Inviting the Bell

This morning I took a few minutes to listen to everyone's favorite teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. It was a fascinating teaching about 'inviting' the sound of the bell, sometimes called a singing bowl.

Bells grab our attention, and are quite common in spiritual practices the world over. When we were in Greece, we stayed across the street from a beautiful Orthodox church. Anyone who is familiar with this religious practice is well aware of the many times throughout the day that those bells ring out, calling the faithful to pray, remember, and even come to acknowledge those enshrined in iconography. Some bells are recorded, but some are still rung by the attendants of the particular church. I never tired of them. In the Catholic tradition, not only are bells still rung from some of the churches, but also during Mass to announce special moments. In Judaism, it is not so much bells, but horns. The shofar is a distinct sound and acts like a bell to call, gather, and focus on the divine.

Thich Nhat Hahn, in this short teaching, explained how to prepare to hear, or as he said, "invite," the bell. He gave a poem to memorize, and instructed breathing in and out while reciting the lines of the poem. This is wonderful, but not what I found intriguing. What caught my attention was that he said that we hear half the bell the first time, and after we focus, we can then hear the full sound of the bell.

The teaching continued with explanation of hearing the half bell with our ears. But the other half of the bell is heard deep within - that intuitive center of us that beckons us to focus and come home to the present moment. We then can hear the bell with our ears and our being, making the sound of the bell whole and complete. If we only hear the bell with our ears, it is only half of its potential.

As I contemplated this half sound and full sound of the bell, I considered the thousands of times I have enacted a small practice of my own creation. I usually practice this when alone, when I need comfort, and especially when heading into stormy relational waters or difficult situations. It is very simple: I pause to acknowledge the power deep within me - the center of my being. This pause is accompanied by a rather involuntary deep breath in that fills my lungs and whole body with fresh air. I am always refreshed, empowered, and restored by the presence of this power as it fills my awareness. During various times of my life I have attributed this power to God, or the indwelling Holy Spirit, but always originating from the very center of my being. Though simple, this practice continues to be a great source of strength and peace for me, and is often a place of refuge - my true home. And from this place, I can fully embrace, with my senses and my being, the present moment.

When we come home to the present moment, we can experience everything at its fullest potential. Listening and experiencing our life with our senses and our whole being is truly living - living fully. Just like hearing the bell. We hear the half sound, then we follow the sound of the bell with our awareness. We pause with attention to the breath and focus as we hear, and invite, the sound of the bell again. But this time, we hear it in full. We hear the bell with our ear and our entire being.

Somehow these two concepts, the inviting of the bell, and my personal practice of centering awareness of my own potential, are one and the same. It is easy to take in sensations through our eyes, ears, touch, taste, and smell, but how much more can be experienced and understood when we pause, center, draw on our internal source, and then fully embrace the sensation? In truth, it is an 'inviting' of the fullness of what is present.

Body, speech and mind in perfect oneness,
I send my heart along with the sound of this bell.
May all hearers awaken from forgetfulness,
and transcend the path of anxiety and sorrow.

I listen to this wonderful sound,
and it brings me back to my true home.
~Thich Nhat Hanh


Ari C'rona said…
Wow... that was lovely... thanks!