“Before we know the words for it…”

Stop the words now.
Open the window in the center of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.

Friends laugh when I tell them that this is my favorite Rumi verse. Aren’t words the tools of my trade? Yes and no. I use words to express what I’ve discovered in stillness. “Words, words. They’re all we have to go on.” (Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,  Act I) The words are my medium of exchange, my tools. As an artist uses a camera, a brush, a charcoal, so I use words.

The words are the final step. First comes inspiration, and that comes from stillness. To receive inspiration, I stop the words and allow quiet to settle on me, in me, allow the cacophony of thoughts—or words—to subside. I wait for the voices in my head to bore themselves into silence, to exhaust the cliché, the too-easy response. Only then, in that peace, do I hear my heartbeat. And my heart leads me to new questions. I open to curiosity. “We must be born with an intuition of mortality. Before we know the words for it, before we know that there are words.” (Stoppard, RGAD, Act II)  In silence I discover my own wisdom. Only then do I begin to play with words.

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