Thursday, December 29, 2005

Storms in Our Tea Cups

It has been suggested, by my wife and step-daughter, that I should address the issue of storms in tea cups that I mentioned in the previous blog.  My wife looked me right in the eye and asked what storms I have in my tea cup.  I of course replied that, since I am perfect, there were none at all.  This statement earned it’s deserved grunt of incredulity.  She ignored my braggadocio and pointed out that, even though we might see these storms as illusion, to the person experiencing them they can be quite significant.  And my step daughter wanted to know what to do about these little storms since they seem so insidious.  All good points.  So, what can we do?
Let’s first have a look at what Pir Vilayat meant by referring to storms in tea cups.  He usually made this reference when he was talking about gossip or how we over dramatize our personal problems.  I suppose he wanted his students to have a look at how we experience our conditions and how we react to the various things that we think are happening to us.  When a spiritual teacher is saying things like this to his or her students, a couple of things happen.  Some of the students will  listen attentively but essentially ignore what is not within their experience.  They realize that they can use the words of the teacher as bench marks to help them recognize their own processes.  They also know that what he says only matters in the abstract and personal experience is the real teacher.  Others will nod knowingly and attempt to be the ideal that the teacher is describing with varying degrees of success.   Both of these responses are just fine.  But guess what happens when these two groups compare notes?   Bubbling tea cups!  
You see the first group is skeptical, even of the teacher, and refuses to accept anything that is not a part of its personal experience.  They will question and challenge and demand and, in the end, teach the teacher, which is exactly as it should be.  The second group is on the path of devotion and does not understand the first group anymore than they are understood.  I have often thought that their very devotion supports the teacher in a way.  Both think they are right and, it is true, both are right.  Which brings us to the storms themselves.  
Everyone has problems to one degree or another.  Some problems are immense.  Having your home bombed and all of your family killed while sustaining serious injuries yourself and then becoming a war refugee.  This is a big problem which many people in the world currently face.  But that is not what is being referred to.  These storms in a tea cup are referring to our interactions.  Say someone violates you in some way, either real or imagined, how do you react?   Do you demand revenge?  Do you simmer in silence until an explosion is inevitable?  Do you meekly accept, resenting all the while?  These are the issues that we need to really deal with.  The human condition will give us plenty of events that we have no control over such as war or earthquake or harsh storms.  In those cases we do what we need to do to survive and to help others survive.  The things we do have some control over are our reactions.
In my own case I am capable of all three of the examples plus a few others.  What I do is try to continually monitor my own responses.  Often this is just noticing while I am reacting poorly but that’s okay.  This is the first step, noticing.  
What seems to happen as one pursues the spiritual life is a kind of constant reassessment.  Once a person begins to get the hang of meditation or deep prayer, they will also begin to notice their flaws and their reactions.  This, though uncomfortable, is a good thing.  What we do not see we cannot correct.   On the other hand, in my personal experience, I have noticed that the flaws tend to remain.  I still am quite capable of being unreasonably angry, or petty, or jealous, or resentful.  So, perhaps the real key is acceptance.  To accept the human condition, in fact to revel in it -  with all of its warts – may be the real answer to what to do about our tea cup storms.  This is the texture of our lives.   I shudder to think of a sterile universe where everything is perfect and no one ever contends or questions.  
Does this make sense to you?   What do you do?

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Monday, December 26, 2005

Cause & Effect

I am constantly advising my students that they have to look outside of cause and effect for how to think of circumstances that test them. What I am trying to do is to get them to see beyond the “storms in a tea cup” as Pir Vilayat would put it and grasp the vaster laws of the Universe. Never the less I got curious because of some of the comments to my last post and decided to put ‘cause and effect’ into the search engine in this program I have that has all of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s work. And I found the following:
“There are two principal chains of cause and effect. The first plan is the cause and effect of the series of personalities. This is the law of the Vedanta school and it is illustrated by Christ’s words: ‘It is another who sows, and another who reaps.’ Secondly there is the cause and effect for the soul, illustrated by Christ’s words: ‘Thou wilt reap as thou hast sown.’ This leads the soul through heaven and hell to God.
The first is horizontal kârmâ, the second vertical karmâ. But then there is a third form of karmâ, a third chain of cause and effect. It is the Consciousness which stands as a gulf between the first two; it shows them distinctly as two different forms of karmâ, and still it unites them. They are in union. One could call this inner karmâ. It is imperceivable, incomprehensible: it belongs to God.
As to this third aspect, everyone is linked up with everyone else, and everyone can say he is a reincarnation of everyone from the past, as the universal Mind, from where the personality came, is One.
The secret of the soul is that it does not exist. Only God exists. God is God, God is the soul, and God is the chain of personalities.”

So perhaps this explains a bit more clearly what I have meant. If it is possible for us to experience, even for the briefest moment, this reality that the soul does not really exist, that it is an aspect of the Only Being and exists as a Divine expression of a unique combination of attributes, interwoven with all other unique expressions, then we are able to discover a depth of reason that is far beyond the “storm in a tea cup.” I know that this idea is simply an idea for most, that it is an intellectual exercise and not an experiential reality. Never the less, it may help if a person tries to see others as well as themselves in this light. And, it gives us something to shoot for, it gives us an ideal to pursue, a potential to discover in our beings. We cannot know what it feels like to experience the state of unity that the mystics speak of until the moment comes when we ourselves have the experience. We can, however; allow the learned experience of these mystics to guide us and to possibly comfort us when we feel that we are all alone.
Death comes to us all. For some it comes sooner then we feel it should but, if we can step outside of individuation for even a moment, we can perhaps see that it all runs together eventually. This experience of living is an immense opportunity for the being of God to discover permutations to its existence that simply were not possible while it was in the eternal sleep of Unity. And, as Ibn al Arabi has pointed out, as soon as God decided to create mankind, God was obligated to allow mankind freedom of expression, otherwise no actual development would be possible.

I have this science fiction trilogy written by Michael Gear, one of my more favorite authors. In it are a cast of characters derived from the native peoples of the American South West who have given God a personality which they call Spider. Throughout the books they are constantly asking the question, when you die what story will you take back to Spider? So I ask you, what story are you creating to take back to God?

Love and Blessings, Musawwir

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


It has been almost a month since I have written for this blog. I apologize to those who have been reading here. I have been very involved in getting the book out and, now that it is about to happen, I have been anxious and not really in a space to write. For the past week though, I have been thinking that it is time to get back to work so here is my next effort.

I have been thinking much lately on the fragility of life. A young friend of mine just went through the unexpected death of her mother, a woman I greatly admired. I am not going to give any details as that would not be tasteful but I did want to reflect upon the whole process.

I have read from several quite different sources that, since we are all actually one being, we constantly feel the births and deaths of other beings. Fortunately we have within our beings what I think of as filters to keep from actually noticing. The exceptions are when death is right in front of us or when we know the person or when we decide to pay attention. If we did not have these filters we would probably be in a constant state of despair as the millions of beings that die every day impacted on our psyches. This would be particularly difficult if we were feeling the thousands of humans who pass on, mostly in fear and despair. But we do have filters and have the option of ignoring or not noticing the life spans of others.

What is true, as of this moment, is that no one who might be reading this will be alive in 100 years. Well that is not a total certainty I suppose but is a relative certainty. Never the less we continue to live our lives as if we are immortal. I have been noticing my own reactions to the aging process and realizing that I still do not totally believe that this life cycle will end, not at the gut emotional level anyway. On the other hand, sometimes I feel it quite strongly and am anxious to experience this experience that we have but once in each incarnation.

There is this Sufi dictum of die before death. You hear it a lot as it is bandied about as a kind of benchmark or ideal to strive for or possibly something to admire in others but you don’t really want to know what it feels like. Die before death. What do you suppose it means? What you must not do is decide from some intellectual point of view. This statement contains a great secret that a person either knows or does not know. It is one of the most important realizations when a person discovers that they want to know, that they really try to give definition to all of these pithy little sayings but that they simply do not know. The mind constantly strives to grasp and create meaning, to understand and define but sometimes it simply is not possible. Die before death means what it means. To define the saying prior to its realization in your being is to deny yourself the possibility of discovery.

So, what are your thoughts on death? I am curious.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir