The Heart of the Matter
May 11, 2023

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One of the curious things about the so-called 'spiritual life" is the palpable gap between theory and practice. On one hand, practitioners, in their effort to keep themselves in a positive state of mind, usually maintain an image of themselves as devoted, conscious, centered, and peaceful people. On the other hand (the one with the hangnail), those same people realize that, above and beyond their well crafted personas, they are much closer to being a fool than a sage. Or maybe it's only me I'm talking about.

Here's what I mean:

At one of Prem Rawat's five-day retreats, in Australia, a few years ago, I was having a leisurely lunch with a friend, neither of us with a care in the world. If this was Monopoly, we had both just landed on Free Parking.

When It was time for Mark to return to the Gift Store where he was helping out, I decided to linger a few minutes before trekking back to my tent, not wanting to rush things. Three minutes into my walk, I noticed I didn't have my iPhone, so I turned around and made my way back to the lunch table, expecting to see it just where I most likely left it. It wasn't there.

This did not feel good. So I began searching the many zippered pockets of my backpack -- Sherlock Holmes in heat. Hmmm... my iPhone was nowhere in sight. Then I looked under the table. Nothing. Then I checked the four pockets of my pants -- two in the front and two in the back. Zippo. Nada. Zilch. Then I dumped all the contents of my backpack onto the table just in case I missed something. Notebook? Check! Granola bar? Check! Seating pass? Check! iPhone? No check.

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Surrounded by blissed-out people everywhere, my exponentially increasing sense of agitation began to feel very out of place. Having no clue where my cell phone was, I started sneaking furtive glances at the chatty people sitting at the next table -- people with accents I couldn't quite place. Then the guy cleaning the tables walked by, looking very suspicious -- his ear-to-ear smile obviously a ruse.

I think of approaching the foreigners at the next table, but what am I going to say? "Did you steal my phone?" "Would you be so kind, my brothers and sisters, to empty your pockets?"

I am not feeling good. My stress level is rising.

"Hey," I think to myself, "maybe Mark accidentally put my iPhone in HIS pocket when he left. Certainly possible, no? So I walked over to the Gift Store and asked him, but Mark tells me, big smile on his face, that he doesn't have it.

Now, I've got major butterflies in my stomach -- not the kind you see on greeting cards. No. These are evil butterflies, flying in formation, spitting at each other, while I start making a mental list of all the repercussions that comes with losing a cell phone: The cost of replacing it. The contact list that would need to be rebuilt. My personal information soon to be sold on the dark web. This was not the experience I wanted to be having today. No way. Not here! Not now. Not at Amaroo, the "Beautiful Place."

Ahh... but then I remember there is a LOST AND FOUND close by. Of course! Maybe someone had found my iPhone and brought it there. Isn't that what Lost and Founds are for? Of course! So I get myself over to the Lost and Found, envisioning on the way, that my phone is there and I have learned my lesson of the day. It wasn't there. And to make things worse, the way too smiley lady behind the counter suggests I fill out a form and check back later. Great! A form! Just what I want to be doing. Filling out a form. What is this, the DMV?

Where is my freaking iPhone, huh? WHERE IS IT?

Everyone around me is blissed out or, at the very least, mellow and here I am darting around the place like some kind of freak show, doing my Virgo best to mask the sorry state of my mind so I won't have to answer anyone's questions and lose whatever time I still had left to find my phone before it ended up on eBay. Now I am at Defcon 1, my amygdala kicking in on overdrive.

Returning to "the scene of the crime", I look under the table. My phone is not there. Then, for the 10th time, I look in my backpack, unzipping all the pockets. My phone is still not there. Never was. And apparently, never will be. I slap my pants pockets. Nothing. Just my wallet and a few Australian coins.

Out of options, I decide to check in with Mark once again -- just to make doubly sure he doesn't have it. He is sitting in the supply tent behind the Gift Store, very relaxed and talking to the extremely mellow, Javier.

"Hey Mark," I blurt, trying not to seem too concerned. "Are you SURE you don't have my iPhone?"

"Bro, I am totally sure," he replies, "I've already looked."

Then, to prove to me he's already been through this drill, he reaches behind him and puts his hand in his back pocket. A brief pause... and... then... lo and behold, he pulls out TWO iPhones -- his and mine. Apparently, Mark, when he picked up his phone from the lunch table an hour ago, also picked up mine.

My iPhone is back from the dead! All was right with the world! There is a God!

Yes, I am relieved, but more than that, humbled at how little it takes to knock me off my center -- even at such an extraordinary love-fest like Amaroo. How can this be? I've been "on the path" for almost 50 years and this is the best I can do? Really?

Methinks I am not alone in this phenomenon. No matter how much any of us experience joy, gratitude, fulfillment, peace, love, and freedom in our lives, we are all still human beings -- subject to change without notice -- fragile, vulnerable creatures who toggle back and forth between the highest states of WOW and the goofiest states of dread when things don't go exactly according to plan.

The good news? Every time I return from the land of crazy, I remember, once again, there is another place to dwell. It ain't down at the end of lonely street. It ain't in Heartbreak Hotel. It's nestled inside my breath and the experience that comes from returning to my true home once again -- no one I need to call except myself.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at May 11, 2023 11:58 PM

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Welcome to Mitch Ditkoff's blog about what's really important in this life: Peace, gratitude, love, joy, clarity, and the effort required to wake up and smell the roses. Enjoy!

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