as cleaning the dust and grime that covers your heart.
• Ponder the connection between all the different types of vehicles on the road and the variety of spiritual paths.
• Let music soothe your soul on the drive.
• Try a deep-breathing exercise to calm yourself down.
It is truly amazing what wonderful things are possible when we take a seemingly boring, repetitious, and stressful situation and reframe it as a chance for spiritual growth. Bitkoff has done just that by making the connection between commuting and enlightenment. His mediations are down-to-earth, imaginative, and worthy of experimentation on the road. It makes a fine accompaniment to Sylvia Boorstein's audio release Road Sage.