When All Else Fails… (Listen to the voice)


I have practiced Zen Buddhism and meditation for over thirty years, but to this day I am quite quick to point out that I am still not a very good Buddhist.

When I was much younger, I used to hear the phrase “practice makes perfect,” but it wasn’t until much later that the more correct concept “perfect practice makes perfect” really sunk in.

My guiding principles have been Compassion, Gratitude, Loving-Kindness, and acceptance of my temporary conditions.

It has not been an easy journey.

Most of the best realizations have come as a result of unhappy circumstances and situations that forced me to reassess the paradigms that got me into those conditions, which is not really that surprising considering the fact that when we are comfortable, we have a tendency to become complacent and lazy.

The last two years have been particularly productive, due to an almost unending series of calamities, mostly involving illness, hospitalizations, and medical misadventures.

Enough of that; it’s not really my point, but rather a lead-in to set up the following paradigm shift.

No matter how diligently we try, if we are unconsciously clinging to something that is blocking our process of spiritual evolution, little progress can be made beyond a certain point.

Harsh circumstances tend to seemingly justify bitterness, self-pity, and negativity, and I was carrying more emotional baggage on that front than I had ever realized.

In retrospect, childhood abuse and trauma may have triggered the emotional predispositions toward depersonalization syndrome, low self-esteem, and my need to seek opportunities for heroism, leading to an eventual backlog of PTSD that has taken me years to only partially overcome.

But as the old saw goes, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

And negativity can completely obfuscate and mislead everything, everywhere you look.

Last week, I went to the grocery store to pick up a few items for dinner, including two of the thickest, most beautiful steaks I had ever seen.

I was almost completely preoccupied with the seemingly endless arguments that eventually ensue within my own mind, and did not realize until I was pulling into my own driveway that I must have either left the items in the grocery cart beside my vehicle, or in the checkout lane before I had even left the store.

Now, completely consumed with self-depreciating rage, I raced back to the store, only a mile away, certain that the items would be long gone before I returned.

(I live near what can only be described as a marginal neighborhood at best, and although I had almost no hope of any pleasant outcome, certain that I would be the subject of ridicule from my spouse, since we still needed something to eat, I had to return anyway.)

As I turned into the parking lot, I thought to myself “What the fuck would it take for the Universe to give me a break for once?”

OKOKOK…(I sometimes hear a voice inside my head; that voice has literally saved my life on a number of occasions, so I would be remiss not to credit the source.)

What I heard was this: “Well, what would it take for you to give the Universe a break for once?”

As I was in no mood for enlightenment at that point, I thought “Probably more than I am likely to get any time soon” (or something to that effect).

All the spaces near where I had parked were now occupied, but I stopped to ask a teenage employee who was gathering up the carts left in the lot if she had seen the now seemingly lost items.

She said no, but suggested I go to the front of the store where the other carts are kept.

I noticed a woman leaving the area with three very rowdy, ungovernable young children in a cart going toward the store, and of course immediately suspected her, but since I could not see the other contents of the cart I found myself thinking (only slightly sympathetically) that with a brood like that, she would be better off robbing banks than purloining my steaks.

I decided it would be less than either useless or wise to ask her.

Now in a complete panic of self-pity, I parked in the blue-lined area next to an already occupied handicapped space, left the motor running and ran to the front of the store.

As I ran up, before I could even ask, another teenaged employee who was lining up the carts suddenly turned to me and  said “I’ll bet you’re looking for these” and handed me my groceries.

For the briefest of moments, she basked in the refection of my flabbergasted glow of appreciation, then quickly and cheerfully returned to her work.

Even she seemed to know that she was neither the star nor the recipient of the intended point of this lesson; even the steaks were no longer the center of my attention, (and after all, no matter how perfectly I prepared them, eventually all my best work would be turned to shit).

“All is impermanence.”

But I also got my answer.

The Universe is a two-way street.






Chazz Vincent


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