A Jarring Scene Shifts Me Into My Higher Self

Near my neighborhood is a three-lane frontage road that parallels the freeway, a main thoroughfare for zipping across town. I was driving there recently, speeding along to or from some nondescript errands, when the traffic slowed to a crawl.

I felt a surge of annoyance. I was on a roll, my internal settings on “go.” I didn’t want to step on the brake. I quickly scouted a lane change to keep up my speed. Then traffic stopped. My impatience bloomed. I was pissed and slammed the steering wheel.

As we approached a major cross-street, I saw the reason for the delay. In the right lane, a one-eyed sedan with a crumpled hood had been spun around, facing in the wrong direction. A police officer was talking to a woman sitting on the curb, another directing traffic past the broken glass and dislodged headlight.

There was no other car. From these momentary images, my mind tried to reconstruct the scene. A hit and run? A missed red light? I couldn’t tell from the expression of the women on the curb.

My mood shifted immediately from impatience to compassion, touched with a twinge of guilt. A few moments delay meant nothing to me. Why had I become so irritated? Compared to the poor people involved in this, I had no worries at all. If I had been driving this road ten minutes earlier, I might be the one trying to recall for the officer what I could remember from the blur of the collision.

I drove home (slower, now) and continued to reflect on the scene.

Two things struck me. 

First, how quickly my mood had shifted. When the traffic slowed, I constricted into a narrow version of myself, focused on my immediate interests and interrupted plans. But when I saw the accident, I entered a more expanded version of myself. The irritation about the delay evaporated, replaced by concern for others. I saw the absurdity of my impatience. Concerns that had seemed paramount only seconds before took the size of their true significance.

Second, I was struck by how strongly I identified with the second, expanded version of myself. The compassionate me was the real me, with a deeper understanding of the situation. The narrow me, preoccupied with my errands and schedule, was a temporary outer shell, a shallow version that became stressed when its plans were interrupted.

These two aspects of myself, we could call them ego self and higher self, are not equal. I recognize one as my true home of being and the other as a smaller version that helps me navigate the world of form but can become overly protective and dismissive of the needs of others.

This event made me reflect on how much of my day is caught up in the details of my ego self. My constant desire is to connect more deeply to my higher self throughout the day (without needing an auto accident to rouse my better nature.)

Photo by Michael Jin on Unsplash

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