The Foundation of My Life

I really don’t have the slightest idea how most of this “blog” stuff works, and it is only when dire necessity forces me to that I try to learn some new “trick” to get across what I want to say.  Compared to the other blogs I see, I’m not very far along, but my trade is in words and images, and so far I’m doing fairly well with those.  Recently, when looking at my stats, I followed a link to see what it was that caused someone to come to my blog, and I found a nice blog on the Tarot, which is one of my fascinations and one of my best learning tools.  The person who authors that particular blog had explained his link to my blog (which I hadn’t even known about, but hey…) as “one of the best Sufi blogs I know.”  I thought that was quite an honor, as at this point in my life,  I am a fairly invisible Sufi, as Sufis go.  I remember when I first heard of Sufism.  I was a junior in high school, in rural West Virginia, and I had a student teacher who was interested in Sufism.  At that time and in that locale, this was an incredibly arcane topic, but I searched and found a reference or two in the dusty books at the back of the local library.  Somewhere during that period, I read Khalil Gibran for the first time, and I knew he was someone who was pointing out my way to me, but at that time, I didn’t know that he was known as a Sufi.  Then, lo and behold!  I saw that a network news program was going to have an interview with “A Sufi Mystic.”  It turned out that the mystic was my own lifetime teacher, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan.  I was 16, and I didn’t know the first thing about mysticism,  I had no idea what meditation was, and I didn’t know what it meant to have a spiritual teacher.  Except….  I did.  I looked at this strange-looking gray-haired man in what looked like a wool robe and mantel, and I thought to myself, “I belong to that man.”  And I did, even though I didn’t really know what that meant.  In my senior year, I wrote a research paper on Sufism, and I would imagine that it was quite a piece of work, although when I came across it years later, I didn’t think it was too bad.  God knows where it is now.  But God always knows.

A few years later, age nineteen, I went to a group that studied the teachings of Edgar Cayce, and I told the other members that I was a Sufi.  I told them I wanted to find a group that studied Sufism, and they directed me to the local Theosophical Society.  I was, at that time attending art school in Cleveland, Ohio.  That era was really the beginnings of my spiritual search:  I attended many spiritual groups and meetings;  I joined the Ananda Marga Yoga Society, and took initiation in that path, carefully explaining to the initiator that I was really a Sufi; he didn’t seem to mind.  I attended many of the local Self-Realization Fellowship’s meditation groups, and I learned Sufi Dancing through another group of Yogis.  In time, I became quite an organizer for local spiritual happenings, doing publicity for Baba Ram Dass when he came to town.  We organizers were given the honor of having dinner with Ram Dass, and I remember it as being a very tense, formal occasion.  I don’t know whether he was more tense, or we were, but we were all quite self-conscious.  I think that our old friend Ram Dass would laugh with me now, remembering that.  In fact, he probably is right now.   It’s funny, you know….  We all, all of us in those halcyon days of the “Spiritual Trip” that was happening at the same time that people were “turning on, tuning in and dropping out”….we all seem like old friends now, all these years later, members of the same family.  Ah, those were the days…Sufi Dancing on the grounds of the city art museum, doing kirtan, dancing with the local Hari Krishnas,  sitting, sitting, sitting, here, there, everywhere, trying very hard to get “high,” and sometimes actually achieving it.  Eventually, I found an initiator among the local Sufis (she deserves her own entry, to be accomplished soon), and then Pir Vilayat himself came to town, and the rest is history.  He is my teacher, and now that he is no longer in the body he carried around when I knew him, he is more present than ever in my life.  He was a tirelessly responsible spiritual father to me and his students:  he inspired us all to join him at meditation camps in various beautiful places, and what he taught me–often sternly, always lovingly–became the foundation of my life.  I was an active representative for his work for many years, and then…well, I became silent, and more silent.  I began to stay still, and that stillness grew.  I began to feel that I hadn’t done very well at being somebody, so perhaps I’d better try to be Nobody.  As all that was happening, however, I was going back to school to study psychology, and I found, in academic study, that what I’d already been given by my teacher was far more advanced, far more elegant and far-reaching than the narrow disciplines and philosophies I was being taught.  Yet it all melded together, and one inspired the other.

It’s late, and I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this entry.  I think I just wanted to comment on how very much my spiritual path has meant to me, and why.  The why is the easiest part, really:  I was taught to walk a path of spiritual freedom.  I was guided away from a dreary path of narrowness and onto the broader highway of truth.  And all I was taught came to me in the guise of beauty, of light, of harmony.  I learned that I didn’t have the slightest idea what love really was, but I had a sense it was somewhere near, and there have been moments…  And I learned to look.

A few weeks ago, I attended a workshop on sacred chant, and at one point in the seminar, the leader played her guitar and suggested that we all get up and greet each other in whatever way we chose.  It was a very beautiful moment, and after nearly a year of solitude and inactivity, I felt the wonder of soul greeting soul, of bowing to another and feeling my crown chakra igniting theirs, of looking into the eyes of God with the eyes of God…

And all that, he taught me.  I am no one, going nowhere, I know nothing, yet with his help, I may someday Know.

Sometimes the depth of a teaching, not seen at once, is understood later. I sang a mantram fifteen years without understanding it, and then suddenly it was revealed within me. There is a teacher in every one of us, who teaches when the time comes.  –Inayat Khan

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