Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Learning To Be Lost

Paris. Rush hour. I was on a crowded bus, daydreaming. Someone bumped into me, breaking my reverie. "Excusez-moi," a man said happily. "Pas de problem," I responded and looked up to see a blind man with a wide smile groping his way, inch by inch, toward the front of the bus. He spoke to the driver and a moment later the bus made an unscheduled stop. The blind man offered a heart-felt "merci" and he tenuously felt his way down the bus stairs to the busy street. A walking stick would not have helped in this concentration of people. He stepped brazenly and alone into the rapid current of foot traffic. After a few steps, just enough to avoid the bus he stumbled up onto the sidewalk, stopped, lifted his bright face upward, and asked the deaf ocean of people if there were anyone who could might point him in the right direction. Immediately a lovely and stylish woman materialized from the busy crowd, a complete stranger. The woman gently touched the blind man's arm, wrapped her other hand affectionately through his bent elbow, and the two of them made a quarter turn. Then the two strangers set off together across the crowded Pont Neuf, talking and laughing as naturally and casually as if they were on a date, strolling toward the opera matinée. The smile on the blind man's face never once strayed as if he had expected this woman to be right there when he stepped off the bus. He had set a date with destiny. As I sat in the bus again staring out the window, I wished that I could somehow, magically hear their conversation as they dissolved into an ocean of people.

I think about that experience sometimes. Sometimes, I feel like I'm stumbling through life like a blind man, walking around busy streets, tripping off the bus, bumping, into the sidewalk, and graciously, not without some self-deprecating humor, asking humbly for some kind soul to give me direction, to hold my arm and steer me to the other side of the river, over the bridge. And sometimes I think, "don't give me the answers right away. Nor give me back my sight. At least not yet. Let me be blind, if only for a while, so that I may learn to feel my way, so that I may learn to ask for help and know of something deeper within, so I may learn to trust my deepest hearts direction. Let me look inside to find my vision."

To find my way I close my eyes, like the blind man I suppose, and look inward. I find my way onto my yoga mat and mediation cushion and by so doing I hope to find my way. There, I discover a faith inside that says that what's more important than figuring out the specific details of my life, my true work lies with first coming to know my deep inner-Self. That's true sight. I see that I must learn to feel with my heart and trust that feeling and not just intellectualize each direction. Armed with inner sight and feeling, all of the details and particulars of my life will naturally grow and evolve as they should. I can go on blind. My gut tells me to go ahead and make my plea to the Universe against the din of the world and ask for what I want, where to go, and what to do, and then watch to see what emerges. It tells me that I must learn to be lost, to ask directions, and ask permission. I must risk a little. I must keep my heart open and ask myself regularly how my heart feels. I have faith, just like the blind man, that by feeling, I will find my way to where I need to be and that along the way I should expect something lovely.

I hope you stumble onto your mat this week and find some inner vision. Let's expect something lovely as we move blindly through this life together, arm in arm like we're heading to the opera matinée.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Chubby Hula Dancer Returns!

I've got wheels again! So, as you may or may not know, almost a month ago, my truck Nina was stolen literally right before my eyes. In fact, I was almost run over in the process. It was a surreal moment for sure. And during the past several weeks I've been so touched by how many friends have stepped up to offer help, loan me a car, offer me a ride, or simply share the story with me.

For example, my good friends Christy and Brian had two cars. For the last year they were experimenting with only driving one of them. Their other car, a 2001 Subaru Forester, needed some work on the clutch and had therefore been sitting in an auto-cocoon in their driveway. After a year of not using it, they decided that they didn't need it and offered it to sell it to me. I agreed to pay for the repairs and for the car and just like that, I was rolling again. This all happened last Tuesday. I'd been rolling around in my dad's truck for the previous two weeks. My dad also helped me get the Subaru from my trusty mechanic, Peak Performance, he sat at the DMV with me while I registered it, and then accompanied me to the Red Iguana for Mexican food, because everyone who just got a new ride deserves killer Mexican food. I brought the Subaru home and parked her in the driveway and what really made the experience complete is when I put another 1" sticker on the back. This is the same sticker I had on the back of my truck that reminds me that my greatest journey I will ever travel is the journey to know myself. Then! she really felt like part of the family. I was so happy to have a ride again, and one that rolls very nicely: she's got low miles, clean interior, AC, cruise control, the whole bit. Plus, every time I drive it, I remember the generosity of Christy and Brian and I feel something good has happened in the world.

And wouldn't you know it, last Thursday morning, just two day after I started rolling around in my sweet Forester, I received a phone call from the police department informing me that they had found my truck! They asked me if I could come right then and pick it up. It wasn't far away, stashed in the parking lot of an apartment complex on Redwood Road and about 600 South. I was at 9th and 9th. I told them that I was literally about 5 minutes from jumping in and teaching my Thursday morning 10:15 am Restore class and that there was no way I could come right then, but that I'd be free in about an hour and a half. They informed me that they had called the fingerprinting team who needed to dust it before they could release it to me anyway and that if I called back as soon as I was done with my class, there was a possibility that I'd avoid having to pay tow and impound fees. See, in order to protect my vehicle from whomever stole it, the police have to tow it from where they found it and impound it so Truck Thief can't come and move it somewhere else. The down side is that I have to pay for tow and impound, usually runs around $200.

So, as I'm teaching my restore class, I had a really difficult time concentrating. Questions like, "What kind of shape is my truck in? What did they take?" and "Does it even run?" were swimming in my head. After class, I called the police department back and told them that I was on my way. They informed me that they had already called the tow truck but if I got there before it did, I could avoid the hassle of dealing with all of that. I learned how speedy my Subaru can be as I broke a few land speed records to get there. Just as I showed up, the tow dude was literally hoisting my truck onto the back of his truck. I approached the tow dude and explained the situation. He basically said that he'd been given orders by the cops to hoist my car and nothing but that officer can stop him from taking it. I tried to explain and even tried to call the officer back to have him explain the situation but my phone, you see, is in hospice-it's on its way out from this world and will soon go to cell phone heaven and in its demented state it decided to spontaneously power down and not allow me to make any phone calls. This happened right at the crucial moment when I needed to call the cop. In complete frustration I told the tow guy, "Fine! Tow it and I'll meet you at the impound yard and talk to your boss."

I bizzed over to the impound yard where the tow truck was heading and entered into the make-shift office, a long narrow room with dirty carpet, a couch that looked like it had been towed from off on the side of the road, and a large television blaring loud day-time TV commercials. I explained to the rather apathetic man behind the desk my plight that I didn't want to have to pay the $200 for something that the police said I could avoid. He said that there was nothing he could do so I asked to talk to his boss. I called the number and Boss said, "Let me make a phone call." Five seconds later the phone in the office where I was standing rang. It was Boss. He told Mr. Apathy to impound and process my car. Thanks. Mr. Apathy also told me that I couldn't just pay the fee and roll away. Besides, I didn't even know if my car rolled. He told me that I'd need to go to the DMV to get an impound release form then bring it back to the impound yard, pay the fee and then I could take the car. Such bureaucracy!

I left my truck at the impound yard and rolled away fuming mad. I had another corporate yoga class to teach so I made arrangements with my good friend John to pick me up at my house after my class and take me to the DMV and then to go and get my truck outta hock. We spend an hour or so running around and attending to the minutia. Once I'd retrieved the necessary forms, paid the fees and received the keys for my truck, it dawned on me that I hadn't seen the inside of my truck. I wasn't sure what they'd stolen, what condition it was in, or if the truck would even start.

The front console was torn up a bit, the result of stealing the car stereo that wasn't working anyway. I think there's a special pawn shop for car stereos that don't work, very valuable in certain markets. They had ransacked everything leaving it a mess. I opened the shell and looked in the bed and saw that they had stolen my yoga mat and Seneca's yoga mat, cuz thieves need centering to reevaluate the direction of their lives. Then I looked on the dash. No Chubby Hula Dancer! They'd stolen the Chubby Hula Dancer who happily danced for me on my dashboard. Bastards!

I put things basically back together the best I could and then started her up. Even before she was stolen, Nina sounded pretty hard thanks to her rusted out muffler and non-existent tail pipe. But now as I fired her up, now she sounded really tough. But at least she ran. So I waved a thank you to John who sped away from the impound lot and I drove straight to my trusty mechanic, Peak Performance. They kindly looked it over and informed me that Truck Thief had stolen the catalytic converter because there is some precious metals in there, like palladium, the same stuff my wedding ring is made of. I decided not to wait and drove directly to the muffler shop and asked them to please hook me up with another catalytic converter and tailpipe, all of which was going to cost me around another $450.

I took the bus home feeling sorry for myself after such an emotional and harrying day. But as I was walking home from the bus stop I couldn't help but think of all the people who had helped me out. I thought of everyone who had wished me well and offered condolences and an understanding moment of bewilderment after seeing my ride stolen. I thought of Nan who loaned me her car for a few days, and my dad, retired now, who let me tool around in his truck for almost two weeks. I thought of Brian and Christy who gave me a screaming deal on a new ride. I thought of how nice it was to ride my bike places. I thought of how nice, accommodating and professional, Peak Performance had been to have fixed my new ride and advise me on my old one. I thought of John who helped me out by running me all over town, who had shown up on my door steep the day Nina had been stolen asking if there were anything he could do, like run errands or just offer a listening ear. I thought of the cops who'd found it and who despite everything really had an air of generosity in their tone. All of that. My pity party didn't last long in the face of all that generosity and good will.

So, on Saturday, I rode my bike from the Avenues down to 3100 South and State to pick up my car from the muffler shop. I put my bike in the back and drove away, quieter than ever I can remember her sounding, feeling like this truck hasn't run this well and sounded this good in several years. And even though I knew it would add to the rust, I decided to go against protocol and give Nina a bath. I took her to the car wash and spent the better part of an hour cleaning her inside and out. I wanted to get the kidnaped feeling scrubbed off of her. It was a little traumatizing to see my fingerprints still smeared on the dirty window on the driver-side from where I'd tried to hold on as the guy was literally stealing my truck from my own hands. You see, I caught him in the act but not fast enough to stop him from bolting off and almost running me over in the process. I reassembled the dash, the result of ripping off my stereo. Then, other than the hole where my stereo used to be, everything was back to normal. Better than normal, really. And surprise, surprise, as I vacuuming under the seat guess who I saw hiding under there? Well, none other than Chubby Hula Dancer! She may look large and lumbering but remember how well that dancer can move. Apparently, from what I can deduce, sometime during her kidnapping, she used all her strength to unstick herself from the dash and jumped down to hide under the seat. I picked her up, brushed the dust off of her blue plastic grass skirt and placed her redemptively back on the center stage of the dash. As I dove away from the carwash, without a song on the radio (without a radio), just the smooth purr of a well-exhausted engine, I felt that everything was right in the world. And despite the lack of music, Chubby Hula Dancer began to dance happily, reminding me that somehow, every moment is an opportunity for celebration.

Whoever stole my truck, my stereo, my catalytic converter, and my yoga mats also gave me something in return. Something very small but unspeakably valuable. Resting in the seat next to the dismantled dash and various trash, was a blue rubber bracelet honoring the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing. Fascinating, right? What he gave me was hope. Yeah, this bracelet reminds me that despite any tragedy or fiasco, ranging from a bombing to getting your ride stolen, human beings have an amazing power to come together and to show love and support to one another in the face of hardship. I roll more smoothly and with more ease after all this truck stealing business. Now, there's a hole in the dashboard where my stereo used to be. In that void I put that reminder bracelet and it fills me with the memory of how good people can be. Despite everything, getting my car stolen has shown me that yes, there are some careless, rude, and probably desperate people who might steal your ride simply for the low-hanging fruit of parts and almost worthless stuff inside, but that there are dozens more people who will freely give of their love, help, and support quicker than you can say "hotwire my ride." This experience of getting my truck stolen has reinforced my faith in people more than tarnished it. And even though the whole thing cost me around $1500, I'm the richer for it. I'm rich in the form of friendships, love, and support. I'm rich in the mere experience. The story itself makes me rich. And now I own TWO cars. I think I'll give Seneca the Subaru.

As we practice yoga, we look inside and hopefully what we see is a being filled with love and light. My hope is that we understand our own brightness and then spend our energy shining our light into the dark corners of the world. My invitation to you is to choose some way to shine your light to others today. Send a text and let someone know you're thinking about them. Drop off some of your garden's bounty to a neighbor. Offer to help someone out on the side of the road. Understand your light and use it to brighten everything around you.

Who knows, maybe I'll recognize my yoga mat under someone else's feet while teaching one of my yoga classes.

Namaste, Truck Thief.