Something made me glance past the empty passenger seat to my right. I saw a big white rig nudging into my lane, and I responded promptly by swerving away toward the shoulder of the two lane highway. The left wheels of my Lexus SUV touched gravel while the right wheels stayed on the asphalt, causing my car to 'fishtail'. I tried to course-correct and realized that I had no control on the steering wheel. I remember seeing my car zigzagging in the left rearview mirror of the white rig whose driver had now moved back into his own lane. I wondered if he could see my car or was it in his blind spot? What on earth was going on with my car? Was there an earthquake? There was no time to think. I allowed my car to lead. I submitted.
After what felt like an eternity and was probably all of 3 seconds, my car chose to swerve left into the 50-foot grassy median. It fell a couple of feet below the level of the road before I heard a thundering crash. I was upside down. I saw the front windshield shatter and noticed the dust rise from the earth. I felt the burn of the seatbelt tightening around my chest. I gave in to the realization and accepted that I was in an accident. The momentum from the 75mph driving speed kept the car rolling. Through the deafening roar and confusion of flying objects, I felt my iced tea trickle through my open-toed sandals. After years of practicing breath and thought control on a yoga mat, my intuition guided me to go with the flow. I did not resist. I relaxed my body. I began to count, “Om 1, Om 2, Om 3”. I felt at peace. I had no fear. I had no expectation. I did not wish for a particular outcome. I felt blissful. I surrendered.
My car landed upright. There was an abrupt silence. I saw cars rolling to a standstill in front of me. A woman looked at me with her hand on her mouth, as though she was shocked to see me surface out of nowhere. She stepped out of her car and came toward me. While she made her way, I noticed that my hands were bleeding, and my left wrist was painful and swollen. I looked around my car and wondered when we had installed the ‘valance like shades’, reminiscent of my childhood years in India’s Fiats and Ambassadors. I drifted.
She stood next to my car and asked if I was alright. She smiled encouragingly and said that she was a nurse and would like to help me out of the car. But first she wanted to make sure that I felt fine. She asked me if I was aware that my car had rolled several times. Had I passed out? How is it that my neck and spine were unscathed? I said I was fully aware of rolling with the car and had counted 3 rolls. She said that I sounded uncannily articulate. She expressed delight that she could open my door with ease. She helped undo my seat belt and approved when I was able to swing my legs over and land on my feet. It was a miracle.
She made me aware that my car had landed perpendicular to oncoming traffic on the northbound highway, and it would be best for me to sit and rest on the shoulder while we waited for emergency personnel. We looked to see what had become of the truck that had tried to nudge into my lane but the driver had not bothered to pull over. I told her that I was on my way to pick up my rising sophomore from college and was carrying a couple of empty suitcases for him to pack up his dorm. Perhaps I could sit on the baggage because there was nowhere else to 'rest'. She remarked on my presence of mind and went off to gather the dusty suitcases flung around the median. I was back in control.
Then two Indian gentlemen presented themselves and asked how they could help. We spoke in Punjabi, and I felt nurtured by the familiar and hospitable language. I requested them to locate my phone-wallet and gather some of my remaining belongings that had been flung out of the rolling car. They immediately obliged by starting a search, ignoring the reprimands of the emergency personnel who had now arrived on the scene. They brought over my things and drove away before I had a chance to ask their names. Guru Nanak bolstered my spirit.
The caring nurse gave her eye-witness report to the police and I got to thank her before she left. I then called my husband who was getting ready to fly to a meeting. I tried to downplay the accident, but the paramedics gave him the gory details and suggested that he make the 4-hour drive to pick me up from the Emergency Hospital. The first responders credited my clarity and calmness to my profession as a Vedic counselor. They joked about wanting to have whatever it was that I was 'having', as they passed me a bottle of coconut water from my recovered belongings. During the 30-minute ambulance ride, I was given a temporary neck and arm brace. I received my first dose of morphine. I was in safe hands.
Once at the hospital, the emergency staff promptly took charge. After all the diagnostic tests were done, they commiserated with me on the fractured left wrist that took a hit when the side airbag inflated. They asked how I had known to relax when the car rolled and reminded me that it was extremely unusual not to suffer neck and spine injuries in an accident of this nature. I was made comfortable and several hours later received traction and a manual maneuver on my broken wrist that was executed upon by 3 doctors. I was dispatched with a splint with the understanding that my forearm would be cast for about 6 weeks, in another couple of weeks. It had been 12 hours since I left home. It had been 25 years since I had been seriously following the yogic path. I had learned to practice equanimity of mind through breath and thought control. My yoga practice had saved me.
This event occurred on June 8, 2022. During all my years of practicing meditation and leading up to the accident, I thought that I had always been surrendering without expectation of outcome. In actuality, I only realized what it feels like to have full faith in the forces at play during my accident, after I accepted the reality of the situation and I gave up control. I am grateful that intuition honed from years of yoga practice prompted me to relax and surrender with full trust and without fear or resistance. I hope to once again experience the peace and bliss that I had felt during the most tumultuous moments of the accident. A year later, I continue to surrender, without expectation.