I noticed it in traffic, particularly in Bangkok, a city of 5.5+ million people. At first, it was nerve-wracking--automobiles, tuk tuks, buses, trucks and scooters are all scampering about, ignoring lines and squishing together sometimes with only inches between.
But over time, the pattern was discernible--scooters stayed mainly near the curb, but filtered in and out of slow traffic to end up at the front of pack at a stop light. Next to them were tuk tuks, the open air three wheeled motor scooters. And on from there--automobiles, trucks, buses, etc.
What was pleasantly absent (once I could get my mind and body out of panic from the seeming chaos) was animosity and aggression. You definitely have to be very alert to drive there as vehicles jockey in and out of traffic, but you don't have to be in fear of your neighbor. Everyone seemed to want to help everyone get to where they were going.
Maybe because so much of the population is unprotected by heavy armored vehicles. SUVs are rare (thank goodness!) and whole families ride on scooters with infants in arms and young ones standing in between parents' legs, steering right along. Maybe this lends itself to a greater need for safety, attention and awareness of potential harm.
We didn't witness a single accident and only heard a horn honk maybe twice in our two months there. When we did hear a horn, it was out of courtesy, not admonishment or anger. Whether riding in a taxi, tuk tuk, bus or scooter, the drivers were active, but never aggressive or belligerent.
It seemed obvious that underlying the behavior was an intention of non-harming, helpfulness and togetherness. The effect is a humbling one--of accommodation, courtesy and cooperation.
So what prevents any community from setting an intention to meet fellow passengers on the road with an attitude of cooperation rather than competition? Nothing, really.
What if we got together with our friends and neighbors and consciously adopted simple intentions of kindness, courtesy and cooperation. Maybe something like these:
Then maybe the next time we're on our way somewhere and see our fellow travelers, we would instead say under our breath, "May you arrive on time and safely to your destination."
JoAnn Saccato, MA is a mindfulness teacher, author, life coach, educator, and consultant in Northern California. She is author of Companioning the Sacred Journey and the forthcoming Mindful and Intentional Living: A Path to Peace, Clarity and Freedom