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Showing posts from January, 2008

Rumi Part II

Another excerpt from a poem from - Rumi: Bridge to the Soul - by Coleman Barks...For Christine - today - on her birthday!

You Shall Not See Me

You are rest for my soul,
a surprising joy for my bitterness.

Imagination has never imagined
what you give to me.

The sound of someone whistling in the street,
or asking questions. If that person
is bringing word from you,
those sounds are worth more
than all the world's poetry.

There is nothing I want but your presence.
In friendship, time dissolves.

Life is a cup. This connection
is pure wine. What else are cups for?

Rumi: Bridge to the Soul

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I just received and started reading the new book of Rumi poems translated by Coleman Barks and titled - Rumi: Bridge to the Soul. Journey into the Music and Silence of the Heart.

What a beautiful title! Coleman Barks has spent over 30 years of his life painstakingly recording and translating the ecstatic poems of Rumi - a 13th century Sufi Mystic. If that is not an endeavor of love - I don't know what is!

Here are some excerpts from a couple of poems...

As The Sky Does in Water

For the grace of the presence be grateful...
Images. Presence plays with form,
fleeing and hiding as the sky does in water,
now one place, now nowhere.

Imagination cannot contain the absolute.
These poems are elusive
because the presence is.

I love the rose that is not a rose,
but the second I try to speak it, any name
for God becomes so-and-so and vanishes.

What you thought to draw lifts off the paper,
as what you love slips from your heart.

Music and Silence

Lovers, union is here,
the meeting we have wanted,
the fire, the j…

Ananda Part Two

Here is an outline of my closing remarks to my taping class and the conclusion to yesterday's blog entry...

CLOSING REMARKS:

Bliss is within us - in each and every one of us - it resides in our hearts and it is what unites us. Hopefully the practice today enabled you to connect more deeply with that reality in some way.

The sages of Kashmir Shaivism - which provide the philosophical and spiritual foundation for Anusara Yoga - sought and recognized the pulsating heart of Divine Bliss within all domains of human experiences. That is what made this system so radical.

Practice bliss as a mantra - say: "Bliss is within me." Or, "I am bliss." Do this for a period of time and notice your perspective shift.

Joy and bliss are in the world. Cultivate the practice of seeing it. Tune into the experience of it within yourself. See it everywhere.

How can you do this if you aren't particularly able to connect to your bliss?

Let me offer two suggestions:

When I need to connect mor…

Ananda

As I was preparing for my yoga classes for this week and looking over possible themes to use - I found a copy of my theme and the opening and closing remarks I made for the last class I taped before receiving my Anusara Yoga Certification - the culmination of a lot of hard work over the course of nearly two years. This class was taped a year ago - the day after my 26th wedding anniversary. As I reviewed my notes I decided to revisit this theme.

Here are my notes for this class:

ANANDA OPENING REMARKS:

There are two reasons for practicing Anusara Yoga:

a. Self knowledge (chit) and
b. The delight of the creative expression of the pose (ananda).

We will focus on this latter one...

The yogic scriptures and sages teach that bliss is our birthright. Our capacity for all creativity comes from bliss.

Sally Kemption, the well known meditation teacher says that the English translation of the word "bliss" for ananda is inadequate. More appropriate descriptions or definitions would be words li…

Meditation

I return in the afternoon after a blissful two hours spent in meditation with a community of Yogananda devotees.

There is great power in meditating with a group - regardless of how experienced one may be at the practice of meditation. I find such opportunities transformational and I am able to dive more deeply into the experience. Every word and reading seemed meant for me this morning.

If I were to summarize the readings and the theme of the morning - I would do so with this quote from Man's Eternal Quest by Yogananda:

"The man who is calm and even-minded
during pain and pleasure,
the one whom these things cannot ruffle,
he alone is fit to attain everlastingness."

The time passed swiftly as I went inside and reflected on readings from the Gospelof John, the Bhagavad Gita, and the writings of Yogananda, interspersed throughout periods of meditation.

On my way out, I picked up two flyers from a rack of free literature.

One was the Spanish translation of my favorite prayer and poem…

We Project Our Strengths

These quotes come from a recent newsletter of The Inner Journey:

"Any situation that you find yourself in,
is an outward reflection
of your inner state of beingness."
- El Moroya

"The people we are in relationship with
are always a mirror,
reflecting our own beliefs,
and simultaneously we are mirrors
reflecting their beliefs.
So relationship is one of the most powerful
tools for growth...
If we look honestly at our relationships
we can see so much
about how we have created them."
- Shakti Gawain

"Every artist dips his brush in his own soul,
and paints his own nature into his pictures."
- Henry Ward Beecher

Gratitude

These quotes come from the book - The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude - by Sarah Ban Breathnach.

Years ago I had the pleasure of hearing Sarah make a presentation and was profoundly moved by her. I also devoured her book - Simple Abundance - and it became my bible for a while. I even corresponded with her - at the encouragement of one of my students who knew her personally while I was still in the academic world - I was hoping to get her do a retreat for the faculty. But it never worked out. She was in high demand in those days.

I pulled this book out from a stack I was weeding out to donate. As I flipped through the pages, the following quotes caught my attention:

"Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives,
as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice
which secret garden we will tend...
when we choose not to focus
on what is missing from our lives
but are grateful for the abundance that's present -
love, health, family, friends, work,
the joys of natu…

A Prayer by Thomas Merton

Since I've essentially been on this theme of 20th century Catholic mystics - I thought I would include this prayer by Thomas Merton which comes from his book - Thoughts in Solitude published in 1956:

"My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following Your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please You
does in fact please You.
And I hope that I have that desire
in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart
from that desire.
And I know that if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore, will I trust You always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and You will never leave me
to face my perils alone."

A Soul in Deep Surrender

Every Tuesday afternoon - I look forward to my nearly two hour commute on the metro - to and from my yoga class - for it gives me the opportunity to lose myself in uninterrupted reading.

As I continue to delve into The Cave of the Heart - about the life of Henri Le Saux - the Benedictine monk turned swami - the realization came to me that his sojourn in India was really an invitation he received spiritually - perhaps unknown to him in the beginning - to abide in deep surrender. This theme of the necessity of cultivating surrender is evident in the writings of all spiritual giants since there is perhaps - no more difficult or pertinent lesson for a soul.

Here are some passages that are indicative of Le Saux's experiences with his pursuit of greater solitude and what he described as being "stripped stark naked in my soul."

This excerpt follows an extended period of meditation in a cave in India:

"What if he knew he would be there forever? What if no one knew or cared that…

OM and the Christian Monk

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Late into last night I read The Cave of the Heart by Shirley de Boulay. It is an intimate portrait of the Benedictine monk - Henri Le Saux - who went to India and became Swami Abhishiktananda - in the late 1940's.

As William Johnston, SJ, notes on the back cover - Le Saux "stands besides Thomas Merton, Anthony de Mello, and Bede Griffiths as one of the architects of a new mystical Christianity." And these of course, have been three of my favorite writers for decades.

Le Saux underwent a radical transformation as he truly immersed himself in the practices of two traditions - being fully anchored in both.

I was moved by reading how he went to the Himalayas, and there practically stripped naked - he recited the Psalms and chanted OM for three weeks.

These are some of his insights on his experiences and the meaning of this Sacred Syllable:

"Not allowing myself to locate God anywhere outside of me, but recognizing that within as well as without there is only He alone. For if …

Prayer of Abandonment

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I know the title for this entry sounds rather bleak - but it is not meant quite as it is first understood. So let me clarify...

"The Prayer of Abandonment" is a prayer that was written by Charles de Foucauld - a North African priest and hermit of French origins that was martyred in Algeria in 1916. His was a fascinating life - born into great wealth - he went on to become a soldier, a Trappist, an adventurer, a hermit, and a mystic.

Years ago, I read his writings and was deeply moved by his passionate love for God.

A little over two years ago on my 50th birthday, I went to Notre Dame in Paris, arriving at the time Mass was being offered in celebration of his beatification on that precise day. I was very happy to share such a special day and occasion with him.

Here is one of the many prayers he wrote, and which I recently came across:

Prayer of Abandonment
By Charles de Foucauld

Beloved.
I abandon myself into your hands.
Do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you.
I am r…

God! God! God!

I awake - on this - my 27th wedding anniversary - and my parent's 53rd - with thoughts of this lovely poem and prayer by Paramahansa Yogananda.

It has been a favorite of mine for nearly two years - especially the last verse which I often silently repeat and divinely chant. It is a fitting way to start this - and truly - any day. There is no better way to end a day either. Often I pray the last verse as my last words or thoughts of the day...

God! God! God!
By Paramahansa Yogananda

From the depths of slumber,
As I ascend the spiral stairway of wakefulness,
I whisper:
God! God! God!

Thou are the food, and when I break my fast
Of nightly separation from Thee,
I taste Thee, and mentally say:
God! God! God!

No matter where I go, the spotlight of my mind
Ever keeps turning on Thee;
And in the battle din of activity my silent war-cry
is ever:
God! God! God!

When boisterous storms of trials shriek
And worries howl at me,
I drown their noises, loudly chanting:
God! God! God!

When my mind weaves dreams
With thre…

A Prayer Service

As I went through all of my books in the last week, trying to weed out a good third to half of my collection, I found all sorts of interesting notes, cards, and pictures lodged between the covers of many of the books.

I found this script for a prayer service I wrote and led on October 2, 2001, just a couple of weeks after 9/11. Different faculty members read the alternating verses.

Faculty Meeting Prayer Service 10/2/01

Opening Reflection

Reading: Mathew 22: 36 - 39

Teacher: Which commandment in the law is the greatest?
Jesus said to him: You shall love the Lord your God
with all of your heart,
and with all of your soul,
and with all of your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
And the second is like it:
you shall love your neighbor as yourself...

This is the Gospel and the Word of the Lord...

Response to the Reading: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

We are a good people...Terrorists have cells...well, we need to become cells of peace. It is not enough to defend ourselves …

The River in Silent Stillness

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fervent prayers
of a soul in total surrender
late into the night
dissolve into deepand dreamless sleep -
erasing pain
for the first time in years -
thanks to a gifted acupuncturist

I awake late
and offer morning prayers
by the river
in silent stillness

my spirit merges
with falling snowflakes
and time stands still
for what seems to be
an eternity -
together we dance
in suspended animation

beauty
so penetrating
I do not breathe

Mejda - The Young Yogananda

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As I delve deeper into this fertile time of reading, studying, reflecting, meditating, and writing - I am immersing myself much more completely in the writings and teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda.

I am currently enjoying the book - Mejda - a portrait of the early life of Yogananada written by his younger brother and early companion - Sananda Lal Ghosh.

This comes from a review of the book I wrote for Amazon:

"For anyone who has ever read, loved, and been profoundly impacted by a reading of Paramahansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi - Mejda is an indispensable companion to this classic work.

"Mejda" is a term of endearment given to the second eldest brother in a Bengali family. This book presents a very intimate portrait of Yogananda by Sananda Lal Gosh - who was not only Yogananda's younger brother, but also his companion, friend, and ultimately devotee.

The book fills in many gaps about Yogananda's childhood and documents amazing events about his life th…

Amazed

Yesterday I received a wonderful gift of song. It was a CD of liturgical music recorded by the daughter of one of my oldest and dearest friends dating back to high school and college - Betty Ann.

In college, my friends Pat, Betty Ann and I, worked as liturgical musicians at the College Church and at a couple of parishes near by. While Pat and I continued our stint into graduate school - and I did for a while beyond that while I was teaching - only Betty Ann made a career out of music and went on to have three children who are musically gifted as well.

The CD titled- Holy is His Name - features her daughter Sarah in the vocals and her daughter Danielle as the mixing engineer - in addition to other young members of their parish who also contributed musically.

I put the CD in my player as soon as it arrived...

The melody, lyrics, and Sarah's voice - hooked me in by the very first song...

I had never heard any of the songs before except for one - which was a personal favorite...

As I listen…

Awakening the Spine

This excerpt comes from an entry for this week in the 2008 Yoga Planner by Marsha and Donald Wenig, given to me by a friend:

Vanda Scaravelli's approach to yoga was as an inquiry into her body:
listening to it,
trusting it,
and "undoing."

Her inner teacher was her eternal guide to develop a softer, more feminine approach to yoga, with an emphasis on gravity and breath to gently increase the suppleness of the spine. Scaravelli's is both a hard and soft approach, mixing power with fluidity.

In her book, Awakening the Spine, Scaravelli advises:

"Do not fight your body.
Do not carry the world on your shoulders like Atlas.
Drop that heavy load of unnecessary baggage...
Do not kill the instinct of the body for the glory of the pose.
Do not look at your body like a stranger,
but adopt a friendly approach towards it."

Vanda Scaravelli died in 1999 at the age of 91 and was still doing poses like Eka Pada Rajakapotasana and Supta Kurumasana.

I thought of Scaravelli's i…

A River Called the Arms of God

In her book - Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far - Amy Grant tells the story of being baptized in a river in Texas called "Rio de los Brazos de Dios" - The River of the Arms of God.

As I sat briefly in the cold wind by the banks of the Potomac River this morning - I thought of this river as being symbolic of the arms of God for me - for it too sustains and envelops me in the very same way.

Water is symbolic in all the major religious traditions. In the Christian tradition, water is used in baptism as it washes the soul of the penitent clean.

Amy speaks of the healing she experienced in this river that embraced her as she felt all the weight of grief and pain in her life released and washed downstream.

In an earlier portion of the book she speaks of the ocean and how it is "constant and powerful, and like the love of God, whether we're immersed in it, standing on the shore, or a thousand miles away, it remains."

The stories in this book are breathtakingly beautiful, he…

Mosaic

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Last night I curled up in bed with Amy Grant's - Mosaic: Pieces of my Life So Far.

Amy Grant has always been one of my favorite songwriters and performers. (I think I have a lot of them!) I still remember seeing her in concert two decades ago with my college friend Pat - when I was the mother of a two year old - and Amy's son was only a few months old. Since then, I have followed her career and collected all of her recordings.

This book is a fascinating collection of musings using the lyrics of many of her songs as a backdrop. Some of the writing is indicative of the inspiration for the songs. But most of it reflects the heart of a woman of deep faith. The book is inspiring and touching.

She speaks of meeting so many other musicians along the way - and many of her favorite - are mine as well: Carole King, James Taylor, and so on.

Here are some parts of the book that spoke to me:

"We have a way of branding each other, of branding ourselves...You're puffy...getting older...I…

Prayers of Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Last night I finally allowed myself to finish the book - Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light - a collection of her private writings and letters - which not only disclosed the most intimate state of her soul - but were never meant for publication. I had been savoring these letters for months.

Here are some excerpts from the book - particularly some of her prayers. No matter what one's religious tradition or spirituality - Mother Teresa's fervent passion can be easily recognized and appreciated by all devout hearts:

Jesus in my heart,
I believe in your faithful love for me.
I love you...

In union with all the Masses being offered
throughout the world,
I offer Thee my heart.
Make it humble and meek like yours...

WHO IS JESUS TO ME?
Jesus is the Word - to be spoken.
Jesus is the Truth - to be told.
Jesus is the Way -- to be walked.
Jesus is the Light - to be lit.
Jesus is the Life to be lived.
Jesus is the Love to be loved.
Jesus is the Joy - to be shared...

The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of…

A Photographer's Life

I am still in awe after having seen the exhibition of prints by one of my favorite photographers - Annie Leibovitz - yesterday afternoon.

The collection is a retrospective of her work from 1990 - 2005. Contemplating many of those images was truly a sacred experience. While Leibovitz may primarily be known for her portraits of celebrities and political figures - her documentation of events - such as the war in Sarajevo may be less known. Yet it was many of these photographs that struck a deep chord in my heart.

Annie Leibovitz is very gifted, and has the ability to capture a person's soul on print. I have always joked that I wanted to be photographed by her once before I died because she can make anyone look good!

I fell in love with her work in the '70's when I was in college and studying photography myself. Music and photography were two side areas of interest while I was pursuing a double major in theology and psychology - music ended up being a minor for me. As it was, I f…

Deeper Still

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One of my favorite songwriters and performers is Beth Nielsen Chapman.

Recently, I found one of her CD's that I had hardly listened to - entitled Deeper Still.

The material for this CD was written right before she discovered she had breast cancer. As if this weren't traumatic enough, Beth had also recently gone through the experience of losing her husband.

She writes about making this record:

"I don't know where to begin to describe the amazing journey my life has been during the making of this record. Lots of angels, detours, side trips through purgatory, bursts of grace and gratefulness have brought me to this place of finally releasing this music. I guess the songs will have to speak for themselves...

Having come through the coldest of winters, I feel myself stepping back into spring...like 'every little seed trying to find where the light comes from.'"

And here are the lyrics to Deeper Still:

In the tears you gave to me
I found a river to an ocean
Concrete sky…

Beautiful and Fullness

Amy Ippoliti, a senior Certified Anusara Yoga Teacher, considers the meaning of a word we often use lightly in her latest newsletter...

Beautiful...

She ponders:

"What does beautiful really mean?

It means that it is full (purna). Your year may have started out with a bang of triumph and happiness or it could have started with deep challenge, grief or loss, or somewhere in between, but ultimately it is FULL. Beautiful. It is all happening as part of being alive.

Every day I am grateful for the teachings of our yoga which help me see the beautiful even when I perceive my circumstances, and the pains of others as tough or unbearable..."

How often do we think of beautiful as embodying fullness?

How often do we find that what most challenges us also makes us richer and more full?

Truly, it is something to think about...

Last night I began taking my yoga class again. It was the start of a new session.

I looked around the room and there was so so much love and beauty radiating from dedicated…

As Above, So Below

These quotes come the Inner Journey Newsletter...

"There is in all visible things -
a hidden wholeness."
- Thomas Merton

"From a hologrammic viewpoint...
you are one little physical image
that reflects all of humanity,
when projected spiritually
upon the cosmic screen."
- Wayne Dyer

"As above, so below..."

Everything is connected. The universe is a hologram where every part contains the whole. Outside echoes the inside. The lower is a reflection of the higher. The other is a reflection of you. We are all a microcosm of each other. The big picture is within us and even our cells.

Be open to see the interconnections, influences and inter-relationships of things.

"Unity consciousness is a state of enlightenment
where we pierce the mask of illusion which
creates separation and fragmentation.
Behind the appearance of separation,
is one unified field of wholeness.
Here the seer and the scenery are one."
- Deepak Chopra

"To me there is no difference
between one pers…

The Eye of God

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It was a gloriously beautiful and unseasonably warm morning today at the river.

One lone kyaker gently erased the cloud's reflections and a Jack Russell was overjoyed at her free reign of the park.

I thought of some pictures taken by the Hubble Telescope and how one in particular reminded me of the "Eye of God."

In his works, especially - The Autobiography of a Yogi and The Second Coming of Christ - Yogananda writes of seeing the Spiritual Eye in meditation - where we ultimately encounter and commune with the Divine.

He often quoted verse 22 from the sixth Chapter of Matthew:

"The eye is the lamp of the body.
So, if your eye is healthy,
your whole bodywill be full of light..."

We have often heard it said that the eyes are the window to the soul...

One glance can speak volumes...

One look can disclose what lies in the cave of the heart....

(This picture is of Nebula NGC 2392 - also known as "Eskimo" and it is 5,000 light years away from us.)

Downward Dogs and Warriors

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I am having a lot of fun with the book - Downward Dogs and Warriors: Wisdom Tales for Modern Yogis - by Zo Newell.

It is an unusual book because it invites the reader to enter deeply into the experience of the asanas - physically and emotionally - but from the context of the mythological tales that gave rise to the poses.

Unfortunately, just a small selection of poses are explored. The book left me wanting so much more! But this small tome is exquisite - the writing is delicious - and the insights I derived from reading just a few sections - was nothing short of astounding.

All of the poses are told from the perspective of a particular story about Shiva - who is - after all - the Lord of all Yogis, for it was he that created the discipline of yoga.

The book is not only a font of information - but very therapeutic in its essence. As the author notes in the preface:

"This is a book about using asana and related images for reflection, self-examination, and healing. I discuss the use of a…

12 Tenets for Conscious Living

Today I remember my friend Jerry Thompson - who would have been 63 today - but died unexpectedly almost 6 years ago. He encouraged me to walk my path and I would not be here today without him.

I also honor Paramahansa Yogananda - whose birthday is also today.

Blessings be upon both - who have shined their light into mine...

The following is a transcription of a video file I received that is inspirational and a wonderful reminder of virtues and habits we should cultivate, particularly as we begin a new year. It comes from the Anthony Robbins web site.

12 Tenets of Conscious Living

Each New Year brings changes - a new commitment to health - to how we spend our time - and a renewed dedication to those we love. Each day within the year brings an opportunity for change. We are here for a reason - and it is a magnificent one. We are limited by nothing. We are called to create a masterpiece and to give more of ourselves.

1. Live a life of service.

"The best way to find yourself is to lose your…

More Miracles and Midlife

I nearly finished Marianne Williamson's new book - The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Midlife - last night. I made myself "save" the last 50 or so pages for tonight.

The book addresses the nuances of human relationships in practically every chapter, and interspersed throughout the book are essential teachings and wisdom from The Course in Miracles. The titles of the chapters are cleverly named after lyrics of famous songs from the sixties.

In addition, Marianne interjects some of her famous prayers throughout the text, resulting in a book that is very satisfying, nurturing, and comforting. A perfect read before drifting off at night for it reminds one of life's essential truths and what is ultimately important in life.

Some other passages that caught my attention (titles mine):

On the true self and heart:

The physical self ages...but the spiritual self does not. As we identify more with the spiritual dimension of our lives, then our experience begins to shift from the…

Miracles and Midlife

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One of my favorite authors is Marianne Williamson.

Last night I started reading her new book - The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Midlife.

As I prepared to begin to read - the book fell open to page 60 and my eyes were drawn to this section:

Miracles are available in any moment when we bring the best of ourselves forward.

It isn't the amount of our years that will determine the life we live now, but the amount of our love...

I had an experience once that depressed me greatly. I felt wounded by something in my past and fairly hopeless about my future. Around that time, I moved into a house on the water, where I had a view of the sunrise each day that was more gorgeous than anything I had ever seen...

Every day my eyes would automatically open as the sun began to rise. I'd lie there and not just look at the dawn; the dawn would enter me.

The imprint of sunrise - of a new day following the darkness of night - made its way into my cells. And one morning it was as though I heard the v…

Siddhartha and the River

This morning I went down to the river after an absence of a few days.

It was very cold and windy - but comforting - and familiar.

The remains of the broken sapling were gone...

As I clutched a warm thermos - I did my lovingkindness meditations and prayers while I listened to the water lapping ferociously against the rocks and surfaces, and the section within Hermann Hesse's classic - Siddhartha - where Siddhartha has an enlightening experience and relationship with a river he crosses at two important junctures of his life - came clearly into focus in my mind.

Here are some excerpts I found relevant:

I will remain by this river...
May my present path, my new life, start from there!

In his heart he heard the newly awakened voice speak,
and it said to him:

"Love this river, stay by it, learn from it."

Yes, he wanted to learn from it, he wanted to listen to it.
It seemed to him that whoever understood this river and its secrets,
would understand much more, many secrets, all secrets.

But …