The Heart of the Matter
April 27, 2023


One of the amazing things about life is that every moment has, contained with it, the potential to spark an awakening -- a meaningful, memorable, life-changing insight about ourselves with the potential to take us to higher ground.

And to make things even more interesting, we never know WHEN these surprise moments will occur and what impact they will have on us.

Which brings us, I guess, to the following story -- a kind of "as above, so below" moment for me back in Denver, Colorado in 1979 -- something I learned that I am still plumbing the depths of (even if, technically speaking, I am not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition).

Back then, having taken a vow of renunciation and living in one of Prem Rawat's ashrams, I was (at least in my own mind) on the high road to happiness, having left "the world" behind like a too heavy bag of rocks.

My day job at that time? Being the Community Coordinator of Prem's Denver operations -- a role that required me to attend to a wide range of often unglamorous tasks: event planning, fundraising, meeting facilitation, administration, bill paying, troubleshooting, and tending to the needs of our out-of-town guests.

And while the opportunity to be of service was almost always a thrill, it was also very demanding -- requiring a lot of attention to detail -- the kind of attention that took up most of my bandwidth.

After a day of dealing with details, my preferred routine, upon returning home, was to sequester myself in my room and read the poetry of Rumi -- a dependable way to leave the density of the day behind and connect with a timeless realm. It was, at least for me, a kind of homeopathic dose of divine sanity -- a dependable antidote to the mundane and a chance for me to renew, restore and rejuvenate.

So, there I was on my couch, Rumi book in hand, when the phone rings. It's Dennis, the Community Treasurer.

"Hey Mitch," he begins. "I need you to dig into your files and tell me what the vehicle identification number is of the Dodge Dart.

"What?" I manage to say. "WHAT do you need?"

"I need you to dig into your files and tell me what the vehicle identification number is of the Dodge Dart. You have the folder. I know you do. It's in your files."

"Oh, I reply. "OK. Give me a minute."

Looking through my files to find the vehicle identification number of a 1974 Dodge Dart was not, shall we say, high on my list of things to do after a day of having more things to do than I preferred.

But Dennis, God bless him, was on a mission and, for some reason, known only to him, absolutely needed the Dodge Dart vehicle identification number. And he needed it now.

Finding my way to my desk, I opened the file draw and located the Dodge Dart folder.

"OK, Dennis, I got it. Here you go: AZR5903432TGL79642A."

"Great, Mitch, thanks. Let me read it back to you to make sure I got it right, AZR5903432TGL79642A."

"Bingo!" I reply, you got it. Glad I could help."

And with that, I hang up the phone, return to my couch, pick up my Rumi book and begin reading again, chuckling at the play of it all and realizing how important it was for me to let go of my preferences from time to time in order to REALLY be of service -- even if letting go of my preferences was the last thing I wanted to do.

"OK, lesson learned," I think to myself, diving back into Rumi.

"Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there."

Three minutes into Rumi, the phone rings again. It's Dennis.

"Hey Mitch, sorry to bother you, but the number you gave me is wrong or maybe I wrote down the wrong number. Here's what I have: AZR5903432TGL7964A. Is that right?"

Laying down my Rumi book one more time, I retrieve the Dodge Dart folder and take another look at the vehicle identification number, comparing it to the one Dennis had just read to me.

They are not the same numbers. Somehow, Dennis had omitted the final "2" --the one just before the final "A".

"Hey bro, I think you left out a number towards the end. Let me read you the vehicle identification number one more time: AZR5903432TGL79642A. Now read it back to me."

There is a bit of silence on the other end.

"My bad," Dennis says... "I left out the final '2'. Sorry about that. Enjoy your evening."

And with that, I return to the couch, my Rumi book open to page 74:

"Don't run around this world
looking for a hole to hide in.
There are wild beasts in every cave!
If you live with mice,
the cat claws will find you.
The only real rest comes
when you are alone with God.
Live in the nowhere you came from
even though you have an address here."

PS: I shit you not, just as I posted this story a few minutes ago, my landlord called me and asked if I would go down to the basement and check to see if the sump pump was working. See you later after I return from the basement. The story continues...
Photo: Sharon McCutcheon, Unsplash

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at April 27, 2023 12:05 PM

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