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How Music Helps Us

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Rev. Dr. Stephanie Rutt

No. I was not happy. I’d been chanting a beautiful rendition of Psalm 23 in Hebrew in my daily spiritual practice for some time, a recording I’d found on the Shalom Scriptures Studies website. I was so in love with it that one day, early on when I was still memorizing, I couldn’t pull myself out of the car in the Walmart parking lot. Impossible! Shopping would have to wait!

So, when my Hebrew teacher suggested I take up a different practice, this time Genesis 1:1 in Hebrew, and learn it from a well–known Rabbi in order to receive the full imprint of the Hebraic and Jewish lineage, well, I was not happy. But over the years I’d learned, especially when feeling deep resistance that, if I could just give myself to the practice, I’d soon discover something unexpected, even beautiful sometimes, on the other side.

And so, begrudgingly, I put aside my beautiful Psalm 23 and started listening to a recording of Genesis 1:1 spoken by Rabbi xxxxx. Every morning, I’d wake up and make my way to my special place to begin. And every morning my mind would come right along with me in full–complain mode. “I don’t like this! His voice is raspy! Why am I such a good do–be? Maybe I should do my Psalm 23 afterwards. No. Stop! Give it a chance!” And on and on my mind would go like some well–rehearsed chorus chiming in the background behind the lead singer—in this case me. Even in the silence that followed, in that special holy place, the very portal to all just beyond understanding, my mind would continue on, echoing.

So, for the first several weeks, I was miserable. Then, one morning, perhaps because my mind was exhausted or, more likely, because my initial memorizing had given way to the flow of the sound current, something happened . . . in that sweet silence that followed. The only way I’ve been able to describe it was like a shutter opened suddenly, stayed open for how long I don’t know, and then closed again. Startled, I was immediately snapped back into normal, fully awake, consciousness. But I was left still and quiet for some time. I’ve come to call these moments of full immersion into the One Love’s Kiss because they’ve made a lover out of me—a lover who knows instantly a kiss from her Beloved. This was clearly one of those times.

There’re been a few other times over my many years of practicing Mantra Prayer that I’ve experienced that kiss—moments only recognizable in hindsight because when you’re in them you can’t also be observing them. It’s what Kabir meant when he said, “All know that the drop merges into the ocean but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.” In full immersion, we’re not feeling or imagining being a part of the ocean; we are the ocean. And on returning, we, blessedly, know now intimately and viscerally that we’re a part of something bigger, much bigger, infinite, than we could ever wrap our finite brains around. The experience can potentially change everything because now any fears we may have had of being alone, disconnected, apart from, the eternal One are irrefutably dashed. We’ve been the ocean now. We’ve been kissed.

Moments of full immersion are rare for most of us. More common on the spectrum of mystical experience are moments when our Mantra Prayer practice, wondrously, brings our mind to just enough stillness, equanimity, that we can suddenly hear from, depending upon our spiritual orientation, what might be called our higher Self, angels, spirit animal helpers, intuition, God Consciousness, or ascended guides, teachers. I’ve come to depend upon such moments as they’ve always been present in critical and important times. One such time was when one of my spirit animal helpers showed up on the morning of the day that I would come close to dying from a bowl obstruction. Another time, an inner divine presence clearly directed me to start the Tree of Life Interfaith Seminary—now—and to call the curriculum The Path of Crow: Discover Your Direct Path to God. “Really? I’m not ready!” Didn’t matter. We’re not here to do things in our time but, rather, in God’s time.

My practice of Mantra Prayer has blessed me in so many ways it would be impossible to describe them all here. Mostly, it’s given me a visceral experience of my God, the one called by many names. And, most graciously, it’s revealed to me that I’m the ocean, and that we’re all the ocean. That there’s absolutely no one or no thing I’m not one with in this infinite ocean of God. And suddenly all the great teachings come into focus. Jesus: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Why? Because in loving our neighbor as our self we now can feel no separation between us and the other. The Buddha: “If you really loved yourself, you could never hurt another.” Why? Because we are fully one with the other in this ocean of God. Muhamad: “La illaha illa allah.” In moments of full immersion with the One, there is, indeed, nothing but God. The Psalmist: “Be still and know that I am God.” Amen.

Sit. Chant. Immerse in the silence. Who knows? You might just get kissed.

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