How to walk across a parking lot

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Ease up on the gas, that’s the first thing. Drop your speed to just a little slower than “necessary”, because to do this right you can’t be getting ahead of yourself.

And there could be kids around. Maybe yours even, if this is one of those times when you don’t know what they’re up to. As always, you’re in a china shop, so be gentle.

When you see a vacant spot, your natural tendency might be to thrust your motor-carriage in there as quickly as possible, antsy that some circling vulture in a Jeep YJ and white sunglasses will wheel in there first and pretend he didn’t see you already headed that way.

That won’t happen, but you should be prepared to let it. Letting angst park your car for you is a rookie mistake. There is a better spot farther away. Walking a little more is an advantage, unless you think (as many do) that walking across a parking lot is a wasted and purely obligatory part of a person’s life. Clearly you wouldn’t be reading this if you were truly convinced that the worthwhile part of life happens only once you’re across the parking lot, inside Wal-Mart or Safeway or whatever. 

If that first spot is your spot, and you can take it with grace, then do so. Or keep moving until you find one. You’ll find one.

Park. Turn off the ignition. Before you exit the carriage, pause for a moment. Now, I should clarify that by pause I don’t mean “wait.” There is nothing to wait for if you are pausing. To pause is to stop and pay attention. To wait is to stop your body while you continue to the next moment in your head. For a proper parking-lot-crossing — or a proper anything-else — we want to avoid this.

So pause, and at least remember how cool it is that you were able to sit all the way here. Your ancestors would have been too humble to even joke about a chair that hurtles across cities. You sat all the way here. Good for you, for living in such a time. If you do nothing else right today, at least you sat at fifty miles an hour.

Feel your weight in the seat, because you’re about to relieve it of its thankless services and let the pavement take over. Open the door, and as you do so, listen to exactly what it sounds like in the moment that inside becomes outside.

It’s a remarkable sound, and while you have a chance to hear it several times a day, you probably pass up most of those chances because your mind is somewhere else. Since we’re doing a high-quality crossing of the parking lot for a change, make sure you’re there for it this time.

Now you’re outside the car, standing on a great asphalt platter. This is not a bad time to stretch, but you don’t have to. You might as well. Stretching is something people generally don’t regret doing.

When it’s time to walk across the parking lot, don’t walk like everyone else. Most of them won’t even really be walking. Look around, they’re probably more marching than anything. Maybe scurrying. They want to be anywhere but walking across a parking lot.

A lot of the time when we’re walking, we’re doing it just so we can be done with walking. There are times when that’s not true though. If you can walk across a parking lot like you’re walking in a bathrobe from the shower to the kitchen on a saturday morning, then you can make vast swaths of your time on this earth much better. This is no joke. If you get it, you get it.

That bathrobe pace and posture is the proper way to cross a parking lot. It should feel like you’re traveling alongside the pool to the snack bar — nothing disagreeable about the in-between part, and it shows in your face and your pace. I guess the verb we’re looking for is basking. Bask while you walk. It doesn’t need to be “nice” out. Yes, you can bask in cold air too. You can bask in rain. And if it’s sunny, well, lucky you.

Even if you run into an anxious car waiting for you to cross a lane, do not hurry! You have the right of way but you may still be tempted to trot a little bit here. Don’t do it. Let them wait. Remember, waiting is a choice, and they’re sitting in a motorized throne with music and climate control. Continue your poolside pace, and don’t forget to enjoy this part too. Deciding not to worry about making someone wait is one of life’s great feelings.

Eventually you’ll run out of parking lot and you’ll find another door. Make sure you are there for the moment that outside turns to inside.

Do this. Millions of people live and die without ever suspecting that joy can be had in the simple act of crossing a parking lot. If you think this post is ridiculous, you may be one of them.

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Photo by David Cain

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{ 71 Comments }

Asaf Braverman September 14, 2011 at 12:45 am

Nietzsche said, “We want to be poet of our life – first of all in the small, most everyday matters.” Thanks for the challenge David. I’d just add one thing to that walk through the parking lot: make sure you do it inconspicuously.

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David September 14, 2011 at 6:35 am

One of my favorite passages from Nietzsche is along the same lines: For happiness, how little suffices for happiness! …the least thing precisely, the gentlest thing, the lightest thing, a lizard’s rustling, a breath, a wisk, an eye glance – little maketh up the best happiness.

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David September 14, 2011 at 6:48 am

Why do you say to do it inconspicuously?

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Asaf Braverman September 14, 2011 at 9:46 am

If you walk through that parking lot conspicuously, then from paying attention to the commonplace you have slipped into attracting attention to yourself.

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Jason Glover February 7, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Quite the contrary. On occasions I will sneak like a cat burglar in the loudest most conspicuous manner possible. I’m always a guaranteed a few smiles in part-payment for my jestering services to mankind. :)

David September 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm

There doesn’t need to be anything conspicuous about paying attention. It’s amazing how little attention people in public actually pay to you. And, why does it matter?

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Andrew Moser September 6, 2013 at 9:26 am

That’s an amazing realization – I’m just starting to get a grasp of how infrequently people are actually thinking about me. Our self-centered perspective seems to apply so much more significance to ourselves… it’s both freeing and a little bit depressing to realize the truth.

Nalorin September 14, 2011 at 3:52 am

I think “this post is ridiculous,” but I completely agree with you. We have five senses, but how often is it that we really use more than half of two of them (sight & sound) to experience the world around us? I’ve seen how all the stimuli in our lives can so easily desensitize us (and sometimes even rid us) of all the wonderful things that life has to offer through experience.

One personal example involves food: I’ve been a sweet tooth since childhood. I couldn’t even eat most cereals without adding sugar. However, I decided (with the support and participation of friends) to cut candy and fast food out of my diet for a month. 5 months later, I had shed 45 lbs, I ate smaller meals more often, and foods that I *HAD* to have sugar on before (like shredded wheat) were so sweet and succulent on their own that I never added sugar to anything – I couldn’t even eat sweet cereals!

Sadly, I can’t say that I’m still on that path, as external pressures have enticed me to cave to my old habits, but I can say that it was one of the most worthwhile experiences of my life – one which I would encourage anyone to try.

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David September 14, 2011 at 6:41 am

It’s amazing how “can’t” becomes “can,” once you actually do it. There’s lots of things I say I can’t do. I can probably do most of them, especially the ones I feel a need to say I can’t do. You know what I mean?

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Chris Walter September 14, 2011 at 4:12 am

I love how you do this! When you weave such simple things into poignant commentary on the most fundamental parts of our lives.

Reading this reminded me of Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.

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David September 14, 2011 at 6:44 am

I need to read that again.

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Jill September 14, 2011 at 4:39 am

Thank you very much for this
Car parks cause me anxiety because I was hit by a car when in one, I’ll take these thoughts with me to help re-frame my experience the next time I’m there – especially love the ‘bathrobe basking’
Cheers

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David September 14, 2011 at 6:46 am

I hope it does make for a better parking lot experience for you. If it doesn’t, no worries, because it works everywhere else too.

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Patti Franklin September 14, 2011 at 8:16 am

I really appreciate this post – it reminds me how we can slow down and really appreciate the “small” things in life – that really aren’t so small (like sitting while driving 50 mph!). I especially like the “pause” for a moment. We don’t do that enough. I generally do take the unattractive “faraway” parking spot, not because I’m afraid someone will ding my car door getting out of their own car – but because for me – walking is one of the few “exercises” I seem to have time for. I find it funny when walking across a parking lot, how many people sit and wait for the ultimate prime parking spot, steps away from the entrance. Now I know how much they are truly missing – “Millions of people live and die without ever suspecting that joy can be had in the simple act of crossing a parking lot”. The bottom line for me is SLOW DOWN and enjoy the little things. Life can be so much simpler and pleasant if we all tried to do this at least a few times a day. Thanks for an excellent post.

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David September 14, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Thanks Patti. Have fun with it.

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Ali of Spinner's End September 14, 2011 at 8:45 am

this is such a lovely little meditation. i definitely take for granted the inside to outside moment. now that i stop to think about it, it really is a remarkably abrupt change for all your senses. i feel this could easily be adapted to taking the bus or the subway as well. very inspiring, thanks!

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David September 14, 2011 at 7:24 pm

It’s definitely not restricted to parking lots :)

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Eric Pinola September 14, 2011 at 8:55 am

This is a ridiculously great post! I had a chance to put it into action this morning and it was a simple joy. I am the guy that does not want to hold others up and hurries across and is polite to a fault. Not this morning; with the hustle and bustle of life roaring around me, I took my time.

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David September 14, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Good for you! There’s a specific emotion associated with that: being temporarily sane when everyone is whirling around you… the feeling of being the calm eye in the center of the storm.

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Michele Kendzie September 14, 2011 at 9:38 am

It took me a few sentences before I got it, but by the middle of this post I loved it!

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David September 14, 2011 at 7:29 pm

If you made it past “thrust your motor-carriage” then I have succeeded as a writer

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BlahBlah September 14, 2011 at 10:31 am

Fantastic post David! Must definitely try this . This is such a simple thing to do but can have wonderful impact in my life.

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David September 14, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Do it

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Lydia P. September 14, 2011 at 10:43 am

Hi David, I am a new reader to your blog, sent here by a friend for the “baseball” post and have been enjoying your writing very much. Thank you very much for taking the time to share it with all of us.
This post reminded me of some years back when doctors discovered a lump in my left breast and I spent a couple of days in worry until the diagnostic test was performed. Fortunately, the results were negative, and I always remember the walk on the parking lot after that, everything looked new to me and beautiful to me, from the pavement, to the cars, one thing that I remember is the pleasure of the wind on my hair, that feeling is still very vivid. This morning listening to a podcast, I was asked “what does God love about the things around you” all I could see were traffic and highway, and I had trouble seeing anything beautiful, I had to restart my meditation, and again I was asked again, and again all I saw was more traffic and highway. Then I read your post. Yesterday I heard that a miracle is when we are able to have a change in perspective, so I pray that I continually experience that miracle of being able to see the presence of God around me everywhere especially within each one of us. Peace.

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David September 14, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Hi Lydia. Again and again life keeps teaching me that the world we live in is all about the quality of our internal experience. The same thing looks completely different from two different states of mind.

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helen March 26, 2013 at 9:42 am

Your reply resonated with my Lydia – I found myself doing all the mundane things in my life with a newfound sense of wonder and awareness when i was recovering from a serious illness. It’s interesting to notice that all it really takes is a shift in awareness – but even as I write ‘all it takes’ I realise that now, some time later, I spend large chunks of my time ‘un’ aware.

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Rachelle Wells September 14, 2011 at 11:20 am

Lovely writing. Life should be lived with purpose, making choices, not doing things without thought. Even “small” things. Why do things simply because you think you should? Or because everyone else is doing it and it’s what’s expected and natural? Most things we wouldn’t ever even think to question.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the post.

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David September 14, 2011 at 7:34 pm

For sure. Without conscious attention, life is mostly just conditioned behavior with very little reflection about why we do what we do.

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Trisha Dodson September 14, 2011 at 12:09 pm

More, more, more. Thank you David for such a great little post.

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David September 14, 2011 at 7:35 pm
Cordelia September 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm

I absolutely love the way you wrote this. This could just as easily have been a “you should be more mindful, and here’s one way you can do it” post, but instead you turned it into a lovely experience that quietly (and powerfully) delivers its intention almost as an afterthought. I cannot say enough how much I love the way you handled this.

I’ve been lurking for some time now appreciating how deep and thoughtful your posts always are, but I had to come out of the woodwork for this one, because it’s just so wonderfully crafted. Mindfulness has been discussed a billion times on a billion other blogs, but this is the first time it’s really grabbed me and pulled me through the true feeling of *being* mindful. Many kudos to you, from both a mindful-wannabe and a lover of good wordsmithery. :)

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David September 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Aw thanks Cordelia. I’m sure you’ve come out of the woodwork before a few times :)

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nrhatch September 14, 2011 at 3:15 pm

This is no joke. If you get it, you get it.

Gotcha!

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David September 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm
Tracey September 14, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Love this! And thank you, of course, for the reminder. The next time I see fit to hustle my three-year-old across a parking lot, I’ll not do so. Rather, I’ll join in on the antics… the bunny-hopping, arm-swinging, car-appreciating extravaganza of childhood enthusiasm!

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Geetanjali September 14, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Lovely post David. I love the way you write and your “voice”. I wanted to share a poem I read recently that compliments this post beautifully.

THE PATIENCE OF ORDINARY THINGS

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

~ Pat Schneider, American poet and writer

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Célia September 15, 2011 at 3:21 am

A beautiful lesson in mindfulness. It is amazing how much joy we can get from little everyday things with this kind of attitude. Happiness is a skill.

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kats September 15, 2011 at 5:40 am

Nice! This is very much in sync with the book “Flow” by Cziksentmihalyi which I just finished reading. I assume you’ve already read it – if you haven’t, you really should. Thanks for the great post!

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Alex September 15, 2011 at 8:45 am

Thank you for this! I will never look at a parking lot the same way. Ussualy I don’t even see it! I go in look for a spapce get in to the store get out and try to find my car and that’s. But now I can enjoy how it can be easy to things and amuse your self while doing it.

I always have the feeling I am being watched in public, I think it’s paranoid, but now they will definitively since I’ll be in a bathrobe :D

Great stuff!

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Lord of the donkeys September 15, 2011 at 10:07 am

Awesome post David ! I have applied this philosophy to activities like brushing my teeth. Instead of getting just done with it , I just enjoy it completely.

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Teresa Evangeline September 15, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I look forward to putting this into practice. What a great idea.

Also, that moment just as the light changes to green…. oh so brief, but oh so important and not only for safety, but for the feeling it evokes.

This is so well-written.

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Tim September 15, 2011 at 10:52 pm

I don’t know if I’ll really be more aware of parking lots in the future. There’s a tendency to forget these things in lieu of the random everyday thoughts that jumble about in our brains.

But whether I’m more mindful, less, or not at all, I’ll definitely still be there. Ben and I will be walking in to grab those sweet, sweet munchies, and for sure that’ll put us in the moment.

It all works out near the end.

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David September 16, 2011 at 7:20 am

If you practice this, triggers develop and it’s hard to forget. Unless I’m really stressed or angry, it’s hard for me to open the car door without being reminded to be mindful.

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Katie September 16, 2011 at 12:30 am

This post blew my mind, David. One of the greatest I’ve read. It’s dead center. It’s poignant in depth. It’s purity. Thank you for seeing the world the way we’re meant to see it and having the fluid, connecting and make-ya-smirk-out-loud skill that is your writing in order to put it down in a way others can (hopefully!!!!) grasp what we can all see as we learn to let go, together. I’m simply amazed. This is absolutely no joke. This is a boulder-sized stepping stone on the path to inner stillness, clarity and that illusive thing we call peace. Thank you. As always.

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David September 16, 2011 at 7:19 am

Well thank you Katie. Put it to use today!

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Ian from polishing peanuts September 16, 2011 at 6:07 am

Everything is ridiculous isn’t it?…until you study it, and then you find that there is wonder and enjoyment to be had in everything, even a blade of grass.

Seeing the wonder in the world and living in the now are inherent childhood traits that sadly, many lose as they grow up. Pity.

Stay well David

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Kelly September 16, 2011 at 8:10 pm

I love this- the words, the imagery. I had an experience in a parking lot yesterday, but I was baffled and frustrated after it. I got angry glares from a person who was unaware that I was SO close to their vehicle because they pulled out without looking and I was able to stop without crashing into them. After being frazzled a moment, I realized I should just be thankful one of us was paying attention. I wish everyone could learn to be a bit more mindful of what is happening around them. I struggle with the hurrying to get out of people’s way, though…
Great comments, too!

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Tanya September 18, 2011 at 4:19 am

“If you can walk across a parking lot like you’re walking in a bathrobe from the shower to the kitchen on a saturday morning, then you can make vast swaths of your time on this earth much better.”

I LOVE quotes and this is up there with some of the best I’ve ever read.

I was having a discussion just the other night about finding joy and pleasure in the small things in life. I must say that paying attention to that moment when inside becomes outside (and vice versa) is a small joy I’ve never explored and am now looking forward to!

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Stacey Erickson September 20, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Love, love, love this! In this spirit, I wake up and whisper thanks for a clean, dry bed. In a temperature-controlled room, even!

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Nicole D. September 22, 2011 at 6:41 am

Letting angst park your car for you is a rookie mistake. There is a better spot farther away…..

My favorite line, by far…..thank you :) And yes, I’m still a rookie in that department….

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Connie October 11, 2011 at 9:01 am

David-I love “having” you!! (I’ll leave the interpretation up to you!-wink).

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Dar January 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm

This is a great post. I’ve noticed it before, that at times I have a tendency to rush around, and for no particular reason at all. Not just when walking, but that’s a perfect example. I walk to and from work everyday, and I actually enjoy it, but there are plenty of times I find myself hurrying to and from work for no reason at all, it’s not as if I need to use the bathroom or I’m really looking forward to doing something later. There’s really no reason at all, just lost in thought and scurrying, and when I get to where I ‘want’ to be, it’s not as if I drop back into the moment, no, I’m still caught up in that feeling of being rushed.

I don’t want to do that to myself anymore. This is a great reminder to just slow down, to ‘pause’ as it were and I love how you define the difference between pausing and waiting.

“…pause for a moment. Now, I should clarify that by pause I don’t mean “wait.” There is nothing to wait for if you are pausing. To pause is to stop and pay attention. To wait is to stop your body while you continue to the next moment in your head.”

It’s simply time to slow down, how else will I see all the wonderful and ‘simple’ things that are happening right now.

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bobby August 1, 2012 at 2:13 am

melting into asphalt
along mother
back-breaking faults;
ac temp hopper…

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Leia December 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm

No, I’m sorry – I do not entirely agree with everything. Parking lot – not side walk. Entitelment = sidewalk; parking lot = car’s right of way. I stop for people, I allow them to take their time; however, respect from both ends equally. Not one heavily weighted by the other. Sidewalk – casual stroll, parking lot – out of the way of cars, not impeding cars ok for casual walking. Also – many people try this “I’m a pedestrian and I have the right of way” in winter and cars can’t always stop on ice. I think people who get hit in crosswalks or crossing the street are idiots and deserve because honestly – be aware of your surroundings – be proactive :) On the flip side, I’ll not eat for 2 or three days so someone else can so – I’m a thoughtful asshole?? LOL Honestly – I love your posts – really awesome. I hope you find humor in this message and don’t take it bad :) Big hugs!

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Cara February 8, 2013 at 1:13 am

I got anxious just reading that post. Walk slowly while other people wait?! I can’t even imagine being that calm. Great advice.

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kerin gordon February 25, 2013 at 4:19 am

not only are davids posts insightful, but its his readers that respond with comments. i love most of the ones but the negative ones i just pass over. i just found you guys tonight but i named you all my soul patch kit..needed at least three times a week to become a better person, two times to maintain and once or less to continue in the direction into the vat of hell listed on my destination ticket.

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kerin gordon February 25, 2013 at 12:12 pm

my boyfriend just called you a freak. i asked if he would read your article about walking across a parking lot. he went trotting of in the living room like a horse yelling look at me….im walking across the parking lot…you know you either get it or you dont….these insights are my salvation from normal life with these humoids. half human half robots

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Andrew November 12, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Huh. I don’t think I would want to be with somebody who “didn’t get it.” Some people add to our lives, while others subtract. You know what I mean?

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cj March 25, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Best post I’ve read about enjoying life, hands down.Can’t wait to share it with my wife! Thank you, David.

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Selene April 14, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Wow. I just found this site yesterday and I’m so glad I did.
I keep noticing how we live in ‘automatic’ mode and almost never stop to be actually aware of our surroundings.
I tried a couple of times to share my thoughts with people of my entourage and every single time my comments were dismissed by a ‘you’re crazy’, ‘shouldn’t you be worried about your grades instead?’ or another reply of the kind. I am so relieved to know that, after all, I’m not the only one.
Cheers, guys

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Mitch April 27, 2013 at 5:32 am

Awesome, just awesome. Thank you!

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Green May 12, 2013 at 8:56 am

Love this whole site, but I especially appreciated this. Thank you so much.

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Jen August 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I do this, when I’m alone. Not this exactly, because I like the joy of feeling my body move powerfully more than the joy of relaxed movement. I spring happily across the parking lot.

Reading this, I realized that I don’t when I’ve got my kids with me, because I’m busy thinking about keeping them safe. What a bad example! I will figure out how to move with joy while keeping them safe. Thanks for the heads up!

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Sampson August 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm

I like this article a lot. The only thing a I disagree with is making other people wait. You should take in all of life everyday. I should do a better job experiencing my life on daily basis, and enjoy little privileges that this life and earth proved, like walking across a parking lot.

However, when I do this it’s my choice and prerogative. That other person should have the freedom to control their own experience as well. It’s not right that I have a moment to spend happily observing and enjoying my own life and decide not to acknowledge someone else that’s working toward improving and enjoying theirs. Even if that improvement is getting shopping done quicker to see their kids, or stopping for pedestrians and following the law, making my life and your life safer and better. I’m not doing them a favor, I’m doing myself a favor. The reward of being considerate is parallel with the gratification of enjoying every breath of fresh air we take.

I’m saying this because, if you’re enjoying the walk then you can enjoy the pause to let a car go by and get a parking spot to begin their enjoyable journey across the lot as well.

We have to share this planet and our lives with each other. We should enjoy ourselves at our own desired pace, but at our own expense as well. No?

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AJ February 12, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Why is it right for you to pause for the person in the car, but not right for the person in the car to pause for you?

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David Cain February 13, 2014 at 9:19 am

Hmmm… I didn’t say it wasn’t right for the person to pause for you. I was referring to the big crosswalk area in front of any major store, where we often trot across because we feel the impatience of hurried drivers and become impatient ourselves. The pedestrian has the right of way but often we let ourselves be pressured into hurrying.

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Andie August 25, 2013 at 12:30 pm

I adore this article and I’m thankful beyond what words can express that I’m not one of those that won’t take the time to enjoy the journey of the parking lot. My kids and I don’t have a lot of money and we struggle in ways that most people don’t, but we excel quite well in ways that most people can’t begin to imagine.
My 20 year old daughter and I will sometimes go to the park and sit in the car with the windows down to just relax and it is amazing. She might read her book, or we both might recline our seat and close our eyes.. It’s absolutely stunning to just simply ‘ listen ‘ listen to the children playing and laughing, listen to an airplane flying over, the squirrels playing in the tree, the wind swaying the branches , the birds, and even the traffic three streets over and a world away… We leave the park feeling refreshed, alert in many ways and ready to tackle the rest of the day and looking forward to another day in the park doing nothing, but experiencing more than some people will ever be capable of experiencing in a lifetime..
There’s a lot to say about not having $$.

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Tom D August 31, 2013 at 11:06 am

Lol, I did this the other day going from the car park to the post office.
Distance of maybe 300m. I had to go through an alley where a young couple where chatting. They were still there when I was returning. As I sauntered by them for the second time without a care in the world, I heard the girl say she thought I was about to cry!

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James Davies October 1, 2013 at 1:44 pm

I’m sorry but anyone who gets joy out of crossing a parking lot needs to investigate a more fulfilling avenues in their life. This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read.

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Samantha October 13, 2013 at 7:48 am

I think u missed the point of the article.

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Andrew November 12, 2013 at 12:33 pm

This concept is not always easy to understand. There was a day I would have felt the same way. This article is a good reminder of how to return to the basic joy of living. While that might seem ridiculously simplistic, if you give it a chance, I bet you’ll eventually realize that “this moment” is where all the magic lies. Oh, and there’s one quote from the book, Way Of The Peaceful Warrior, that seems to fit here: “A warrior learns to meditate in every action.” Have a nice day!

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