The light turned red and the cars ahead stopped to a halt. Bumper to bumper two meters apart, I put my car in park and waited for the light to go green. My mind settled and I let go of the break pedal to mindlessly look out the window. In a rhythmic stop and go, cars shuffled along the sleek asphalt on the opposite side.
My eyes lost focus as the unbroken pattern of shifting cars cycled before them; it felt as though I was looking from behind an opaque veil of conscious attention.
I felt secure to take a break from the present moment, in between all the parked cars, awaiting our next instruction to go at green.
In my mindlessness, my eyes rested upon the leaves of a distant tree and my attention sharpened to focus on the nuances of what I made out to be a maple leaf.
And as if adhering to a cosmic plan, in a perfect moment of regained attention I watched the traffic light turn green and prepared to move steadily along with the rows of cars around me ------
A loud honk zig zagged through the air, a motorcycle engine hissed along the side of my car, high-beam lights flickered in the rear view mirror. Blinded and deafened I squeezed my steering wheel tightly and slammed down on the breaks. In panic, I searched for the fluttering leaves in the distance, but they were gone, and so was the traffic light.
This Cairo traffic has always been a game of patience, bringing out with it the deeply buried emotions of the day. Two weeks ago I dreamed of being in this mess, my eyes and ears yearned for the noisy, polluted city scape of my "home". But now in this moment, at the end of a long and frustrating day, my wishes lead back to my second "home" in Montreal.
It is funny, no matter how confidently convinced I am with my current path to fulfilment I always find myself daydreaming of all the possibilities unavailable to me. I can still vividly remember the minutes I counted while strapped to the airplane seat on my way over here, I can still feel the excitement chattering in my mind as I imagined hugging my mother and father and brother for the first time in months.
Where has that childlike excitement gone? Where have I left it behind? Where am I happy?
After a month in Cairo, the jetlag has faded and my arabic tongue has squiggled back into working form, I have given these questions some time to foster answers.
The first step in making sense of this discomfort I is to understand how each of my homes function:
Cairo is an unavoidably uncontrollable machine of coincidence and chance. Nothing is planned, and any effort to stick to one leads you down a path of frustration and anger.
Montreal on the other hand is structured and organised and rarely ever surprising; you have to go out of your way/routine to experience novelty. Everyone sticks to a plan because without one, nothing would happen.
Now knowing this, the next step is to learn how to "be" in each situation.
For now, being in Egypt, is about an openness to change and influence. It is about fluidity and motion; by lacking rigidity and accepting plasticity you allow novelty to collaborate with your own stream of productivity and intention. At first you feel like you're being taken advantage of, and that you're losing control of your own decisions, but by deciding to be open and accepting influence to be part of your plan, you are ultimately still in control. The only difference is that in rigidity, the ruling ego is bound to snap under stress, as it considers any divergence to be a corruption of the ultimate plan.
In a sense successfully existing in Egypt is a process of letting in rather than letting go. It is a gain rather than a loss.
Although these reflections are a great test of the mind, the real challenge is in translating them from concept to practice, and from thought to feeling. I have always felt that there must be a language by which the mind and spirit communicate and have recently adopted the language of the breath.
The breath bridges the internal spirit and the surrounding environment.
I have found that taking control of your breathing is positively effective in many ways, but specific to this situation it is a great way of reminding yourself to be open to change. In moments of chocking pressure, you remember that you are still in control; control of your breath, and ultimately in control of the situation.
Having found this technique I've become more open to realising the richness these two cultures fulfil in me. I think of Canada representing my rational mind and Egypt representing my ever-changing soul.
With this I continue on my journey of discovery and self realisation.