Monday, February 28, 2011

conceit



.


.

It is conceit that kills us 
and makes us cowards instead of gods. 
.
Under the great Command: Know thy self, and that thou art mortal! 
we have become fatally self-conscious, fatally self-important, fatally entangled in the cocoon coils of our conceit. 
.
Now we have to admit we can't know ourselves, we can only know about ourselves. 
And I am not interested to know about myself any more, 
I only entangle myself in the knowing. 
.
Now let me be myself, 
now let me be myself, and flicker forth, 
now let me be myself, in the being, one of the gods. 
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~ D.H. Lawrence

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primal simplicity

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Tao is always nameless.
Small as it is in its Primal Simplicity,
It is inferior to nothing in the world.
If only a ruler could cling to it,
Everything will render homage to him.
Heaven and Earth will be harmonized
And send down sweet dew
Peace and order will reign among the people
Without any command from above.
.
When once the Primal Simplicity diversified,
Different names appeared.
Are there not enough names now?
.
Is this not the time to stop?
To know when to stop is to preserve ourselves from danger.
The Tao is to the world what a great river or an ocean
is to the streams and brooks.
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~ Lao Tzu
from the Tao Te Ching
translated by John C. H. Wu

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for a leader



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May the gift of leadership awaken in you as a vocation,
Keep you mindful of the providence that calls you to serve.
.
As high over the mountains the eagle spreads its wings,
May your perspective be larger than the view from the foothills.
.
When the way is flat and dull in times of gray endurance,
May your imagination continue to evoke horizons.
.
When thirst burns in times of drought,
May you be blessed to find the wells.
.
May you have the wisdom to read time clearly
And know when the seed of change will flourish.
.
In your heart may there be a sanctuary
For the stillness where clarity is born.
.
May your work be infused with passion and creativity
And have the wisdom to balance compassion and challenge.
.
May your soul find the graciousness
To rise above the fester of small mediocrities.
May your power never become a shell
Wherein your heart would silently atrophy.
May you welcome your own vulnerability
As the ground where healing and truth join.
.
May integrity of soul be your first ideal.
The source that will guide and bless your work.
.


~ John O'Donohue
from To Bless the Space Between Us
photo by Reuters






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present


.

.

The incarnate Word is with us,
is still speaking, is present
always, yet leaves no sign
but everything that is.

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~ Wendell Berry
from Given
IX, Sabbaths 1999

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a pile of ashes




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Your pride in yourself and your wanting,
these steal your energy along the road.
.
If you can kill these robbers
and become the servant of everyone,
you'll meet the Lord in meditation
and see what you used to protect
as just a pile of ashes.
.

~ Lalla
from Naked Song
translations by Coleman Barks

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why am I so lonely



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So I am interested in understanding why I am lonely, for I see it is that which makes me attached. That loneliness has forced me to escape through attachment to this or to that and I see that as long as I am lonely the sequence will always be this. What does it mean to be lonely? How does it come about? Is it instinctual, inherited, or is it brought about by my daily activity? If it is an instinct, if it is inherited, it is part of my lot; I am not to blame. But as I do not accept this, I question it and remain with the question. I am watching and I am not trying to find an intellectual answer. I am not trying to tell the loneliness what it should do, or what it is; I am watching for it to tell me. There is a watchfulness for the loneliness to reveal itself. It will not reveal itself if I run away; if I am frightened; if I resist it. So I watch it. I watch it so that no thought interferes. Watching is much more important than thought coming in. And because my whole energy is concerned with the observation of that loneliness thought does not come in at all. The mind is being challenged and it must answer. Being challenged it is in a crisis. In a crisis you have great energy and that energy remains without being interfered with by thought. This is a challenge which must be answered.
.
So there is this tremendous energy to answer the question: why is there this loneliness? I have rejected ideas, suppositions and theories that it is inherited, that it is instinctual. All that means nothing to me. Loneliness is `what is'. Why is there this loneliness which every human being, if he is at all aware, goes through, superficially or most profoundly? Why does it come into being? Is it that the mind is doing something which is bringing it about? I have rejected theories as to instinct and inheritance and I am asking: is the mind, the brain itself, bringing about this loneliness, this total isolation? Is the movement of thought doing this? Is the thought in my daily life creating this sense of isolation? In the office I am isolating myself because I want to become the top executive, therefore thought is working all the time isolating itself. I see that thought is all the time operating to make itself superior, the mind is working itself towards this isolation.
.
So the problem then is: why does thought do this? Is it the nature of thought to work for itself? Is it the nature of thought to create this isolation? Education brings about this isolation; it gives me a certain career, a certain specialization and so, isolation. Thought, being fragmentary, being limited and time binding, is creating this isolation. In that limitation, it has found security saying: "I have a special career in my life; I am a professor; I am perfectly safe." So my concern is then: why does thought do it? Is it in its very nature to do this? Whatever thought does must be limited.
.
Now the problem is: can thought realize that whatever it does is limited, fragmented and therefore isolating and that whatever it does will be thus? This is a very important point: can thought itself realize its own limitations? Or am I telling it that it is limited? This, I see, is very important to understand; this is the real essence of the matter. If thought realizes itself that it is limited then there is no resistance, no conflict; it says, "I am that". But if I am telling it that it is limited then I become separate from the limitation. Then I struggle to overcome the limitation, therefore there is conflict and violence, not love.
.
Thought has created this sense of loneliness, this emptiness, because it is limited, fragmentary, divided and when it realizes this, loneliness is not, therefore there is freedom from attachment. I have done nothing; I have watched the attachment, what is implied in it, greed, fear, loneliness, all that and by tracing it, observing it, not analyzing it, but just looking, looking and looking, there is the discovery that thought has done all this. Thought, because it is fragmentary, has created this attachment. When it realizes this, attachment ceases. There is no effort made at all. For the moment there is effort conflict is back again.
.
In love there is no attachment; if there is attachment there is no love. There has been the removal of the major factor through negation of what it is not, through the negation of attachment. I know what it means in my daily life: no remembrance of anything my wife, my girl friend, or my neighbor did to hurt me; no attachment to any image thought has created about her; how she has bullied me, how she has given me comfort, how I have had pleasure sexually, all the different things of which the movement of thought has created images; attachments to those images has gone.
.
And there are other factors: must I go through all those step by step, one by one? Or is it all over? Must I go through, must I investigate--as I have investigated attachment--fear, pleasure and the desire for comfort? I see that I do not have to go through all the investigation of all these various factors; I see it at one glance, I have captured it.
.
So, through negation of what is not love, love is. I do not have to ask what love is? I do not have to run after it. If I run after it, it is not love, it is a reward. So I have negated, I have ended, in that enquiry, slowly, carefully, without distortion, without illusion, everything that it is not--the other is.

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~ J. Krishnamurti
taken from A dialogue with oneself
a discussion meeting on August 30, 1977
photo by Shreve Stockton


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Sunday, February 27, 2011

in us but without us






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The innocence and purity of heart which belong to paradise are 
a complete emptiness of self in which all is the work of God, 
the free and unpredictable expression of His love,
the work of grace. 
.
In the purity of original innocence,
 all is done in us but without us, in nobis et sine nobis.

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~ Thomas Merton
from Zen and the Birds of Appetite
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Saturday, February 26, 2011

mystic

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A mystic is a person who is deeply aware of the powerful presence of the divine Spirit: someone who seeks, above all, the knowledge and love of God, and who experiences the profoundly personal encounter with the energy of divine life. 

.
~ Ursula King
art by Odilon Redon, from the British Museum

While older meanings tend to associate mystics with magical dark arts,  definitions now tend to reach across cultures and traditions to embrace all who find their true home within themselves, within their own hearts.

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Psalm 121 
.
I look deep into my heart,
to the core where wisdom arises.
Wisdom comes from the Unnamable
...and unifies heaven and earth.
The Unnamable is always with you,
shining from the depths of your heart. 
.


~ A Book of Psalms
 translated and adapted by Stephen Mitchell
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loved and chosen





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For silence is not God, nor speaking; 
fasting is not God, nor eating; 
solitude is not God, nor company; 
nor any other pair of opposites.  
.
He is hidden between them, 
and cannot be found by anything your soul does, 
but only by the love of your heart. 
.

He cannot be known by reason, 
he cannot be thought, caught, or sought by understanding.  
But he can be loved and chosen by the true, loving will of your heart.
.

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~ The Cloud of Unknowing
Written anonymously, this practical, unemotional book of instruction focuses on stripping away all earthly ways of knowing, of passing through the cloud of forgetting and piercing the cloud of unknowing that exists between himself and God.  Widely read in the fourteen century for its beauty in aiding a contemplative experience, The Cloud, is better known than the later work, The Book of Privy Counseling which also clearly written by one who has trodden the mystical path himself and offers others a helping hand.

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recognize your own poverty


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The opening of the spiritual eyes is a glowing darkness and rich nothingness... It may be called: Purity of soul and spiritual rest, inward stillness and peace of conscience, refinement of thought and integrity of soul, a lively consciousness of grace and solitude of heart, the wakeful sleep of the spouse and the tasting of heavenly joys, the ardor of love and brightness of light, the entry into contemplation and reformation of feeling...

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A real pilgrim going to Jerusalem leaves his house  and land, wife and children; he divests himself of all that he possesses in order to travel light and without encumbrances.  Similarly, if you which to be a spiritual pilgrim, you must divest yourself of all that you possess; that is, both of good deeds and bad, and leave them all behind you.  Recognize your own poverty, so that you will not place any confidence in your own work;  instead, alway be desiring the grace of deeper love, and seeking the spiritual presence.  It you do this, you will be setting your heart wholly on reaching Jerusalem, and on nothing else.

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~ Walter Hilton (1340-1396)
Hilton wrote the masterpiece The Ladder (or Scale) of Perfection, first published in 1494, written in English but also known under its Latin title, Scala Perfectionis.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

enough




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It is enough that one surrenders oneself. 
Surrender is to give oneself up to the original cause of one's being. 
Do not delude yourself by imagining such a source to be some God outside you. 
One's source is within oneself. 
Give yourself up to it. 
.


...
~ Ramana Maharshi


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unlived things


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No one lives his life.
.
Disguised since childhood,
haphazardly assembled
from voices and fears and little pleasures,
we come of age as masks.
.
Our true face never speaks.
.
Somewhere there must be storehouses
where all these lives are laid away
like suits of armor or old carriages
or clothes hanging limply on the walls.
.
Maybe all paths lead there,
to the repository of unlived things.
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~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
art by picasso

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the blind old man








I don't know why so much sweetness hovers around us.
Nor why the wind blows the curtains in the afternoons,
Nor why the earth mutters so much about its children.

We'll never know why the snow falls through the night,
Nor how the heron stretches her long legs,
Nor why we feel so abandoned in the morning.

We have never understood how birds manage to fly,
Nor who the genius is who makes up dreams,
Nor how heaven and earth can appear in a poem.

We don't know why the rain falls so long.
The ditchdigger turns up one shovel after another.
The herons go on stitching the heavens together.

We've never heard about the day we were conceived
Nor the doctor who helped us to be born,
Nor that blind old man who decides when we will die.

It's hard to understand why the sun rises,
And why our children are mostly fond of us,
And why the wind blows the curtains in the afternoon.



~  Robert Bly
 from Talking Into the Ear of a Donkey




beyond the grey continent









It must be those brief moments
when nothing has happened - nor is going to.
Tiny moments, like islands in the ocean
beyond the grey continent of our ordinary days.
.
There, sometimes, you meet your own heart
like someone you've never known.



~ Hans Børli


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Thursday, February 24, 2011

if you love




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You might quiet the whole world for a second
if you pray.
.
And if you love, if you
really love,
.
our guns will
wilt.
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~ St. John of the Cross

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I cobbled their boots


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How could I love my fellow men who tortured me?
.
One night I was dragged into a room 
and beaten near death with
their shoes
.
striking me hundreds of times
in the face, scarring me 
forever.
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I cried out for God to help, until I fainted.
.
That night in a dream, in a dream more real than this world.
a strap from the Christ's sandal
fell from my bleeding
mouth,
.
and I looked at Him and He 
was weeping, and
spoke,
.
"I cobbled their boots;
how sorry 
I am.
.
What moves all things
is God."

.
~ St John of the Cross
from Love poems of God,
Twelve sacred voices from the East and West

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to just be close




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I was sad one day and went for a walk;
I sat in a field.
.
A rabbit noticed my condition and 
came near.
.
It often does not take more than that to help at times -
.
to just be close to creatures who
are so full of knowing,
so full of love
that they don't
- chat,
.
they just gaze with
their
marvelous understanding.

.
.
~ St. John of the Cross
from Love Poems from God
translations by Daniel Ladinsky

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

oneness into many


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As the same fire assumes different shapes
When it consumes objects differing in shape,
So does the one Self take the shape
Of every creature in whom he is present.
As the same air assumes different shapes
When it enters objects differing in shape,
So does the one Self take the shape
Of every creature in whom he is present.
...
The ruler supreme, inner Self of all,
Multiplies his oneness into many.
Eternal joy is theirs who see the Self
In their own hearts.  To none else does it come!
.

~ Katha Upanishad
translation by Eknath Easwaran

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epiphany






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In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race ... there is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. 
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I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God's eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all of the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed...
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~ Thomas Merton
from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

(On March 18, 1958, on the corner of Fourth and Walnut, now Fourth and Muhammad Ali in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas Merton had a vision of oneness with all people. He called this vision an "epiphany.")

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freedom - it comes unexpectedly

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Freedom is of the highest importance, but we place it within the borders of our own conceit.  We have preconceived ideas of what freedom is, or what it should be; we have beliefs, ideals, conclusions about freedom.  But freedom is something that cannot be preconceived.  It has to be understood.  Freedom does not come through mere intellection, through a logical reasoning from conclusion to conclusion.  It comes darkly, unexpectedly; it is born of its own inward state.  To realize freedom requires an alert mind, a mind that is deep with energy, a mind that is capable of immediate perception without the process of gradation, without the idea of an end to be slowly achieved.  So, if I may, I would like to think aloud with you about freedom this evening.
.
I think it is very important to understand this problem for oneself, because it is only in freedom that there is love; it is only in freedom that there is creation; it is only in freedom that Truth can be found.  Do what it will, a slavish mind can never find Truth; a slavish mind can never know the beauty and the fullness of life.
.
What matters is to observe your own mind without judgement - just to look at it, to watch it, to be conscious of the fact that your mind is a slave, and no more; because that very perception releases energy, and it is this energy that is going to destroy the slavishness of the mind... We are concerned only with perceiving 'what is', and it is the perception of 'what is' that releases the creative fire.
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We are the product of our environment, of our culture; we are the product of the food we eat, of our climate, our customs, our traditions. ...As long as I accept the dictates of tradition, of a particular culture, as long as I carry the weight of my memories, my experiences - which after all are the result of my conditioning - I am not an individual, but merely a product.  When you call yourself a Hindu, a Muslim, a Parsi, a Buddhist, a communist, a Catholic, or what you will, are you not the product of your culture, your environment?
.
Our minds are the result of a thousand yesterdays; being conditioned by the culture in which they live, and by the memory of past experiences, they devote themselves to the acquisition of knowledge and technique. ...most of us prefer to be slaves; it is less troublesome, more respectable, more comfortable.  In slavery there is little danger, our lives are more or less secure, and that is what we want - security, certainty, a way of life in which there will be no serious disturbance.  
.
I wonder whether you have ever taken the trouble actually to look at a flower?  And when you do look at a flower, what happens?  You immediately name the flower, you are concerned with what species it belongs to, or you say, 'What lovely colours it has.  I would like to grow it in my garden; I would like to give it to my wife, or put it in my button-hole', and so on.  In other words, the moment you look at a flower, your mind begins chattering about it; therefore you never perceive the flower.  You perceive something only when your mind is silent, when there is no chattering of any kind.  If you can look at the evening star over the sea without a movement of the mind, then you really perceive the extraordinary beauty of it; and when you perceive beauty, do you not also experience the state of love?  Surely, beauty and love are the same.  Without love there is no beauty, and without beauty there is no love.  Beauty is in form, beauty is in speech, beauty is in conduct.  You don't have to do something to bring it about; there is no discipline, no method by which you can learn to perceive.
.
Your minds are slaves to patterns, to systems, to methods and techniques.  I am talking of something entirely different.  Perception is instantaneous, timeless; there is no gradual approach to it.  It is on the instant that perception takes place; it is a state of effortless attention.  The mind is not making an effort, therefore it does not create a border, a frontier, it does not place a limitation on its own consciousness.  But to be aware of that timeless state, to feel the tremendous depth and ecstasy of it, one must begin by understanding the slavish mind.  
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You know, when you love something without any motive, without any want, such love brings its own results, it finds its own way, it is its own beauty.  ...if you really perceive for yourself that your mind is accumulating, that is enough.  To perceive requires complete attention; and when you give your whole mind, your whole heart, your total being to something, there is no problem.  
.

~ J. Krishnamurti
excerpts from a talk in Bombay, 23 December 1959
.


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I follow barefoot


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I long for You so much
I follow barefoot Your frozen tracks

That are high in the mountains
That I know are years old.

I long for You so much 
I have even begun to travel
Where I have never been before.

Hafiz, there is no one in this world
Who is not looking for God.

Everyone is trudging along
With as much dignity, courage
And style

As they possibly 
Can.



~ Hafiz
from The Subject Tonight is Love
translations by Daniel Ladinsky
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

november




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Some aggravations include the whole world.
What can you do?  An old pulp-cutter
Longs to die, imagines
The Easter nails.
.
On his Icelandic farm, Guttorm hears
The news: his two sons
Dead.  He pulls the covers
Up over his head.
.
Some oak leaves hang, others fall.
The body says, "It's all right
To die.  It's not an insult
To the world."

.
~ Robert Bly
from Morning Poems


.


winter afternoon by the lake

.


.
Black trunks, black branches, and white snow.
No one nearby, five o'clock, below zero,
Late January. No birds. No wind.
You look, and your life seems stopped.  Perhaps
.
You died suddenly earlier today.  But the thin
Moon says no.  The trees say, "It's been this way
Before, often.  It's cold, but it's quiet."  We've experienced
This before, among the messy Saxons putting back
.
The hide flap.  A voice says: "It's old.  You'll never
See this again, the way it is now, because
Just today you sensed that someone gave you
Life and said, 'Stay as long as you like.'"
.
The snow and the black trees, pause, to see if we're
Ready to re-enter that stillness.  "Not yet."

.
~ Robert Bly
For Owen
from Morning Poems

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non-action




.


.

That which offers no resistance,
overcomes the hardest substances.
That which offers no resistance
can enter where there is no space.
.
Few in the world can comprehend
the teaching without words,
or understand the value of non-action.

.

~ Lao Tzu
from The Tao Te Ching
translation j.h. mcdonald

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listening


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.
What is deep listening?
Sema is a greeting from the secret ones
inside the heart, a letter.
.
The branches of your intelligence
grow new leaves in the wind of this listening.
.
The body reaches a peace.
Rooster sound comes,
reminding you of your love for dawn.
.
The reed flute and the singer's lips.
The knack of how spirit breathes into us
becomes as simple and ordinary as eating and drinking.
.
The dead rise with the pleasure of this listening.
If some cannot hear a trumpet melody,
sprinkle dirt on his head and declare him dead.
.
Listen and feel the beauty of your separation,
the unsayable absence.
.
There is a moon inside every human being.
Learn to be companions with it.
Give more of your life to this listening.
.
As brightness is to time, so you are 
to the one who talks to the deep ear in your chest.
.
I should sell my tongue and buy a thousand ears
when that one steps near and begins to speak.
.

~ Rumi
from The Big Red Book
translations by Coleman Barks

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