About a month ago I was invited by the Muslim Student Association at my school to attend a talk given by a professor of Islam. The professor proceeded to give a beautiful image of Islam, its practices and meanings, its encouraging of pluralism over evangelism, and its humanistic values.
I had asked why Muslims were to pray five times a day towards Mecca. The practice itself is awe-inspiring, that upwards of 1 billion people perform this act of faith each day. He said, and reminds me that he has always said, “The nature of humanity if forgetfulness. We need reminders.” Prayer was one way of reminding oneself throughout the day about one’s faith and service to God. That it is done by so many people around the world in common spirit must also be a reminder of the communal fellowship that they all share.
That was all I needed to hear.
Too many times I have forgotten the truths and needed reminders. It’s too easy for me to overlook being mindful, being kind, being loving, and letting go, especially if I’m feeling the need to be right. There’s a story of Ajahn Brahm’s that clearly illustrated this for me:
A newly married couple went for a walk together in a wood, one fine summer’s evening after dinner. They were having such a wonderful time being together until they heard a sound in the distance: ‘Quack! Quack!’
‘Listen,’said the wife, ‘That must be a chicken.’
‘No,no. That was a duck,’ said the husband.
‘No, I’m sure that was a chicken,’ she said.
‘Impossible. Chicken go “Cock-a-doodle-doo”, ducks go “Quack! Quack!” That’s a duck, darling,’ he said, with the first signs of irritation.
‘Quack! Quack!” it went again.
‘See! It’s a duck,’ he said.
‘No dear. That’s a chicken. I’m positive,’ she asserted, digging in her heels.
‘Listen wife! That….is….a…duck. D-U-C-K, duck! Got it?’ he said angrily.
‘But it’s a chicken,’ she protested.
‘It’s a blooming duck, you,you….’
And it went ‘Quack! Quack!’ again before he said something he oughtn’t.
The wife was almost in tears. ‘But it’s a chicken.’
The husband saw the tears welling up in his wife’s eyes and, at last, remembered why he had married her. His face softened and he said gently, ‘Sorry, darling. I think you must be right. This is a chicken.’
‘Thank you, darling.’ She said and she squeezed his hand.
‘Quack! Quack!’ came the sound through the woods, as they continued their walk together in love.
As soon as he saw those tears, it was like the striking of the bell in meditation. Suddenly all the noisiness had become clear and he was reminded of their commitment. I rather like the story because the reminder happened in such an everyday fashion. These bells of mindfulness ring throughout the day. I just have to learn to listen.