Search me, O God

I am presenting here a text excerpted from the Christian Old Testament, in the Bible. It is commonly known as Psalm 139, and belongs to the Book of Psalms. ’Psalm’ in Greek means ‘instrumental music’ and is by extension, a hymn. These hymns are mostly praises to God. This particular Psalm was brought to my knowledge by Rupert Spira. This is certainly one of the richest for it expresses the all knowing and pervasiveness of God, of that deep presence that is the nature and heart of our utmost self. It also stresses that this presence shines in all circumstances, including in our darkest hours. The psalm seems to hold in itself the soft power of a prayer, which is the ability to make us aware of our true self. For this is the function of a prayer, to throw us back into our self, into the deep silence that is the core of our being. As Stephen Mitchell wrote in ‘A Book of Psalms’, “Pure prayer begins at the threshold of silence. It says nothing, asks for nothing. It is a kind of listening. The deeper the listening, the less we listen for, until silence itself becomes the voice of God.” Listen to the depth of this poem. As its promise reads, you may be led “in the way everlasting”.

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O lord, thou hast searched me, 
     and known me.
Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, 
     thou understandest my thought afar off.
Thou compassest my path and my lying down, 
     and art acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word in my tongue, 
     but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.
Thou hast beset me behind and before, 
     and laid thine hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; 
      it is high, I cannot attain unto it.

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? 
     or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: 
     if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, 
     and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, 
     and thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; 
     even the night shall be light about me.
Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; 
     but the night shineth as the day: 
     the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

For thou hast possessed my reins: 
     thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: 
     marvellous are thy works; 
     and that my soul knoweth right well.
My substance was not hid from thee, 
     when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought 
     in the lowest parts of the earth.
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book 
     all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, 
     when as yet there was none of them.
How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! 
     how great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, 
     they are more in number than the sand: 
     when I awake, I am still with thee.

[…]

Search me, O God, and know my heart: 
     try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, 
     and lead me in the way everlasting.

~ Psalm 139 (King James Version)

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Psalm from the Holy Bible (King James Version)

Photo by Alain Joly

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Bibliography:
– ‘The Book of Psalms: King James Version’ – (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)
– ‘A Book of Psalms: Selected and Adapted from the Hebrew’ – by Stephen Mitchell – (Harper Perennial)

Websites:
The Bible (Wikipedia)
King James Version (Wikipedia)
Psalms (Wikipedia)
Psalm 139 (Wikipedia)

Suggestion:
Other prayers from the blog at Fragrance of Love

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The Golden Thread

A golden thread is running through our life;
It says: listen, I want to be happy,
I long to be free from darkness and strife
And find that peace that is looking for me.

So now I’m out in search of all the things
That will give me some meaning and relief;
But that peace is short-lived, only quick flings
That leave me unfulfilled and full of grief.

Is it that things cannot satisfy me,
Have no power in bringing happiness?
Is it again that I have failed to see
That not a thing away from me can bless?

Life knows it well that puts death at the end
To stop me ‘cause this endeavour is null;
It is only a hint — not some cruel bend —
To show there is some answer in that lull.

Now turn around and face that void in you
That is no thing but bears all things that are,
And remember you’re not anyone who
Can say I am separate and afar.

I am empty presence that knows and sees,
Renders all things as if they were in me;
I’m the silent watcher behind all these
That previously were my identity.

Now hear at last — there is some highlight here —
That when you rest in that newly found ‘I’,
All your strife and suffering disappear,
You’re found to be happy, at peace — oh my!

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

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This poem is inspired by Rupert Spira’s suggestion that the longing for happiness is a golden thread which, if followed right through the end, leads to the discovery of our true nature.

Suggestion:
Voices from Silence (other poems from the blog)

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The Inconceivable Actuality Here-Now

Photo by Corinne Galois – Galerie photographique

Joan Tollifson is my newly invited guest on ‘The Dawn Within’. Joan writes and talks about being awake to the aliveness and inconceivability of Here-Now — being just this moment, exactly as it is. She has explored Buddhism, Advaita and radical nonduality. Joan’s main teacher was Toni Packer, a former Zen teacher who left that tradition behind to work in a simpler and more open way. Joan does not identify with or represent any particular tradition. You will find ample information on her website: Joan Tollifson, the simplicity of what is. She currently resides in southern Oregon. 

I like Joan’s down to earth, bare-bones approach to reality, which is refreshing and does not need complex practices. I like too her frank and direct relationship to the ’what is’ of life, including the most human, most confused expressions of ourselves. I have chosen to share here one of her texts called ‘The Inconceivable Actuality Here-Now’. It is an extensive, and rather complete description of the descent into the ‘here and now’ of present experience, beyond all maps and conceptualisations. There is immediate and incredible potency in just being present to what is taking place right now — what is taking its place within the awareness that we are. “The rain pattering on the roof—is it inside me or outside me? Is it separate from me? Is there a boundary between these sounds and the listening presence that is hearing them? What happens when full and open attention is given to something?” Joan keeps inviting you to see and understand for yourself the nature of reality. I hope you enjoy…

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Nature is not imaginary: it is actual; 
and what is happening to you now is actual. 
From the actual you must begin—
with what is happening now—
and the now is timeless
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~ J. Krishnamurti

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The Inconceivable Actuality Here-Now

I had a high school film teacher back in the 1960s who, in the first class, had us look at our thumbs. After about 10 minutes, he asked how many of us were bored. He told us that if we were really seeing, we wouldn’t get bored. He gave us homework assignments that involved sitting in front of trees and looking at small sections of bark for an hour, or watching grass blow in the wind. One night I was lying on the floor in our dining room in the dark, watching shadows move on the wall. My mother came in, a bit upset, and asked me if I had finished my homework. I told her I was doing it. And I was! What a blessing to have a teacher like this in school.

As I told someone recently in a FB comment, the ‘ordinary’ is actually extraordinary, and what we think is ‘the same old thing’ is never actually the same from one instant to the next. The more closely we attend to anything that shows up (whether it is a visual appearance, a sound, a somatic sensation, a taste, a smell, a tactile sensation), the more it unfolds into ever more subtle dimensions with no end to that unfolding.

By simply looking and listening openly, we can notice and enjoy the fluidity and playful nature of reality — the clouds moving through a puddle of rainwater on the sidewalk, the gorgeous hills and valleys in a crumpled Kleenex, the way light dances on the wall, a tingling in our feet. We can notice it is all one seamless, infinitely varied but undivided happening, and that all our words for it and explanations of it can never capture or nail it down. We also begin to notice the common factor in every different experience: the presence of it, the immediacy of it, how everything is the immovable, infinite and eternal, ever-present Here-Now that never departs from itself. […]

Continue Reading Joan Tollifson’s text on Here-Now… (READ MORE…)

 

Naked Presence

A prayer is an invitation to rest or abide in what is most essential in our being. I have tried here to express my own version of a prayer:

 

I don’t know, sweet beloved, 
what to do with my fear, my anger,
all my overwhelming feelings
and the limits I impose on myself.

So please take them into your loving lap,
tender them till they melt 
and are taken away to be
one with your infinite being.

It is my plea and my wanting,
rather my offering – for I’m asking nothing,
to be rid of all my clothes and be seen 
naked in front of your most naked presence.

Let your constant outpouring of love
be my daily inescapable anchor,
let me I be you and you I
and feel no more the pain of separation.

You were so unnoticed,
at best visited from time to time,
let me now be the absent, unnoticed one.

Let me be whole and one with all things,
let me find in the pain, in the ache,
your most gracious presence,

my heart!

 

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

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Suggestion:
Fragrance (on the role and nature of prayer)

 

Promenade Parisienne

I love, during my walks in Paris, to stop in one of the many small parks that you find in the capital. I sit on a bench and rest while observing, listening. Some children are having some fun a little further, pushing each other on the slides, playing on the swings. I hear the gate slam from time to time, when a mother arrives with her child, an old man leaves with his dog. All the benches are not occupied. Some old ladies are chattering on one of them, two lovers are kissing tenderly. Some older men are playing pétanque and the balls are slamming, breaking the joyous monotony of the carousel music. Some children are shouting with joy. Suddenly, a din of flapping wings falls on me. A swarm of pigeons, lured by abundant crumbs of bread, swoops down on the nearby bench. A few scattered sparrows come to join in the feast. A couple is passing by, stopping for a moment, while their little dog is stretching in the lawn. A young woman is walking fast. Friction of wings. All around, the trees rise majestically and protect all this little world from the warm rays of the sun. They are like big umbrellas and their tall rough trunks spring from the ground, sometimes seeming to counterbalance their bending choice, like big tensed muscles. …

Share with me a poetical promenade in Paris (READ MORE…)