I stared down at the engine of my car. I did not plan to spend my whole Saturday morning replacing the stupid headlight bulbs. Why would they make the bulb covers so hard to come off? Who has hands small enough to wedge them into that tiny space?? I already spent more money than I expected, and now it was taking way more time. And my oil-stained, skinned knuckles hurt.
That's how it went for almost an hour. I got one lightbulb cover off, but the other wasn't budging. I wondered how much a repair shop would charge me to do this stupid little job.
But after a while I thought about the book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". I remembered the author talking about how the Buddha can be found inside a motorcycle engine just as surely as in a lotus flower. I started breathing again. I slowly wiped the oil off my hands with an old t-shirt.
"Motorcycle Maintenance" was a funny book for me because for the first three quarters of it I was convinced that the title's use of the word "Zen" was just a gimmick. The author talked a lot about European philosophy, and his relationship with his son... but I saw very little Zen Buddhism in it.
But somewhere in the last third the book got real Zen, real fast. And not only that, but I realized that he was actually talking about Zen the whole time.
So I stared down at the engine. This is Zen too, I thought. It doesn't get any more zen than this. Why am I so mad at the car? Life doesn't go the way we think it should. That is the suffering the Buddha talked about.
I cleaned myself up and put my tools away, closing the hood of my car. I would take a little time and come back to this problem. I'll figure it out. Patience and determination, just like in sitting practice.
The next day I came back. At first, I had no luck. Then I had the sudden idea to use a flat-head screwdriver and hammer on the cover, like a chisel, to carefully knock it loose.
It worked perfectly, and within minutes I had two working headlights.