Sunday, September 19, 2010

"...his mind has been completely transformed"

I was finishing up listening to a holy teaching this afternoon. After doing the offerings and dedications, I stood up and walked to the TV. I turned it on and the screen's black materialized into these colors and shapes. Before the shapes became clear, the voice jumped out of the box in mid-sentence:

"...his mind has been completely transformed."

It turned out to be FOX Sports.

It continued:

"After the accident..."

I flipped around on the channels looking for Sunday football. Recently I was in a bad car accident. It was my first official accident, although I did get into a 'fender-bender' years ago on a slick, rainy road when a pick-up truck whipped out of a parking lot in front of me. In that instance I slammed on the brakes and my car slide all the way into the truck that seemed to whip out in front of me and then just sit there on the road. But the damage wasn't severe and the cop didn't write a report. Everyone went on their merry way, with my Toyota Corrolla sustaining the most damage in a dented front bumper.

No such luck this time around. A week ago, I was driving down Biscayne Blvd at night. I was in an extremely calm mood, having just eaten dinner at a friend's place. James Taylor was playing, my windows were rolled down. I was going the speed-limit pass the heavy construction in downtown Miami. I blinked and a streak of lights zipped across my view. It took me a tenth of second to recognize that the streak of light was a car. In the next blink came several emotion and thoughts: what was this car doing crossing my path, confusion, fear, a sickening recognition of the possibility of death, and desperation to avoid.

My leg flicked my foot and mashed it hard on to the brake. My arms tensed and squeezed the wheel with a vice grip and turned right. My shoulders rose up, protecting my neck. But it was too late.

The streak of light drew closer and closer until it was a few feet away. I cursed and felt the crash. All of these actions, thoughts, words happened in probably a second or less. There is a Buddhist science that say there are roughly 64 thoughts in a finger snap. Being in an accident, made me aware of how quickly my mind could formulate entire worlds, thoughts, rebuttals, emotional floods, reactions.

After the smash, I was instantly aware of a few things in the next second and, roughly, in this order:

I'm alive
I'm conscious
I have eye sight
My arms and legs are free
I'm getting out of this car...ooops, wait let me check...
yes, the door is free to be opened
I'm getting the hell out of this car.

My body was moving out of the car when I became aware that I was in the middle of the street, and potentially walking into the middle of traffic. But my body didn't care. It rocketed out of the car and on to the street for a damage check.

My front was badly smashed in. I saw the other car. It was Black and identical to mine. I didn't see it because the street lights were out, making it seem like a blur of lights crossing my path.

The driver was Asian and holding his sides. I became annoyed and perceived it as a faux attempt at sympathy. My mouth opened to say something and nothing came out. I waited. I sighed, put my hands on my head and walked to the curb. The other drive apologized. I spat out my first words between thin, terse lips: it's all right. I was saying that as much to myself as I was to him. I kept saying that and became aware of something incredible: I wasn't angry. I didn't yell. I wasn't threatening the other driver who ignored a stop sign and veered into moving traffic. I wasn't cursing the world or my luck. I was all right.

Stopping that anger in that first moment was critical. Afterward, I found that I couldn't work myself up. Then I noticed that I couldn't even get angry and thought 'this is pretty amazing. Here is a situation in which the other 'outside' party is 100% in the wrong according to the traffic law. But I'm not angry.' I didn't accuse, threaten, or scream. We got down to business.

He was on his cell and I was on my cell. The police came. The car was towed and I came home. The insurance was notified. And then a check was cut for the value of the car. The value has depreciated but not that much because it was a Honda CR-V. The check was over the trade-in amount because the Honda was in extremely good condition.

I can say that at least in one instance, the concepts of emptiness and karma helped. I couldn't get angry. I got down to the business of fixing the problem. Transforming this accident and my mind.

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