Vulnerability and the Tender Heart

Several years ago some friends arranged for the Gyuto Tantric Choir, the Tibetan monks famous for their deep multivocal chanting, to perform in San Quentin Prison; then the San Quentin Gospel Choir would sing in response. But as they day approached it became clear to the organizers that there would be a cultural gap to overcome.

The members of the San Quentin Gospel Choir were all African-Americans, many of them big men who worked out with weights. In their years in prison they had been born again, touched by the spirit of Jesus, and their songs were testimonials to their depths of suffering and to the light of the gospel that had been awakened in them. The organizers feared that the Tibetan monks would appear to be merely foreigners and heathens to these newly awakened Christians. When the “heathen monks” arrived, the contrast was even more apparent. Dwarfed by the African-Americans was a group of small Asian men wearing maroon skirts. The question was how to bridge this gap.

A key sponsor of the event found the solution in an inspired introduction. “Almost all of these Tibetan men who joined us today have spent years in harsh prisons. The Communist Chinese Army not only imprisoned them for expressing their beliefs, but tortured them as well. Somehow they were released or able to escape from prison. Then, to find freedom, they walked across the Himalayas, the highest mountains on earth. Some tied rags on their feet because they had no good shoes. But even now they are in exile. They are forced to live far from their home, apart from their families and community, and they do not know if they will ever be able to return. What has kept them going through all of their struggle have been their songs and prayers. This is what they will sing for you today.”

In an instant the gospel choir and the Tibetan monks looked at one each another with eyes that shared the vulnerable depths of human sorrow, and they found understanding. Each group sang to the other from the heart, and when their music was finished, they came together to hug and embrace like long-lost brothers.

The songs these men sang expressed the emotions of their hearts. Their struggles and capacity to endure, their hopes and aspirations for freedom and redemption were carried by their voices. Feelings are what connect us to life and to one another. To be able to feel is one of the extraordinary gifts of humanity. To neither suppress our feelings nor be caught by them, but to understand them, that is the art.

This excerpt is taken from the book, “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry

Find Peace


Sign up for a weekly message from Jack:

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This