Music to Soothe
With stammering lips and insufficient sounds,
I strive and struggle to deliver right
the music of my nature...--Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Most of us who luckily possess all our senses think that if we had to lose one, the most terrible deprivation would be the loss of sight. But Helen Keller, who became blind and deaf after a mysterious fever at nineteen months of age, mourned the loss of her hearing more than her sight. The writer Hannah Merker tells us in her moving meditation on losing the sense of hearing, Listening, that "Psychologists say that deafness, or a severe hearing loss, acquired after a human being has known hearing, can be the single greatest trauma a person can experience."
Eleven years ago I was at lunch with my almost-two-year-old daughter in our favorite fast-food restaurant when a large ceiling panel fell and struck me in the head and sent me crashing into the table. I sustained a head injury that left me partially disabled for nearly two years. During the first three months of recuperation I was confined to bed and my senses were all skewed. My eyesight was very blurry, I was extremely sensitive to light, and even seeing the different patterns of the quilt on our bed disturbed my sense of equilibrium so much that we had to turn it over to the plain muslim backing. I couldn't read or comprehend words on a page. But the most disorienting disability was that my sense of hearing was affected. I couldn't even carry on a telephone conversation because, without visual clues such as reading lips, I could not process the sounds coming through my ears and rearrange them into meaningful patterns in my brain.
These unsettling side effects lasted for quite a while, but over a period of eighteen months my senses gradually returned - for which I'm deeply grateful. I share this story with you because I want you to consider how much we take for granted until we lose it, either temporarily or permanently. It deeply saddens me that many of us need to have pain as a wake-up call. Now I try my best not to stand on the sidelines of life with deadened, dulled, disinterested senses until another shock makes me suddenly aware of the magic, marvel, and the mystery of it all. And so should you.
Kate Chopin wrote in 1900, "I wonder if anyone else has an ear so turned and sharpened as I have, to detect the music, not of the spheres, but of the earth..." Among my own favorites: the reassuring rhythm of my husband's breathing in the middle of the night when I can't sleep; hearing "I love you" and "We're home," along with footsteps on the stairs; the voice of a good friend on the telephone; raindrops on the roof; cats purring; dogs thumping their tails; teakettles whistling; the melody of words strung together to form a sentence that stirs the imagination and illuminates the soul; the exquisite sounds of silence cascading over me when I momentarily let go and allow the Universe to proceed without my assistance or supervision; and music - music to soothe, inspire, and move me in unexpected waves of sublime pleasure. The concerto of Real Life is playing: delight with thanksgiving in the major and minor chords of its beautiful refrain.
-Sara Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance - A Daybook of Comfort and Joy©1995
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Let your mind be quiet, realizing the beauty of the world, and the immense, the boundless treasures that it holds in store.
All that you have within you, all that your heart desires, all that your nature so specially fits you for - that or the counterpart of it waits embedded in the great Whole, for you. It will surely come to you.
Yet equally surely not one moment before its appointed time will it come. All your crying and fever and reaching out of hands will make no difference.
Therefore do not begin that game at all.--Edward Carpenter
This is the time of year that it is difficult for me to sit around on the weekends. Or any time, for that matter. I really want to be outside, and although I enjoy my job, I have daydreams that take me elsewhere, doing other things, not inside a building but out there in it. There are even times when, because of my job, I am required to go outside. The sun is warm, the flowers are growing, the weather is temperate, and spring is here!
Life has been a gentle teacher for me most of the time, but it is occasionally frustrating to be in the midst of the learning. Melody Beattie likens it to sitting in class with an algebra teacher, listening to the teacher explain something that is momentarily beyond comprehension. And while we do not understand, the teacher takes our understanding of the subject or lesson for granted, and just rolls on without giving it another thought. Meanwhile, we bang our head against it, confused and frustrated, and perhaps give up or maybe just forget about it for a while. Then later, while doing something else entirely, we experience that flash of brilliant insight that makes it all clear, that indicates that the gift of understanding has plumbed the depth of us, and we wonder how we could not have seen and understood the lesson all along. Melody makes the point that, given time and patience, the lesson seems easy to understand... now.
Frustration and confusion are good indicators that life is about to put me through a growth and learning opportunity. One of the readers of Friday's Inspiration pointed out that humility is not a good thing to pray for, because one may get more lessons in humility than one can deal with. I don't ask for growth and learning opportunities for the same reason, I just let them come to me. So, I need to just be patient, and wait for the answers to come as well. I believe that whatever I am in need of in my life - peace of mind, understanding, patience, contentment, inner awareness, or humility - the great Whole that Edward Carpenter speaks of will provide all that I need.
To get past the frustration and impatience, the confusion and discord, I get myself out there, in it. I look for a place that becomes a sacred space for me. It could be anywhere, in a city or in the country (deep woods are my preference). In a pinch, my herb garden does the job. Yesterday, it was a beautiful Catholic Church in Albuquerque, one that has such beautiful architecture, and a belltower that reminded me of a Lighthouse, whose Light was there for all the world to see. I was only inside the Narthex for a few minutes, but what refreshment to my soul that place provided me. The place had marvelous acoustics, and I longed for the choir to be singing. But the sacred silence there was a song all its own. The flickering lights from the candles at the Stations of the Cross blended nicely with the soft glow from the stained glass and chandeliers, and the warmth of the wall hangings - and all that I saw and heard and touched and smelled and felt became a feast for my senses.
Outside once again, the sun was all that much brighter, the birds swooped and sang. The cars rushed by, the priest was busy digging in the garden around the building, and the busy-ness of the city around this holy place provided its own symphonia, in concert with the sight of this beautiful edifice, this House of God. I could almost visualize the great Whole smiling down on the whole of it! I was thankful for my six senses, and what they were treated to in those few moments, grateful for the refreshment, the recharging that this experience gave to me in that brief time.
I relaxed, then. I let go of worrying about what may have been in store for me, what I was supposed to be learning, and just went with the flow of it all. Right in the midst of the moment, I knew this: all I can do is to carefully consider the choices I am given when they are offered, and to pay attention to the consequence of those choices. The understanding of life's lessons will come with time, and in ways that will be clear as daylight. Joseph Campbell informs us that "Sacred space and sacred time and something joyous to do is all we need. Almost anything then becomes a contunuous and increasing joy." Seek spiritual replenishment in those places you consider sacred, wherever they are.
Let your mind be quiet enough to realize the beauty of this life. Listen to the quiet but powerful music of your sacred spaces, and let it soothe you as nothing else can. All that your life truly needs will come to you in its appointed time.
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