Two Rak’as

It is said that two rak’as of prayer are better than the world and all it contains. This does not apply to every person. The person to whom this applies is one who considers it more serious to miss two rak’as than to lose the world and all it contains, that is, one for whom it would be harder to miss those two rak’as than to lose possession of the whole world.

Rumi, Fihi Ma Fih

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The Eyes of People

I like so much better to paint the eyes of people than to paint cathedrals; for there is something in the eyes that is not in the cathedral, however solemn and imposing it may be; a human soul, be it that of a poor beggar or a woman of the street, is more interesting.

I tell you the more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people. If what one is doing looks out upon the infinite, and if one sees that the work has its vital principle and continuance beyond, one works with more serenity.

Van Gogh

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Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 30

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Let Life Happen to You

You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don’t know what work these conditions are doing inside you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going? Since you know, after all, that you are in the midst of transitions and you wished for nothing so much as to change.

Just the wish that you may find in yourself enough patience to endure and enough simplicity to have faith; that you may gain more and more confidence in what is difficult and in your solitude among other people. And as for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always.

And about feelings: All feelings that concentrate you and lift you up are pure; only that feeling is impure which grasps just one side of your being and thus distorts you. Everything you can think of as you face your childhood, is good. Everything that makes more of you than you have ever been, even in your best hours, is right. Every intensification is good, if it is in your entire blood, if it isn’t intoxication or muddiness, but joy which you can see into, clear to the bottom. Do you understand what I mean?

And your doubt can become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become criticism. Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly, demand proofs from it, test it, and you will find it perhaps bewildered and embarrassed, perhaps also protesting. But don’t give in, insist on arguments, and act in this way, attentive and persistent, every single time, and the day will come when instead of being a destroyer, it will become one of your best workers – perhaps the most intelligent of all the ones that are building your life.

Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

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None Can Live in Love Without Suffering

Love is swift, pure, tender, joyful, and pleasant. Love is strong, patient, faithful, prudent, long-suffering, vigorous, and never self-seeking. For when a man is self-seeking he abandons love. Love is watchful, humble, and upright; love is not fickle and sentimental, nor is it intent on vanities. It is sober, pure, steadfast, quiet, and guarded in all the senses. Love is submissive and obedient to superiors, mean and contemptible in its own sight, devoted and thankful to God, trusting and hoping in Him even when not enjoying his sweetness; for none can live in love without suffering.

Whoever, is not prepared to endure everything, and to stand firmly by the will of the Beloved, is not worthy to be called a lover. A lover must willingly accept every hardship and bitterness for the sake of his Beloved, and must never desert Him because of adversity.

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

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Tom O’ Bedlam

With a host of furious fancies,
Whereof I am commander,
With a burning spear and a horse of air
To the wilderness I wander.

By a knight of ghosts and shadows
I summon’d am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wide world’s end-
Methinks it is no journey.

While I doe sing “any foode, any feeding,
Feedinge, drinke or clothing,”
Come dame or maid, be not afraid,
Poor Tom will injure nothing.

Of thirty years have I
Twice twenty been enragéd
And of forty been three times fifteen
In durance soundly cagéd

On the lordly lofts of Bedlam
With stubble soft and dainty,
Brave bracelets strong, sweet whips, ding-dong,
With wholesome hunger plenty.

While I doe sing “any foode, any feeding,
Feedinge, drinke or clothing,”
Come dame or maid, be not afraid,
Poor Tom will injure nothing.

Unknown

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O My Beloved!

MY body and my mind are grieved for the want of Thee;
O my Beloved! come to my house.
When people say I am Thy bride, I am ashamed; for I have not touched Thy heart with my heart.
Then what is this love of mine? I have no taste for food, I have no sleep; my heart is ever restless within doors and without.
As water is to the thirsty, so is the lover to the bride. Who is there that will carry my news to my Beloved?
Kabîr is restless: he is dying for sight of Him.

Kabir, Songs of Kabir

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Dance, My Heart!

DANCE, my heart! dance to-day with joy.
The strains of love fill the days and the nights with music, and the world is listening to its melodies:
Mad with joy, life and death dance to the rhythm of this music. The hills and the sea and the earth dance. The world of man dances in laughter and tears.
Why put on the robe of the monk, and live aloof from the world in lonely pride?
Behold! my heart dances in the delight of a hundred arts; and the Creator is well pleased.

Kabir, Songs of Kabir

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