Dhikr

 

Riding on the horse of hope,
Holding in my hand the rein of courage,
Clad in the armor of patience,
And the helmet of endurance on my head,
I started on my journey to the land of love.

A lance of stern faith in my hand,
And the sword of firm conviction buckled on,
With the knapsack of sincerity,
And the shield of earnestness,
I advanced on the path of love.

My ears closed to the disturbing noise of the world,
My eyes turned from all that was calling me on the Way,
My heart beating the rhythm of my ever-rising aspiration,horses
And my blazing soul guiding me on the path,
I made my way through the space.
I went through the thick forests of perpetual desire,
I crossed the running rivers of longing.
I passed through the deserts of silent suffering,
I climbed the steep hills of continual strife.

Feeling ever some presence in the air,
I asked, “Are you there, my love?”
And a voice came to my ears, saying, “No, still further am I.” – Hazrat Inayat Khan, Alankaras, Complete Sayings

 

 

To love enough . . .

Happy Days

Happy Days
Happy Days

Happy days were when your hand was by my side, Signs of your love, my features beautified, when your words crucified, Then my soul resurrected, upward glide.

Happy days were when the wine, we glorified, God was with me while by my side was my bride, when your candle was my guide And my heart, like a moth, your flames would ride.

Happy days were when amidst knowledge and pride, The drunken laughter was dignified, when we drank from the cup in our stride And told tales of the things that we tried.

Happy days were when Beloved would decide, On the sun and moon, in service, relied. Happy days in the tavern I would abide and Saw the things that from the temple would hide, when your signal verified; Made the crooked straight, Hafiz, narrow, wide. – Hafiz , Ghazal 204

___________________________

There was a time when I did my very best to have at least some knowledge of the ancient Sufis, but I seem to have forgotten most of it as I became increasingly bored with names and forms, but I thought I’d look up Hafiz and say at least a little for folks who may not have much knowledge of Sufi poetry (I am probably one of them).  This is what I found on Wikipedia (in part):  Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfeẓ-e Shīrāzī, known by his pen name Hafez, was a Persian poet who “lauded the joys of love and wine but also targeted religious hypocrisy.”  I thought that was plenty to say:  that, and that we need to remember, even in this election year, happy days are still available.

Light Being

Rays of sunshine breaks through the dark clouds. Ñoncept of hope for the best, mood changes, enthusiasm, optimism, faith in our own strength, the breakthrough goal

I remember those mornings at dawn with you…

“Shield your eyes for safety, and gaze into the light,

And in that instant recollect ourselves as Beings of Light.”

It worked, that instant shock of recognition, that simplicity of knowing…and then

beyond knowing to Being

How did this happen?  How did I forget…and why?

Light streams through all the cells, molecules, ignites atoms…

This body becomes radiant, this mind clear, but it’s more than that.

No need, no need, no need.

Just light.

It is just to remember, and one day,

Never to forget again.

My Father

When Father’s and Mother’s Days roll around and everyone posts love stories about their parents, I always feel kind of lonely.  I also feel as if I–or someone–ought to figure out how to write the perfect post about being the damaged child of damaged parents.  My parents were the narcissistic and, in my mother’s case, alcoholic offspring of other screwed up people who had their own issues.  I’m sure my mother and her siblings were abused, possibly sexually, and my father lived a lonely, orphaned life until he was 16 years of age, when he got on his bike–this was during the Great Depression–and went off to seek his fortune.  He was an angry man.  And my mother was an angry woman.  Both had good reason to be, but it’s not okay to beat up and neglect your kids because you yourself are frustrated.  However, it was a generation of postwar parents who assumed ownership of their children, and believed the best way to control them was through rage and, often, physical violence.

I am sure that many people reading this are nodding their heads knowingly, but in my case there is a difference that not everyone will relate to, because I have seen time and time again that children who are abused by their parents continue to love them despite everything.

I am not one of them.  I cannot deny that when each of them, in the near past, died, I was relieved.  I grieved, but I realized that I was grieving for the parent I never had, more than for an actual person.  I am aware that, as human beings, we are supposed to forgive those who do us harm, but I never did.  As time goes on, I understand more and more, but I cannot honestly say I have forgiven.  Over time, my anger has dissipated, and I take increasing responsibility for my own part in the conflicts I had with them, but I would still not want to live with either of them again.

Love all, trust none; forgive all, forget none; respect all, worship none. That is the manner of the wise. – Inayat Khan

The thing about being raised by someone you cannot trust is that when you grow up, you tend not to trust most authority figures.  This brief post is about the father I eventually found, my Sufi teacher, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan.  I loved him dearly throughout my life and will until my own death and thereafter.   However, it took me many years to know him as my father and to trust him as I had never trusted my father-of-origin.  The following is a brief story I am reminded of on this particular holiday:

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Once upon a time, when I was still in my early twenties, he asked me to come to the (then) New York khanqah (this is the Arabic name for a spiritual commune, so to speak) to have a talk. He ended up giving me Holy Hell over something that was going on in our center, and being a spiritual infant at that time, my ego rebelled, and I felt unfairly blamed.  It took me a long time to get over my resentment of what he said, and he did not give me “equal time” to defend my own point of view.  I remember him saying “I have to try to be your Father and help you to do what’s right.” Without going into what he asked of me, let me just say that it of a political nature and was quite a lot, on that occasion.  Looking back, I realize that to take on the role of spiritual father was a tall order for him, especially given the Father who had raised him (Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan).

I was not able to appreciate his comment about his obligation to be my spiritual father, although I do remember feeling a vague sense of comfort, even as I felt anger with him; but as the years went by, I realized that he really did mean exactly what he said, and even though I was only one of thousands of students, he was always there for me, whether in a dream, in a letter or in person. Eventually, I learned to accept what he had to offer on the terms he chose, and I am all the better for it. He was always looking up, and he never gave up.  Now he waits for all his children in the planes of Light.

Thank you, my Father.  It is a great joy to be able to write you a love letter on this day.

The 100th Wedding Anniversary

Wedding

This year is the 100th wedding anniversary of Pir Vilayat, my life’s teacher.  I use the term “wedding anniversary” in the sense that the death of a teacher is not a death–not for any of us–but a return to the arms of the Beloved, traditionally called God.  Likewise, it is a birth.  I am combining his earthly birthday and his Urs here, because it seems to me that both are a wedding and an initiation.   Traditionally, however, the Urs is the anniversary of the death of a saint, while the birthday is, well…the anniversary of her or his death.  The picture above is of the earthly wedding–celebrated in the heavens and earth–of my husband and I, when Pir Vilayat officiated at that joyful occasion.  I was fortunate in having a dear friend, Greg Blann (find his wonderful paintings with a Google search), take photos unbeknownst to us,  and so it is not perfect, but the four pictures he took mean a great deal to us.  To understand a true wedding one must look behind the outer forms.

Pir Vilayat would have been 100 this year, and he “died” in 2004, 12 years ago.  It amazes me that he has theoretically been gone from this planet for this many years, because to me he is as present as he ever was.  He is, indeed, there whenever I need him, just as he was in this phase of life.  He always came when he was called, whether in a dream or a letter or an actual visit, and he never failed, if one was paying attention.

People who have not experienced being the student of an authentic spiritual teacher don’t quite understand why such events mean so much to those who were, and they need not:  it is not for everyone to come home in this way.  We are all finding our way to return from whence we come, and it matters not how we get there.  Yet for me, and for many like me, he was our best friend, our teacher, the one who went before us and yet stayed with us.  The below is his “final” message:

A Final Message
to his Mureeds
from

Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

Pir Vilayat’s final message was given in Suresnes, France, on January 27, 2004, six months before his death. It was published in Heart and Wings, a publication of the Sufi Order International Secretariat, New Lebanon, New York.

I must say, it has been such a joy to share with you the encounter of our thoughts sparking each other. The mission— the meaning of the Message of the future, all of it has been exciting and overwhelming, and I am very grateful for your sharing with me. From the moment that one has broken bread at the same table, one is linked by a special link, and that’s the reason for the Mass. The Mass is the ritual of eating at the same table together, and we have been sharing this wonderful bread and wine at the same table, and that establishes a link between us that can never be broken, so that we can always find each other. So, I will just say that you can find yourself— you can find me in your heart; and I can say, I can find you in my heart. God bless you. – Khan, Pir Vilayat Inayat (2011-11-01). Life is a Pilgrimage . Omega Publications, Inc.

Traditionally, one has the ability to receive a boon from the teacher on such an occasion.  I asked for and received one as always, and I cannot put it into words, which itself is appropriate, because Pir, as we called him, was always full of surprises.  One never knew from one moment to the next what was coming, whether an inner or outer experience of growth.  And any growth, however painful–perhaps the one that is especially painful–is useful to the sincere seeker, so I look forward to the gift he has given me this time, and I celebrate his wedding with joy and tears and a renewed sense of commitment.  All blessings to you in this world of contrasts.

Image-17CDBF24470E11D8_2

(Another personal picture taken of me at age 24 or so, in his summer camp at Chamonix-Mt. Blanc, in the French Alps.  It is the perfect picture of the disciple at the feet of the Master, and in reality he was chewing me out for my stupidity, in his own fatherly, sometimes stern way.)

The Light that is seen in the Port

Blessed is she who sees the star of her soul as the light that is seen in the port from the sea. – Inayat Khan

This ship speeds over the darkling watersl51371

with the moon shining down, a glimmering path of light highlighting the waves that

slap against its sides . . .

In the distance is the stony island where the ancient tower with its beams of light shining through the turret openings on the highest level, flickering across the stone walls:  the lighthouse where You wait for me to come home finally, once and for all.

And You will never say No.

Shall we dance?

 

On Reading Rilke

Ich bin derselbe noch, der kniete

I’m still the one who knelt before you in monks’ robes, patiently waiting.
You filled him as he called you into being—
a voice from a quiet cell
with the world blowing past,
And you are ever again the wave
sweeping through all things.

That’s all there is. Only an ocean
where now and again islands appear.
That’s all there is: no harps, no angels.
And the one before whom all things bow
is the one without a voice.

Are you, then, the All? and I the separated one
who tumbles and rages?
Am I not the whole? Am I not all things
when I weep, and you the single one, who hears it?

Listen—don’t you hear something?
Aren’t there voices other than mine?
Is that a storm? I am one also,
whipping the trees to call to you.

Are you distracted from hearing me
by some whining little tune?
That’s mine as well—hear mine as well;
it’s lonely and unheard.

I’m the one who’s been asking you—
it hurts to ask—Who are you?
I am orphaned
each time the sun goes down.
I can feel cast out from everything
and even churches can look like prisons.

That’s when I want you—
you knower of my emptiness,
you unspeaking partner to my sorrow—
that’s when I need you, God, like food.

Maybe you don’t know what the nights are like
for people who can’t sleep.
They all feel guilty—
the old man, the young woman, the child.
They’re driven through darkness as though
condemned,
their pale hands writing; they’re twisted
like a pack of frenzied hounds.

What’s past lies still ahead
and the future is finished.
They see not the faintest glimmer of morning
and listen in vain for the cock’s crow.
The night is a huge house
where doors torn open by terrified hands
lead into endless corridors, and there’s no way out.

God, every night is like that.
Always there are some awake,
who turn, turn and do not find you.
Don’t you hear them blindly treading the dark?
Don’t you hear them crying out
as they go farther and farther down?
Surely you hear them weep, for they are weeping.

I seek you, because they are passing right by my door.
Whom should I turn to,
if not the one whose darkness is darker than night, the only one
who keeps vigil with no candle
and is not afraid—
the deep one, whose being I trust,
for it breaks through the earth into trees,
and rises,
when I bow my head,
faint as a fragrance
from the soil. – Rilke

_____________________________________

Response from here:

Let’s see, what do I know about You?

I know that you are the music, the notes and, most of all, the spaces between the notes.

I know that you are always waiting there, divine spouse, love of my life . . .

We plan to meet and you show up, but I’m often late,

and there you are, leaning against the streetlight, patiently waiting in the dark.Streetlamp

Your arms are always open, but I push at you and hold you back, because I am afraid of dying.

Still, there you are, waiting in the silence, and that has to be lonely.

You never judge.

You just wait.

How did all this happen?

I could say you must have been lonely, or some of the other things people surmise,

And I suppose you were. . .

But I believe in love.

I really do, you know.  I know you now.

And I really don’t care where it comes from, or why or how;

I don’t care what your motive is, or your need or your neurosis was, because here we are, and here it is, this love, which is always on offer . . .

Patiently, kindly. . .

And that is what keeps me going.

You know (God knows?), you don’t get much in return, but perhaps I’ll improve.

It could happen.

Because now we’ve found each other again.

We’ve renewed our vows, that “promise we made in pre-eternity.”

So it’s just a matter of time, and sometimes I manage to slip past time and it is NOW.

Oh, yes. . .

The Wedding Day

Enter Unheistatingly

Thy light hath illuminated the dark chambers of my mind; Thy love is rooted in the depths of my heart; Thine own eyes are the light of my soul; Thy power worketh behind my action; Thy peace alone is my life’s repose; Thy will is behind my every impulse; Thy voice is audible in the words I speak; Thine own image is my countenance. My body is but a cover over Thy soul; my life is Thy very breath, my Beloved, and my self is Thine own being. – Inayat Khan, Ragas

Urs (from Arabic: عرس‎, literally “wedding”) is the death anniversary of a Sufi saint in South Asia, usually held at the saint’s dargah (shrine or tomb). In most Sufi orders such as Chishtiyya, Qadiriyya, etc. the concept of Urs exists and is celebrated with enthusiasm. The devotees refer to their saints as lovers of God, the beloved. The death of a Sufi saint is regarded as visal (union with the beloved), and the death anniversary is celebrated as a wedding anniversary. – from Wikipedia

Those of us who have been following this Inayati Sufi path have been celebrating the Urs for as long as we have been initiates.  Thus, it can no longer be said that the Urs of Hazrat Inayat Khan is primarily celebrated in South Asia, for now it has spread to wherever his followers come from, and is no longer always celebrated at his dargah, but wherever his students are.

As well, the Urs of other Sufi teachers are celebrated:  The Urs of Moinuddin Chishti, for instance, attracts thousands of followers every year.  The concept sounds a bit somber, doesn’t it?  One remembers, however, that the death of a soul on earth is a coronation and a wedding in the heavens, if it is so wished.  Inayat Khan said that the soul creates its own afterlife:

The afterlife is like a gramophone; man’s mind brings the records; if they are harsh the instrument produces harsh notes, if beautiful then it will sing beautiful songs. It will produce the same records that man has experienced in this life. – Hazrat Inayat Khan

If one dies in a state of fear, then that will be creative of one’s afterlife.  If one dies in a state of divine love, so be it.  Perhaps this is why the Urs is so important:  the followers of this teacher experienced him as the embodiment of divine love, and so his wedding–his Urs–is a particularly holy time.  Sufis from all over the world are at the tomb–the dargah— of Hazrat Inayat Khan in India, in Delhi, giving thanks for that life, and hoping for the boon of partaking of that realization.

Recently, this person who is writing, has been thinking very deeply about this business of what we of the sixties called “the guru trip”:  there is a growing realization that organizations and –isms, philosophies and religions, are traps that keep the soul from reaching its own authenticity.  Why then, do I experience this particular being and this particular urs as a time of power, of resonance, of prayerfulness?  Perhaps it is because on the way to my own wedding, I passed through the being of the Rasul, the Christ, and have the great good fortune to have interiorized them on my journey, a stage typical of the Sufi’s journey, and of the mystics of all religions, no matter what label they give themselves or are given.

The belief in Christ is in the Church, the book of Christ is with the clergy, the spirit of Christ is in the illuminated soul.

The spirit of Christ can be traced in Christ’s own words where he said, ‘I am Alpha and Omega,’ I am first and last. By this he meant, ‘I was before Jesus was born, and I shall be after Jesus has gone.’

‘I am Christ’ means ‘I am now, and I shall be till the end.’ In this the Master identifies himself with that light of which we read in the Vedanta, and which existed thousands of years before Christ, the divine light which is recognized by the Sufis as the Spirit of Guidance, and which is also mentioned in the Quran. This light of Christ is symbolized by the lantern in the story of Aladdin, in the Thousand and One Nights. And it is this same light which the Hindu legend speaks of when it says that there exists a cobra with a light in its head, and when it searches for food it takes that light in its mouth and by its illumination it can go about in the forest. It is the light of life of all men and all beings, seen and unseen. In reality it is the essence of light.  – Inayat Khan

It is the Christ, the Rasul, who fulfills the divine Message:  what a sacrifice!  These great beings work in all spheres of life, representing the one Guide, the Spirit of Truth, in the various forms of the prophets, the rasuls, the Christ, each coming for the age and in the form for which that one Spirit is drawn:

The principal work of the Prophet is to glorify the Name of God, and to raise humanity from the denseness of the earth, to open the doors of the human heart to the divine beauty which is everywhere manifested, and to illuminate souls which are groping in darkness for years. The Prophet brings the Message of the day, a reform for that particular period in which he is born. A claim of a prophet is nothing to the real Prophet. The being of the Prophet, the work of the Prophet, and the fulfillment of his task, is itself the proof of prophethood. – Inayat Khan

Please understand:  in recounting, to some degree, my own experience, I do not make any claims; I have a long, long way to go, assuming that there is any ending to eventually come to, which I rather doubt, and passing through the being of the prophet on the way to the Absolute is inevitable and available to all.    Yet it occurs to me that there is a difference in varieties of experience, of perception:  there is the intellectual interpretation we give something that we see or find out, and there is the experience of the ineffable, beyond intelligence.  Perhaps it is a matter of perceiving with the intelligence of the universe, as opposed to the conditioned, individual intelligence.  This love I have for the teacher I found (and who found me) goes beyond my intellectual reasoning and further, it came to me through my own ability to perceive, not the journey that was laid out for me, although I’m sure that even Sufis are imbued with a set of conditionings.

Historically, these conditionings–teachings!–are passed down over the ages through what is called the Silsila, the chain of enlightened beings.  Increasingly, the Sufi order in which I am initiated is being designated as “Universal Sufism.” This is because, even though our roots might seem to be in Islam, and like other Sufi orders we chant dhikr, in fact Sufism predates Islam and in some form, it emerges as the mystical adjunct to all religions. It is only the name and the language of love that causes it to seem to be Islamic. Yet the practice of tassawuf distinguishes it:

Sufism, it should be remembered first of all, is a neologism – a newly coined word. And I must say it’s not only a neologism but also a misnomer, a badly coined word, and that is because it contains an “ism” and the “ism” subverts the essential meaning of the word because an “ism” always suggests a closed community, an ideology, a doctrine — and Sufism, in essence, is none of those things.
So if we want to truly know what Sufism is it would be helpful to go back to the original word in Arabic which is “tasawwuf“. It’s not quite as easy to pronounce but it contains a more accurate meaning because it is a verbal noun, and so it refers to a process of becoming. It’s not static, but dynamic.
Tasawwuf literally means the process of becoming a Sufi. So from the outset one understands that it is not a club to which you belong or do not belong, it is a transformative experience. – Pir Zia Inayat Khan, current head of the Inayati Order

So on the one hand, I have a deepening sense that one must guard against any tendency toward following.  Yet I feel myself to be part of a long tradition that has brought me to an ineffable reality.  Tonight, the Urs, is a Night of Power, as the Quran terms it in describing the moment when revelation was given to the Prophet Muhammad.  Traditionally, one is given, on this night if on no other, the blessing of the soul-perception of this particular incarnation of the one Spirit of Guidance.  And I am a believer:  this is the one who I was meant to find on my journey homewards, and who protects me from myself and shows me the way.  He–in whatever form–is still as real now as ever, and I am endlessly grateful for that.

The one whom I have called God, whose personality I have recognized, and whose pleasure or displeasure I have sought, has been seeing His life through my eyes, has been hearing through my ears. It was His breath that came through my breathing, His impulse which I felt, and therefore I know that this body which I had thought to be my own is really the true temple of God. I did not realize that this body was the shrine of God. –Inayat Khan

 

 

With Us in Love

Pink Roses 3

My joy —
My Hunger —
My Shelter —
My Friend —
My Food for the journey —
My journey’s End —
You are my breath,
My hope,
My companion,
My craving,
My abundant wealth.
Without You — my Life, my Love —
I would never have wandered across these endless countries.
You have poured out so much grace for me,
Done me so many favors, given me so many gifts —
I look everywhere for Your love —
Then suddenly I am filled with it.
O Captain of my Heart
Radiant Eye of Yearning in my breast,
I will never be free from You
As long as I live.
Be satisfied with me, Love,
And I am satisfied.

–Rabi’a al-‘Adawiyya, 7th Century Sufi Saint

Image 3

“With you in love,” that’s how she always signed her letters, to me, at least.  And every year, she would send out a group Valentine’s Day letter, because she couldn’t seem to get around to doing Christmas cards.  She even had a little “heart” stamp, the heart being her favorite symbol, and Valentine’s Day being her favorite holiday.

“She” was Rabia.  Several great souls have left these environs lately, and all of them have been dear to some, many to all.  Now one of my oldest and dearest friends, Rabia, has departed, yet the legacy she left behind her is one of such breadth of feeling and love that it is self-evident that she is one of the great ones who made so much love while she was here that she will never truly leave.  She was a person and she was a saint, and the reason I know she was a saint is because if she knew she had been called that, she would have gotten a good laugh out of it and said something to the effect of “let’s get on with it; what do we need to do next?”

Rabia and I were brought together because of the Sufi order we both gave our lives to, a phrase that sounds too dramatic, but is in fact true.  She was, in fact, my very first Sufi friend.  I met her when I was about 20 years old, because I had been searching for Sufism since I was about 16 and first saw my teacher, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, on a televised interview.  At that time, I had not the slightest idea what a “guru” was, what meditation was, or not much at all about Sufism, although I had read Gibran and done such research as I was able to in rural West Virginia.  But I Early Pirsaw this man dressed in these terribly impressive wool robes, youngish then, and with short hair, clean-shaven (that changed shortly), and I thought “I belong to that man.”  I didn’t know what that meant, either, but that is what I thought.  I think the word “disciple” flashed through my mind…that did mean something to me, so I must have had some innate idea.  However, it was not until I left home and moved to Cleveland, Ohio, that I began to search earnestly for the Sufis, with this man’s image in the back of my mind.  One day, it happened:  I saw a newspaper article about a seminar at the local Unity church that this man was giving, and I saw that I could at least attend a public lecture at the end of it.  So I went to that, and was blown away, still not quite understanding what was happening to me.

Months later, Pir Vilayat came through again for a seminar, and I attempted to register for it, but for some reason, there was “no room” for me on one of the days, but there was on the first.  So I went, and I started asking people about the Sufis, because it was the Theosophical Society that was sponsoring the seminar.  People kept telling me “Talk to Mary Jeanne!”  And someone pointed her out.  She was still pretty young then, and she was a “looker.”  Fashionable, beautiful, rather intimidating to this then-hippie of limited wardrobe.  I approached her, though, and got my first explosion of the light she radiated:

We were both headed toward the ladies’ room at that time, and I told her what I was looking for.  She wasn’t quite sure where to point me, and we went into our respective stalls and while we peed, she told me about both the Sufis and the local Theosophical Society.  She said “you’ll have to decide which you want,” and I immediately said, heart in mouth, “Oh, I want to be a Sufi!”  We were emerging from our stalls by then, and I will never forget her swooping down on me like some splendid archangel, because she HEARD me.  From that time, she took me under her wing, and from that time, we were into and out of each other’s lives with fair regularity.  She took me to my first Universal Worship and it was there that I met my first initiator, Ann Nicholas, one of the other great souls who came into my life before I was old enough to appreciate them.  Rabia also made sure I met Shamcher Bryn Beorse, one of my two life’s teachers.  I met him in Rabia’s backyard, where Shamcher–possibly to teach me a good lesson–gave me a mind-blowing initiation that put me through astonishing “trips” for years.  But that’s a story for another time.  The point is that Rabia was my fairy godmother, always, although she would have snorted at that idea.

I stayed at her house when I later left that area but would come back to visit, we wrote letters, we often met up at what we euphemestically called “Sufi Camps” in those days, retreats in nature that took place all over the world.  I have done retreats in the French Alps, in New Mexico, in California in the desert, in the upper loft of an abandoned carriage house in Boston . . .  But most of the ones I (and she) attended were at the Abode of the Message, in its old Shaker Village setting in upper New York state.

What I remember about Rabia (the “Sufi” name she eventually received, I assume from Pir Vilayat, who gave me my name, Amidha) is that she was always busy.  She never had time for gossip or backbiting or politics (at least in my experience), and she never had time to criticize anyone.  At the same time, she wanted to know everything about everyone, and when we met, we would exchange everything we knew about everyone we knew.  Marriages, divorces, births, all were fair game, and more, but I never once heard her to be unkind about anyone.  Once, when we had known each other for well over ten years by then, we both showed up at a Sufi leader’s retreat in Ocate, New Mexico.  Rabia had married a wonderful man named Nick Longworth, and I think he was rather puzzled by these peculiar Sufis, because it was not his thing.  But Rabia WAS his thing, and if she wanted to take their RV to the mountains and park it and go on retreat, then that was what they were going to do.

12540545_1200536086641019_7286459845844297892_nNow, an alchemical retreat, the way most of us do it in this order, is generally taken in silence, in the wilderness.  This was quite a historic retreat, for many reasons, and ordinarily I would have observed silence, but Rabia and Nick were parked on the outside of the camp area (most people brought tents), and I’m not entirely sure what they did during the days of the retreat, but I imagine she tried to divide her time between him and his reasonable desire for sightseeing, and the retreat.  I just knew that Rabia, extrovert that she was, would want to talk, and so I observed silence during the hours of the retreat, and in the evenings, I would walk over to where they were camping and talk to Rabia.  I remember her expressing guilt that I was breaking silence for her, but I said that it was a privilege, so she let it go, and we chatted happily.  I remember that, toward the time of my departure back to Tennessee, where I lived then, I realized that I was running out of money.  I was a single mother, and I lived pretty close to the bone.  I went to Rabia and guiltily asked her if I could borrow $100 from her, and she gave it to me, and I paid it back eventually.  I remember another time, during those lean years, when I was flat broke, and out of the blue, she sent me some cash, saying “I just have a feeling I owe you some money, let me know if this isn’t enough.”  I doubt that she owed me one thin dime, but golly!  I needed those few bucks, and they came exactly when I needed them.

Rabia and I often lost touch with each other, because we were both gypsies, but we 10685617_729721503744266_3962312442042615671_n
always found each other again:  “Darn it, where are you?” a letter to some address would be forwarded, asking.  Then came my “lost years,” at least lost to the Sufi Order, because it was at that Ocate camp that I began to realize that I had climbed the mountain of God leaving all my baggage at its foot, and was going to have to go back and fetch it and decide what to do with it.  I withdrew from the Sufi Order International for a good ten or so years, during which I went to college and grad school and went to live in Alaska.  During that time, Nick having died, Rabia went to live at the Abode of the Message, which I suspect she had always wanted to do.  She never could get enough of those Sufis, our Rabia!  She and one of our other “elders” (or fairy godmothers), Aftab, lived at the top of one of those Shaker buildings, four 472035_3266045508930_1494514472_ostories up, as I recall, and neither of them was a spring chicken at that time, but they were the dames de grandes of the Abode.  I sometimes felt anger that the Abode couldn’t get her down to a ground floor (and Aftab, as well), but I also heard that she wouldn’t stand for it.  It was in the days of the Abode when no one had their own bathroom, although Rabia managed one; I never saw it, because the one time I had arranged to go and stay with her, physical problems intervened, and it didn’t happen.

Rabia and I, during that time, shared a similar “knee debacle;”  both of us, as it happened, had knee surgery at the same time, but mine was bilateral, hers just one, and it went well for her.  But that is another sweet memory, because elsewhere here are several accounts of the rather disastrous time I went through severe infection and ultimately multiple surgeries.  What I remember most about that time is that at least once a week, Rabia would call to chat, and always had some beautiful and inspiring passage from some book ready to read to me to encourage and strengthen me.

12512566_10153416172506297_7970818309131271412_nAll these memories span some 40 years of friendship, and they are not necessarily in order, but come as they come.  I cannot say exactly when they took place, but this is what I remember.  And our Rabia was quite the extrovert, and I suspect that these memories of mine will not at all rival the memories of any of her ten thousand friends, because I don’t believe she ever met anyone in her life who was not a friend.

IMG_0350 (1)In her last years at the Abode, tragedy struck:  walking down the road one d
ay, Rabia turned a corner and was hit by a large truck.  I was in North Carolina by that time, so all I know is that she sustained a head injury and nearly died… but didn’t.  Not ready yet, our Rabia.  But from that time on, she had increasingly bad memory problems, and what I remember so poignantly is that she didn’t waste her time on self-pity, but she was terribly embarrassed by her inability to remember simple things:  faces, names, events… yet other things were never forgotten.  After a time, her daughter Julie and family came to the Abode and brought her back to Kentucky, where Julie lived.

Rabia’s family placed her in an assisted-living facility initially, and I think it was hard for her.  Even though she was in her late 80s by then, she was used to freedom and independence, and she really needed to have Sufis around.  There didn’t seem to be too many of those in the city where she was, and even though her family supported her tenderly, it was not her world.  During those early months, I wrote to her, making sure to put lots of pictures and names on my letters, so that she could see who was who.  We would talk on the phone at least twice a week, and on some days, she would feel so lonely that she would call over and over, because my name–Amidha–was at the top of her phone list.  We always answered, and she was always embarrassed, because she thought she was calling her daughter.  I tried to tell her how grateful we were to be able to be there for her, but she didn’t quite “get” that.  Other old friends offered support and visits, but it seemed that things went from bad to worse.  Eventually, it became possible to move Rabia into a house across the street from her family, and round-the-clock care was arranged, including the care of her Sufi friend Mirabai, which was incredibly fortunate for her, and an amazingly  loving thing for Mirabai to do.  Toward the end (or beginning), Rabia was moved across the street into her family’s home, and that is where she ended her days.

The last real time I had with Rabia was when her daughter attended an event near our area, and she brought Rabia to spend the weekend with us.  She was initially a trifle alarmed, I think,  because she couldn’t remember who I was, but I smiled and said “but I know who you are, so who cares?” and she began to relax.  But it was a telling moment, because she was, always, so completely herself that she knew painfully when she could not do “her” work.  I think she didn’t realize that she was still doing it, and that was hard for her.

We had a simply wonderful weekend.  Rabia loved our big barn of a log home, and my daughter told me that at night, when she was supposed to be sleeping under the wonderful duvet she said she loved (I passed her doorway in late afternoon to find her luxuriating in it, saying it was too good to leave), she wandered around, looking at the pictures on our walls, enjoying the space.  She was difficult, in some ways, to entertain, because she was always so “on,” but when I asked her if she was enjoying herself, she said “Oh, I think this is just the highlight of my life!”  And given the life she had lived, I’m sure that was not true, but it was such a typical remark for her to make.  In the mornings, we sat on the porch and read Thomas IMG_3998Merton, and as we read, nodded sagely and exchanged looks of understanding.  It was a communion of heart and soul.  The first afternoon,  we took her to the Nasher Art Museum, and had lunch and saw the exhibits.  She was appalled at the price of her lunch, and grumbled about it for the rest of the afternoon, but she also enjoyed herself thoroughly (as I recall, we spent about $10 on her; we tried to hide the check–really!–but she managed to find out).  Rabia loved to eat, but there were limits!

The best part of that halcyon weekend was when we went to a dramatic recitation of Rumi’s poetry, held in a big, historic church in Greensboro.  That was when the true Rabia, the one I’d always known, came out:  We sat in the pews and she held my hand–if Rabia sat next to you, she was going to hold your hand–and recited the poems by heart, this woman with such memory problems.  She didn’t miss a line.  Perhaps the reality was that Rabia managed to remember the important stuff.  After the performance, we watched Rabia “work the room,” becoming friends with everyone there, affirming her world of friendship.  I remember ecstatic greetings between her and another woman I knew slightly, who remembered her from the Abode.  Afterwards, I asked her, “Did you know who that was?”  She answered, “I never saw her in my life.”  That was our Rabia:  never met anyone who wasn’t a friend.

I have had a recurring dream throughout my life, of a valley where I live with many of the souls I’ve met here, souls I have somehow always known.  On that last morning on our back porch I remembered that Rabia and I came from the same “soul village”… we hadn’t just shared our residency on earth, but in the heavens, in that green, green valley somewhere in the planes.

“I’ll always remember our mornings on the back porch,” and on that particular morning, we went into the early afternoon together, enjoying the sharing of wisdom, while my patient husband waited for us.

When Rabia returned to that village in her version of that valley this past week, Facebook, mailing lists, social media in general exploded with stories of those who adored her.  Everyone had a memory to share, and everyone mourned.  Yet we all knew that our lives had been better for her presence, and were grateful for that.

To my knowledge, she never wrote a book.  She never presented herself as a teacher:  “They know I’m not too good at this; that’s why they give me the beginners.” “Ha!” I thought.  “They give you the beginners because they know that once they’ve hung out with you, they’re hooked for life!”

She once told me that when Pir Vilayat asked her what her last initiation had been, she said “Oh, I don’t know; just being with you is an initiation.”  Stories about Rabia abound.  She was a true Sufi.  She worked hard and she never made any claims for herself.  She never worried about achieving perfection, she just did the best she could.

I feel her radiance so clearly now.  It was in the planes of light that our beloved Pir Vilayat told us he could be found after his passing, and so it has been.  I feel that this is the case with Rabia, too:  she was all light.

You are love.

You come from love.

You are made of love.

You cannot cease to love. – Inayat Khan

This story has no ending, and I may well be remembering little vignettes for some time and adding them in here, because from the time I started my blog, I saw it as a place to put things I didn’t want to lose.

Immortality is to be found in the love with which we create each other.  She would have scoffed at being anyone’s teacher, but she taught a lot of lessons in love.

Death takes away the weariness of life, and the soul begins anew. – Inayat Khan

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Two Dog Nights

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I have this cool page I keep bookmarked in my browser bar.  It’s a page that keeps account of whether Mercury is retrograde or not.  Most New-Age-y types such as myself know about the Mercury retrograde thing, but in case you don’t, here is a link to the Wikipedia page on the topic.

If Mercury IS retrograde, the page informs me:  “Yes.  That may account for the weirdness.”

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If it is NOT, then:  “No.  Something else must be bumming you out.”  I love the Sixties language of these two responses.  Not being a scientist OR an astrologer, I am not about to try to explain this idea to you, but what I do understand is that if Mercury IS retrograde, things are likely to not exactly turn out the way you expect them to.  It is not a good time to start new projects, supposedly, or to try to go places or do things.  The results may not exactly be bad, just unexpected.  This is the short version.  Obviously, there is much more to this whole Mercury thing.  I have at least two friends who are Vedic astrologers and would probably scoff at this explanation, but There It Is.

Now, whether or not I believe in astrology kind of depends on which day you ask me about it.  Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t.  My teacher, Hazrat Inayat Khan, says that this kind of belief tends to fall away as the soul evolves, and has less and less influence.  That makes sense to me.  Yet as an Indian, he had great respect for these occult sciences:

The science of astrology was based on the science of cosmic vibration. Everything depends on vibratory conditions, including the position of the stars and planets, individuals, nations, races, and all objects. A great deal of the secret power, which the Hindus have found in the science of music, has been derived from the science of astrology. Every note of Indian music corresponds with a certain planet; every note has a certain color; every note denotes a certain pitch of nature, a certain pitch of the animal world.  — Inayat Khan

It seems that, whether or not the soul grows beyond the science of vibration, life is always governed by it.

I have been struggling with some big issues lately, and I cannot deny that I have been letting them get to me.  So last week I came up with the idea of taking off for the beach for a few days, and my husband liked the idea.  We did not think to consult my Mercury page, and I am wondering if we should have.  I doubt that if I’d known that old Mercury was in retrograde that I would have decided not to go, but maybe.  I guess it would depend on whether it was a day when I believed in such things (skepticism is a convenient thing!).  In any event, we set off for the beach with our little Westie (West Highland White Terrier), and for the most part, all was well.  The weather was good for this time of year, and we had rented a cottage on the beach.  I find Sister Ocean to be very healing.IMG_0039

However, friends, it was a WEIRD week.  The morning after we got there, my husband and I decided to take off for Ocracoke Island, just because we love the drive through the National Seashore.  Prior to that, however, my husband took our little Westie (aka “Spud” aka, formally, Hamish) for a walk on the beach. IMG_0914 Thinking he might be able to let him off the leash for a bit to frolic in the waves, he did so, and immediately Spud took off for the nearest houses, quickly disappearing.  Westies are bred to be vermin-hunters, and they move FAST.  My husband took off to look for him on foot and I took the car, terrified that in the fast-moving traffic on the beach road he might be killed very quickly.  Continuing in the parlance of the 60s, what a rush!  I was terrified.  He is my child-substitute, my own human children  being officially grown-up.

The beach, at this time of year, is mostly deserted.  Most of the vacation houses are closed down, and one would think there was no one around: but not so.  Immediately, a man appeared across the street, saying he’d seen Spud and would go look for him on his way to work.  My husband had disappeared to somewhere he thought he might have scampered off to.  I continued to panic, slowly driving and looking for the little devil between houses and lots and dunes.  Turning onto a side street, I saw my formerly unknown neighbor driving toward me, and he had my little guy in his front seat.  He said he’d seen another neighbor taking him up to his house to try to find his owner, and all was well.  The whole enounter was a friendly and kind one, resulting in our getting to know a few neighbors we hadn’t known were there, when we thanked our other new neighbor and his mother, both local real estate mavens.  I wanted to murder my pup, but that would have been counterproductive.  My husband and I, who had been kind of cranky and strung-out that morning, were in a completely different space.  We were flooded with gratitude and relief, and we put our little man in the car and headed off to look for breakfast and a ride up the beach road.  It is amazing how a simple incident can change everything.

Mercury retrograde.

IMG_0042When we reached the Hatteras ferry,  we were feeling adventurous and positive, and as it happened, a young man wearing a big backpack and carrying a camera spoke to us, and we ended up having a pleasant conversation with him.  His name, he said, was Juan Pablo Cardoña (great name!) and he is from Colombia.  He is creating a blog for the folks back home, in order to show them how to travel with very little money.  He had started his trip, as I recall, in New York City, and had traveled through Philly, DC, down the East coast, and was now headed–on foot–for Ocracoke and then to Cedar Island, and on.  He planned to return to his parents’ home in Orlando to sort out his photos and write his blog.  A nice kid (well, anyone under 30 is a kid to me; he is 26).  We gave him a ride into Ocracoke Village,ocracoke-silver-lake-harbor and he had to decide where to spend the night.  He had so far slept in at least one church, camped out, been offered accommodations by people he met, and he was kind of up against it on Ocracoke, as the campgrounds are closed at this time of year.  But we gave him a small tour of the village and parted with him since we were going in the opposite direction, and the next day, he contacted us on Facebook to let us know he was okay.  I hope he still is.  Again with the 60s theme:  I was reminded of those days when people like me took off for parts unknown whether or not we had money, quite often barefoot.

And given the number Mercury was doing on our lives, I hope he’s okay!

IMG_0133My daughter brought our other two dogs down to spend a couple of weekend days with us:  we had (notice the past tense) two aging Shelties (Shetland Sheep dogs, aka “miniature collies”), both fairly elderly.  The older one had a rough time climbing the steps to our cottage, and we had to haul him up.  On Saturday morning, as we were about to head out for further adventures, I was sitting on the back porch meditating.  I was listening to the waves, and as well, I had the earphones to my iPod in my ears.  I was aware of a distant whining, but I thought it was our young Westie, who gets kind of excited about things.  When I got up, I saw that our oldest Sheltie was in obvious distress, heaving and whining, unable to respond to anything.  It was clear to me that he was very likely dying, and while I was essentially okay with that (he was, after all, quite old), obviously I was distressed.  My husband and my daughter carried him to the car to find a vet, and I stayed with the other dogs.  Of course, he was dying, and the nice young vet they found put him out of his misery and soothed their feelings of guilt and didn’t charge a penny for doing that.  In these days when medical care for one’s animals costs as much as it does for human, that was really quite decent.

And that was that.

Mercury?

Do animals project their thought and feeling upon the human being? Can man reflect the feeling of an animal? Yes, sometimes human beings who are in sympathy with a pet animal feel its pain, without any other reason. The animal cannot explain its pain, but they feel how the animal is suffering. Besides, the most curious thing is that on farms one sees shepherds, reflecting the feelings of the animals; they make noises, sing, or dance in a way that resembles animals’ sounds and movements, and show in many ways the traits of animals. – Inayat Khan

What is it, though, about having a well-loved animal die?  One feels so responsible for its welfare!  And I am reminded of something the psychic Edgar Cayce was said to have given in a “reading:”  animals, he said, don’t have individual souls, but rather a group soul.  I don’t know whether that is true or not, but I have noticed that at the moment of death, the animal’s presence leaves quickly, and there is no fight, no resistance to the moment of death.  Just as our animals love and serve us in life, they are willing to die without resistance.  We were and are heartbroken, but he died a good death, our Wellington the Sheltie, no doubt returning to the Great White Sheltie in the sky.  Why not?  He is with Maggie now, although of course we are anthropomorphizing (to say nothing of philosophizing).

What can we say about Wellie?  Another saintly dog.  This makes sense, as he was raised by Maggie, who taught him how to be a loving and kind-hearted dog.  I never saw him growl or bite in a mean way, only a warning one.  He barked far too much, but he was, after all, a sheepdog.  He did nip at the mailman’s heels once, but after all, he was herding him!  Our nice mailman understood.  Wellie loved his family most of all, not having much use for anyone else, as is typical of the breed.  It is fascinating to me how different breeds of dogs have such completely different personalities:  Shelties are incredibly intelligent and well-behaved dogs.  “Just give me a copy of the job description, and I’m on it,” they seem to say, and so it is.  Spud, on the other hand, is a feisty little so-and-so, empathetic and loving, but far more independent.  He loves everyone.  An opportunist most of all, his predominant answer to any request is “What’s in it for me?”  Not so with a sheepdog.  They are on the job at all times.  We have one cat, Sita, and her general attitude is “leave me alone,” unless, of course, she doesn’t want to be left alone, in which case we’d better comply.  I am quite fond of Sita, but ultimately, I am a dog person. IMG_2041_2.JPG

If we can distinguish ourselves from other beings, it is only in the things that animals do not do that man can be different from them. When it comes to eating, do not both eat? Both sleep; both seek comfort. Man does all the things that animals do; man can only be greater than animals in things that they do not do. And what are those things? Building houses? Birds can do this. Ability to fight? Animals and birds fight. The showing of art and skill? Animals can show these things; think of the spider and how it weaves its web; it is wonderful.

Man was created in order that he might overcome that which animals have not overcome. – Inayat Khan

Our surviving dogs, now that we are home, are wandering around looking as if they don’t quite know what has happened.  It is particularly hard for our second Sheltie, as Pippin is only a couple of years younger than Wellington.DSCF0051  Spud is our “gap dog,” because we knew this day was coming, and figured Pip would want a pal to get him through, and it seems to have been a good idea.  I suppose in a year or two, we will need another “gap dog.”  Everyone should have someone to hang out with.IMG_0607

Some of our friends do not want to have animals.  Animals tie them down, they say. They are a lot of trouble.  To my way of thinking, animals are the real teachers of humanity:

Nature does not teach the glory of God; it need not teach this as nature itself is the glory of God. People wish to study astrology and other subjects in order to understand better, but if we study astrology then we are sure to arrive at an interpretation which is given by a man, whereas what we should read from nature is what nature gives us and not what any book teaches us. There comes a time with the maturity of the soul when every thing and every being begins to reveal its nature to us. We do not need to read their lives, we do not need to read their theories. We know then that this wide nature in its four aspects is ever-revealing and that one can always communicate with it, but that in spite of this it is not the privilege of every soul to read it. Many souls remain blind with open eyes. They are in heaven, but not allowed to look at heaven; they are in paradise, but not allowed to enjoy the beauties of paradise. It is just like a person sleeping on a pile of gems and jewels. From the moment man’s eyes open and he begins to read the book of nature he begins to live; and he continues to live for ever.  — Inayat Khan

We are home now, and our dogs are with us.  For the forseeable future, we will be having Two Dog Nights.  Yet best friends never entirely leave.

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Coming Home

Oh my Love, my dearest One,

The one I see with sightless sight, who speaks with voiceless voice…

What else can I ask

but that we forget all this nonsense that causes this monkey-mind to chatter away,

this heart to worry

and this soul to wear away from its body, bit by bit.

Just continue to work on your art, paint this sonata you are composing

and play it for both of us.

We both know the rest of it will takecgps_plane
care of itself, because that is what You do.

This one, that one, all will, in their own time, come into their own,and I will come home as quickly as I can.

Just keep waiting.

Just keep being the one who never says No.

Human Rights Day

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In 1948, under the leadership of the United States and the prodding of Eleanor Roosevelt, the UN General Assembly proclaimed December 10 to be Human Rights Day, to bring to the attention to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. Today, 66 years later, America faces the reality of police brutality, CIA torture, and the imprisonment of a larger portion of our population than any other modern nation. What happened?  –Robert Reich

In the early ’80s, Amnesty International began to celebrate Human Rights Day with the Sufi Order International’s Universal Worship Service.  The Universal Worship, instituted in the early 1900s,  is the “Church of All and of all Churches.”  The service involves an altar set with a semi-circle of candles representing the major religions of the world, with a larger candle in the back, in the middle of the altar, and one in the front.  The Cherag(a) or Priest(ess) goes from candle to candle, lighting each one from the large candle in the back:

“To the glory of the Omnipresent God, we kindle the light symbolically representing the Hindu religion… the Buddhist religion…   the Zoroastrian religion…  the Hebrew religion, the Christian religion… the religion of Islam…” and finally, lighting the candle in the front,

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“To the glory of the Omnipresent God, we kindle the light symbolically representing all those who, whether known or unknown, have held aloft the light of truth amidst the darkness of human ignorance.”

WeddingIn 1981, I was living in Nashville, Tennessee, where I’d come to start a Sufi center, and we held a Universal Worship for Universal Declaration of Human Rights Day at Peabody College, inviting religious leaders from all over the city to take part in the service, lighting the candles for their own religions, and reading scriptures from them.  In the congregation was a young Vanderbilt Divinity School student who had been attracted to the service, which I happened to conduct, so he saw me first, at the altar, in the light of the candles, wearing my white robe.  After the service, he came up to me and said, “I was watching you all during the service, and you look like a truly religious person.”  Inwardly, I chuckled.  “It’s you!” I thought, and so it was.  It seemed to me that God had a good sense of humor, because here was this buttoned-up Div School student, and there I was, a flighty hippie with hair down to my waist, wearing Indian clothes.  He said that as he tried to sleep that night, he heard an orchestra playing in his head, “heavy on the brass.”  If you know me, you will enjoy that.  He later told me he thought as he saw me in the blinding white flood lights, “My God!  Who is that woman?”

The rest is history.

It took us awhile to figure out what to do with each other; six years, in fact, because he was a United Methodist minister, and I was a flaming Sufi, and I knew I couldn’t be a minister’s wife, and he knew he could never fit the likes of me into his congregation.  Eventually, all those considerations fell away, and it was time for us to be together, and 33 years later, we’re still going strong.

So yes, the world is still going to Hell, and the earth plane is a terrible and dark place to live.  And somehow, sometimes, we still kindle the light of love, of freedom, and most of all, the “light of truth amidst the darkness of human ignorance.”

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.

2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.…  –Revelations 21:1-2

Let freedom ring.

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Rivers Run Back

I cannot deny it:  I am an obsessive reader.  I read for pleasure, I read to counteract misery, I read when I’m bored, I read when I’m not bored, I read while I’m eating (if I’m alone), I read while watching television (and miss most of what’s on TV), I read in the car during trips and, well… you get the picture.  I like to think I don’t read just anything, and I don’t.  I also like to think I am not one to read murder mysteries, but the number of them I have now read is mounting, and I’ll have to do some thinking about why I enjoy them occasionally.  Oh, RRBwait, I’ve got it:  I like the ones written by people who can write.  That’s it!  That’s the ticket!

Recently, Joyce Yarrow came into my life through other avenues, and I just read her book with Arindam Roy,  Rivers Run Back.  I like Joyce a lot, and so I wanted to read her novel, although one can get into a LOT of trouble in reading the work of friends.  In my case, the pile of stuff I have waiting to be read seems to constantly grow, and people don’t always ask you politely to read their stuff.  A lot of them seem to simply assume that you will want to do them the favor of being a “test reader” for what they write.  I tend to avoid those kind, through some cussedness of my own.  I personally am quite hesitant to ask people to read what I write, but as usual, I digress:  I want to talk about this book.

First, however, let me tell you about the pictures you are going to see here:  they are the work, overall, of the Flying Birds of the Aseem Asha Foundation of India, and each one is a painting of one of the characters in the book.  If you have some disposable income and want to feel you are contributing to a worthy cause, you should check out the work my good friend Aseem Asha is doing with the most marginalized of children in India:  he is teaching them to make films, he is teaching them technical skills, he is teaching them to express their creativity, he takes them to museums and holy places and other places they need to know about in their own country.  He is teaching them to improve the community they live in and he is teaching them to think.  He helps them with their schoolwork, he helps them to learn English, he teaches them to minister to those less fortunate than they are, and he clearly loves them.  He does all this on what is probably well below a shoestring budget.  He started by opening his very own personal room in Delhi, and the children flocked to come to him after school, and more children kept coming and coming, Hindu, Christian, Muslim and all.  Now, through the help of friends, he has a little more space and a bit more money, and they still come, increasingly.  You can find the Aseem Asha Foundation on Facebook; they do not have a website yet, although that is in the works, and you can find Aseem here:  (aseemasha@gmail.com).  I’m sure you can find some of the films the kids have made on YouTube, as well.  Just do a search for Flying Birds.  To get back to these paintings, they are the work of Aseem Asha’s “Birds,” and you will love them.  See below.

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Now, to the book:

In literature and mythology, a river signifies the flow of life’s journey. Ganga, the lifeline of India, flows back thrice in its course. It changes its flow from Dakshniayan (southern) to Uttarayan (northern). The title of this book, Rivers Run Back, is inspired by Ganga’s backward flows and introspections. Ganga changes its course first at Uttarkashi, Uttrakhand. Then it turns back at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, and finally, it runs back at Sultanganj, Bihar. In India, the yearning of rivers to run back signifies the deep introspection experienced by all of us— male or female, Eastern or Western— during the different stages in our lives. A woman, on her life’s journey, looks back thrice. First, she turns back for a last look at her paternal home, when she leaves to start a new life with her husband. The second time she turns her life around to nourish a new life within her when she becomes a mother. Then, when her children leave, she again turns around to give a new meaning to her empty nest. She adapts to the transitions as she flows with life. As the characters in Rivers Run Back search for their identities, their journeys are within and without, spiritual and spatial, from one culture to the other. The narrative crisscrosses nations, histories, politics, and crime. It celebrates universal humanism, liberal democracies and the ardent belief in the goodness of life and living. Nothing remains the same. Everything returns. Everything changes! — Joyce Yarrow & Arindam Roy, Rivers Run Back (2015)

 The mythos that I was raised on as a spiritual infant taught me that the rivers Ganga and Yumna are consorts that run each in its own direction, converging with the subterranean river Saraswati at the end of each aeon in Prayag, an ancient spiritual center, purported to have the most fertile land in India.  Ganga, while the recipient of all kinds of filth created from the birth pangs of modern India, has a mysteriously pure water, a water that even scientifically holds up to scrutiny of its reputation.  When a person dies, the Hindu custom is to put two drops of Ganga water in their mouth so that the soul may be cleansed of its sins and ushered forward on its journey.  People continue to bathe in Ganga despite everything that finds its way to it,  and somehow retain their health.  It seems there is a mysterious “X-factor” in the water than ensures this (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17134270)

narsimha_resizedThis is a story that sweeps across cultures, time, and spirit, a story that Ganga and its mysterious qualities runs all through.  It is a story of the eventual outcome of will and the triumph of spirit.  It is, however, even more:  it is about about chance and change and who lives and who dies.  The part of it that is a murder mystery is fairly minor, because it illuminates a number of different beings, beginning in India, 1960, which in itself surprised me–although not much–because the event that triggered all the rest, the birth of an illegitimate child, was set in the context of an entrenched Brahmin family for whom such an occurrence was quite unacceptable.  The baby born was Narsimha, meaning Lion, and he grew into a force that seeded growth and tragedy both:

There was no naming-ceremony for the baby, born amidst strangers and unwelcome in the world. On the 12th day after giving birth, his mother gently inserted a betel leaf in his right ear and whispered across it, “Narsimha. You are called Narsimha Sastry. You will survive in spite of everything.” The first name signified man-lion. She wanted him to be fierce. The surname meant brave one. The naam-roop— name that shapes character— did its work. His baby cry was ferocious. Tulasi was proud of her baby boy, although his wails and cries forced her to relive the terrible events following the revelation of her pregnancy…. — Joyce Yarrow & Arindam Roy, Rivers Run Back (2015)

shankarI am determined to write this response to the book without “spoilers,” as you may want to read it too.  But let me say that as a psychologist, Narsimha presents a fascinatingly accurate portrait of a developing antisocial personality.  On the one hand he has plenty of reason to go wrong, yet at the same time, he could have gone either way.  I suspect in this day and age we would say he has an “attachment disorder.”

MARILYNAs Narsimha is growing up under the cloud of shame and outrage surrounding his birth, so is Shankar,
a boy growing up in wealthy circumstances, loved and cosseted, although with a controlling mother who places certain expectations on her only child.  Eventually Shankar escapes to New York City to teach at a university, although he may only have dimly realized that was what he was doing.  Shankar presents an interesting picture of a man who is in some way at war internally, a war between intellect (and its ambitions) and spirit.

Seven thousand miles away in New York, Marilyn is growing up in a similarly comfortable family, but one without the spiritual heritage that gives meaning and constriction both to Shankar’s life.  Her demons are interior ones, but she has an uncle, Sven, who helps her to develop her talent, support her, and find meaning.  However, the events of her life, combined with her own innate constitution, cause her to develop a severe bipolar disorder, a disorder to the point of psychosis.  The lack of understanding of her parents, her own loneliness and the resultant lack of self-esteem have caused her to develop an interior “voice” that invariably works to undermine her self-confidence.  As might be imagined, she and Shankar find each other, and eventually have two children, Padma and Leela, who constitute the main cast of characters of the book, although one of my favorite characters, Dusty, enters briefly at a later point.  Padma, it seems, is her father’s child, an almost too-gooLEELAd-to-be-true character, while Leela is more similar to her mother in her inability to sacrifice her own individuality for the greater good of the family.

PADMA_to printThus, we have a family growing, both as individuals and a unit, and all the time their nemesis Narsimha, unknown to them, is growing in his own direction.  Most of the book is constituted by the thought-provoking development of its characters, only turning into a real detective drama toward the end.  It is, I think, far too intelligently written to be confined to that genre.  It is a book about the growth of soul.  Along the way, who lives and who dies?  Or to use a better phrase, who prevails?  This is a fascinating read that flows out of its origin–India–to the West and back again, illuminating the development of its characters in the context of their cultures and traditions, on the backdrop of modernity.  I keep wanting to tell people:  please do read this so we can talk about it!

I just didn’t want it to end when it did.  Let me know what you think.

from an anonymous Tibetan

You say you are bombing ISIS/Daesh in Syria:

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Tashi Norbu

I wonder what ISIS looks like from the sky?

You may be bombing suspicious villages that are already war-torn rubble!

I wonder if there are houses full of children, women, and old menwho could not escape. . .
You say ISIS attacked France
In the name of radical Islam, and you may be right, but what if you’re not?
I wonder what do I call those women, children, and old men in the rubble.
Enemies?
I wonder how I should feel about people who lost their livelihoods, their culture destroyed in days,
People who saw their parents, children, siblings and friends blown to unrecognizable bits.

What happened to Paris is horrific:
Our emotional scars will take a long time to heal.
But how have our retaliations changed the world for the better?
Will Iraqi children, Syrian children, Libyan children, Palestinian children, Afghani children forget everything that happened to their countries and their parents and their siblings and their friends overnight?

I am a refugee.
I wonder what I’d I be if you hadn’t shown your generosity before the so called norm of ignoring me.
If you saw creed, dogma and religion before compassion.
Does compassion see creed, dogma and religion?
Is love in itself a language or does it have to undergo political sanctions?
I wonder
How many us of have died..
How many as we read these lines are dying.

The Howling

Sometimes

If I beg long enough,

Desperately enough,

Loudly enough,

Softly enough,

Prettily enough,

 

Sometimes if I knock on your door long enough,

Trying my best to convince you to open it,

You open it just a crack, enough to allow

Me room to slip through.

 

The ten thousand things tug at me,

The hungry ghosts howl

and rattle their chains,

Gnash their teeth,

Whine,

Clutch,

Lay guilt trips on me…

 

Babies cry,

Responsibilities plead,

Clamor for importance.

They reason,

They moan,

They rage.

 

And I hover on the threshold:

A woman, after all!

I have thousands of children,

And so much dust.

So many details, such an outcry!

Someone is hungry,

Someone is angry,

Everyone needs something.

 

I am the Mother of the World.

 

But you beckon me, there on the threshold,

and guiltily, I slip through.

 

Someday

There will be no door

And no threshold,

And no one to consider what is most important. – Amidha Porter. M.A.

Symptoms

Raw for Beauty copyI saw this on my Facebook page this morning, and it took me awhile to figure out why I wasn’t happy with it.  It seems to me that all these “symptoms,” while no doubt true of the early stages of awakening, mostly bespeak spiritual narcissism. In Zen parlance, a clinging to these states denotes the “stink of enlightenment,” as a very real experience–awakening– eventually becomes an ego trip, if one does not continue to go forward and clings to the original experience. In reality, life is very hard, and as one climbs the ladder, one increasingly partakes of the broken heart of humanity as God weeps for its creation. Those who knew the Inayat Khan family, for instance, spoke of the deep feeling of sadness that often emanated from Murshid, and the feelings of grief and depression in his and his wife’s quarters. The Begum often suffered from depression and grief, and Murshid was often made sad by the behavior of his students and the misery of the world.

” In our everyday life there are times when a sadness comes, and it seems as if everything in the world, even the voices of beasts and birds, cause sadness. Then again comes the hour of profound joy. At that time the sun helps to give joy, and the clouds covering the sun also give joy. The cold, the heat, the friend, the enemy, all help to give joy.” — Inayat Khan.

Then again:

“The attitude of looking at everything with a smile is the sign of the saintly soul. A smile given to a friend, a smile given even to an enemy will win him over in the end; for this is the key to the heart of man. As the sunshine from without lights the whole world, so the sunshine from within, if it were raised up, would illuminate the whole life, in spite of all the seeming wrongs and in spite of all limitations. God is happiness, the soul is happiness, the spirit is happiness. There is no place for sadness in the kingdom of God. That which deprives man of happiness deprives him of God and of truth.” — Inayat Khan.

Yet again:

“If sorrow and sadness have no reality, why then did Christ say, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful?’ We must distinguish between the human side of the Master’s life and the divine side. If the human side were not human, then what would be human? Why does God send His message to humanity by. a man and not by angels? Because only a human being knows human beings. He knows them from having experienced human limitation.
That he felt sadness is the most beautiful side of the Master’s life. If he had not, how could he have sympathized with those who are sorrowful? If we were all born perfect there would be no purpose in human life. The purpose of life is that we grow towards perfection; from the greatest limitation we grow towards perfection. Its beauty is in acquiring wisdom, in living at the cost of all our failures, our mistakes. It is all worth while, and it all accomplishes the purpose of our coming to the earth. –Inayat Khan.

There is a hidden quality, and there is a quality which is manifest. What is manifest we recognize; what is hidden we do not see. There is going forward and there is going backward, there is success and there is failure, there is light and there is darkness, there is joy and there is sadness, there is birth and there is death. All things that we can know, feel, and perceive have their opposites. It is the opposite quality which brings about balance. The world would not exist if there were not both water and earth. Every thing and every being needs these two opposite qualities in order to exist, to act, and to fulfill the purpose of life; for each quality is incomplete without the other.  — Inayat Khan

We don’t want to be sad. We want to believe that spiritual awakening will relieve us of the pain of our lives. Yet eventually we come to see that we are here to struggle and win, to struggle and lose, to be angry and to weep, to laugh, to dance. The ego, like the poor, in the words of Christ, will always be with us, and sadness is as inevitable as joy.  As C.G. Jung says in speaking of the Shadow archetype, it is the source of our growth and creativity, and the creator of our sadness, and ultimately, our joy.  Yet the soul’s birthright is joy.

The Last Alaska Chronicle

Have been thinking, lately, about the place that still seems like home, and thought I’d “reblog” this. . .

Rays

Spirit Houses

(We lived up in Alaska for some seven years, and I heard and told a lot of stories, many of which made their way into group emails to friends and family. It has always been my intention to turn these into a book, and they’re on their way, after several incarnations as research papers and dissertation segments, and I believe they’ll make it, but not yet. I came across this one tonight, though, and it remains in its original state; and it made my heart turn over with love and pain. I’m pasting it in here “as is”…)

Dear Friends,

I’m sure that some of you read the “subject” of this message with a smile, remembering the series of “chronicles” I sent when our family began this Alaskan adventure some six years ago. Others of you are new friends discovered along the way, and may fit into one or more categories…

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Gaslighting

And now for a brief retreat to more mainstream psychological issues, I would like to recommend an excellent essay shared with me, this moring, by someone who ought to know.  I never thought of this term–Gaslighting–for this particular syndrome, but it’s in there with other “dysfunctional family” issues, as well as individual ones such as borderline syndrome, narcissism, and even antisocial personality syndromes.  I recommend it if you feel that you may identify with any of these, or love someone who does:

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Your gaslighter does not see you. You are a shadow standing to the side, trying not to attract attention, while he showers his image of you with love and attention. And no matter how much your mind is in knots, you know this to be true.

Here’s where to find the rest:  https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/10-things-i-wish-i-d-known-about-gaslighting-22234cb5e407

How Do We Forgive Our Fathers? by Dick Lourie*

Recently I learned that I can only “reblog” things once, and only after I deleted something I’d “reblogged;” but I’m going to do this one anyway, for it is, again, Father’s Day, and well….read below. Some clever person posted the trailer from the film, “Smoke Signals,” that it was recited in, so do check that out, too . . . And see the film! It is wonderful!

Rays

How do we forgive our Fathers?
Maybe in a dream
Do we forgive our Fathers for leaving us too often or forever
when we were little?

Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage
or making us nervous
because there never seemed to be any rage there at all.

Do we forgive our Fathers for marrying or not marrying our Mothers?
For Divorcing or not divorcing our Mothers?

And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness?
Shall we forgive them for pushing or leaning
for shutting doors
for speaking through walls
or never speaking
or never being silent?

Do we forgive our Fathers in our age or in theirs
or their deaths
saying it to them or not saying it?

If we forgive our Fathers what is left?

* This poem is read during the last scene in Smoke Signals. It was 
originally published in a…

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Happy Father’s Day!

Love lies in service. Only that which is done, not for fame or name, nor for the appreciation or thanks of those for whom it is done, is love’s service.
The lover shows kindness and beneficence to the beloved. He does whatever he can for the beloved in the way of help, service, sacrifice, kindness, or rescue, and hides it from the world and even from the beloved. If the beloved does anything for him he exaggerates it, idealizes it, makes it into a mountain from a molehill. He takes poison from the hands of the beloved as sugar, and love’s pain in the wound of his heart is his only joy. By magnifying and idealizing whatever the beloved does for him and by diminishing and forgetting whatever he himself does for the beloved, he first develops his own gratitude, which creates all goodness in his life. — Inayat Khan.

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers everywhere and to David especially, who gave me all good things in life, and never stopped giving….

 

A Memory, a Presence

Image-17CDBF24470E11D8_2I am a little late acknowledging the Urs (anniversary of the death of a great teacher) of my best friend and spiritual father, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan.  Traditionally, the Urs is a celebration of the “wedding” of what the Hindus would call the maha-samadhi, a term I use simply because it popped up in my head, residue of my days in various Yogic groups in my twenties, while I was waiting for my teacher to find me.  He found me pretty early, as it happens, because I was age sixteen when I first saw him, but it was awhile before I met him; and that is another story for another time.  As to the maha-samadhi term, it is meant to describe the final, conscious departure of one from her or his body, with the accent on the word conscious. . . and although I wasn’t there when Pir, as most of us called him, left his body, my impression is that he made a pretty conscious exit, and I do know that he managed to visit many of his students as he departed, including me.

It has come to my deepest attention, lately, that teachers and the organizations that form around them become, ultimately, traps that keep the seeker from a full awakening, and I find myself in a conundrum, because I give my own acknowledged teacher the credit for saving my life and bringing me to God.  He was a deeply flawed personality and vastly awakened soul who by his own admission made many mistakes, but never gave up.  The only explanation I can give for these competing awarenesses of mine is that perhaps when one is younger–both spiritually and chronologically–the teacher-disciple relationship acts as a sort of jump-start to awakening, but ultimately may become a trap if the teacher fails to set the student free.  My teacher never, in my experience, held onto his students or their understanding in any way.

The thing that Pir Vilayat gave his students that stands out most for me was that he made us aware that we could do anything we wanted to do.  We trailed after him into numerous natural settings such as the French Alps and the New Mexican desert, and we read what his father, Inayat Khan, called the sacred manuscript of nature, often in the pouring rain or unbearably hot sun. I personally slept in a cold, wet sleeping bag in a flooded tent or nestled among boulders in excruciating pain.  I wept the tears of understanding and of rage, and I made a complete fool of myself on many occasions.  I will tell you a little story that is connected to the photo here, a very bad one from the era of disposable cameras, that depicts one of my finest moments as a fool, “the fool on the Hill” of Beatles fame.

Pir Dargah

For many years, Pir Vilayat held a multi-lingual alchemical retreat in the French Alps, way up past the treeline, a gathering in the hardest of physical conditions and the greatest natural beauty and majesty.  It may have been about 1975, when I became determined to climb the mountain, become fully enlightened, and thus have no more pain in my life.  I was married to my first husband at the time, but without a thought for him or anyone else, I somehow found the money to fly to Geneva and then take the train to Chamonix, and I struggled up the mountain with far too many personal possessions, material and immaterial both, and once there, I finagled and maneuvered and somehow got possession of THE RETREAT HUT,  way up on the mountain where all the big shots had done their retreats…all the big guns who some of us believed could take us where we wanted to go (and that is yet another story).  I don’t even remember who most of them were now, but it sure seemed like a big deal to me, age 24, that I was going to get to make my retreat in the footsteps of the great, sleeping on the same floor they’d slept on.   So my plan was to climb up to that hut and stay there until I died to myself (that was a phrase we used a lot in those days), and then I, or so I assumed, would be a changed person and I would never be in pain again.  Pir Vilayat said, when I announced this (in the picture above), “Well, I don’t think you’re quite ready.”  That clipped Oxford accent…  I was devastated.

I threw as much of a fit as I dared throw in his presence, but he wouldn’t give in and let me straggle up the mountain alone.  He said I should go on his group retreat first, and then we’d see.  The problem was, his retreat was on another mountain peak, way across the valley where the main camp was held.  But I wasn’t about to give up possesion of that hut.  It was a tiny, cinderblock shepherd’s hut, about a half hour’s climb from the main camp.  I was determined to go up there and fast until I died and became reborn.

But he said I had to go on his (group) retreat first.  So, with all my stereotypical ideas of obedience and dedication to the guru’s wishes, I got up at dawn on the first day of the group retreat and, fasting,  I set out from my hut, and hiked down the mountain and across the valley.  It  took me about three hours; there was no path, and the way was mostly rocks, and I had no experience whatsoever at hiking in such a setting.  Somewhere along the way, I turned my ankle, and from then on, I could barely walk.  But I made it, feeling desperate at the prospect of getting back and forth for the next days.  I sat and wept all the first morning of his retreat.  We were in a setting of the most phenomenal beauty and majesty we could possible be in, but I wept from pain and egotism.  When the group broke up, he casually asked me “so what’s the problem?”  I wasn’t about to tell him I had a sprained ankle and the walk was too much for me, so I mumbled something about the “power of the process,” and he pretended to buy my excuse and I hobbled back to my hut.

What an ego trip.

So this went on for about three days, and on the third day, when I got back to my hut, I felt desperate.  In addition to a sprained ankle, I was not in good physical shape.  I just didn’t know how I’d ever be able to do it.  I lay down on my sleeping bag on the cement floor (I spent the nights listening for the air to hiss out of my air mattress so I could get up and blow it up again), and later in the afternoon, I heard pounding, and voices on that lonely mountaintop where I was in residence.  Down the slope, just in front of my hut, what looked like a large tent, of the circus variety that was always associated with his group retreats in nature, was being pitched.  I broke the traditional silence and asked one of the guys working there what was going on, and he told me something about how Pir Vilayat had decided they’d better move the group retreat over to there, because of some problem that didn’t sound like it had much to do with my predicament.  I’ll never really know why that retreat was moved over to “my” mountain.

Next morning, and the next, I hobbled down the slope and attended his retreat. I could have died of happiness, it was so easy.  Now I could really focus on the work at hand.  Two days after that, when the group retreat broke up for that day, I was about to get up and go back to my hut.  I was feeling peaceful and accepting of the entire process by then, and it helped a lot that I was in less physical pain.   Suddenly, I sensed a presence.  I opened my eyes and there was THAT ROBE in front of me, the traditional dervish robe that he always wore.  He said to me, “You can just go and be free now, you don’t have to come to the group retreat.”  It took me a moment to take that in.

“With your approval?” I asked him.

“Yes.”

In those days, of course, before the alchemical retreat system he developed, a Sufi retreat consisted pretty much of just repeating dhikr thousands of times a day. I believe the prescription, then, was about fourteen thousand, if possible.

So I limped back to my hut and stayed up there for about ten days, and I’m sure I made a very bad retreat, but I stayed there in that glorious setting and said dhikr, and while it was mostly hard and very inexpert work, there were a few sublime moments.  There were a few terrifying ones, too: the hut had a glass-windowed door, and one night I woke up to find a very strange-looking man staring in the window at me.  I was petrified.  There were a lot of tourists going through there, but he was a very odd-looking one.  Later, a friend told me that there was this “weird guy” walking around the mountains, and they were worried about me.  But I was fine.  I saw him a few times, but I felt protected.  I called on Pir when I was afraid, and I felt that he was with me.

So that was my first retreat, and that’s what is taking place in that picture up there.  Suffice it to say I did not die to myself, become enlightened, or solve all my problems on that retreat, but it was glorious, nevertheless.  After I went down, I attended group activities, sacred dances, etc., but mostly I sat on the side of the mountain and wept.

For those who are interested in the retreat process, I read an article about retreats recently, and I thought it described the process rather well, although mostly in terms of American Buddhist retreats.  If you would like to read it, go here:  http://www.tricycle.com/blog/5-things-about-meditation-retreats-might-surprise-you.

Full moon, where will you be going from here?

“Into a retreat.”

Why do you take a retreat after fullness?

“To make myself an empty vessel in order to be filled again.”  Inayat Khan

He was my best friend, my father, the one who picked me up and made me fall so that I could learn to pick myself up again.  He took me to the heights, and he helped me explore my own depths.  He is still here, and I love him so.  May he be eternally blessed.

Nobody Home

This place with its high ceilings and low ones is so empty

and so crowded.

Someone sits here day by day, although it isn’t clear who,

Coming and going, confused and lonely.

Sometimes–but only sometimes–

There’s nobody home and the loneliness goes away.

(Oh, a few friends, fellow hermits, drop by occasionally. . .)

But mostly, there is only a friendly and remote silence while the music plays this woman into unity.

The sunlight pours in,

The dogs snore,

And this aging woman waves to herself

from the other shore of Goodbye.

Sky

If You Meet the Buddha in the Road . . .

Rays

A pivotal lesson for me, and a clarification of my impulse:

KrishnamurtiThe Renunciation of Jiddu Krishnamurti

As he began to distance himself from Theosophical teachings, he predicted that, “Everyone will give me up.” He began to call his experiences of the Masters “incidents” and described the rites of initiation as completely irrelevant to the search for Truth. “If you would seek the Truth you must go out, far away from the limitations of the human mind and heart and there discover it — and that Truth is within yourself. Is it not much simpler to make Life itself the goal … than to have mediators, gurus, who must inevitably step down the Truth, and hence betray it?”

In 1929 he dissolved the Order of the Star. At this point it numbered 60,000 members, managed huge sums of money, and owned tracts of land throughout the world, many designated for K’s…

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Killing the One Who Gives us Rest

H Reeves 2

 

When I read this on my Facebook page this morning, I had a vision of the cosmos as the body of what many call God, and all of us resting on it–or clinging to it–and few of us noticing that we rest on a diety.  It’s not an unusual idea, but one that has its roots in ancient belief systems, particularly the Zoroastrian one, which evokes God and God’s archangels and angels as the earth and the moon, the stars and the sun, the elements of earth, air, fire and water…  And our dependence on them all.  I am torn between the two opposing ideas that on the one hand, we owe all these the greatest consideration, and on the other, that our worst mistakes are God’s mistakes in progress.  Where will it all lead us?

Anger

Most of my anger has left me by now. Only a few things and people can still provoke it (if I’m not being sufficiently watchful), and then I realize how debilitating it is. I thought of this post this morning, when I read something an excerpt from Pema Chodron, from her book Practicing Peace in Times of War:

I often wondered why it is that when I get hooked, when I’m resentful for example, and I breathe with it instead of acting out, it feels like I’m sitting in the middle of the fire. I asked Kongtrul Rinpoche about this. He said, “Because by not doing the habitual thing, you’re burning up the seeds of aggression.” As each individual works with it in this way, it’s not just a minor thing. It’s an opportunity we’re given not only to connect with the inexpressible goodness of our minds and our hearts, but also to dissolve aggression in the world.

 

Eventually one comes to see that all Being is inseparable, and the person who provokes and the one who gets angry are inseparable. Why bother?

Rays

pema.jpg

No, I am not crying.
I hold my face in my two hands.
To keep my loneliness warm
Two hands, protecting,
Two hands, nourishing,
Two hands preventing
My soul from leaving me in anger.
–Thich Nhat Hanh

So….anger. So many different kinds, so many different uses. Yes, I did say uses. Someone I love told me she’d had a horrible fight with her husband recently, and felt “eviscerated.” That’s a good word, I think; it’s certainly how I feel when I have a fight with my husband, and as I thought about this, I compared it to the difference in “fights.” Or arguments. Anger. I fight with my husband. I fight with my daughter. I argue with some authority figure in my life. Someone does something unfair, and sometimes I can do something about it–or I tell myself I can–and sometimes I can’t. Carol Tavris, in “Anger, the Misunderstood Emotion,”…

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A Bunny Day

When I took high school French, I remember our class chuckling when we translated the phrase “cette une bonne idée,” which means “that’s a good idea.”  The translation sounds like the title of this blog post, “a bunny day.”  Cute.  And apropos of this morning.

Our little Westie pup is, as some might know, bred to be a “ratter.”  In other words, he kept those cold, Scottish castles, from which he originated, free of vermin of all kinds.  Our little guy, nicknamed Spud, is simply thrilled with his first mature Springtime (he was a newborn last Spring), and the proliferation of bunnies on our property.  If he gets half a chance, we are well aware that he will sieze one by the throat and make bunny mincemeat out of it, but we have a large portion of our yard securely fenced for our dogs, and hopefully he will never get to act out that particular fantasy.  But he is definitely enthralled by the idea, and the bunnies seem to realize he cannot get to them, because they hop near the fence while he stands there, tail wagging, and barks his head off (fortunately we live in the country, and there are no neighbors nearby to complain about this).  He tells that bunny in no uncertain terms what his plans are for it if he gets half a chance, and the bunny laughs in his face, saying “Come on!  Show me what you got!  Make my bunny day!”  A bunne idée.  By the way, he gets a good bit of practice with our cat, Sita, who loves nothing more than to taunt him at a much closer range, knowing that even if they are approximately the same size, she is one who is faster than he.  Spud simply loves this, but he knows that if he goes too far, she has twenty sharp ways to defend herself.

respect-the-claw

Meantime, by the time I got out to the porch for my second round of porch-rocking of the morning, the dogs were frolicking together, and in-between Spud bringing the ball to me to throw (and then snatching it out of my grasp… he just doesn’t get it!), I looked out over my “view,” which includes a fenced pasture with too few trees (we’re working on that, but may not be around long enough to appreciate the resulting shade), the shed that needs work and the distant trees and pond that edge our property.  I have to admit it:  sometimes I do not appreciate this view.  I am distracted by all the work the shed needs (and the house), I think that it is time to pick up dog poop, and that the grass needs mowing (all husbandly chores, I am grateful to say).  But this morning, the light of the sun took my attention, as it always will if my ego is not out of proportion, and there were enough luminous clouds to filter the light between my lashes as I was taught to do on my retreat with Pir Vilayat many years ago, in the French Alps, so as not to burn my retina.  Now THERE was a view.  But this is about my own homely view, and this morning I saw that the same sky that is over my head is the same sky that was in those mountains, or by the ocean which is my all-time favorite view.  I breathe the same air, however polluted, as the rishis in the Himalayas breathe, or the whales spouting in whatever sea we care to consider.  If I look deeply enough into the core elements of any phenomena, there is the same perfection of Being, right there gift-wrapped and ready to be opened, ready to be assimilated.

Today, I have the good sense to be grateful.

P.S.

The following is not my Westie, but I was prompted to do a search in Google Images, where I often steal photos, of Westies chasing bunnies.  Hopefully the proud owner of this Westie and her or his bunny will not mind my sharing it.  I’m not sure I’d have the nerve to let Spud get this close to a bunny, but obviously this Westie has a special relationship with this rabbit.

Mind is just a shadow….

shadows-photography3

Mind is just a shadow.
Attempts to catch it and control it are futile.
They are just shadows chasing shadows.
You can’t control or eliminate a shadow by chasing it or by putting a shadow hand on it.
These are just children’s games.
Ram Tirtha once told a story about a small boy who ran down the street, trying to catch up with the head of his shadow.
He never managed because no matter how fast he ran, the shadow of his head was always a few feet ahead of him.
His mother, who was watching him and laughing, called out, ‘Put your hand on your head!’
When the boy followed this instruction, the shadow hand caught up with the shadow head.
This was enough to satisfy the boy.
This kind of advice may be enough to keep children happy, but it won’t produce satisfactory results in the realm of sadhana and meditation.
Don’t chase your shadow thoughts and your shadow mind with mind-control techniques because these techniques are also shadows.
Instead, go back to the source of the shadow-mind and stay there.
When you abide in that place, you will be happy, and the desire to go chasing after shadow thoughts will no longer be there.
Bhagavan (Ramana Maharshi) often told the story of a man who tried to get rid of his shadow by burying it in a pit.
This man dug a hole and then stood on the edge of it in such a way that his shadow was cast on the bottom of the hole he had just made.
After lining it up in this way, he started throwing soil on the shadow in an attempt to bury it.
Of course, no matter how much soil he put in the hole, the shadow still remained on top of it.
Your mind is an insubstantial shadow that will follow you around wherever you go.
Attempts to eliminate or control it cannot succeed while there is still a belief that the mind is real, and that it is something that can be controlled by physical or mental activity.
~ Annamalai Swami
Final talks

From a Great Man – Jimmy Carter

JC Jpeg

Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.

I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy – and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

from The Age

http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/losing-my-religion-for-equality-20090714-dk0v.html?stb=fb

Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

Always Endings

Also needs reblogging….

Rays

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.  –Normal Maclean

Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question:  we are willing help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed?  For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us.  Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted.  And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us.  But we can still love them:  we can love completely without complete understanding. –The Reverend Maclean in “A River Runs Through It”

There is a person in my life who I have tried to love for many years.  She is a beautiful, creative, wonderful person who sees things…

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Living Forgiveness

Can’t think of much to add to this, except that I will reblog it for as long as I need to….

Rays

Love manifests towards those whom we like as love; towards those whom we do not like as forgiveness. –Bowl of Saki, by Hazrat Inayat Khan

Recently, I have been working with feelings of resentment and anger, arising from the situation I write about below (“Always Endings”).  I am steeped in modern psychologies, and it has been tempting to “allow” myself to feel and express the natural anger and pain I am experiencing after giving the major part of my adult life to a young woman who could not receive my love, and finally deciding (in great agony) to walk away from the relationship, which by now included her child, a little person I have grown to love greatly.  I find myself going through the classic stages of grief, yet my tendency has always been to mask my grief with anger, which to me seems more manageable.  And after all, I…

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The Gathering

Blessed is she who sees the star of her soul

as the light that is seen in the port from the sea.  — Inayat Khan

I hold you at arm’s length until I think I will die for wanting you,

And all that while, they are gathering.

I hear their whispers as they cluster around, crowding into this space, waiting for our time to begin.

They wait patiently, but I always worry that they will become tired of my messiness and hesitation and slip away,

looking for a place to gather that is more consistent

(and certainly one who is more punctual):

Despite all that, you always come.

TowerJPEG

You settle in like fog seeping in from the sea.

The ten thousand things recede,

and sounds come through this fog like the sound of a ship’s bell.

Eventually,

I wash up on your shore and, leaning back, I look up at the tower where I know you are waiting for me.

I walk this island’s cold, rocky shore around and around, in and out of the waves that rise and recede,

getting closer to your winding stone stairway all the time:

Yet still hesitant.

How do you stand me?

You always wait patiently, and I always come, but I am afraid of that fog,

Afraid of getting lost and never returning, afraid of leaving my loved ones:

Yet isn’t that what I’ve bargained for?

That stony climb, those dangerous stairs . . .

Knowing you are waiting for me,

I cannot thank You enough.

(But who are these ones who gather?

Are they there for me, or am I there for them?

I feel I know, but I am shy,

And that is why I keep them waiting.  That

and hoping I will be adequate.)

Amidha Porter

THE IMAM OF OUR MOSQUE – Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

The imam of our mosque has the curious habit450px-Nasr_ol_Molk_mosque_inside_colorful

of arriving on horseback

 

except that he hasn’t got a horse so he makes those

Monty Python clippity-clop sounds with his tongue

and insists on dismounting just outside the

 

mosque door giving the invisible reins to one of the

kufi’d and robed boys to look after during his

Khutba

 

It wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t neigh very loudly

during the first half and make that

 

blubbery mouth sound during the second

 

One Friday he came as a goldfish in a bowl

and gave his sermon from the steps of the mimbar with the

 

microphone right up against the glass

which was all right until it came

 

time to do the prayer and we couldn’t tell

when he was in sajda

 

One Friday he came as a swarm of bees through the

side window and swarmed onto the wooden sides of the

 

mimbar so loudly we could hardly hear his words

for the magnificence of his buzzing

 

Once he came as a penguin

and the Mosque Committee welcomed him all

 

dressed in their tuxes with their

hands behind their backs and their ties askew

 

and he managed to weave into his sermon

various exotic Antarctic experiences and the long hours spent

 

incubating his wife’s egg under his feet

 

A trapeze artists a vase of flowers a

sea wave sloshing back and forth in a tank

 

even once as a minor earthquake and then

with his spectacles tilted on his nose and the shakes of the

aftershocks evident in his twitches he told of the

 

mysteries at the center of the earth to which we are

normally not privy except through his kind of mouthpiece

 

Next week he’s coming as the Spiral Galaxy

which should be illuminating and we’ve

 

vacuumed and painted the walls so the increased

light given off by it sun and planets won’t show the bad

 

stains and cracks that have come from our

sins supplications and above all negligence

 

And when he comes next month as the cries of a distant shepherd

calling his sheep I hope we’ll behave

 

well enough to benefit from his care and his crook

to not wander as wantonly over the pastures and hills

 

but arrive safely under God’s

bright blue sky in the open air

 

 

–Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

Hans Raj Hans

Therefore the Sufis, especially those of the Chishtia school of the ancient times, have taken music as a source of their meditation, and by so meditating they derive much more benefit than those who meditate without the help of music. The effect that they experience is the unfoldment of the soul, the opening of the intuitive faculties, and their heart, so to speak, opens to all the beauty which is within and without, uplifting them, and that the same time bringing them that perfection for which every soul yearns. –Hazrat Inayat Khan

  We had the joy of hearing this man’s wonderful singing in Chapel Hill the other night, everything from Punjabi folk music to Bollywood Indiepop (and the fans were there in legions!).  It was one of the most blissful moments of my life.

For more Punjabi folk music, go here:  http://folkpunjab.org

One Thousand Buddhas

One Thousand Buddhas

Where there are one thousand human beings, within one thousand ways of living, one thousand buddhas are revealed. Buddha is revealed through mountains, valleys, trees, and grasses, through a multitude of phenomena. The heart that can be revered in whatever form we see, in whatever direction we look, this is the true heart of Buddhism, this is Buddha life.
– Soko Morinaga Roshi, “One Chance, One Encounter”

Why do I do this?

For Charlie, who can REALLY write poetry. . .

 

FullSizeRenderMaxWhy do I do this to us?

You have made it clear that you will deny me nothing.

I told you I am ready to come home,

and you said “Welcome.”

I asked for what I thought I needed,

and you handed it over with no judgment whatsoever.

I fell in love with you

and you loved me back.

Now sometimes I hide my eyes

and run in the opposite direction.

I wear myself out with longing,

and gasp with exhaustion, bent over, screaming inside,

and you just wait.

 

For many, you are a problem.

For me, you never complain (I have no idea why this is).

And still I run.

 

 

Well, after all, it is a tall order to give up completely,

Yet that is what I choose.

I am yours,

and you have made it clear that you are mine.

The deal has been sealed.

 

Here I am in the house you gave me,

Alone in the most perfect way,

Still running,

And still coming home,

Coming home,

Coming Home.

 

The daffodils are already blooming,

Those damned dogs never shut up,

and the sky is blue.

What is there to complain of?

Oh, I’ll think of something.

 

And you keep waiting.

At the End of a Crazy Moon Night by Lalla

Here I go reblogging again….but my pal Charlie reminded me of this poem by Lalla. The poem by me, I’d completely forgotten. A poet I am not…at least, I don’t think so.  By the way, go here:

http://www.poetseers.org/spiritual-and-devotional-poets/sufi-poets/lalla/

for what looks like a great biography of Lalla (she lived a LONG time ago), and some more of hers.

Rays

Lalleshwari

At the end of a crazy-moon night

the love of God rose.
I said, “It’s me, Lalla.”

The Beloved woke. We became That,
and the lake is crystal-clear.

–Lalla, Kashmir (India/Pakistan) (14th Century)


(This one’s by me, Lalla’s up there)

First I was little and faith wavered.  I looked around wide-eyed, 

shocked. . .

Then I got angry.  That lasted a long time.

Then I found an ideal.  I shattered it over and over like a piece of pottery that insisted

on wobbling.

I fell in love with my ideal, and kept shattering it.

Then I just fell in love.

After awhile, I noticed that love was in love with me.

Then came the silence.

No me, no You.

Right in the center.

The hoax was unmasked,

And no one was left to love.

But love loved on.

It’s true, you know.

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Another great soul completes his work . . . er, well, for now, anyway . . .

Author-Terry-Pratchett-008

“Night poured over the desert. It came suddenly, in purple. In the clear air, the stars drilled down out of the sky, reminding any thoughtful watcher that it is in the deserts and high places that religions are generated. When men see nothing but bottomless infinity over their heads they have always had a driving and desperate urge to find someone to put in the way.”
― Terry Pratchett, Jingo

Inside: Right here.

Blessed is he who sees the star of his soul as the light that is seen in the port from the sea.

Inayat Khan

netsuite-shining

In a dark night
With longings kindled in love
Oh blessed chance
I went forth without being observed
My house already being at rest
Through darkness and secure
By the secret ladder disguised
Oh blessed chance
Through darkness and in concealment
My house already being at rest
In the blessed night
In secret that none saw me
Nor I beheld aught
Without any other light or guide
Save that which was burning in the heart
That which guided me
More sure than the light of noonday
Where he was awaiting me
Him whom I knew well
In a place where no one appeared
Oh thou night that guided
Oh lovely night moreso than the dawn
Oh thou night that joined
Lover with beloved
Beloved in the lover transformed
Upon my flowery breast
Which I kept whole for himself alone
There he stayed sleeping
And I was caressing him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze
The breeze from the turret
While I was parting his locks
With his gentle hand
He was wounding my neck
And causing all my senses to be suspended
I remained myself and forgot myself
My face reclined on the lover
All ceased and I abandoned myself
Leaving my concern
Forgotten among the lilies.

Ascent of Mt. Carmel,

St. John of the Cross

Yesterday I wrote, in part, to my guide:

It seems to me that my practice goes in different directions. . .  For quite awhile it was all out, out, out…into the cosmos, the vastness, into oneness….and now, it seems to have reversed, and it’s all right here, inside. . .  Presence. Right here. Love, Presence, yet still cosmic . . . God right here.

[Perhaps] the stages of the dhikr enact themselves not just in one’s practice, but over time. Up, down, out, in…. [Not to mention forwards and backwards!]

I have written about the practice of dhikr before, and even what I called an “existential” dhikr, as it comes to this one . . .  It is the central practice of the Sufis, yes, but it is a practice that is found in the esoteric traditions of all the world’s religions, whether it is the Kyrie Eleison of the Christian mystics, or Om Mane Padme Hum of the Buddhists, the Samadhi practices of the Yogis . . . or whatever form it may take when the Totality becomes Sublimity and becomes greater thereby.

The classical alchemical stages depict the journey, as do various esoteric systems (the Tarot, for instance, and Numerology), and it seems that there is this journey that could be seen as a Star or a Cross or even a crescent moon that takes the seeker first in, when one must face one’s own darkness and find, there, the quietness of the Divine Perfection in its self-imposed limitation.  It is torture at first, as so many of us have found:  darkness, torment, memories, flashbacks, guilt, remorse, remembered fear, rage, desires, desires and more desires:  it is like wandering down a long corridor and not allowing oneself to turn back:  and finally, when the ghosts and demons that assail one from every direction have ceased their wailing and gnashing of teeth, one sees that it is only in the courage to keep moving backwards that one discovers the peace to be found in darkness.  Then:  a separation.

Perhaps at this point a shift may occur:  or perhaps not, as well.  It depends.  Yet it doesn’t matter, because even in the early stages of practice, one begins to sense the meaning of incarnation, even as the ego still clamors for recognition.  It is then that the Cross begins to reveal itself, or the bow shoots an arrow straight into the heart of soul or,  perhaps first, the gut.  One’s sense of self becomes decimated, one becomes shattered in one’s understanding.  Oh, it doesn’t happen all at once, and it takes a great deal of longing for it to happen at all.  It is often called the stage of the Broken Heart, but in the early stages, it is enough to allow the ego to be shattered, and God knows, that is hard enough.  It may take a lifetime, in fact, which is one argument for the desirability of reincarnation:  but that is another debate.  Even one repetition of whatever form of this process one chooses is enough to make all the difference.

I remember many times sitting with my teacher, a group of us somewhere in the world under a huge, circus-like tent, saying La illa ha illa ‘la Hu over and over as the day wore on, feeling more and more exhausted, thinking of nothing so much as dinner, of lying down, getting up, reading a good book, talking to someone . . .  Longing for home, longing for Home.  Eventually the longing seems to disappear into the exhaustion and perhaps then, after many, many repetitions, the longing is answered, but I suspect it is only for the few that the promised benefits begin to manifest themselves in the early stages, and often in the form of increased desires, increased howling of the hungry ghosts, an increased hurling of the animal trapped within against the walls of its cage.

Yet if one continues for much time, eventually that crucifixion becomes not just the cross on which the starving nafs willingly hangs itself, but one begins to realize that it is the God of one’s understanding that, out of love, chooses to hurl Itself into the abyss of the desire for its unfoldment.  What then?  What begins the descent, what motivates It?

It is at this stage, then and now, that I picture a terrified, shivering child crouching at the bottom of a dark, empty well, waiting to be picked up.  Yet:  who does the picking up?  Why?  And who is the Child?

And so there is no way of lifting our consciousness into the higher spheres unless we are able to bring about a change in ourselves. It’s not like a journey, that you can just a take a teleferique, as one says, a cable car, and reach the top of a mountain. No, you have to yourself undergo a whole process of catharsis and discover the child in you that is beautiful.  –Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

And the hungry ghosts continue to howl and rattle their chains.  Two directions thus far:  In.  Down.  And waiting in the dark, patiently and unknowingly.

One must keep moving, of course.  Even in the stillness and peace, there is no turning back.  Unless one wants to.  I do not recommend this, even when one begins to realize the price to be paid for that Good Night.

What is it in that shaking, terrified child that finds the determination to get up and go up?  Who is it that rises?  What?  Perhaps that question doesn’t answer itself at first, but at the bottom of the abyss with its damp, slick walls that have no handholds, that space where there is no place to go but up, one somehow finds the strength–or grace–to rise.  Each of these directions can last many years…or an instant.  They can all take place in the course of a day or a lifetime.   As far as I can tell, there is no rhyme nor reason to this.  But there is another level of this experience of descent:  at a later point, it may be that one is able to partake of the Fall, the descent of God into God’s creatures out of love:  the divine fiat that brought Creation into Being. So there might be that moment when God falls, instead of the limited being.  A sort of cosmic swan dive.  Perhaps the next direction, rising, comes from that:

 The alchemical concept for rising is distillation, the conversion of matter into spirit.  What this person knows is that in the frightened child, a seed is planted that eventually starts to grow, and that is the ressurection of Divinity in humanity.

The alchemical darkness awakens the nostalgia for one’s true home, and in the inevitable rising out of darkness, the demons cease their howling and one rises into a recollected knowledge of oneself as a being of light, of one’s origins in landscapes of light, of splendor, worlds of forgiveness and love . . . One can remember dreams one has had, paintings one has seen, music that evokes those memories, and the nostalgia itself is proof of the reality.  Originally, I called this blog “Footprints,” because I found the Zen Oxherding poems evocative of the path to finding one’s true home (you can find these by clicking on the link at the top of this page, by the way).  There is a silence and a whiteness that grows, like the silence and whiteness of a fresh snowfall, and the soul wanders out into its universe and discovers a history that includes lives and relationships and connections that stretch into the four directions and past them, into the dynamic silence that is the unity at the heart of Being.  What is the efficacy of discovering oneself as the soul of the Universe?  What does the soul trudging through an earthly existence do with the recollection of itself as a being of light, and beyond light?  Go there and see.

It seems, again, to this soul that all this is happening in life and beyond life.  We travel the journey of the soul in the course of a day, of a lifetime, in an hour’s meditation, in listening to a beautiful piece of music or regarding an amazing painting or a drop of water or a newborn child . . .  Whatever moves the soul into its knowledge of itself and its journey.

 There are beings that choose to stay “out there” (which is really “in here”) for their whole lives, and perhaps they are meant to do so:  the nun in her monastery, a rishi high in the Himalayas, a dervish sitting by the roadside lost in contemplation, those who have chosen to, by the focus of their spiritual power, keep the world from tumbling into nothingness . . .  And the rest of us have chosen to be in life and experience the dhikr–in whatever form–as the expression of the Divine Being in humanity, singing itself through our days and night, and so the soul, eventually, returns from its knowledge of its real self, promising itself to retain that knowledge, and sometimes it works for awhile, but eventually there is a stage of forgetting, past the alchemical stage of return, the marriage of spirit and matter.  One opens one’s eyes and gazes, for a time, at a transfigured world.  One gets up and walks and understands what was said of the Buddha:  that where he walked, dead trees came alive.  Up and down are relative terms.  We fall, we rise, we fall . . . and we get up and walk into the forest again, and now we see that it is beautiful beyond compare.

Go and read those Oxherding poems, they’re right here, but here’s the last one:

Barefooted and naked of breast, I mingle with the people of the world.
My clothes are ragged and dust-laden, and I am ever blissful.
I use no magic to extend my life;
Now, before me, the dead trees become alive. –from Reps, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings, Doubleday Anchor

 There is a phrase that keeps sounding itself in here:  “The Kingdom of God is Within.”

Whiteness

My daughter and I have agreed that we created a monster in giving my husband an iPhone, because within weeks he’d learned to do more with it than I ever bothered to do, is seldom without it, and checks his Facebook page FAR too often!

This morning I was happy he had it to take many pictures, though, for we don’t have a snow like this one very often in these parts. The “weather widget” has been screwing up for weeks, promising snow that never came, so when it reported 100% chance of 6-8 inches last night, we scoffed. But lo and behold! A beautiful mess.

There is a stage of the alchemical process called “albedo,” or whiteness. It is the stage when consciousness passes beyond creation into the uncreated world before the construct called time. It is the stage when the soul remembers its essential purity, beyond the conditioning it has received on the earth plane. A snowy landscape evokes that memory.

Today, we live in a transfigured world. My “Ents” (the row of Cypresses you can see at the edge of our land) are weighed down with it. They don’t need it, they already know where they stand, but they willingly bear their load.

It will melt soon, but the memory will stay lodged in the heart and mind.

The Tao of Fibromyalgia

It’s always something!  – Gilda Radner

“The subconscious habit of disease- or health-consciousness exerts a strong influence on the continuity of chronic problems. Chronic mental or physical diseases always have a deep root in the subconscious mind. In a mental or physical disturbance, one ought to be able to pull out the roots from the subconscious mind. That is why all affirmations practiced by the conscious mind ought to be impressive enough to stay as mental habits in the subconscious mind, which in turn automatically influences the conscious mind. Strong conscious affirmation is thus reinforced through the medium of the subconscious.
Still stronger conscious will or devotion affirmations not only reach the subconscious but the superconscious, the magic storehouse of all miraculous mental powers.”
–from the “Overcoming Stress and Fear” course

Had I mentioned that I’m ill? Mind you, I’m not very ill compared to some people, although it feels that way; and with this nasty mind-body ailment that seems to come in waves (waves that do subside between crashes on my shoreline), these last two cold, dark months have been pretty awful. Fibromyalgia has become a rather fashionable illness in recent years, possibly because so many women have it, and possibly because it does seem to strike a certain psychological type, which I will discuss below. But for those of you who don’t know what it is, I will share a description that I sent a good friend who wanted to know about it:

resurrection-church-11-1024x768You’ve probably heard the term fibromyalgia, and perhaps other illnesses like Lyme disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Rheumatoid (and other) Arthritis, etc., etc. . . . These are autoimmune illnesses that seem to be on the increase . . . that I would guess are a result of the increasing toxicity of the planet in general, and of substances like GMOs and other food additives and environmental toxins. For instance, we live in farm country and must deal with crop dusters out here in the summer.  Fibromyalgia was pretty much unkown until about 20-30 years ago, and originally, if one complained of the symptoms, the doctor was likely to say, “oh, you’re just depressed. How about some Prozac?” Or, hopefully privately, to label the person who had it a hychochondriac.

Symptoms:

–Chronic muscle pain that seems to “migrate.” I.e., sometimes my left elbow hurts intensely, sometimes my lower back, sometimes my toes, sometimes my hands throb and I can’t type, etc. I long ago gave up trying to find rhyme or reason for any of these.
—Flu-like symptoms that cause all-over pain and feverishness and what is generally called malaise, which means, as far as I can tell, “It hurts and I’m miserable!”
—“Brain fog,” i.e., confusion, memory problems, inability to think straight, etc. These last two months have made writing hell for me, and it’s usually heaven
—Numbness and tingling in hands and toes
—Sleep problems
—Depression (well, as my doctor says, who wouldn’t be?)
—Chronic exhaustion
—Balance problems; I go crashing into things a lot, and losing my balance
—Blurred vision
—Migraines (I notice these are lessening as I grow older)

Research shows that these illnesses have a strong genetic component. They also seem to be strongly affected by seasons. During the warm weather months, I sometimes will forget that I am sick for several months at a time. This post-holiday season has nearly killed me. There seem to be “flares” and sometimes they last a few hours, or a few days or weeks or months.

No one really seems to know what causes Fibromyalgia, but the current explanation that medical science has given it is that it has to do with the way an individual processes pain, i.e., individuals who have it feel pain more intensely than “normal” people. I am divided about this, because it sounds a little too much like the old “blaming the victim” axiom, and yet it also rings true–for me, at least–on some subterranean level.  (Author, private communication)

So there you have it. I can just see numerous of my readers nodding their heads in heartfelt agreement, and others feeling doubt. It is one of those illnesses that no one can quite discern in the sufferer, although I have found that my husband knows when I am sick, as does my doctor. To others, however, one looks perfectly healthy and even glowing, or at least I do, even when my inner suffering is intense.

Oh, I should mention: the large majority of sufferers of Fibromyalgia are women. And of those, a large proportion are caretakers. People who care for older people, professional helpers of one kind or another, etc. . . . What does this tell us? I think most of us know, but let us not turn this into a psychosomatic illness! Rather, let us say there is a strong “mind-body” correlation. Most of the people who spend time here will be familiar with that idea, but it is important to stress the difference between “hypochondria” and “soul exhaustion.” Or whatever term you use for that feeling of being so sapped of life-energy that you have reached the place of just going on from day to day, having given up the belief that there is anything left for you. That is when such illnesses can happen, and some of them are far worse than Fibromyalgia. I highly recommend an old classic that describes this syndrome: Women Who Run with the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, It is a marvelous mytho-poetic explication of the myths and realities that guide women’s lives, for both good and bad. She describes this soul-tiredness I mention as:

. . . feeling extraordinarily dry, fatigued, frail, depressed, confused, gagged, muzzled, unaroused. Feeling frightened, halt or weak, without inspiration, without animation, without soulfulness, without meaning, shame-bearing, chronically fuming, volatile, stuck, uncreative, compressed, crazed. (Pinkola-Estes, 1992)

Elsewhere in this wonderful book, she points out that the body is a sensor for experience, and that our bodies reflect the roads we have been down, whether in terms of our own behaviors or the things that happen to us. These autoimmune-type disorders that are becoming more and more prevalent are very possibly the result of women’s “independence”  in a world that still leaves them  making less money than men and having to do all the housework besides.

In any event I am sick, and I could attribute it to having raised an intensely difficult child or coming through personality-disordered earth-parents, or any number of things. All in all, I’ve made at least as much of a mess of my life as most people, but illness–soul and body–has its benefits, and perhaps it can be useful for redirecting one to one’s true path. Pain is, in short, quite instructive. I can even say I recommend it, although that isn’t necessary: as Lord Buddha said, life is suffering, and there’s plenty to go around.   So what do we do with it?

While recognizing the reality of the dire physical pain endured by many, sometimes beyond the normal limits of human endurance, our recourse is to call upon the influence of mind over body, first by recognizing the impact upon body functions of our attitude towards psychological trauma. Resentment, remorse, self pity, envy, hatred, frustration, anger, addiction and co-dependence alter physiological functions, mediated by the endocrine glands affecting digestion, blood pressure, the lymph glands, the immune system, neurotransmitters, and the replication of the DNA by the RNA. A large body of research is being carried out at present to determine which psychological syndrome affects which hormone secretion, and which hormone affects which body function. But we can explore methods of dealing with the psychological trauma. –Khan, Pir Vilayat Inayat (2011-11-01). Life is a Pilgrimage (p. 24). Omega Publications, Inc.

I myself have done my share of whining, and I am no stranger to self-pity, at least historically. I personally find that, while we are all entitled to a certain amount of both, in the end they are far more weakening than they are strengthening and energizing. So to hell with those!

What happened for me in my life, finally, is that I began to sit. And sit. And sit. And then I sat some more. (We are talking about meditation here, in case that wasn’t apparent.)

I am still sitting as much as I can make myself sit, and I like it more all the time. They say running around is good, and I have no doubt of that, but I recommend sitting in the interest of penetrating the heart of any kind of pain. And where that has gotten me is a lot of places, but just recently, I was given a new grace:

On one of those days when I was feeling the pain quite fiercely and being pretty cranky about it, I sat down to meditate, and the words came to me: “the Kingdom of God is within.” Being prone to fleeing into the cosmos instead of bring it all back in, this was big–for me. I got that. And when I got up and went on to other things, I noticed that the pain was still fierce, but…I wasn’t. I was able to just notice it, to even laugh about it, and remain cheerful:

“Oh, look, I’m really in pain!”

“How about that, it’s really intense!”

That kind of thing.

This stuff works. What else can I say?

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

Khalil Gibran

Urs of Inayat Khan 2015

Keep burning the fire I have lighted.
It may seem very small to you, but one tiny flame, if kept burning, can be the means of illuminating a whole city, and someday many lamps that shall be lighted at this small fire will give light to thousands.
This fire of truth is now lighted, and its light will never go out.
Your work is to tend it and keep it burning.
The fuel needed is your every thought, your faith, your prayers, and your sacrifices.
You cannot see the result of this.
Light can never be lost.
I have kindled this small fire from which millions of lamps can be lit.
Their number cannot be reckoned, and millions upon millions of other fires can now be lighted.
When all have been kindled the original fire will die out, and the place thereof be known no more.
Verily the form dieth, and the spirit liveth for ever.
God bless you.

Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan

Love Alone

I don’t know why I am suddenly possessed, as we say in the South, to “reblog” things lately, and it always feels a bit like cheating to do it, but things pop up, and I think, well, someone might find this meaningful, so here you go:

Rays

My twenty-something daughter who is headed for graduate school lives at home currently, and recently talked us into watching a Joss Whedon series we’d refused to take seriously years ago: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” a series oddly popular with people in her age group. “I’m just a big old geek,” she says, and I have no idea what this means, but I’m quite fond of her. Anyway, we loved Whedon’s series “Firefly,” but most of what he does kind of gives me the creeps, and in theory this was in the “creeps” category. Nevertheless, we’ve been drawn into “Buffy.”  Many of the episodes are kind of silly, but they all have a mystical, existential twist that is intriguing and occasionally meaningful, and when I least expect it, I find myself considering the series worth watching. Not exactly an extravagant compliment, eh?

Anyway, we reached the point in the series this…

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