Monday, December 11, 2006


”Is our coming on earth ruled by a law, or does it happen in a haphazard way?

This very subtle problem is very difficult to explain. We are helped by understanding the meaning of accident and intention. They are two distinct things. It helps us if we try to discover what is hidden behind accident. Then we come to the intention in the scheme of the working of the whole.

Everything has a purpose, nothing is an accident; but to our mind there is accident. So accident exists for us like a shadow. Neither has shadow a real existence, nor has accident. Nothing is really accidental, but as the idea of accident goes on, it attracts accidents more and more. For instance, a person may wander for six months in Paris without finding a thief, but for a thief it will not take six hours to find one, for the law of attraction works. There is a verse in the Qur'an which explains this very well: 'Not one atom moves without the command of God.'

Intention is behind every activity, and the intention which we do not know, we call accident." Hazrat Inayat Khan

Traditional Sufism has a basic practice or mantra that is common to all orders. In Arabic the words are La Ilaha Illah 'llah Hu. A literal translation into English is No Existence Except God – Hu is translated as Presence. The way it is normally expressed is Nothing Exists Except God and God's Presence. Every Sufi order, and there are many, use these words, though in many different ways. Often they sing or chant the words in a singsong fashion. Some orders repeat them slowly and rhythmically and all think about them. In addition to this practice, most orders have other spiritual practices that they do, some simple, others quite complex. All however have as their objective the unveiling of the personality and the transformation of the being into whom they are becoming.

In all the years that I have been a Sufi it was never really all that important to me where these words came from or why they seem so real to me. For a person raised as a Muslim they are the essence of their faith or they should be. For someone raised as a mid-western Lutheran, they are just strange syllables that have no meaning in and of themselves but seem to have some effect on my consciousness, or maybe I am imagining it. Never the less, when I first heard them and struggled to repeat them correctly, something magical seemed to take place within my being. What I came to understand was that this is intent.

As Hazrat Inayat Khan says above, things may seem like they are accidental but accidents are really the shadow of intent. Imagine for a moment that it is possible to know the mind of God. This is clearly not possible but let's just pretend that we have a limited access. Does God see accident? Does the Universe in its constancy see accident? Even if one subscribes to chaos theory, random acts still breed distinct results that have an effect on the whole body. It is as if the body needed a certain result and created it. Therefore, by definition, the distinct result demanded the random acts in order to manifest.

Pir Vilayat used to frequently quote some French philosopher, whose name escapes me, who said something that he very much approved of. The pull of the future is much stronger than the push of the past. Pir Vilayat was using this phrase to explain to people how their future being was asking them to perform certain acts and concentrations in order to enable the manifestation that was already in place in the future self. Tricky stuff to think about because what if you do not do what the future self is asking of you? Does the time line split? Does the future self then disappear or does one part of you that did what was asked continue to create the future self, while another part of you, which denied the pull creates a totally separate self in another Universe? Science Fiction authors have made a lot of hay out of this speculation and that is fine for them, for ordinary people it simply means do it or not. If you do it, the future self manifests, if you don't it doesn't. On a much larger scale it would appear to be much more purposeful. The larger the sample, the more likely it is that the future self will enlist the past in the futures manifestation. In other words, for an individual it is a matter of individual will, for the whole of humanity it just happens. The big question individually is whether or not you will participate or stand back and watch someone else understand Divine Intent.

Now, if La Ilaha Illah 'llah Hu actually has validity, then all that we are is an expression of Divine Intent. Ibn al Arabi, the great Sufi metaphysician, noted that in creating humans God had to allow for the possibility of being surprised by his creation. So free will is an important aspect. However, there does seem to be movement in a direction that feels like the pull of the future. Just the reality of world wide communications tells us something very important. Humanity has a deep desire to understand itself. So? Are you in or out?

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Sunday, December 03, 2006


"If it were in the power of the person to make another believe, then every great soul that came to the world would have made the world believe in him and his word. Belief is according to the power of one's self-confidence. You find the tendency to trust in a brave man, in a wise man, and in a great man; the tendency to doubt and disbelieve you will find in the weak and insignificant man, who does not know what he believes. This shows that he who trusts himself will trust all, and he who does not trust himself cannot trust anybody. The trust of the person who trusts another and does not trust himself is an illusion; his trust is not alive. It may appear as strength, but it is a weakness. He holds onto something he does not know, and it seems trust. A person who cannot believe in himself cannot believe in a friend. How can he who does not believe in another believe in God, who is beyond the comprehension of man?"  Hazrat Inayat Khan

Trust is hard or it seems hard.  We live in a world that uses disappointment as a main measurement of reality so trust seems an illusion at best.   A friend of mine looked up trust in the dictionary.  She found at least 8 different meanings which I just read back through.  None of them mention courage of self as Pir O Murshid does.  So there is a ninth meaning.  This friend did say that it is the sort of thing that actually defies spoken or written definition, that words actually complicate what is essentially a basic principle.  I agree with that up to a point but, after I read some of what Pir O Murshid had to say, I feel that there is more.  

Just for a moment, as you are reading this, ask yourself if you trust yourself.  It seems quite simple.  Do you trust yourself?   Everyone would want to answer yes.  But, going by the quote above do you have a tendency to believe or do you expect to be deceived or tricked or made a fool?  This is a very subtle point which might bear examination.  Humans always have a choice, it is built-in, the choice comes from free will.  So when a prophet or a great being comes and tells of what is possible, humans have the right to accept or reject the message.  Since the message will always be something new or seem that way in any case, the automatic reaction of most people would be distrust.  On the other hand, there will also be those who will see the message as something which will save them and by save I mean to relieve them of their earthly burden and alleviate them of the responsibilities which are naturally theirs.  In between are those who see the messenger for what he/she is, and that is a conduit of Divine blessing and forgiveness who none the less wants his/her followers to first and foremost know themselves.  
Taking all of that as a given, then it would seem that to trust someone is an ongoing discovery of self.  The deeper a person goes into the self, in a somewhat relentless manner, the more a person is forced to decide whether they are worth the trouble of trusting.  I suppose this would mean that to truly trust another a person must first of all value themselves.  

There is another factor as well.  It is even more subtle.  What you are trusting is that the person or people before you will act in a manner appropriate their true spiritual development.  You do not expect a tiger for instance to not eat a lamb, that would be expecting way too much of the tiger and would go against its nature.  Nor should we expect a naturally suspicious conniving type of person to suddenly become honest and forthright – again, that would be asking way too much.  We can however trust them to be themselves.  We can also do something a bit more interesting, we can trust that all people have a capacity to expand their consciousness.  They may not want to, they may in fact resent the whole idea that the trust is there.  When you think about it though, perhaps you can see that this is the true message of the prophets.  They stand apparently aloof and apart, imbued with an understanding of humanity that seems impossible to emulate.  Never the less they all have said, in one way or another, "You too can do this."  That is the trust of a great man as Pir O Murshid has said.  

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I have a new grand daughter! Ain't she a darling? Being a grand father is quite a bit different from being a father. For one thing I am a whole lot more patient then I was at 22 when my son was born. Quite frankly I was not ready to be a parent, not even close. I freely admit that I was not a very good father. I guess that's the way it is. Now it seems, with grandchildren I have a chance to make up for it. It isn't a perfect solution but perhaps it means something. The perfect solution would be a reset button to go back and do it over, better. Too bad life isn't a video game.
On this Thursday, the 23d, Thanksgiving day, I will be flying to Belgium to meet my new grand child. For the first time in forever I am giving up the normal T-day festivities to travel to Europe. It feels like the most perfect thing to do.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my US readers and a wonderful week to everyone else.
Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Monday, November 13, 2006

A Rose is a Rose

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who expressed what is probably a very common idea.  She said, "Have you ever thought how language limits thinking?  You cannot think what you cannot express.  I have thoughts that language cannot touch.  Maybe it is my limited mental abilities or that I am not a very deep thinker."  
Do others who read this blog also feel this at times?  
In any case, I know this person to be very smart and that she is indeed a deep thinker so I had to come up with a way to show her and maybe others that there is a mode of thinking which has nothing to do with mental abilities.
I asked her how she would describe a rose.  
She answered as most people would by saying that she would describe its parts, its attributes, perhaps its aroma, etc.  And I said, "Sure, but can you describe the rose itself?"  The answer is that you cannot describe the rose itself.  A description of its components will give a person who has seen a rose an idea of what you are talking about and that is usually adequate but what I am seeking is a description of roseness.  
We know that roses and other flowers exist.  We are aware of their beauty and the quality of their being.  Can we talk about their essence?  
Another example is roundness.  Can you describe roundness, which we see constantly, without speaking of an object that is round such as a table or a wheel or even a circle?  All of these are examples of roundness but how would you describe roundness itself?
There are so many things that we just accept as realities without being able to think of them as other than descriptions of their components, yet they exist as qualities in the Universe.  So, what does this say about our thought processes?  
Imagine for a moment that these essential attributes are imbedded so deeply in your psyche that it is difficult if not impossible to bring them forth as thoughts.  Never the less you can in fact think roundness or roseness or any of a number of basic attributes that we are aware of.  Most often you will think of components that use these attributes but you can also think of the  quality itself.  Thinking roundness is not the issue, describing it is.  If I say roundness everyone knows what I mean.  There is no need to describe roundness as it is a basic quality of the Universe.  Perhaps instead the human mind needs complexity and gets a bit worried when something is so simple that no additional description is necessary.  
Spirituality is like this.  The fundamental idea of all mystical systems is to become human which is a very simple state of being.  The complexity comes when we ascribe method and system to this idea.  We always approach becoming human from our cultural point of view which assumes that a human being must have the qualities that the culture believes are essential to the perfected human.  Not so but our cultural imperatives will demand it.  As I understand it the perfect human being is a person who lives totally in the present, intelligent of course, capable of many things, but always in the present, meeting each situation or condition on the merits of the present moment.  How often do we meet conditions or situations based on history or what our culture tells us should happen.  So we tend to create systems that look as if they are secret or superior or somehow better than the average person is capable of understanding.  Let us instead meet each event and each person on the merits of the moment.

Love and Blessings, Musawwir

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


"True spirituality is not a fixed faith or belief; it is the ennobling of the soul by rising above the barriers of material life.
Faith reaches what reason fails to touch."
Pir O Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan

I have been thinking much about faith recently. It is hard to tell sometimes whether what I think is real is actually real or is simply the result of habit of thought. For instance, I have met several people recently who have stated emphatically that they do not believe in God. They seem to feel obligated to say this to me when they discover what I write about. That is okay with me if they feel this way but it puzzles me just what they do have faith in. And then I look at what I think I have faith in and wonder at myself.
First of all I should make something clear. Sufi's make a distinction between faith and belief. Faith is a known thing, based on one's real experiences. Belief is something a person relies on to be true even though there is no sustaining experience. This is different from the normal uses of the words in that faith and belief are often put together but used in this way they support one another.
What apparently happens to people who give any thought to this subject at all is that they tend to rely on early experiences to inform them of what to accept. This can happen in all sorts of ways and each person will make decisions about their faith or belief based on their assessment of their early experiences. For instance my early experiences in the Christian Church were fairly benign. There was the normal teaching about the supremacy of Jesus Christ along with the other standard fare but there was none of the illogical demands and hypocrisy that so often accompanies dogma. People went to church and paid their weekly obligation to support the organization but I never felt pressured to be something that I was not. Religion touched very lightly on my life. Consequently I decided at some point that God was okay. Not some kind of looming, quasi human, judgmental being, but a fairly nice guy. And that is where I seem to be today except that my deeper ideas about God have gotten much more expansive. This leads me to believe that a person who needs to express their lack of belief in God might have had a very different experience as a child.
Faith on the other hand, as defined above, is quite different. I have faith in my experiences, which I define as spiritual. Maybe they are hallucinations of some sort but if so they are darned good ones. My belief in some sort of Universal Intelligence apparently requires me to accept these experiences in a particular manner. Another person, who professes another sort of God or not-God would define them quite differently. But there are more basic forms of faith. We have faith in our existence. By that I mean that we know what our hands look like and accept that when we grasp something we can pick it up, especially if we have done so many times before as in a pencil or a fork. Taken further, if we meditate in some way, we have faith that, by sitting still and doing a breathing practice, a certain calm will descend over us. We may have a very different faith, thinking that it is not possible to feel calm and nothing will ever change this. Again, this is a result of early decisions we make. If this sort of person decides that they want to understand calm and really works at it then it is quite possible to alter their faith in their ability to become calm.
But what if there is something deeper? If a person does make a definitive shift in their faith factor I wonder if it is possible to alter still more. Said differently, it might mean that there are aspects of a person's being that have been veiled and are just now becoming accessible. This is belief combined with faith. I have changed, therefore I can change.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A New Skill
I started taking Tai Chi lessons six years ago for just one reason. I wanted to do something that I knew nothing at all about. I wanted to be a pure student again and learn something that would be useful to me but challenging enough that I would be stretched. Most of all, I wanted to go back to that place where one knows nothing at all about what is being taught. It had been far too long since I had felt that way.

The most basic principle of Tai Chi is relaxation. When I first started I thought that would be the easy part for me. I have been meditating for over 30 years and the very first thing one must do in mediation is to relax the body. I know how to breathe properly. I know how to go through my body and progressively relax all of the muscles. I know how to sit erect with no muscle tension at all and stay that way for some time with no stress. What I did not know was how to do all of this while moving. I thought it would be easy.

The funny thing here is that, even though my announced aim to myself was to do something that I knew nothing about, I still thought I knew something. I did not know the choreography of the Tai Chi form but I did know how to relax. I was quite proud of being the only one in my beginner's class that knew how to relax properly. Boy, was I wrong. From the very beginning I knew this would be the real struggle.

When we undertake something new we always bring our selves with us. We bring our pride. We bring our understanding of how things work. We bring our assumptions about all sorts of things. Most of all we bring our ideas of who we think we are. The tendency often is to assume that we are simply adding something to our repertoire. It is very rare for a person to approach something new simply as something new. We certainly do not approach whatever it is as something that is going to fundamentally change our idea of who we are.

The other night - at our weekly Tai Chi class - as our teacher was explaining a fine point of concentration, I was thinking about learning. When we are learning something technical, which could be almost anything at all that is part of our normal functioning society, we expect a linear progression. We know that it is subject to our intelligence, our ability to grasp facts, and general inclination, but we do expect that, within our limitations, to be able to understand something within a reasonable amount of time. Meditation and, I now know, martial arts, are not like that. There is progress of a sort but it is based on your willingness to unlearn.

In the case of Tai Chi you are unlearning your assumptions about how things should be, especially how your body should move. In order to progress in either venue one needs to let go of what one thinks is possible. For instance; a few blogs back I spoke about this sudden experience of having my arms rise totally by themselves while I was feeling the Chi (life force) move through me from my feet to my hands. It was a really strange feeling. Now I am getting used to it. So, now I am learning just how unbalanced and out of control I was and am slowly bringing my body under control. Before I thought I knew how to move, now I know I do not know how to move properly and am willing to wait for my body and mind to understand. They say it takes decades. I believe them.

Meditation it is very similar. Anyone can meditate or so we assume. What you learn, after a decade or two, is that it becomes more and more subtle. The whole world of spirituality is based on unlearning and, as Pir Vilayat often said, reprogramming the consciousness. This is exactly the same as Tai Chi. You unlearn how to move your body, which you have spent your life time learning how to move improperly it seems. It can be a struggle.

My point in all of this is recognition of the very pliable nature of our beings. We insist to ourselves that we are steady, firm, trained. This does not mean that we are satisfied with ourselves. We may be very steady in our unworthiness for instance. But none of it is true. If we can bring ourselves to find a place of unlearning then anything is possible.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Facing Your Self

There is this very common statement within most of what we call the spiritual community. God is the person standing before you! When I started on this path, way back in the dark ages, this was a very startling statement for me to hear. On the face of it seeing God always before you sounds like a good thing to do. But what if God has bad breath? Or what if God has a very annoying personality, or is just plain nasty?
Maybe I should go back a little bit and define spiritual community. Quite frankly it can be anybody, from any tradition. I believe there is only one requirement and that is the willingness to learn more, to never fall back on a doctrine that no longer works and to always wonder what the truth really is. I guess that is more than one, that is three. But it does not get much more complicated than that. If a person is comfortable with these three precepts then all sorts of spiritual practices will work for them. It does not seem to matter very much what the practices are. What does matter is intent.
In the matter of discovering God standing before you in whatever guise you happen to find Him/Her intent seems to be critical. One of the aspects of spiritual practices that I find most disturbing is sentimentality. Sentimentality in spiritual practice is one of the aspects of what Pir Vilayat used to call Spiritual Bypass. By Spiritual Bypass I believe he meant what happens when a person has a real spiritual experience but then assumes that, as a result of this spiritual experience, all of the ails and problems of their life just disappear. This is when sentimentality can arise. There is nothing that I dislike more then someone coming up to me and telling me how much they love me or how they see the depth of my soul or something like that when it is obvious to me that they do not really mean it or, if they think they mean it, that they do not really understand what they are saying. There is a ring of truth that is unmistakable when a person is, not only totally sincere, but also knows exactly whereof they speak. There is no sentimentality in their voice, just truth. So, if the practice that a person is assigned or that a person decides to work on is seeing God before them in all conditions of life, the very real danger here is assuming that they are doing it.
As I said above, the key is intent. It is very easy to see the face of God in a baby for instance. All one need do is to look into their eyes of total innocence and the existence of angels is obvious, the joy of God in His/Her creation is apparent. But, if it is a cranky old woman who spits vitriol with every breath? That might be a bit harder. We might tell ourselves that we are seeing the being of God before us but our sub conscious will not believe it for a nano-second. So, what to do?
You keep at it. You notice when you fail and try again. The point is not to actually tell yourself you are seeing the being of God in each person who comes before you, but to actually do it. If you are telling yourself you are doing it you are not doing it. When you are doing it you are not aware of doing it, you just are in a state of seeing the being of God before you. There is no effort, just reality. What that means of course is there is no need to tell others of what you are doing. When you are thinking you are doing it the tendency will be to applaud yourself. Now, there is nothing wrong with applauding yourself. I am not one of those who think that proper humility is required in all forms of self expression and that you must never extol your virtues even to yourself; quite the opposite. I believe a lot of damage has been done by telling people they must be humble when what is really needed is to notice when they do something well. But, that does not apply to spiritual practices. For spiritual practices to be really effective the ego, that part of you that wants to reinforce its opinion of itself, must be set aside.
Ordinarily I am not a fan of the phrase, 'must be' but sometimes it is appropriate. Imagine for instance that you truly do see the being of God in the face of someone before you, should you congratulate yourself? Probably not. But it is our tendency to do so. We want to acknowledge that at last we pulled it off, at last we did what we have been demanding of our self. Normal enough. But not good enough.
I realize that the concept I am describing is indescribable but perhaps I have given a few clues. I will be curious to read comments.
Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Last night I took my 9 year old grand son to a Mets game. That's major league base ball to my international friends. I do not ordinarily enjoy major league sports. The hype is over whelming, the fans are absurd and the whole atmosphere seems artificial and simplistic. It is as if the world of whatever sport it happens to be has the only reality. And, in the US, the patriotic nonsense before the game starts makes me ill. Do other countries do this? Never the less I took my grandson for the experience. He, of course, loved it.
There is something quite magical about a large crowd of people all focused, well mostly focused, on a single thing. I love this energy when I am in a theatre watching a play with a few hundred people or at a musical concert of some type. The shared experience can occasionally become something quite magical, depending on the skill of the performers and the attentiveness of the audience. I have many times been in audiences where I felt this deep experience but never at a sporting event.
It isn't that I do not appreciate the skill of the competitors or the sometimes quite exciting feats of athleticism that one might see, no it is not that; I think it is the quite silly behavior of just about everyone involved except for the athletes, and sometimes them as well.
My son in law is a body builder. More then that, he competes and wins. I have been to a few of these events and the hype for them is no less than any other professional athletic event. In fact they are pretty strange. In the case of body building most of the audience is involved in the sport in some fashion, either as competitors, relatives of competitors or people seriously involved in body building who want to see the best. Since I am now an official relative I had to give some thought to my attitude. If it were not for Daron I would pay no attention at all. Since I know him fairly well for the good man and husband and father that he is I had to think about it a lot. Finally I realized that, for Daron, competition is extremely important but, it cannot be just anyone, it can only be against the best available – otherwise it doesn't count. And we get to watch.
All this leads me to conclude that there is something in the human psyche that needs this energy. We are competitive creatures and the best among us absolutely need to test themselves against others at their level. For the rest of us it can mean something quite different. So perhaps, as in my previous blog about the aggressive SUV driver, it is time, for some of us, to cease looking without for something to compete with and instead to look within for the true conflict. Most of us are not world class athletes. Some of us do enjoy competition at some amateur level but a lot of us just compete randomly in a most unpleasant manner. So ask yourself, what is your effect on those around you when you feel the need to compete?

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

The Photo is of my son in law, Daron Lytle, the day he won the 2006 Armed Forces Europe Body Building Championship.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

More Fun

This past weekend I had more fun.  Majida and I went to the Abode to do the Universal Worship service.   After the service and after brunch in the dining hall I went to Omega Publications, the Abode book store to sign copies of my book.  More fun.

I had another fun thing happen this morning.  I was in a line of traffic, waiting for a light to change.  When it did change I was a bit slow off the mark and the fellow behind me started honking.  Then he pulled up on my right side to go around me, invective showing on his face as he cursed me through the closed windows of our two vehicles, forcing his way in front of me, so he was 25 feet closer to the next red light.  Of course he was driving an SUV.   My very first reaction was to leap from the car and challenge him to a fight.  That reaction was quickly suppressed for the silly idea it was.  My next reaction was to simply be angry.  Finally I settled on being amused.  Then I felt kind of sad.  This guy got seriously angry over someone being a little slow at a stop light.  He was actually mad, beyond angry and into mad.  The look on his face was full of violence and accusation.  It would have been appropriate if I had perhaps, well I can't think of anything bad enough to draw such a look.  Obviously he thought I had violated some illusion that he had about his personal importance and the importance of how he expects traffic to move.  The question is, why?  Why put all of this energy into something so minor, something which only existed in his mind.  All because I was a little slow.  What do you suppose this kind of expression is doing to his psyche?  Do you think he ever has fun?  

How many of us expect the world to react badly to the way we think it should be and then, in a kind of perverse delight, we express our disappointment or anger when our expectations are met.  What is sad about my friend from this morning was that he was expending all of that energy on something that existed only in his mind.  

One of the side effects of meditation is patience.  I used to be very impatient, not so different from the fellow this morning.  I was always looking for a reason to be offended.  And I often was offended.  As I recall the emotions, I think I was afraid that there was little or no adventure in my life and I needed to create some.  Sounds strange, but that is what I recall.  Then I began to meditate and do various spiritual practices and things began to change.  Not without pain I might add.  These changes only came because I began to realize that I was often inappropriate in my reactions.  

As patience is slowly discovered some very strange things happen.  All of the reactions that you thought you needed suddenly seem to be quite silly, but they are still there.  For me the anger was there, the disgust at minor illusory infractions, the constant need to be disappointed, all there.  At the same time patience was growing.   Things got pretty confused for awhile.  To tell the truth they were confused for quite awhile.  

Now that I am finally having fun I wonder why it took so long to realize that none of this is serious.  Or, put a better way, it is too serious to take seriously.  There are many things that are important but first among them is, "Do No Harm."   When you take the small things seriously then harm to someone results.  Instead see if you can find a way to allow things to happen that are not that important and give your attention to what is really important, your inner life.  

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Thursday, September 14, 2006

New Things

This past weekend I had my first book signing. It was at the Phoenix and Dragon book store in Atlanta, GA. The Phoenix and Dragon is an exceptionally nice spiritual book store, with lots of room and a very large selection. As such things go the event probably was pretty small. Maybe 15 people came for a short talk and then most of them bought copies of the book to be signed by me. To be perfectly honest it was an amazing experience.
How often in your life do you get to do something totally new and wonderful, something you might read about but never imagine yourself doing. Our popular literature is full of this sort of thing but we never actually think it will happen to us. I suspect that, for most of us, our idle speculation tends to run more in the direction of disaster, not new fun things. Well, I got to do something totally new and fun.
I am trying to think of something profound to say, some way to segue from the preceding paragraphs into some sort of teaching. But, nothing comes. It's just a lot of fun to be doing this. It is an opportunity that not many people get and I am immensely grateful. Grateful to the publisher for giving me this opportunity, grateful to all my friends who encouraged me and grateful for all the positive feedback I have received from new readers. WHAT FUN!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Room

Imagine you are in a room, four walls, ceiling and floor. There are no doors or windows and no adornment. Just four white walls, a white ceiling and a white floor. Imagine now that this is the limit of your reality, these six surfaces. Further imagine that you are floating in the center of this six walled construct as a bodiless consciousness, an energy field perhaps or a fundamental awareness that is not reliant on any form just yet, that will come in a moment.
As you – in your state of bodiless consciousness – gaze about your room - which can be seen as either prison or potential – you can begin to adorn the walls, floor and ceiling, with objects. These objects can be symbolic of opinions you hold, attitudes you adhere to, desires you pursue, or any number of thoughts or emotions that form the matrix of your assumed being – who you think you are. As you place each symbol the confines of your room seem to disappear and a vista of holographic choices appear to open for you. What we might see as your fundamental texture seems to cause the four walls to disappear as you – in the guise of pure consciousness – look out from the loci of your being into your life.
So what you have now are a series of holograms, three dimensional images, some very sharp and clear, some dim and difficult to focus on, still others only vaguely sensed.
Close in is your family, also close in will be the culture you were born into, how you were raised and all of the decisions that you made as your soul adapted to its surroundings. A bit further out in your hologram will be directions you took, moral decisions you made, assumptions you adopted as your body and mind matured. In other words, this is where you make the decisions as to how you will see the world, what your world view is. Notice that this layer of the hologram is just beyond that of family and culture. It is partially formed by these factors but it also relies heavily on your personal take on them. It will seem to be in line with what “should be” according to the close in symbols but will still be modified by your personal choices.
Further out will be the remote aspects of your culture – people you read about or hear about – the myths and icons that support your culture. Here also will be the enemies that support your cultures view of itself, the ones who are blamed for all the flaws your culture feels it self to have. It is the nature of individuals and groups to assign blame for all flaws on some outside agency and your hologram is no different.
Beyond this layer can be any number of symbols depending on what you have accepted as essential reality and the intelligence – divine or accidental – which supports or creates it.
This is the point at which you notice your body. Bodies are interesting things because we identify so fully with them. We really think that the body is more real than anything else. A body is also the major source of our illusion because it supports separation. We tend to think that our consciousness stops at our skin but think what the preceding imagery showed. With our imagination we can certainly think way beyond the body into all sorts of imaginal realms. We identify with our bodies as the center of the universe but, strangely enough, most of us do not really pay that much attention to them. Athletes do of course but even then I wonder how much they really are aware.
One of the keys to deeper spirituality is identified as manifesting in one’s body. It is a strange idea to think that, even though here we are, in this body, we do not really totally believe it. You can check this by thinking about how often you are in the Now, as opposed to projecting into the future or idealizing the past. To be totally in the Now, a person must also be totally in their body, aware of the molecules of air bouncing off the skin, aware of the flow of blood through one’s system, etc., etc. It is a super aware state of total attentiveness that places no reliance on any assumptions, past or future. There is even a Buddhist practice that uses this state of Nowness to take you into a deep meditation. It is called Sattipatana and it involves getting totally aware of all the bodily processes until one merges the body with the greater body of the Universe.
Going back to our original metaphor of the white room, what we then do is revise our holograms to better reflect this deeper awareness. And, the room gets bigger.
One of the signs of deep spiritual awareness is the expansion of your horizon. The world view that you hold recedes and your whole idea about things shifts. It is very easy to have a small truncated view of the world. It is very easy to just go along with everyone around you and accept that the world is thus and such. But, if you truly want to discover the truth of your own being, allowing Nowness to manifest is the essential ingredient.

Many Blessings, Musawwir

Saturday, August 12, 2006


It seems that this subject really hits a chord. A few people have spoken to me privately about it. One person was especially interesting as he is one of my Tai Chi teachers. He pointed out that Tai Chi is a system with some pretty serious rules. In Tai Chi there is a very specific way of doing everything. All movements have precise forms and all postures are very defined. Even though one of the objectives of Tai Chi is total relaxation while moving it would seem that the ideal is extremely rigid in that the actual form is very specific So my friends point was that Tai Chi, which we are both very devoted to, is based on some pretty serious rules. I had to think about that for a few days.
One of my very first realizations when I started to kind of understand Tai Chi was that when you get a movement right it feels absolutely perfect, as if one has made a movement that completely corresponds to physical perfection. If that is so, and I am really only speculating, then it would seem that Tai Chi, or perhaps any martial art properly followed, is actually a state of perfection in movement. That would then seem to mean that Tai Chi is not about following rules but about discovering perfection. What we see as rules are really a means of entering into that perfection.
The physical universe has rules. Granted they change from time to time as physics gets ever more sophisticated but some things seem pretty firm. If someone drops a big rock it is best if you are not standing under it and other things like that. But let is see if there may be other things going on besides these physical laws.

There is a basic statement in Sufism that goes like this – The state of perfect freedom is a place of no choice. What this means, as I understand it, is that perfect freedom is really a state of always being in the NOW and always making the most perfect response to any given condition or situation. In the Now, with no thoughts of previous situations or psychological baggage to demand that a person react or respond in a particular way, a person is free to respond in the most perfect manner. Each situation, condition or event will be responded to solely on it’s own merits without recourse to any personal history. This does not mean that you do not use your intelligence but it does mean that you do not judge a situation on other than what it is in the moment. This is an ideal that people know about but tend to dismiss as not very realistic or attainable. And frankly, I can think of quite a few arguments against being in this state, just from a sense of self preservation. Never the less it is worth examining. As it applies to our current discussion it is very pertinent.
In Tai Chi, one of the ideals is to be totally in the Now, not anticipating, not moving from this position to that position. It takes some time to get to this state as a person first has to discover those perfect moves within the discipline. In other words, you have to learn the choreography. And then you have to get good at it. Decades they say. But so what? If you spend decades slowly developing a sense of the Now then that is what you are doing and, once the Now is discovered, even if for a nano-second, everything changes. That is when you begin to realize that there really are no rules. Tai Chi is in truth no different from any spiritual discipline in that it requires concentration and skill. The one difference that I can see is that, unlike most other forms of meditation, you are moving – so there is a deeper incorporation of the physical realm. Other forms of meditation require physical discipline, in that one is demanding that the body be still, relaxed but still. Another difference that occurs to me, though I am not at all sure if this is true, is that making the leap into the Void is probably not possible with Tai Chi. Maybe it is but, if it is so, I have seen none of the tell tale signs one senses just before you make the transition into the Void.
What is the Void? It is the place of no thought. Perhaps I will talk about that more in another blog. For now you can think of it as a state wherein a person is privy to the thinking of the universe. And the thinking of the Universe discovers you.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I am taking up where the last blog left off. When the two beings I mentioned in the previous blog put the thought in my mind that there are no rules I did not know quite what to do with the information. From an anarchist hippie point of view it is a glorious thought. One which can be savored and discussed and theologically developed forever. But we need some rules. Traffic rules for instance. It is nice to know when you proceed through a green light that people coming the other way will stop for the red one. Construction standards are pretty important too. When you ride in an elevator you would like to be assured that it is safe. You want to know when you purchase tires for your automobile that they meet a certain standard of reliability, that the manufacturer is following the rules. And so on. All of these things, plus many others are very obvious, so what could these beings have meant?

In Sufism there is a principle called Necessary Reality. What it is is a way of stating how the Universe organizes itself in order for it to exist. For the Universe to exist certain things must be in place. The most important thing is a means of, what I could call, Cosmic echo or feedback. The Universe has to have a means of giving itself information. Why you ask? What if it is all random and nothing is required to make any sense at all. I suppose that could be true but I prefer thinking of the Universe as intelligent. Taking that as a basic precept we can then postulate that the physical universe, with it’s various natural laws, is the means of echo for the intelligence that comprises the body of the Universe and whatever lies beyond. What is basic to this concept is limitation. What that means is that in order for some kinds of physical reality to be in place there must be certain limiting laws. Orbital mechanics for instance or the necessity of creating some kind of mobile physical unit that can explore, human bodies come to mind. Bodies have limitations too, no air no life no movement. Never the less the message was clear, There Are No Rules. What could it mean?

After almost 35 years I am still not quite sure but I have some ideas. The whole message had to do with how we see things. Looked at that way then it becomes an inquiry into societal rules. In my last blog I talked about being a pot smoking hippie. One of the basic tenants of that period was that societal rules are bogus. Of course we still used society. We drove cars and trucks, dependent on society to provide fuel and spare parts. We used the roads, sent our kids to school, etc. But society was bogus. We were on the right track but kind of misunderstood how to go about achieving our ideal. The problem was that our ideal was pretty vague. War is bad, that was fairly firm. The way that people deal with one another can be improved, we understood that but not quite how to do it. We had a continually evolving list of societal wrongs that needed righting which we studiously ignored because, after all, we had dropped out, or so we told one another. Still it was the beginning of discovering how to understand There Are No Rules.

I think I have learned a little bit since those days. Not a lot but a little bit. There Are No Rules really means, as I understand it currently, what you observe or participate in has exactly as much reality as you ascribe to it. And, there really are no rules.

I know that a lot of scriptures insist that God has rules, the ten commandments and what not, but I am beginning to think that all of these rules were assumptions that became firm reality because everybody agreed they had reality. After a few centuries the agreement seems to be a rule that is inviolable. You will notice however that society, while giving lip service to the rules, ignores them if that is convenient. Notice for instance the Conservative Christian movement that has no problem ignoring Thou Shalt Not Kill. That’s pretty simple really, don’t kill except for those dirty Muslims of course. We can kill them. We will just ignore the rule in order to kill them. So, are there rules really? Only if it is convenient.

I invite your comments.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


When I was about 32 I was living in Oregon, in Eastern Oregon, the dry part. People think that Oregon is all lush temperate rain forest but that is just a thin strip along the Pacific Coast. Most of the state is what is called high desert. Not totally desert, there are plants and trees and some precipitation but it is very dry. I was living in a small town called Hermiston, living what was known then as the hippie life. I owned a house, a small, white clapboard affair. I had a wife, a son about 8 and a daughter 2. I was working as a carpenter, making fairly good money and I was getting stoned almost every night. This was in the 70's so smoking pot, though illegal was kind of accepted and did not have the stigma it currently enjoys. Also at that time the pot we bought was not nearly as strong as what is available now so I think the culture was a bit different. In any case, one evening we had a party, not unusual as almost every Saturday night us pot-heads would gather at someone's house to get high and discuss important things, like how high we were and the best high we ever had, etc. It was all depressingly familiar and boring. On the particular night I am about to relate, someone had come with some LSD. This particular culture I was in was wary of LSD and most people did not use it. I had taken LSD a couple of times, in small doses, and liked it but was also a bit wary. This particular evening I took what was offered and waited for the experience to begin. One of the things that I had been doing at that time was reading a lot about mysticism and spirituality. I had read about meditation and kind of thought I understood. I didn't but what did I know? So, having taken the LSD, I decided to see what all the fuss was about and left the party to go to my bedroom. I sat on the bed, in what I thought was a proper meditative position, closed my eyes and waited for something to happen. About then the LSD kicked in.
I think that LSD tends to follow your intent or at least your sub conscious wants. Your mind slides into a new groove but with the old stuff guiding because that is how you understand. So a person who is subliminally paranoid of the world will have an intense experience of paranoia. What I dearly wanted was to understand why things work. That has always been my motivation, my core need. So that's what happened. I was sitting there, pretending to meditate, when my body disappeared. Richard Alpert describes a similar experience in Be Here Now. What then happened was what is called a White Light Experience. Your consciousness finds itself in a place of light. There is no point source like a sun or a lamp, everything is just light. This was scary, terrifying but I rode it out, determined to understand. Then I realized that there were two beings, one on either side, telling me things. I could not see them. There aren’t any bodies as such in this place I guess. I was aware that they were filling me with information, things that I needed to know but I could not seem to hold onto anything intellectually. On reflection I believe they were putting this information directly into my sub conscious, bypassing the critical mind entirely. I do not know how long I sat there, over an hour I think. At some point I realized that I had a choice at this moment. I could stay with these beings, leave my body behind and go into their world; or, I could return to my body and fulfill my responsibilities, responsibilities which, at this time, were fuzzy at best but seemed very important. I opted to return. As I was rediscovering my body, both beings said a last piece of advice to me. It is the only piece that I consciously remember. They both said, at the same time, "Remember, there are no rules!"
I got my body back, got up, stiffly I might add, and returned to the living room. I think I expected some kind of acknowledgment of my inner journey, some kind of notice but there was nothing, no notice at all. Everyone was just as before, stoned, telling one another how stoned they were, how this stone compared to other stoned nights. No one noticed that I had changed. But I knew. I think this was the moment when I realized that this world of stoned people was not for me. It was the moment when I slowly began to withdraw. The moment that eventually led to the dissolution of my first marriage and the beginning of the long journey to find my teacher.

Monday, July 17, 2006


“When a desire becomes a steady thought, its success is assured.’
Hazrat Inayat Khan

Last Thursday my book, “The Sovereign Soul,” was shipped from the printers.  Now the next phase starts; marketing.  
I apologize for having been absent from this blog for so long.  I think this holding my breath, waiting for the book to be printed, so I can get started marketing, has kept me from doing anything creative.  It has been a strange time.  I have been holding the thought of the manifestation of this book in my mind, in my concentrations for 8 years and finally it is happening.  Now the hard part begins.
The very first question that my publisher asked me, when we had our single face to face meeting, was whether or not I would be willing to make myself available to market the book.  I had known this would be my responsibility and instantly answered that yes I would.  Then he spent the next half hour telling me all the reasons I should agree, which I found amusing.  Finally his wife, who was also at our sole meeting, reminded him that I had actually agreed and there was no need to persuade me.  It was my introduction to the world of publishing.  Apparently a lot of authors think that, just because they have written something amazingly compelling, it’s energy will draw readers and they have to do nothing themselves.  So this is what he was used to and I guess he didn’t even hear my instant agreement.  
Pir O Murshid’s saying above points to something quite important.  When you are manifesting something you have to stay with it, an idle wish will not do.  Many of us wish for things, all sorts of things.  We see these things or events as objects of desire  but probably unobtainable because of the various barriers in front of us.  One of my favorites is walking through a museum and seeing a painting that I would just love to live with, to own.   I can see it on my wall, delighting me for years as much of my art does.  But this is a museum piece, loved by thousands, maybe millions, so this is just an idle wish on my part.  And no, I would not want a print of the painting, that is not the same thing.  In any case, this is a wish that is unfulfillable.  There would be no point in sitting and concentrating on this object of desire because it ain’t gonna happen.  
In the case of my book however it was much different.  When I first began to write I used to secretly think of what it would be like to be famous.  I would day dream about being admired, of people asking me to sign their copies and asking me to tell them the secret of life.  The day dreams got pretty elaborate.  Still I was able to set them aside in the actual writing, striving for the most honest presentation of the issues that I could manage at the time.  Then it was finished.  That was the hardest time.  I was truly afraid to send it out to publishers.  It sat in my computer, got transferred to a new computer, but I did not send it out at all.   I did send it to some friends to read, all of whom praised it but still I did not believe.  
Finally my wife hypnotized me.  Have I ever mentioned that we are both certified hypnotists?  There is a link to our web site here.  Anyway she hypnotized me and told my subconscious that it could send the book out, that it would be okay.  Know what happened?  I sent ten proposals to ten different publishers on a Wednesday, on the succeeding Friday I got a call from the man who would turn out to be my publisher.  
Then a whole new struggle began.  I had to learn to work with an editor.  I had to learn when to give in and when to insist.  I fear I gave in too much but now I know the process and perhaps I am a somewhat better writer as a result, I hope I am.  
What was interesting and a bit dismaying was realizing that this journey of manifestation that I had begun now was somewhat out of my hands.  I had one editor at the beginning and then at the end I had two.  Both of them having their own ideas about how to say what I was teaching through my book.  I had to let a lot go, hoping that my style would come through all the changes.  It was a big lesson.  We think that we understand the laws of manifestation but usually we only see them in the light of our individual, separate wants.  We often fail to realize that what we are manifesting affects others.  Often their world must shift in order for what we want to come about.  
I am reminded of a conversation I had once with Pir Vilayat.  We used to kid him a lot because whenever he organized an outdoor meditation event with everyone sleeping in tents, it would inevitably rain.  I asked him once why he didn’t take care of that, change the weather.  I was pretty sure he could do that.  He replied that if he did that then someone else’s weather could be drastically affected and he was not wise enough to know if that mattered or not.  Makes sense.  
So be aware, when you decide to manifest something, other things have to adjust to your intent.  That doesn’t mean you should not do it.  I know my book is a good thing.  What I was not aware of until just now was what it would take to make it happen.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Spiritual Messiness

”Balance is the keynote of spiritual attainment.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan

     Hazrat Inayat Khan came to the US in 1910 but he did not stay long.  After a brief sojourn in the UK he ended up living in Suressnes France, a suburb of Paris.  For 18 years he lectured and gave spiritual instruction to an ever expanding group of students.  These lectures are collected in a 14 volume set of books called collectively “The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan”   What has always amazed me about his lectures is the astonishingly wide array of subjects that he discussed.  Everything from war to relationships plus of course much instruction in the spiritual life and how it relates to ordinary living.  One of his constant subjects was balance, which always puzzled me.  
     Some forms of balance are obvious.  Standing up is a form of balance.  Finding the balance point of a long object, such as a ladder or a wooden plank, in order to carry it comfortably, is another.  But that is not what he is talking about.  He specifically says, many times, that the object of spirituality is a balanced life.  But what does that mean?  It has puzzled me for 25 years.  I am not sure if I understand completely yet but I do have some ideas.  
     First of all, a balanced life is not necessarily what our culture, whatever it may be, says it should be.   Societies tend to want their members to conform to some abstract ideal which is almost always restrictive.  I do not believe that balance is gained by conforming or restricting.  What I have come to believe is that a balanced life truly does have two poles.   One is living in the world and the other is a calm awareness of our celestial being.   And that is where the title of this essay comes from.  
     People who follow some kind of spiritual path tend to look up to the celestial spheres and to take their clues for living from those realms.  We also tend to accept definitions of how we should live based on the assumptions of the particular spiritual society we happen to be in.  Even though Sufism, to which I belong, is supposed to be without compulsion, still people tend to create cultural assumptions and patterns of expected behavior.  It is a natural tendency of humans to want to know that others around them have the same or a similar response to worldly events.  We also want to know that when we say something the response will be within a certain framework.   Fortunately or unfortunately, people doing real spiritual work also tend to push against these restrictions because their deep experiences often belie their conformity to the restrictions imposed by their culture, be it spiritual or secular.  That’s when things get messy.  

“How did I rise above narrowness? The edges of my own walls began to hurt my elbows.”  HIK

     We are, each of us, restricted in many ways.  And when our elbows begin to  hurt we look around and wonder where the pain is coming from.  If we are totally honest with ourselves, we will not blame those around us for this discomfort.   As it happens however, we do blame others.  It can take numerous forms, from blaming our parents for traumas, real or imagined, to blaming a particular aspect of society for our problems.  That can be anything from governmental restrictions, to religious oppression which we feel is harming us or holding us back.  In almost all cases there will be some element of self worth analysis.  We do tend to demand that the world support our opinion of ourselves so when we begin to look within we get confused.  This is probably because our self image is so wrapped up in external confirmations.  
     The other night I asked my meditation class what was the one thing they each saw as their prime restriction.  I thought at least some would say self worth but each person, in their own way, said fear.  Fear of all sorts of things but mostly fear that what is to be accomplished will not manifest.  In other words, fear of failure.  Fear of failure is an aspect of self worth issues of course.  What is important is that each person was aware enough to realize that this fear was a restriction for them and could be paid attention to.  
     What to do, what to do?

     One thing that has become very obvious to me over the years is that spiritual training might not help much.  Learning to meditate and to reach ever higher planes of consciousness may have a wonderful effect on your over all being but the baggage does not seem to be all that affected.  In fact I believe that it is not all that uncommon for a person who has attained to some kind of spiritual enlightenment to assume that all of their problems are automatically taken care of.  It is like the very common story of some great Guru or Sadhu, who has many followers because of his spiritual purity and who finally decides to come down from his mountain and visit a town.  His followers are delighted that he is finally returning from his decades long sojourn to the inner worlds and follow him all excited to view the great man bringing blessings to their town.  But when the first person to confront him is a filthy beggar, the Guru snarls at him, kicks him and demands that he be removed from his pure sight.  There are various versions of this story but the point is clear.  Spiritual work does not guarantee an even, balanced personality.   Ya gotta get down in there and work on it in a very basic way.  Perhaps the most effective way is to never ever assume that who you think you are is complete.  I have noticed that the people who are most effective in this work are those who never stop working on themselves, the people who are always willing to be the student, to learn from others and to be forgiving of their own and others foibles.  
     It’s a messy world, with all sorts of problems to face.  Maybe that’s what makes it fun, if you let it.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir


Friday, April 28, 2006

Book Excerpt



All surrender to beauty willingly and to power unwillingly.  -   Hazrat Inayat Khan

If thou desire the presence, union with God Most High, from him be not absent; when thou visitest thy Beloved, abandon the world and let it go.  -  Hafiz

The word “surrender” in English has very precise connotations, none of them warm and cuddly.  It evokes images of domination by a superior force, of being compelled to do something we’d rather not do.  That’s in English.  Other languages, I understand, don’t have the same problem.  A Japanese friend tells me her language has two words for surrender which are very different in connotation, one meaning what the English word means and the other denoting “the acceptance of love’s enfoldment.”   Probably other Asian languages make the same distinction.  But the connotations in English are the only ones I know, and they’ve always sent slight shivers up my spine.
Maybe the concept of surrender is an easy one for you.    If so, I applaud you for your spiritual maturity.  As for me, for a long time, whenever I heard people in Sufi circles talk about surrender— surrender to the beloved, for example—my immediate reaction was: “There’s no way I’m going to do this thing that I don’t even understand!”  Admittedly, the phrase “surrender to the beloved” has a poetic ring to it, but to me it always seemed to imply that you were handing power over to whomever this beloved character was.
And, in fact, that’s exactly what it does imply.  But there are certain words and phrases that mean one thing in ordinary parlance and yet resound with a whole other layer of meaning when they’re used in a mystical sense. “Surrender to the beloved” is one of these.   Certainly, surrender to the beloved has the meaning we customarily assign it—I mean the one that sends shivers up my spine.  But in the language of Sufism that phrase resonates with a mystical meaning that transports us to regions far beyond the mind.

In earlier chapters, I alluded to a “place of no thought,” one that Pir Vilayat calls the “awakening beyond life.”  My personal experience of this place is limited, and I’m reluctant to describe something I’m not completely familiar with.  But here goes, and in what follows I rely heavily on what the Sufi metaphysicians have said through the ages; in other words, I won’t rely on my own understanding, but will try to provide you with the distilled wisdom of others.
We‘ve tried to compensate for the harsh undertones of the word “surrender” in English by creating the phrase “willing surrender,” which usually refers to a love relationship (though even here, as my wife points out,  we usually mean the surrender of a woman’s will to the supposedly more powerful, more  magnetic, will of the  man).   However, in this chapter I’m talking about surrender in the context of spirituality or religion, and in this context we generally mean willing surrender.  Even here, though, it seems to imply the surrendering of our own puny human will to the all-powerful will of the Creator.
For the Sufi, the word “surrender” has a totally different meaning.  Sufism maintains that the human being experiences two completely different but mutually dependent states of being.  There is several ways to look at it but the most common within Sufism is to examine this duality from the point of view of Wahdat Al Wujud—the Unity of Existence.
Wahdat Al Wujud is a specific condition, or more accurately lack of condition, wherein all created things are equidistant from the source and have no existence in and of themselves, they have only the potential for self-expression. Selfness or individuation is irrelevant in this state. To experience Wahdat Al Wujud, you must go beyond the state of reason, the state of regarding reality as discreet bits of information, and merge with the void of timeless nothingness wherein all things have their source and nothing has separate value.
Follow all that?  Good!  This is the experience of ultimate unity that the mystics, just as I have, continually fail to adequately describe.  Pir Vilayat says of this state that it comes before you realize it and is gone before you know it has come.  Other Sufis describe the state as a place of no thing, or The Blackness.  Everyone seems to agree that Wahdat Al Wujud is definitely not out there, but in here, in our being, and that we attain it by diving within, not by searching without.  It’s a difficult state to describe because we are constantly forced to fall back on the vocabulary of the everyday world to describe it, and Wahdat Al Wujud is beyond any words that are available to us in our everyday language describing discreet impressions.  
Sufis get around the difficulty of describing Wahdat Al Wujud by resorting to metaphor.  The most common metaphor they use is that of the ocean and waves.  In our ordinary conscious state, they explain, we normally perceive the waves; we are entirely ignorant of the ocean that is the source and support of the waves.  These waves, even while we perceive them as discreet objects, are not really separable from the ocean. But in our preoccupation with the shape, the size, the color, the emotional content, and so on of the waves, we completely miss seeing the ocean.
If, by dint of spiritual practices and meditation, we are able to perceive the ocean and merge with it, however slightly, then the waves will recede from our sphere of attention and the ocean will become all.   On the face of it, this may seem like a desirable state, and it is—except that when we are one with the ocean we can’t interact with the waves; we can’t get on with the ordinary business of living.  To interact with the waves effectively, we have to give them most of our attention.  This isn’t hard when we’re not aware of the ocean’s existence; then, only the waves are real.  But once we notice that the ocean exists, things are never the same again.

Friday, April 14, 2006


“Place a sentinel at the doors of perception.” Pir Vilayat

The above is an instruction that Pir Vilayat always gave at the beginning of a group retreat and was the advice he gave for the beginning of an individual retreat. For many years I did not understand what he meant. Where was this sentinel guy who was supposed to show up and combat all the stray sights and sounds that I was to be protected from? Wherever he was, he wasn’t at my perception doors because I could hear every little sound, was super aware of the people around me and was continually opening my eyes to check things out. I knew that he meant something that I did not understand so it was frustrating. The problem was, you see, that Pir Vilayat was very visual. He had no trouble at all in conjuring up various sorts of mental imagery and using that imagery for himself and as a reference for his students. For those of us without that ability however, some of the things he said made no sense at all. The sentinel business was the least of it. He also had this meditation that he would lead which he called Landscapes of the Soul. Some people would sit rapt in ecstasy when he went through one of these meditations. Me? I couldn’t follow it at all. In fact I once asked him for help since I felt so embarrassed that I couldn’t follow him. He did try to help but I quickly realized that he didn’t understand my problem. I simply do not get clear mental imagery. At best it is murky. I understand that about a third of humanity is this way. Pir Vilayat was at the other end of things and was very able to summon up just about any image he liked. So he simply did not understand my problem and gave me advice based on his experience. This taught me a really valuable lesson.
We all have limitations. Even a highly respected teacher will, occasionally, not know what to do. In my own case, I happen to be blessed with students who tell me if what I tell them does not work for them. I do worry about the ones who say nothing though. Nothing to be done about that I guess other then to tell people that they can tell me if it doesn’t work.
Limitations are interesting for lots of reasons. One of the reasons is that we often do not recognize our limitations, thinking instead that others are not understanding us and it is their fault. In fact we can get quite irritated at the apparent stupidity of others for not getting IT. I believe that the more truncated our world view, the more likely we are to feel this way, and we will be all the more likely to think that it is the responsibility of others to grasp our intent - no matter how poorly it is explained. In fact I have seen people get all upset at someone else for something that the other person did not even know was happening; that they had no clue at all about. Have you ever heard someone, or even yourself say, “He should have known…..!” Meanwhile, the one who should have known has no information at all about what he, “should have known!”
I have been a carpenter most of my life, an up and down business as anyone in the construction field will tell you. During one particularly dry period, I took a job as a Job Corps instructor. It was a frustrating experience for all sorts of reasons but one of the more frustrating aspects was teaching these kids to use a hammer. For a carpenter a hammer is just part of your hand. You don’t think about it, you just use it. Not for the students. They would watch me and then bend nails, watch me again, bend more nails. It took me two full years to figure out how to teach someone to use a hammer. So, my limitation in understanding wasted two years of student learning. That was another lesson for me.
How often do we think that we understand something, maybe it is political, not realizing that our truncated point of view is keeping us from seeing all of the condition. And then we get angry because others, also subject to limitation, do not understand in the way we do. What is needed it would seem is for conversation, listening to others and trying to understand, wrong though they may be, but instead we get frustrated and angry, or worse; contemptuous of the other point of view.
One way that I think of all of this is to imagine that God, or however you think of Universal Intelligence, has need of all points of view, all types of experiences. I know this can seem a really harsh way to see things but experience would seem to say it is true. If the statement, Nothing Exists But God, which is in so many religions and philosophies, is in fact true; then that would mean that the terrorist is just as valid as the saint. How we think of each is also valid. In fact everything that happens has validity. It is all a conversation that the Universe is having with itself. This is where the mystic’s point of view becomes so very important and acceptance of all things becomes our schoolwork.
I invite your comments.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

ps: I forget to mention that I finally did figure out what the Sentinel was. It is ignoring the outside stimuli. It is a skill that you gain after some practice. If you send me a private e-mail, I will explain it further.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Fear of Death

“Where does the fear of death come from?
Ignorance of the self gives fear of death. The more one learns of the self, the less fear there is of death, for then man sees only a door to pass through from one phase of life to another - and the other phase is much better. The more spiritually one lives, the less fear there is of death. The more one lives in the soul, the less hold one has upon the body. The body has fear according to the consciousness it has in itself. Man is not only dependent upon his mind for thought, but every atom of the body is to some extent conscious, and so protects itself” Hazrat Inayat Khan

A lot, perhaps most, of these articles come from conversations that I have with people and this one is no different. I seem to get my best teachings from the people around me who think I am teaching them. I have been convinced for some time that I am the one who is blessed with so many wonderful, thoughtful teachers.
In this particular case one of my friends, who purchased an advance copy of my book, happened to mention that she was reading a section where I say that the reason I began serious spiritual work was because I wanted to die consciously. She then said that death was her major fear. As we talked about it, it became clear that her fear came from the images conjured up in her childhood by the talk she heard in her church about the dangers of Hell. She said that it was probably childish and silly to feel that way but there it was. It isn’t silly. We all have childhood images of various kinds that form how we feel and act as adults. Some of them are so deep that we have no idea they are there. In my friend’s case, she was very aware of the cause of her fear but felt helpless to do anything about it. Maybe that is so, but I think that once identified a person is well on the way to healing whatever trauma was inflicted upon them. And it is a trauma, make no mistake.
It would not surprise me at all to find that the vast majority of people who rise to the top of a religious organization are bureaucrats and have never had the sort of mystical experiences that actually formed their organization, church, whatever. Part of the reason that they rise to the top is their desire to tell other people what to do. And these people have imaginations. Can you imagine the delight that they experience in realizing that their dictates form the doctrine that others are expected to believe and to teach? I can clearly remember being taught in Sunday School as a six year old, the horrors of Hell. Who would tell a six year old that they are bound for eternal damnation if they are not good? It kind of reminds me of cigarette companies being delighted at every 12 year old who tries a smoke
But what to do about this particular trauma?
I do not know that this will work for everyone but I can tell you what I did. Some years ago, when I was still quite young, in my early 30’s, I realized that I was very worried about death. So, I started thinking about all the various ways that I could die. It became a kind of habit. I would be sitting alone in my living room and I would visualize a death. It might be from hanging, or fire, or drowning, or some kind of sickness, even being tortured to death. It became a very gruesome exercise but I was determined to imagine as many ways that my body could be forced to stop operating as possible. At this point I was not so concerned with what happened after but with the event itself. This is when I slowly began to realize that there really was a continuation. I am not sure how I came to this conclusion, more early childhood training perhaps, but it was definitely there, a kind of sure knowledge. With this knowledge came something else. I discovered that I did not want to die in my sleep, I wanted to be awake for the whole thing, from the moment my body stopped, right on through that transition through the tunnel that everyone talks about, to finding out what happens after you emerge from the tunnel and what goes on after that. That is when I began to study mysticism seriously because I realized that simple doctrine and acceptance of some religious bureaucrats pronouncements was not going to work for me. I later found out that this is a normal Sufi exercise (and here I thought I invented it) which goes along with spending nights in graveyards and communing with spirit beings.
Death is a natural normal phenomena that we all must experience. Perhaps the exercise above is to harsh for you but you might find some way of coming to terms with what will happen. And another thing – this whole idea that God, the God of mercy and compassion – would condemn any soul to eternal damnation and torture – well that is just patently silly. Leave it to bitter old men to come up with something to control people.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Thoughts on Unity

“The worlds are held together by the heat of the sun; each of us are atoms held in position by that eternal Sun we call God. Within us is the same central power we call the light, or the love of God; by it we hold together the human beings within our sphere, or, lacking it, we let them fall.” Hazrat Inayat Khan

Do you ever look at the people around you and just appreciate them? Not saying anything to them, just appreciating? I think it is a special state of consciousness to be aware of and appreciate those around you. As if you are basking in the light of these people.

If you have then you understand the above quote. It is that last phrase that is the kicker.

You will notice that Pir O Murshid says that this light is within us, that the love of God is right there inside of us. Which can seem wonderful and exciting or simply frustrating as we try to figure out just what that means. First of all let us define God. Everyone has their own idea about what that is, in fact in Sufism each person is encouraged to create their own God ideal. This may be a very personal being or it may be an amorphous intelligence, remote and indifferent. What ever your ideal it still remains that you are a part of the Universe and cannot separate yourself from it. That is what he means. Since you are part of it, the Universe or God, you also have the right to use this connective energy, Love, to embrace those around you. I think the first step is acknowledging that you are indeed a part of the Universe or God. That may seem very hard as we are trained to think of ourselves as separate, competitive beings, who must constantly fight others for our place in the world. All too true. Every time you apply for a job and there are other applicants, you are in competition. If you live in a city you compete for parking spaces. There are lots of things like that. Is it possible for you to think of this as living in the world while also being an intrinsic part of it? How to explain? It is as if there are two very distinct things going on. One is the normal competition of every day life and the other is the combined expression of Universal Intelligence that we all are part of.

On a more personal note, when you are with your family or friends, do you compete for food at the table or do you offer tidbits to one another? Do you compete for other things or constantly defer to one another? There are lots and lots of possible dynamics here I realize, not all of them pretty but one must start somewhere.

I am not advocating suddenly embracing someone who has abused you or whom you find difficult. What you can do, however, is see if you can discover how they fit into the Universe, because they obviously are in here with you. This is a very secret place that Pir O Murshid is talking about, a deep awareness of our intrinsic interconnections. So, as I said, it is as if there are two very distinct ways of seeing that are not exclusive of one another, they are just different. One is the realistic observations you make about your immediate environment, taking into account your personality and the personalities of those around you; and the other is the fundamental reality that we are all in this together, along with the planet, the stars, the galaxies and all the beings of all the dimensions of manifestation.

Let me know what these thoughts bring up within you.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Beyond Distrust

I have been thinking lately about policemen. All cultures have people who are drawn to this sort of work, for good or ill. The more honest and free a culture the more likely these people will be restrained. Conversely the more dictatorial a culture, the more likely they will be unrestrained and overtly brutal.
What I think about is that I cannot remember a single encounter with a policeman that was pleasant. Most of these encounters over the years have been traffic stops. It is hard to live in the city and not be stopped occasionally, if only for a broken tail light. The thing is, it is never, “I’m sorry sir, I need to tell you that your tail light is out.” No it is always an excuse to check you over. And you can almost feel the air of suppressed contempt or distrust.
I have been thinking a lot about this recently and wondering if there is anything that could be done to change this philosophy. I am a normal person, I do the right thing and so on. It is annoying to be seen as a potential criminal with every minor encounter.
There is a young man in my apartment building whom I have known since he was 10. He has recently joined the NYPD and already I see the change taking place in him. He rarely speaks now, just looks at you and kind of grunts. He seems to view everything with suspicion and is slowly losing touch with normal people. It is sad to watch.
I am beginning to think of this sort of attitude as an extreme example of the fundamental emotion that is so prevalent in the world’s culture, distrust. Distrust is right up there with disappointment as a basic emotion we deal with constantly. I suppose it would stand to reason that those who have the illusion of power, while knowing they must follow certain rules, would also fall victim to distrust. Perhaps more than most. After all they are constantly running into all sorts of extremes and are also constantly describing these extremes to one another. The problem is though that most people, by far the majority, do not fall into the extreme category.
If our world wide culture is typically responsive emotionally to distrust, whatever can we do to change this? Smile at policemen? Maybe. Or maybe the problem is how we insulate ourselves within our tiny little world of friends who share our basic attitudes and how we are so very reluctant to step outside. See if you can step out of that world and encounter someone, at their level, that you would not normally encounter. Policemen have a very limited world view but then I suspect so do we all. It seems that I am constantly reminding myself, and others, to look beyond what we think should be real. We all tend to think that others share our basic viewpoints and have trouble understanding why someone would not, even when it is obvious that they do not. Many conversations begin with, “Why can’t they see………..?” Do you suppose the reverse is true as well? That these people who cannot see are saying the same of you?
What is hopeful is that we notice these apparent aberrations and think about them. Condemning behavior we find difficult may not be as powerful as simply noticing and perhaps thinking how we can respond in a manner that will ease that constant sense of disappointment and distrust. Most of the time I think of the correct response too late, long after the fact. Very occasionally the most perfect response is right there, in the moment. Eventually, with constant attention, I hope to catch up with my more perfect responses and do the right thing in the moment more of the time.
It may be that this noticing of distrust, disappointment, resentment, despair and all the other emotions that we seem to wallow in is our opportunity to go beyond – if only we can see the possible or – as my teacher would say – have the point of view of the soaring eagle. This does not mean looking down upon all of the little people and feeling superior. It means seeing, as much as possible, how all things, beings, emotions, etc., interconnect and then doing our best to embrace all while continuing to maintain our basic dignity.

Many Blessings, Musawwir

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More Patience

I just had a long talk with one of my friends about something that she just discovered about herself.  In telling me she also said that she hoped I would write about it and maybe help someone else to see what can happen.  
My friend had an awful childhood, about as bad as I have ever heard from someone.  I know there are worse ones but not one that anyone has discussed with me.  Needless to say this childhood, which I will not describe, did not equip this person for life in the world in a genteel manner.   It would be my expectation that such a childhood would lead a person automatically to hook up with an abusive type man and, until yesterday, that is what I thought her first marriage was like.  The marriage she is in now is with a true passive/aggressive type person and is something that she is slowly extracting herself from but her first marriage was out of the normal pattern, she actually married a nice guy.  He was supportive, he constantly encouraged her, he made excuses for her and gave her as much as she needed.  In return she was the abusive one.  She realizes now that she simply had no way of understanding what was happening.  Her cultural and familial training had taught her to be defensive, aggressive, distrustful and terrified so, she treated this man really badly.  In other words she had no clue how to be loved because that emotion had never been in her world before.  So she divorced this man, that being the only response possible for her, since being loved was so alien, and married a passive/aggressive man who would treat her as she expected to be treated.  
Does this sound familiar to anyone?  
What then happened, apparently as a result of some clues she had extracted from other talks, was that, on a recent evening, she went into a state that in Sufism is called Shahid, The Witness.  Shahid is a state wherein all things observed are simply looked at.  There is no judgment, no assessment or opinion, you just look.  It is a fairly high state of observation since a person has to leave all of their opinions about what is behind and just observe.  So she was looking at her life, all of it, and seeing that this man, her first husband was in fact her first teacher.  He was the person who showed her that there were other ways of being that she had yet to understand or accept.  At the time she simply could not respond as we might expect her to in our fantasies.  All she could do was remember.  Finally, after 15 years, the lessons became real and she has begun the very painful but wonderful process of recognizing who she really is.  
There is much more to this story of course.  All the drama and angst and bitter assessment of her own reactions but slowly she is seeing what we all might see, that our reactions to conditions are all part of our learning and ultimately are part of the healing that must take place for us all.  
We all have poor reactions to things that are not part of our normal matrix just because we have no way of knowing what is appropriate.  And an argument could be made that any reaction is appropriate because that is what we are doing.   For instance, what did the first husband learn about himself and about life as a result of this total rejection?  
So, for just a moment, allow yourself to look on a part of your life that you are sure is already settled and see if perhaps there is something that you were being asked to learn but which you simply could not see at the time.  It can be embarrassing of course but so what!  Embarrassment is part of the spiritual path.  And while you are doing that, consider all of the people around you who are also struggling to heal their psychic damage.  Do you suppose it is possible to allow them their current states?   Do you suppose that they too will discover something, some years down the road, that they could not see in the moment?  It does not mean that you have to put up with their nonsense but it can mean that, while you are extracting yourself from some relationship, that you also see what is possible, for them, for you and for humanity.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir