Today, I send into your meditation “The Astronomer” by Kahlil Gibran.
In the shadow of the temple my friend and I saw a blind man sitting alone.
And my friend said, “Behold the wisest man of our land.”
Then I left my friend and approached the blind man and greeted him. And we conversed.
After a while I said, “Forgive my question; but since when has thou been blind?”
“From my birth,” he answered.
Said I, “And what path of wisdom followest thou?”
Said he, “I am an astronomer.”
Then he placed his hand upon his breast saying, “I watch all these suns and moons and stars.” Kahlil Gibran
The first time I read “The Prophet” by Gibran I was alone in the apartment of a friend who’d leant me her place in New Orleans, while she returned to Honduras. I had been in a disastrous relationship at the time, that on that very weekend had come to a screeching halt. I had little cash, no wheels and too much pride to admit my folly to any number of people who would’ve gladly helped me.
I found the book, old, well-read, and detailed in gold leaf upon her bookshelf. I felt drawn to it as a butterfly is to a bloom. His words were my companions that long weekend and my undoing from the life I’d known and the first profound steps on a spiritual path that has not left me since.
Though I loved “The Astronomer” the first time I read it I did not, in any meaningful way, understand it deeply within myself for many years. Understand what it means to feel the grace and wonder of my hand laid upon my breast and sore into the heart of me, surrounded by suns and moons and stars. And even as I now find great expanses of time when I revel in such wonderment, I am equally astounded how quickly I forget the mysteries of the outer and inner galaxies I orbit within.
To remedy this I adopted a small practice.
Each morning, when I leave my home for work, I stand outside my garage, whatever the weather and look up at the sky. Snow, clouds, rain, stars, doesn’t matter for though it is the shortest meditation of my day, it is in many ways the most anchoring. I remind myself of how great and vast the firmament is. How precious are the moments before daybreak and how simple a pleasure one final star upon the horizon is. I absorb the quiet watching how it turns my hearing into that of a blind man. So keen to the slightest movements of life in the pre-dawn darkness. I take four to five cleansing breaths from that cool, fresh air that takes no more than a minute. If the moon is present, she always receives a bow and greeting, then I leave my home for work. As I drive, I try to see how long I can carry that sky with me, held within my heart. In what places within me can I hold a falling snow or the great North star? How long can I see the sunrise, deep in reds and oranges through my heart’s eye?
If they slip away, I see if I can call the feeling state of them back to me, rather than merely the visual or mental image of them. Can I remember how it felt to stand there and open myself to the beauty of that moment?
What does it take to live an intimately spiritual life, as Gibran seems to ever be calling us to? I suppose the answer is no more complicated than that of the blind man, but must be understood not within the mind, but rather with the heart. We must feel our way there. To pull more than the mental memory, but intentionally step back into a state of bliss that lives forever within us. No different really than turning the mind back to the breath to the peace that is always there.
“And what path of wisdom followest thou?”
Said he, “I am an astronomer….I watch all of these suns and moons and stars.”
Possibly this is why I read more poetry than dogma. From the beginning, it’s had a way of bypassing my elaborate and overly analytical mind and allowed me to live within the simplicity of each heart beat. One beat after another… a series of shooting stars.
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