Drained Batteries; Recharged Batteries

Really and truly: when was the last time you sat and did nothing — absolutely nothing — for over an hour?

It took my car and phone batteries running out at the same time for me to recharge my internal batteries. Turns out, on all levels, I was running on empty — the way, I suspect most people are.

After a good five minutes of projecting the inner drama outward yet again when I could not start the car, I realize it was going to be just fine. “I have Triple-A”, I think. I place the service call and am told it could be a two hour wait. I shrug resignedly. I hang up. The phone flashes that it’s powering off — dead.  So, here I am, cold, but safe. Finding myself unconnected, without a clock, waiting for help.

So, I begin doing a recently acquired mantra practice.  Haven’t gotten around to saying it today, so it seems like a good time to knock it off the list of things to do.

Wait, “knock it off the list of things to do” doesn’t sound very spiritually juicy, does it?  It’s how I do most things in life: powering through to the next thing.  Isn’t that the way of it sometimes? There you are meditating, oming, serving, downward dogging, chanting, and your spiritual practice is like this mirror reflecting back at you all the ways you need to grow and wake up.

I finish the mantra.  Nothing to do.

No knitting, crafting, reading, crossword puzzling.

No messing around — thoughtful or trashy — on the interwebs.

No list making.  Calendar obsessing. No grading, lesson planning, researching, learning.  No exercise, cooking, cleaning. In short, none of the things I do to fill up my days.

Left waiting in the cold, remote island of my car alone with my mind, I think a lot.

I think about the mantra, how it is all about being led into the formless away from the form. I think, “Here I am a prisoner to a box of metal and wires.”

I watch myself be judgemental about the people who walk by making their way in and out of the coffee shop. Their clothes, cars, dogs, bumper stickers.  The assumptions and judgements seem bottomless.

I worry about what’s going to happen next.

I think about how nothing with form is real, or rather, it’s a kind of real that is impermanent and so while it’s a kind of realness, it’s not of the REAL which is ceaseless and unchanging.


I wonder whether or not anything we do matters. I decide it does, but only a teeny tiny amount so it’s best not to worry about things too much and try to just do good as best as I can.

I decide that if the worst thing that is going on for me is waiting to get my car battery replaced, then I’m doing more than alright.

And I wait, uncontactable.

I think about  people who once lived in the harsh conditions on the American West carving out a measure of comfort (at the expense of Native Americans, it should be said) from those rough lands — cold, hungry, hot, sick, exhausted, traumatized.  Could they call for help?  And if they did, how long would it take for it to come? What must it have felt like on the edge of the prairie to wait and wonder and hope and doubt if help was indeed on it’s way?

Along comes the Triple-A truck after an hour and a half.  The driver’s name is Jimmy and after the preliminaries, I offer to get him a cup of coffee.  He declines, and says he’s going to get me on the road as soon as he can.

Now, think about how amazing this is:  I call a number and someone shows up with the tools and expertise within an hour and a half to fix my car.  Sure, I pay for the service, but what kind of a miracle is that?

And let’s stop and consider this:  here’s a man who does nothing but help people out all day: a proverbial knight in shining armor, the cavalry.  That’s good work. 

“What is this all about? Why is this happening to me?” we wonder when we are at all inconvenienced the least little bit. Annoyed.  Pissed. Frustrated. Fretful. Our lack of resilience is so laughable.

In the end, my battery was replaced. I should be good to go for 3 – 5 years.  It could have been worse. I am grateful for my car, for people who know how to do practical things, for services like Triple-A, and for being privileged enough to afford it. I am grateful I put on a sweater before leaving the house. I am grateful to learn a lesson about never leaving the house without a cell phone charger.

Maybe that’s the point of form: through these interactions with it in all its impermanence and imperfection we get a chance to reflect on and consider our relationship to it if we so choose. Or not. And maybe that does matter, if only a little, these other ways of charging one’s batteries.