Maybe you know the joke about the woman who had fallen on hard times. One night, in desperation, she fell down on her knees. "Dear God," she prayed, "my business is about to go belly-up. Please let me win the lottery tomorrow." Tomorrow came and she didn't win the lottery. So, for a second night, she got down to pray: "Dear God, I am your good and humble servant. I've never asked for much. Now, my business is gone and they're about to repossess the house. Please let me win the lottery tomorrow." Tomorrow came no luck. With her desperation rising, she knelt yet again. "Dear God, I am your good and faithful servant. I've never asked for much. Now, my business is gone, the house is gone and my children are starving. Please let me win the lottery tomorrow." Just then, the skies opened up and a large voice boomed out: "Lady, work with me on this: Go buy a ticket!"

Part of the reason this joke is funny is that each of us may recognize within ourselves the ability to wish for something without being willing to sacrifice the time or energy to actually get it. The same is true in spiritual life. "Gee, I wish I were enlightened" or "how I wish I were more at peace, kinder, less angry" or some similar, life-shifting wish. But you have to buy a ticket. So what kind of a ticket do you have to buy? In Zen, as in any other spiritual direction, the ticket is stamped "personal consent." Without your personal consent, Zen may be quite attractive intellectually, but it doesn't make any dead-certain sense. In Zen, to sit down on a cushion and do zazen is personal consent. To pay greater attention to your surroundings is personal consent. To take greater responsibility in your daily activities is personal consent. To watch and watch and watch some more is personal consent. Zen Buddhism is not very complicated: It is just your life. The difficulty lies in the unwillingness to buy a ticket to a show that has already begun. So if you are inclined, please buy a ticket, Aside from anything else, the odds of success are miles better than the lottery.

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