30 Day Meditation Challenge: Day 22

Jennifer in meditationSunday December 27, 2009:  I was looking forward to a mellow Sunday.  I taught yoga mid-day, had a post-class coffee with a few friends, and then headed back home for a break before teaching a second yoga class.  My plan was to meditate during that break.  Plans changed when I was involved in a minor car accident on the way home.  Neither myself or the other driver were physically harmed but both cars sustained damage and myself and the other driver had differing accounts of what caused the accident.  We spoke briefly and pretty calmly, under the circumstances, but it was clear that we did not agree on who caused the accident and there were no witnesses to corroborate either story.  I was shaken and frustrated. I phoned my husband to let him know what had happened and to discuss what steps needed to be taken so that I could be sure I was doing all the right things.  I became quite focused and “in the moment”- phoning 911, assuring a passing fire truck that we were okay, making sure my registration and insurance information were easily accessible for when the officers arrived, and speaking with the officers who came to the scene to be sure I had everything I needed for my insurance company.  Since the car was drivable, I then drove home.  But, once I reached home, the calm detachment gave way to all the confusion, fear, anger, indignation, and self-doubt I had been keeping at bay.  I repeated the details of the accident to my husband.  Then I repeated them again for the insurance agent.   And, when not explaining what had happened to someone else, I was replaying the incident over and over in my head.  There was the “what if” loop:  What if I had gone for a walk in Rock Creek Park with my friend after our coffee instead of going right to my car?  I had left a scarf at the yoga studio and stopped to retrieve it on my way back to the car.  What if it had taken me 30 seconds longer to locate the scarf?  What if I had fiddled with the car radio for a minute before pulling out of my parking space?   And there was the “what exactly happened” loop:  In the seconds after impact, I confidently asserted my version of events.  But, the other driver had his own version.  There had to be a right answer, an objective truth?  I also realized that I had to get back to the yoga studio to teach the second class.  And that I was now without a car. My husband and I set out for the metro and I could barely speak.  But, when we got to the studio, I had to jolt myself back into the present.  It was actually enormously helpful to teach that class.  It gave me a task I had to focus on. Despite my unease, I had to make my students feel safe and comfortable.  The sequences I was teaching were particularly playful and energetic so I had to embody that energy for a while.   Some of the tension left me.  I was able to eat dinner with my husband and make conversation.  But, when we returned home and I sat for meditation, my mind hit the “play” button again and all the anxiety returned.  I could not sit there quietly and think of anything else.  In spite of my stillness, my heart rate was elevated.  So, I decided that my goal had to be simply to calm my body down as much as I could, to sort of “rest” my nervous system.  I thought it might be helpful to replace the repetition of the accident with the repetition of a mantra so I chanted the bija mantra.  Although I could not really push the accident completely out of my mind, I was able to push it from the forefront.  The act of chanting did soothe me and I felt my heart rate slow.  Like teaching yoga immediately after the accident, meditating forced me to be aware of what was happening in my body and mind, to acknowledge why, to acknowledge that it would eventually pass, and to separate myself from it to some small degree.  It was meditation as respite and I was grateful for it.