When we hear, we hear sounds. We do not know we are hearing unless we hear sounds. We do not know about hearing itself, the capacity without the content.
Zikr is called Sama in some Sufi circles. Sama means hearing. The music is beautiful. The zikr is enchanting. But this is not the hearing that is meant by Sama. Sounds are the content of experience we call hearing. But before there are sounds to be heard, there is hearing itself. Perhaps we could call it listening.
Listening is rapt attention, an inclination of the being to receive, a palpable inner stillness that precedes sensations in the ears. It’s an effort to perceive and discern rather than think and react. Can you listen to silence? Can you listen to listening itself? Have you stepped behind the words to find out?
Listening is only a hair’s breadth from presence.
If I only attend to the sounds, I enter an experience which easily triggers enjoyment and satisfaction. But attention may cease to be voluntary. The Sirens of ancient Greece bewitched unsuspecting sailors with their music. The mariners forgot themselves and their ships then foundered on the rocks.
Not so for those who continue to listen even as they hear the music.