Saturday, May 05, 2007


(Part 2)

I was walking through Manhattan the other evening on my way to meet Majida for a light supper before going to the theater. It was early evening, there was still quite a bit of daylight and it was a pleasant walk. Since it was mid week there were a lot of people on the street heading home from their jobs. They all had the look that commuters over the world have, determination, annoyance, focus and the stare that says they are already thinking about dinner. It was a perfect Spring day so the look was softened somewhat, though not a lot. I was walking along, avoiding the rushing hordes, feeling the cool fresh air when a memory came stealing into my consciousness. At first it was a feeling with no event attached – a sense of satisfaction or possibly elation – a feeling of being young again. I walked between the soaring buildings, barely noticing the street life, before I remembered the source.

I was raised in Minnesota, on a lake a few miles outside of Minneapolis. I just looked at a Google Earth image of Medicine Lake and it is just a bit more built up than when I lived there. In fact I doubt I would recognize anything. In any case, as everyone knows, Minnesota is known for its winters. Winter is great for a kid. You play outside all day, come home to the pain of thawing fingers and toes and go out the next day for the same thing. Spring is a different thing. The air is full of promise, the deep snow is melting, the ice on the lake starts breaking up and the mud comes – lots and lots of mud. Any rural denizens of northern states or Canada know all about spring thaw mud. But finally the day comes when the mud is more or less over and a magical thing happens, you get to take your bicycle out for the very first time in months. This was the memory that flowed through me as I walked through Mid-town Manhattan. It was the smell of freedom.

For a 12 year old boy freedom is simple. The first bicycle ride after a long Minnesota winter does nicely. As a person matures freedom becomes more elusive. We accumulate responsibilities and attitudes and assumptions and firm ideas about who we are and freedom seems remote or, at best, a philosophical condition not very related to real life. But for a 12 year old boy, or girl, none of that is real, freedom is very basic. It is the wind in your hair and the sheer joy of flying down the road on your bicycle.

This memory of freedom, so simple and pure, flowed through me with all the gentleness of a feather lightly drifting down to alight in the palm of my hand. I was charmed. And I realized that this too was part of my life's texture.

As the quote from Hazrat Inayat Khan in the last blog says: "The journey one takes in the inner life is as long as the distance between the beginning of life and death, it being the longest journey one ever takes throughout life; and one must have everything prepared, so that after reaching a certain distance one may not have to turn back."

Some preparations are quite natural – this perfect sense of joy and freedom that a child experiences is certainly one. Remembering these states is another. Most of the preparations really are just this simple – balancing your breath, noticing beauty, focusing your mind, ignoring the tape loops of worry and resentment. As adults we tend to create extreme complications for ourselves due to the above mentioned accumulated responsibilities but really it is very simple. If you constantly practice remembering these pure emotions that you very naturally experienced as a child then you are doing the necessary preparation. I am constantly reminded of Christ's dictum to be as a little child. I have come to believe that he was very serious. My teacher, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, was probably one of the most intelligent people I have ever met yet he was quite capable of extreme childlike delight. You hear the very same thing of the Dalai Lama and other beings at that level of spiritual responsibility. I suspect this attitude comes from acceptance of life's texture as well as discipline and meditative skill.

As I write this I am listening to the Woodstock album and Richie Havens is singing about Freedom. We want it, we know it exists in some form, we remember from our childhood as I did and, as we go deep into the Inner Life, we can sometimes remember the freedom of our eternal souls.

So, look around, see what is eternal in your existence and enjoy the rest.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

1 comment:

Sarala said...

I sometimes experience this child-like lightness-of-being when I am riding my bicycle - yes, even thru the crowded, smelly and often dangerous streets of Philadelphia. Riding a bicycle almost feels like slipping the bonds of gravity. And for those minutes, I have the illusion of being free of schedules, free of traffic jams, free of the minutia of life. Sometimes I laugh out loud....