Nothing is Difficult When You Pay Attention

“Do not fragment your attention but see what each moment calls for.”
-Dogen

When I stopped trying to make things happen and simply began watching them happen is when everything began to happen perfectly.

Back in my mechanic days, I was facing a tedious engine rebuild on a car I hated working on. (It was a Subaru, or Subarloser, as we called them.) I was  grumbling around the shop, when unexpectedly I heard: just do the job one bolt at time. I wondered where that came from, but decided to go for it. One bolt at a time had to be better than my imagined future misery.

I finished the job, parked the car, and told my buddy that it felt like the rebuild took half as long as I thought would. And there was nothing difficult about the job at all. Right then I decided I’d do my best to live like that—one moment at a time.

I learned that nothing is difficult when you are paying attention. 

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Being attentive to the moment has kept me among the living three times, and my daughter, BigJoni, once.

This pic of me and BigJoni, when she wasn’t so big, is one of my all-time favorites. So here it is again.

We were returning to Arizona from a Bianchi Cup match, in Missouri. I was at the wheel, and BigJoni was asleep on the back seat of my Volkswagen Westfalia. 

I never wear a seat belt in the van. There is nothing but sheet metal between the steering wheel and the front bumper. In a head-on, the driver would be killed instantly. So I prefer to keep the option to jump for it, open.

It was about 3 AM, as we were coming across State Route 56 in Kansas. I was fighting to stay awake, and looking for a spot to pull off and pop the camper. I hadn’t seen another vehicle for maybe 30 minutes.

Then I see a huge, three-quarter ton pickup approaching. It drifted to the center line, stayed on the line for a few moments, then drifted back to the center of the lane. I am now WIDE AWAKE.

Suddenly, the truck crossed the center line and was coming straight at us. There was just enough time to crank the wheel as hard as I could, flinging BigJoni around the back of the van, and missing a head-on by inches. BigJoni was unhurt. In a 60 mph head-on, we would have been killed instantly.

I stopped and got out. The truck was still cruising dead center in my lane. More than likely the driver had fallen asleep. I was shaking uncontrollably, but we were as happy and awake as we could be.

I watch every approaching vehicle—whether on a state route or a side street—until the rolling threat has passed. Maybe the death-trap van started that, I’m not sure. But I am sure: paying attention is always good.

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I’ll post a new topic each Friday afternoon, in one of two categories. One will be on shooting, and the other will be on living. Or: how I learned to live from what I learned by competing.
Thanks for coming in. 

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