Several months ago one of our cars was struck by another vehicle in a no-fault accident. It put a big dent in the driver’s side door and also bent the frame on the back left. As a result, the back left tire does not sit square on the road and makes the car difficult to drive, practically impossible on a wet road. Because our insurance will not cover the repairs, we have put it off and have not yet fixed it. Meanwhile, our old Durango, which has 110,000 miles on it, broke down yesterday, and is in the shop being repaired. By the time the Durango is finished it will be a little over $800 in total repairs. The whole episode chewed up the entire afternoon from about 1:00 until 7:00. We had to create a Plan B on the fly in order to get the girls picked up, and where they needed to be. Jessica and Cera start school today.
For sure, this whole ordeal was an inconvenience. Making financial ends meet is a monthly challenge for us like I’m sure it is for many of you. We definitely didn’t need an unexpected $800 expense. I had also been planning to get in a good writing session yesterday afternoon as I’m trying to finish my upcoming book by mid-September. That didn’t happen either.
I was reminded of several things through yesterday’s circumstances. First, life is characterized by impermanence. Cars break down. The monies in your checking account fluctuate. The best made plans are subject to change suddenly, unexpectedly and without warning. This can be annoying and frustrating. It is okay to feel and acknowledge that. Sometimes we are disappointed in life and the appropriate thing to do is to own it, acknowledge it, sit with it, and let it be so.
Acceptance applies here as well. It begins with the recognition that what happens in life isn’t “personal.” You or I are not being targeted. Every person’s car breaks down. Every person’s financial situation fluctuates. Everyone’s best made plans can be suddenly disrupted and changed. This is simply the way the world is for e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e. Ideally, you will not have to work this idea out in every individual scenario because you will be sufficiently convinced that your experience is not the exception or some isolated event, but that all of life is characterized by impermanence.
Not only are the annoyances, frustrations and hardships of life not “personal,” neither do they threaten, diminish or disturb the underlying source of your well-being. At the deepest level you are a manifestation of the image, likeness and being of God. At the deepest level, you are one with God. The image, likeness and being of God is the underlying, unchanging, and fundamental essence of who you are. You don’t need something to happen in order to have peace, and there is nothing that can deprive you of peace. You are not separate or separated from peace. Peace is not something you can attain or lose. Peace is who you are at the deepest level. The same applies for well-being, wholeness, freedom, and contentment.
When your car breaks down, or you have a financial crisis, or plans are turned upside down, it’s easy to get hijacked by negative thoughts and emotions, and all the drama we create out of it. A good way to deescalate the emotions and drama and return to the present moment is to focus your attention and energy on responding as the situation requires. Yesterday, Heather and I made a plan and just began addressing the things that needed to be addressed, one at a time, as the situation required. It was much less stressful to approach it this way. It was a financial setback, and I can’t get back the time that was involved but this was my spiritual path yesterday. There is nothing more sacred I could have done than what we did. The annoyance, frustration and hardship of it was balanced by being reminded of the way things really are, which is worth its weight in gold.
Your life is your spiritual path. For me that involved:
1. Allowing myself to experience the normal human feelings that come with living in a world characterized by impermanence.
2. Throwing the circumstances against the truth I already know – that difficulties are not personal but universal, and they never threatens my true peace and well-being.
3. Deescalating my emotions and drama by focusing on what the situation requires.