(GTA) Grand Theft Auto: A Study in Mindfulness pt. 2

Part 2: Chubby Hula Dancer Rides Again!

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This post won't make sense unless you read pt. 1 so go back and read the previous post and then come back to read this one. 

GTA

(Grand Theft Auto)

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When my truck, Nina, was literally stolen from out of my hands, being very nearly killed in the process, it gave me a lot of time for reflection if only for the simple fact that it takes longer to walk places instead of drive. And despite being "mindfully pissed off" about the whole thing, I also had time to reflect on the many family members, friends, and acquaintances who had stepped up to help me,  whether that was to loan me their car, offer to take me somewhere, or simply share space, laugh, and swap stories. 

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After telling the yoga community about getting my truck stolen, many people said that they would also like to have a 1" sticker on the back of their car because it reminded them of the Wendell Berry poem that states that the greatest journey we will ever travel is the journey of 1" "by which  we arrive at the ground at our feet and learn to be at home."

I made more stickers and sold them to anyone who wanted them for $5. If I could only sell a couple thousand of those stickers, I could buy myself a nice reliable car and enjoy the metaphor of the ground at my feet rather than the cold, hard truth of it.

One woman, Penny, who bought a sticker also gave me a bag of Four Barrel coffee, the brand of coffee the sell at The Rose Establishment, (the coffee shop I went to directly after getting my truck stolen) and attached a note to it that said, "Because anyone who just got their ride stolen deserves a good cup of coffee." I was touched that she'd not only remembered my story but would also go out of her way to give me such a special, and heart-felt gift. Plus, it was damn fine coffee. 

My friend Nan let me drive her car for a few days.

My dad is awesome. He's retired and during my transportation crisis he allowed me to borrow his car for a few weeks.

Then, my good friends Christy and Brian called me and said that they owned two cars and were looking to get rid of one, the one parked in an auto-cocoon in the driveway which needed some repairs on the clutch. It was a 2001 Subaru Forester. We agreed that we'd tow it to my trusty mechanic, Peak Performance, and if the repairs weren't too extensive, I could pay for the repairs and $500 for the car. Fortunately, the repairs were only $300 and so for $800, I scored a car that ran better than my previous ride.

She's had low miles, clean interior, AC, cruise control—the whole bit. Getting that car felt like a big win. My dad also helped me get the Subaru to the shop and even sat with me at the DMV while I registered it (I know, right?). Then we went the Red Iguana for Mexican food, because everyone who just got a new ride deserves "killer Mexican food."

I had wheels again! And as I rolled down the street, I was overcome with the generosity of my friends and family. 

I brought the Subaru home and parked her in the driveway and what really made the experience complete is when I put another 1" sticker on the back. Then, she really felt like part of the family. 

Then, just two day after I started rolling around in my sweet, sweet Forester, I received a phone call from the police department informing me that they had found my truck! They asked me if I could come right then and pick it up. It wasn't far away, stashed in the parking lot of an apartment complex about 5 miles away.

I told the SLCPD that I was literally about 5 minutes from jumping in and teaching my Thursday morning 10:15 am Restore Yoga class and that there was no way I could come right then, but that I'd be free in about an hour and a half. They informed me that they had called the fingerprinting team who needed to dust the truck before they could release it to me anyway and that if I called back as soon as I was done with my class, there was a possibility that I'd avoid having to pay tow and impound fees.

See, in order to protect my vehicle from whomever stole it, the police have to tow it from where they found it and impound it so Truck Thief can't come and move it somewhere else. The down side is that this isn't a service the city offers for free. I'm the one who has to pay for tow and impound, usually runs around $200.

So, as I'm teaching my Restore Yoga class, questions like, "What kind of shape is my Nina in? What did they take and does it even run?" were swimming through my head and making it difficult to concentrate. After class, I wasted no time calling the police department and told them that I was on my way. They informed me that they had already called the tow truck but if I got to Nina before the tow truck did, I could avoid her from getting hoisted away.

I was off and soon learned just how speedy my new Subaru could be as I broke a few land speed records to get there. Just as I showed up, the tow truck operator was at that moment hoisting Nina onto the back of his truck. She looked frightened and battered but generally ok. I approached him and explained the situation. He told me flatly that he'd been given orders by the cops to tow my truck and that nothing but the OK from the cops could stop him from taking it. I tried fruitlessly to explain and even tried calling the officer to have him explain the situation but my phone at the time was in its palliative care stage of its life. Like many in this state, was about  to go to cell phone heaven and the battery just wasn't working well. Every time I connected to the SLCPD my phone decided to spontaneously power down and preventing me from getting the OK not to tow my car.  So, exacerbated, I told the guy, "Fine,  tow it and I'll meet you at the impound yard so I can talk to your boss."

I zipped over to the impound yard, a lovely place that looked like a parking lot for zombies. I entered the make-shift office, a long narrow room with dirty carpet, a couch that looked like it had been towed from off on the side of the road, and an obscenely large television blaring loud day-time TV commercials.

Behind the desk sat someone who upon first sight clearly displayed a super power—apathy.  I pled my case to Apathyman. I told him that I didn't want to have to pay $200 to impound and tow my car when the police said I didn't have to pay. He began using his super power immediately and mumbled something about being powerless, other than his obvious super power for Apathy, of course. Defiantly, I asked to talk to his boss.  Apathyman gave me a number to call to Bossman, who must have taught Apathyman everything he knew. He only said, "Let me make a phone call." Five seconds later the phone in the office where I was standing rang. It was Bossman talking again to Apathyman. In mere seconds, Apathyman hung up the phone and informed me that they were going to impound my car. To see them work together was almost inspiring, they were like the Stokton to Malone duo of shittiness.

To add insult to injury, Apathyman also told me that I couldn't just pay the fee and roll away. I didn't even know if my car rolled. He told me that in order to get my truck back, I'd need to go to the DMV to get an impound release form then bring it back to the impound yard, pay the fee and then I could take the car. It's easier to adopt a baby from Russia than it is to get your car outta hock. 

I left my truck at the impound yard and rolled away fuming mad. I had another yoga class to teach and I wondered how I was going to try to teach being centered when things were so crazy in my own head. 

I made arrangements with my good friend John to pick me up after my class. We went to the DMV and then back to the Zombie Parking Lot and the House of Hopelessness, home of Apathy Man, to get my truck back. We spend all afternoon running around and attending to the minutia. Finally, I'd retrieved the necessary forms, paid the fees, and Apathyman reluctantly gave me back the keys to my truck.

Just then it dawned on me that I hadn't even seen the inside of my truck. I wasn't sure what they'd stolen, what condition it was in, or if the truck would even start. So with reticence, I approached Nina. As I opened the door, I saw the front console was torn up a bit, the result of stealing my car stereo that wasn't working anyway. I think there's a special pawn shop for car stereos that don't work, very valuable in certain markets. Truck Thief had ransacked everything leaving it a total mess. I opened the shell and looked in the bed and saw that they had stolen my and my wife's yoga mats, cuz even truck thieves need to get centered and loosen up the muscles that tighten up during dramatic heists. I hoped that one day I would see him in class reevaluating the direction of his life. 

Then it dawned on me—something important was missing. More important than my stereo, more important than my yoga mat. Oh, no! Where was Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer! She wasn't on the dash! They kidnapped her, NOOOOOOOOO, those bastards!

Feeling broken hearted, abused, and completely frustrated, I tried my best to put my dashboard back together the best I could. Then I sat in the seat and put the key in the ignition and prayed she would start. Can you fuel a car on anger and despair?

Even before she was stolen, Nina sounded pretty hard thanks to her rusted out muffler and non-existent tail pipe. To my great surprise she did fire up however, now she sounded more like Howlin' Wolf than Nina Simome. But at least she ran.

I rolled out of the Zombie Parking Lot and waved a thank you to my friend John who sped away. I drove straight to my trusty mechanic, Peak Performance. They kindly looked Nina over and informed me that she was basically fine but that Truck Thief had stolen the catalytic converter, part of the exhaust system, because there is some precious metals in there, like palladium, the same stuff my wedding ring is made of. I would have to get that fixed if I wanted to drive the Truck. I drove directly to the muffler shop and asked them to please hook me up with another catalytic converter and while you were at it, fix the tailpipe, all of which was going to cost me around another $450.

I took the bus home feeling sorry for myself after such an emotional and harrying day. But as I was walking home from the bus stop I couldn't help but think of all the people who had helped me out. I thought of everyone who had wished me well and offered condolences and an understanding moment of bewilderment after seeing my ride stolen. I thought of Nan who loaned me her car for a few days, and my dad,  who let me tool around in his truck for almost two weeks. I thought of Brian and Christy who gave me a screaming deal on a new ride. I thought of how nice it was to ride my bike places. I thought of how nice, accommodating and professional, Peak Performance had been to have fixed my new ride and advise me on my old one. I thought of John who helped me out by running me all over town, who had shown up on my door steep the day Nina had been stolen asking if there were anything he could do, like run errands or just offer a listening ear. I thought of the cops who'd found it and who despite everything really had an air of generosity in their tone. All of that. My pity party didn't last long in the face of all that generosity and good will.

So, the next day, I rode my bike a few miles to pick up my truck from the muffler shop. I put my bike in the back of Nina and drove away, quieter than ever I can remember her sounding, feeling like this truck hadn't run that well and sounded that good in several years. And even though I knew it would add to the rust, I decided to go against protocol to give Nina a wash. I took her to a car wash and spent the better part of an hour cleaning her inside and out. I wanted to get the kidnaped feeling scrubbed off of her. It was a little traumatizing to see my fingerprints still smeared on the dirty window on the driver-side from where I'd tried to hold on as the guy was literally stealing my truck from my own hands. You see, I caught him in the act but not fast enough to stop him from bolting off and almost running me over in the process. I reassembled the dash, the result of ripping off my stereo. Then, other than the hole where my stereo used to be, everything was back to normal. Better than normal, really.

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And then to my immense surprise and pleasure as I was vacuuming under the seat, guess who was hiding? Yes, Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer!  From what I can deduce, sometime during her kidnapping, she used all her hula-power strength  to unstick herself from the dash and jumped down to hide under the seat to wait for the storm of car thieving to pass. I picked her up, brushed the dust off of her blue plastic grass skirt and placed her redemptively back on the center stage of the dash.

As I dove away from the carwash, without a song on the radio (without a radio), just the satisfaction of a clean car and my Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer swaying to the smooth purr of a well-exhausted engine, I felt that everything was right in the world.  Watching Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer's happy dance reminded me that somehow, every moment is an opportunity for celebration.

Whoever stole my truck, my stereo, my catalytic converter, and my yoga mats also gave me something in return. Something very small but unspeakably valuable. Resting in the seat next to the dismantled dash and various trash, was a blue rubber bracelet honoring the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing. Fascinating, right? This bracelet is a symbol of people coming together in the time of such tragedy and horror.

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And that's exactly what this bracelet did for me. This bracelet reminded me that despite any tragedy or fiasco, ranging from a bombing to getting your ride stolen, human beings have an amazing power to come together and to show up, love, and support to one another in the face of hardship. I roll more smoothly and with more ease after all this truck stealing business.

For a few years,  I kept that blue bracelet in the hole in the dashboard where my stereo used to be. I rarely think of the guy who stole from me but often think of those who gave to me, so generously and lovingly from their hearts at a time of trouble. That bracelet reminds me how good people can be.

Despite everything, getting my car stolen has shown me that yes, there are some careless, rude, and probably desperate people who might steal your ride simply for the low-hanging fruit of its parts and almost worthless stuff inside, but that there are dozens more people who will freely give of their love, help, and support quicker than you can say "hotwire my ride." This experience of getting my truck stolen has reinforced my faith in people more than tarnished it. And even though the whole thing experience me around $1500, I'm the richer for it. I'm rich in the form of friendships, love, and support. I'm rich in the mere experience. The story itself makes me rich. 

It's my prayer that as we practice yoga and meditation, we look inside and see is a being filled with love and light. May we understand our own brightness and then spend our energy shining our light into the dark corners of the world. My invitation to you is to choose some way to shine your light to others today. Send a text and let someone know you're thinking about them. Offer to help someone out on the side of the road. Understand your light and use it to brighten everything around you. Maybe this good will is what really makes Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer move. Not jazz organ. 

The way to steal someone's heart is by giving your own. 

Who knows, maybe one day while teaching a yoga class, I'll recognize my yoga mat under someone else's feet. I'll know that the person on that mat is on their way to finding the light that is within them, regardless if they stole a ride to get there. We are all on this journey together, though some of us tend to take the long and hard road to get there. 

Namaste, everyone, including you, Truck Thief. I honor the light that shines inside of me and shines inside of you . . . somewhere. Thank you for ripping off my ride to show me the meaning of generosity, love, and kindness. 


Grand Theft Auto: A Study in Mindfulness

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Part 1: Chubby Hula Dancer's Last Ride

Ever feel like life is all some absurd cartoon? Let me fill you in. This story is how my truck got stolen and how it helped me be more mindful. 

See, I used to drive a wonderful old truck ('93 Nissan) which was very generously given to me in February 2006 when crisis came to visit for a winter. Different story, different day. 

Chubby Hula Dancer

Chubby Hula Dancer

My truck's name was Nina cuz she was red and sultry like Nina Simone and sounded like she'd been smoking without a filter and drinking gasoline her entire life. Over the years, I'd put a little money into her to keep her running, but largely she was a wonderfully reliable part of my life.

Nina was a great old lady. She was missing a tailpipe, her radio was broken, sun visors missing, driver's side mirror broken, and one of the windows on her shell was shattered, but she started up almost every time. It was a stark moment when I realized that the exterior had reached such a point of dereliction that washing her would only harm her more. 

I had a constant companion riding shotgun in this rusty ride. Affixed to the dash was Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer. Over the years I'd learned that we share a love for jazz organ music. I know this because that's when did her best dancing. I mean she REALLY got into it. I'd often car-dance along with her but I couldn't compare to the sweet moves of Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer.

1"

Another fun feature of my ride was the sticker on the back window which read 1". You know those stickers people post on the back of their cars that simply say 26.2? They are bragging rights for those who have trod the distance of a marathon. Well, I made a sticker in the same style that simply read 1". And yes, in a hyper-masculine world of lift kits and truck nuts it takes someone very secure in his manhood to roll around town with a 1" sticker on the back of his truck.

The sticker is a references to one of my favorite poems by Wendell Berry called "A Spiritual Journey." 

"A Spiritual Journey"

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And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,

no matter how long,

but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch,

very arduous and humbling and joyful,

by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet,

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and learn to be at home.

To me, this poem reminds me that the greatest journey I will ever travel or the greatest place I might ever hope to arrive is the distance of 1", to the ground at my own feet, the awareness of my True Self, the real, Divine me, and to feel at home in my own heart, and to know whatever lives there.

Honeymoon is Over

So, in August of  2014 my wife and I were living in Salt Lake City. We'd only been married for a few months and already we had been through tremendous highs and lows. Literally one week prior to getting married, I'd closed the doors on the two yoga studios I owned, both of which had been limping along for years. But getting married was bliss and we'd just come home from our honeymoon to Greece and Spain where we lay on the beach, ate pastries with abandon, and fell deeper in love with each other.

Before getting married, I had been under enormous stress and now, back from our honeymoon, I was eager to move forward in my life with more bliss, happiness and stability.

Not long after coming home from our honeymoon, Seneca's car, received a terminal diagnosis from the auto shop and we decided to sell it—I posted it online and it sold in 14 minutes for cash. So, for a few weeks were sharing my truck. Sharing a car made getting around a little tricky but we managed. Compared to the stress I'd already had that summer, the stress of sharing a car was nothing.  

Super-human Core Strength

One Saturday we decided to drive my truck down to the Farmers Market. We parked and walked the few blocks over to buy our produce. 

On our way back, we returned to the place I'd parked my truck and it wasn't there. Instead, it was parked about 100 feet away in a different spot. Confused, I started to think through the possibilities: Had I left the truck out of gear? Maybe it started to roll and someone had kindly parked it on flat ground for me? Was I parked illegally and law enforcement had moved it? Was there a free valet service at the Farmers Market? I hadn't given anybody my keys.

 

None of these options made sense and as I got closer to my truck I saw someone milling about it and it dawned on me what was happening—someone was stealing my truck at that moment!

I broke into a dead sprint toward my truck and the Truck Thief. Truck Thief saw that his heist's owner was bearing down toward him and panicked. He immediately jumped into the cab and started the engine. I saw that he had parked in front of a large concrete barrier and couldn't move forward and I soon arrived arrived to the back of the truck before he could back up preventing him from getting away. I began to scream at him to stop stealing my truck. 

At that moment, Truck Thief and I had the exact same thought: There's no way to steal this truck with someone standing behind it. Truck Thief soon thought of a different option, one I had not considered up to that point, which was to run over the lesser of the two obstacles blocking his way (read the crazy dude standing with his hands on the back, screaming).  Without a hesitation, Truck Thief threw Nina into reverse and floored it. Fortunately the tires we pretty bald, giving me a warning screech and a half of a second delay to jumped out of the way. 

As the truck whizzed past me,  I did the first thing that came to mind which was to grab onto the half-rolled window on the driver's side and proceeded to run with him as he was backing at an incredible speed. I don't know what I was hoping for with that desperate action. I'm a yoga teacher and I know that with enough core strength you can do anything. Perhaps I thought that if I could just lift the car up, immobilizing all four wheels, I could hold it there until the cops came. For a brief second we were our faces were mere inches apart. And though I was so close, I honestly can't say what his face looked like because it wildly distorted with a look that said, "Holy shit! That dude's running next to me and holding onto the window while I'm stealing his ride!" 

He then popped the truck into gear and shot off, ripping my hands from the window and tearing out of the parking lot then down the road like a fugitive, leaving me standing there like an idiot—but an idiot who didn't get ran over. Seneca stood 50 feet away and watched the entire event transpire in complete horror.

After it was all done, we stood there staring at each other with a look like, "Well, that just happened." It was over in 10 seconds or less.

We called the police. They filed a report.

Then we walked a half block to one of Salt Lake City's best coffee shops, The Rose Establishment, to have some coffee and wait for someone to come and give us a ride. While waiting for our ride, I posted on social media, "Because when someone has just stolen your truck, you deserve a really nice cup of coffee." While waiting for the baristas to make our brew, it dawned on me that in a matter of two weeks, we had gone from having two cars, to one, to none. And while we don't mind walking, it feels differently when you gotta walk cuz someone ripped off your ride.

Mindfully Pissed

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Here's where this get's a little deep. This might sound out there but, even while my truck was being stolen and then directly after, I felt a strange sense of grand awareness about the whole thing. Even while it was happening, I could see that in the big picture, what's true is that getting your truck stolen really isn't that big a deal. In fact, in some ways it feels completely absurd, like I'm staring in my own cartoon, as my friend Nan puts it. I'm sure I'd feel differently if the guy had ran over me. 

Yet with the very same awareness that getting your truck stolen is ultimately inconsequential, came the realization that what is also true is that my smaller self has real and intense feelings about getting my truck stolen. Despite my intermittent "grand awareness," the stoic and bland "it-is-what-it-is" mindset doesn't cut it with me. Not entirely. "What it is" sucks! And to deny that is to deny the part of me that despite not having the grand awareness, still exists, at least to some degree.

Yoga and meditation has taught me not to deny my feelings but rather to drink them in and thereby use them to illuminate the True Self, tools for practicing being aware. 

Awareness of the True Self is actually about freedom. The freedom , for example, is to be absolutely present with emotions, not to deny them. So with that in mind, I felt free to choose to be mindfully pissed off and honored my primal need to shout loudly through my clenched teeth every four letter word I know . . . besides love . . . and hope . . . and nice.

I wonder if Truck Thief was thinking to himself, "I'm very mindfully pinching this dude's ride. Vrrr-Ommmmmm."?

As I saw my truck reseed into the distance, my 1" sticker reminded me that the crucial step along the journey toward the True Self is to be at home in my heart and to learn to be comfortable with everything as just it is. This spiritual journey of 1", like Wendell Berry says,  is "arduous, humbling and joyful by which I arrive at the ground at my feel and learn to be at home." And at that moment I was forced into learning this lesson which lay at my feet because for the unforeseeable future, I would be walking. 

Driving It Home

May our practice, whether on or off the mat, be to strive to always experience this "arduous, humbling and joyful" journey of the human experience to the fullest, and use the events which befall us as tools to become ever more aware of our True Self. Be the small self of emotions and the True Self with the grand perspective. Practice this and be responsible and kind to other people. 

GIF at https://tenor.com/

GIF at https://tenor.com/

Sometimes this life really does feel like some wild Sponge Bob Square Pants episode that the Divine is Netflixing alone on some late night while drinking a beer and eating some non-GMO corn chips and salsa.

In the big picture getting my truck stolen wasn't very important. I actually enjoyed riding my bike for a while, burning off some of the pastries I ate while on my honeymoon, and simultaneously burning off some of the anger resulting from getting my ride pinched. 

I'm sure Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer never danced for Truck Thief as wildly as she did for me. 

And while I pedaled around Salt Lake City,  I hoped that Truck Thief would return my truck with a full tank of gas.

The story continues . . . 


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