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You have two ears and one mouth

Judith Fein

December 2, 2001

Geishee Tashi is a Tibetan lama. He wears a beautiful crimson robe, and when he listens to someone, he pays full attention. His presence is light, rather than heavy. I think it’s the payoff for more than 35 years of taming his wild mind. He walked onto the small platform in Tribes coffee house, sat down with a cushion, a prayer book, two bells and a peaceful demeanor. He spoke about compassion, and how it is our job in life not to harm anyone.

He spoke about the need to quiet the mind, and how all would flow from that. And then, about a hundred people faced him, and he began to chant. Instantaneously, over 100 people closed their eyes and concentrated on the deep, throaty sound. It was peaceful, nourishing. A coffee house full of people drifted off into meditation, until they were called back by Geishee Tashi. They opened their eyes, said blessings in many languages. One woman sang a Beatles’ song to honor George Harrison, who just passed from this realm into the next.

The meal was, as usual, copious. No matter how many people show up, there is always enough. A young woman opened a huge bag and poured out dozens of oversized muffins and cookies. There were quiches and salads and guacamole and rice dishes and pastas and of course chicken. Some people, I think, just come for the food.

The subject of tonight’s Wisdom Circle was...wisdom. I asked each person to give us a piece of wisdom that she or he had learned in life. People quoted their grandparents, authors, gurus, religious or spiritual books, or just shared bits of wisdom they had picked up along life’s path.

“You have two ears and one mouth. Try to use them in that proportion.”

“The man you marry at l8, you wouldn’t even look at when you’re 21.”

“We’re not human beings learning to be spiritual. We’re spiritual beings learning to be human.”

“Be fully alive.”

“Wisdom exists in silence.”

People who were strangers before hugged each other good-bye as friends.

A few people spoke for a longer time, but most were considerate of the large crowd and were respectful of peoples’ time. It’s interesting that although many people profess shyness, when it comes to their turn, everyone speaks.

Some wisdom was surprising:

Take care of your feet. Try to have as much contact of your body parts with the earth as possible. Don’t trust a skinny cook.

Then we asked for a few questions. A woman inquired if America would ever get positive credit if it turned out we were right to bomb Afghanistan. An Afghan man answered that we had to look at the historical picture and what America had done to lead to this state of affairs. He gave a concise history of our role there, and it wasn’t pretty or heroic.

A man asked a question about could it go back to Abraham if it started with Mohammed. A Muslim man answered that since Islam meant submission to God, everyone was Muslim, whether they wanted to be or not. Of course there was a lot of good-natured laughter when he said that.

As a matter of fact, there is a lot of laughter at Wisdom Circles. Even though there are different opinions, there is a lot of bonding and safety. There are moments when cross-talk or dialogue starts, and it is the role of the leader to stop it. People do not feel safe at these groups when there is argument. They want to learn, to explore, to listen, and they want to be safe to talk.

There is a wonderful excitement about hearing the different accents and seeing the different head coverings. A number of Americans complain that we are giving too much time and space to other languages. I smile, I nod, but I am not sure I agree. After 9/11, we realized that hatred was being leveled at people from other places. We need to make a lot of space for people to speak their languages, share their culture. We hear English all the time. It’s a treat to vary the music, isn’t it?

Once again, I am writing this with one foot in bed, as it is very late. My only regret is that you weren’t there for the food, the camaraderie, the laughter, the learning, the wisdom, and the wonderful moment when people who were strangers before hugged each other good-bye as friends.

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