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How to Eat Cake

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The other morning, I had a vision of the reality of life. It wasn't profound; it was prosaic, ordinary but delicious. The vision was of a cake. In this vision, I saw a big, round cake with icing on the top and one of those decorative cake wrappers around the circumference. I had to do an Internet search to find out what those paper wrappers are called. They're called cake frills. Even though most of them aren't frilly, in my vision, I saw the life we know and experience as being the same as that cake frill -- thin and inedible. It might look pretty, but to eat the cake, you have to take off that cake frill and discard it.

The real deal, the delicious, dense and deep stuff, is the cake. But we don't see it -- we don't experience it -- because all we see is the cake frill and we think that's all there is.

It's an unsatisfying way to be and live, convinced that a tasteless piece of pretty paper is the sum total of our existence. But we all agree: It's all there is to life, and the prettier the cake frill, the better our lives are. If anyone dare mention that perhaps this piece of paper is just a wrapping and nothing more, that the real experience is underneath and that this real experience is huge and deep and delicious beyond description, then they are derided. Scoffed at for being mad, deluded, odd or stupid: How dare anyone question the validity of our cake frills!

I realize, also, that this is how I judge most people. I see their external wrappings, and all my thoughts are clouded by that wrapping -- the car they drive, the house they live in, the way they look, their teeth, their hair, their skin... their cake frill. I get distracted by it because this is all I've been taught to see.

The words we say are cake frills as well. We all want to impress, entertain, engage and prove our worth by our words -- cake frills for the ears. We take people at surface value, often too afraid to see or hear beyond that paper wrapping. Anything more is dangerous. Even if we realize the true reality beyond the cake frill, even if we sense that the real stuff of life is exquisitely delicious, the thought of removing that wrapping and discarding it is terrifying. We will never be able to go back. Once the cake frill is gone we will never fit in to this world again. We will be lonely, outcast.

Fear is the thing we use to keep ourselves from having the cake. It is the thing that keeps us believing the cake frill is all there is. And so we live in the narrowest of realities. A sliver of paper just a breath away from heaven.

Mary-Lou Stephens' meditation memoir, Sex, Drugs and Meditation, is the true story of how meditation helped changed her life, save her job and find a husband. You can buy it here.