Meditation has added countless benefits to my life over the years: stress reduction, better control of my emotions, increased happiness. But last Christmas, my ability to stay calm was put to the test – and if I hadn’t passed that test, I might have been a dead man.
This past Christmas my wife and I were going to drive down to North Carolina to be with her sister’s family. We usually fly but this time we thought our daughter was old enough to do a little road trip. Our plan was to leave Brooklyn at around 3:30 am, drive to Queens, pick up my wife’s Mother and Grandfather and then begin our trek, simple enough.
I stumbled out of bed at around 3:15 as my alarm rang. I went outside to get the car because I had parked it a block or 2 away from my apartment. As I slumbered to my car, I started it and drove down St. Johns about to make a right onto East Plaza right by the park. Before I made the turn I saw another driver coming out of a spot and trying to make an illegal U-turn. I went into the other lane to avoid having to wait for him to make the U-turn. He did not see me and we almost collided, but luckily we did not. As I was thanking my lucky stars that we did not make contact, I looked in the mirror and saw this car make an abrupt U-turn and begin to follow me. At first I thought to myself, “do people in NYC still do this? “ As I stopped in front of my apartment, the other car pulled up right in front of me.
The guy stormed out of his car and approached me. “Why the f*ck you try to cut me off”? I said “Hey man, didn’t mean to do that.” Once again he asked “why the f*ck you cut me off, who the f*ck are you?” As I looked at him I saw that his left hand was holding something behind his back.
That is when I got really scared. I thought, “Oh my God, this guy has a gun and might try to shoot me over some nonsense 2 days before Xmas – in front of my building and in front of my wife and daughter who had come down to load the car!!!” However, instead of letting the fear grip me, I took a few deep breaths and felt a deep calm come over me, even though I was still scared. I looked at they guy and said calmly, “I’m sorry – it is very early in the morning, I did not mean to cut you off.” He kept asking me the same question as why I cut him off, but he was now insisting that I did it on purpose. With every “why the f*ck you cut me off,” his voice got louder and his left arm began to shake. I responded by getting calmer and calmer, taking deep breaths with slow exhales.
As I looked at this crazed looking man, (he might have been a little tipsy) I would respond every time with “I’m sorry, its late, I’m still a little tired.” As he got more agitated, I became more calm and relaxed. At one point he looked confused about my calmness.
After this exchange went on for about 5 minutes, his girlfriend yelled at him to get back in the car. He did so begrudgingly, not saying a word to me. Just like that, he drove off at that was the end of that. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, gave my wife and daughter the biggest hug ever and went on my way to North Carolina.
I believe what saved my life was my ability to stay calm and focused in this most intense situation. Had I panicked, he might of panicked also and who knows what happens then. If I tried to be a tough guy I might be dead or in jail. Instead I chose, to get as calm as I could.
Meditation saved my life in this case. Maybe it’ll save yours – hopefully you’ll never have to be in a situation like this. But if you practice the techniques I’ve practiced, the stresses of daily life will get easier to handle – and seem a lot less like a life-threatening situation.