each is a living flute ~mark nepo

Suffering makes an instrument of each of us,
so that standing naked, holes and all,
the unseen vitalities can be heard
through our simplified lives.

Sometimes we can’t get what we want. While this can be disappointing and painful, it is only devastating if we stop there. The world thrives on endless possibilities. It is what makes nature a reservoir of health. Yet if the heart is cramped or the mind locks on to its pain, we can narrow wonder to a thread. In contradiction to the endless number of eggs that spawn a fish and the endless number of cells that blossom to heal a wound, we can hold out the one thing we want as the only food. From here, crisis and desperation are a short step.

It becomes a sorry occupation, beating oneself up for the one seed that didn’t take. It is an insidious way: the more we refuse mystery, the more we feel responsible for all that befalls us. Indeed, the more we distract ourselves with analyzing strategies that failed, the more we avoid the true feelings of loss that no one can escape en route to a full and vital life.

Even if we can accept this, none of us is exempt from the turmoil and pain that arises when what we want is love. For once we pour ourselves into loving another person, it seems as if they take who we are with them when they go. In truth, they take a deep part of us, but what feeds the heart from within is endless, and everything that is living heals.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the beauty of trees. Their endless turns of bark and nubs of trunk make each look like a sage. Yet, amazingly, the skin of an old treee is no more than a living map of its scars. Can it be that the cuts turn scars and the scars turn into beautiful quiet notches in which things that fly can nest?

In every space opened when what we want gets away, a deeper place is cleared in which the mysteries can sing. If we can only survive that pain of being emptied, we might yet know the joy of being sung through. Strangely and beautifully, each soul is a living flute being carved by life on Earth to sound deeper and deeper song.

  • Sit quietly and meditate on a relationship in which you feel you have lost a part of yourself. It might be a romantic relationship, a friendship, or a family tie.
  • Breathe steadily and contemplate how this happened. By rejection? Or submission? Or by giving away your ability to choose what your soul needed? Or did your loved one die or move away?
  • Breathe deeply, beneath all right and wrong, and along the hurt, underneath the loss, see if you can feel what has been opened and exposed for this tearing away.
  • Even if you can’t name it, take this new presence with you and spend the day getting to know the deeper song waiting to be played through you.

~Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

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