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Hear the music

There is a Tibetan story about an earnest young man seeking enlightenment. (Earnest people must think this quite unfair–since they play a central role in most parables and stories about enlightenment.)
A famous sage passes through the man’s village. The man asks the sage to teach him the art of meditation. The sage agrees. He tells the man, “Withdraw from the world. Mediate every day in the specific way I will teach you. Do not waver and you will attain enlightenment.”
The earnest man follows the sage’s instructions to the letter. Time passes–and no enlightenment. Two years, five, ten, twenty pass.
It happens that the sage once again passes through the man’s village. The man seeks him out, grumbling that despite his best intentions and devotion and diligent efforts, he does not achieve enlightenment. “Why?”
The sage asks, “What type of meditation did I teach you?”
The man tells him.
The sage says, “Oh, what a terrible mistake I made! That is not the right meditation for you. You should have done another kind altogether. Too bad, for now it is too late.”
Disconsolate, the man returns to his cave. Staking his life on the sage’s instructions, and now believing he is without hope, the man abandons all his wishes and efforts and need to control his road to enlightenment. He does not know what to do.
So, he does what knows best: he begins meditating, honoring his practices. And in a short while, much to his astonishment, his confusion begins to dissolve, and his inner world comes to life.
A weight falls away and he feels lighter, and regenerated. When he walks out of the cave, the sky is bluer, the snowcapped mountains whiter, and the world around him more vivid; now walking fully, and wholeheartedly, into the day.

There is no doubt that all too often, our efforts–to succeed or achieve or attain–get in the way of our living. It brings to mind my favorite Robert Capon quote, “We live life like ill-taught piano students. So inculcated with the flub that will get us in dutch, we don’t hear the music, we only play the right notes.”
And I see this temptation exaggerated in our world that still feels catawampus; making peace or well-being somehow, still out of reach.

On my walk this morning, a March winter squall, when the raindrops decide to unite, the droplets now splashes. This is fitting as I think about playing the right notes.
And, I can tell you that I relate to the young man in the story (well, maybe not the young part). I was weaned on a spirituality that predicated itself on artifice. In other words, the importance is placed upon appearance, rather that just being. (It was vital to “look spiritual.” Which begs the question, “What do spiritual people look like?” As a boy, I always thought the “spiritual people” looked as if some part of their clothing was a size too small.)

This I confess; I still prefer (sometimes need) my world tidy, or at least explicable, something I can put my mental arms around. Telling myself that it’s easier to breathe that way, because peace only happens when everything lines up. Here’s the odd part: my selective blindness doesn’t see otherwise. So, like the young man, life must be figured out (resolved) before we live it. All the while, missing the divine invitation to be awake, in this time and moment and place in life; that peace, wellbeing and wholeheartedness is alive and well, even in uncertainty and difficulty.
The rain is unrelenting, but I pause to talk with the deer. (The geese have found safe haven, so the deer are the only ones venturing out.) It’s a family I see most every day, and they seem undeterred by the storm. I tell them that does my heart good, especially now that I don’t have a garden they can pillage. (Which doesn’t seem to impress them.)

What is it we are holding on to–so rigid, so firm, white-knuckled in our determination?
At some point, we’ve got to breathe.
Just breathe.
Without realizing it (and after the sage’s disheartening news), the man in the story “let go.”
He let go of the need to see life as a problem to be solved.
He let go of the need to have the correct answers (or experiences) for his “enlightenment.”
He let go of the need to see his spiritual life in terms of a formula.
He let go of the restraints that come from public opinion.
“Abandon your masterpiece, sink into the real masterpiece,” Leonard Cohen wrote. Without realizing it, he took Leonard Cohen’s advice. He abandoned his “masterpiece”–the perception of what he needed to accomplish, or how he needed to appear, or what he needed to feel–in order to allow himself to sink down into this life, this moment, even with all of its uncertainty and insecurity.
For the first many years, meditation or prayer was a requirement or compulsion. In his emptiness, meditation and prayer was an offering of thanks, freely given, and without constraint. True spiritual enlightenment, it seems, happens when you are not trying to impress anyone, or score any points with heavenly bookkeepers.
It sounds easy doesn’t it? But here’s the deal: My best intentions to play the right notes can fabricate an armor that keeps me from the vividness of life–whether it be to pray or meditate or notice or give or mourn or dance or play or grieve or laugh or love… or just to walk.

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive… of the rapture of being alive,” Joseph Campbell reminds us.
Yes. But here’s my question: How can I do that—live fully, live wholeheartedly—if I am still learning to be comfortable in my own skin?
We are on a journey (process) that can be beautiful and messy, exhilarating and confusing. And we are derailed when we are unable to trust or embrace this journey from a place of not knowing.
A place of uncertainty.
A place without closure.
A place of risk and discomfort.
(“I do so want to be my authentic self, but can we get on with it!!”)  Perhaps we could all benefit from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s reminder, “To live is to be slooowly born.”

In 2013 I wrote, “Today I walked across a bridge. The sun shines down from a bleached blue sky. The air may by cool, but our spirits don’t notice, as we stand and sing under the sign, Edmund Pettus Bridge. We are in Selma, Alabama on Bloody Sunday.
And no, after today I will never be the same.”
Today we pause to remember Bloody Sunday and the Selma Bridge. The first march without Congressman John Lewis. But we march, for a world where justice and peace continue to be our mission and our responsibility.

Quote for your week…
Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go. Herman Hesse.

SABBATH MOMENT BULLETIN BOARD

Today’s Photo Credit: “Blue Sunset, Chaminwood, IL,” Joe Durepos… thank you Joe… Keep sending your photos… send to tdh@terryhershey.com
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NEW Audio SM… Enjoy — Ease into the quiet
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In the mailbag…
–Hi Terry, I really look forward to Sabbath Moments each Monday. Your conversations with sheep, and now geese, are sacramental conversations. In the Celtic tradition wild geese represent the Holy Spirit–“the wild goose reveals a spirit which is passionate, noisy and courageous” and so unpredictable. So, I like to think of your current conversations having this element of unpredictable yet unflinching courage of this wind of the Spirit.
Blessings, Stephanie

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POEMS AND PRAYERS

The pilgrims continue to come. Only God knows what each one of us brings, and with what kind of heart. We come mystically to this cave. We know the mess we bring and the often distracted heart that brings it. But this is all we have–all we are. One stretches out his arms to receive. 
–M. Basil Pennington 

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you
The market only wants to buy and sell you
Listen to the sound underneath the ground
Deep inside your dreams the heart is beating
Don’t go back to sleep
You know that you must ask for your treasure
Move, therefore, toward the greatest pleasure
Fight to stay awake
Choose the path you take
Even if you don’t know where it’s going
Trust your own unknowing
Don’t go back to sleep
It’s so easy to be there with your long perfumed hair
And the footstep on the stair in the cool of the evening
No one sees me as I draw back the veil on a wave of creation
The physical sensation of another world….
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you
The market only wants to buy and sell you
Fight to stay awake
Choose the path you take
Even if you don’t know where it’s going
Trust your own unknowing
Don’t go back to sleep
Words & Music by Jan Garrett
©1992 Foolchild Music (ASCAP)

A Blessing of Solitude
May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone,
that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for you own individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that
you have a special destiny here,
that behind the facade of your life there is something
beautiful, good, and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride,
and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.
John O’Donohue 

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