Dealing with Interesting Days and Brushes with Death

4 Comments June 3, 2007 / Posted in Mindfulness

A running friend wrote to a running group:

Well, when I was out for my usual 6:00 am run today, the unfortunate happened. I was hit by a car that decided not to stop at a stop sign.

I spent three hours in the emergency room, and I basically walked away with a big huge bump/bruise on the back of my leg, a very swollen lip, and two broken teeth (my face hit the pavement.)

I know it could have been much, much worse, and I am definitely counting my blessings. I’m interested to hear from others that have had similar things happen to them. How they dealt with all the emotions that are involved, and how much time they allowed for physical healing.

And I need some good ideas for food! I can only eat soft things for a few days, anyway. Oatmeal, yogurt, soup, mashed potatoes – that sort of thing…Thanks for listening :) Maureen


First we are glad that you are alive and able to walk away from harm’s way. Also that your brain and fingers are able to share with us what occurred.

Be aware that the brain may go into shock somewhere down the line when you find yourself thinking about how close you came to being killed. While clinicians call it post-traumatic stress, it is the brain going into panic.

Panic comes from the name of the sylvan god of the forest, Pan. Pan never did anything to harm anyone who came into his domain. For centuries it was believed that Pan did heinous tortures to people who entered his forest. Bodies were found crushed at the bottom of cliffs and tangled in the scrub in ravines. People thrown off a cliff to be found in the upper branches of a tree. People found starved to death in the bowels of the heart of the forest. And worse of all, people never found again.

I have only learned recently the truth. Pan, the player of the Pan pipes, the god of the forest never did anything to the people who entered his realm. He in a way was only a trickster.

Pan would rustle some leaves. Pan would drop a few acorns. Pan would break a few twigs. And the people who experienced “panic” created the lions, tiger, and bears in their own minds. They create the robbers, murderers and thugs in their imaginations. And in that state of “panic” they rushed off to get away from their imagined dangers…only to be driven to the brink of fear…created by their own imaginations. Lost, starved, never found, crushed at the bottom of a cliff, tangled in the upper branches of trees, because they created their monsters and demons from their imagination.

Mindfulness is being aware that we only have the moment in which we are. The past is gone, the future is unknown because it is not here, all we have is this moment, the present. As Thich Nhat Hanh would said, “Breathe and Smile.” Thoughts are like breathe, they come and go. Continue breathing and you will find that once you let a thought go, you are back in the gift of life, the present.

Anyway that’s a thought when you find yourself stuck on realizing how close you were to permanent injury.

The zen monk sent his student up a hundred foot pine tree to practice his agility and quickness. The student quickly climbed up and was on his way down. When the student was about 10 feet from the ground, the teacher said, “Be careful.” When asked by the others around him why he told him to be careful when he was only 10 feet from the ground, the monk said, ” When he was going to the top of the tree and coming down, it was new for him and he was careful and very aware of what he was doing. When he was close to the ground, it is familiar territory and it is in those moments when one loses awareness and being mindful that distraction from the familiar can cause the most harm.

I trust people, cars, animals, others runners, bikers, inline skaters. I trust them to be oblivious to me. I have learned to avoid them. They have never been given responsibility for taking care of me or my well being. And I trust them never to take care of me or watch out for me. While some will, I cannot trust that it is the person or animal that is coming at me at this moment.

To that end I have used Chuang Tzu’s story Empty Boat to help me in my life to avoid empty boats:

Chuang Tzu gave us a mindful way of dealing with out of control people.

Chuang Tzu

Should a boatman while crossing a river
Have an empty boat crash into his boat
Even if he is a man who is quick to anger
His anger will not rage.

Yet if he sees someone in that boat
He will yell and scream telling him
Get out of my way.

And if his yelling is not responded to
He will yell all the louder
And begin swearing and cursing.
All that just because someone is in the boat.
Yet if it were an empty boat
He would not be angry nor shouting.

If you are able to empty your own boat
That is empty yourself of yourself
During your time in the world
There will be no one opposing you
There will be no one out to harm you.

When I am confronted by reckless drivers, speeding skaters or bikers, I simply avoid them and say to myself, “Empty boat.”

Over the years, those two words have saved me from feeding anger, aggression and violence-both mine and theirs.

4 Comments... What do you think? Subscribe via RSS
  1. Ric said on June 10th, 2007 at 4:00 am

    I have only recently become aware of the idea of mindfulness. I sometimes find that when I am not busy, my thoughts dwell upon upsetting events in my past.

    I have tried using mindfulness while cycling in the countryside. But as soon as become mindful, I find that I am only like someone in a cinema watching a film – the pleasure of being in the countryside is removed. Is there any way I could overcome this please?

  2. Wellness said on August 7th, 2007 at 1:39 pm


    I was surfing the web and i saw this site, pretty cool.
    Currently im running and adult site:Wellness
    k, just want to say hi :)
    Can i link you from my site? im looking for quality content like yours. If no let me know if i can add u in exchange for a montly fee or something.

  3. AllisonG said on September 2nd, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    Really enjoyed the legend of Pan and the origins of panic. The “empty boat” story made me smile and nod. Excellent entry!

  4. Organized Chaos said on June 8th, 2007 at 12:29 am

    The Empty Boat…

    I got this one from Mindfulness.Com blog. It’s quite interesting how disengagement could actually help clear one’s mind of rage and anger. It’s our attachment, according to Buddhism, that makes us suffer. THE EMPTY BOATChuang Tzu Should a boatman wh…

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