Last week I nearly lost my car — and in the midst of discomfort recovered some valuable lessons in being human.
On Tuesday evening, thieves broke into my 2006 Subaru. I awoke to a broken hood, disabled alarm and the car’s ignition switch dangling from the steering column. All things considered, I’m lucky I woke up to any car at all! Ironically, at the beginning of this month I moved from an apartment complex in a deteriorating part of my community to a private garden level on the other side of town.
On the surface the situation unfolds as one might expect: expensive repairs and unexpected delays, not to mention the need to purchase an immobilizer to ward off future theft attempts (apparently older model Subarus are blue light specials to thieves because they deliver high value in the stolen car market and are relatively easy to steal).
No one appreciates a violation of their personal space, and I’m certainly no exception — but at the same time, as a person who looks upon the world with spiritual eyes, I cannot help asking the question, “What might I learn from this situation?”.
I tend to approach all difficulties, especially unexpected life occurrences, as opportunities for reflection. Having said that, this situation in particular has not been easy. For one thing, it’s been a long year. Seems like one life-learning opportunity after another has steadily piled itself outside my door.
Though it pains me to admit it, on some level I’ve been waiting for all of these unexpected deliveries from the universe to magically dematerialize so that I could shake off the dust, all lessons learned. If pressed, of course I would never suggest that there ever comes any point in time when people, no matter how spiritual, become immune to occurrences of life. Did I buy into the idea that the spiritual path might itself be a protection against upset, inconvenience, pain — even temporarily?
When I confessed these feelings to a friend, she said, wisely, “Drena, I think you need to...expand your perceptions.” So I did.
For the past several days I’ve been sitting with the situation, reflecting upon it and allowing it to communicate with me as I would a loved one. The opportunity to expand our perceptions is perhaps the real gift of any difficulty we face. In my case, widening the view has revealed some unexpected insights.
First off, the practical, grounded view — everything is a tradeoff.
In connecting with my new neighbors, I’ve learned there’s a higher rate of car theft in this safe, upper-middle class environment. Vehicles are regularly trashed and tousled for valuables. “No matter how safe, this is still urban America”, a new acquaintance offered wryly.
Conversely, the working class complex I left had a higher rate of social violence. In fact, safety became the decisive issue inspiring my relocation. So now it seems I’ve traded one concern for another. With full awareness I can assess and accept this new risk because it was my choice to move, just as it is my choice to live in such a large city to begin with. Grounding my perspective in the particular details of my environment allows me to stand in a space of empowerment, rather than victimization.
Which leads to my second, more spiritual view — choice is the apex of Incarnational Spirituality.
If we strip Lorian principles down to their wires, then we must acknowledge that, at the core, every being reveals the power of incarnation. Every person inherently possesses a spark of the impulse (that some call God, Source, the Sacred, the Divine, Big Bang, etc) which infuses creation.
But if this is true, then how do we account for the seemingly endless list of examples of human beings misusing their spark? What separates the villains from the saints?
Actually, Julie Spangler and I debate these finer points on occasion, and this is the place where we inevitably get stuck. If everyone and everything reveals the sacred impulse of God, then at what point does Incarnational Spirituality become a practice rather than an idea?
Simply stated, at the point of choice.
Choice is the crux of sovereignty. We each get access to an assortment of decisions and possibilities. My spiritual practice is revealed by how I carry myself through the world, not by how the world interacts with me.
Especially in the metaphysical community, I think there’s an assumption that the more spiritual we are, the smoother our lives tend to flow. Or, stated another way, the better we are at our spirituality, the less impact the material world will have on us. We tend to approach the difficulties of life as symptoms of spiritual “dis-ease.” If we’re sick, it’s because we have unresolved childhood issues calcifying in our bodies. If we’re poor, it’s due to unreleased beliefs around scarcity. If bad things happen to us, then we’re clearly doing something wrong, and there are any number of meditations, reflections, tinctures, readings and healers to help us get back on the right track! Certainly, any and all situations can be opportunities to heal, to improve and to reassess — but as the old saying goes, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust.”
So what if difficulties are occasions to practice making choices which ultimately can inspire us, and those around us, to live meaningful, more purposeful lives?
Which culminates into my final, aerial view: how we choose to interpret and live in the world mirrors back to the world.
Regularly, I do check-ins with colleagues on the healing path; this past weekend we connected and I opened up about the car theft and other recent stresses. It was pointed out that I have difficulty receiving. “You are someone capable of giving, but you don’t allow yourself to receive from others. You need to learn how to ask for help and to let others care for you.”
Confession: for a moment I thought, somewhat sardonically, So...the universe let my car get broken into and nearly stolen and now I’m saddled with a thousand dollars in repairs so that I can learn how to...receive?
But I shook these thoughts off because, well, the universe didn’t cause anything to happen to my car. Life happened to my car. (Or, rather, thieves happened upon my car conveniently located on the corner.)
In considering the point my colleagues made, though, I had to admit that it’s true I don’t like asking for assistance. Needing help does make me uncomfortable. Initially, waking up last week to a stripped car felt like the final straw. More so than a violation of space, it seemed like an attack upon my independence and ability to take responsibility for my own needs so that I could…
avoid reaching out for others?
So, relaxing into this discomfort, I gazed into the proverbial mirror held up before me and noticed a number of peripheral blessings:
Upon learning about the break-in and attempted theft, my boyfriend immediately rearranged his schedule to be of assistance.
I had to cancel several appointments at the last minute and my clients and friends were kind and understanding.
I received a referral for a towing company that offered a generous rate; also, in spite of the damage and state of the car, the tow itself went smoothly, without any glitches.
My regular mechanic kept the car for several days and ultimately wasn’t able to get the parts to complete the repair; yet he helped me get the car to a specialty Subaru shop and did not charge me any fee.
The Subaru shop loaned me a Forester to drive while they repair the damage.
Last week I chose to park my car on the street outside my new apartment. Last week car thieves (thankfully, unsuccessfully) chose to steal it. Ever since then friends and clients and mechanics and tow truck drivers and colleagues have made choices that continue supporting me. And I get to choose to receive these blessings and hidden gifts.
I also get to choose to interact with this experience in a way that affirms the world, not as I wish it to be, but as I want to be.
From this vantage point, it seems impossible to not recognize the truth that how we see the events of our lives impacts the quality and care we bring to every moment. Ultimately I think the point of an incarnational spiritual practice is to willingly partake in the risks of being human and in the process to recognize that we can change the world by giving it the opportunity to impact us.
Views from the Lorian Community publishes essays from a team of volunteer writers expressing individual experiences of a long term, committed practice of Incarnational Spirituality (and the general principles shaping such a practice.) Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole. If you would like to subscribe, please visit our website and click on Follow Our Blog Via Email. Or email the editor:firstname.lastname@example.org.