Follow my ways and I will lead you

by Thomas Merton

Original Language English

Follow my ways and I will lead you
To golden-haired suns,
Logos and music, blameless joys,
Innocent of questions
And beyond answers.
For I, Solitude, am thine own Self:
I, Nothingness, am thy All.
I, Silence, am thy Amen.

-- from A Thomas Merton Reader, by Thomas Merton / Edited by Thomas P. McDonnell

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Although Thomas Merton was, of course, a Catholic monk, this beautiful poem has a flavor of the Zen Buddhist tradition, which he also studied as part of his desire to bring the sacred wisdom of East and West together.

This poem is being spoken by a living "Solitude," "Nothingness," "Silence." Or, if you prefer, Nirvana. You might generalize further and say the poem is spoken by Stillness, calling to mind the Christian contemplative tradition.

Whether a devout Christian or a determined Zen practitioner, bringing the mind to stillness -- "Innocent of questions / And beyond answers" -- is one of the most powerful techniques of communion with the fundamental Reality. That Eternal Presence is always here, everywhere, but we miss it because the chattering mind keeps us distracted, disrupting direct perception of that Truth.

When we truly surrender ourselves, when we surrender the egoistic self that drives the mind to that state of constant distraction, the thoughts dissolve and then we find true "Solitude," a wholeness or completeness that requires no other. And that is your "own Self." You finally recognize your own nature without needing to define yourself by your work or relationships or race or age or even your thoughts themselves...

This awareness is empty of the ego's normal insertion of itself into everything, it is a sort of living "Nothingness." Everything suddenly seems dream-like, but the underlying Reality is recognized as being supremely full or pregnant. That "Nothingness" is the womb that gives birth to the "All." And so, from that "Silence," that supreme Stillness, a symphony of form and word and vibration emerges, "Logos and music," in a universal "Amen."

Follow the awareness that survives the quieting of the mind, follow where it leads you to "golden-haired suns!"

Recommended Books: Thomas Merton

Selected Poems of Thomas Merton The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton A Thomas Merton Reader The Strange Islands: Poems by Thomas Merton Thomas Merton Monk & Poet: A Critical Study

Follow my ways and