Saturday, September 24, 2005

“Loving is why my heart beats a path to your door.”
Bill Champlin
The quote is a line from a 70’s rock and roll song from a West Coast band that never really made it big but had some very good tunes. I liked them and I always liked that line, for a lot of reasons. First of all it is just good poetic phrasing, simple words conveying complex meaning. Next it suggests romantic devotion willing to dare for the sake of romantic love. It identifies the heart as the responder and the initiator of an action. Then, if we step back and remove boy/girl from the equation, it can be made to speak to Divine devotional love or the response to the call. Quite a lot to get from a single line in a rock song. When you look, this kind of thing is everywhere as I am sure everyone knows. Actually allowing ourselves to experience the emotion the poet speaks to is, however, more subtle.
In Sufism Love is Wadud, the state of Divine creative energy that is the reason for the Universes. Pir Vilayat expresses it this way, “From the solitude of It’s Unity, the Divine Being fragmented itself out of love for the possibility of you and I.” I hope I have that right. I am sure it is close to what he says. Just imagine the quality of energy that expresses itself by creating the immense vastness of the many planes of existence solely for the love of the possibility of you and I. Does this not make the purpose of your life all that much more precious?
It took me a long time to get close to Wadud. Maybe because to the English speaking ear it sounds a little silly. Sounds like you are saying, “Hey dude, what’s up?” Maybe you are. What one is doing though, in repeating any of the Sifat, the Divine attributes of Allah, is reaching for the Cosmic emotion that the use of the word lies within. There is also a secret within the vibrational quality of the syllables themselves. That takes some work and some training to get to but it is there. According to Pir Vilayat’s saying, in the case of Wadud, we might be reaching for the reason existence exists. I have always found it interesting that the mystics choose to express this idea as Love. I am not a linguist so I am not sure but it occurs to me to wonder if this expression of the idea of Divine intent as Love did not at some time seep into the consciousness and become the various forms of meaning that the word currently has.
The above is a short excerpt from my next book. I thought maybe we could have a conversation around this subject.
Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

“The wise of all ages have taught that it is the knowledge of the divine Being that is life, and the only reality. Although a human activity may have a number of complicated motives, some of which are base and gross, it is the aspiration towards divinity, the desire towards beauty, which is its soul, its life, its reality. And it is in proportion to the degree of strength or weakness of his aspiration towards beauty that man's ideal is great or small, and his religion is great or small.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan
Thank you everyone for your thoughtful responses to the last article. Last night one of my mureeds visited me and posed a similar question which I found difficult to answer. Then, in searching for something the above quote came up, not necessarily as a direct answer to her question but as a means of examining what the response might be.
The problem she posed was not that uncommon, in fact Pir Vilayat often alluded to a similar issue from his early days. The way she stated it was to ask me what to do about people who come to her and, in her words, wonder why it hurts when they stick a fork in the electrical receptacle, as allusion to a conversation earlier in the evening about children who do such things. They ask and ask and, even though she tries to avoid giving advice, eventually she gives in and says, “Don’t do that!” to which they often reply, “That’s pretty arrogant of you to judge me that way!” Is this familiar to anyone? You have this desire to help, might even be good at it but, when you give your response to the dilemma or predicament, your very reasonable advice is rejected, even though it was asked for. If this happened once or twice in your life it could be acceptable but, when it happens repeatedly, it can become something very annoying.
In Pir Vilayat’s case, he often told of his early experiences being the center leader in Paris. This was before he decided to come to the US and work here. People would come to him and ask him what their biggest fault was so they could work on it. And he told them. He rapidly learned that was a really bad idea. No one really wants to hear what their biggest fault is, what they want is someone to tell them that they are really okay and this is a not so clever means of asking for validation. The inevitable result was that they resented his information and would get really angry. As a result he adopted a policy of never giving advice. I think this took awhile because I can remember from my early days in the SOI that he would give allusions or hints but during his last ten years or so he consistently refused to give any personal advice at all.
I must say that I notice this tendency in myself. I try to keep in mind not giving personal advice but still I do it. Apparently this human tendency to fix other people is almost a genetic imperative. Therefore, it would seem that not giving advice could almost be a spiritual practice. On the other hand, one should not necessarily be totally rigid about it, there should be a balance in there somewhere.
Let’s look back at the above quote and see if there is a clue in there. It might come from turning the problem on it’s head. Assuming that the God Ideal has some power in your life, is it possible for you to look at whatever the issue is from a very high perspective. For instance, will it truly be helpful for this person to have an answer presented to them? Or, would it be better for them to refuse to say anything and watch as they continually stick the fork in the electrical socket, get burned, jerk back their hand wondering why it hurts and do it again. Then they turn back to you with pain in their eyes and ask why you won’t help. Do you know with certainty what they are learning? This person who visited me last night is always accusing me of answering her questions with a question. She thinks that is hilarious that I will never simply say it is this or that but I think it is frustrating to her as well. I suppose that some of you may have noticed the same thing in my answers to you. What I am doing, or think I am doing, is widening the question, making the problem you may be trying to resolve a lot bigger so that you might see more aspects. Just as Pir O Murshid is talking of the God Ideal above and pointing out that it has degrees, so do our personal problems, as well as the problems of others, have degrees if only we can see them.
Right now my tendency is to resolve all of the above in some clever way and make it all very clear. The truth is that I am not all that clear about it but I do know that there is an answer in there somewhere. Maybe not a directive so much as an attitude that can be aspired to. Let’s talk about it and see what works for some of us.
Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

"So many talk about the purification of heart, and so few really know what it is. "
Hazrat Inayat Khan

In the early 80’s Majida and I lived on 14th St and 2nd Ave in Manhattan. At that time 14th St had not yet been given the face lift it subsequently received later in the decade so the native life was colorful to say the least. Never the less, most mornings I would venture forth to buy a Times. One morning I returned, spread the Times on the kitchen table and glanced at the front page while putting some bread in the toaster. I did a genuine double take and looked at the front page closer. For the first time in my memory of numberless front pages of countless newspapers, from cities all over the world, every single headline was positive, said something nice or talked about something pleasant. I was stunned, well not stunned exactly, charmed would be a better word. Ever since, which would be for the last 25 years, I have looked for a similar front page mostly in the Times but in other papers as well but it never happened again. In fact the opposite is much more likely, front pages full of horrible events, with nary a pleasant headline to be seen. Why is this?
One reason I suppose is to believe that nothing nice ever does happen. I suspect that lots of people think that way, about themselves and about the world. It is very common to meet someone you know and to listen to them launch into a litany of their ills. Often this will be a long list of resentments or disappointments. In fact you may find yourself agreeing and supplying your own list. Then you can compete to see whose list is the most potent. Or, you can complain about the current state of the government, its many short comings and what you think would make things better, though probably things will not get better because someone will interfere.
I think we can all recognize ourselves here. I am certainly as prone to this sort of response as anyone. For the free-thinker, the question then becomes what to do about it. My solution tends to be noticing. I endeavor to notice when I am supporting my negative responses and see if I can redirect my thoughts. Often this is a big struggle because all of those around me are not doing this. For instance I happened to say to someone the other day that I thought that Geo. Bush was probably sincere in his version of Christianity and did try to be as genuine as possible. This someone refused to accept that anything nice could be said about Mr. Bush and proceeded to prove to me with various allegations that it was all an act. I kept quiet and let her rant. There was no point but I did file it away as another example of the need to see all as awful, especially to demonize someone who has become the archetype of what we feel is wrong with everything.
I am very curious to know what others think about the above. Do you notice when you get caught up in resentment and disappointment? If so, what do you do about it?
I am looking forward to your comments.
Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Monday, September 05, 2005

Touching the Beloved
“The need of the world today is not learning, but how to become considerate towards one another. To try and find out in what way happiness can be brought about, and in this way to realize that peace which is the longing of every soul; and to impart it to others, thereby attaining our life's goal, the sublimity of life.” Hazrat Inayat Khan
So often I hear expressed from people a sense that something is missing in their lives, some essential thing, an emptiness within that seems unfillable. So we look for something to guide us, some group or method or discipline which will aid us in informing our inner being that we are on a path or reconciliation with the deep desire of the Soul.
Here is a partial transcript of an IM conversation I recently had with a student of mine. I thought she was telling me that she was always trying to get people to see their light. So this was my response:
Musawwir: that way lies disappointment - I mean it seems to be blaming all the people you know who cannot do what you do
C: What do I do?
Musawwir: I used to do that too. watch people to see if they realized how cool I am
C: no you got it wrong. That is not what I meant.
Musawwir: Oh? Okay then tell me.
C: I want to be what people need me to be, and when they need it. I want to help people with whatever they need that I can help them with.
Musawwir: ah, Okay that’s different.
C: I want to shine my light on their path so they can use it to see. But I need a brighter light sometimes.
Musawwir: Good, so that is your work, constantly working on the self in order to be what others need you to be. We are talking about the same thing then
And we went on to complete our conversation.
We each express our longing slightly differently. For some it is pretty simple, “Let me embrace the Beloved.” For others, like my friend it is more complex since she is very aware of her impact on others and is striving to be as aware and as available as possible in order to be that which others need her to be. A very delicate place to be as it requires one to continually be aware of one’s own ego and it’s need for acknowledgement. As I said to her about myself, waiting for others to realize how cool I am.
If, as Pir O Murshid says above, the need of the world is consideration, how far does that go? Certainly in the past week we have had some extreme
examples of consideration and lack thereof. Not just from a bureaucracy that has trouble doing anything quickly but also from those who are afraid and need to control their environment with violence. Where does this leave the person who has this need to shine?
For just a moment allow yourself to feel the possibility of Peace. Not as an interval between conflicts, but as a Divine state of being that exists constantly but that we sometimes have difficulty of access. Peace as a constant, not a potential. See if you can experience this state even for just an instant. You can find it through the breath, focusing on the rhythm of the breath and then focusing the energy of the breath through the heart space.
Read the above again, see what you feel and tell others. And see if the Beloved, that constantly calls to you isn’t a bit closer.
Love & Blessings, Musawwir