Mirror of Zen Blog

The Meeting in Berlin

Some precious friends – – healers, all of them – – have brought me to Berlin for an encounter with Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. The ticket — on the ground, 7 rows out from the orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle himself (one of the greatest living Mahler interpreters) was gifted to me by Martin V., an oboist and doctor and aficionado of opera and all-around true bodhisattva. He messaged me out of the blue, several weeks ago, asking if I was available on this day to attend this concert together with him. Immediately upon receiving the message, I checked my calendar, and accepted absolutely. The whole process — from SMS-invitation-to-calendar-to-return-SMS-acceptance-and-Martin’s-sending-me-a-screenshot-of-these-precious-tickets — lasted less than 60 seconds. I shit you not. Within a day or two, max, two more friends immediately signed on, and then one more – – scheduled to be attending an important business trip in Hamburg – – modified her plans to be at This Happening, too. Nothing was ordered or instigated by me.

Attending this concert is sacramental — I know the words I choose. (But just in case, see *) A one-time hearing of The Ninth, in an apartment in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan back in 1987 or ‘88, led me inexorably deeper into the search for meditation. In some respects, one can certainly say that that hearing of the symphony lead me to Zen. This symphony stands as a “before/after“ milestone in my existence in this rebirth. It has a super significance for everything I do, beyond anything that words can describe, and I noticed recently, that it might continue to have shaped the way that I teach Zen in retreats. Leading the group in a one-pointed expression of chanting together, driving the intensity beyond even what is recorded in the chanting book, eventually tapering off the ending of the last chant into the existing silence of the room, even lowering the “moktak” slowly into my lap and allowing pure wordless/noteless Presence to remain suspended, so fulsomely, the students hung out over the cliff from their conceptual-thinking into the vastness of their own being, expressed, and experienced together as a group: is this not a programming I took from a listening of this symphony? Don’t need to answer – – the experience has importance on its own, whatever this tawdry ego Endlessly seeks to credit itself for…

I have never heard this symphony live. And perhaps, as if in an awe-filled respect for its sacred intensity and messaging, I only listen to a recorded version of it once every two or three years, if even that.



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