Over the weekend I washed and waxed the car, all the while knowing that a repeat publication of this blog found in Open Road: the journey begins is pretty appropriate right now...for many, many reasons.
Originally published on May 20, 2013
If you've ever dipped your toes into the plethora of New Age philosophy, you may have heard the adage, "You are not a human being having a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being having a human experience." These are intriguing words to roll around in the psyche, and yet they're very powerful when taken to the experiential level.
Nearly twenty years ago, I left formal religion behind in search of something else. Through a labyrinth of therapy, artwork, Rolfing and writing, "God" became a more internal, more direct and tangible reality. My journey into a more spiritual life has taken me on a roller coaster ride straight into the heart of who I really am, what I want to become, what I want to bring back into the world. Through it all, my anchors have been yoga, meditation and prayer.
This winter, one of my workshop students laughed when I told the story of a multitude of my life's challenges that I likened to being repeatedly hit with a brick until I woke up and took charge of my life.
"I call that the Holy 2 X 4," she smiled.
I nodded. "Yes...and I've learned to duck when it comes my way now." I no longer need to be hit in the head to make conscious choices about where I work, how I live, where I spend my precious time and energy. But it was a lesson that, while in the learning, took many twists and turns along the way.
In the summer of 2010, I was in the midst of an intense financial crisis. I'd been working twelve to fourteen hours days for nearly a year and was steadily making my way into a more secure place. My savings was recovering, but I was still living eight weeks to eight weeks, relying solely on yoga income and sub work until a more stable teaching position would begin in the fall.
A balloon payment was due on my house, so I was in the midst of refinancing. The roof was slowly deteriorating and rainwater leaked into the basement, warping the drywall and tile floor. I'd stepped on rusty nail while tearing down the wall and needed to get a tetanus shot that wasn't covered by insurance. In addition, an optometrist had found a spot on one of my eyes that required exorbitant advanced testing, which was also not covered.
Soon the refinancing was put in order which would include enough to get a new roof and make other repairs on the house. Even though I was given a clean bill of health from both doctors, the mounting bills on my desk made me itchy with anxiety. Every day I told myself to hold on, to realize I had enough to cover what I needed in that moment. As I'd enduring nearly a decade of unstable cash flow, this was nothing new, but still, I spent a lot of time sitting in meditation, yearning to gain patience and perspective.
One afternoon in early August, my car's engine showed signs of trouble. My little purple Pontiac was twelve years old and it had been nickel and diming me for years. I sat in the driver's seat, shaking with fear. What now? I thought. I made it to AAA and was told that the engine was literally falling out and they would need to keep it overnight. I soon discovered the entire repair would cost over $1,000.00.
On the morning I was to pick up the car, I was frantic with fear. Instead of getting on my yoga mat, I got on my knees in child's pose with my forehead on the floor and my arms raised overhead in surrender.
I prayed in earnest, "I don't want to be afraid of money anymore. I don't want to have to go through this experience again. Please show me what you want me to do with this car. If you want me to buy another used one or keep patching up the old one, please, please show me a sign. Please make it personal to me and make sure I don't miss it."
Then I got up, wiped my tears, and went to the AAA.
"Your transmission's going," the mechanic told me. "It's gonna need replacing in about three months." He handed me the credit card receipt and I felt blood rush to my feet.
"I looked online and the car's not worth the cost of a new transmission," I replied. "I'm driving across the street to see if I can find a used Honda."
Moments later, I pulled out of the parking lot and onto a side street. Sitting at a stop sign, I waited for traffic to clear. As I headed across the thoroughfare, something caught my eye. In a split second, the driver of a huge SUV failed to yield the right of way and turned left, careening toward my car.
"Oh, God!" I shouted as she sped toward me. "No...no...no!"
It was too late. She smashed into the passenger door, shattering the glass and sending my little tin can flying.
My initial thought was, Am I awake? Is this a dream?
Then it hit me (pun intended). This very personal and unmistakable accident was the answer to my prayer.
I got out of the car and assessed the damage. Someone from Honda came running out to help, and the mechanic from AAA hollered from the parking lot that he had called 911, that a police officer was on the way. The young woman who hit me offered no apology. Her SUV had a small dent, but the rear half of my car was demolished and would take thousands of dollars to repair.
After taking my statement, the officer said, "From my report, she'll be found liable...so expect a call from her insurance agent later today."
I nodded, thankful for that bit of grace. When he asked if I needed help getting home, I shook my head, then walked into Honda's showroom on wobbly legs. I scanned the salespeople and approached one of them.
"Were you just hit out there?" Wendy asked.
"I was...I've never been in an accident before."
"Yeah...I was on the way over here anyway," I said, giving her a shaky smile. "Guess she just gave me an extra push."
An hour later, Wendy gave me the keys to a brand new Civic that she said I could keep for the weekend. By Monday, the insurance details had been worked out and with the settlement, I was able to pay AAA for the repairs on the Pontiac as well as lease the new car. A week later, the refinancing papers were finalized and a new roof graced my house. Through it all, every person along the way, from the bank officer, to the AAA mechanic, to the folks at Progressive insurance, and to Wendy at Honda, gave me a great gift. The car accident may have been a "Holy 2 X 4," but each one helped me stand once again, and I know that in every circumstance, I am supported by an unseen force that continually encourages me to get up every time I fall.
Now when friends request my prayers, I relay this story and ask, "Do you want me to get on my knees or not?"
I'm usually met with laughter, but they've witnessed the very human experiences this spiritual being has had over the years and my ability to tap into guidance whenever I need it, to mobilize the grace that's infused in every moment. I simply have to humble myself and ask that it be revealed in time.
This past Christmas Wendy asked if I'd like to turn in my Civic for a newer one. I did and my current lease is a better deal than the last.
And this time around, I got on my knees in thanksgiving.