To Listen

A story is told of a monk wanting to learn Zen. The monk approaches a Zen Master. “I’ve recently been initiated to this brotherhood. Can you now show me the way to Zen?” The Zen Master paused, thoughtfully, and then replied with a question, “Do you hear the murmuring of the mountain stream?” The monk replied that he did. The Zen Master then shared, “That is your entrance.”

One of the things that I like in this story is that the Zen Master points back to the monk’s ability to listen.

There have been times in my life when I’ve thought of myself as a good listener. When that has gone well, I’m hearing words. I’m hearing patterns and feelings under the words. When that has gone really well, I’m able to listen my way, starting from the “anything” that creates access to the “everything.” It is my ability to give myself, often quite joyfully, to the “starting anywhere” and then “following it everywhere.” The listening is as much as anything, an ability to listen more deeply to what is within me, and to share that with others also listening.

I seek this in groups. There are few things that feel as rich as a group, connected enough to listen, and to begin to follow a simple path of everywhere that begins with anywhere.

Another Now


I continue to learn
that I do well
to welcome
one moment after the next,
to welcome
one now after another now.

Sometimes the now is
found in conversation
over coffee or tea with a friend,
when easy things
are mixed with hard things,
when laughter and tears swim together.

Sometimes the now is
found in quiet,
interrupted only
by a few “hmmmms”
that accompany
thoughtful listening to mystery.

There is hurt
that I know
in departures,
sometimes at the end of coffee
and sometimes,
at the end of touched mystery.

But I continue to learn
from the Zen way
of being that says,
“Everything is connected.
Everything changes.
Pay attention.”

I continue to learn
that these moments
with friends, colleagues, and family
when connection, and change, and attention are animated —
these nows,
fulfill me.