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Last week, some fuckface smashed my car window. (Or: An "IM'ing in the wild" essay told in 7 parts) (Or: When bad things happen to okay-enough/pretty good people)

Please note: this essay is longer than what I usually write. But it's good, and I think the length is worth the read.

Part 1

Last week, some fuckface in the coffee shop parking deck spotted my 10-year-old’s $15 Target bookbag and smashed my car window to steal it. 

As it registered that the shattered glass and open space where the window had been, really indeed… were: all I could think was, NO. FUCKING NOOOOOO. 

Immediately, Arden burst into distraught tears. 

I reached into my bag for my phone to call the police. Of course, to ensure the shittiness of the moment, the phone was dead, and I didn’t have my charger. 

Arden’s wails reverberated unshyly and plaintively throughout the parking deck. 

Instead of feeling spiritual teacher-like compassion, I felt irritated as fuck. 

“What are you crying for?” I snapped.  “We’re fine, and it’s not like they took anything valuable.” 

“My clarinet was in my bag,” she sobbed. 

Shit. That was valuable. 

“And my papers, and my homework, and my binder–”

“Can you please stop crying. Please.” I looked around. “This is embarrassing. Nothing that bad even happened.” (Mind you, telling people to put a pin in their upset is the exact opposite of what I tell meditators when they’re crying during sessions w me.)


“Arden. Stop. For real.”

I knew I was being a shithead, I knew it. But I couldn't stop.

I did have just enough presence, though, to think, with great grudging: If--just hypothetically, of course--if I did happen to teach something called Inquiry Meditation, and if I really did believe in what I taught…what might I do now? 


Part 2

I’d start with compassion. First, for myself, so that I could extend it. 

And so, with great, great grudging, I looked at my reaction to Arden’s upset.

“I see you,” I said to it. “And..." I sighed. "And I’m not going to hurt you.” 

I felt it see me seeing it. And I felt it feel my intention to see it without hurting it. It saw me see that all it wanted was to know why this bad thing was happening.

It softened a little.

Which softened me. 

And I looked at until I saw it for what it was: my own shut-down. My fear projecting outward. 

I said, “It’s okay, honey. I know you’re scared.” 

And it softened more. 

Now, I could be softer with Arden. 

I said, “I don’t all the way understand why you’re this upset, honey, but obviously you are, aren’t you?”

Arden nodded. 

I did, too, and extended my hand as we walked back to the coffee shop. “Then cry as much as you need to, babe,” I said, and I was able to mean it, and this moment—this moment right here when I could really let Arden be: this is a critical moment. 

Because I could feel my suffering diminishing, right?

And with that suffering diminishment—otherwise known as softening—something really interesting happened. 


Part 3

What happened was, I found myself thinking:

"So ummm, since I’ve just softened…

In other words, since I’m Being Good…

maybe now, something good can happen. 

Maybe I’ll get a lot of insurance money! 

Maybe I’ll meet someone in the coffee shop who’ll be helpful to me by doing blah blah blah, and I’ll meet them because I just so happened to be at the coffee shop just when blah blah blah, and if someone hadn’t broken into my car at that exact moment, then I wouldn’t have the opportunity to blah blah blah!  

Maybe something good can, or even is SUPPOSED,  to come of all this! 

So—let me be even MORE good, let me be even MORE calm and soft, and even more good stuff will come of it!”

Because isn’t that how it goes? If you release resistance, if you soften–or, in laymen’s terms, if you act good: then Good Stuff Happens! Law of Attraction, baby. 

And y’all. 

Here, right here, is the subtle challenge, the subtle smile, of nondoing. 


Because a nondoing approach to things means that you let go even of this, the carrot of "being good"--in this case, softening--for the promise of “good” things happening later. 

In other words, a nondoing approach means you soften free of an agenda, or less and less of one.

In other words, a nondoing approach means even less being manipulative.

(And it’s completely innocent, this agenda-having and manipulation, by the way.) 

In nondoing, you don’t soften to “get”. You don’t soften so you can use this moment to get to the next. 

In other words, you soften free of future. 

So, what’s the benefit of softening in the manner? What’s the benefit of being in each moment purely for that moment, with no agenda for the next? 


Part 4

Because in this situation, I was good. I did soften and soften some more…

And nothing especially “good” happened. 

My insurance didn’t cover anything. The deductible was too high. So the clarinet and the window, and that $15 Target bookbag all had to be replaced out of pocket, and at an already highly—and I mean hiiiiiighly—fraught financial moment. 

My banks accounts dipped to single digits. 

And I didn’t meet anybody at the coffee shop who could benefit me. 

The whole thing was rather ordinarily shitty. Nothing extraordinary. 


As I smiled at my “maybe” thought of being extra-good in order to reap some reward from the moment—and said, “Oh, yes, I see you, sweetheart” and did nothing more than deeply see it…

Very subtly…

I did feel a very very very very quiet pleasure. It was really quiet. 

But it was the very very very very very subtle pleasure of freedom. 

Freedom from trying to get something from the moment. 

Which really is freedom from the tyranny of future: freedom from bracing through the present moment so you can feel good later. 


Part 5

And all we have to do is soften. 

Meaning, all we have to do is turn gentle. First and foremost, on ourselves.

Meaning, see your own suffering in a given pissed off/upset/irritated/sad/terrible moment. Label that pissedness/upset/irritation/grief/terribleness as suffering. 

And—maybe grudgingly at first—but maybe put the back of your own hand on your own cheek and maybe say, “Aww, you poor thing, you’re really suffering right now, aren’t you?” And offer yourself some compassion. Because you are indeed suffering. 

This seeing, this compassion, softens you. 

And this softness opens up subtle space. 

And this space, this spaciousness: it’s a genuinely pleasurable sensation. It is “feeling good”.  



Part 6

We do everything in hopes of feeling good. 

We  super-subtly “future” away our lives, our present moments, so that we will eventually feel good later. 

But when we soften in the moment, simply out of compassion for ourselves (and then others): then, we can see these agendas. 

And we don’t have to do anything to them. We can simply say “hi” to them and love them. We can non-do. 

And in that nondoing, non-needing space we’ve allowed because we haven’t filled it with an agenda that we are “doing”...

We can feel how good we already, naturally, spaciously feel.


Part 7

Things do tend to smooth out externally with this approach. That’s just how it is. 

Not necessarily how you’d think. And not in big, splashy ways. 

I do need more money right now. I do feel chafed by all the money I’ve unexpectedly had to put out because someone broke into my ALREADY HIGHLY DENTED CAR–it wasn’t even a fancy car, you asshole!--And for the record: ultimately, yes, this person is innocent. But this isn’t about him/her/them so back to my rant–there were nicer cars on either side of me and all around me and are you happy that you managed to steal a clarinet ????? Ain’t nobody buyin’ a clarinet off you, you ultimately innocent son of a fucking bitch! 

That being said--and I needed to say it...

But I just wasn’t as worried as I might’ve been, as I “should’ve” been. 

I was able to get up early the next day even though I’d gone to bed late. I extra-treasured my coffee shop time that next morning. I spent some significant time in meditation later on.

Those were really nice things for me. 

And I’m not saying it’s tit for tat—that I enjoyed those things because I softened agenda-free. It really isn’t that. 

But it does all go together. Very loosely and casually, or seemingly casually. But it does all go together.

It’s like having a little oxygen tank inside that offers me cheerful sips as I engage in the wonderful ordinariness of life: paying for the stupid car window. Deeply enjoying the sound of Arden’s voice as we talk after school. Putting on first my sweater and then my jacket before I leave the house. Having the capacity to tell the T-mobile representative after she explained for over 20 minutes why my bill was going to be super fucking high, “Thank you. You actually were really patient with me, and that made a difference." It all goes together. 

And it does make a difference. It's nice to have the capacity to profusely and genuinely thank a T-mobile rep for her patience as she tells me my bill will be double when I’ve already put out hundreds I wasn’t planning on putting out and my “check engine” light is about to come on. I’ve never before had the capacity, the spaciousness, for that much joy. 

In other words: it all gets to count. All the ordinariness, even the shitty ordinariness, gets to matter. 

If there is a benefit to being in each moment with no agenda, then that is it: that all the moments get to matter. 

Is that not everything? Is that not all we are seeking? 

You get to be here, you get to be here and available in all your glorious, deeply non-needing softness to sing to more and more present moments: YES. FUCKING YESSSSSSSS.  

Everything extraordinary. 


A tiny P.S. that from this soft space…well, what can I say? Miracles—the external ones we had labeled as “good”—they do start happening. Everything even more extraordinary.

But more on this another time. 


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