In "Song of the Reed," one of Rumi's longer poems, a reed made into a flute tells its story of being separated: "Since I was cut from the reedbed, I have made this crying sound. Anyone apart from someone he loves understands what I say. Anyone pulled from a source longs to go back. At any gathering I am there, mingling in the laughing and grieving, a friend to each, but few will hear the secrets hidden within the notes. "
Later in the poem, the reed says: "The reed is a friend to all who want the fabric torn and drawn away. The reed is hurt and salve combining. Intimacy and longing for intimacy, one song. A disastrous surrender and a fine love, together. The one who secretly hears this is senseless." And then this reed ends abruptly: "But if someone doesn't want to hear the song of the reed flute, it's best to cut conversation short, say good-bye, and leave."
There you have it. The invitation is there. Love it or leave it. A big deal. Not a big deal.
I love it! Our sound pure - salve, love, pain, grace, longing. Not everyone wants to hear us. And we are so terribly quick to judge the sound of others. Separation and belonging, it is who we are, the story of humanity. The crying sound. It is fine because it is what it is. It really makes no difference how big our corporation is, or how seemingly important our responsibilities are. It makes no difference how small we may feel, how much we think we screwed up. We sing our unique yet universal note. It is there for us to sound. To listen to. It is the mystery of belonging. It hurts. It heals. Let's drop the masks and become real.
For me, my own invitation this week: What if I listen for the note of the flute in each singular conversation I have? With my client this afternoon and my colleague tomorrow? Dare I listen for the "love fire" tangled in the voice of the sales clerk, the "bewilderment" in the language of friends, the "nourishment" available in what my supervisor and that one member of my staff offer - if only I create space to hear that sound? Dare I listen to my own as well?
It doesn't seem easy to stay right where we are in the purity and togetherness of who we are. It doesn't seem easy to listen with presence when job demands and targets stare at us, when performance is at stake, when we spent our days running from crisis to crisis. To develop deep empathy.
But we can listen to it "secretly," right?
And what if it were easy, anyways? What if we gave ourselves permission to listen to each other just a bit longer. What if we could slow down just long enough to connect, before saying good-bye, before rushing on? What if appreciation for our sounds makes our work way more satisfying, meaningful and impactful? Gives us meaning? Gives us realness, reality?
Just some thoughts. Thank you for reading! (With thanks to my meditation teacher Michele McDonald for reminding our sangha of Rumi's poem. Translation of quoted segments and words here by Coleman Barks)