A few days ago, with celebrations, tears, laughter and many Sufi hugs, the thirteenth annual Spanish language ‘PanLatino retreat’ concluded. It was held this year in Quito, on the theme of Divine Harmony, and there were some sixty participants from Ecuador, Colombia and the USA. By all reports, it was a complete success.
The theme of Divine Harmony is suggested by the words of the Invocation, ‘the perfection of Love, Harmony and Beauty,’ and also by the entire second volume of the Message series, ‘Music, The Mysticism of Sound and Cosmic Language,’ in which Hazrat Inayat Khan describes the inner life in terms of music and vibration. Harmony is a quality that everyone longs for, but it is not something that can be manufactured according to rules, for it depends upon relationships between qualities or beings that are in movement. Harmony is the resolution of several into one, without giving up one’s identity. It might make us think of the saying that a Sufi is a person with two points of view, his own and that of the other.
As part of the retreat, there were several sessions of simply listening. Typically our daily consciousness is a noisy mix of multi-tasking, in which we process and react to various sensory inputs but also listen to a confused chorus of inner voices–commentaries, memories, criticisms, the assumed opinions of others, and so on. The exercise of the ‘Open Ears’ (Oídos Abiertos) sessions was simply to sit quietly, steady the breath and center oneself, and then, as well as possible, to listen without preconception or expectation to a piece of music of about half an hour’s duration. Perhaps it helped that the music was ‘new’ to the participants, music that they probably had not heard before; in any case, the exercise had a profound effect on many.
Listening means to be in the present moment–one of the most useful qualities a seeker on the path of Truth can develop. In the Gayan, Hazrat Inayat says, “Life is an opportunity,and it is a great pity if man realizes this when it is too late.” If we do not listen, what use can we make of the opportunity? How can we even recognise it? In the same theme, the Gayan says, “Life offers opportunity either to pick up pearls and throw away pebbles, or to pick up pebbles and throw away pearls.” And one of the ancient Sufis of Baghdad said, “Do not busy your valuable time with any but the dearest of all acts; and the dearest of all acts is to value the present time.”
If you can, take half an hour today to sit and listen. You don’t need to play music; listen to the music of life. And if you can’t find half an hour, take five minutes. If you empty your consciousness of pebbles for a few moments and really listen well, you will be rewarded—with pearls.