Compassion Totters on Friday the 13th

Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.

~The Tao~

A car accident allowed me a “real-life” opportunity to practice the three treasures of the Tao—simplicity, patience, compassion. The Friday the 13th mishap found my compassion tottering, like an amphora (vase) too close to the edge.

Frankly, my patience held, even when my tone of voice betrayed me, as I temporarily strayed into the tentacles of story so very far from the simplicity that is “the source of being.” As far as I know, the story strands still abound outside my being.
Compassion Crash 091313

At the core of the story is an uninsured driver, momentarily distracted by a text message, hitting one parked car and sliding it into another (mine) in the parking lot of the apartment complex where all involved live. The driver left a phone number, unable to remain at the scene. That is the source of every story that followed.

Thoughtful neighbors who witnessed parts of the accident notified me. My initial thought on seeing the two cars together was I am very fortunate. The car that slid into my white Scion was severely damaged on both sides. After more than one call to the police, an officer did arrive to assist with details and separate the two vehicles.

My compassion vase moved ever closer to the edge as the hours ticked by, bringing no response to a voice mail I left for the driver. His late night call to me with strands of story unconnected to the accident wrapped round me, and my emotions swirled to the surface. My compassion went into free fall.
Compassion Jug 092113

Over the next 72 hours, the driver’s story would emerge in various versions, sometimes tangentially connected to the incident but often not. In a face-to-face meeting of all three car owners, I peppered the driver with questions in a cold, staccato tone devoid of compassion, a tone I once used far too frequently.

However, that realization was not what returned me to compassion but this thought: I really have to stop reading/watching so many murder mysteries. I am not a chief inspector solving a crime. I smiled, stopped my questions, and leaned back in my chair, finally listening to the driver’s story. Then, I let it go.

Securing my amphora of compassion—returning to my source of being—meant more to me than staying in a never-ending story. Once, I had lived that way, for most of my life, actually. Those years pale to how I live now.

Of course, I still have moments when my compassion totters, and there will be others, no doubt, but such is the human experience. My vase is secure for now. As for the final reconciliation, the driver and I have entered into a payment arrangement. After all was agreed and signed, he said he had not expected me to be kind. I responded that he and I had one bad moment but we need not have another.

22 thoughts on “Compassion Totters on Friday the 13th

  1. Wonderful story, great ending, K. Anything that make us aware of compassion is worth the costs. At least that is what I keep telling myself. Your story reminds me of the Tibetan monk who was held captive and tortured for 50 years. When he escaped and met the Dalai Lama, he said the only time he feared for his life was when he almost lost his compassion. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

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    1. For me, compassion is always worth the price for without it, I now recognize I am no longer connected to humanity. And, for me, it requires constant vigilance. Thanks, Kozo!

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  2. Hi Karen, sorry to here about the damage to your car but I am so proud of you for the way you dealt with it. I hope if I am in a simliar situation I can be as compassionate as you. You are an example to us all.

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  3. Beautiful and insightful, Karen. I’ve been working on similar issues, as you know—compassion and hope in the aftermath of a car accident, which seems analogous to so many life events. If the totters creep up again, I’ll think of you and this post. Thank you!

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  4. Wow..kudos to you for having that moment of clarity that allowed you to drop the storyline. That my friend, is not an easy thing to do. I too am guilty of being pushed to the edge, like the vase, especially when faced with irresponsible actions. This is a perfect example of how a shift in your mindset can change the course of events, which can allow the situation to resolve itself. I’m sure you felt much less stress when you allowed yourself to let go. The trick is reminding ourselves to let go and that is easier said than done. I’m glad you are seeing the results of your practice helping you navigate rough waters away from the cushion. I hope your car is ok too. 🙂

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    1. As you say, Stephanie, the trick is to remember and not to cling. I suppose that is why it is always referred to as practice. As I mentioned to Ann, I did have the sense of trying to grab something from within so I could stop my own free fall. As always, thanks so much, Stephanie.
      Karen

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  5. Oh, no! The thing about incidents such as these is that the niggling details, slow responses, and general hassle wear you down so that, yes, the tottering becomes pretty severe. But you managed not to shatter. You remembered to breathe. You recalled to yourself another person’s (irresponsible, careless, distracted) humanity. Thanks for this story. Keep practicing–you inspire me!

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    1. Thanks, Ann! That compassion was close to shattering but even before I recognized what was happening, I felt myself reaching within, perhaps for compassion, but definitely looking within. It is a beginning.
      Karen

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  6. Karen, I’m so sorry to read about your car accident. However, your story about the difference that compassion made to the outcome and the challenge you faced in demonstrating that compassion was an inspiration to me. I can be so hard on myself for finding compassion for others to be a challenge at times, but that’s not very self-compassionate, is it? Thank you for candidly sharing your struggles. They let me know that I’m not alone.

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    1. As you say, Kenetha, compassion begins at home. In fact, whatever we are to ourselves is what we are to everyone else, which is quite sobering. Of course, the challenge is to remember that, as you and I both know. Thanks so much, Kenetha.
      Karen

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  7. “After all was agreed and signed, he said he had not expected me to be kind. I responded that he and I had one bad moment but we need not have another.”

    You are awesome! I am so happy to have “met” you!

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  8. I think all of us, as people, would be less than human if we did not have these moments. The reality is that our life, ourselves, our characters and all about us reflects dimensionality; and we have to accept that sometimes that dimensionality displays aspects we wish it did not. It happens; but it is also part of the wider tapestry and we must, I think, also accept that this is so. The issue, to me, is that we must not lose focus of what is right and good along the way – as you say, one moment of unkindness does not inevitably lead to another. We move forward, positively, and understand more about ourselves when these things are tested.

    I am very glad things did sort out with the other driver; I have, more than once, had issues with mystery damage to vehicles (once my car, more than once to my motorcycle in the days when I was so foolish as to ride such things) in which the miscreant was noticeable by their absence, even down to not leaving notes. That dimensionality of the human condition again.

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    1. As you say, if we do not lose focus, then so much is possible, and we learn as well. Now, the incident will stay with me in a way that is positive as well as instructional. Regarding your motorcycle days, you will appreciate that I am re-reading “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” Of course, I appreciate Phaedrus’ Zen and motorcycles more now than all those years ago, and I am saddened by how much the country he travels has changed, literally, for I am familiar with most of it. Nearly 40 years later, we are still grasping at “quality.” Thanks so much, Matthew.
      Karen

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    2. Kindness isn’t tarnished by the seconds it takes to beckon wakefulness. We are human. With stresses to cope with. Maybe you gave that man more than kindness. By example, maybe you helped him remember.

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  9. The real world tests what makes perfect sense when we are contemplating the basic truths. It is putting those truths into practice that is hard–but if you had not sat with those truths so often and so well they would not have been there when you needed them. Stridency and accusation would have been your only available tools. We can only prepare well and hope that when the time comes we will put our beliefs to the test by practicing them.

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  10. Good morning, Karen. Thank you for sharing this story and this meditation. I needed to read this now, for my story was unwinding. No breakfast. My sister here from far away, yet late to arrive. A phone call. Late and later. Still no breakfast. But these three words slow me down — Simplicity. Patience. Compassion. Tranquility has returned. Pleasure at being able to spend time with my sister today, in the now. And yes, I ate breakfast before she arrived!

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    1. The story stuff will blind us to the now, just as you say. So glad you enjoyed your visit with your sister, and you got breakfast to boot! It is amazing what happens when we slow down! As always, thanks, Beth.
      Karen

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