I came close to being run over by a car this morning. My dog and I were on our morning walk and as we started to cross a street, a car came whipping around the corner, blew right through the stop sign and through the cross walk which we were in. I’m not sure the guy even saw us. He didn’t look in our direction, just kept right on going. A lot of thoughts went through my mind as this happened. We could have died, or been seriously injured. He could have been injured and his car would have suffered damage. If he had miscalculated and hit the bridge he was heading toward, I wouldn’t have cared. If there was a cop there who saw him do it and he got a ticket for it, I wouldn’t have cared. I felt a lot of ill will toward him at that moment. Maybe he was late for work, maybe he was distracted by things happening in his life, I don’t know. Maybe he just didn’t give a damn. None of that mattered. I was angry that he was so thoughtless that he would risk others safety, and his own.
I’ve spent a lot of time studying Buddhism, and now Yoga. Meditation and mindfulness help a person feel more compassion toward others. I meditate, I practice mindfulness. All of that went right out the window as I saw the car bearing down on Sophie and I. At that moment I wanted nothing but bad things for the driver. What does that say about me? That I’m human? That it’s normal to feel that way when you’re threatened? I’m not sure. I really try not to feel that way. But sometimes, sometimes it just doesn’t work. I live in a small town where the dangers of the big city really don’t confront us much. Normally we can walk down the street and feel safe. And then suddenly, something happens, like this morning, that wakes you up to the fact that life is precarious, uncertain, and subject to change from safe to not safe, without any notice at all. It can be scary. And the way you feel about what happened can be totally different from the way you normally feel. That can be scary too.
Thinking about it now, I’m glad that nothing bad happened to the driver. I don’t want anything bad to happen to him. But in that moment, I did. I imagined all kinds of bad things happening and I thought, he would deserve every one of them. So questions arise. What made him drive like that? What made me feel the way I did? Doesn’t he realize what would happen to him, how he would feel if he hit us? Why doesn’t he care enough to drive safely? I’m not sure I have answers for any of that. I can’t answer for him, and I’m not even sure I can answer for myself, about the way I felt about it. Was I justified in my attitude toward him? In wishing bad things for him? Probably not, but that fight or flight response that we all have has a way of emptying your mind of everything except fight or flight. It’s very instinctual. In that moment there was nothing in my mind, not the past, not the future, not even the present. I wasn’t even thinking, “I’m about to be hit by a car.” Just an instinctual thought of, “I’m in the wrong place right now.” It was very weird.
And then the aftermath of thoughts about the driver being drawn and quartered, jailed, tried and convicted, put in the stocks and having rotten fruit thrown at him. And now, thinking about all that and wondering, was it really me thinking those thoughts? Is that who I am?
We are very complicated, we humans. Buddhism tells us that we cause our own suffering by thinking thoughts that make us suffer. And we can rid ourselves of that suffering by practicing mindfulness and meditation. By keeping our thoughts on the here and now. By seeing life as it really is instead of how we want it to be. And then you almost get run over by a car, and everything you think comes to a halt. In the space of a single moment you live an entire lifetime of no thought, no wish, no care, only “I’m in the wrong place.” Very complicated indeed.
Except thinking, “I’m in the wrong place,” was a thought. “I’m scared,” was a thought. And I felt those thoughts were forced on me by a careless driver and I was resentful. “How dare he do that to me.” It was an affront to my being, to my safety, to my psyche. And I resented it. It just goes to prove I guess, that no amount of meditation, or compassion or whatever can protect you from feeling negative about certain things. It’s the holding on to those thoughts that brings suffering. So I’m glad I’m able to shed them quickly. Seeing life as it really is can be a daunting task. But It’s worth it.