Cracker Jacks

“The goal is very close to us, but nevertheless, as close as it seems, it is far away, because with every horizon reached, another beckons beyond.” – – Joel Goldsmith


“Candy coated popcorn.  Peanuts, and a prize.  That’s what you get with Cracker Jacks (bouncy flute riff).” I loved Cracker Jacks when I was a kid.  And the tv commercial. I loved the prize even more, the one that was usually at the bottom of the box.  Let nothing come between me and that prize! So my usual tact was to jam my hand down to the bottom of the box as the candy coated popcorn flew all over the place.  But I had my prize! (Or as mom might’ve said: “You and that dammit prize.”) It is such an ironic metaphor for the results of a lot of meditation that not too much time ever passes without me making the comparison.

On December 10th, 1993, my mom passed away.  I was newly broken up out of a relationship just before she died and things had soured  financially so at age thirty-six I tucked my tail between my legs and moved back in with her.  Can’t beat free rent. By this time the rest of my family had scattered away from mom so I was left holding the proverbial bag. It was up to me to settle the so-called estate.  I was in over my head.  I was talking daily with attorneys, and realtors and panic got to be my normal mode.  I started to meditate daily, sometimes twice.  Then I had an invoice sent to me from the VA.  It seems that mom didn’t understand that my dad’s VA checks were meant to pay for his nursing home fees before he passed.  She was pocketing the money.  I got a bill for $77,000.  After holding the piece of paper for a few seconds I started to laugh out loud.  What else could I do?  Meditate, that’s what.  So I did again and again.  Days, weeks, a few months passed and I swear I was in a meditative state as many as ten times a day.  Feeling scared? Meditate. Lonely or overwhelmed? Meditate. It took me a while to notice the changes that were happening around me.

At first, impossibly it seemed like things were getting worse. A notice from the city to clean up various or face a fine.  Hiring a guy to come and cut down an overgrown plum tree in mom’s back yard, only to have him cut down the two big pine trees in front of the house instead. Things going awry at work.  Was this crap the answer to all of my prayer and meditation?  I had started out looking for some sort of resolution.  After my situation started pointing south again, I began to meditate just to feel safe.  I loved the beautiful feeling of companionship I got.  The little tufts of joy.  The growing feeling that everything was not going to be ok, but everything already is ok. Meditation was truly my safe haven.  Yet it seemed odd to me that it felt like the whole world was against me for the first couple of months.  Like I had crammed my hand into the Cracker Jacks box of the world and popcorn and peanuts were flying everywhere.  As a kid I had to clean up the Cracker Jacks.  In my estate situation, everything began to right itself.  Without me lifting a finger.  I had found the prize at the bottom of the box.

After a rift with a friend recently I had such a barren feeling that I began to meditate frequently.  Twice a day.  Then four times a day. I’ve gobbled up six the of the late spiritual teacher Joel Goldsmith’s books in the last three weeks. My friend and I patched things up.  And then the popcorn and peanuts happened again.  Somebody forgot to add some paid time off to my paycheck so I was temporarily stiffed about four hundred dollars.  Then my rent check bounced.  Twice.  After getting that resolved with a very helpful banker, I figured things were dying down.  Then I went out to my car this morning and found that someone had shattered the passenger side window. I’m hopefully in the preliminary stages of a shift again. Something I’ve prayed and meditated for since about 1993.  I found that I never reached that level of bliss and things falling into place again because I was focused almost always on the outcomes I wanted.  This time, at age sixty-three I figured I have nothing to lose, so why not go for broke?  “Seek ye first the kingdom.”  Only the kingdom.  Not rosy results.

St Paul said to “press on toward the mark.”  I never knew what that meant until I felt a sort of pressing sensation while sitting in meditation.  A companion piece for that to me is Jesus saying “Go, and sin (an old archery term defined as “missing the mark.”) no more.  I don’t think of “sin” as a word I need to dodge any more.  I think it simply means I’m engaged in the world of thought more than focusing on my Self.  I was told once that people have upwards of eighty thousand thoughts a day.  With each “good” or “bad” thought being an obstacle to divinity.  Naqshbandi Sufis talk of living in two modes with no middle ground: an insatiable thirst for the Beloved, and being “drunk on the love of God.”  I prefer the latter, but know I will entertain both if I continue to meditate as often as I am.  And I’m getting less and less concerned with potential outcomes.  I love the biblical phrase “God is a jealous God.” Like a Sufi, my concern is only about union with my Beloved.  The “bad” things that have happened in my life recently are not “bad” at all.  They are merely a precursor to better things.  The Cracker Jacks may be scattering again, but I have found my long lost Prize.




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