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Ringing True

Feb 28, 2024

Into a chilly February day suddenly blew a sleet storm that set my wind chimes ringing wildly. I love it when this happens, for as I hear those bells cut loose in the wind, my whole self settles into a kind of wholeness that I can’t really describe.

I started this bell collection at Lent years ago when I wanted to honor the season, not by giving up or adding on, but by simply letting the bells call me to centering from the heart.

That first five-chime set, a pentatonic scale, sings in rich tones built on B flat. Beside it hangs a smaller set, ringing a major chord in F. And a string of tiny Indian bells with a high shimmer like fairy bells. A clear treble B, surprisingly loud. And a mighty nine-pound sonorous bell in A. It’s a powerful Lenten practice, letting all that sound surround me so I might simply appreciate the harmony and dissonance the breeze elicits. Like the spirit nudging each of us, that song.

Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins has helped many of us explore this metaphor of being nudged into voicing, like a bell, our own holy “isness.” His forever theme is the holy, radical necessity of “selving”—of sounding forth that which is your nature and your name. Maybe you’ve read this description of a ringing bell and what it’s saying:*

Each hung bell’s

Bow swung find tongue to fling out broad its name;

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:

Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;

Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,

Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

“As Kingfishers Catch Fire  

We may not call it “selving,” but we talk about this idea all the time at Wisdom Tree Collective. In dream circles and in spiritual direction classes and in Centering Prayer and beyond, we explore this idea exemplified in Jesus and echoed by great teachers in many cultures—that one of the greatest things we can do for the world is simply to center down and tap into our holy, original blessedness. And through that essential practice, ring forth into thriving, giving, creating, and serving.

Earlier this year, I came across a disappointing and nonreturnable mail-order purchase, a smallish bell-shaped object that rings no note at all but just makes a dull clank. But here was Lent. So, trusting Brother Hopkins, I hung it with the other bells.

Though that new bell is a dud, when it clanks into that gorgeous swirl of chimes it actually sounds kind of okay. Even—could it be—that the lovely dissonant symphony sounds better for its presence? In some inexplicable non-strictly-aesthetic way? Weirdly, to me, yes.

I’m wondering if the ability to contain dissonance and even ugliness helps us engage the holy Whole better. That clunky bell may be helping me value my own shadow and withdraw the related shadows I tend to project on others. Every time it rings, I hear a parable, a poem, a prayer of radical inclusivity and surrender.

This year at Wisdom Tree Collective we are working to provide programs that help us share resilience in times of discord and stress. Maybe one step, right now, is simply to let the dissonance be part of the whole, in the wild windy Spirit that rings us true, and lets us hear what’s here.

Laura Huff Hileman, Director for Programs in Dreams & Spirituality at Wisdom Tree Collective









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