By Armando Vaquez
The poets and sages have always reminded us that if we practice mindfulness each and every moment of every year life’s miracles reveal themselves as scared gifts. I’m beginning to understand and practice that holy concept. I will turn 69 years old this week. The number 69 has always had a special meaning to me. The year 1969 began as the most dreadful year of my life, I barely managed to graduate from three years of hell in high school. I had unwittingly sabotaged my dream of becoming the shortstop for the Los Angeles Dodger and summarily killed by my own all-consuming fear, angst and most painfully my inexplicable descent into mediocrity. Finally, I begrudgingly registered, like millions of other teens throughout the nation, for military service.
I don’t know how I made it through that year, but I did and things started changing for me. In mid-summer of 1969 I was accepted into college. How that happened I can only attribute to divine intervention, simple luck would not have covered that tab. The seeds of racialization and activism had been planted in my soul in high school where I had faced first-hand the devastating effects of poverty, racism, and prejudice both at home and in Mexico, the motherland. It was in 1968 that the Tlateloco Massacre took place at La Plaza de las Tres Cultura in Mexico City. The Mexican Presdent Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, at that time, ordered his goons and soldiers to open fire on students and protesters that were peacefully protesting government corruption. The Tlateloco Massacre came only ten days before the beginning of the 1968 Olympics that were to be held in Mexico. I was in Mexico at the time of the Tlateloco Massacre, as we were visiting our relatives in Jalisco. The day after the student massacre, my mother quickly gathered her 6 siblings, left her beloved country promising never to return. She was especially fearful for me as she could see the growing fear, angst and rage against authority that I could not control, and in Mexico she surmised that madness would get me quickly “desaparecido” or killed.
We returned home. I waited out the rest of the summer and began classes at San Fernando Valley State College (now California State University, Northridge (CSUN)). Quite simply put, I know now, college saved my life. By the end of 1969 the federal government has instituted a lottery system for military induction and service. Again divine intervention saved me from being shipped out to Viet Nam. My “number” was not called. I never served in Viet Nam, but my brother did, along with many of my “homies” from San Fernando. Every one of these young men that I knew, came back in ghost like dark catatonic silence. My brother has never spoken about his Viet Nam experience.
Yeah, 19(69) has a very special place in my heart. So in celebration of my 69 years of life and moving forward here are my rumination on the 69 wonderful years of trails, tribulations, and triumphs in my life.
Birth is a celestial crap shoot: The simple wondrous moment of birth should be enough one would think. Of course it is not, far too many humans are born with devastating disabilities, sickness and disease. More than half the world lives in abject poverty, hunger and bondage. So if we are one of the “lucky ones”, the free ones, and fortunate to be born into a family that can provide substance and nourishment then we are indeed blessed. It is blind, often cruel luck, that determines our initial caste in life, nothing more. I have come to greatly appreciate the fact that only by and for “celestial intervention” I would long ago be dead due to the ravages of malnutrition, disease or violence simply because I was born to two dirt poor subsistence indio campesinos from Ahualulco, Mexico. What these two incredible Mexican parents gave me and my siblings was total and complete unconditional love. What my siblings and I witnessed from our parents very early in life was that love can overcome any barrier.
Life is a marathon and not a sprint: Likewise our monastic parents taught us that those vital and good things in life will come when focused hard work is thrown into the love mix. For much of my young adult life I strayed badly from my parent’s doctrine. I had the typical American sprinter appetite and curse. I wanted everything and I wanted it now! I did not have the discipline nor the requisite tools or mind set to live “within myself”. Oddly, life’s trinket and things came to me easily with not much effort. Yet, I was never satisfied and fulfilled. In fact I was often miserable, my life became a perpetual addictive and blind sprint in an empty and cold material world. The more stuff I got the more miserable I became. The thing that brought me out of my material abyss was nothing more than perpetual misery, the frequent physical and mental ass-kicking that come with greed and avarice, and long term love, patience and support from my family.
Develop a fluid and flexible game plan for life: Create an ever evolving life strategy that you believe in, makes you smile as you work it, and lovingly accompanies you to a peaceful sleep: This sounds a lot easier said than done. But the sooner we accept the essence of that old saying “what does not kill you makes you strong” we get to the heart of mindful living. Life has its ups and downs, no one is immune. What we can do is elect to learn from our mistakes and transgressions, and mindfully resolve to improve our act. In the process of mindful living; slowly and organically the game plan of life solidifies and improves. My game plan has evolved and become clear and simple; service to my family and community. Eliminate the chase for the toys and trinkets. They got it horribly wrong back in the day when the fools would bark, “The one with the most toys wins” Unconditional love will unclutter your heart and mind, from the shit and noise, and you will have little need for the toys and trinkets courtesy of the material rat race.
Avoid Conniving, Cheating Charlatans and Complicit Changitos (fools): This is a good rule of thumb to follow in life. There is always a Grifter ready, willing and able to separate a fool from his money. In the insane zillion dollar American “Health Industry” there is no promise that is too outlandish, scandalous, or stupid, all intended to rip-off the pendejo from his money. A “natural and organic “drink consume daily will miraculously help you lose weight. A magic pill will improve your sexual performance. Another super pill will bring you calm and peace. An injection will give you superman muscles. The ubiquitous American drug peddler and his devils promise immediate gratification and are at the service of every desperate, foolish and gullible man, women and child in America. You have the money the charlatans have the magical health product scam for you.
We all know in our gut that much of the shit that the “Health Industry” peddles is useless and often harmful to our health. One sure thing that I have learned in my 69 years of life is that good holistic health does not come easy, cannot be bought, or divined. A healthy life must be practiced rigorously with a mindful long term plan. No one can give or sell you good health, it must be sought, acquired and retained with a healthy sacrifice of your blood, sweat and tears. Good health requires sacrifice and pain. I have been working out hard for over 60 years for my good health. It has always been tough, demanding and painful, I have never had the privilege of experiencing a “runner high”; all I experience is painful hard earned results. Because of my 60 year workout regimen I can state “tongue in cheek” that my workout regimen has made the “70’s the new 40’s” a living breathing reality. I do not consume pills, I do not consume health or energy drinks, I am not a member of a gym, I am not under the care of any doctor, charlatan or health guru. I eat lean, heavy on fresh fruits and vegetables. All my meals are accompanied with frijoles, fresh salsa or chiles, and corn tortillas. I love my siestas and sleep from 8 to 10 hours every night. I do not consume alcohol, smoke weed or cigarettes. My life is simple, peaceful and I work my ass off 5 days a week. I do not spend a penny on my work out and health regimen.
Patience+ Mindfulness+ Clarity=Gratitude: My life today is filled with peace and love, which gives me patience. I am mindful that without clarity of purpose I can lose focus. I have simplified my life I now focus on service to my family and community. Mother Teresa reminds to, “Do little things with a great deal of love” I try to follow that lovely advice and at the days end I am humbled by the little thing that I do and the great gratitude and love that I receive.
*Only lies, deception, pain and misery for the fools that thinks there is one.”
Armando Vazquez, M.Ed. is Executive Director of Acuna Art Gallery/Café on A, Executive Director for The KEYS Leadership Academy and Chairman of the Oxnard Multicultural Mental Health/coalition
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.