Sacramento Church Bells

This morning I woke up at 3 am. In my car, of course. Lifting the curtain I peered out. The street was lined with a dozen semi-trucks, all with engines rumbling. This was quite a calamitous change from the previous three nights I spent high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

I released the curtain and if fell back into place. That’s when I heard an inner voice. Zach, it’s time to get out of here. Head north. Go meditate.

And that’s exactly what I did. Because when you are on a road trip with zero plans, you listen to inner voices. Or you listen to loud engines. Choices people.

About an hour north of Annoying Truck Street, I found a beautiful park absolutely dripping with trees. And there I began my first of two daily hour meditations. Technique: Vipassana. With a little Anapana sprinkled in.

This morning was the first time I meditated in the front seat of my car. I started in the driver’s seat, legs crossed, hands in lap. But I quickly realized the passenger seat would be more appropriate. The last thing I need is to cloud the atmosphere of the driver’s seat with meditative thoughts resulting in the possible headline: “Former Army Ranger turned Meditator Zen-ed off the Road. Into a Tree. He died peacefully. In a violent way.”

I admit, a couple times I drifted close to sleep, and was snapped back to awareness when my neck realized that my head was about to smack the dash. Thanks for lookin’ out neck. Apparently my neck likes to wait till the very last second before sounding the alarm. He’s a jokester like that.

One hour completed, I crawled back into bed to catch a 30 minute nap.

Then began a rapid fire, do-whatever-feels-right-run-around-town-day, consisting of walking, then running around the capitol building. Leaping over a bush. Turning. Leaping back over. An attorney on her lunch break was impressed. Twice. Then I realized I was inflating my own ego hurtling foliage, and I ran away.

There was a line of a thousand protesters in matching yellow shirts holding matching yellow signs. I ran along side them, catching smiles from mothers who quickly caught their sudden slip of happiness, and returned to angry chanting. Then I ran past a group of Chinese students. At the helm of their gaggle was a clean cut man, sweating in his button up white shirt and blue tie, absentmindedly holding aloft a small banner with Chinese characters. I had no idea what it said, but I think it was something to the effect of: “First group best group.”

That afternoon, as I wandered through parks, and quaint neighborhoods the thought came to my mind, it’s 102 degrees. I should sell that heavy leather jacket I have in my car! No sooner did the thought enter my mind than a sign appeared. Literally a sign: We buy your clothes!

“This is too easy,” I thought.

I walked into Freestyle Clothing Exchange with a jacket, and out with jean cut-off shorts. The song of rich, clanging church bells greeted me upon my exit. Sensing the residual musical echo in my chest, I was keenly aware of a subtle spiritual quality to the tone. I should meditate. The bells are reminding me.

If the bells could talk (which I think they can) they would have said, “Hey Zach, it’s great and all that you’re running around this beautiful town, touching trees, smiling at angry mothers, and getting your exercise. But you can’t take fitness with you when you die. You can take the spiritual progress you gain in this earthly existence. So how bout you meditate. (I know, bells are wordy.)

Thanks bells.

Not knowing the location of the bell tower, I simply walked toward the lingering notes still dripping off the eaves of the grand, century-old California houses. With no effort, I found the church. The doors were locked, but I continued on as though a hand were guiding me. Almost on autopilot, I made my way around the side of the church and into an unassuming wooden door. I paused for some reason and checked my watch: 3:16. Interesting. No less than the most important passage in the bible. In my opinion, Jesus and Buddha are the tops. And when you get little pointers from either of them, you best listen up.

In I walk. An older woman with a halo of frizzy blonde craziness greets me. Bonnie.

“Do you mind if I sit in the chapel for an hour? I promise not to make any noise.”

She looked me over. I was wearing cut-off jean shorts, a NASA t-shirt, and a flip-flops.“It’s hot in there,” she cautioned. I smiled. 

She glanced at a side entrance to the chapel, then back once more to me. “Come on,” she said.  

Baptist Church in Sacramento

First Baptist Church, Sacramento

Some religious buildings, have good vibes, strong vibes. Some don’t. It has little to do with the religion, and all to do with the people, the human beings, that have filled the space. This empty closed-on-Wednesdays Baptist Church, tucked in between the cars and houses and Sacramento trees. It was vibing. Strong.

I finished my second hour of the day, emerged refreshed, thanked Bonnie, thanked Sacramento and left.

Now I’m headed to the coast. An old friend informed me that a wise monk is visiting in Mendocino. And if there’s a monk in Mendocino, by God, I’m driving to Mendocino.