Monasteries of the Heart

Monks in Our Midst: Zhuang Zhou on Fasting of the Heart


Daoist master Zhuang Zhou (c. 396-286 BCE), instructing his disciple Yen Hui on “fasting of the heart”:


“The goal of fasting is inner unity. This means hearing, but not with the ear; hearing, but not with the understanding; hearing with the spirit, with your whole being. The hearing that is only in the ears is one thing. The hearing of the understanding is another. But the hearing of the spirit is not limited to anyone faculty, to the ear, or to the mind. Hence it demands the emptiness of all the faculties. And when the faculties are empty, then the whole being listens. There is then a direct grasp of what is right there before you that can never be heard with the ear or understood with the mind. Fasting of the heart empties the faculties, frees you from limitation and from preoccupation. Fasting of the heart begets unity and freedom.”


Reflect with us: How does this idea of “fasting of the heart” connect with your understanding of the Benedictine practice of “listening with the ear of your heart”? Does the goal of "inner unity" or "unity and freedom" connect to you?


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