Dear Still Water Friends,
This Thursday evening our program will focus on a poem by Rumi:
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
(from The Essential Rumi, translations by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, 1995.)
There is so much I relish in these seven lines. When I read “we wake up empty and frightened” I think of my imperfections: my distractibility, my insensitive comments, my fears, my anxieties. These ways of being were passed to me by my ancestors. They have changed over time. Some have lessened. But they still come every day.
“Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.” Ah, nailed by a Persian mystic who lived seven hundred years ago. Books, newspapers, magazines, and now the internet, all offer me the attractive possibility of filling my mind with the experiences, sounds, images, and ideas of other people—and pushing away my own for a while, especially ignoring that which is difficult, painful, or uncertain.
“Take down a musical instrument.” I hear Rumi saying to me: "Be present, touch your own aliveness, create. It doesn’t matter what you do, or how well you do it.
“Let the beauty we love be what we do. / There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” For me, these lines are an encouragement and a challenge. They remind me that each day, each moment, I can embody beauty, or not. I can open my heart and embrace the world, or I can turn away. In practice it may not be easy or simple. I hear Rumi saying that it is up to me to figure out which of the “hundred of ways of kneeling and kissing the ground” will bring me joy in this moment—“Mitchell, if I told you, it wouldn’t be the same.”
In the mindfulness tradition, a parallel to Rumi’s message of choosing aliveness is the gatha Thich Nhat Hanh suggests his students say each morning as they become conscious:
Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.
You are invited to join us this Thursday for our meditation period (beginning at 7 p.m.) and our program. We will begin the program with a short meditation to help us identify “the beauty we love”—our deepest sources of enjoyment, meaning, and contentment.