The Buddhist and the Hot Dog Vendor

We all know what the Buddhist said to the hot dog vendor: “Make me one with everything.”

And most of us know what happened next. The Buddhist handed a $20 bill to the hot dog vendor, who pocketed it. “Where’s my change?” asked the Buddhist.

The hot dog vendor replied: “Change comes from within.”

Hot Dog with EverythingThat antique joke came to me while I was driving to work today. I still drive to work most days, a ritual that will end 56 days and seven hours from now, when my remaining business will be sold and I will devote full time to writing. My drive is 25 miles through the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I was checking in with myself, asking myself how I was doing. I looked at a hill I was approaching and decided that I was feeling my oneness with it and with everything else. I was feeling my oneness with everything, so I was feeling good.

We are never alone when we feel that connection, and for about a year I was living in that space pretty well. I was living in the moment, not letting the past drag me down or the future worry me, feeling my connection to all things. And then, on June 1 this year came the death of my 29-year-old son, Thomas. Why is it that traumas make it so difficult to return to a space we know is healing?

Things that have helped bring me back here:

…the love of my friends and communities…

…the weekly meditation group I lead, and especially the healing meditation we did on Tuesday…

…the daily blog posts, the start of a book, and a sermon that I’ve written in a total honesty that I have never before embraced…

…the love I feel for my wife, who needs my calm more than ever, and for my remaining son…

…the following I’ve developed and the friends I’ve made in two months of blogging, which tell me that the way I want to spend the rest of my life is meaningful to others…

…the conviction that Thomas is somehow entangled with me in my writing.

It’s a more mundane consideration, but getting my business sold helped me return to this place as well. I had reached a point where my business was holding me back from the sort of total honesty — the sort of ministry — in which I’d like to live the rest of my life.

So there I was, driving to work, feeling my oneness with everything, and I thought about the Buddhist and the hot dog vendor. The Buddhist realized, of course, that no one else could make him one with everything. And, at the same time, I hope they both realized that change doesn’t come entirely from within.

My teacher Thich Nhat Hanh often says that he doesn’t understand the verb to be. He thinks the verb is to interbe, since nothing can be on its own. The English name for his order is the Order of Interbeing.

It takes a sangha to help an old man back into grace.

Copyright 2015 © Mel Harkrader Pine

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