Some twenty years ago I regularly participated in the Dances of Universal Peace as a communal spiritual practice. Dancing and chanting The Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic was my very favorite experience, but that full chant, with phrases repeated dozens of times in the original language of Jesus, took nearly three hours to complete, so it was not often danced outside of a retreat setting.

But there was another chant/dance that I particularly loved, the words to which are:“The Ocean refuses no river,” referring to Divinity welcoming all forms of discourse and devotion. Being a visual person, I could easily see rills and creeks and rivers, oxbows and shallows and waterfalls, beaches and shoals and reefs all advancing and impeding and changing the course of the water determined to merge with the Ocean.

ocean photo

The other day, out in my warm summer-lush secret garden, I was sharing a pot of tea with a dear friend. We were discussing the difficulty of understanding some of the world’s many religions. I told him the chant about the rivers and the Ocean. Then he remembered a lesson from one of his long-ago teachers: “Each path up the Mountain eventually arrives at the same place.” We played with that for a while, and as we did, another image began developing in my mind, this one made of sound.

Finally I just had to say it out loud: “What I’m imagining is all those pilgrims climbing all those paths up the huge Mountain. Each pilgrim is singing or humming or whistling or chanting their own song. At the base of the Mountain, and even far up into their journey, they can hear only their own particular melody. But then something strange happens. One pilgrim stops to catch his breath (for trekking and singing at the same time is strenuous), and in his silence, from somewhere to his left or his right he can faintly hear a snatch of another set of notes. He starts upward again with his breath and his chant renewed. On another path a different pilgrim has paused to catch her breath, and something strange happens – to her right or her left she can faintly hear a fragment of a different song. As the pilgrims reach higher elevations they need to stop more frequently, and there it is again, except now it’s an even different melody, and it’s coming from their other side. Each stands listening, then quietly sings the song that has been part of their own journey up the mountain. Lo and behold, it harmonizes with the very different voice and notes coming from somewhere else.”

Well, you can see where this image is headed – the closer the pilgrims get to the top of the Mountain, the closer they get to each other, and the more beautiful the harmony of the variety of sounds that rise with them. There are different rhythms, different notes, even dissonance that makes the resolution into harmony richer than ever.

I wish you the great blessing of beginning to hear the harmonies that are possible when we stop to catch our breath and listen. And I wish you the joy of the chorus at the top of the Mountain.

18 replies
  1. Alison Heins
    Alison Heins says:

    Lovely to be reminded of that chant, which I too loved (the Ocean refuses no river). This writing reminds me of a powerful dream I had several years ago, in which a voice said, “We need a song that the whole world can sing”. It was a vision of the way the world could come together in peace. Thanks, dear one.

  2. Joan Roane
    Joan Roane says:

    It reminds me of a song I’ve heard twice in the last couple of months called “This is the sound of one voice.” The message is that all sound is beautiful, and become even more so when others are added. Blessings to you and your inspiring blog.

    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      I’m thinking, too, of the feeling of the vibrations of others’ voices in one’s own body – singing in choir when everyone is “on” and the resonance is palpable. Totally inspiring! Thanks, Joan – I love the song you mention.

  3. Kathryn Stivers
    Kathryn Stivers says:

    A reminder of Grace of how we are never alone, no matter where we are or where we go……..Sometimes unseen, yet present.

    Thank you dear friend!

  4. Corrine Bayley
    Corrine Bayley says:

    A beautiful image/sound/spiritual truth. Thank you. It reminded me of Christmas Eve Mass at a tiny Catholic church in San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico several years ago. At the end of the service, 2 groups we had heard separately but never together — Native Americans and Hispanic “Penitentes” — processed out, each singing their traditional songs in full voice at the same time. The amazing harmonies, and the symbol of cultural harmony, took my breath away.

    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      What a great memory – you know exactly how the harmony sounds, and you experienced it in real time, not in imagination. Thank you!

  5. Allan Ament
    Allan Ament says:

    Lovely. When I first heard the teaching about the many paths up the mountain, the corollary was if you stop on your path to convince someone on another path to join you on yours, you both reach the top of the mountain more slowly, if at all. Stay on your own path and draw strength and love from hearing the songs others are singing on their own paths.


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