Since the summer's almost over and I'll be going back to work again (I'm a teacher), my wife and I decided to bring the kids to the beach today. Not five minutes from our house, we got a flat tire. As I was climbing out of the passenger seat, I could hear the tire still hissing--talk about buzz kill. Now under normal circumstances I would be fuming, hurling curses under my breath. But not this time. Confronted with a double dilemma--should we cancel our trip, and how the hell do you actually change a flat tire?--I stared at the Goodyear pancake.
To spin a quote from one of my favorite movies, My Cousin Vinny, "Sure I know how to change a tire, but I ain't ever changed a tire." As you probably already know, it's a pretty simple process, not worth noting here. But as I was concentrating on positioning the jack and removing the lug nuts, I disappeared. There was only the process of changing the tire. Maybe it was the result of my lack of experience, and thus my heightened state of concentration, but for once I experienced what Zen teachers mean when they say, "Just washing the dishes." My mind, that troublesome part of me that tends to get in my way, dropped off. It wasn't some mystical moment, but rather a fairly ordinary engagement of the activity, minus the gaps, the spaces created by my sense of "I".
I didn't realize it until later though, when my wife said, "You know, you took that pretty well." And she was right, kind of: I didn't have a meltdown because there was no "me" there to have one--no intrusion of that middle man called the self. Just direct experience. There was only the changing of the tire. Every day Samadhi. The sound of one hand clapping.
Pretty cool, but fairly ordinary I suppose. "Nothing Special," Charlotte Joko Beck might call it.
(In case you're wondering, we did make it to the beach, and I have the sunburn to prove it.)
Flat tire photo borrowed with permission from flickr user The Bees.
Meditation photo borrowed with permission from flickr user h.koppdelaney.