“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” ~ Dalai Lama XIV
A Very Strange Encounter with a Talkative Slice of Pizza
So there I was staring down at my food the other day when I was overcome by the impression that there was something very profound my slice of pizza had to say to me.
For a while, we just sat there staring at each other. I wondered what my lunch was thinking so close to its own demise, seemingly unaware of its predicament.
I have to admit I had mixed emotions about this unexpected turn of events. On the one hand, a part of me wanted to know what a slice of pizza could possibly have to say that was so important.
But on the other hand, I was really quite hungry. And since pizza has long been my favorite food, things were not looking very good for the pizza slice.
It was at that moment of indecision that my lunch cleared its throat to speak (now at this point, you may be wondering how a throatless object could possibly clear what it doesn’t have. But I have to admit that I did not think to ask that question at the time. After all, my pizza slice was about to talk to me – I was all ears!).
And oh the things I learned that day from a slice of pizza. I discovered that my lunch, in all its delicious pizza-ness, waiting to be eaten wasn’t waiting at all. In fact, it was completely detached from my opinions about it in Zen-like equanimity.
My plain slice of cheese pizza spoke with naked authenticity, unconcerned with my acceptance or rejection of who it was even at its very core. Without pretense, façade or obfuscation, it simply opened itself to my gaze.
There were no hidden agendas or half-concealed motives. It simply, quietly, confidently was.
To Be Pepperonied or Not To Be Pepperonied, That Was NEVER the Question!
I learned that my cheese pizza slice never wondered why the thin crust slices were always so much thinner. It never worried about being pepperonied or unpepperonied. It never cared whether it was placed next to a brotherly slice of BBQ-ed chicken or Hawaiian pineapple pizza. It didn’t wonder if I liked one slice above another.
My slice of cheese pizza had no jealousy for the meat-lovers slices or envy for the supreme slices. It didn’t judge the Canadian Bacon … or itself, for that matter. It cared nothing about the stats that clearly revealed which brand was best or which topping was most favored. It never scoffed at the anchovy slices and never turned up its nose at the olives.
It was simply what it was. Nothing more. Nothing less. It was not confused by others’ expectations or guilt-ridden for being just a plain slice of cheese pizza. It didn’t care who liked or disliked it. Those who liked cheese pizza would pick up a slice, it sensibly reasoned. Those who didn’t wouldn’t.
In total Zen-ish acceptance, my cheesy slice of pizza never even thought about the other slices being more of this or more of that, one way or another.
It didn’t care that its crust was not stuffed with cheese or sizzling in olive oil or whether it came with this or that sauce to dip it in. It was, in a word, content. It had found peace in being a slice of cheese pizza.
Can We Learn What a Slice of Pizza Already Knows?
As my pizza slice spoke with monkish wisdom, I wondered if human kind could live that way, not caring what the fashion magazines said about how we should look, not worrying whether we are liked or disliked by this that or another crowd, self-accepting, content, self-possessed and at peace with the thinner and larger and meatier and crunchier and more popular people around us.
I wondered if that little slice of pizza hadn’t discovered something deeply and profoundly important to our happiness. I wondered if we would believe the message was worth the self-sacrifice needed to squish into oblivion the internal voice that criticizes and judges and condemns and compares.
And so I asked my slice of pizza how it was able to achieve such Zen-esque peace and happiness. It paused. I waited. It spoke. I listened.
It simply answered in unguarded authenticity, “I am.”
Old Habits Die Hard … When You’re Hungry
Sitting there, the scent of my lunch wafting through the air, I contemplated its two-word response and smiled. Then sighed. I understood.
And then my stomach growled a bit as if to tell me enough was enough already. I had sat down at the table with one goal in mind, after all. And so I looked my slice of self-fulfilled pizza in the eyes, smiled knowingly, grabbed it lustily and took a bite.
As I bit and tore and chewed and enjoyed, I became lost in all its cheesy goodness. And there, in cheesy bliss, I soon forgot the lessons it had taught me as once again I began to judge myself with harsh abandon every time I stood too close to someone taller, smarter, prettier, bigger, brighter, shinier, newer, better.
I watched my neighbor with suspicion for not being who I thought he should be. My wife became the object of doubt and concern when she wasn’t doing what I thought others in her shoes should be doing. My children once more were at the receiving end of my scrutinous eye.
And so I had returned to the prison of “I was,” trapped in the clutches of “I will be,” banned to self-imposed exile from the is-ness of “I am.”
Until one day when I was eating a salad and it seemed to me the croutons had something they wanted to say to me …
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