At the beginning we have to learn the art of listening, the art of being present, attentive, and empty. We have to learn to catch the still, small voice of our Beloved, and not interrupt, not ask too many questions. We have to learn to be silent, because listening is born from silence. But the listening of the heart is always an act of love, a coming together, even when nothing is heard. Listening is a wisdom so easily overlooked, because it is feminine, receptive, hidden, and our culture values only what is visible. But Rumi knew how central a part it plays in our loving, in our wordless relationship with our Beloved:
“Make everything in you an ear, each atom of your being, and you will hear at every moment what the Source is whispering to you, just to you and for you, without any need for my words or anyone else’s. You are, we all are, the beloved of the Beloved, and in every moment, in every event of your life, the Beloved is whispering to you exactly what you need to hear and know. Who can ever explain this miracle? It simply is. Listen and you will discover it every passing moment. Listen, and your whole life will become a conversation in thought and act between you and Him, directly, wordlessly, now and always.”
How can we learn this art of listening? How can we learn to hear what He says? How can we learn to be a part of His silence when nothing is said? How does the heart listen?
The mystic knows that the essence of prayer is the hidden secret, “I am He whom I love, He whom I love is me.” In the deepest prayer of the heart there is only oneness, for when the heart is open and looks towards God, He reveals His unity. In this state of prayer there are a merging and melting that transcend the mind and its notions of duality: the heart overwhelms us with His presence which obliterates any sense of our own self.
These moments of prayer are moments of union in which the lover is lost. The lover has stepped from the shore of his own being into the limitless ocean of the Beloved.
When love reveals its real nature we come to know that there is neither lover nor Beloved. There is no one to pray and no one to pray to. We do not even know that we are lost; we return from these states of merging only knowing that we gave ourself and were taken. Our gift of ourself was accepted so completely that we knew nothing. We looked towards Him and He took us in His arms, embraced us in oneness, dissolved us in nearness. For so many years we cried to Him, we called to Him, and when He came the meeting was so intimate that we knew nothing.
But when we return from this merging of oneness, when the mind again surrounds us, we can see the footprints that led us to this shore, to the place where the two worlds meet. We can tell stories of the journey that led us to the edge of the heart’s infinite ocean, of the nights we called to Him, and the tears we cried in our calling. For so many years our need was all that we knew, a need born of the despair of separation, the deepest despair known to the soul.
This need was our first prayer, planted in the soul by Him who loves us, who wants us for Himself. This need of the soul is the bond of love, the mystic’s pledge to remember Him. The awakening of this remembrance is the knowledge of our forgetfulness, the knowledge of separation. The lover is made to know that she is separate from her Beloved, that she has forgotten Him. Awakening to this knowledge, the lover brings into consciousness the soul’s need to return Home, to journey from separation to union.
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, From The Circle of Love