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Monk in the World Guest Post: Jason M. Deutsch

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Jason M. Deutsch’s reflection and poem “Whispers Beneath the Sacred Tree.”

Men, driven by fear, go to many a refuge, to mountains and forests, to groves and sacred trees,” said the Buddha. “But that is not a safe refuge … a man is not delivered from all pains after having gone to that refuge.”

It’s very tempting to envision a life without any external noise or disruption. But to be a monk in the world seems to me to be about finding a sense of inner peace not only amidst sacred trees and distant mountains but also traffic jams and supermarket queues — and then to share that presence with others. It’s not easy and I have a long way to go, but I aspire to see all environments as opportunities for contemplative practice and creative expression.

Whispers Beneath The Sacred Tree

Alone beneath the sacred tree
Whose height and sturdy branches say
It has seen many a pilgrim trek to its home,
I speak only in whispers that touch the forest floor.
I confide to my companion that
I come in search of absence
From the sounds that submerge the everyday
And the echoes flooding back from its walls,
Bringing only the soles of my feet with me.
The earth-bound trunk has a wearied air
And its bark feels rough against my hands,
But it yields as I arch into its body
And let my eyes close to the woodland.
As I embrace my portrait of darkness
My ears long for the music of the forest,
To hear the birds chanting in the branches,
The cicadas crying out to the dusk,
And the evening wind pass gently through the leaves.
Yet the real-life soundtrack of nature is not the
crystal-clear symphony
I had composed at home.
Now it is made cloudy
by a distant hum on a dusty road,
Muddied
by the screeching of tyres in a parking lot,
And disrupted
by the metallic clanging of closing doors.
For I had envisaged a peace that lives
in but a paper land of sacred trees,
And amidst the jarring notes
of reality's imperfect melody,
No angel sings out with the harmony
Nor ray of sun falls through the canopy
To illuminate the brown earth
On which I sit. 
A minute of rest
Marks the finale of my score,
So I let my hands fall
motionless, to my knees.
But the choir doesn't heed its mute conductor,
And the whispers of the other silence-seekers
Continue beneath the other sacred trees.
I open my eyes.
I must go deeper.

Jason M. Deutsch lives in Sydney, Australia and writes at the crossroads of spirituality, depth psychology, and the arts. He’s inspired by the late poet-songwriter Leonard Cohen who spoke of the yearning “to find a voice, to locate a voice; that is, to locate a self.” Visit him at soulfulthoughts.blog/.

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