Late Monday afternoon I was preparing to head out to lead the Monday Night class at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington.
I usually take the ’96 VW Cabrio I ‘inherited’ from my mother-in-law, but I had a ‘ weird feeling’ that instead I should take my Honda Element. For local driving, I much prefer the VW. I can’t really explain why I took the bigger vehicle.
Old Dominion Drive was once the train track that transported residents from DC to Great Falls Park. It’s the main thoroughfare now from DC to McLean and out to Great Falls and beyond. Morning and late afternoon the elevated two-lane road is filled with busy commuters. It is narrow and has no shoulder. Smaller residential roads come in at odd angles. I always set my cruise control because the speed limit is 45 and it’s easy for the speed to creep up.
Just as I passed a side road I noticed a white car pulling up that looked too close. That observation was instantly followed by a loud “BANG” and suddenly my world was spinning. For a moment I thought the Element was going to flip, but it came to a stop facing in the same direction, heading south. It had executed a perfect 360 spin and came to rest by the side of the road.
I jumped out and ran back to check on the other driver. She was fine, but a bit mortified. We both expressed relief nothing worse had happened.
The next hour or so was filled with calling and waiting for police and AAA, calling insurance companies, exchanging information, unloading my car before it got hauled off.
Only later, when I settled into a second car to head to my class, did I feel the ache in my neck, my swollen lip where I’d inadvertently bitten myself and register the shock. Driving to class I was jumpy and hyper-vigilant. During the guided meditation I felt sick and thought of canceling the rest of the class, but felt more stable by the end.
Curiously enough, the topic of the evening was “Waking the Still, Small Voice Within,” exploring the nexus of mindfulness practice and intuition. (I’m doing the same talk Wednesday night at Tara’s class in Bethesda and it’ll be posted soon in both audio and video.)
A few things come to mind:
1. Practicing mindfulness of the body The talk I’d prepared was about how in this form of meditation, the sense are the primary ‘anchor’ for attention. As we pay attention to the body we can cultivate both a heightened sense of the ‘here and now’ and as a byproduct, a sense of kinesthetic intuition - the ‘gut feel’ that can be a reliable tool. What was that ‘weird feeling’ that I should take the bigger, heavier vehicle? The Cabrio is a tiny little thing. If I’d been hit in that car, it may have had a very different outcome. Who knows?
2. Practicing presence A great meditation teacher said one thing to remember in meditation practice (and life) is that ‘anything and everything can happen in an instant.’ Mindfulness is about the capacity to respond, rather than react to any given stimulus. What a great reminder.
3. Practicing compassion Another teacher of mine talks often of ‘looking for the good’ in any situation. As soon as I knew I was OK and the fellow driver was OK, I found myself feeling a lot of empathy for her. She is a kind, delightful person and I wish her well. Compassion means wishing ourselves and all being happiness, peace and freedom. I would add one thing: Only a moderate increase in insurance rates.
It’s remarkable how unscathed the body panel is given the impact that put the car into a 360 spin. The entire axle and strut assembly, though, is snapped off and I have yet to find out if the frame got knocked out of alignment.